Robert Duncan Culver


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Dr. Robert Duncan Culver

VI.            CHAPTER SIX: Daniel in the Lion’s Den

A.     Introduction

The message concerning faith and prayer conveyed by this chapter has its setting in a story of religious persecution. The story is of an attempt to destroy a good man by finding an "occasion against" him in connection with the "law of his God." This report is rendered specially lucid on account of the fact that it relates to Daniel, the author of the book. The Apostle John, whose person and record of ser­vice as well as whose writings are in many ways similar to Daniels, experienced similar persecution. For, after referring to his tribula­tion and endurance, he speaks of how he is imprisoned on the isle of Patmos "for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus".[308]

Persecution of the worshippers of God is an old, old story. It starts with the murder of Abel, whose brother Cain hated him when Abel's works showed him up for the spiritual fraud he was.[309] It continues throughout the Old Testament narratives of the ministry of God's servants. So pronounced was the tendency to persecute the pro­phets that Jesus could speak of Jerusalem as "thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee" [310]   and Stephen could say to his Jewish accusers in the last moments before he, himself, also became its victim: "as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?"[311]

The story of persecution for righteousness' sake reached a climax in the crucifixion of our Savior, but it did not end there. He predicted that 'amen shall revile you, and persecute you",[312] admonishing the disciples to "beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you…and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake".[313] A short while later Stephen died a martyr to his faith [314] and not long after that "Herod…killed James the brother of John with the sword" and then imprisoned Peter. Both Jews and Christians suffered from their Roman lords on account of their faith.[315] Shortly, in the seventh decade of the Christian era, Nero began burning Chris­tians as accused incendiaries who had set fire to the city of Rome. This wave of persecution appears to have taken away the life of Paul, as thirty years later, in the days of Diocletian, another wave of per­secution brought about the imprisonment of John. So, the Apostolic age began and ended with persecution of believers in Christ.

It is Peter, whose death as a martyr for his faith was predicted by his Lord[316] and who tradition claims did die by cru­cifixion at Rome, who gives the watchword for our era: "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings".[317] And nothing has been more characteristic of the experience of true Christian believers throughout our age than persecution. Read Fox's Book of Martyr’s. Trace the history of Waldenseans, Hussites, and others in their conflict with the Papacy. It is a bloody story. And while there is not space here to support the assertion with details of evidence, it is not true that the Christian opposition of Papal Rome characteristically answered blood with blood. Nor is it true that evangelical movements were propagated with the sword, as some claim. The burning of poor Servetus in Calvin's Geneva cannot be made to carry that much freight!

The persecution of Christians is an issue of our time! Who knows how many of them have died in Russia? How many in China? Possibly more than in the ancient Roman Empire. Nobody knows when some new Hitler or Stalin or Mao may arise to carry off more. May the readers of these pages and those who profit by their ministry be pre­pared now in a time of domestic tranquility for the storm that is sure to come. The storm is sure to come because the Bible predicts that the end of this age will be enveloped in the worst persecution of believers the world has ever seen.[318] Our resources in such a time are the same as Daniel's were. Let us see what they are.

B.      The Position of Daniel (6:1-3)

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom. (Daniel 6:1)[319]

It is regrettable, but true, that the destructive Biblical crit­icism of two centuries has made it necessary for the serious student to give attention to defense of the historical truth of the factual re­ports of Scripture. This has already been observed in chapter five where the identity of Belshazzar and his relationship with Nebuchad­nezzar are matters of dispute. Two matters call for attention here in this verse: the identity of Darius and the kingdom he is said to have had.

The ancient Greek historians make no mention of a King Darius as holding ruling power at the time of the capture of Babylon in 539 B.C. Several kings of that name of later date are known by these historians, Darius I, father of the famous Xerxes,[320] and who with Xerxes launched the famous invasion of Greece did not come to power until 522 B.C. Furthermore, even the book of Daniel elsewhere [321] appears to regard Cyrus as the man who replaced Belshazzar. A century and a half earlier Isaiah prophesied that the destroyer of the Babylonian kingdom and the restorer of the Jews would be Cyrus.[322] This, and certain other considerations, say the unbe­lieving critics, show that the author of our book, living they say in the second century B.C., was confused about his history and supposed that there had been an independent Median kingdom ruling the Near East between the close of the Babylonian and the beginning of the Persian kingdom. To the present moment no prominent person named Darius has turned up in the known inscriptions relating to the fall of Babylon. This need not embarrass the Bible believer at all. In the first place remember that the situation is not dissimilar to that concerning Bel­shazzar 100 years ago. The respectability of the fifth chapter account of him is now thoroughly established to the satisfaction even of the critics. The same may yet take place with regard to Darius.

