In the Den

This chapter is the last of the narrative chapters in the book of Daniel. From chapter 7 onwards we are into the prophetic section, and so, given the purposes of these articles, this will be our last stop.

It is a chapter in which we are really coming full circle. Daniel faces a tremendous test of his courage and convictions, just as he did in chapter 1. Daniel takes a similar stand here and God intervenes for Daniel’s protection as the first chapter also highlights.

There are some clear contrasts between chapter 1 and chapter 6:

In chapter 1 the problem is the prayers of the Babylonians. The food the Jews were offered had been dedicated to the Babylonian god Nebo, and so Daniel could not partake;

  1. But in chapter 6 the problem is the prayers of Daniel. The Government was not prepared to tolerate him praying to his God;
  2. In chapter 1 Daniel said there is only one to whom I pray – God;
  3. But in chapter 6 the authorities said there is only one to whom you’ll pray – Darius, the king;
  4. In chapter 1 there was a subtle temptation to simply accommodate another god;
  5. But in chapter 6 there was a blatant challenge to eliminate the worship of the true God altogether.

Let’s gather up a couple of lessons from these general remarks before we get into a few of the details of the chapter. 

The first thing to learn is this – we will never reach a stage in life at which we will have no tests and face no challenges. In chapter 1, early on in his course of devotion to God, he had a big hurdle to clear, and he cleared it beautifully. Now in chapter 6, as an old man he faces another hurdle. It was great that he cleared the one in his teens. We likely would never have heard of him had he stumbled there. But before he crosses the finishing line, there’s another obstacle for him to deal with.

Many people have been alert in early days and have jumped the stumbling blocks the devil and this world have put in their path, but then they thought they could coast home, they dropped their guard, didn’t maintain their vigilance, and came crashing down within sight of the finishing line. Think of Noah: here was a man who stood out from the world and stood up for God in the midst of unspeakable corruption. God swept the sinful world away in the flood, and Noah and his family stepped out of the ark onto a purged earth. He’s home and dry we might say (pardon the pun), but in a world with only seven other people, and none of the pressures he would have faced in the old world, Noah fails badly, and falls sadly. David, Solomon, Uzziah, Hezekiah, and tragically many others, illustrate the same point – we can’t afford to relax. This world is a minefield, and continual watchfulness is needed. It may be that you have come through a big test already in your Christian life. You might have thought that if you got through school or university with your testimony intact you could breathe a sigh of relief, but beware, and be sure more tests lie ahead.

The second lesson is that the first test gave Daniel confidence in God for future tests. As new challenges came into his life he could look back to the time when he stood for God, and God had stood with him. The problems and pressures 

you face today will, if handled aright, equip you with experience for future problems and pressures. We have looked at the similarities between chapter 1 and chapter 6, but another difference is this, in chapter 1 Daniel didn’t know what would happen to him if he was faithful, however, in chapter 6 he knew exactly what would happen. He had proved God in early days and his experience of God never left him and was a source of strength for him in this trial. In your early days of Christian experience God will give you opportunities to demonstrate your faithfulness to Him, and in those circumstances He will demonstrate His faithfulness to you.

In the early part of the chapter we read about how Daniel was promoted to a place of power and prominence in the kingdom. This was due to the fact that ‘an excellent spirit was in him’, v. 3. It is interesting to notice that this same expression is used of him in 5.12 when the queen of Babylon was telling Belshazzar about what Daniel did in the days of Nebuchadnezzar. Isn’t it great that although decades had passed it was still true that ‘an excellent spirit’ was found in Daniel? He hadn’t developed a bitter spirit as he thought of the fact he had been wrenched from home, family and friends. He hadn’t developed a critical spirit as he thought of Jews who had assimilated and absorbed Babylonian or Persian culture. He hadn’t developed a pessimistic spirit as he thought about another empire in power, and him still away from home. He hadn’t developed a proud spirit as he considered the tests he had come through, the promotion he had earned, the influence he had over kings, or the revelations he had received from God. No, he didn’t have a bitter, critical, pessimistic, or proud spirit. He had an excellent spirit, and this marked him out in the work place. What about your spirit i.e. your attitude? Do the people in your school, university or workplace notice you for having an excellent spirit? Make it a matter of definite and daily prayer that an excellent spirit will be found in you.

Although this excellent spirit was noticed by everyone, it was not appreciated by everyone. Someone who lives righteously and works diligently is a rebuke to, and condemnation of, those who don’t. So the presidents and princes set their sights on Daniel and determined to shoot him down, and they realized the only way they could get him was if it was to do with his God. What a challenge for us. If the people you go to school with or work alongside determined to find fault with you, would they have much trouble? Would they be able to point to laziness, gossip, disrespect, unrighteousness, and incompetence? What a thing it would be if the only criticism they could level was faithfulness to God!

So they got the king to agree to a scheme in which he tried to be God for a month. No one was allowed to pray to anyone else for 30 days. What did Daniel do when he heard about this? Did he say, ‘Well, they aren’t saying we can never pray again – it’s only 30 days.’ Or, ‘I’ll just make sure to pray secretly for the next month.’ No, when he knew the writing was signed, he went into his house, opened his windows, kneeled down, and prayed just like he always did, v. 10.

It’s important to see that this was Daniel’s habit three times a day. It wasn’t the case that when he heard of the law he started doing this to make a point, no, he continued doing it because he realized this was a test of his fidelity to God. Do you have a disciplined prayer life like Daniel had? Do you have set times each day for talking to God? Make it a part of your daily routine, and let nothing push out time with God.

We know the story. Much to the king’s consternation Daniel was cast into the den of lions, but he didn’t go in there alone, God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths, and while the king had a very fretful night, Daniel had a very restful night!

Once again, Daniel’s faithfulness became a means of impressing a pagan king and impacting a Gentile empire with the greatness of the living God. Daniel wrote, ‘They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament: and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever’, 12. 3. Daniel certainly fulfilled that description, and may God help us to fulfil it too.