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Bible Study: Daniel 6

Daniel 6 tells the well-known story of Daniel in the lions den. This chapter closes out the first half of the book of Daniel, the part which is mostly narrative with some prophecy; the next six books of Daniel (chapters 7 through 12) are mostly prophecy with some narrative. For this chapter, John MacArthur’s sermon “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” presents the narrative story with several key “P” words to highlight the major points: promotion, plot, perseverance, prosecution, penalty, preservation, punishment, proclamation, and prosperity.

The Babylonian Empire, that head of gold described in chapter 2, is now gone, and Daniel finds himself in a place of prominence in the new kingdom of the Medes and Persians. Daniel is now an old man, probably well into his eighties, and still serving God, consistently and uncompromisingly as always. The first part of the story deals with Daniel’s promotion, and the resulting plot to ruin him. Just as happened to his three friends in chapter 3, the other rulers resent Daniel’s success — and thus put forth a similar plot. In chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar came forth with his own statue; here, the other rulers propose a similar type of idolatry, that for the next 30 days all men must woship Darius and any who do not face death — in this case, the lions den.

Perseverance — Daniel continues to pray as always; he doesn’t try to cool it for 30 days, or try to hide his praying. Daniel can say, like Polycarp (martyred at age 86), “Eighty-six years have I served Him, He’s never done me any harm, why should I forsake Him now?”

Prosecution — The conspirators found Daniel violating their law, and brought the matter to Darius. Of note here: Darius is displeased with himself, he at least recognizes and has enough honesty to put the blame where it belonged, with himself. Darius tried to deliver Daniel, and labored till the sun went down. As MacArthur says, the law was probably signed in the morning, then they watched and found Daniel praying at noon, and told the king, who had all afternoon because “execution, according to their custom, was to come before nightfall.” Perhaps Darius searched through the law books, looking for some legal technicality. Meanwhile, Daniel never says anything, never a word to defend himself.

Penalty — Daniel cast into the den of lions. Apparently there were a large number of lions, not just two or three like we often picture it, since we know at the end that when all the conspirators were thrown in, along with their families, they were all eaten up before they hit the ground. Archeologists have discovered actual lion pits that were used by monarchs as places of execution. A description, from MacArthur, quoting Old Testament commentator Keil: “It consisted of a large square cavern under the earth, having a partition wall in the middle of it which is furnished with a door which the keeper can open and close from above. By throwing in the food, he entices the lions from one chamber into the other and then having shut the door, they enter the vacant space for the purpose of cleaning it. The cavern is open above, its mouth being surrounded by a wall of a yard and a half high over which one can look down into the den.”

Preservation — verses 18 through 23. Darius spends the night without sleep, without any food or entertainment, and goes in haste to the lions’ den very early in the morning. Daniel replies to Darius: “My God sent His angel and he shut the lions’ mouths and they have not hurt me for as much as before Him innocence was found in me.” Only after the trial does Daniel say anything, only then does he defend himself. He put his life in God’s hand, trusting God.

MacArthur: “He will put his life in God’s hands in a lion’s den. It’s as if he was saying – Now, God, I don’t understand why I’m going to that lion’s den, but maybe You have a reason…maybe You know something in my life that isn’t right and this is part of it. And only after God delivered him could he say I haven’t done anything, I’m innocent. How do you know you’re innocent? Because God had a perfect chance to chasten me and didn’t do it. He waits for God to evaluate that.”

Of course, the trial doesn’t always end in deliverance — Isaiah, Paul, and Peter were martyred. MacArthur: “Believing in God doesn’t mean that the lions aren’t going to eat you; there have been martyrs throughout all the history of God’s dealing with men that have believed God and they’ve died. The issue is that we accept God’s will. If it is to live, it is to live. If it is to die, it is to die. But in either case, we’re never defeated.”

Punishment — verse 24, the men who had accused Daniel, along with their wives and children, thrown into the lions den, and devoured.

Proclamation — verse 25, Darius wrote to all the people of his kingdom, that all men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.

Prosperity — verse 28, “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”

MacArthur now gives several lessons about a man of God:
He transcends history.
He lives a consistent life from youth to old age and this makes for great usefulness in his old age.
Thirdly, he utterly fulfills his calling. In other words, he lives in the absolute center of God’s will. His only desire is that God’s will be fulfilled.
Fourth, he has a right attitude. They kept saying about him he has an excellent spirit…he has an excellent spirit.
Fifth, he will be envied and he will be hated by the world around him, but he will never be bittered by it.
Sixth, he is condemned but if he is condemned, he is condemned for his righteousness for there’s no other flaw
Seventh, he is known for his virtue and integrity even by his enemies.
Eighth, he is a faithful citizen. He is subject to human laws until they would cause him to violate the laws of God.
Nine, he is willing to face any consequence within the framework of God’s will and leave the outcome to God.
Ten, he will serve faithfully no matter what it costs him personally.
Eleven, he never defends himself. He leaves that to God.
Twelve, he strengthens the faith of others, giving them hope in God.
Thirteen, he is delivered from all harm and he is preserved for every purpose within the will of God.
Fourteen, he is a vehicle for God’s glory.
Fifteen, he will be avenged by God. He will be avenged by God. His enemies will be dealt with by God, he doesn’t have to deal with them himself.
And finally, he is exalted by those around him as well as by the One above him.

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