In the second place it was a common thing in antiquity for kings to have two names, frequently taking a new name at their royal accession. The kings of Israel and Judea furnish many examples of this.[323] Cyrus himself might have had Darius as another name. What is more likely is that one of several other persons mentioned frequently in both the Greek histories and in the contemporary Babylonian temple records [324] is the Darius of Daniel. Dr. John Whitcomb of Grace Theological Seminary has made a most convincing case for identifying him with Gubaru who ruled Babylon for a good while during and following 539 B.C. in the stead of his lord, Cyrus. [325]

If this be the case, then the problem of Darius' kingdom has been cleared up. It has been pointed out by Daniel's detractors that a different division of Cyrus' realm from that of "an hundred and twen­ty princes" is reported in secular sources. But Daniel has no refer­ence to what Cyrus did with his extensive dominions the Medo-Persian Empire—rather it has reference to what Gubaru (Darius) did with his large, but less extensive, dominions in and around the city of Babylon.[326]

And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. (Daniel 6:2)

"No damage," i.e., no loss, makes it clear that the purpose of the king's new governmental structure was concerned mainly with financial matters rather than the administration of justice. These ancient mon­archs had no conception of the administration of government "for the people"—to borrow the great emancipator's phrase. Government was for the king. Occasionally a benevolent man would arise to give the people something like fair treatment, but it was exceptional. The evils in­herent in an ancient monarchy—even in a limited one like that of Saul, David, and Solomon,—were made very clear by Samuel when the people ask­ed for a king.[327] It is only an enlightened, Bible honor­ing, Christian public that can make democracy work, even today. If we lose the Christian Biblical orientation of our public life we will inev­itably drift back toward monarchy—though today it is apt to be called dictator ship.

Darius is not to be criticized for taking steps to insure fiscal soundness to his realm. Any degree of national integrity, to say nothing of justice, will require fiscal soundness. No way will likely ever be found to spend a nation rich, nor to waste resources without resulting national poverty.

Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. (Daniel 6:3)

The fact that Daniel was selected as one of the three indicates that he may have been already an international figure, comparable say to a Benjamin Franklin of the early years of our republic. Sixty some years of distinguished public service in the greatest realm on earth would have made him that. Furthermore it establishes as near certain that Daniel's activities on that last fateful night of Belshazzar, when he denounced the dissolute young monarch, announcing his impending destruction, had been reported to Darius.

There are several important truths suggested by these things. Does not the appointment of a man well past 80 years of age to high government office suggest the value of years where wisdom is necessary? "Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child".[328] That leadership abilities are the gift of God is suggested by the fact that an excellent spirit was in him." The same expression at Daniel 5:12 clearly has reference to his gifts of wisdom. In that case, even the queen and the pagan king regard it as a diving gift. We need "gifted men," indeed, but let us never forget that they are, both in ordinary society and in the church, God’s gifts.[329]

Daniel’s exaltation to high office in the new administration, and the proposed further promotion, were the occasion of new dangers. He was, after all, not only a carry-over from the hated Babylonians but a member of a captive people, the Hebrews. It is almost as if supposing Hitler had won the recent war he would have appointed some British Jew governor of Great Britain. Such a man in such a position would almost inevitably be attacked by rivals among the conquering people. Add to this the peculiarity of Daniel's monotheistic faith and trouble becomes a near certainty.

C.      The Plot against Daniel (6:4-9)

Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful neither was there any error or fault found in him. (Daniel 6:4)

A very common situation was developing: envy driving men to at­tack a professional colleague more competent than themselves. Daniel had been wisely promoted to the position of the king’s "prime minister," the other princes and presidents being passed over. His superior moral and intellectual qualities apparently were well-known. It was envy of his excellence that led the brothers of Joseph to reject and then to sell him.[330] And, when the priests and scribes hailed Jesus before him, charging the most kindly and winsome man who had ever lived with the blackest of crimes, even a cynical Pilate "knew that for envy they had delivered him".[331] Joab, the truly great and often magnanimous captain of David9s host, committed a horrible murder for envy of a possible rival.[332] Nothing is more true to the common experience of our fallen race than the proverb: "Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?"[333] Daniel was in real danger.

