A few weeks ago, I preached about the story of Jonah and we talked about what we teach our kids about Jonah. Today, we have another children’s favorite Bible story. The story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den is a favorite to teach kids in Sunday school and Children’s church.
Who has heard the story of Daniel before I read it this morning?
Tell me what you know about Daniel.
Thrown in the Lion’s Den for praying, guarded in Lion’s Den, saved
What is the message we teach children with this story?
We should start our story at the beginning of chapter 6. The prophet Daniel had been working in Persia during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar and his son King Belshazzar. Chapter 6 starts with the reign of King Darius.
King Darius is appointing his cabinet and close advisors in his first days as king. The prophet Daniel was chosen as 1 of 3 administrators. Daniel was distinguished from others by his honor and character. Daniel’s fellow administrators and satraps were jealous of the favor Daniel had with the king so they plotted against him. They tried to go after his work, but he was beyond reproach. So, they decided to go after him based on his faith.
The Babylonians practiced the pagan religious practices of bowing down to the king and praying to their local gods. Daniel was a Jew in Exile where it was illegal to pray to God, have a Torah scroll or keep the Sabbath. All the king’s men agreed they would convince the king to issue an edict forbidding anyone from praying to anyone or anything other than the king for 30 days. The king was very easily manipulated into issuing the decree. A little flattery, stroked the ego and the king played into their hand.
The king issued the decree that anyone who prayed to anyone or anything other than the king for the next 30 days would be thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel’s response to hearing about this decree was to continue to pray, as he has always done. The king’s men knew Daniel would not not pray for 30 days so they went to find him and try to catch him praying. And, that they did. They found Daniel praying. He wasn’t sitting in the town square making a show. Daniel was praying at home in quiet, private devotion.
The king’s men went to the king. They told the king that they had found Daniel praying and reminded him of the edict he had issued about praying to no one or nothing other than the king for 30 days or they would be thrown in the lion’s den. The king was upset to find out that Daniel had violated the decree. The king had 2 choices: give exception to the edict which could cause some to question the authority of his edicts or he could have Daniel thrown in the lion’s den and lose his right-hand man.
The king knew that he had no choice but to throw Daniel in the lion’s den as he had decreed. Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den and King Darius said: “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” Those words from King Darius tells us he recognizes that Daniel was a faithful man of God, that Daniel was willing to call on God’s help even when it was illegal, and that God can save. We all know that Daniel was protected by an angel who shut the mouths of the lions so he was rescued from the den.
King Darius went to the lion’s den to find Daniel early in the morning. He said to him: “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.”
Daniel was released from the lion’s den “with no wounds because he had trusted in God.”
All was well with Daniel, but there was trouble for those who plotted against him. The king’s men involved in the scheme were all thrown in the lion’s den with their wives and children. They were not saved.
King Darius issued another decree. This time he decreed that everyone in the kingdom should fear God, “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.”
There are so many places we want to insert ourselves in this story to draw meaning for our lives.
We all want to identify with Daniel. We might consider whether or not our faith is under persecution. Think about ways we are being told we can’t pray. We might think about how churches in America are shrinking. Maybe think about kids praying in school. Maybe think about the “war on Christmas” when we feel like we can’t say “Merry Christmas” or feel defiant by stories of towns not putting up nativity sets in the public square. But, I don’t think we’re being persecuted for our faith. There are places where Christians are persecuted because of their faith. America is not one of those places. We DO feel our faith is threatened by the growing numbers of people of other faiths or no faith in America while the number of Christians is shrinking. That is not persecution; that’s an evangelism problem. So, I don’t think we can identify with Daniel as being persecuted for our faith.
I wonder how we would respond if we were told we couldn’t go to church or pray or read our Bibles.
What if we were told to register as Christians and our activity monitored to see if we were doing anything faithful?
Would we be found praying?
Would we be found with our Bibles open?
Would we risk gathering for worship?
Would we be found guilty of anything that we would be convicted as people of faith?
We might want to identify with Daniel and consider what it would be like to be in the lion’s den. We might ask ourselves what would be our lion’s den or what happens to trap us in the lion’s den. We know that Daniel did defy the king’s decree and did something that caused him to be punished, but God spared him. Daniel was blameless yet punished. Daniel was blameless before God because he had remained devoted even in the face of persecution. And, Daniel was blameless before the king. Yes, he had defied the king’s decree but he was a remarkable servant to the king with exceptional qualities and beyond reproach. He was blameless before God and the king and so God spared Daniel.
We might not be so lucky if we were in the lion’s den. We couldn’t say we could be found blameless before God. We can however say we are saved by Christ who is blameless and intercedes on our behalf. Thank God for Christ who saves us and gives us hope for rescue in whatever we face. Amen.