Delivered from the Lions (Daniel 6:1-24)
Rev. David French
Today, we close out our overview of the Old Testament by looking at five things God revealed about the promised Savior, His Son, Jesus Christ, to the generations who came before His birth. First, God’s promise to Adam and Eve right after they ate the forbidden fruit that one of Eve’s descendants would crush the serpent’s head, referring to Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross that would deal a mortal blow to Satan and the devastating effects of his temptation. Then about 2000 BC, at God’s command, Abraham raised a knife to slay his son Isaac when the Lord provided a substitute ram to be offered in Isaac’s place. Again, foreshadowing Jesus dying on the cross, wearing a crown of thorns, as our substitute. Then around 1500 BC, God raised Moses to free Israel from their slavery in Egypt. God sent an angel to slay all the firstborn in Egypt, but when the blood of the Passover lamb marked an Israelite’s doorway, the angel of death passed over. Foreshadowing the gift of baptism where a believer is washed by the blood of Christ. Meaning on Judgment Day, the angel of death will pass over us, and we will live with Christ forever. Then last week, we jumped another 500 years when David went up against Goliath to deliver Israel. A foreshadowing of Jesus’ defeat over Satan, delivering us from slavery to sin and death.
Today, we jump another five hundred years. When King Saul died, the Lord made David king. David wasn’t perfect, but he repented of his sins and trusted God’s word of forgiveness for the sake of the coming Savior. God also revealed to David that one of his sons would reign on His throne forever.
His son Solomon began his reign by building the temple in Jerusalem. But as Solomon grew older, he began to marry foreign wives, even building temples for their false gods. Because of Solomon’s unfaithfulness, God divided Israel into two kingdoms, ten tribes that formed the Northern Kingdom (or Israel) which left two tribes of David’s descendants who made up the Southern Kingdom (or Judah).
The Northern Kingdom was led by a bunch of kings who led the people away from God. In time, God would judge Israel, handing them over to the Assyrians who dispersed her citizens across their territory, effectively dissolving the Northern Kingdom.
The Southern Kingdom fared a little better. Among David’s descendants, there were two remarkable men of faith; Hezekiah and Josiah. But for the most part, wicked, unbelieving descendants from David’s line dragged the Southern Kingdom down a path that eventually resulted in God’s judgement on them being carried out by the Babylonians.
It was the Babylonians. This was the empire that conquered Jerusalem, looted the temple, and burned it to the ground. They took most of the survivors into exile where they lived for about seventy years. Like their brothers and sisters in the North, Judah, even at the times they were “good,” deserved nothing but to disappear from the pages of history forever.
The truth is, you and I are no different. Daily, we reject God and run after people and things we think will make our lives meaningful. Like Judah, we deserve to be driven from God’s presence; exiles suffering in the fires of hell forever. But our God loves His lost and rebellious children; you, me, and all who are born of Adam. God never forgot His promise of the Messiah, and He watched over the exiles of Judah, sending them great prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel and leaders like Daniel.
The Babylonians took promising young exiles and trained them to be political leaders who would represent the conquered people and help keep them in line. So Daniel and his three friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) went into strict training to become wise men (magi) who would become scholars and advisors to the king.
In many ways, the course of Daniel’s life is similar to Joseph’s as both were dragged in chains to a foreign world power. Both went through trials and difficulties and rose to high positions. Both were leaders who conducted themselves with great integrity and honesty, and their foreign emperors appreciated that.
Daniel was able to use his position in the Babylonian government to watch out for the Israelites and bring God glory in various situations. It was about seventy years after the destruction of Jerusalem that the unthinkable happened. Babylon was conquered by the Persian Empire.
Suddenly, Daniel was a government official on the wrong side, but God was with him, and the Persian emperor embraced him and gave him a high position in the Persian Empire. Daniel proved himself so efficient, skilled, and honest, he was about to be promoted to the position of administering the entire empire on behalf of the emperor.
I’m guessing you won’t be surprised, but again, Daniel’s rivals were not happy and looked for a way to change the emperor’s mind about him. First they looked for some corruption, but soon came to realize that the only way they would ever be able to discredit him would be to find some way to trap him with his faith in God as the bait. So, they appealed to the emperor’s pride and cunningly convinced him to enact a law forbidding any subject to pray to any god except him for the next thirty days. And just as they expected, Daniel refused to break his lifelong habit of praying to his God. They caught him in the act and dragged him before Darius.
Emperor Darius was troubled and spent the rest of the day searching for a loophole, but Daniel’s enemies had been clever. Darius finally ordered Daniel to be put in with the lions, saying, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” (Daniel 6:16) After a long, sleepless night, Darius rushed out to the lions’ den and with an agonizing tone, he asked, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:20). Daniel replied, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before Him …” (Daniel 6:21–22). Darius ordered the stone to be removed, and Daniel was lifted out uninjured. The king then turned his wrath against those who had accused Daniel. He ordered them to be cast into the lions’ den, and the lions killed them and their families before they hit the ground.
Then Daniel took his place as Emperor Darius’s righthand man, administering the Persian Empire for the benefit of his people Israel. Obviously, it was necessary for the children of Israel that Daniel remained in a position of power. It wasn’t long after, that a royal edict was announced permitting the Jews to return to Jerusalem to reestablish the city and rebuild the temple.
But the lesson of Daniel and the lions’ den also prefigured another aspect of the saving mission of God’s Son. Like Daniel, Jesus was accused of violating imperial law, this time Roman. Like Darius, Pontius Pilate recognized that there was no basis for the charges leveled against Jesus. Both set of accusers stuck to their guns, forcing the authorities to grant their wishes.
Jesus was buried in a tomb which was sealed by a large stone. Like Daniel, Jesus left the tomb alive and well. And, just as Daniel then began ruling at Darius’s right hand, Jesus took His place at the Father’s right hand to administer the rule of God over all creation for the benefit of His people who make up the Holy Christian Church.
Now, we’ve seen five of the signs God gave His Old Testament people about the saving work the Messiah would accomplish by His death and resurrection. Next week, we jump another 500 years to the birth of that promised Deliverer, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In His name, Amen.