Day 4      Daniel 6:1-27 ... The Lions' Den

This chapter opens with the news that Daniel has a new boss. It is a measure of the prophet's amazing skill that he, an alien, could distinguish himself under two capricious Babylonian regimes, and then under the occupation forces of Medo-Persia. Nevertheless, when news leaked that Daniel would govern the entire kingdom, the palace conspiracy machine kicked into motion.

Daniel must have been in his eighties when the events of this chapter took place. After six decades of service, he finally faced a situation like the one his three friends in the fiery furnace had faced - an unresolvable conflict between the law of God and the law of the land. During those years Daniel had lost much of his Jewish heritage and had even taken on a Babylonian name. Yet, although he could hardly worship God in the way he wished, at the temple in Jerusalem, his devotion to God never wavered. In defiance of the king's new law, the old prophet kept on pointing himself toward Jerusalem three times a day in prayer.

The story of Daniel in the lion's den has special meaning for both Jews and Christians because, sadly, history has repeated itself so often, The Roman Empire, Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, China, Muslim sheikdoms - they've all taken their turn at restricting worship, often enforcing the laws with punishments as cruel as the one described here. Yet the church has survived, and even thrived, during times of intense persecution. Not everyone who undergoes religious persecution receives miraculous deliverance like Daniel's. But, all together, the martyrs have given a witness to the watching world that true faith cannot be stamped out, no matter what the penalty.

A miracle spared Daniel's life. Perhaps an even greater miracle took place in those around him. Stirred by Daniel's faith, the Persian ruler issued a proclamation that everyone in his kingdom must fear and reverence "the God of Daniel". Soon, the very same empire that had passed laws against Jewish worship would escort the Jewish exiles back to their homeland, with official sanction to rebuild the temple.

The harsh times in Babylon had their effect on the Jewish community as well. Led by the examples of people such as Daniel, they began a new practice of meeting together in "synagogues" to study the Law and to pray. And they would return to Palestine purged of the sin that had brought them so much anguish: Jews never again were known to practice idolatry. The refining fire had done its work.

Point to Ponder: Do you know of any irreconcilable conflicts between the law of the land and the law of God today?