Daniel was in a tight spot. He was huddled in the corner of a pit. Above the pit there was a high wall and across from him was a wooden wall in the pit with a gate in it. and then the door to the outside with a huge boulder preventing any thought of escape.
The last face he had seen was the face of the king. He could see the pain in his face, the anguish of one who is regretting his own decision. What had he said? “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” That was what got him put here in the first place. The fact that he served continually. That was the trouble with refusing to bow before that statue of Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel had always prayed. He knew this was the most important thing in his life. He could be all the CEOs rolled into one, but without prayer the whole lot would be useless. Jeremiah the prophet had taught him that. Daniel had his book back in his room. It says, “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer 29:12).
That’s what he had been doing ever since. Praying, three times a day. When he prayed in his room he always opened his windows to look towards Jerusalem, well where Jerusalem was anyway. It was all in ruins now. The Babylonians had ransacked the place. But you might take the Temple out of Judah but you can’t take the Judah out of the heart of God. And that is what kept him going. And why he was in this pit.
Daniel looked around the pit. It smelled of dirt. It was musty, damp. There was also the stench of animal dung. As the light caught slight movements across the cave, Daniel remembered that he was not alone down there. He could see the breath of the lioness closest to him. She seemed inappropriately docile. She was, after all, sitting across the room from a tasty looking Jew. Older now than he was when he first arrived in Babylon, but no less tasty.
Perhaps that was because of his diet. Yes, that was the first thing he did under captivity. He and his friends, though gaining approval from authorities, had nonetheless, refused the royal diet. Instead they had stood out with an alternative diet, one more in line with their own laws.
And it was those laws that the jealous officials had used against Daniel. For thy knew that he would pray, so they made the king decree a law, a law that would make Daniel guilty. This would remove Daniel and allow their continued corruption, their evil dealings for their own ends.
These officials of the king, having hoodwinked the king into making a law, followed Daniel home wringing their hands in anticipation. “Now we’ll get him,” they had thought, “now we will get him and bring him down!”
They weren’t disappointed. They looked up to Daniel’s apartment, seeing the windows open, seeing the faithful one pray to his God. They had him now. There would be no way out for Danny boy.
Darius meanwhile was by his window. From it he could see his kingdom, all the temples, palaces, and all the people, the people who worshiped him as a sort of demi-god. But Darius was pacing the room; the sights that usually gave him such pleasure were useless tonight. Tonight his stomach was a knot and nothing could get his mind off Daniel, Daniel in the pit.
The truth is that Darius liked Daniel.
Darius had first met Daniel when he came to power. He had heard about his greatness, how he could interpret dreams, how he was devoid of corruption, how his God would rescue him from the fire. He had intended to make him much more powerful than a mere advisor. He had planned to give him responsibility over the entire kingdom. But now he was going to be eaten by lions, ripped apart by teeth!
And he couldn’t do anything about it. Once a king of Persia has made a law it cannot be revoked. It was that silly god thing. If he was a god, then he couldn’t make a bad law. He knew he was no real god, not like Daniel’s God.
And who was Darius supposed to pray to? Himself? What good would that do? Daniel’s God was the only hope now.
Those stinking officials. How they had played Darius. They played upon his ego, massaged it, all with the intention of getting him to make a law they knew Daniel would not keep. “Oh king” they had cooed “you are sooo great and mighty…. make a law that bans prayer to anyone but you” Darius had fallen for it. Only a little law. And he couldn’t think why anyone would disobey. He was a god after all.
But those satraps could not have cared less who the people prayed to. They merely wanted to get something on Daniel. They had used him to get one over Daniel!!
Those slimes! They came to him. They had discovered Daniel praying. They kept telling Darius that now he had signed the petition, he couldn’t change that. He had to send Daniel to the lions.
They had him in a trap. Darius could no more escape from their scheme than Daniel could escape from the lion’s den. Who’s in charge here if even the divine king Darius has no power over the situation?
From his window in heaven, God saw his great creation, the sun, moon and stars, his display of his glory. But God is not like Darius. He does not pace his room wondering how to get Daniel out of the pit. God is not on the edge of seat, his stomach is not in a knot. Rather, God’s sovereignty over all things means he is at peace at all times. He is never panicked, never outwitted, never outsmarted by satraps or manipulative princes. God is seated on the throne and rules every last rain drop. If God can control every raindrop, then he can control every human power, every great empire, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, or even British! No empire puts any more strain on God’s sovereignty than tying a shoelace.
If God rules over everything, then only he can deliver his people. Not even the king of the empire under which God’s people is held can save Daniel! If the greatest power on earth can’t do it, it will take God to get him out. There is no hope of deliverance outside of God. You have no hope, nothing, without God. Your greatest effort, your greatest power, your most brilliant effort, will not deliver you.
