I’ve heard and read this story numerous times. As a kid I was in a play about this story. Yet, isn’t it amazing how you can read a passage in Scripture a hundred times, then the next time you see something different? (That’s because God’s word is living and active – see Heb 4:12.)
You know the story – Daniel gets a huge promotion and does better than any of his peers. He is recognized and his peers get jealous. So jealous, in fact, that they plot to kill him. After trying hard to find fault with Daniel’s character, then his work, they realize the way to eliminate Daniel is through Daniel’s religious commitment:
4 Then the other administrators and princes began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling his affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize. He was faithful and honest and always responsible. 5 So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the requirements of his religion.”
What a testimony! They searched for a way to bring Daniel down, but Daniel was found blameless and upright, “faithful and honest and always responsible.” Not too many men would withstand that scrutiny today.
Well, King Darius was offered a suggestion that few prideful, carnal leadership types could resist. It was suggested that the king make a law that essentially made him a god for 30 days! No one was to bow or pray to any other god, just to Darius, for 30 days. This law is what led to the arrest of Daniel. When the king realized what was really happening, he was angry with himself for ever making such a law:
14 Hearing this, the king was very angry with himself for signing the law, and he tried to find a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament.
Well, the law was irreversible and Daniel ultimately had to be thrown to the lions for breaking the bogus law. The king was distraught:
18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night. 19 Very early the next morning, the king hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you worship continually, able to rescue you from the lions?” 21 Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22 My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” 23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him because he had trusted in his God.
Because Daniel trusted God, he was rescued – and God received glory:
25 Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! 26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. 27 He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”
And, Daniel did pretty well, too:
28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Is there a situation in your life for which you could receive criticism? Are you following God so closely that others are jealous of your success and want to see you brought down?
I fear many of us could not even stand up to the scrutiny the men gave Daniel at first, when they tried to find fault with him. Not to mention, how most would cower and maybe pray in secret in the presence of such laws. Yet, David stood his ground and prayed, in the sight of all, three times daily as he had always done. This demonstrated his confidence in God and his lack of fear of men or governments. In the end, Daniel was rescued in a miraculous way.
The encouragement today is to pursue God with all your heart, no matter what others may think, focusing on the reward from God rather than the criticism of men.