Faith is taking God at His word and trusting Him in all circumstances. Noah acted upon what God revealed to him. Abram believed the Lord, and it was accounted to him as righteousness. “The one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
From our first encounter with Daniel as a young man, we have seen his commitment to honor the God of Israel. In fact, his righteousness and wisdom made such an impact among the Jews that Ezekiel mentioned Daniel by name (Ezek. 14:14, 20; 28:3).
Decades have passed since Daniel and his compatriots arrived in Babylon for training. Now, after the fall of the Babylonian empire to Persia, Darius the Mede rules the land in which Daniel resides. God was still granting Daniel favor with the king, though he was a foreigner who would not worship his gods. This favor led others within the government to conspire against him, utilizing Medo-Persian law to seal any loopholes by which to escape sentence.
The Trap Set (10–14)
The government officials knew that Daniel was beyond reproach. He had been a reliable counselor to Babylonian rulers and afterward, to Darius. These jealous men agreed they could not derail his promotion unless they could somehow make his religious practices illegal: “We will never find any charge against this Daniel unless we find something against him concerning the law of his God” (v. 5).
Daniel learned that Darius had affirmed the executive order that forbade prayer or human petitions for thirty days, allowing only for advocacy before the king. The irrevocable policy of the Medes and the Persians determined that no one was above the law. Not even the king could retract a law once it was signed and sealed (vv. 8, 12, 15; see also Esther 1:19; 8:8).
Three times each day, Daniel continued to pray bowing down westward toward Jerusalem, just as he had before the decree was signed. Like his compatriots before him, he was ready to face a death sentence rather than compromise his convictions. Why would he stop petitioning God because the government declared it illegal? Who were they to prohibit the free exercise of his faith? What threat was a lions’ den when he served the King of heaven?
The Door Shut (15–18)
Darius looked for possible solutions to this problem, but there were none. The administrators and satraps, who counseled the king for this edict, now pressed him to carry out the sentence. Daniel, the revered elder statesman, was sealed in the lions’ den with the personal seals of noble men.
Before he left, Darius expressed his desire for Daniel’s God to deliver him. After his return to the palace, the king fasted, denied himself physical pleasures, and remained awake all night. One might suggest that he fasted and prayed, but the text itself does not mention prayer. In fact, he would have broken his own law if he had prayed.
The Tables Turned (19–24)
As dawn broke, Darius returned to the lions’ den. Just as he had the night before, the king mentioned Daniel’s God: “Has your God, whom you continually serve, been able to rescue you from the lions?” (v. 20). In response, Daniel gave God credit for his protection: “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths.”
Daniel was spared by God and released by the king. Those who had conspired against him, though, faced a death sentence. Not only would these men be thrown to the lions, but also their families would join them. The sins of the fathers were visited upon their wives and children.
These men set a pattern for their families. They were ruled by jealousy. They found fault with a man of faith. They manipulated the law and the king for their own benefit. Little did they know that this pattern would lead to their own deaths.
By Douglas K. Wilson, Ph.D.
Wilson is dean of Christian Studies at University of Mobile in Alabama.