It is much to Daniels credit that no fault of any kind could be found in connection with his civil life and civic duties. How few of us there are whose reputations could stand the examination of government agents prying into all our past: no arrests for speeding; no errors in our income reports; no brushes with the banking laws; no public out­bursts or known private moral failures. The FBI, we are informed, sometimes finds these things when the man concerned has forgotten them. Do not doubt that if such there were, these ambitious snoopers would have found them!

Then said these men, we shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. (Daniel 6:5)

Daniel’s danger lay only in the high elevation for which his lord, King Darius, was responsible, but also in the fact his integrity guaranteed exactly how he would act in certain situations. His future conduct in a simple situation between right and wrong was predictable. In any contest of this sort the initial advantage always lies with the side of evil. The devil and his children may use any method, either good or evil, in their warfare. They may strike either above or below the belt; stealthily or in the open. God's people may only "strive lawfully" whether it be in sport or in warfare.[334] They may not sus­pend their morals until danger is past. So, these crooked politicians knew well that Daniel would not be disloyal to his God, whom he regard­ed as the one Creator and Sustainer of the universe, for any reason or for any consideration whether of gain or loss. Herein lay their ad­vantage and Daniel's danger. Is our public display of faith and faith­fulness such that our own school friends or associates at work would be sure of our response to a situation where in our allegiance to our Christian faith was to be tested?

Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live forever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counselors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that who­soever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. (Daniel 6:6-9)

The strength of this plan lay in taking advantage of the king's vanity. Their honorific manner of addressing him: "King Darius, live forever" coupled with the vain self-praising proposal that the king actually assume divine honors were just the sort of things which would appeal to a pagan king's vanity. Darius had been only a general of the great Cyrus up till his "being made" king of Babylon. And, being past 62 years of age [335] he had waited long for the recognition of his military talents only recently acknowledged by his appointment, and accordingly had not many years in which to enjoy the glory.

There is an old German folk-story which enforces the danger to which vanity exposes those in high authority. Two crooked tailors proposed to a certain king, notoriously vain, that he give to them, master tailors, money to make garments of materials so fine they were invisible to any stupid or incompetent person. The king hired them, paid their fees, paid for their alleged materials, and often visited them at their work. He was, however, humiliated that he could see noth­ing in their hands as they worked and could see no garments forming, supposing it to be because he was stupid and incompetent. None of his courtiers would tell him they could see nothing, buy only praised the beauty of the crafty tailor’s work, since to admit they could see nothing would brand them also as stupid and incompetent. Finally the supposed clothes were declared ready and the king determined to wear them in a great parade. Of course, when he took off all his other clothes and put on the “invisible” [non-existent] garments he appeared in the parade completely naked. All went well, for no one wished to brand himself as stupid and incompetent, much less offend the king by telling him he was naked. Finally a little child cried out: "The king is wearing no clothes. The king has nothing on!" Obviously the child was not in competent and his observation showed him to be bright. So now the king knew himself to be not only stupid, but vain and incompetent. Of this fictional king, as well as of Darius and countless others, it is true then “The pride of thy heart hath deceived thee”.[336] One or two matters call for at least brief attention. One is that a lie was involved in the plotter’s speech. They said “all the presidents have consulted together, whereas Daniel had not consulted with them. It is not unlike some committee meetings to which by “accident” some members are not called.

Another is that the method of execution, being fed to lions, whereas the fiery furnace was used by the Babylonians,[337] is a truly authentic touch confirming the truth of the story. The ancient Persians of that time were Zoroastrians. Their religion, which is perpetuated today under the name of Parseeism ("Persianism"), held fire to be sacred. It would not be thought proper, therefore, that fire should be contaminated by corpses.

A further note is the sly remark of the plotters' about Medo-Persian law—"which altereth not." It was this feature of their juris­prudence that made their plot workable, and which effectively placed even the unhappy monarch at their disposal. This characteristic of the law, as we shall see, is a fulfillment of Daniel’s words of chapter two about the future of human governments.

