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How to be a Lion Tamer (chapter 6)
Thriving in Babylon
How to Be a Lion Tamer
Daniel 6
 
A man told the ringmaster that he was interested in joining the circus as a lion tamer. The ringmaster asked if he had any experience and the man said, "Why, yes. My father was one of the most famous lion tamers in the world, and he taught me everything he knew."
 
"Really?" said the ringmaster. "Did he teach you how to make a lion jump through a flaming hoop?"
 
"Yes he did," the man replied.
 
"And did he teach you how to have six lions form a pyramid?"
 
"Yes he did," the man replied.
 
"And have you ever stuck your head in a lion's mouth?"
 
"Just once," the man replied.
 
The ringmaster asked, "Why only once?"
 
And the man said, "I was looking for my father."
 
Tonight we're going to learn how to be a liontamer!  The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is one of the best-known and best-loved stories in all the Bible. Little children love it and Sunday school teachers love to tell it. It has encouraged the people of God for thousands of years. And why shouldn’t it?
The story is filled with unexpected twists and turns and the good guy wins big and the bad guys … well, the bad guys are torn to pieces. Along the way we learn the secret of Daniel’s success.
 
But if we'll be honest, it probably isn't the first picture that comes to mind when we think about Daniel thriving in Babylon.  We reserve those spots for the interpreting of dreams and the promotions and positions. 
 
And yet, Daniel teaches us that thriving in spite of our outward circumstances is possible because he managed somehow, not only to survive, but to thrive in a spiritually hostile environment.
 
And even though we don't have to fear being thrown into a den of hungry lions, we do have to live in a world of spiritual hostility where the temptation to compromise our faith is with us every day. The world doesn’t want its conscience pricked and doesn’t reward those who dare to stand up for what they believe.
 
In fact, in some parts of the world, standing up for Christ means suffering and death. In more tolerant areas such as America and most other western countries, it means ostracism, ridicule, scorn, being left out and perhaps being passed over. It often leads to tension at home and on the job.
 
But the book of Daniel was given to tell  us how to live for God in a hostile environment. His example shows us that it can be done but not without discomfort. If you don’t compromise, you are sure to come into trouble sooner or later.
 
The story of Daniel and the lion’s den reminds us that there is a spiritual battle raging all around us. In fact, I don't think it is coincidental that the devil himself is described as being like a roaring lion who would devour us if he could (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore, it should not surprise us if the devil has an army of supporters whose major call in life is to harass us, trick us, and trip us up if they can.
 
You can tell a lot about a person by the quality of his enemies. Daniel must have been a good man because he had the right kind of enemies. The people who hated him were no friends of God. They came after his faith because they could find no fault in him, and they had no answer for what he believed.
 
Before we jump in, remember these two facts:
 
1) Daniel is now a very old man. He came to Babylon as a teenager. All his adult life has been spent serving in the courts of various pagan rulers. Now he is over 80 years old.
 
2) He is now serving under a new king named Darius who rules over a new kingdom, the Medo-Persian empire. The names have changed but the spiritual challenge is the same. Will he remain faithful when the pressure is on? The story opens with
 
1. The King’s Decree
 
verses 1-5
 
As this chapter opens Daniel is once again about to be promoted to high office.
Evidently Darius recognized him as a man of integrity and wanted to make him second in command over the entire kingdom. That’s when the intrigue begins.
 
At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God”
 
This is what his enemies discovered when they examined his life:
 
  • He was faithful in his duties.
 
  • He was faultless in his character.
 
  • He was fervent in his prayers.
 
These are three marks of godliness even unbelievers could see.
The people who watch you can tell if you work hard at your job. They know what kind of character you have. And if they watch long enough, they will learn whether or not you are a person of prayer.
 
 Whatever is in your heart will come out sooner or later, and people who don’t know the Lord will know the truth about you. In Daniel’s case even his enemies had to admit he had no glaring weaknesses.
 
No finer thing could be said than for your enemies to admit that they can find nothing wrong with you. Horace Greeley had a saying that Harry Truman liked to quote: “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow, only one thing endures—character.”
 
