David Jeremiah - Daniel: Overcoming the Lion's Den
We're apt to be intimidated by our culture, at least sometimes I feel that way. Our schools and media and professors and celebrities and government agency and all the Hollywood mess, all the elements of our society are tolerant of most everything and anything, except if you happen to be a biblical Christian. So, if we're not careful we'll keep our heads down. We'll keep our mouths shut, and our convictions will be silent, and the world likes to practice censorship when it comes to biblical truth and that can put us on the defensive. Careful study of the life of Daniel shows us how to overcome the intimidation of a corrupt culture.
Daniel lived out his life in a situation not unlike our own. He was a godly man trying to live in a pagan culture. To say he overcame is understated. He lived in that culture from the time he was 14 years old until he died in his 90s. When he faced the cultural issues of his day that were in opposition to his faith, he overcame with courage and conviction. And men and women, I believe that this is God's challenge to all of us, to overcome. We don't have to shout and make fools of ourselves, but, like this man of God in the Old Testament, we do have to be overcomers. Daniel chapter 6, verses 1 through 3 reads like this, "It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps; and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. Then this Daniel distinguished himself, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm".
The first thing we learn about overcomers from Daniel is that overcomers are promoted. According to the description in Daniel 6, Daniel was preferred above all the other governors and satraps because, quote, "there was an excellent spirit in him". That's what the Scripture says. This means that he had a good attitude, that he worked hard. He fulfilled his responsibility. He was honest. He didn't complain. He just did what he was supposed to do. Daniel had continued to honor God with his life and now God is going to honor Daniel again. Daniel would become the second in command over all the Medo-Persian empire, a fact that did not go unnoticed by his peers. This did not make him a popular person. And the second thing we learn about overcomers from Daniel is that overcomers are often persecuted. If you're gonna overcome, if you're gonna be victorious, if you're gonna be more than a conqueror, if you're gonna stand above the heap, people are gonna shoot at you and criticize you and persecute you.
Daniel 6:4 says that the governors and the satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel. In other words, we shouldn't have too much trouble understanding this in this current environment. They were gonna try to look up some nasty stuff on him that would disqualify him from office. They weren't happy about his promotion and at the core of their hatred was their intense jealousy of his position in the kingdom. He had risen above them and was about to become their superior. The final conclusion of his adversaries after their exhaustive scrutiny is summarized in Daniel 6:5. It says, "We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God". Unable to find any legal way to stop the appointment of Daniel, his adversaries came up with a plot to take him down, and they made up a story. Can you believe it? "All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, will be cast into the den of lions".
Now, they have set Daniel up for failure, because they know that no matter what happens Daniel is gonna pray every day like Daniel prayed every day. These leaders did what they could to get the king to sign the edict, which according to law could not be revoked once it was put in place. The king was considered infallible and once he put a law on the books not even he could rescind it and in a moment he would come to regret Darius signed the law. We all know about this because even in our jargon today, when we say something, we say, "Oh, it's the law of the Medes and Persians". What does that mean? You can't mess with it. You can't change it. It's a done deal.
I remember reading about Hall of Fame NFL coach, Tony Dungy, who gave an interview in which he stated his belief that God gave him a new primetime television job so he could help Christian athletes have the boldness to share their faith. Prior to Super Bowl LII, Philadelphia quarterback, Nick Foles, told Dungy that God had put him on the Philadelphia Eagles team for a reason. He had been the backup quarterback, but he was the starting quarterback in the Super Bowl, and he felt confident he was going to have a good game because God had placed him there for a purpose. When Dungy reported on that conversation, the pushback from atheists and critics and secularists was immediate, but Dungy was unapologetic. "I feel like that's one of the reasons God has me at NBC," he said, "to be the voice of some of these Christian athletes who wanna say these things".
Dungy continued, "I think people have to understand that Christian athletes have the same ability to espouse their views as anyone else, and if we ask them a question about what is allowing them to play well, and they say, 'Well, it's my faith in Christ, or it's the Holy Spirit,' we can't hold that in, and we can't begrudge them of that". Later he wrote, "I'm just thankful for the boldness of Coach Pederson and those Eagle players to express their faith. I was proud to be able to use my job where God placed me to help their voice be heard".