Calvin suggests that the plot may have been larger than one would initially suppose. Says he, "Although Daniel alone was cast into the lion's den...yet, unless he had been liberated, the condition of the people [the Jews] would have been more grievous and severe.... If Daniel had been torn by the lions, all men would have risen up in a body against the Jews. God, therefore, here exercised the faith and patience of his servant, and also proved all the Jews by the same test, since they saw themselves liable to the most extreme sufferings in the person of a single individual, unless God had speedily afforded the as­sistance which he rendered."

Therefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. (Daniel 6:9)

Actually the original says nothing of a "signing" of the document. Ancient kings used rotary seals pressed on clay or wax instead of our now customary signature. A literal translation which makes very awkward English is "the writing was written."

In three respects the king by the action reported here showed himself to be a poor ruler. 1) Personal vanity, about which we have previously spoken at length, is the worst trait displayed. 2) Unfairness to his appointed subordinates is seen in his failure to consult Daniel. This should not occur even in the administration of a Sunday School. His precipitous decision shows a kind of impromptu judgment most unfortunate in those whose decisions affect many people. Of this sort is announcement of a meeting without consulting the schedule of other meetings. These failures of Darius as king would be failures of any leader, in whatever capacity he might be.

D.      The Prayer of Daniel (6:10, 11)

Before examining the prayer a bit of reflection on just whose prayer it is should take place. He is a man famous in his own day among fellow believers for his righteousness. God, Himself, shared in this popular estimate of him for in God's message of destruction of Judah, said, "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness".[338] Furthermore, only a few years later, God's angel addressed him: "O Daniel, a man greatly beloved",[339] according to the report of this book. Such a man as this is worthy of close observation and emulation, whatever he does—out especially in a holy exercise like that of prayer.

Now when Daniel knew that the writing, was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetimes (Daniel 6:10)

The word for house is the ordinary word, but the word for cham­ber is a special word meaning roof-chamber. Such a roof-chamber would have been built upon some corner of the house-top or even on a specially constructed tower. To allow free circulation of air its sides would be really lattice windows. There are many Scriptural references to such roof-top arrangements to provide relative privacy for prayer and medi­tation. In the case of Daniel's prayer room he had pushed back the frames of the lattice to provide free view toward Jerusalem several hundreds of miles to the west. The language appears to mean that Daniel had been leaving the windows open during the time of prayer, and now, when more complete privacy would have seemed cowardly, he did not close them.[340]

Before entering this holy room with the expositor’s spade of analysis let us look at the two facts which make it significant. They are firstly that the praying took place "when Daniel knew that the writing was signed," and secondly that it was prayer "as he did afore-time." The sublimity of holy courageous faith which these words suggest cannot be explained; it can only be felt.

The act of prayer was the only step Daniel took in the face of what he knew to be an inescapable trap. Perhaps he had read: "In re­turning the rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength",[341] or "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him".[342]

Had he been a younger or weaker believer there might be a long­er story at this point. By means of protests and remonstrances, legal and personal, he might at least have employed a delaying action. His silence, except for prayer to God, is not to be interpreted as "what's the use" resignation, but rather as "God will save" commitment.

When nothing whereon to lean remains,
When strongholds crumble to the dust,
When nothing is sure but that God still reigns
That is the time to trust.

There's many a cloud and many a night
In this path of yours and mine.
But the pitch-black night, when there's no other light
Is the hour for faith to shine.

1.      Daniel's prayer was courageous

He prayed "when he knew that the writing was signed" which proscribed prayer to any god save the king an act of treason, making it punishable by death. This was the kind of courage that enabled John Hus to make a good confession at the Council of Constance (1414, 1415). As matters progressed:

"…the condemnation of Hus to the stake was a foregone conclusion. He himself knew it. His letters bear the stamp of approaching death. During the four weeks that followed, efforts were made to induce him to retract, but in vain. [343] On Saturday, July 6, 1415, the sentence of the council was pronounced in the cathedral, condemn­ing him as a heretic, and condemning his books to be burned. He fell on his knees, and, lifting up his hands, appealed to Heaven, and prayed for his enemies. Thereupon followed his degradation from the priestly office, and all cried out together, ‘Thy soul we deliver up to the Devil.’ Hus answered, ‘And I commend it to the holy Lord Jesus.’ Then a paper cap a yard high was placed on his head, with the writing, 'Archheretic!' He was then led forth to the judgment-square, his neck bound by a chain to a stake. As the flames rose around him, he refused again to recant, and died singing, ‘Christ, thou Son of the living God, have mercy on me.' His ashes were thrown into the Rhine".[344]

