Daniel answered, “O king, live for ever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions... (Daniel 6:21)
How do we apply this story, when solemnly remembering those who have fallen for their country in war; indeed following the momentous events of the American Election; our own ‘Brexit’ - and the conflicts in the Middle East? ANSWER: We must get behind the sentiment that can turn ‘Daniel in the Lion’s Den’ into a happy bed-time story, and find the link - in recognising that times of conflict and crisis have their visible results in the emergence, either positively or negatively, of ‘Character.’ It may be selfish ambition and gross inhumanity on one side, or wisdom, valour and moral strength on the other. In the face of great events and changes, which characters will shine – and which will NOT?
Daniel – the favourite minister of Darius - his new Head of State - had miraculously come through a dangerous night - having been thrown into a den of lions as the death penalty for his ignoring of a malicious ‘Prayer Law’ - flattering to Darius – but designed to eliminate Daniel. This followed the Medo-Persian conquest of Belshazzar’s Babylon on the night of ‘the Writing on the Wall’ (chapter 5).
It was only after a sleepless night that Darius – on hurrying to the Den, to enquire after his new friend – heard Daniel’s reassuring testimony of angelic protection. Here is an account of brave witness that confirms Alexander Maclaren’s statement that every challenging age ‘requires people who are superior to the surrounding culture - not people who are driven by it.”
Certainly there are inspiring stories of bravery in battle, such as that involving the young captain, Michael Dobbin of the Grenadier Guards – whose recent selfless exploits against the Taliban nd ISIS in Afghanistan gained him the Queen’s award of the Military Cross and the DSO. Yet we can be sure that this Christian hero will today - with others - be remembering with solemn gratitude those who fell at his side; the men who never came back.
‘Protected by angels? What inspires us about men like Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshak and Abednego, is the confidence they had that – even if they were killed for their beliefs, they knew they remained in the secure keeping and eternal protection of their God. That conviction held - regardless of what would happen to their physical security.
As to Angels, the Bible is not short of information. Angels are Worshippers around God’s throne (eg Daniel 7: 9 & 10). They are Executors of God’s will (see the kaleidoscopic prophecy of Ezekiel chapter 1). They are Witnesses to God’s saving acts (eg Luke 24:4).
They are Messengers at times of revelation (eg Isaiah 6: 1-7 ). They are Protagonists at times of conflict (eg Revelation 12:7), and
they are Ministers at times of crisis (eg Acts 12: 7-10).
While all inheritors of salvation can be gratefully aware of their activity and ministry, we are never to reverence - or give exaggerated attention - to them, lest we risk serious error confusing our worship and beliefs.
Yet certain occasions are given to jolt people as to their existence – including modern examples among adherents of other belief-systems than our own. It was the Daniel episode that shook King Darius to his core, and prompted him to publish a national edict (Daniel 6: 26 & 27) - declaring the God of Daniel to be the living God who endures for ever, whose kingdom will never end - and who performs saving acts of rescue and power! Darius was never the same man again.
As for Daniel – having outlasted the kingdoms of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius - he continued marching on!
The ‘story’ part of Daniel ends here at chapter 6, while his thrilling visionaries messages to the world begin (first hand) from the wonderful seventh chapter.
His secret can be summarised by ‘The Open Window’ (Daniel 6:10)- for he would pray where his open window was open towards beloved Jerusalem – his spiritual home. That outward ‘look’ was enough to offset the pressures of life in wicked Babylon, keeping him true to the Lord who was always beside him.
Daniel’s Open Window will prompt us, like him, to live in daily ‘Obedient Disobedience’ when all the current trends are insisting that - with everybody else - we must limply cave in. When the Daniel-like character-ingredients of Integrity, Stability and Humility are enough in evidence, what can prevent a whole country from being ‘protected by angels’ ?
6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”
6 Then these presidents and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.
10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”
16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,
for he is the living God,
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. (ESV)