Daniel 6:1-10; True Freedom ~ 20220130 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

01/30_Daniel 06:1-10; True Freedom; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220130_dan06_1-10.mp3

In Daniel chapter 5, Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians. Belshazzar had proclaimed Daniel third in the kingdom for interpreting God’s handwriting on the wall, an empty promise and a short-lived position, but it became the final official act of the final king of the Babylonian empire to honor an exiled Jew. We read at the end of chapter 5

Daniel 5:30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 ​And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Darius the Mede (probably the Median name of Cyrus the Persian) came to power in Babylon on October 12, 539 BC.

Daniel 6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

Darius installed Daniel as one of the three highest officials in his kingdom, and intended to elevate him over the entire kingdom. But prominence comes at a price; those elevated to high positions are exposed to greater scrutiny and criticism.

Daniel 6:4 Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.

The king’s favor toward Daniel aroused the jealousy of the other high officials, who desired to lift themselves up by finding fault with Daniel. But they could find neither guilt nor negligence. Not only did Daniel not do wrong, he did not omit to do any good that he ought to have done. Despite their search, they uncovered no sins of comission or omission. Daniel was a man of integrity.

Daniel 6:5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

Their failure to find fault did not deter them in their lust for power to take down Daniel. So they hatched a conspiracy. They would use Daniel’s integrity against him. They decided to manufacture a conflict between his devotion to his God and the law of the land.

Daniel 6:6 Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.

They lied. They said all the high officials agreed; but Daniel was obviously not privy to their plot. They used flattery to manipulate the king. They leveraged political advantage; it would benefit the king to consolidate power and test the allegiances of the diverse subjects in his empire. They pushed for a legally binding edict.

Daniel 6:8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

Who is Truly Free?

Let’s think for a moment about freedom. We cherish freedom. We talk a lot about freedom, and historically we in this country have been willing to fight for our freedoms. But what is freedom? Let’s think about the freedoms of the characters in this narrative.

The king – was he free? We would say, of course he was free! He was the king, the conquering king, the highest authority in his Medo-Persian empire. He got to make the laws. He was free to execute whomever he willed. He was the final authority on right and wrong in his vast empire. He passed this law, which was within his authority. It was what seemed best to him; it was what he wanted to do, and he was free to do it. He was free.

But we also see behind the scenes how he had been manipulated and played by his top advisers. They used him to accomplish their own ends, they entrapped him with his own law, and by the end of the story we see this king with his hands tied, forced to submit to his own law and do what he did not want to do, that which was not to his own advantage, to enforce the execution of his most trusted official, who had likely become a trusted friend.

What about the conspirators? Were they the ones with true freedom? They were able to use the king to carry out their own desires. He became a puppet, and they were seen to be pulling the strings. They did what they wanted, they got what they wanted, and the king and the law served their purposes. But were they truly free? They did what they wanted, but they are seen to be slaves to their own jealousy and lust for power. Their desires controlled and consumed them, and in the end, they end up being thrown into the very trap that they had set for their enemy.

Daniel: Freedom in Captivity

What about Daniel? He had been elevated to a high position that came with a measure of authority, but ultimately he was an exile, taken captive by the previous empire and displaced from his homeland. He was now serving the conquering king of the victorious empire. And he found himself trapped, hard pressed between two laws; he was caught between obeying the law of his God, and obeying the law of the land. He was forced to make a choice, but it was a lose-lose decision. He was neither king nor conspirator – he was the victim of the conspiracy. He found himself accused, arrested, and sentenced to die with no one who could rescue him. In this story, he is the one with the least freedom of all.

But who is truly free? The manipulated king or the conspirators who are slaves to their own lust? Look again at Daniel:

Daniel 6:10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.

Daniel is an exile, victim of conspiracy, subject to the hostile laws intended to entrap him, and yet he is the one who appears to be acting with true freedom. Where the king was blinded by flattery and lies, Daniel’s eyes are wide open. He sees through the conspiracy and understands the intent of the new law. But he is not manipulated by it; he continues to do what he has always done. Where his enemies are obsessed with their desire for power, he is content in his place as servant to the king, and ultimately as servant of the Most High God.

Even the fear of death holds no power over him. His actions seem truly free, simply continuing to do what he most desires to do, what he considers most important, without being influenced in the least by his changing circumstances or the winds of popularity or the actions of others.

I know it seems far-fetched, but what would we do if the government told us that we could no longer meet together to worship and pray? What would you do if prayer was suddenly outlawed in our country?

Notice what Daniel doesn’t do. He doesn’t run to petition the king, he doesn’t seek to expose the conspiracy, he doesn’t try to rally people to his cause. He doesn’t make himself a spectacle. Neither does he try to justify a neglect of prayer or attempt to conceal his practice of prayer. He doesn’t allow circumstances to control his response. He does what he has always done, in the same way he has always done it. He prays.

