It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred twenty satraps, stationed throughout the whole kingdom, and over them three presidents, including Daniel; to these the satraps gave account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Soon Daniel distinguished himself above all the other presidents and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him, and the king planned to appoint him over the whole kingdom. So the presidents and the satraps tried to find grounds for complaint against Daniel in connection with the kingdom. But they could find no grounds for complaint or any corruption, because he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption could be found in him. The men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”
So the presidents and satraps conspired and came to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an interdict, that whoever prays to anyone, divine or human, for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions. Now, O king, establish the interdict and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Therefore King Darius signed the document and interdict.
Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously. The conspirators came and found Daniel praying and seeking mercy before his God. Then they approached the king and said concerning the interdict, “O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or human, within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be thrown into a den of lions?” The king answered, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Then they responded to the king, “Daniel, one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the interdict you have signed, but he is saying his prayers three times a day.”
When the king heard the charge, he was very much distressed. He was determined to save Daniel, and until the sun went down he made every effort to rescue him. Then the conspirators came to the king and said to him, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no interdict or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”
Then the king gave the command, and Daniel was brought and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!” A stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, so that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no food was brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
Then, at break of day, the king got up and hurried to the den of lions. When he came near the den where Daniel was, he cried out anxiously to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you faithfully serve been able to deliver you from the lions?” Daniel then said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.” Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. The king gave a command, and those who had accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. Before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
Then King Darius wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world: “May you have abundant prosperity! I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel:
For he is the living God,
His kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion has no end.
He delivers and rescues,
he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth;
for he has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Don’t mistake Daniel 6 for a children’s story. This is the gruesome stuff of nightmares—a sinister plot to trap Daniel in his singular devotion to the God of Israel, a pit full of hungry wild beasts, and in the end, the mauling and death of whole families, including children, by those lions.
The story reminds us of the risks of following God, of the very real consequences of dogged faithfulness in the face of a cruel, power-hungry world. It reminds us that to be a Christian is a political statement and a political act. The fragrance of Christ is threatening to people who reek of selfish ambition and corruption. Daniel’s insistence on “smelling” like the God of Israel nearly got him killed by people who couldn’t stomach the aroma.
But he didn’t get killed. And that part of the story reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us when we are faithful to him. God has promised that he will be with his people, so he doesn’t shut the mouths of the lions from a distance. He sends his angel to keep Daniel company. In the Bible, angels are more than messengers, delivering God’s words like celestial mail carriers; they are understood to represent God. It’s as if God himself is with Daniel in that den. The Lion of Judah tells those lions of Babylon who’s boss.
What encouragement for us when we feel like we’re surrounded by bloodthirsty lions—whether it’s a competitive work environment, a mental soundtrack that tells you you’re just not measuring up, or an illness that threatens to sap all your strength. God, who delivers and rescues, is with you always.
Prayer: Living God, your kingdom is not like the kingdoms of this world. You invert the usual power systems and provide a different set of rules to live by. Living in your kingdom can put me at odds with the world around me, but I trust that even when I feel under attack, you are with me. Amen.