Thursday, 8 October 2015

Bible Reading: Daniel 6 'Obeying the King'

"It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three chief ministers over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the chief ministers and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the chief ministers and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, ‘We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.’
So these chief ministers and satraps went as a group to the king and said: ‘May King Darius live for ever! The royal ministers, prefects, satraps, advisors and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered – in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.’ So King Darius put the decree in writing.
10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: ‘Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?’
The king answered, ‘The decree stands – in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.’
13 Then they said to the king, ‘Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.’ 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sunset to save him.
15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, ‘Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.’
16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!’
17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?’
21 Daniel answered, ‘May the king live for ever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.’
23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
‘May you prosper greatly!
26 ‘I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
‘For he is the living God
    and he endures for ever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
    his dominion will never end.
27 He rescues and he saves;
    he performs signs and wonders
    in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
    from the power of the lions.’
28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian."
As chapter 6 opens Daniel is an old man, if he was a teenager in chapter 1 he is now somewhere around 70 or 80.  Again in this chapter we see themes that have run throughout the book: 1. Insecurity of monarchy, 2. Battle between kingdom of darkness and light.  We also see that the temptation to compromise recurs throughout Daniel’s life, it isn't a once for all fight, but a daily battle to stand and live faithful to the real King.

1. How to handle office politics (1-9)

In verse 1 we see yet another king, another empire – but Daniel remains the symbol of God’s kingdom.  There is no Darius in historical records of the time: we just know nothing about him, maybe he was a short ruling regent, or he is Cyrus, see footnote on v28 in your Bible.  Or Darius may be known in history as Gubaru, son of Ahasuerus, appointed governor of Babylon by Cyrus who is known to have installed under-governors in Babylon.

We see that in Daniel's day as in ours corruption is a problem among the ruling classes so much so that Darius appoints three chief ministers that verse 2 he “might not suffer loss”.  (v3) Daniel stands out in contrast to the other characters in the ruling elite, he “distinguished himself”, “exceptional qualities”.  The key here is that Daniel is serving Yahweh even as he serves Darius.  So the king plans to make him chief of ministers.  As so often in such circles that results in jealousy.

But the others failure to find anything against him just highlights Daniels excellence in service of the king because he is serving God as he does so.  His godliness is well known – the only way to do him down was to engineer a conflict between his service of God and the king, between the law of the Medes and the Persians.

As you read through notice the lie the jealous officials tell the gullible king in verse 7  “…have all agreed…” No they haven’t Daniel was excluded, and Darius is foolish not to have asked about this.  But the Decree once made is irrevocable – for 30 days there is to be no prayer.

The faithful and the fickle (10-18)

The temptation for Daniel in such a situation is the same as for us; compromise. It’s a 30 day ban on prayer, one month out of a life time, it does not say you have to pray to Darius, just that you cannot pray to anyone apart from Darius.  Daniel is not asked to deny his faith outright or to worship idols.  But Daniel's past faithfulness prepares him for this test – 1:8 had Daniel not resolved as he did would he have stood here?

But (v10) Daniel goes straight home and prays as is his custom, he shows no fear, doesn’t alter his pattern, or close window but does “just as he had done before”.  Why does he pray with the window open towards Jerusalem? Daniel had in mind 1 Kings 8:46-53. It is a reminder of who he praying too and the situation he is in.

In his prayer Daniel gives thanks and asks for help – what does Daniel pray about?  I think Daniel 9 which records his prayer prayed in 1st year of Darius, gives us an idea of his prayers.  His prayers are centred on God and his purposes and plans.

Daniel’s prayer life is disciplined and regular, he has peace despite the threat – there is no sense of panic throughout the chapter.  In contrast with Darius who is distressed but is also powerless to rescue Daniel despite making “every effort until sunset."  Daniel's enemies have their teeth into Daniel will not let it go.  The king's powerlessness is emphasised as he is forced to keep his own law and is left to rely on Daniel’s God.  As the Seal is set on the stone there is no doubt in Darius' mind that he is sealing/signing of Daniel’s death warrant.  Yet (v18) In contrast with Daniel’s calmness the kings distress and powerlessness is emphasised again as he paces all night. Better to be Daniel in the lions den than the king in his palace.

3. The King revealed (19-28)

As dawn breaks and the king hurries to the pit it is not with the expectation of salvation (v19-20).  But unlike the king God is powerful, he can do what Darius cannot, his word not Darius’ stands, his purposes not Darius’ will stand.  As Daniel is pulled up from the pit and he explains to Darius that his standing before God mattered more than his standing before the king.

Just as with the three friends smokeless, untainted clothing in chapter 3 verse 23 emphasises the total natural of Daniel’s deliverance.  A miraculous rescue that is further underlines as lions devour advisers and families (Herodotus – such punishment was according to Persian law) and their gods didn’t deliver them.

Verse 26-27 is the final confession of the first half of Daniel and as such is a fitting summary of the first 6 chapters. It is also a bridge into chapters 7-12 where this will be seen again and again.  God is sovereign he rules and reigns and rescues.

No comments: