A Study of Daniel 6:20
“And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: And the king spake and said unto Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?” (Daniel 6:20)
The story of Daniel in the den of lions has been one which has delighted the saints of God for centuries. The LORD’s chosen have rejoiced in Daniel’s experience, and see it much like their own. Daniel was but a youth when carried away captive into a foreign land where he was a lone stranger and pilgrim. We see in the sweet providence of God that it was the blessing of his LORD upon him to favor him with many talents, wisdom, and gifts which would bring him to an exalted state under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and then Darius. At the time King Darius reigned he set 120 princes over his whole kingdom, and over those three presidents; Daniel, the Scripture says, was first among those. The King preferred Daniel above the other presidents and princes, as the Scriptures record, because an excellent spirit was in him; and it was also in the mind of the king to set him over his whole realm.
One needs but contemplate briefly to realize that things have not changed over the centuries. As Daniel was brought to preferment, and raised in position, there were those who would seek occasion against him, and desire to bring him down, that they themselves might be exalted, and rise in prominence and power with their king. And so it was so that the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom. But the Scriptures say they could find none occasion nor fault, and the reason was because he was faithful. God had blessed him with the faith of His elect, and kept him as the apple of His eye; and there was neither error nor fault found in him. And so, despite all of their squinty eyed desires, their evil subterfuge, and their envious passions, there was nothing they could find in Daniel’s decorum, conduct, or service to the king that could in any way bring him blameful before Darius. So, the time came that they consulted among themselves, and determined that they could find no occasion or fault against Daniel unless it would be concerning the law of his God. In other words, these other rulers, with their enraged jealousy, recognized that the one weak link in Daniel’s life, as they saw it, was his religion. Daniel had faithfully, and abidingly walked with his God, and stood by the principles which the LORD had endowed him with throughout his life and service in this foreign land. And now it was this very dedication that they sought to use to occasion his downfall.
The time came that these presidents and princes assembled themselves before the king, Daniel not being present, and they informed the King that all the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, the princes, the counsels, the captains, had consulted together to establish royal statutes and make firm decrees that no one serve any god, make any petitions for thirty days except to the king, otherwise he must be cast into a den of lions. They lied when they said that all had been involved in this, for Daniel was certainly not. This was done behind his back. As is always the case, the saints of the Most High God are contrived against by those who would seek their downfall. They are not consulted, their opinion is not sought, and neither are they given opportunity to speak for themselves. The king, like many others, was flattered by this great accord showed him, and so it was that he established the decree, and signed the writing, and according to the laws of the Medes and Persians, it could not be changed. Therefore, he set the decree in motion, and the apparent downfall of Daniel was set, certain, and sealed.
The Scriptures bring us a beautiful display of God’s work in His people in the case of Daniel. For when Daniel knew that this writing was signed, rather than lamenting with great sorrow, and frustration; rather than seeking refuge elsewhere; or fleeing to the king to beg and plead; bow before him with appeals and criticism of those who had sought occasion against him; rather, he went to his house, the windows of his chamber being open toward Jerusalem, and he kneeled down three times every day, and he prayed. What a blessed view this must have been in the heart of what little remnant there was there that yet remained faithful to their God to see Daniel not observing the decree, not fearing the wrath of the king, or caring for the wickedness of those who sought occasion against him; but rather bowing and praying, and giving thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. In other words, Daniel acted no different after the decree was signed than he did before.
How blessed it is to realize that the saints of the Most High God neither alter or change as the whims of men alter and change. They neither act, nor react, differently, simply because times and circumstances alter, or danger seems to be imminent. Daniel could do no different, because God had wrought a great work in him. Daniel was a chosen vessel. Daniel had Him within Who was greater than he that is in the world, and thus he could but go to his house and pray, and give thanks three times a day, even as he had done before.
And where were the presidents and princes while Daniel was doing this? If we may use common language, they were hiding in the bushes. They were observing and watching, lying in wait; and so they found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. Did they go to Daniel and warn him? Did they advise him to cease and desist immediately? Did they appeal to him with human compassion? Not at all! Rather, they came near and spake before the king concerning his decree, and recited before him these things that the laws of the Medes and the Persians could not be altered, and “Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee.” Observe carefully their language. “That Daniel.” What disdain and contempt they held for this saint of the Most High God. While their hearts were filled with cruelty, wickedness and malice, humble Daniel continued his prayers before the True and Living God, and the best they could describe him with was the expression, “That” Daniel. They advised the king once again, though he knew it, that Daniel was no better than a child of the captivity of Judah. He was not a true Babylonian. He was an enemy. He was an alien. He was an outsider; and so it has ever been with God’s children, wherever they find themselves. The world considers them not a part of them, for they are not. As Daniel was no exception, neither are we. Their petition was that Daniel regarded not the decree. On the face, this could seem to be a truth, but it was not a disregard for the king that led Daniel to do what he did, but rather a regard for One who was King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They appealed as though Daniel was a very dangerous man; one to be taken immediately and done away with for “he maketh his petition three times a day” was their appeal. “Look at this man,” they say. “Here he is, contemptible towards thee.” Disdaining the rules and the writings of the Medes and the Persians and praying to a God and not to Darius. How could these things be? How could he get by with this? Not so! He must be taken and destroyed was the intent of their appeal to the king.