What he was saying, though, is this: you speak up for God, you stand up for God, you stand alone for God, you are gonna get shot at, and you are gonna be persecuted. And if you happen to work in the media, God help you, because it is brutal, and it is unforgiving. If you are an overcomer, if you live above the pack, if you walk in a way that says you are more than a conqueror, you get promoted all right. If we're a people like Daniel in whom there is a good spirit, God will use us. He'll promote us, but don't get caught up in your promotion, 'cause you also get persecuted. The third thing is overcomers are persistent. I love this about Daniel. Verses 10 and 11 of chapter 6 says, "When Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and he prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days".
Now, I've heard preachers preach on this and say when Daniel was told he couldn't pray, he went home, and he flung open his windows, and he prayed as loud as he could to put it in the face of everybody that he was a man of God. And that's not what it says. It says he went home, just like he always did, went and prayed, just like he always did. It says, "As was his custom since early days". Overcomers are consistent. They're persistent. They just get up every day and do the things that need to be done. They don't take a day off, and Daniel was that kind of a person. He was a persistent man, but now comes the good stuff. He was also protected. Verses 12 through 23 tell us that the Lord didn't prevent Daniel from being thrown into the lions' den. He could have, but through all the events that transpired we see God's hand of protection over Daniel's life.
Let me tell you what I've learned, men and women. When you walk with God, God walks with you. He never turns his back on you. He never leaves you. Even when you think you're in the most difficult situation, if you just hold in for a moment you'll see God. He'll show up, and somebody once told me when God shows up he likes to show off and when he shows off he takes care of your problems and puts things right. So, the first thing that Daniel was protected from was from the law. Notice Daniel 6:13 through 15, "They answered and said before the king, 'Daniel does not show due regard for you, O king, or for the decree that you have signed, but he makes his petition three times a day.' And the king, when he heard these words, was greatly displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. And then these men approached the king, and said to the king, 'Know, O king, that it is the law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed.'"
By this time in the story King Darius was furious at himself. He realized he had been had. He'd been backed in a corner. He'd done something he really didn't want to do. His conscience was tormenting him. He knew the danger he had put Daniel in by signing into law this preposterous 30-day prayer ban, so he worked all day trying to find a loophole in the law. He knew if he couldn't find one he'd have to sentence Daniel to death. He was protected from the lions. We know the story. I remember the story on flannelgraph. Do you know what that is? All of my Sunday school teachers. I've seen every lion flannelgraph that's ever produced. I want you to know that. The Bible says, "The king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, 'Your God, whom you serve continually, he will deliver you.' And then the stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed".
Now, one writer that I read helps us understand what Daniel's first night in the lions' den must have been like. Listen up. "As the guards closed the aperture and went their way, Daniel slid gradually to the floor of the den. The big lions that had come bounding from their cabins at the inflow of light all stop suddenly short as a steed reined up by a powerful hand on the bridle. The initial roars died away as they formed a solid phalanx and looked toward this man who stood in their den in easy reach. There was some snorting and a little whining and some of them turned around and went back into their caverns. Others of the great beasts yawned and laid down on the floor, but not one made a move toward their visitor. 'Thanks be unto Jehovah,' breathed the prophet. 'He has stopped the mouths of these fierce beasts that they will do me no harm,' and he sat down on the floor and leaned his back against the wall to make himself comfortable for the night".
And the expression on the lions' faces a mixture of perplexity and awe. Here is a meal standing in front of them, but they are somehow restrained from attacking, as if an invisible shield is keeping them from moving toward Daniel. And while Daniel was sleeping in the lions' den, Darius couldn't sleep. The king went to his palace and spent the night fasting and no musicians were brought before him and his sleep went from him. He put Daniel in the lions' den, and Daniel went to sleep on one of the lions, and Darius went back to the palace, and he couldn't get one wink. And while Daniel slept like a lamb, even though he was being watched over by lions, Darius tossed and turned. He didn't eat. He couldn't sleep. He was counting the minutes until sunrise, when he would discover Daniel's fate. He was probably asking himself over and over, "Why did I agree to play the role of a god for 30 days? What was I thinking"? His vanity and weak will cost him his supper and his sleep.