God had looked upon his beloved Daniel, a faithful prophet praying in his window, his eyes towards the holy city. From God’s perspective Daniel’s hope is well founded. God could no more revoke his promise to restore Jerusalem than he could make himself disappear.
God saw his faithful servant, Daniel. Daniel has been trained to accept one important truth in captivity – trust God or die. Trust him when the Babylonians steal your culture and want to conform you to theirs. God will preserve you. Trust him when your refusal to bow to idols gets you thrown in the fire. He will stand with you and preserve you. Trust him when the powers of evil manipulate the king and get you thrown to the lions and not even the king can save you. He will deliver you!
Daniel was not ripped apart. His God was as faithful to the old Daniel as he was to the young man who had stood in the fire. God had shut the mouths of the lions. The king removed the rock and cried, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
Daniel replied, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”
Daniel was delivered, brought out of the pit unharmed. Because of his faith, because he trusted in God’s promises not the promises of the world, because he believed in the word of God and not in the decree of kings, because he was trustworthy with what he was given to do even in corrupt circumstances, Daniel was vindicated.
Daniel was also dependent. Nothing he did was in his own strength. As he looked to a flattened Jerusalem in prayer, he was reminded that what is so strong, so invincible, so everlasting, could so easily be flattened, destroyed, overtaken. Putting his trust in earthly things, earthly cities, was no good. He must instead trust in God. And that meant prayer. It meant that whatever else happened he would first turn to the God of his fathers for all things. In him he would put his trust. And now Daniel’s God had delivered him.
Then the king, one minute in joy for the return of his friend, now in rage for the treason of his officials, makes another decree. This time with no time scale attached, no time to make a political move, to hire the lawyers, to obtain a get out of jail free card. Darius turned on his officials and all their households. They were to get some of their own medicine.
And the lions, now not held back by Daniel’s God, and now hungrier than ever, obliged by eating all the officials.
You know, even unbelievers, sometimes recognize the God of Daniel. They see his works and tremble, they know his might and are brought low. They are surprised by his grace, his power to restrain evil even when it looks as hungry as a lion at breakfast. And so Darius wrote a letter to all the people on earth:
Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.
God’s power over unbelieving kings is absolute. No nation, no power, no military might, has anything on the God of Daniel. On this occasion, the prophet remains silent and God reveals himself through a king who just the night before had Daniel thrown in the lion’s den. We hear the sermon from the wrong guy! But what he says is spot on.
Only a living God can love you. Only a personal, living God can attend to you as you pray. He is no abstract force. God attends to you as you come to him as his child. He loves you and cares for you.
The children of Israel had often forgotten their God, treating him as they would any other deity, as a kind of enormous vending machine: sacrifice in, blessing out. They had forgotten that he was living, enduring, ever watching. As Israel’s love for their God had waned, their God had remained, he endured, ever patient, ever loving. God preserved the children of Israel while they were in captivity just as he had preserved Daniel while he was in the lion’s den. One day, when they were rebuilding Jerusalem, the people would ask how they had made it. How did we survive. The book of Daniel tells them. If God endures, then so do his promises.
Only a sovereign God can save you. If he is not sovereign, then there is no hope. If there is a king who can trump him, then you are better off placing your trust in the king. But Daniel’s God is sovereign and rules over everything. His rule guarantees the prophet’s deliverance. And it is the same God who can guarantee your deliverance. Without him you, just like Daniel, have no hope. You can put your trust in earthly kings, in powers of men and women, in wealth and fortune, in fame and popularity, in smarts and achievements, but none can save you. If the greatest king on earth can’t save Daniel, then how do you think you would fare? You are at God’s mercy not the mercy of any man or woman.
And God has sent a great deliverer, the king of kings, the great high priest, the one promised to Daniel, David, and even alluded to by Darius – he has sent us Jesus who, though he was brought low in death, is now seated at the right hand of the Father in perfect majesty. To him you can turn in repentance and faith, trusting him, like Daniel did, to save you and deliver you.
Many of you perhaps know Daniel’s God. But perhaps some do not. Daniel has a message for you not about how faithful he was, but how great his God is. It is the same God now that can save you and the same principle applies: only his God can save you!
You are not captive to a military empire, but an empire of sin. It rules you like a vice. You cannot even glimpse past its walls. Its power is overwhelming and it has got you beat. Not even the greatest power on earth can free you. Daniel tells you: Only his God can deliver you from your bondage.
This morning, come to Daniel’s God, the Lord Jesus Christ, Daniel’s expected Messiah, the one who can release you and put to death the sin that resides in you.