Daniel was hated because he was successful and he was godly. But he is about to learn that even when you do everything right, you still have to trust in God. Doing right is no guarantee everything will go right.
 
Let’s suppose that your enemies decided to check you out the way the satraps came after Daniel. Suppose someone hired private investigators to look into every aspect of your life, public and private, past and present. What would they uncover?
 
Suppose they checked out your …
 
  • High School & College records
 
  • How you treat your family
 
  • Phone calls
 
  • Shopping habits
 
  • Internet usage
 
  • Financial records
 
  • Favorite TV programs
 
  • What you do on vacation
 
  • Video rentals
 
  • Every relationship you’ve ever had
 
  • Tax returns
 
  • Every corner of your bedroom
 
  • Business deals
 
  • Police record
 
  • How you act on the job
 
  • How you deal with the opposite sex
 
  • Your vocabulary at home
 
  • Jokes you tell
 
  • How you treat your spouse
 
  • Places you visit
 
 
 
Could any of us survive that kind of scrutiny? Daniel did. The investigation revealed that he had no obvious moral weaknesses. Try as they might, his enemies found nothing wrong in his life. He lived so conscientiously in God’s presence that he was a man “above reproach.”
 
But Daniel did have one “flaw.” He was utterly predictable in his daily prayers. He prayed every day at the same time in the same way so that his enemies realized this was where they could catch him.
 
I’m sure you’ve heard this question: “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” When they arrested Daniel for being a man of prayer, the evidence against him was overwhelming.
 
So the satraps asked Darius to pass a 30-day law forbidding anyone to pray except to Darius himself. In effect, they said, “O king, how would you like to be God for a month?” Sure, why not? That appealed to his pride. Why not be God for a month? It might be fun. So Darius signed the law, knowing that it could not be repealed, not even by himself. He had no idea that Daniel was the intended target.
 
Meanwhile the satraps are overjoyed!  They knew Daniel would break the law. Maybe they were aware of how years ago he had refused to eat the king's food.  Maybe they knew of his overwhelming honesty, even when confronting kings with their sins. 
 
They knew Daniel would keep on praying just as he had always done. Daniel was a victim of his own integrity. He was predictably faithful to God.
 If he had been a flaky believer, this evil plot would never have worked. And I find it very intriguing that his troubles came not from his weakness, but from his strength.
 
And sure enough, the next thing we see is
 
2. The Prophet’s Devotion
 
So what do you do when you discover that your enemies have passed a law aimed at one person, and you are that person?
 It’s like walking around with a bull’s eye on your shirt. How you respond at that point tells a great deal about your character.
 
Daniel 6:10 reveals the secret of his greatness:
 
Note the last phrase—"as was his custom since early days”.
 
It's hard to know exactly how long it's been since the early days, but I would guess it may have been as much as 85 years now that Daniel had prayed three times a day. And every day was always the same.
 
Wherever he was, he stopped to pray just like clockwork.  His daily routine revolved around three times of prayer. If he had a business trip to some remote province, he never varied. If he was on vacation, it was always the same. You could set your watch by his prayer times.
 
I did the math just to see  if Daniel prayed three times a day for 85 years, how many prayers did he pray? The answer comes out to over 93,000 prayers. That's why this decree didn't shake him up! 
No wonder he simply went back to his room and started praying. An 85-year habit is hard to break.
For him, prayer was like breathing and he wasn’t about to stop praying just because some snot-nosed satraps threatened his life. After all, he was 85, he wasn’t going to live forever anyway, and he wasn’t afraid to die.
 
So when they tricked Darius into signing this 30-day law, Daniel just went ahead with his daily routine. No big deal. He went home, knelt down, faced toward Jerusalem, and offered his prayers to God.
He didn't even bother to close the windows!  He did it knowing that his adversaries would catch him.
 
By the way, lest you think it is no big deal to pray three times a day, consider this. At Trinity, Calvary we have about 150 people who attend each Sunday. Suppose each of us decided to pray three times a day. That would total 54,750 prayers offered to God by our congregation each year!
 
