Kingdoms come and go. Imagine waking up and discovering that China’s economy has collapsed. We have another global financial disaster, but this time, Australia goes into economic meltdown. Half of those wage earners at church have lost their jobs. Life is never the same again.
Kingdoms come and kingdoms go, and Daniel had front row seats. He outlives four kings and two kingdoms. Daniel saw with his own eyes that God rules over the kingdom of the world. Daniel’s name means “My God is the judge”. He saw the Babylonians take over his own people, Israel. He saw the Medes and Persians take over Babylon, just as God had promised.
Resist the urge to be overly impressed and intimidated by such power and success. Every great leader and kingdom has a ‘use by’ date, and then in comes a new king and a new empire. Our new Prime Minister Scott Morrison is finding this out. Winning a party room vote is one thing; running the country is much harder.
In Daniel’s time, the new Medo-Persian kingdom needed to be managed wisely, Daniel 6:1-2:
It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. (NIV)
The previous king promised that Daniel would be the third highest ruler of his kingdom. Now he is one of the three rulers of the kingdom, immediately under the king. Darius is organizing his kingdom and bringing new levels of leadership to do it well.
As a side point, government is a gift from God. Rulers are put there by God to bring order and peace. Even bad government is better than no government at all. For anarchy is the worst of all regimes. When it is “everyone for themselves”, usually the women, children, and disabled suffer, often at the end of the barrel of a gun. Darius is trying to manage his massive empire without any loss.
We have a different empire and a different form of government to that which Darius set up, but even with our government, some of the same public servants keep the whole thing running. It is the foolish ruler or employer who gets rid of all the old staff, those who carry the corporate memory. Daniel was a true public servant, Daniel 6:3:
Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. (NIV)
Daniel is so impressive that King Darius wants to make him prime minister. So what makes Daniel such an outstanding employee? He knew that God was his judge. There was only one to whom he had to give an account. Daniel was both godly and gifted.
First, Daniel has God’s view of government. He knew that the prophet Jeremiah’s message was clear to the Jews in exile: they were to seek the welfare of the city, even if the city was in a foreign land under a foreign ruler. Having God’s view of government made Daniel trustworthy. God’s people like Daniel seek to be good citizens as they love their neighbour. Did you now that it glorifies God when we willingly pay our taxes. So when you go to your accountant, put a smile on your face and tell them, “I’m here to glorify God by paying my taxes! Where do I sign?” Daniel had God’s view of government.
Second, Daniel is godly in conduct, Daniel 6:4:
At this, the administrators 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. (NIV)
This is a memory verse about how to work, and study, and serve at church, if God is our judge. We too are required to be neither corrupt not negligent. We are to be above reproach in our work.
Daniel was not corrupt. He knew God hated it when leaders took bribes. A minister friend of mine used to work as a building inspector for Blacktown Council. During his first week on the job, a builder offered him a bribe to pass the inspection. He thought about how he was going to respond. He told the man “If you or anyone working for you offers me a bribe again, I will never approve any of your buildings.” He was never offered a bribe again. He knew that God was his judge.
Neither was Daniel negligent. Daniel would have made mistakes, but he would have been quick to own up to them. Daniel was diligent. He did his job properly. His work was not sloppy. He played to an audience of one. He was trustworthy. He said what meant. He did what he promised. He was reliable.
Third, Daniel was also very gifted. His work was exceptional. His leadership was outstanding. It’s worth saying that we are expected to be godly at work, but we will not all be brilliant at our work.
I said to my son when he was in year 10: “James, we are Galeas. We are not geniuses. We have to work hard.” And he did! We are to take what we have been given by God, and do the best we can with it. But being a godly Christian doesn’t make you the best doctor, mechanic, teacher, or politician. I think George W Bush is a fine Christian, but I also think that his invasion of Iraq was a big mistake.
Be the best you can be, with the gifts you have been given. As a Christian, you will seek to do your work and study with integrity. You will be a team player. You will honor those above you, beside you, and below you. You will seek the best for your customers and clients, help a new person on the team, and not slander and gossip those who hurt you. When you have a problem, you will go directly to the person first and not to others. Daniel was a faithful worker in a foreign land, because God was his judge.
Sometimes when you are good at your job, you will get promoted ahead of others. Daniel’s integrity would be a threat to others. His success would provoke jealousy at work.
