Getting back to the chronology in the story of Daniel, after Belshazzar messed up and lost the empire of Babylon, Persia came in and took over. We pick up with Darius, an important historical figure, and how he organized his empire into 120 provinces and placed governors over them. Daniel was one of those governors.
Important to note that Daniel was a leader in the Babylon Empire and then transfers over to the Persians. Was his prophecy over Belshazzar famous enough that Darius trusted him? Some may have seen it as political maneuvering – Persia was growing and gaining power during the end of the Babylonian rule. This is speculation, but Daniel had enough integrity and wisdom to be a leader among a conquered people (Jews), a conquering Empire (Babylon), and the Empire that conquered Babylon (Persia).
Daniel proved himself among the other governors as an excellent leader, to the point that Darius was thinking of putting him over the whole Empire, like a Joseph in Egypt situation.
The other governors wouldn’t have it, obviously. Why would this Jew get to take over the top spot? The problem was this – they couldn’t find anything wrong with him. Nothing. The only way they could get him was through his faithfulness to his God.
Jealousy and pride blind people, especially if their heart is rebellious to the truth. A reasonable and intelligent person would look at the evidence – a man who was full of integrity and wisdom, to the point that he was going to be given the top position in the Empire, and did nothing wrong, and radically faithful to his god – and maybe put those together. Possibly, there was a benefit to being radically faithful to Jehovah, even through difficult times. Maybe we should follow this God, as well?
Nah. Let’s take him out. Obviously the solution.
So they go to Darius and manipulate him into signing a law that made prayer to any other god punishable by death. Not realizing their intent to destroy Daniel, Darius signs it.
A quick point about Persian law – it could not be undone. Once a law was signed, it had to be acted upon. Even the King could not undo it. This was the issue in Esther with Artaxerxes and what became the Jewish celebration of Purim.
As an aside, the Old Testament points this out several times, and it is significant in our understanding of why Jesus had to die on the cross and rise again. God gave a law in the Garden that those who ate of the tree would die, and we are all still under that consequence and law. As the New Testament and Paul point out, a change of covenant and law had to take place in order for us to have eternal life. As in Esther, a new law had to be written and established to counteract the previous law. We had to die to sin and be reborn alive in Christ. The Old Law has its effect but the New Law and covenant overwhelms it. The death and resurrection of Christ, therefore, was a legal exchange unto a new eternal realm. There’s lots more to say about that … but I’ll leave it there …
In Daniel’s case, we have to realize that the attack upon those faithful to God still exists. It is a spiritual thing but plays out in political and social situations. Because people are rebellious against the true God, they act out their rebellion in violence and persecution of those faithful to Him. Christians are the #1 persecuted group in the world (not America, but the world … although the roots of that persecution have been laid here, as well). More Christians were martyred in the last century than all the centuries combined. The kingdoms of this world are violently opposed to the Heavenly One that is over them all and take it out on the Heavenly ambassadors.
Jesus spoke clearly about how sharing truth with the “dogs” (the spiritually unclean) is dangerous because they will react violently and attack you personally.
Often, when people reject us and choose to lie and think the worst of us, it has nothing to do with anything we’ve done but more to do with the evil in the hearts of others.
Please don’t take my statements to mean that Christians are perfect. If we have wronged anyone, we should take responsibility and ask forgiveness and take the consequences. But that doesn’t discount the truth of what I’m getting at.
There are consequences for following hard after God. There are benefits, to be sure, eternal and immediate all at once. But one of the consequences is a world that will hate us.
Modern Christians are uncomfortable with this. Jesus also said clearly that the world will hate you because it hated him. This idea that the people of the world should love us and think well of us because we’re so nice is unbiblical. Some will see our love as love and respect us and listen to the truth. But if someone reacts violently and is offended, it doesn’t naturally mean we did anything wrong. In fact, we may have done something very right.
And what we should not do is to stop speaking truth and declaring the love of the Father because people may be offended. I’m telling you THEY WILL BE. It’s a promise. Seek God alone for how we should speak and act and the wisdom in how and where, but don’t allow the world to manipulate us to cease spreading the gospel with their overactive ideas of offense. God knows better how to love than they do.
Daniel didn’t stop praying. He read the law. He knew the consequences. He prayed and remained faithful anyway.
He didn’t fight for his rights. He didn’t seek revenge on those that were against him. He didn’t try to change the law. He took the consequences.
Because he knew he reported to a greater King.
Too often we try to combat the worldly with worldly means. We belong to a more powerful Kingdom than any on earth. We don’t need the laws of this world to protect us or allow us to declare the awesomeness of God. We don’t need to shut people up when they attack us. God is capable of doing that, and he will see that they reap what they sow. Daniel knew this.
Don’t you think that Daniel, who had the King’s ear, had enough influence to fight back with politics and manipulation and the power of the Empire?
“We don’t wrestle with flesh and blood but principalities and powers in the spiritual realm.”
Daniel fought back by remaining faithful, by refusing to stop his radical faithfulness to God, by resting in the truth of the Kingdom of Heaven God had revealed to him. He knew the rest would work out in his favor, one way or the other. He had evidence of it from his three friends and a fiery furnace years before and in his own life. He saw how others, the kings of Israel and Judah and kings of Babylon, sinned and fell into judgment. He knew people reap what they sow.
He trusted all of that instead of responding in kind.
And when he was thrown to the lions, God shut their mouths. And in the morning, Darius was happy to see Daniel alive. And the King threw those attackers and liars and cowards to the lions.
They were torn to pieces before they hit the ground.