King Darius realized well enough that he had been duped. He recognized that these wicked men sought occasion against Daniel, but he had acted hastily in his vanity, and now there was nothing but appealing to common sense and reason. And as the Scriptures says, “He set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him.” But this was all to no avail. The law could not be changed. These princes and presidents were persistent, their malice and rage was heightened now with anticipation that soon their enemy would be destroyed, and be no more; that they could enjoy and participate in the things they had set their vile hearts upon. And so the time came that Darius could do nothing other than follow his own foolish command. The Scriptures inform us that he went to Daniel and spake unto him saying, “Thy God whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee.” Darius was obviously not a believer, although he could see a great work wrought in Daniel by a power higher than Darius. His statement that God would deliver him was nothing more than a wishful thought on his part, for he truly could not believe it as believers can believe in their Redeemer and Great Deliverer. But his natural hope, against a natural hope, led him to say what he did. But be as it may, Daniel was thrust into a den of lions. Mind you, this was not simply a lion’s den, but a den with lions, living lions; hungry lions; lying there waiting for their next meal, be it Daniel or otherwise. A great stone was brought and set upon the mouth of the den. It was sealed by the king’s own signet that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
The natural eye would view this circumstance as a great calamity and a fearful danger fraught with terrors for one who must now find himself engaged with furious beasts ready to devour; but we find that nothing is said concerning Daniel trembling, Daniel pleading, or Daniel fearing. Simply, he acquiesced silently, like our Saviour led to the cross; he was submissive to the hands of the enemy, and thus he was sealed among the beasts.
The king, however, spent a much worse night than Daniel did. His night actually was ruined. Though Daniel was in a den of lions, the king was in a palace. Though Daniel spent his night rejoicing with his God, Darius passed the night fasting. Daniel could sing in his heart the great songs of Zion, but the instruments of music was kept from the king that night. His sleep went from him. There could be little question in our mind that Daniel, however, had a most comfortable night, because God was his very present Help, Refuge, and Strength in time of need. So, when the early morning broke, the king rose, and went in haste to the den of lions. No doubt, he went in frustration, anxiety, and apprehension about what he might find. And so, as our text read, “When he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?” What amazing language this is. He had said that God would deliver him, for he served Him. And yet when he comes, not knowing if Daniel is dead or alive, his question is, “Is thy God able to deliver thee?” Darius could not know whether God would deliver or not, and so he can only ask the question, “Is He able?” He does not know if God is able or not. He does not know if His power extends to the rage of hungry lions. He cannot see by faith that God will preserve His people in the furnace, in the den, in the flood, in the valley of the shadow of death, or wherever they might be temporarily in danger. Darius knows not the power, nor the might, nor the omnipotence of the great King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
“Is thy God able” is the same language used today, not only by the world, but by the majority of religion. They live by their free will creeds, their works doctrine, their duty systems, their money raising schemes, their praise and flattery from their princes and presidents. Little do they know that all the while the little remnant of God’s elect remains secure and steadfast, while they continue to question, “Is God able?”. They have not seen the power of God. They have not witnessed the display of His wisdom, and thus they can but question, “Is God able?”. But from the den comes the voice of one who from all natural reasoning should be dead, and he says, “O king, live forever.” Observe, please, there is no malice in the voice of Daniel. There is no criticism. He does not rail upon Darius for his foolishness or for his not assisting him. He does not petition against those who sought his life. He criticizes not the presidents nor the princes, but simply in his normal decorum before the court of his king he says, “King, live forever.” And then the sweetest of all testimonies; he says, “My God hath sent His angel and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.” Daniel’s expression is, “My God.” Darius could only say, “Is thy God?” He could speak of Daniel’s God as being Daniel’s, but Daniel could speak of his God as being “Mine”. “My God hath sent His angel.” We should not question that the angel, or messenger of God was the very presence of Jesus the Christ in His pre-advent form, to shut the mouth of these lions. Though the lions might have salivated with hunger; though they might have looked upon Daniel as ready prey, the Angel of the LORD was mighty to save, and able to deliver; and they had not hurt Daniel, whatsoever. Why? Because before God innocency was found in him and before the king he had done no hurt. Well might we then ask with the Apostle Paul, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect.” Shall these presidents and princes with all their jealousy prevail? Indeed not; Daniel prevailed through his God and in the strength of the Angel of the LORD. And so it was that Daniel was taken up, no hurt found upon him, no manner of injury whatsoever, because he believed in His God.
Multitudes have informed us that if we would but only believe all things would be possible. But it’s not a question of if we believe, but with Daniel it was a statement because he believed in his God. Daniel believed because he could do no otherwise. Daniel believed because God had granted him belief; a gift of grace. Daniel believed because his God was present with him, not only during the trial, but before and after. And so it was, this humble believer was delivered up safe and his enemies, with their families, their wives, children, and all that they had were tossed into the den of lions, and the lions had the mastery of them, and they break their bones in pieces even before they had come to the bottom of the pit. Their fate was sealed even before Daniel was placed in the den. That which they had desired for Daniel they found for themselves, to their great and everlasting consternation. And so it is. God’s little children may be despitefully used, illy treated, and cast out as the offscourings of this world, but nevertheless, if they are believers by grace, children by promise, born of heaven, they will be just as secure in all of their trials as Daniel was in his. Such a sweet message as this can only be looked at in part, for we in this life know in part, but what a joy it is to contemplate that when we leave this world, if we are His that we shall be joined with Daniel and all the rest of the saints of the Most High God in a place where sorrow and danger is not known, and there we shall know as we are known. This is the sweet hope of the little remnant till time shall be no more. Having this we are rich indeed.
J. Poole – 1988