GETTING THE MESSAGE/Christ shut mouths of lions for Daniel
The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is one of the best known stories in the Bible. Daniel was a high official in King Darius the Mede’s government. The king found Daniel so trustworthy and capable he decided to promote him to the top position. The other officials tried to dig up dirt on Daniel, but finding nothing, they then proposed a law that would test Daniel’s loyalty to God.
The law was that for thirty days no prayers or petitions could be made to any god or man but the king alone. Anyone who violated it would be thrown into the lion’s den, a gruesome way to die. The decree appealed to the king, so he signed the decree.
The conspirators went to spy on Daniel, and sure enough, they found Daniel continuing his practice of praying to God three times a day. Daniel prayed on his knees with his windows opened so he could face Jerusalem. The officials report the offense to King Darius.
The king is dejected to hear it. He is for Daniel. He tries to find a way to save Daniel’s life, but the officials remind him that the law of the Medes and Persians allows no decree of the king to be revoked. The king reluctantly orders Daniel to be thrown in to the pit of lions. A stone is placed over the opening, and the king seals it with his signet.
After a restless night, the king rushes at daybreak to the pit and calls out to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Daniel answers that God sent his angel to shut the mouths of the lions. The king then orders Daniel out of the lion pit and orders the men who accused Daniel to be thrown into the lion pit.
One of the things we learn is the secret of godliness. Daniel considered himself a pilgrim on this earth. He sought a heavenly country. He faithfully served earthly kings, but he was committed to God’s name and glory. He wouldn’t compromise the Lord even though his life was threatened.
King Darius knew Daniel’s devotion to the Lord. He observed Daniel serving the Lord “continually.” The king knew Daniel believed God was the “living God,” meaning the only God. Daniel was a man of consistent prayer. In Chapter nine you can see that Daniel confessed his sins in prayer, was zealous for God’s people, and exalted God’s name. Daniel’s godliness was known by God and men.
Godliness is more than Christian character or striving for it. Godliness must spring from inward devotion to Christ, a desire to see His name and glory promoted. It is the fruit of communion with Christ. From that spring of life came forth a godly life and godly choices for Daniel. And so it must be for us. We must value the Lord inwardly to bear fruit for Him outwardly.
Another thing we learn here is the malice of the devil. The pit of lions is repeated 8 times in the story. The lion is used as a metaphor for the devil’s destructive nature. The decree that Darius thought was good was the common temptation of the devil: “ye shall be like God.” The king thought it good that prayers be made to him alone.
The devil deceives us into thinking we can live apart from God, we can be our own god, or we can be the god over others. Our propensity to seek our glory over the glory of God is indicative of the power of sin and the devil. On the other hand Satan has spite for a new creature. If you follow Christ, you will draw a response. So you must be aware of it and count the cost as Daniel did. Are you like Daniel? Are you willing to suffer for the Lord?
This story points us to Christ. He was also falsely accused and condemned to die. He was placed in a tomb with a stone sealing the entrance. However, the Lord Jesus was there because He had to pay the last penny of the debt of sin. He had to make full satisfaction for sinners. And when he emerged from the pit of death, he declared a mighty victory over sin, death, and the devil.
Christ shut the mouths of the lions for Daniel. And he shut the mouth of Satan, the accuser of the redeemed of God, by his victory on the cross. He put the authorities who sought to destroy His people to open shame (Colossians 2). The Lord is a mighty King and a great Savior.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.