2.      Daniel's prayer was truly pious

It was "pure religion and undefiled".[345] He did not go to the market place to make his prayer really a kind of political act. Neither did he send a note to the authorities announcing his intentions and then go home to pray. He simply "went into his house ... and prayed and gave thanks before his God." There was no parade of religion. True piety does not care whether its exercises are observed or not. How different from the long­winded harangs described by our Lord and attributed by him to the hypo­crites.[346]

3.      Daniel's prayer was according to the word of God

This is especially important for our instruction and should accordingly be given careful and somewhat extended attention. The captivity of Judah had been foreseen by God and announced by his prophets ahead of time, just as the replacement of judges by kings had been foreseen long before the days of Samuel and Saul. And just as God had provided guidance for the people after that they should receive a king [347] so he provided guidance for them, especially in the carrying on of religious life without their temple ritual, in exile in foreign lands. Deuteronomy 28:36 ff. contains Moses' most specific portrayal of the anguish they would suffer in their captivities. These warnings were, like all Biblical warnings to believers, deterrents to the sins thus to be punished. Knowing, however, that the warnings would not always be heeded, and that cap­tivity would come, God gave instruction for them in their captivity. The best summary of it, coming from a prayer of King Solomon, is to be found in II Chronicles 6:36-39. This must be carefully studied to understand Daniel's actions.

"If they sin against thee, (for there is no man which sinneth not), and thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near; yet if they bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captive, and turn and pray unto thee in the land of their captivity, saying, We have sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly; if they return to thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity whither they have carried them captives, and pray toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, and toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house which I have built for thy name: then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and main­tain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee".[348]

Thus with full regard to what he knew and believed in God's Word, Daniel prayed. I suggest that there are at least seven or eight distinct elements involved in prayer according to the word of God as exemplified by this man of God.

a.      It involved faith

It involved faith for, with his window opened toward Jerusalem, it was “toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers,” howbeit, likewise “in the land of their captivity.” His action involved confidence that the land guaranteed by formal covenant promise to Abraham and his descendents would truly be restored to them. As is to be seen in chapter nine, he even believed that he was living in the very days of its restoration. He did not come to prayer as a last resource supposing that “somehow” it might help. No! On the basis of God’s promises he came expectantly. “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.[349]

Note also the remark in Daniel 6:24: “because he trusted in his God.” It should be observed that this is not part of Darius’ speech. Neither is it a report of Daniel’s feelings at the occasion. It is rather God’s own opinion as to the reason for Daniel’s deliverance, reported here by Daniel as an author of Scripture.

b.      It involved worship

It involved worship for this also is seen by the windows open toward Jerusalem. Solomon’s language directed him “toward the city which thou hast chosen.” In the Mosaic epoch, worship was not to be held just anywhere. It was to be at “the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come…and thither ye shall bring your…offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes…and there ye shall eat before the LORD your God”.[350] By a series of remarkable miracles God had designated the city of Jerusalem and Mount Moriah, the site of the temple, as the place of his choosing.[351] Jesus acknowledged the validity of this arrange­ment when he corrected the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar by say­ing in effect that the Samaritan temple was illegal and that only the temple worship "of the Jews" at Jerusalem was the legal one.[352] So, Daniel, recognizing that effectual prayer is only pos­sible when respect is had to God in worship, and that in a worship that is according to God's own prescribed way, directed his prayer toward the city of Jerusalem wherein God had ordained his people's ritual wor­ship. It was a regard for what in New Testament language reads, "Neither is their salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved".[353] If God says Jerusalem is the only place then there is no other place; if Jesus is the only way to God, then men dare seek no other.

c.       The ground of sacrificial blood atonement

Further involved in the direction of Daniel's prayer was the ground of sacrificial blood atonement. Prayer "toward the house built for thy name" was toward a temple whose main purpose was the perpetuation of a complicated, but necessary, ritual of blood atone­ment. Twice daily there were burnt offerings for the welfare of the whole nation. Once a year, there was the ritual of national atonement. At all times of the day there were individual sacrifices being made for the sins of conscience-stricken Israelites who came there to get right with their God. Access to God then was by blood. How joyously the book of Hebrews reports the application to us: "Having there­fore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water"![354] This is the significance of our prayers "in Jesus' name."

