September 13 – Daniel 6:1-22
You’ll notice the parallels between this story and the story of the fiery furnace from chapter 3 (check out that video on Daniel for all these different parallels). For example, in chapter 3 we saw a Babylonian king tossing Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego into a furnace, whereas this time it’s a Medo-Persian King tossing Daniel into a lion’s den. In both stories the Israelite characters are specifically targeted for their worship practices that ran counter to the enforced practices of the kingdom. And in both situations God delivers these faithful Israelites not from the trial, but through it.
The story sets up the conflict by pointing out Daniel’s faithfulness in his administrative job. He was so good at what he did that King Darius was considering installing him as a kind of Prime Minister (this echoes Joseph in Egypt, who also went from slavery to the highest government position). The prospect of Daniel getting this job angered the other officials; we don’t know if this was out of jealousy, or discrimination for his ethnicity, or because he was so upright they wouldn’t be able to keep up their corrupt practices. Either way, they were out to get him, and they devise this edict and pressure the king into signing it. You might wonder, why would the king do this? As we’ve talked about in weeks prior, this was a time when religious practices and government were highly intertwined, so Darius likely saw this as an opportunity to consolidate his power over the realm and elevate himself in the eyes of the people as a deific figure. And notice the direct contrast to Daniel’s faithfulness. These officials were using their official responsibilities, in which they were meant to counsel the king in good governance, to further their own malicious agenda.
Daniel was faithful to God and the realm—the conspirators were neither.
So Darius signs the proposed law, and in the Medo-Persian kingdom no law of the king could be rescinded. You might wonder, why couldn’t Darius just write a new law that countered the first? He most certainly could have; changing his mind wasn’t forbidden. But considering the role of this law in consolidating his power and elevating himself, you can understand the pressures on Darius to not unwrite it, self-serving pressures as they might’ve been. After the law went into effect, the passage specifically points out that Daniel knew about the law and yet went about his prayers “as he had done previously.”(6:10) Considering he could’ve devised a way to pray in secret, he changed nothing about his routine. And as much as he’s praying alone in his house, this is by no means secretive. In his official position we must assume he had assistants, advisors, servants; others surely knew about this, if only from before the law went into effect. With praying three times a day, Daniel was probably stepping away from work in the middle of the day to head home to pray. Daniel was incredibly courageous in changing nothing about the way he worshipped God.
And the way in which he worshipped should draw our attention. The passage specifically says that he prayed with his windows “open towards Jerusalem,”and that he was praying, giving thanks, petitioning, and pleading (6:10-11). Facing Jerusalem, what do you think he was petitioning God for? In a way this can capture for us, in some small capacity, what it must’ve been like for Daniel to be an exile, working day to day in his government job, but taking moments to go back to his house and open the windows facing the home he hadn’t seen since his childhood. Daniel was living between his present reality, one of intermingled success and trial, and a reality he longed for, one in which he and his people could return to their true home. It’s pretty likely Daniel was intentionally practicing the prayer Solomon prayed in 1 Kings 8:46-50 (which Solomon prayed about 360 years prior to the Babylonian exile):
“If [Israel sins] against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near, yet if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ if they repent with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them” (emphasis added)
Daniel was most likely praying for the end of the exile, pleading with God that he and has people would get to go home. Daniel wasn’t just being a good Christian and saying his prayers, he was faithfully pursuing God and the good of his people.
And you know the rest of the story, Daniel gets tossed in the lion’s den but miraculously God saves him. For us who are further along in history, Daniel’s deliverance should echo another story for us, a story of a different grave that was also closed with a stone and a seal but didn’t end with death. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves; as much as Daniel prefigures Jesus by walking out of the grave alive, Daniel most certainly isn’t the hero here. That’s certainly the temptation of some of these stories, and we would miss the point if we focused solely on Daniel. Worse still would be if all we do is try to identify with Daniel, tell ourselves to “keep the faith,” and move on. The real hero here is God, who sovereignly orchestrates everything in this story. It’s not as if Darius passed this law without God allowing it; God specifically permitted Daniel’s trial in the lion’s den in order to display His glory to the exiled community and the watching kingdom.
God delivered Daniel to the lion’s den and from the lion’s den.
And that might not compute with our typical assumptions of faithfulness. Usually we operate, if only subconsciously, with the presumption that if we are faithful God will protect us from suffering. But this simply isn’t the case—look at the savior we follow. Plus, for Daniel at least, his faithfulness seems to have created opportunities for increased faithfulness, that is, that God kept calling him into more faithfulness at greater cost. The biggest conclusion we can draw from this passage isn’t “Daniel can do it!” or “I can do it!” but “God can do it!” And he’s worthy of every ounce of trust we have.
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read Daniel 6:1- 22 for us?
• What stands out to you from this story?
• Daniel could’ve prayed secretly any number of ways; why do you think he kept doing what he was doing?
• Why do you think God allowed Daniel to go through this ordeal?
• What do we learn about God through this story?
• How do you think the rest of the exiles related to Daniel’s trial?
• How can we relate to Daniel’s story today?