God's Sustaining Presence
Daniel 6:3-7, 10-11, 16, 18-23
INTRODUCTION We had a lesson with a view of Daniel and three other young Jewish captives at the beginning of their Babylonian captivity, and noted their faithful consecration for God's glory. That lesson was taken from the first chapter of the book of Daniel; now we jump over some number of years to the sixth chapter and find Daniel still faithful to his God, though living under the rule of a different earthly king, Darius the Mede.
Earthly governments rise and fall, and within divinely set limits the citizens of God's heavenly kingdom are obedient to whatever powers there are. But our primary allegiance is to the God of heaven. In that allegiance Daniel enjoyed the sustaining presence of God -- no matter whether his earthly ruler was Jehoiakim the Jew, Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar the Chaldean, Darius the Mede, or Cyrus the Persian.
We are commanded to pray for all that are in authority, that they may not interfere with our duties to God [I Timothy 2:2], and let that be as God wills; but from Daniel and other Old and New Testament saints, as well as from the direct command of our Lord, let us learn to seek "first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" [Matthew 6:33].
Outline of the lesson: 1. Talent, Daniel 6:3-4. a. Evident excellence 3. b. Envious examination, 4. 2. Trap, Daniel 6:5-7. a. Sin against Deity, 5. b. Sin against Darius, 6. c. Sin against Daniel, 7. 3. Triumph, Daniel 6:10-11. a. Victory in performance, 10. b. Victory in persecution, 11. 4. Torment, Daniel 6:16, 18-20. a. Doubt and defeat, 16, 18. b. Doubt and despair, 19-20. 5. Testimony, Daniel 6:21-23. a. Fitting witness, 21-22. b. Faithful witness, 23. NOTES ON THE TEXT:
TALENT, Daniel 6:3-4. Daniel remembered what too many men forget, that all his natural and spiritual ability or talent was his only by endowment of God, to be used in the service and to the glory of God. Surely it is right and reasonable that we devote ourselves completely to God if we expect Him to take care of us [Romans 12:1].
Evident Excellence, 3. King Darius recognized Daniel's superior character and ability, and wisely planned to make the best possible use of that ability. True excellence becomes evident in performance and has no need of boasting or self-seeking.
Envious Examination, 4. Human nature is such, however, that inferior men tend to be envious of their superiors, and so it was with the politically ambitious subordinates of Daniel. Like most little souls, they sought to promote themselves by finding fault with their betters. This is usually easy to do, but with Daniel they ran into difficulty trying to find something wrong.
TRAP, Daniel 6:5-7. Since they could find nothing wrong in Daniel's public or private life that they could use against him, his enemies set a trap for him by contriving a situation in which the decree of his earthly king would conflict with his duty to God. It is an amazing tribute to the power of the consistent testimony of Daniel's religious practice of worship and prayer that these wicked men fully expected him to disobey the decree that they had tricked the king into signing.
Sin against Deity, 5. These infidels, of course, had no fear of Daniel's God; so perhaps it did not even occur to them that in setting a trap for a servant of God they were sinning against God. They would realize the truth when the judgment of God overtook them, but then it would be too late.
Sin against Darius, 6. Also, in plotting the destruction of the king's favorite, most useful, and most efficient administrator, they were sinning against Darius, the king they were sworn to serve; but this did no bother them either -- until the wrath of the king fell upon them.
Sin against Daniel, 7. Infatuated with their own ambitions, it was Daniel that these would-be rivals envied and hated, not because he had wronged them in any way, but simply because with his superior ability he stood in the way of their advancement.
TRIUMPH, Daniel 6:10-11. Superficial observers might imagine that Daniel's great triumph was in the lion's den, but this was incidental and comparatively unimportant. Daniel had gained eternal victory years before, when he first committed himself to God; and now when faced with this test he triumphed in himself with God, regardless of consequences. See II Corinthians 2:14-16; Hebrews 11:32-25; I John 5:4, etc.
Victory in Performance, 10. "When Daniel knew . . . " The decree was for thirty days, but Daniel did not go through one day without his customary prayers to God. It is not the business of earthly kings to interfere with the worship of God. Daniel's important victory here was in remaining faithful to God, and this victory would have been no less great if then God had permitted him to be devoured by the lions.
Victory in Persecution, 11. Note again the confidence of Daniel's enemies. Instead of sending a spy to discover him in secret worship, they assembled to gloat over his open disregard of their wicked decree. They knew what to expect of him. How many of us live so consistently for God that even our enemies would expect us to remain faithful when confronted with the death penalty for our faith? See Matthew 5:1.0-12; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10.
TORMENT, Daniel 6:16, 18-20. Consistent unbelievers may enjoy a kind of comparative peace and satisfaction in this world before going to everlasting torment. Consistent believers may enjoy perfect peace and abundant blessings in the midst of this world's trials before going to everlasting bliss. But what shall we say of the inconsistent -- those who believe just enough to torment them in this life and not enough to save them from torment to come?
Poor Darius! Being an intelligent man, and knowing the character of Daniel, he had to believe -- somewhat, and in a sort of secondhanded way -- in Daniel's God. But not enough to save him from his folly!
Doubt and Defeat, 16, 18. Poor Darius! He had been tricked by flattery into signing a foolish decree, and lacked the manhood to admit his mistake. The most powerful king on earth allowed himself to be used as a tool by unprincipled underlings. He tried to assure Daniel with a doubtful and unauthorized promise of deliverance by the intervention of God, but he himself so little believed it that he could not sleep all night.
Doubt and Despair, 19-20. Poor Darius! Rising from a sleepless bed, he hastened to the den of lions, obviously fearing the worst. It seems that he must have peered into the den, and not seeing Daniel, "he cried with a lamentable voice." Yet even in his doubt and despair there remained a faint memory of hope. "Is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?"
TESTIMONY, Daniel 6:21-23. Really, for those who know God, there is never a question of whether He is able to deliver. He is always able to do whatever He will. In Daniel's case, it was God's will to preserve his life for further service in this world; and included in this service was a continuance of Daniel's testimony to this heathen king -- a testimony now strengthened by the miracle ox Daniel's deliverance from the lions.
Fitting witness, 21-22. "Live for ever" was the customary salutation for the king. A tactful witness, Daniel offered no complaint of his unjust treatment, but simply praised God for his deliverance and asserted his own innocence of any wrongdoing against either God or king.
Faithful Witness, 23. Darius well knew that Daniel spoke the truth. Certainly Daniel had given a convincing demonstration of his faith, and God had confirmed his testimony with a miracle that even a heathen king could not fail to recognize. From the context [verses 24-28] we learn that the king pronounced judgment on Daniel's accusers and issued a new decree in praise of Daniel's God, while Daniel continued as a faithful witness.
CONCLUSION [Matthew 10:28] So long as it pleases Him to do so, God can preserve even these mortal bodies alive; but after all, "it is appointed unto men once to die" [Hebrews 9:27]. If He has permitted millions of His saints to die at the hands of their persecutors, that death was only natural and temporary. The greatest consolation for believers in Christ is the assurance that He has saved us from everlasting destruction (not annihilation, but eternal torment) of both soul and body in hell (gehenna, the lake of fire). ================
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist newspaper, January 29, 1978, pp. 2-3. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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