Freedom in Captivity

I’m in the book of Daniel now.  Ezekiel, with all its freakiness, is done.  Our pastor has been doing a series on Wednesday nights, focusing on this book.  Again, Daniel has similarities to Ezekiel, with visions and dreams.  Only there’s a lot more “real world” narrative tying it all together.

If you recall from the beginning of the book, the Babylonians handpicked Daniel and his three friends to return with them to Babylonia.  Good-looking, smart and of upstanding families, they received training to be advisers to the king.  They came to Babylon under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar.  He renamed them Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  Sound familiar?

This book is packed with interesting stories surrounding these four characters.  You can read it for yourself if you’re curious.  However, the chapter I really want to focus on is chapter 6.  At this point, Daniel has survived 3 kings.  He’s gotta be pushing 80, maybe 9s.  He’s lived his entire life from a teenaged Jewish boy to old man in captivity.  Here’s the setting:

Darius the Mede decided to divide the kingdom into 120 provinces, and he appointed a high officer to rule over each province. The king also chose Daniel and two others as administrators to supervise the high officers and protect the king’s interests. Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire.

Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.” (Daniel 6:1-4)

Daniel stirred up some jealousy.

So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” So King Darius signed the law.

 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking for God’s help. So they went straight to the king and reminded him about his law. “Did you not sign a law that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions?”

“Yes,” the king replied, “that decision stands; it is an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.”Then they told the king, “That man Daniel, one of the captives from Judah, is ignoring you and your law. He still prays to his God three times a day.”

Hearing this, the king was deeply troubled, and he tried to think of a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament.  In the evening the men went together to the king and said, “Your Majesty, you know that according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, no law that the king signs can be changed.”

So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.”(Daniel 6:6-16)

It’s unusual that any king would keep human leftovers from the last king.  Usually, they’re “let go”, possibly with extreme prejudice.  Daniel and his three friends lasted.  The jealousy of the other advisers led them to attempted murder.  The king himself couldn’t even intervene.  He lets Daniel know, even as king, his hands were tied (v. 16).

Daniel gets thrown into the lion’s den.  That night, the king couldn’t sleep.  He rushes to the stone-covered den early in the morning and calls out for Daniel.  “Hey, Dan!  Has your God saved you?”

Daniel answered, “Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.”

The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God. (Daniel 6:22-23)

King Darius, overwhelmed at this miracle, sent a message to his people, proclaiming the greatness of God.  And Daniel not only survived Darius, but into the next king:  Cyrus.

What can we glean from this?  Daniel managed to keep himself undefiled by pagan ways for more than 8 decades.  He never got to go home.  He never married, that we know of.  He had power, influence, and the best accommodations but was still a prisoner.  When things got tough for him and the king himself couldn’t even protect him, God did.  Daniel found a place of peace.  He didn’t lose faith.  He didn’t lose face.  King Darius found himself hamstrung by his own laws.  Daniel found freedom while captive in Babylon yet bound to the laws of a loving God.