After capturing the mighty city of Babylon, King Cyrus placed his uncle – Darius the Mede – upon the throne there. As soon as Darius received the Babylonian crown, he began to remodel the government; and in the process, he set Daniel in a very high government office. Darius’ dominion was very large indeed; it was not possible for him to personally attend to matters in every province that was under his authority, and so he had to set up 120 princes over the various provinces of his realm. Each of these princes, in his own respective district, was responsible for administering justice, preserving the public peace, and levying the king’s tribute. Over these 120 princes, there was a triumvirate of three presidents or supervisors who were answerable directly to the king himself. Of these three men, Daniel was understood to be the chief; for he was found to go beyond the other two in every princely qualification. In fact, so wonderfully well was King Darius pleased with Daniel’s wise management, that he was entertaining the thought of placing him as the prime minister over the whole realm!
But alas! The fear that Daniel might be promoted over their heads tempted the presidents and princes to attempt to ruin him. They continually watched and waited for an opportunity to catch him tripping up, so that they might have a reason to accuse him before the king and have him thrown out of the government entirely. Thankfully, however, despite these wicked men’s attempts to discover Daniel guilty of mismanagement or some other scandal; he was found faithful in all his duties and responsibilities, without one single error or fault. Therefore, the last resort that his enemies were driven to was the contrivance of a wretched scheme of finding something in his religious life for which they might falsely accuse him. So they engineered a plan by which they were sure – beyond the shadow of a doubt – that they could ensnare him! They presented a new law to the king, and requested his signature upon it; and truly, it was one of the most extraordinary laws that ever disgraced a statute-book. By this law, no human being was to pray any petition for 30 days, unless it was being prayed to the king! The suggestion seems absolutely preposterous! But these wicked men knew that 30 days of such a ridiculous decree would be more than enough time to secure the ruin of Daniel. They were also aware that the law, once it was passed, could not be altered. And the end result was that “King Darius signed the writing and the decree.”
But what a contrast is shown between the weakness of the king’s conduct and the moral grandeur of what is next put on record! As soon as he knew that the law was signed, Daniel went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he had always done before. By the grace of God – even with death staring him in the face – Daniel pursued the path of piety, no matter what the consequences would be. Of course, Daniel’s enemies soon discovered that he persisted in obeying God rather than man, and rushed to the king to inform him of the matter. And now King Darius was made to see how foolish and ridiculous he had been. He was filled with bitter regrets, but they were unavailing. And so, at sunset, the prophet was sentenced to die for his transgression of the unchangeable law of the Medes and Persians. The venerable prophet was thrown into a den full of wild lions; and at the entrance to the den, a large stone was placed to prevent his escape or the interference of his friends. The stone was sealed with the king’s own signet, in such a way that it could not be tampered with without certain discovery.
For Darius, it was a wretched night. He was sad and horror-stricken. He was a prey to remorse. He was too agitated to taste food, his usual pleasures were dispensed with, and his night was sleepless. And there can be no doubt that Daniel also passed a sleepless night. No matter how strong a man’s faith in God may be, it is still not in human nature to be incarcerated in the darkness with lions, without considerable apprehension. The first minutes inside the den, in particular, must have been horrible. Daniel did not know that God would certainly deliver him. But as the minutes and hours of the night wore on, the assurance that the Lord would indeed save him would surely have increased. And as night was exchanged for the morning, it was firmly established in Daniel’s mind that he had not been alone; for the Lord’s angel had been there to shut the lions’ mouths, so that they could not hurt him.
After tossing back and forth through a weary night, the king rose with the breaking dawn and went in haste to the den of lions. When he was assured of the safety of Daniel, his relief and reaction were very great. Not only did he order Daniel to be released from the lions’ den, but he also commanded that those who had plotted his ruin and murder should themselves be thrown to the lions. Then he issued a decree that bears some resemblance in thought and phraseology to the former decrees of Nebuchadnezzar.
In all of this, we see the Lord’s preservation of all His faithful followers – even though lions may be in the way, and all the forces of hell are seeking their destruction. In Jesus, we are full of strength and grace; and we are more than conquerors through His power helping us.
Lord, we give You praise and thanks that Your throne of grace is open to us 24/7, and that we may bring all our prayers and requests to You at any time! Amen.
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illustration by Charles Foster, 1915