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Daniel (2010)

Lion's Den

Daniel  6

Lesson audio

 

We have omitted the Scripture from this lesson outline for reasons of length. The lesson is based around the New American Standard Bible translation, however, any reasonable translation should do.

The Nature of the Law

Some preliminary thoughts on the nature of law are required to begin this lesson. Christians sometimes assume that law is inherently bad. This is not the case; law is necessary because people are sinners.

Helpless before mercy

A story is told of New York Mayor LaGuardia. At the time the mayor was permitted to sit in judgment in the court system, particularly in the lower courts. One evening, a grandmother was brought before him on the charge of stealing a loaf of bread. Her excuse was that she needed the loaf of bread to feed her grandchildren. LaGuardia listened sympathetically, and then remarked that the law is the law. He find her $10. He then fined everyone else in the courtroom, including the grocer who brought the charges, $.25 for the crime of living in a city in which a grandmother was obliged to steal to feed her grandchildren. The bailiff collected the fines, and was then instructed to give the collection to the grandmother. LaGuardia himself paid the $10.

It is an instance of the fact that the law is helpless before mercy. By its very nature, law must be inflexible. Otherwise, any judge can be merciful to any extent that he wishes at any time. Likewise, the judge can be vengeful to any extent that he wishes at any time. Law then degenerates into vengeance or mercy or simply the whim of the judge. The inflexible nature of the law is actually a protection against the fact that the law is executed by sinners. Once you perceive that the law must be this way, you can understand the problem presented in this chapter of Daniel.

Church and state problems

This nature of the law becomes a problem for the Christian when the state decides that it is morally supreme. When that happens, the state must seek a method to enforce that moral superiority. The law is an ideal method for such enforcement. This is not a fault of the law; it merely shows the usefulness of the law as a tool for implementing the will of tyrants.

Ultimately, either the state or God can be morally supreme. But not both. If the state decides to enforce moral supremacy then the Christian must be prepared for persecution. It is inevitable once that decision is made. No amount of smooth wording (which will be used anyway) can cover over this fact. The persecution may be mild or severe, but it must happen.

Of course, the Christian must be prepared for this. How can we do this?

  • First, the Christian’s eternal life must be in order. This is the life of study, prayer, and devotion. The personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the foremost tool for resisting persecution.
  • Then, the Christian's life in respect to the church must also be in order. You are not expected to endure persecution alone. The church must stand ready to assist those who are suffering for the faith. And the suffering must rely upon the church to do just that.
  • In all persecution we must remember our destination. This world is not our home, we are just passing through. So it matters little to those who live the life of the resurrection whether we live or die. We must keep our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith, trusting in him to rescue us or raise us from the dead.
Vindication by God

The reader may recall the concept of "trial by battle". In the middle ages it was explicitly presumed that God would vindicate the right. Those who had a legal dispute were entitled to appeal to this trial by combat. The two sides would meet in hand to hand combat, usually with swords, and the victor in this combat was presumed to have been vindicated by God, and therefore righteously entitled to judgment. Winston Churchill notes that monasteries and other large landowners usually went to the precaution of hiring a professional champion to assist the Almighty in determining the right.

The idea however, is simply this: despite the law’s failings God will ultimately vindicate those who are in the right. Note, please, that this vindication may be posthumous. God does his vindication in his own way, at his own time, and in such manner as to vindicate his truth, not our opinions.

You might well ask why God does it this way. May I suggest that the first good reason is simply this: vengeance is mine, says the Lord. If the Lord allowed otherwise, the rule of vengeance would quickly replace the rule of law. This can be discouraging to the average Christian. In the short run, we see the advantages of having might rather than right. We forget that the battle belongs to the Lord.

Wisdom, we are taught, is vindicated by her children. This we know, usually by being unwise. But permit me a spiritual application of this point:

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.

(1 Timothy 3:16 NASB)

You see the point: Christ was vindicated by the Spirit. By the world’s standards he was condemned, executed and buried. It would seem that no vindication would be possible by the world’s standards. But God has his own set of standards.

