Robert Jeffress - Out Of The Mouths Of Lions
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Today we're continuing our study in the book of Daniel, titled courageous living in a pagan world. When Daniel was sentenced to be throw into the lions' den, it seems as though his fate was sealed, but Daniel had faith that God could accomplish a miracle, even in light of this treacherous situation. On today's program, we will turn to Daniel chapter six to discover three timeless principles of facing adversity in our own lives. My message is titled, "Out of the Mouths of Lions" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Peter Cartwright was a circuit writing Methodist teacher in the 19th century. He was known for speaking the truth without any regard for consequences. And during one of his services at one of his churches, he was told that president Andrew Jackson would be in attendance. And so, at the midpoint at the sermon, Peter Cartwright said, "I understand that president Andrew Jackson is here tonight, and I want you to know that if president Jackson does not repent of his sins, he too will spend eternity in hell". Well, the congregation was aghast that Peter Cartwright would say anything like that with the president in attendance. After the service, president Jackson went up to shake hands with Peter Cartwright, and he said to the preacher, "If I had a regiment of men just like you, I could whip the world". You know, that's what courage is, speaking the truth without regard for consequences. Webster defines it this way. Courage is the moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand fear or difficulty.
When I read the book of Daniel, I find that Daniel is really a primmer on authentic courage. Just think about it. In Daniel chapter one, you see his courage as a teenager, refusing to eat the king's meat and therefore violate the law of God. In chapter two, you see his courage in interpreting the dream for Nebuchadnezzar, the dream that spelled the end of Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom. In chapter three, you see the influence of Daniel, giving his three prince, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the courage to say no to Nebuchadnezzar and not bow down before the golden image. In chapter four, you see Daniel's courage in being willing to challenge Nebuchadnezzar to repent or face the judgment of God. And in chapter five, you see his courage as an old man in his early 80s before Belshazzar, giving that indictment upon the kingdom that was about to crumble. But all of those examples of courage pale in comparison to the story we're going to see tonight that illustrates what real courage is.
If you have your Bibles tonight, turn to Daniel chapter six, Daniel chapter six, as we look at what happens when God delivers us out of the mouths of lions. Now again, remember the setting. In Daniel chapter five, Daniel, after long being forgotten by people, was called back into service by Belshazzar. It ends with Cyrus, the king of Persia, overtaking the city. Now when we come to chapter six, we're not sure how many years this occurred, but once again we find Cyrus, the head of the Medo-Persian empire, is the ruler over Persia and now over Babylon. Look at verses one to two. It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, and over them three commissioners of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might suffer loss.
Now, the best understanding is that Darius is term. It's not name. It means ruler, kind of like Pharaoh or Caesar. It doesn't refer to any one person. It is a title given to whomever is the ruler at the time. And notice here that the Persians are now ruling Babylon, and it was their practice to appoint governors, or satraps, or commissioners. Think of them maybe as city counsel men over the entire empire. They divided the empire up into 120 districts for the purpose of taxation, and they would have charge over their ward or their district, and these 120 satraps would in turn report to three governors who would hen report to Darius, and Daniel was one of those three governors over Babylon, under the Persian rule.
And I find something very interesting here, and a great point of application. Remember in chapter five when Belshazzar brought Daniel in and said, "I'm desperate. If you will interpret the handwriting on the wall, I will give you a third of the kingdom". And Daniel said, "Forget it. I don't care about your money. I'm an old man, I'm not gonna be around that much longer. I don't need your money, but I am gonna tell you what God has to say to you". He refused 1/3 of the kingdom. I think one reason he did that was he knew 1/3 of this kingdom didn't mean a whole lot, because that very night this kingdom was coming to an end, and so he refused that particular promotion. But when we come to chapter six, Daniel has been promoted. He is one of the three governors.
You know the principle I find here is God promotes us in his time, in his way, according to his purpose. If we do what we're supposed to do, God will promote us at his time. Perhaps you are working in a job and you're working hard and you don't feel like anybody notices what you are doing, that's okay. The law of the harvest says the harvest is not always immediate, but it is always certain. And what I'm saying to you, whoever you are, if you're working hard, if you're investing your life in something worthwhile, eventually, the harvest will come. It certainly did for Daniel. But when promotions do come in your life, you better be prepared to face the envy and the attacks of other people, just like Daniel had to.
Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and the satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit. The king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. You see, Daniel applied himself to his work. He was different than any of the other commissioners or any of the other governors. He came to work early. He left late. He didn't try to promote his own agenda. He tried to promote the king's agenda. He'd conducted all of his affairs with great integrity. And because of that, the king noticed him, but so did his enemies, and that's where we find verse four, look at this. Then the commissioners and the satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs, but they could find no ground of accusation of evidence of corruption, and as much as he was faithful and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.
Someone has well said, "For everyone one man who sincerely pities our misfortune, there are a thousand who sincerely hate our success". And that was true of Daniel. That was the satraps. They saw the way the king was responding to Daniel. The rumor mill was a buzz that Daniel was about to be promoted over them, and they said, "We gotta do something to stop this guy". And so, they start looking for anyway they can trip him up, any kind of wrong behavior on his part that could cause him not to get the promotion. They looked at his financial dealings. They looked at his issues of morality and integrity. They looked for someway, some sign of disloyalty toward the king, but they could not find anything.
Look at verse five. They couldn't find anything, so what did they do? Then these men said, "We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him in regard to the law of his God". We can't find anything, so we're gonna have to manufacture something. So the satraps set a trap. Did you all appreciate that little pun there? Yeah. They set a trap, and here was the trap, beginning in verse six. I'll summarize it for you. The satraps go to Darius and they say, "Oh king, live forever". That's how they butter him up. You buttered up the king by saying, "Oh king, live forever". They said, "We've got a great idea. We've all been having this meeting, and we would like to promote patriotism in our country. We wanna wave the flag. We want to congeal all of the worship of all our people towards you alone, Darius. So this is what we wanna do. We propose that for the next 30 days you sign a law into effect that says people are to worship you alone. And if anybody worships any other God or praise any other God, they'll be thrown into the lions' den".
Well, that appealed to Darius obviously. I mean he was a prideful man. He was a king. The idea of exclusive worship, that appealed to him. And so they get the king to sign this law saying for the next 30 days, no one can worship anyone, except Darius. Now look at verse 10, Daniel's devotion. This is the key verse in this whole chapter. Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house. Now on his roof chamber he had a window open toward Jerusalem, and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before the God, his God, as he has been doing previously. Now, isn't that interesting? As he has been doing previously. That is Daniel didn't develop suddenly a prayer life the moment he got into trouble. That's what a lot of people do. They suddenly become converts to the importance of praying when their backs are up against the wall. Not Daniel. He had had a long history of developing a relationship with God through prayer.
I read somewhere that it takes 100 years to grow those massive redwood trees you see in California. Those massive redwoods that are able to withstand any storm that comes. It takes a hundred years to grow a redwood. It takes six months to grow a squash. How can you make sure your faith is going to withstand the adversity that blows into your life? It means years of developing that discipline of praying, of talking to God regularly. Now look at verse 11. Then these men came by agreement and they found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. Don't you think it's interesting that when the satraps wanted to find Daniel, they knew exactly where to find him? They knew he would be on his knees praying before God. The fact that they found Daniel disobeying Darius's order gave Darius a dilemma. We find that dilemma in verse 12 to 13. Then they approach and spoke before the king about the king's injunction.
Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any God or man beside you, o king, for 30 days, is to be cast into the lions' den. The king replied, "The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which may not be revoked". Verse 13. Then they answered and spoke before the king, "Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, o king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day". After confirming that Darius indeed has signed this order, they did then just with a grin on their face they say, "We got him. Daniel has been disobeying your decree".
Look at verse 14. Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed, and he set his mind on delivering Daniel, and even until sunset, he kept exerting himself to rescue him. Notice the contrast here between Darius's response and Nebuchadnezzar's response years earlier when he heard that three of the Hebrews were not bowing down to the golden image Nebuchadnezzar set up. Remember how Nebuchadnezzar reacted? He was furious. He was enraged. In fact, he was so mad he ordered that the furnace be turned up seven times hotter than it usually was. Nebuchadnezzar was enraged by this lack of loyalty, not Darius. He was saddened by it. He had grown to love Daniel and respect Daniel, and the Bible says he began looking for any way that he could rescue him out of this dilemma. But you see, the king was bound by a higher law that did not allow him to rescue Daniel.