d.      Humility is the characteristic

Humility is the characteristic indicated by the fact that "he kneeled upon his knees." Perhaps a better word is submission. The kneeling posture is the posture of submission. Calvin wisely explains, "…not that bending the knee is necessary in prayer, but while we need aids to devotion...posture is of importance. First of all, it reminds us of our inability to stand before God, unless with humility and reverence; then, our minds are better prepared for serious entreaty, and this symbol of worship is pleasing to God. Hence Daniel's expression is by no means superfluous: he fell upon his knees when­ever he wished to pray to God." Again our Lord's words about prayer bear attention. After vividly portraying the proud prayer of the self-exalted Pharisee Jesus spoke of the grief-stricken publican, saying, "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified...for…every man that humbleth himself shall be exalted".[355]

e.      Daniels pray was regular.

Daniel's prayer was  regular—"three times a day" formally addressing prayer to God. Though the Bible nowhere commands any special frequency of prayer, prayer thrice daily appears to have been practiced in Bible times by other saints. David, for one, says, "I will call upon God; and  the Lord will save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice”.[356] There is no legal virtue in this, but "unless we fix certain hours in the day for prayer, it easily slips from our memory".[357] Prayer at meals, at least, sets men apart from brutes as at least recognizing their dependency upon God. Nothing is more characteristic of true piety than regularity in prayer.

f.        Daniel's prayer contained petition

Daniel's prayer contained petition. Such is the emphasis in the words "and prayed," for it distinguished this aspect of his devo­tion from the giving of thanks. We are not told precisely what his requests were, but, remembering his prayer of chapter two and that of his three friends in chapter three we may be sure there was fervent request for deliverance.[358]

g.      His prayer was also marked with thanksgiving

His prayer was also marked with thanksgiving, for he "gave thanks before his God." This complies fully with instructions for pray­er in Philippians 4:6 "in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving lot your requests be made known to God."

h.      Daniel's prayer was constant

Finally, Daniel's prayer was constant. Knowing that men so easily let unexpected telephone calls, guests, family squabbles, over­work, and a thousand other things interrupt family and private devo­tions it is most important to emphasize that now under the most dif­ficult situation, Daniel prayed "as he did aforetime." The man who has been in a habit of praying when life provides no special danger or stress is likely to find God's ear more readily "in the floods of great waters." In the spring of 1944 when the whole world was tense with expectation of the invasion of the mainland of Europe by the Allies based in England on the Channel facing France, many churches planned special prayer meetings at their places of worship whenever the news should come that the invasion was in operation. The writer, then pastor of a church in Ohio, announced as his topic for a June Sunday night, "Will it Do Any Good to Pray on Invasion Day?" His answer to the question, propounded from this text, was Yes, if your church has been in the habit of praying—if it has already learned the art of prayer. Prevailing prayer is apt usually to be "as ... aforetime."

E.       The Success of the Plot against Daniel (6:11-17)

"The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel"[359] and never were men either more wicked or more cruel—unless it were when the leaders of Judaism crucified the Savior. The plot of the scheming bureaucrats worked like a charm.

1.      They plotted against him

They had "sought to find occasion against Daniel" not in his civil administration (which they complimented by acknowledging to be flawless), but "concerning the law of his God." They could not have chosen a more vulnerable aspect of his character—vulnerable not be­cause he would yield his principles but precisely because he would not. So—

Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. (Daniel 6:11)

The word assembled (as in verse 6 also) is one meaning to be in tumult, to assemble noisily and with a measure of violence. In the former case the idea is that they mobbed the king with their excited suggestion. In the second case they appeared noisily to have inter­rupted the old statesman at his private devotions. Both notices are intended to report their actions as unworthy of dignitaries of a great empire.

His windows had been open before; he did not close them now. He had prayed where he could be observed before; he did not cease to do so now.

2.      They portrayed him as a traitor

If they had wanted the law of Daniel's God to appear to make him a traitor to the law of the kingdom, in this also they were emi­nently successful. For—

Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, 0 king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which alter­eth not, Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, Coking, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day, (Daniel 6:12, 13)

No mention is made of their self-serving purposes. All is made to appear as if their concern were for the king and his laws. How seldom the real reasons for actions ever come to the public eye! It was only their envy that made it necessary for them to get rid of him. Any legal cart would do to haul him off! How unhappy a situation it is that such things often occur even in church circles. No one knows how many innocent men have been removed from their places of service for God by malicious trumped-up charges or gossip. Heresy is a terrible tag to hang on a man, espec­ially if it is untrue. Yet that is precisely the theological cart that has oft-times been used to get rid of people whose persistent questions were not answered. Nothing, of course, is more precious than divine truth, Let it never be championed or supported by liars or lies!

