Daniel and the Lions
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story of the Jews at the time of their restoration from Babylonian captivity. When Persia conquered Babylon; Cyrus, the Persian’s, first order of business was to release the captive Jews from 70 years of Babylonian Captivity.
Under Cyrus’ magnanimous decree, some Jews chose to return to their homeland of Judea to rebuild their temple and later the walls of Jerusalem. Others chose to remain in Babylon.
The Books of Daniel and Esther record life for the Jews who chose to remain in Babylon and Persia. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are a record of the Jews who returned to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple and later the walls of their city. Daniel, Ezekiel, Haggai and Zechariah are the prophets to the Jews during this period of time.
The decrees of the Babylonian emperors were different from the decrees of the Persian emperors. The Babylonians were arrogant, threatening, demanding and forceful and their decrees came from hearts of defiance towards God. The Persian decrees were more kind, gracious and non-threatening, giving the Jews the privilege of returning to their homeland voluntarily or remaining in Babylon.
Whether Cyrus, the first Persian Emperor, had ever read God’s Word or not; it is certain that he had been influenced by what the Prophet Isaiah had written about him 200 years before Cyrus was born; even calling him by his name and foretelling his calling in life, that of delivering Judah from 70 years of Babylonian captivity. That interesting information is given in Isaiah 44:24-28 and 45:1-13.
The first wave of Jews to make the long 1000 mile journey back to Jerusalem was led by Zerubbabel and is recorded in Ezra 1-5.
The second wave of Jews to return was led by Ezra during the time of the Persian Emperor Darius. This is recorded in Ezra 6-10
In this message, I want to focus on Darius and Daniel. Though Darius was not a godly emperor at the beginning of his reign, he had been influenced by the well known history of the kindness and gentleness of Cyrus towards the Jews.
Daniel had been taken as a young man with promise into Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. He continued in the royal courts long after Persia had conquered Babylon. Now, perhaps in his 80’s or 90’s, he found himself in the Persian courts of King Darius, loved and well-respected by the king, and second in command directly under Darius. Under Daniel were three presidents and under the three presidents, were 120 princes who helped rule the Persian Empire.
From the time he was a teenager under Nebuchadnezzar, he had a strong relationship with God and had purposed then never to defile himself with sin, nor with the king’s lavish life style. For all those years he had been faithful to God throughout his life, walking and talking (praying) with God.
The three presidents under his leadership had a strong aversion and jealousy and hatred of him because of his godly lifestyle.
It was well known that when Persian Kings made decrees, they were absolutely irrevocable. So they conspired to trick King Darius into making a decree which would remove Daniel from his superior position over them and have him thrown into a den of lions to be killed. Aware that Daniel prayed regularly and publicly to the God of Heaven, they went over Daniel’s head directly to Darius and encouraged him to make a decree that for 30 days, no one should pray to anyone but Darius himself, or else they would be thrown to the lions. That appealed to Darius’ pride and so without thinking he made a most serious mistake. He signed a decree stating that for thirty days no one could pray to anyone but himself.
Opening his window facing Jerusalem, Daniel continued praying to God, as had been his practice throughout his life. Immediately the three presidents reported him to King Darius. Darius was sick at heart for he loved and highly respected Daniel, Nevertheless, he had signed the decree and he knew he was trapped. Nothing could be done about it.
DANIEL THROWN TO THE LIONS
As Daniel was being led to the lion’s den by the guards, King Darius spoke privately to him, He said to Daniel, “Thy God whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee.” Then Darius went back to his palace to spend a sleepless night tossing and turning on his bed, sick about the horrible decision he had made.
That night Daniel slept well, no doubt resting his head on the mane of one of the lions. God had shut the lion’s mouth and they had no desire to hurt him.
Very early in the morning, I expect about 3 or 4 o’clock, Darius made his way to the lion’s den and cried with a lamentable voice, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God whom though servest continually able to deliver thee from the lions?”
Daniel answered him, “O King, live forever. My God has sent His angels and hath shut the lion’s mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before God, innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O King, have I done no hurt.”
Then was the king exceeding glad for him and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den and they found him totally untouched by the lions because he believed in his God.
Then the king demanded that they bring those three presidents who had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions with their wives and children and they were instantly killed by the lions.
King Darius immediately wrote a new decree to supersede the one he had written earlier. You can read it from Daniel 6:25-27. “I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for He is the living God, and steadfast forever. And His kingdom is that which shall not be destroyed, and His kingdom shall be even unto the end. He delivers and rescues and He works signs and wonders in Heaven and in earth, who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” It is my personal opinion that because Darius now honored the God of Heaven, that we will one day have the privilege of meeting him in Heaven, along with Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
So Daniel prospered under Darius as well as under Cyrus for about ninety years.
A CHALLENGE TO CHILDREN AND TEENS
There’s a promise to young men and women in Proverbs 22:29 that you can count on if you wish to have the success in life which Daniel enjoyed. Let me paraphrase it. “Watch the young men and women who love God and live diligently to please Him and fulfill their responsibilities without compromise. As they grow up, they are going to be successful in life and be greatly used of God.”
Young people, I challenge you in the words of a song that has greatly influenced me and that I have sung since childhood,
“Dare to Be a Daniel” by Philip B. Bliss
Standing by a purpose true,
Heeding God’s command.
Honor them the faithful few!
All hail to Daniel’s band!
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
Dare to make it known.
Many mighty men are lost,
Daring not to stand,
Who for God had been a host
By joining Daniel’s band!
Many giants great and tall,
Stalking through the land,
Headlong to the earth would fall,
If met by Daniel’s band!
Hold the Gospel banner high!
On to victory grand!
Satan and his hosts defy,
And shout for Daniel’s band.
God help you to determine now, to stand faithfully for Christ and serve Him with all your heart throughout your life.
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