|GUESS WHO'S GONNA' BE DINNER
Series: Strangers In An Estranged Land - Part Four
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
July 12, 2020
A while back I saw this posted on Facebook and thought it fit to what we’re seeing here in Daniel and our title: “Guess Who’s Gonna’ Be Dinner.”
“Why are you stalling, Santa? You gonna start the game or not?”
“venison” The “v” goes on a double letter square so the word is worth 14 points. Doubled because you go first - 28 points. Plus it’s a 7 letter word. Using all your letter gives you a bonus of 50 points. 76 points.
First word. Game over. It’s the right word to play.
But, how do the reindeer feel about the word “venison”? What will the reindeer think… of me? What are the consequences if I play the word?
These days people are cancelled - shamed - shut down and taken out mercilessly - judged and condemned based on what plays in the community not on the basis of the merit or truth of what we say. Say the wrong thing and the community will have us for dinner.
In all of what is constantly inconsistent these days - sometimes it’s hard to know what the right move is. How to follow God and represent the gospel well. To live for God when the consequences - real or perceived - the consequences are very much on our minds.
Times when we need courage to do what is right - to live for God.
How can we have the kind of courage they had? Having the mental and moral strength to keep going with God whatever gets thrown up against us. Where does it come from? What does that look like for us?
And not just to survive in crisis and transition but to grow in character and deepen our relationship with God. Crisis and transition that God uses to move us farther along in what He desires to do in us and through us for His glory.
This morning we’ve arrived at Daniel 6 and the Lion’s Den. Familiar. Yes?
Let’s be careful that we don’t lose ourselves in familiarity and miss has for us this morning. We’ll go through the passage - unpacking as we go along - get it fresh in our minds. Then we’ll try to pull all that together with a few take home questions at the end.
Verses 1 to 9 introduce us to Medo-Persian Politics. What was up when all this came down and what that has to do with Daniel and us.
Daniel 1 - verse 1: It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss.
Let’s pause for some backfill.
Looking at the map there’s a comparison of the Babylonian Empire and the Median Empire. The Medes came onto the scene in the 700’s BC - reached the height of their power in late 600’s. Then the Persians - led by Cyrus - overthrew the Medes in 549 BC.
Cyrus, who’s a Persian, was the guy who took out Belshazzar. The handwriting on the wall account - Daniel chapter 5. Which ends the Babylonian Empire in 539 BC.
Then Cyrus the Persian king leaves Darius - same Darius that’s here in chapter 6 - Cyrus leaves Darius the Mede on the throne in Babylon to rule in his place while Cyrus goes off to conquer more people and places.
Looking at this next map - we need to see just how extensive the Persian Empire was - from about 539 to 331 BC. The Persian Empire was four times the size of the Babylonian Empire.
All the way from Bulgaria through India - including Egypt in the south and up into Armenia in the north. Literally about the size of the US and a tad more.
Point being, that’s a lot of real estate.
What we’re seeing here are the layers of political bureaucracy ruling over differing groups of all the peoples that Cyrus had conquered and gathered and absorbed into his empire - like Darius the Mede - and how Daniel the Hebrew fit into all that.
Satraps were like governors of provinces within the empire. They were responsible for maintaining order - security - and for collecting tribute.
Then - above the satraps were these three presidents - Daniel being one of the presidents - three presidents who oversaw the work of the satraps - making sure that the tribute reached the king’s treasury.
“So that the king might suffer no loss.” Which was a real possibility. Because the satraps - and every one else along the way - and even the presidents took their cut off the tribute before it got to the king.
We’re together? Let’s go on.
Verse 3: Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”
First, notice that Daniel was engaged in the political system. He is high up in the hierarchy.
What kind of responsibility comes with being one of the top four men - soon the number two man - ruling an empire? What kind of weight rests on Daniel’s shoulders? What level of energy - physical - mental - does it take to keep up with that? I don’t know. But it’s a lot.
Probably - looking back at Daniel chapter 5 - probably before Cyrus took out Belshazzar, Daniel had retired. Daniel is now probably in his mid 80’s. He’s lived in Babylon since he was a young teenager.
Darius calls him out of retirement to serve in the government.
The bottom line is that Daniel at age 80 plus, Daniel comes out of retirement and engages full steam in the political system.
That’s a challenge for us. Yes?
Whatever our age - regardless of our physical or mental condition - whatever we may think of ourselves or what we may think our limitations are - whatever our comfort zone may be - if we’re here and breathing independently God has a reason for it. When we’ve done what God has for us to do then He’ll take us home. Until then… keep serving.
Then, second, notice that while Daniel was engaged in the political system he wasn’t conformed to the political system. Daniel engaged and he still followed God.
Darius looked at Daniel and saw a man of “excellent spirit.” A God given spirit of excellence that distinguished Daniel from everyone else. Excellent to the point that Darius is going to put Daniel in charge of the whole kingdom.
Daniel was honest and without fault. He’s trustable.
Meaning that he wasn’t skimming off the top. He isn’t going to be bribed, bought, or bent. He’s not conforming to the socially correct expectations of the culture. Conforming to the way things are done.