3.      The plot involved the king

If the plotters had schemed to catch the gullible king in the technicalities of his own laws their plans worked to perfection,

Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Per­sians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. (Daniel 6:14, 15)

The unhappy ruler found himself bound and gagged by his own law. Thus the story demonstrates the prophecy of Daniel that the kingdom to follow the Babylonian would be "a kingdom inferior”[360] as re­gards the character of the sovereignty exercised by the rulers.[361] Nebuchadnezzar had unlimited authority as an absolute monarch. "Whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive." In the Medo-Persian,

"and in each empire that followed we find imperial power more and more curtailed, and the voice of the people making itself heard with ever greater force and intensity until the days of the feet of the image, part of iron and part of brittle pottery—-a union of social democracy and imperialism".[362]

4.      Daniel’s death was their goal

They had schemed to do away with this godly, guileless and harmless old man who had served God and man well for three-quarters of a cen­tury. In this also they appeared to be successful, for the king finding his efforts at deliverance unavailing except at the price of his own royal dignity had Daniel thrown to the lions.[363] Yet that God would ultimately thwart the artful schemers, delivering his faithful servant, was suggested even by the king, himself. He cried, even as Daniel was committed to the den, "Thy God whom thou servest continually [even when worship was proscribed], he will deliver thee."

F.       God's Answer to Daniel's Prayer (6:17-28)

And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords. (Daniel 6:17)

The word for "den" used in other verses as this verse is more literally "pit." Apparently the pit was covered with a lid or cover. Through this door food was passed to the beasts. This door was not closed and some plastic substance as clay or wax placed over its edge and marked with the king's own signature ring. Thus Daniel's friends would not be permitted to help him out during the night and his enemies would not be able to harm him in case God should in some manner deliver him. This was further guarantee to the king that God had indeed worked a miracle when he found Daniel still in the den but quite unharmed. The parallel with the case of our Lord's body, sealed in the tomb by an official Roman seal, is most striking. Jesus' enemies could not enter to desecrate his body, nor could his friends enter to steal the body.

Daniel does not report precisely what he asked of God in his prayer, but we may be sure that God answered the prayer and granted that for which he asked. The course of events, directed by the overruling power of God, suggests the nature of his requests.

1.      If he prayed for the king

If Daniel prayed for the king, and most likely he did, then God responded initially by doing a work of grace in the king's heart. For,

Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. (Daniel 6:16)

Evidently the faith of Daniel had been contagious to the extent of affecting even the king. "He is able to deliver thee!" It was quite a royal confession! Any God arousing such loyalty to Himself, and such devotion as Daniel had shown is bound to be highly esteemed by observ­ers. The kind of faith which the king saw in Daniel affected his own estimate of the God toward whom the faith was directed. What a chal­lenge for overcoming public faith today! After a night of fasting (a religious exercise frequently recommended in the Bible) the king rushed out early in the morning to see what had happened. He had more faith, apparently, than many Christians now have.

2.      If he prayed for himself

If Daniel prayed for himself, then verses 21-23 describe the answer. Like his friends who were not even affected by the smell of smoke, Daniel escaped from the lions' den with "no manner of hurt."

3.      If he prayed for God’s glory

If Daniel prayed that the incident should glorify his God and benefit His kingdom, then verse 24-28 describe the three-fold answer. In the first place God's enemies (and Daniel's) were destroyed. God is not to be blamed, however, for the excessive fury which Darius dir­ected toward the families of the plotters. Such executions, were, in fact, forbidden by Mosaic law. Darius' action was, however, in keep­ing with the general standards of the time. In the second place, Daniel's God was specifically confessed to be the living God. The king's Zoroastrian faith was a kind of metaphysical and ethical dualism in which on the one hand matter and evil were associated as one eternal principle while light and good, on the other, were regarded as a second eternal principle. This was much closer to the ethical monotheism of Judah than the prevailing polytheism of antiquity.[364] The king's words [365] read almost like a Jewish statement of faith.

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