And I have to stop here and draw the obvious parallel between God's relationship to man. God doesn't hate mankind. He loves mankind. He is distressed by man's sin. But unlike Darius, he was able to find a solution, and the solution was to send Jesus, his son and our Savior, to die on the cross for our sins. Darius had no choice, and so he reluctantly delivers Daniel into the lions' den. And as they stand at the entryway into the cavern of death, I want you to notice what Darius says about Daniel's God, verse 16 and 17. Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lion' den. But the king spoke and said to Daniel, "Your God who you constantly serve will himself deliver you".
Isn't that fascinating? Darius had been around Daniel long enough. Daniel had exerted enough influence on his employer that he made him a believer in the power of the true God. And so verse seven 17, a stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing could be changed in regard to Daniel. No matter how much he wanted to come and rescue him, he was unable to do so. Now, here's an interesting plot development when we get to verse 18, Daniel's deliverance.
Notice where the scene goes. You would normally think that in telling this story, you would cut the lions' den and show what was happening in the lions' den. We get no picture of what was happening in the lions' den that night. Instead, verse 18 opens up in the king's palace. Then the king, after he's delivered Daniel to the lions' den, tent he king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him, and his sleep fled from him. The king had a restless night. He was fasting, perhaps praying to God, praying for some kind of deliverance, but his sleep eluded him.
What about Daniel? We're not told, but I have a sense from Daniel's reaction previously and subsequently, I think had a restful night of sleep in that lions' den, because he had put his faith in the supernatural power of God. At first, like the Bible says, the king ran to the cave early the next morning. Look at verse 20. When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you constantly serve been able to deliver you from the lions"? And then Daniel spoke to the king, "O king, live forever, my God sent his angel and shut the lions' mouths and they have not harmed me inasmuch as I was found innocent before him and also toward you, o king. I have committed no crime".
And then the king was very pleased, and he gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den, so Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatsoever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. And then notice verse 24. The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children and their wives into the lions' den, and they had not reached the bottom of this den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all of their bones. Those lions have been deprived of food for a whole night. They were ready for Persian buffet, and that's exactly what they had right there. They feasted on the bones, not only of those who have accused Daniel, but the wives and the children as well.
Now, this is a dramatic story, but sometimes we allow the drama of the story to overshadow the important principles that we find in this passage for you and for me, because Daniel's response gives us some hints about how we can face adversity, not if it comes into our life, but when it comes into our life. I want you to jot down these three principles about facing adversity in your life.
Number one, refuse to paralyzed by fear. Refused to be paralyzed by fear. I remember decades ago, I was sitting in my office in Eastland, Texas when suddenly out of nowhere was paralyzed by this thought that I was going to die and I was going to die soon. I don't know where the thought came from, but it ceased me, it paralyzed me. I couldn't move. For the next hours, I didn't wanna pray. I didn't wanna read my Bible. I didn't wanna do anything, and then God brought to mind 2 Timothy 1:7. For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, and power, and of a sound mind. You know what the greatest antidote to fear is? It's faith. It's faith. Faith doesn't mean automatic deliverance. It doesn't mean God is gonna do what we want him to do. Faith means believing God's gonna accomplish his purpose in our lives whatever happens, and God's purpose for your life is a good purpose. God's purpose for your life is for good and it's for his glory, and in that we can rest. When arrows come into your life, refuse to be paralyzed by fear.
Secondly, retain a clear conscience. When adversity comes, make sure you have a clear conscience. Know for sure that you have been obedient to God as best you can in every area of your life. Because when you know that, it gives incredible courage to face whatever adversity you're facing. Conversely, if trouble comes into our life and we know there has been disobedience in our life, we can't help but think that perhaps this trouble is a result of God's discipline in our life. A clear conscience is the assurance that neither God, nor anyone else can accuse you of a wrong you have not attempted to make right. Above all, Paul said, keep faith and a clear conscience, would some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
Number three, when adversity comes into your life, remain in contact with God. I think it's Daniel's prayer life that gave him the courage to go into the lions' den. It gave him the courage to stand up to Darius and Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Because you see, there was something about a consistent prayer life that reminded Daniel that all that really matters in life is what God thinks about me. Have you come to that conclusion when you realized it really doesn't matter what anybody else thinks about you. All that matters is what God thinks. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus said, "Don't fear those who can only kill the body, but rather fear him who is able to destroy both the soul and the body in hell". As long as we know we have God's approval on our life, nothing else really matters, does it?