Under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar he prayed. Under the reign of Belshazzar he prayed. Under the reign of Darius he prays. When it was legal he prayed. When it became illegal, he continues to pray. He prayed as he had done previously.

Daniel acts as a truly free man. One author writes:

In fact, Daniel’s “seemingly innocuous act” was “more … revolutionary than outright rebellion would have been. Rebellion simply acknowledges the absoluteness and ultimacy of the emperor’s power, and attempts to seize it. Prayer denies that ultimacy altogether by acknowledging a higher power” [(Wink, Naming, 110-11) cited by Goldingay, p.131]

This author goes on:

So “what happens when a state executes those who are praying for it?” It is “demonstrating the emperor’s powerlessness to impose his will even by death. The final sanction had been publicly robbed of its power.”’ [(Wink, Naming, 111) cited by Goldingay, p.133]

Daniel was truly free.

Prayer and Thanksgiving

Notice the content of Daniel’s prayer. We aren’t told what he prays, but it seems he isn’t crying out to God in a desperate plea for help in his present emergency, or calling down judgment on his adversaries. We aren’t told the content of his prayers. We are simply told that ‘he prayed and gave thanks before his God’.

Here’s some of what the New Testament commands us about prayer and thanksgiving.

Ephesians 5:20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Do you suppose ‘always’ includes both good circumstances and those we would consider bad? Do you think that ‘for everything’ includes giving thanks for trials and tribulations as well as for blessings? Peter (1Pet.4:13) and Paul (Rom.5:3) and James (1:2) all tell us to rejoice in trials and sufferings. Jesus goes so far as to tell us

Luke 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

Give thanks always and for everything, even for trials and suffering.

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Daniel understood that the king was sovereign. He was aware of the king’s edict. He was likely aware of the jealousy and conspiracy of his peers. He understood the risk, he knew the penalty for disobedience was death, and he prayed anyway. We don’t know if Daniel’s heart was pounding out of his chest when he went to his upper room to pray, but we know he was human, and he probably had normal human physiological responses to threat and risk and danger. We know Jesus was human, and when he agonized in prayer anticipating the cross and all that that meant for him, his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground (Lk.22:44). Daniel had every reason to be anxious, and he may have been, but he took it to his Lord in prayer with thanksgiving.

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Do everything you do with thankfulness to God. Not merely with a thankful attitude, but actually giving thanks, saying thank you with words.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Daniel had a great reason to cease praying. It would very likely cost him his life. But he did not cease to pray. His circumstances were adverse. He was alone and the world was against him, and yet he gave thanks to God.

The Habit of Gospel Thankfulness

There is always something to thank God for. I think it would be fair to argue that Daniel had less to be thankful for than we do. He lived the majority of his life as an exile in a foreign land. Most of his life his people were scattered and the temple of his God lay in ruins. He lived before the cross, hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus to save us from our sins. I think it is fair to say he understood the gospel less clearly than we do today. And yet he made a habit of giving thanks to God. Get in the habit of daily reminding yourself of the gospel, the good news, and giving thanks to God for his great salvation.

Freedom from the Fear of Man

Daniel understood the essential and necessary nature of prayer. It may cost him his life to do it, but he refused to live without it. We can discipline ourselves to develop the habit of gospel thankfulness, but how can we overcome our fear of man?

Jesus said:

Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.

Daniel knew he could compromise to save his life, but by saving his skin, he would forfeit what was truly life. Jesus said:

Luke 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

Daniel’s fear of the Lord weighed greater than his fear of man. And his fear of man was legitimate and real. But his fear of the Lord set him free, truly free from the fear of man.

Daniel probably resonated with David in Psalm 56

Psalm 56:1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; 2 my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. 3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? 5 All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. 6 They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life. ...9 ..This I know, that God is for me. 10 In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, 11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

David acknowledges his fear, but he chooses to put his trust in God. Because his trust is in God, he will not be afraid, because ‘What can man do to me?’ They can ‘kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.’

Psalm 118 says

Psalm 118:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! ...5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. 6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

Give thanks to the Lord. Fear the Lord, and he will set you free. Truly free. Free from the fear of death, from the fear of man.

Proverbs says:

Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.

Are you entangled, ensnared, in bondage to the fear of man, or are you safe, enjoying true freedom, drinking deeply from the fountain of life of the fear of the Lord? Are you truly free?

Romans 8:31 ...If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?


2022.01.30 Sermon Notes

Daniel 6:1-10 – True Freedom

A man of integrity; no sins of commission or omission

Daniel 6:4

His enemies resort to religious persecution

Daniel 6:5-7

Who has true freedom:

The King?

The Conspirators?

The Captive Daniel?

The content: prayer and thanksgiving

Ephesians 5:20

Philippians 4:6

Colossians 3:17

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

Develop the habit of gospel thankfulness!

Freedom from the fear of man

Mark 8:35; Luke 12:4-5; Psalm 56; 118; Proverbs 14:27; 29:25; Romans 8:31-39


Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org