Would You Have Been Thrown Into the Lion’s Den?

The Book of Daniel has it all: intrigue, suspense, moral dilemmas, legal maneuvering, power struggles… not to mention supernatural beings, miracles, and glimpses into the future. All this makes for a handful of highly memorable stories that have instructed and encourage God’s people for thousands of years (and continue to leave subtle imprints in our wider culture, as demonstrated by anyone who offhandedly remarks about “the handwriting on the wall”).

And while there’s enough in the book to fuel any number of blog posts, today I thought I’d quickly mention just a few verses, a passage that leads up to Daniel’s famous trip to the lion’s den. Daniel 6:1-5 reads as follows:

6:1 It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”

It’s of course interesting and instructive that Daniel’s faithfulness in the way he conducted his job actually insulated him from charges of corruption. In fact, Daniel is a prime example of living out the command that Paul would later make explicit for the Colossians: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (3:23-24).

But on the other hand, it’s Daniel’s faithfulness that actually insures he’ll eventually be thrown to the lions. Those collaborating against him are convinced that his allegiance to God is his only exploitable “weakness.” Consequently, they manipulate the King Darius–no doubt playing upon his pride–into issuing an unalterable decree that none of his subjects can pray to anyone but the king himself for thirty days. True to form, Daniel refuses (without unnecessary fanfare) to submit to the decree. Despite the distress he feels at the unintended consequences of his foolish proclamation, Darius, bound by the law, subsequently lowers Daniel to what everyone expects will be a grisly death.

Leaving aside the Daniel’s eventual vindication for the moment, this leads to some rather searching questions. Could I be so easily trapped? If people where to conspire against me, could they count on me being faithful to God, even at great cost? If those around me where asked which alternative I would choose, would they be divided on the answer?

No doubt that many of us will find ourselves in situations similar to Daniel, perhaps owing more to circumstance than to the intentional manipulation by a rival. And while we might not face the possibility of death (though one never knows), we might be forced to grapple with the possibility that obedience will mean a loss of acceptance among friends and peers, favor with an employer, and the like.

How do we provision ourselves so that we’ll make the right choice in those circumstances? By trusting, not our own moral fiber, but rather in the sure promises of God. Psalm 34, which happens to be one of my personal favorites, includes assurances that are worth meditating upon regularly:

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
6 This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Like Daniel, may we seek the one who will insure that, when all is said and done, we’ll “lack no good thing.”

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