And if we continued that for 20 years, that would be over a million prayer offered to God simply because we decided to develop the discipline of consistently praying to God!  The volume of prayers going to heaven would dramatically increase and we would see remarkable answers from God.
 
Remember who Daniel is. He’s one of the top three men in the Medo-Persian empire. No doubt he had a plate full of heavy responsibilities. Yet he still had time to pray three times a day. And I’m sure the reason he prayed that way was because he knew if he didn’t live by a schedule prayer would soon be squeezed out.
 
Prayer was so important to him that he was willing to die rather than give up his right to pray to God.  If you stop praying, the world will stop bothering you. The lions won’t come near you. Your family will finally think you are normal again. Your boss will think you are one of the boys. The lions win when we are silent. The great mark of true faith is that we keep praying.
 
It’s easy to think of reasons why he might have disobeyed. He could have simply closed the windows and the satraps wouldn’t have seen him pray.
Or he could have said, “I’ll pray in my heart. No one will know.” After all, he was being forced to do this against his will. And it was only for 30 days. He might have reasoned that by going along with the law, he could use his influence to help others.
 
Certainly he must have known that if he didn’t go along with the law, there was a good chance the  lions would eat him alive. And anybody knows you can't serve God when you're dead.  Better to be alive and serving than dead and buried!
 
But none of those excuses were needed because long ago Daniel had made up his mind to serve God no matter what. In a sense, his prior obedience made it easy for him. He had no decision to make. He just kept on doing what he had been doing all along.
 
In fact, as one writer I read said, The real lion's den was Daniel's bedroom because that’s where the battle was fought and won. By committing himself to continuing in prayer, he won the only battle that mattered. When he won there, the real lions were no problem.
 
We think the miracle was that Daniel survived a night with the lions. That’s a miracle, to be sure. But the greater miracle was that he continued to pray when his life was on the line.
 
So what do you do when they call for the lions? You don’t change a thing. Keep on serving the Lord, keep on doing right, keep on living for Christ, and then let the chips fall where they may.  Daniel went home, got on his knees and prayed as was his custom.
 
verses 11-15
 
Darius now realizes he has been tricked. He likes Daniel and immediately begins seeking loopholes to prevent him being thrown to the lions. But even the king could not repeal his own law because that would make him look weak and ineffective. No, the law must stand and Daniel must go to the lion’s den. But Darius is rooting for the old man.
 
In verse 16 he wishes Daniel well with these words:
 
verse 16
 
What a testimony this is to the reality of Daniels faith. Even unbelievers recognize true faith in God, and they respect it.
 
So Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den, which was a pit dug into the ground with an entrance from the side for the lions and with a huge boulder placed over the top so there could be no escape. It was a crude and very effective form of capital punishment. No one ever got out alive. And certainly not an old man over 80. Daniel was as good as dead the moment they threw him in. Or so they thought.
 
But evidently Daniel was not afraid to die. He may have suspected that God would rescue him, but he could not be sure until the moment came. I do not doubt that he had some anxiety when they took him to the pit. And I’m sure he was praying as they flung him into the darkness.
 
Then he hit bottom, slid along the dirt and came to rest on his backside. He could hear the sound of the lions breathing a few feet away.
But there were no roars, no menacing movements, no teeth tearing into his flesh.
 
As the seconds ticked away, he began to relax. Minutes passed and then hours and the lions did not touch him. Daniel later said that an angel came to rescue him. Did he have a conversation with the angel? We do not know for sure, but I think he probably did. Who knows? Maybe the lions became like cuddly kittens and Daniel played with them all night long.
 
The fear of death keeps many of us paralyzed in the time of crisis. Have you ever wished you knew how long you were going to live? If so, I’ve got news for you.
 
There is a site on the Internet called Deathclock.com where you can type in your birth date and a few details like your body mass index and how you tend to deal with problems, hit a button, and within a few seconds, the screen will reveal your projected date of death using standard actuarial tables. Last night I punched in the information and within a few seconds I saw this sentence on the screen:
 
Your personal day of death is …November 7, 2048
 
Then it started a clock counting down the seconds! 
 
to be honest, it was pretty encouraging!  After all, I've had diabetes for 43 years, I take 5 blood pressure pills a day, along with six other prescriptions, my father died from a heart attack and mom had cancer! 
 