Character

We may now examine the character of the principle players in this drama:

Daniel’s opponents

The men who opposed Daniel are notable for three particular sins:

  • The first such sin is envy . Many of our local students will recall the tale of F. E. B. Meyer. This man was greatly troubled by what he saw as his failures being due to the success of others[1]. But God convicted him of envy, and as he prayed for his competitors God granted him success. Envy crawls into the Christian life masquerading as justice. We must see through the masquerade.
  • The second sin might be listed as corruption, but it goes more commonly by the name of greed. Daniel is honest; Daniel is their superior; they want more money; Daniel must be eliminated. Greed is often covered with a cloak of justice. However, if the situation warrants, it can also be cloaked in pleasant flattery.
  • Pleasant flattery is the third sin. One might think of it more as a lifestyle; you lie to the King, telling him how wonderful he is-and neither of you really believes it. But it is pleasant. It seems so smooth and easy; we must remember that at its root is dishonesty. These people are liars.
Darius

The reader will please note that there are at least three rulers named Darius in the Scriptures. This one is the earliest of them; he is the ally of Cyrus the Persian who conquered Babylon.

The first thing to notice is that Darius must know Daniel quite well by now. Certainly the story of the writing on the wall must have been known to him. But most of his knowledge comes from the fact that Daniel has been an administrator for him, and he knows him to be an honest man. An honest man is highly valuable to a King. He is even more valuable if he is politely blunt in speaking with the king. So at the very least Darius sees himself as losing a valuable civil servant.

Darius, however, is a vain man. He is a just ruler but still vain. He is accustomed to being flattered, and as such is accustomed to passing ceremonial proclamations in his own honor. No doubt he thought he had done just such a thing. Now he finds out that this will cost him greatly. But being a just ruler, he must enforce the law.

But see his reaction to the result! Like any emperor of this time, he wants the gods to be on his side. As will be seen in Ezra and Nehemiah, he sends the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple so that the King and his sons might not suffer loss. He does not have a complete view of God. But that which he does have is sufficient to convince him that this God must be pleased. And he certainly must not be offended.

Daniel

Daniel may be noted in this passage for three characteristics:

  • The first is godliness. In particular, this is godliness that shows in his everyday life. His enemies can count on his righteousness. I wonder how many of us could make the same claim
  • The second is innocence. Daniel does not see this conflict as being one of Daniel versus the satraps. Rather, he sees his obligation to God and fulfills it, letting the chips fall where they may.
  • The third is trust, or as some might put it today, faith. Like his friends he does not need to answer the charges. God is his vindication, and he will accept the judgment of God in any case.

The Nature of Trials

God allows trials

The usual reaction of the Christian to the trials of life is to ask why they happened to me. What purpose does God have in subjecting me to this trial?

  • One reason is chastisement. Often enough, God corrects his children through the use of their trials. In this way, he not only delivers the corrective punishment but also strengthens the child of God for whatever might come next.
  • Another reason is that God has his purposes. The early church was persecuted; the result was the diffusion of the Gospel throughout the known world.
  • Therefore as Christians, we should expect such trials. For one reason, we are sinners and deserve them. For another reason, we are followers of God and therefore must do that which supports his purposes.
Per crucem ad lucem

The fact is that trials produce results in the children of God. Trials change us.

  • First, they produce a purer Christian. Our trials shake out of us the sinful desires which used to rule our lives.
  • Trials also produced a more experienced Christian. It is common for a Christian who has gone through a particular trial to quickly become useful to the church by that experience. My daughter had brain surgery at the age of five months. I had never heard of her condition before she had it. But since then, my wife and I have encountered several couples whose children have the same problem. We are able to die and counsel them, and above all give them encouragement because we went through that trial.
  • Finally, trials produce a Christian who is nearer to God-and the world knows it. Even in our trials, feeling as if we can do nothing, we can bring glory to God and even, perhaps, someone to salvation.
Christ our example

The ultimate example of this situation is shown in Jesus Christ:

  • Christ endured many trials. But each and every one of them was for the glory of God. He came to do God's will; with that intent how could there not be persecution?
  • Christ did so in love for all those he encountered. Even the anger he directed at the Pharisees can be seen as attempting to produce their repentance. It is the will of God that none should be lost, but that all should repent. Love is costly.
  • Ultimately, this intent to do the will of God cost Jesus Christ his life. If they so treat the master, how much more shall they do to the servant? Should we really expect a life of ease, when our master died on a cross?

[1] One of the “others” was C. H. Spurgeon.

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