|Bible Story: Daniel in the Lion's Den
Based on Daniel 6
Retold by Paul Katula
After the Persians killed Belshazzar and captured the Babylonian empire, Darius the Mede became king. He put three men in charge of his entire kingdom; one of these "presidents" was Daniel.
Now, Daniel was a very holy man: he prayed to God at least three times a day. Furthermore, Daniel was a very good leader. Pretty soon, Darius started to notice how much better at leading Daniel was than the other two presidents he had appointed. So, Darius started making plans to put Daniel in charge of his entire kingdom.
When the other two presidents found out about the king's plans for Daniel, they looked for some dirt on Daniel. But remember, Daniel lived a very good life: he was a good man, and there wasn't anything bad anyone could say about him.
Since they couldn't find any real dirt, they tried to make some stuff up, but even that was impossible. Then one day, they came up with a plan.
The King Makes a Law
These two presidents went to Darius and buttered him up: "O great king Darius, everyone in your kingdom, including most especially us your two presidents, we worship and adore you. Therefore, we would like you to sign a law that says if anyone prays to anyone, either human or divine, except for you, that is, that person must be thrown into a den of lions."
Well, the king kind of liked the idea, so he signed the law.
Daniel Continues to Pray to God
Daniel found out about the law, but he still continued to pray. At his home, there was a window in the upper room that faced toward Jerusalem. He thanked God for all the good things he had done, and he prayed for his people. He prayed that they might one day be able to return to Jerusalem. He prayed that they might one day be worthy of that closeness with God in his promised land.
As he was praying one afternoon, the other two presidents watched his window from the street below. They caught him in the act of praying to the Lord.
"O King Darius," they came a-running. "Daniel is completely disobeying you, your Majesty, and he is right at this very moment praying to some God, and it isn't you. According to this order that you signed, he has to be thrown into the lions' den."
The King Tries to Save Daniel
Darius was very depressed, because he liked Daniel. He tried all night to come up with a loophole around the law he had signed, because he didn't know it was a trick to trap Daniel. But no luck! It was the law that no ordinance signed by the king can be changed. Daniel would have to be thrown into the lions' den.
The king gave the final order, and guards took Daniel to the lions' den and threw him in. As they were lowering him down, the king cried out, "Daniel, may your God, whom you serve so faithfully, deliver you from this terrible death!"
Then he went back to his palace and stayed up all night, without any food to eat. He fasted, hoping God would save Daniel from the mouths of the lions.
The Next Morning
At the break of day, the king rushed down to the lions' den. The stone that had covered the entrance was removed, and the king said with great hope, "Daniel, has your God, whom you serve so faithfully, saved you?"
"Yes, your Majesty, may you live forever," came Daniel's voice in reply. "I'm all right. My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths so they could not harm me."
Daniel had trusted in God, and God came through for him. He was lifted out of the den.
"The lions would not hurt me, because my God had judged that I was good. I have served him faithfully, and I have also served you faithfully," Daniel said.
The king then ordered that the two other presidents, who had accused Daniel of wrongdoing, should be thrown into the lions' den themselves. This occurred. Their feet had not even touched the bottom of the pit before the lions devoured them, head to toe. Their wives and children were also thrown into the lions' den.
"I hereby order," Darius wrote in a proclamation that he sent to the entire world, in every language, "that all people should live in abundant prosperity who tremble in fear before the God of Daniel. He alone is the living God, who endures forever and ever. He has saved Daniel from the lions and done other great wonders in heaven and on earth. His kingdom will never end, and no one shall ever destroy it."
Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and also during the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Daniel's faithfulness got him into a mess here, didn't it? Because he prayed, he got thrown into the lions' den, to what the two conspiring presidents thought was certain death. But his faith also saved him. See also Hebrews 11:33. You see, Daniel's enemies knew what choice their adversary would make if it was between the order of an earthly king or faithfulness to the Lord God. This is what's known as being in between a rock and a hard place: if you choose one way, you lose, and if you choose the other way, you also lose. In Daniel's case, the one loss would be his life (the presidents thought so, anyway), but the other loss would be eternal life. When you think about it, that's not a tough decision.
But God saved Daniel from the rock or the hard place — I'm not sure which is which in this story. Then, the king saved him — and punsihed his wicked presidents — from the other. This is an example of how a strong faith in God and the following of his commandments (like praying, in the Daniel story) can turn a lose-lose into a win-win situation.
This story also shows us that the Lord God is the only source of life. When Daniel greets Darius after being rescued, he wishes the king to "live forever." Today we know, and I suspect Daniel knew as well, that this was only possible if the king came to know Daniel's God, because God is the source of eternal life. This was a standard greeting for a king at the time, but Daniel gives it a whole new meaning. Darius recognizes this faithfulness, but he also realizes how much he has to lose if God doesn't come through.
God has promised us that he will deliver from death everyone who has faith in him. In our lives today, no one is likely to make a law like the one the king passed. No one is going to tell us which god to worship or even to worship any god at all. But are there other forms of conspiracy that might trick us into disobeying God's law and becoming unfaithful to him? Do we sometimes worship other "gods" like money, power, etc., instead of our God? What makes us do this? Do only bad people have the power to make us disobey God's commands, or are "good" people sometimes the cause of our sinful behavior?
Finally, how does obedience to God (and faith in him) save us from literal death sometimes? Does our knowledge that God is real and that he will grant us eternal life because we believe in him make it easier to take actions that might lead to our literal death? In other words, are the consequences of some of our actions less frightening because we know God is with us?