I was glad to see that according to the tables I have over 31 years left!  I'm living to be 86 and i've already told the boys to get ready becasue they're not going to know if I've lost my mind, i'm messing with them or my blood sugar is low!  I told Lisa I intend to be hard to live with when I get old, and she said, "What do you mean when you get old?"
 
Isn't that ignorant?  Just go to the internet and see how long you have to live !  And yet people will do that, then live in fear and anxiety or live it up thinking they've got plenty of time! 
 
My life is in God’s hands and all my days are written in his book. I cannot die one second before my appointed time, and I won’t live a second longer either. But the good news is we, as Christians, don't have to be afraid to die because we died at the moment of our salvation. 
 
And if we properly understand our relationship with God, we are dead and our lives are hidden in Christ and it is He Who lives through these earthly bodies of ours.  He is free to use them as long as He wants, but it really doesn't make any difference to us because all dying does is move us that much closer to God!     
 
It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” And Daniel understood that, which explains why he kept on praying when others would have quit. Since he wasn’t afraid to die, he had the courage to live for God in a hostile pagan world.
 
The story concludes with
 
3. The Lord’s Deliverance
 
verses 17-19
 
I find it interesting that the king didn't sleep well that night, but apparently Daniel slept like a baby. The king tossed and turned, paced the floor, refused all offers of entertainment, and even refused to eat.
 
Then early in the morning he rushed to the lion’s den, hoping against hope that Daniel had somehow survived. And what did he find? 
 
verse 20-23
 
When all is said and done, it is better to be a child of faith in a lion’s den than to be a king without God in a palace. It’s true that God didn’t prevent him from being thrown in the den. But the Lord went in with him.
 
That’s why, when morning came, he was still alive, unharmed in any way. When they pulled him out, he had no wounds. No one had to apply any first aid, they didn’t call 911, and Daniel didn’t have to go the hospital for observation. Though he was an old man, he came out at least as healthy as when he went in. Thus does God take care of his own.
 
Notice again what we read in verse 22
 
God shut the mouths of the lions so they could not harm his servant. Did you ever consider that scene from the lions’ point of view? How frustrating it must be to the king of the jungle to see a large meal and be unable to eat it. After all, if they don’t get Daniel out of there, these lions will die of hunger.
You’ve heard it said that Daniel was in the lion’s den. It turns out the lions were in Daniel’s Den.  And if you question whether or not these lions were real or not, or if they were just pets, look at
 
verse 24
 
Apparently they caught and consumed them in mid-air, and yet, Daniel has just spent the night with them without injury! 
 
And did you notice what Darius said after finding Daniel alive? 
 
verse 23
 
The king was exceedingly glad for him.  In fact, we hear his testimony in
 
verses 25-27
 
Here is this pagan ruler singing the praises of Daniel's God in this beautiful call to worship! He rejoices in the living God who endures forever. He rescues and he saves, and he is the One who delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. What amazing words coming from the lips of a pagan king.
 
Or perhaps he is a pagan no more. Perhaps like Nebuchadnezzar he became a believer in the one true God. We won’t know for sure until we get to heaven, but I would not be surprised to see Darius there.
 
And notice, verse 23 tells us why the miracle happened. “He believed in his God.”
Nothing fancy there. For over 80 years Daniel’s faith had rested in the God of Israel. That wasn’t about to change at this late date. Daniel simply kept on trusting in God, and as a result, the lions couldn’t touch him. Faith believes God, even when belief is unbelievable.
 
So what do we learn from Daniel and his experience in the lion's den?  Let me suggest five lessons for
modern-day Daniels who find themselves facing the lions every day.
 
First, it is possible to live a pure life in the midst of a thoroughly pagan world.
 
Daniel’s story demonstrates that if you make up your mind (or “purpose in your heart") to serve God, you can do it even in the very center of pagan society. I know it can be difficult to go against the grain and swim upstream and do what is right.  And there is a tendency to gripe and complain and moan and groan.  
 