Listen to this. The lions wanted to eat but couldn't. The king could eat but wouldn't. It was a unique night in Persia. And he was protected not only from the law and from the lions, but he was protected by the Lord. Listen to the rest of the story, verses 19 and 20, "The king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, 'Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?'" And it must have seemed like an eternity before he heard the answer. "And Daniel said to the king, 'O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.'"
The famed London preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, observed that it was a good thing the lions didn't try to eat Daniel, 'cause they would not have enjoyed him. He was half grit and the other half backbone. "The king was exceeding glad for him," says the Scripture, "and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him". The Bible vividly portrays the king's delight in Daniel's survival. The Bible says he checked him over to be sure he was unharmed. Like Daniel's friends who had escaped the furnace unscathed, Daniel came out completely uninjured. And when we see how ferocious the lions were with the people who were thrown into the den the next day, it's pretty obvious that Daniel was able to escape without a scratch only because there was an intervention by God.
And the last phrase of verse 23 is the most important phrase in the story tonight: "Because he believed in his God". Ladies and gentlemen, do we believe in our God? When we go through our problems, do we believe in our God? When we're thrown into our lions' den and it looks like it's the end and there is no hope, can we still believe in God? Do we have the overcomer spirit that says we are more than conquerors? And no matter what comes against us, no matter what the enemy throws at us, no matter what we face from day to day, we stand in power and in strength because the Lord our God fights for us. We aren't gonna trust him because we know what he's gonna do. We're gonna trust him because of who he is".
A Sunday school teacher once asked her class why Daniel wasn't afraid when he was thrown into the lions' den, and one little girl said because the lion of the tribe of Judah was in there with him. Overcomers are promoted and persecuted and persistent. We all got all of these. We know what this is about, and they're protected, but overcomers are powerful. Watch this. "The king gave the command, and they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions: them, their children, and their wives; and the lions overpowered them, and broke all their bones in pieces before they ever came to the bottom of the den". Someone has said the lions got their reward. Instead of one tough old Jew, they devoured for breakfast the spineless men who had accused Daniel, and they devoured them before they hit the ground. Amen.
And I came here tonight, men and women, to tell you that the God you serve is an overcoming God. There aren't any lions in your life that he isn't capable of defeating. There aren't any wild beasts that you face, whether it's in your temperament, in your background, in your situation at home that is too much for God. He is able to do above and beyond all that you ask or think. Let me tell you. If God can shut the mouths of hungry lions and preserve his prophet, which we know he did, he's capable of caring for every need that you have. And if you came here tonight, kind of, overwhelmed with life and you don't feel like an overcomer but you feel like you're down under the circumstances, I came here to tell you that the God we celebrate in these events is your God.
If you've trusted him as your personal Savior, he's here for you. He wants to help you, but you have to cooperate with him. You don't get to call the shots. You don't get to go and say, "God, I want you to help me and here is how I want you to do it". You go to God and say, "Lord God, I need you. You show me what to do, and I will do it". And if you will do that, God will give you the direction you need for your life. He will show you the next step. He will take you to the next place. He will help you go back and fix the things that are wrong and build on those things for a future that brings glory to his name.
And if you're here tonight and you do not know Jesus Christ, the same Jesus Christ who has the power to come out of the grave victorious over death is the Jesus Christ who wants to give you victory in your life. The Bible says that because he lives, we also can live. That means that if I put my trust in Jesus Christ as my Savior, I can live. I can have eternal life. Be an overcomer. Overcome your past. Come forward and give your heart to Jesus Christ. Come and say, "Dr. Jeremiah, tonight it starts over for me. Tonight, I have decided to become a Christian". If you will do that, I promise you God will meet you here tonight, and he will change you, and he will take you where you have always wanted to go.