Daniel 6:21-23; Presence of God in the Pit ~ 20220227 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
02/27_Daniel 06:21-23; The Presence of God in the Pit; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220227_dan06_21-23.mp3
Daniel was conspired against by those who were envious of his favored position. They could find no ground of accusation against him, so they manipulated the king to mandate that all prayer go through the king alone.
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.
For Daniel, it was unthinkable to alter his habit of communion with his God. Every good thing comes from God, and it would be sin to fail to give him the thanks he is due.
Daniel 6:13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
The trap is sprung, the king is caught, Daniel will be the defenseless casualty.
Daniel 6:14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”
Despite his best efforts, king is cornered, helpless to effect any deliverance for Daniel.
Daniel 6:16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.
Daniel was beyond help. His fate was sealed. No one could intervene, for good or evil, except the Lord alone. The king knew that, so he entrusted Daniel to God’s intervention; “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” It is not clear if he was stating the desperate facts ‘your God must deliver you,’ expressing his confidence ‘your God will deliver you,’ or offering a wish or prayer ‘may your God deliver you.’
Daniel 6:18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
Whatever he knew of Daniel’s God, he spent a uncomfortably long sleepless anxiety filled night.
The Living God
Daniel 6:19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
The king had hope. He didn’t stay home and assume the worst. Had he spent the sleepless night wrestling in prayer? What did he learn about Daniel’s God during this night? The day before he had said ‘May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you.’ Today he adds ‘O Daniel servant of the living God.’ Has he come to recognize, regardless of the outcome, that Daniel’s God is more than just Daniel’s God, that he is the living God? Daniel would only be alive if his God proved to be alive and active, at work, intervening on behalf of his servant. Jeremiah, some 50 years earlier said:
Jeremiah 10:10 But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
Job 12:10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.
Daniel himself back in chapter 5 rebuked the wicked Belshazzar on the night Darius conquered him:
Daniel 5:23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. ...but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.
Darius now acknowledges Daniel’s God as the living God. A king who understands that God is the living God, who understands where his own life comes from and who sustains his every breath, will be a better ruler than a king who does not recognize the God who gives life.
Darius addresses Daniel as ‘servant of the living God ...whom you serve continually.’ Daniel was his top administrator, put in a position of authority to serve the interests of the king. Back in chapter 2 the Chaldeans referred to themselves as servants of the king (2:4,7). Darius rightly could have addressed Daniel as ‘O Daniel my faithful servant.’ Why doesn’t he? It had become clear that although Daniel did faithfully serve the king and the kingdom, he held a higher allegiance. He faithfully served the king because he served his God, and this is what his God would have him do. When the edict of the king contradicted the will of his God, there was no question whom he must obey.
And this does not sound derogatory on the lips of Darius, as if he were frustrated by the fact that Daniel had a higher allegiance. Rather it seems to be a title of honor and respect, Darius recognizing the privilege and value of having a servant of the living God in his administration.
O King Live Forever!
The king’s voice was filled with anguish, but he spoke out loud, addressing his question to a Daniel he didn’t know was alive or dead.
Daniel 6:20 ...“O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 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.”
The first thing the king heard from the lion’s den, and the first words recorded in this chapter that were spoken by Daniel was ‘O king, live forever!’ Not ‘help!’ Not ‘how could you?’ Not ‘hurry up and get me out of this pit!’ Daniel was more concerned about the life of the king than his own situation or safety. Daniel showed appropriate honor and court etiquette addressing the king even from the lion’s den.
Remember, his accusers had:
Daniel 6:13 ...said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
Daniel demonstrates that he does pay attention to the king and is genuinely pursuing what is best for the king, even if that means disobeying the king’s own edict at great personal cost. To pray to God, no doubt praying for the king and for the kingdom, is what is best for the king, whether the king likes it or not.
Daniel states that he was found blameless before his God, and also before the king he had done no harm. Again, notice the persistent priority. It is more important to be found blameless before God than it is to be found to have done no harm to the king. But this is also cause and effect. It is precisely because Daniel was seeking to please his God above all else, that he had done no harm to the king. It was God’s command through the prophet Jeremiah to ‘seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile’ (Jer.29:7). His obedience to God resulted in seeking the good of king and kingdom.
The Justice of God
Daniel 6:22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; ...