But at some point we have to say Stop complaining and get on with living for God.  So it's hard and not everybody shares our faith.  You can still live for Christ on the job, in your office, in your classroom, or in your neighborhood if you choose to. There is always a way to compromise for those who want to compromise. And there is always a way to obey God for those who want to obey God.
 
Second, Christians who live for God should expect opposition.
 
Daniel had his share of opposition and he lived a blameless life.
If you set out to live for the Lord, sooner or later (probably sooner) trouble will come your way. This is part of what Jesus meant when he spoke about “taking up your cross daily” and following him. The jealous satraps are never far away. Ironically, the more honest you are, the sooner they will attack.
 
Third, God can use us to touch unlikely people when we are faithful to him.
 
Daniel 6 emphasizes the powerful effect that Daniel’s personal integrity had on Darius. While it is true that many of his colleagues envied Daniel and plotted to kill him, it’s also true that he made a huge impact for good on the mightiest man in the world.
 
We never know who is watching us or what they are looking for, but this story teaches us that not every unbeliever hates Christians. For every satrap out there planning our downfall, there is a Darius keeping an eye on us, hoping that our faith may prove to be genuine.
 
many of them have little or no faith and deep inside, they want what we have. Even though they may never say so, they are cheering for us because they hope that what we believe will turn out to be true.
 
Some Darius has his eyes on you right now. Be careful about what you do and say. Your example may be leading someone to heaven, or through carelessness you may be leading them in an entirely different direction.
 
 
 
Fourth, God is able to deliver his people from any danger they face.
 
If God can deliver Daniel from the lion’s den, he can surely deliver you. Daniel learned that from three friends who were thrown in a fiery furnace.  And through the centuries, others have learned it from Daniel. 
 
Generations of Christians have taken strength from this story because in the end, the hero isn’t Daniel, it’s Daniel’s God. That same God is sovereign over those who plot against you. And he is sovereign over the lions who surround you. Take heart and trust in God. He can deliver you from whatever is troubling you this very moment.
 
Finally, God always delivers in his own time and in his own way.
 
This is the necessary balance. Does God always deliver his people? Yes, indeed, but not always in the way we expect. Not all our prayers are answered in the way we pray them. And in the end, we must confess that it is good that God has veto power over our requests. 
 
Sometimes God overrules because he sees the bigger picture and knows that he can glorify himself in some way other than by delivering us from a difficult situation.  This story ought to be a great encouragement to us because from it we learn that God can and sometimes does deliver in amazing and miraculous ways.
 
 
Therefore, let us pray with confidence to a God who can stop the mouths of any lions we may face. And if God should choose to answer in some other way, we may rest secure that God makes no mistakes and (as King Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way) “everything he does is right” (Daniel 4:37).
 
Before we leave this story, I would like to point out the gospel in Daniel 6. Daniel the man is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ who, though he was innocent, was envied and hated and condemned to die.
He too was let down into a pit of death and a stone was rolled across the entrance and an official seal placed across the stone.
 
Just as God sent an angel to Daniel, he also sent angels to the Lord Jesus Christ to testify “He is not here. He is risen just as he said.” From that pit of death came forth the Prince of life. He is the One who has conquered death forever and ever. Because of him, we know that to be absent from the body is not to be dead, but to be present with the Lord.
 
He is Daniel’s God. His name is Jesus. He is our Savior and our Lord.
 
The same God who rescued Daniel will rescue you from your sin if you will trust in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who trust in him are counted righteous in God’s eyes and their sins are forgiven forever. If that’s what you need, and if that’s what you want, then run to the cross. Do not delay. Run to the cross and lay your sins on Jesus. In one shining moment your sins will be forgiven and you will receive a brand-new life. This is God’s promise to those who trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
 
And for all of us there is much to encourage us in this beloved story. In the days to come we will all face hostility in one form or another because of our Christian faith. Those who serve the Lord never have an easy road in this world. But be of good cheer. If we will be faithful, God can use us to touch many people, including some in high places who watch us from a distance and cheer us on, hoping that our God will deliver us.
 
Let's pray.
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