I remember one guy at church who joined a company, and was put on a team. Before long, his team turned on him because he was working too hard and making them look bad. They told him to go slow or get out. So Daniel’s peers were looking for a way to bring him down, and they are exasperated, Daniel 6:5:
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.” (NIV)
The administrators knew that Daniel loved his God more than his job. And he feared his God more than he feared his king. He will not bend. When I grow up I want to be like Daniel—I’m only 58! Oh that it might be said of us, that the only thing they have against us is our love for Jesus. The only thing worse than jealous co-workers is an insecure boss. We have a king who loves Daniel but also loves the approval of others. Darius was so easy to manipulate. The leaders had no problem in flattering him. They set King Darius up to make a law which said that the only person to whom prayer could be offered for 30 days was himself, Daniel 6:7:
The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers 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. (NIV)
You should always be suspicious when people say that “Everyone has been talking and we all agree …”. That was a lie. Daniel did not sign up to it! It sounds like it’s about honouring the king, when actually it’s about removing Daniel. The king locked himself into a law he could not change without losing face.
What I love is how it was just so irrelevant to Daniel. Daniel 6:10:
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. (NIV)
Since Daniel was a teenager way back in chapter 1, he resolved to not compromise. And now at the age of 80 plus, he still won’t defile himself. He knows that God is his judge, and not King Darius. For 65 years, Daniel has prayed to the God of Israel as he faces Jerusalem three times every day.
Part of me thinks that Daniel could have told the king that this law would end up killing him. Or Daniel could have not prayed. He would not have been the first believer to not pray for month. He could have prayed quietly where no one would listen. He could have kept the window closed. But Daniel did not change a thing. He knew that he was being watched. He went straight to the window to pray, the window wide open facing Jerusalem. He fell to his knees. He thanked his God, and only then did he ask God for help.
How do you prove to others and yourself that you believe that God rules, that God alone is judge. It’s by persistent prayer. Daniel would face Jerusalem and he would face death. Later, Jesus would say to each of us, “Don’t be afraid of those who can kill body; fear the one who can kill body and soul.” Darius and lions are not to be feared. Does this sound familiar? Here we have a stupid law that was created by a lobby group of administrators who manipulated a weak politician, and which led to an innocent person being unfairly punished for his faith.
2,600 years later and nothing has changed. Let’s listen to Josh’s story as he was punished for praying at a university.
We honour the Australian Christian Lobby for protecting not just Josh but all people of faith. They are standing up for the right to pray on government land. But a time may come when we get thrown into a prison. And that is ok. In fact, Jesus says, “lucky you”, Matthew 5:12:
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV)
Congratulations, Joshua, you are in the company of men like Daniel.
But whenever I read this story, my mind goes to Darius. We have a King who wanted to show mercy but was bound by a law that made him punish Daniel. Daniel 6:14-15:
When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. 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.” (NIV)
Our own God is determined to rescue and show mercy. But his own just law demands punishment for sin. His own written word, which can’t be changed, says, “I will not let the guilty go unpunished.” Mercy cries out for forgiveness. So how can God be right and declare us right when we are so wrong? That problem is only resolved at the cross, where our sins are rightly punished in the body that hung on the cross, and not in your body. God’s own Son solves the problem for us. You can see that Daniel is a pattern of Christ. Both were innocent. Both were on the wrong end of a bad verdict. Both would die rather than deny their God.
Daniel was placed in a den of lions secured by a stone and seal. Christ’s body was placed in a tomb secured by a stone and with armed guards. If there was any rescue, it would have to be a miracle, Daniel 6:20-22:
When [Darius] 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?” Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 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.” (NIV)
Daniel was saved from death. An angel shut the lion’s mouth. And Christ was saved through death. He left an empty tomb with an angel announcing, “He is risen”. Daniel’s faith is a model for every believer. Faith in Christ saves every one who believes. Satan roams this earth like a roaring lion ready to devour Christians, and Christians have not always been able to escape the jaws of the lion—but they have escaped the jaws of death and judgement.
Ignatius of Antioch died in AD 107. He said this:
I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God’s sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.
Don’t be intimidated. Tertullian once said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Christians are like nails; the harder you hit us, the deeper we go.
We are often told that our views on issues put us on the wrong side of history. Those who falsely accused Daniel ended up being on the wrong side of history and paid the ultimate price. I’m not interested in being on the right side of history. I want to be on the right side of Christ our saviour. Only then will non-believers see our loyalty to Christ and glorify God as Darius did, Daniel 6:25-28:
Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: “May you prosper greatly! 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 forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. 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.” So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.