Once the king saw through the conspiracy, he was much distressed and made every effort to protect the guiltless and bring about justice, but he could do nothing to deliver Daniel. He was constrained to execute the innocent. Murderous jealousy had won the day. But that was not the end of the story.
God is just. But so often justice does not prevail. We often ask ‘Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? (Jer.12:1). But God is just, and this is not the end of the story. ‘Leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord”’ (Rom.12:19). The Judge of all the earth shall do what is just (Gen.18:25).
Daniel may have cried out for justice like David in Psalm 7
Psalm 7:1 O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, 2 lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver. 3 O LORD my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, 4 if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, 5 let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust. — Selah
The Presence of God’s Messenger
God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths. Is this one thing or two things that God did? Did God send his angel and that angel shut the mouths of the lions? Or did God shut the lions’ mouths, and God sent his angel to be with Daniel? We are told precious little about what actually happened that night in the sealed lions’ den.
But I think we can take some cues from what happened in the fiery pit in chapter 3; there it was Nebuchadnezzar who observed “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Dan.3:25). He concluded ‘God ...sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him’ (3:28). Should we imagine the angel busily fending off and muzzling lions all night, or should we rather see Daniel enjoying sweet fellowship with the divine messenger throughout the night?
As we see throughout the Old Testament, the angel of the Lord or the angel of God often seems to be a divine person; God himself, not merely a created angel. Likely this divine messenger is the Word who was with God and who was God, before he became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn.1:1,14). God is with his people in the fire, and he is with his people when they are unjustly accused and thrown to the lions. God is personally with us when the stone is put in place and the tomb is sealed and we are left for dead. Jesus said ‘I am with you always’ (Mt.28:20). ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Heb.13:5).
Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. ...5 Fear not, for I am with you;
The king was worried, anxious, stressed all night, in anguish, at daybreak came in haste to the sealed den. But now we see why Daniel was not hurried or anxious to get out of the den. In the midst of his darkest night, he was experiencing intimacy with his God. The one he spoke to regularly three times each day was with him.
Daniel might have been singing Psalm 57
Psalm 57:1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. 2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. 3 He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. — Selah God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! 4 My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. 5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! 6 They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. — Selah 7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! 8 Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! 9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
Joyous Good News!
Daniel 6:21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 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.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
The king, who was much distressed and had labored until the sun went down to rescue Daniel, the king who had spent a tormented sleepless night, the king who went in haste at the break of day to the den of lions, who cried out in anguish on the way, is now overjoyed at the good news that God was able and Daniel is alive. Finally, Daniel is taken up out of the den, and he is seen to be unharmed.
Do you see yourself in this story? So much of this story is about Darius. We see his circumstances, his efforts, his emotions. Proud, thinking the world of himself, he fell for flattery and was sold a bill of goods. You don’t need God; you can live for yourself, get glory for yourself.
But when their lie is exposed and you come to your senses, you realize the ones you thought were your friends were playing you, using you to accomplish their own ends.
But you’ve made foolish choices that can’t be reversed. Distressed, you labor to right your wrongs, to make up for what you’ve done, but you simply can’t. What you’ve done can’t be undone.
But you are undone. In your grief you recognize your foolish pride will cost an innocent person his life. You cry out to God as a last resort, hoping against hope that somehow he can rescue. In anguish you cry out, and surprisingly, you hear an answer. You find out that God can deliver. God can even raise the dead. This is grounds for exceedingly great joy.
This is the gospel. I’ve been lied to. My pride, my self-sufficiency doesn’t ultimately satisfy; rather it is an offense to the living God in whose hand is my very breath. I can labor and try, but I can never undo what I have done. And the wages of my sin is death. It is agonizing to see an innocent man die because of what I have done, but Jesus died willingly, in my place, he was sealed in a tomb, but he didn’t stay dead. He conquered death and rose from the grave and gives me real joy in his presence.
2022.02.27 Sermon Notes
Daniel 6:21-23 – The Presence of God in the Pit
The Living God
Jeremiah 10:10; Job 12:10; Daniel 5:23
Higher Allegiance; Who do you serve?
Daniel 6:16, 20
Daniel 6:4, 13, 21
The justice of God
Jeremiah 12:1; Romans 12:19; Genesis 18:25
God’s presence with us
Daniel 3:25, 28; John 1:1, 14; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5; Isaiah 43:1-2
Joyous Good News of God’s deliverance!
Daniel 6:23; Luke 2:10-11
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org