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.
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.
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.
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
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.
We may now examine the character of the principle
players in this drama:
The men who opposed Daniel are notable for three
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. 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.
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
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.
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 may be noted in this passage for three
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
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.
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.
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?
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
reason is that God has his purposes. The early church was persecuted; the
result was the diffusion of the Gospel throughout the known world.
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.
they produce a purer Christian. Our trials shake out of us the sinful
desires which used to rule our lives.
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.
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
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
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
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?