Meaning that Daniel’s enemies saw that “excellent spirit” and saw Daniel as a threat. A potential whistle blower exposing the presidents and satraps and everyone else on this diverse ethnic and vast geographic food chain that’s skimming off of Darius’ tribute.
Daniel has enemies who are looking for ways to shut Daniel down and to take him out.
But, no matter how hard or how deep they tried - Daniel’s enemies couldn’t get an accusation to stick. Because he’s not conforming to the system. He’s conforming to God. God’s expectations of a Godly man.
Daniel is 100% the real deal - all in - living with God within the boundaries of behavior and character qualities that are being shaped by God. Conforming to God and so he’s living rightly before Darius.
So that in the midst of all that ungodliness the only accusation they could make stick was because of Daniel’s faith in God.
That’s powerful. And sobering.
Which of us could have that said about us?
In how we’re engaging what’s going on around us - in what we’re putting out in the day to day - in what fires us up and what we’re talking with people about - as we’re engaging community - in what we’re posting –what does all that demonstrate about what’s really gone on in us at the heart level and our relationship with God.
Are we conforming to community or conforming to God? Which is it?
Are we pointing people to God? Or not?
Daniel engages - even politically - and his engagement testifies of God.
Going on - verse 6: Then these presidents and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions.
Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.”
Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.
Two last “need to knows” about Medo-Persian politics.
First: The law of the Medes and Persians meant that once a law was signed… it couldn’t be changed. Irrevocable. Even the king couldn’t go against it.
Second: The lions’ den is full of… lions. And the lions were kept hungry - near starvation. People were torn to shreds even before they even hit bottom. A certain and unpleasant death.
Verse 10 bring us to Daniel’s Choice.
When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God.
Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?”
The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.”
Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
Daniel knew. He knew about the plot propagated by his enemies. He knew about the law the king had signed. He knew the irrevocable consequences. Do what’s right before God and you’re kitty chow.
Bottom line: Knowing all that Daniel knew Daniel still made the choice to keep doing what he had always done in the way he had always done it. Retired - engaged - weighted with responsibility - pressured - under fire - 66 years - 3 times each day - up in his roof chamber - window open - facing towards Jerusalem - prayer.
Daniel chooses God. To conform to God. Because Daniel lives centered on God. The focus point of his life is God. The foundation for how he lives is God.
Courage comes from living centered on God. From being consistent in our commitment to God.
Jesus taught about the need to build our lives on His word. Remember this?
Build your house on the… rock. Not sand. So when the pandemics of life come - the crises and transitions and really messed up stuff of life - when we’re hit with the choice of who or what we’ll conform to - when the storms hit and they will - if our lives are built on the sure foundation of God and God’s word then our lives will stand up against the worst that life throws at us. (Matthew 7:24-27)
Grab this: The time to start building on the rock is not when the storm hits - getting pelted with rain and flood waters rising and then we start looking for a rock and building materials. The time is now.
Paul taught Timothy: “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7,8 NASB)
“Discipline” translates the Greek word “gumnazo” - from which we get our English word... “gymnasium.” Meaning heart pumping - deep breathing - sweat producing - repetitive - all in - consistent - committed to do it - exercise.
Centering on God - meaning consistent commitment to prayer and worship and serving and fellowshipping and reading and marinating on God’s word - consistent commitment to what centers our lives on God - period.
People loose weight by taking a pill or having an operation. They go on a crash diet. Lose some weight and then a year or so later most people weigh more than they did before. Why?
Because we want weight loss without the consistent commitment to the hard work of life style change. Centering our lives on what keeps us buff. Consistent commitment regardless of what it costs over the long haul - day in and day out - what conforms our lives to a lifestyle of being at a healthy weight for the long haul.
Our society wants wealth without work. Endurance without effort. Respect without responsibility. Service without sacrifice. Acclaim without accountability.
Christians want courage without being consistent in our commitment to God - what centers our lives on Him. We want to show up when we want. To read when we can fit it in. To serve without sacrifice.
And if we’re not consistently building on the foundation now how can we possibility expect to stand courageously for Christ when the storms of life hit us later? The time to build is now.
There are no short cuts with God and being God’s man or woman. Either we’re consistently doing what it takes to center our lives on God, or we’re not.
Daniel was living centered on God. Living on a foundation built of consistently pursuing God.
When the choice comes he’s got the courage he needs because he’s been prepared by God. He’s seen God at work before. He’s knows God. And He’s God’s man and he knows it.
Verse 14: Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him.
Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”
Do you sense that deep down Darius knows he’s been played. He’s sending an innocent man that he can trust to the lions. And he tries all day to find a way to free Daniel. But the law cannot be revoked.
Verse 16: Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”
What do you say? “Send me a selfie with the lions.”
“I can’t save you. But your God - if He really is worth praying to - trusting with your life - perhaps your God can save you.”
And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
Woomph. The sound of the stone coming to rest in place must have had a sobering finality to it. There’s Darius’ official seal. And just in case the king tried to rescue Daniel the lords’ seal also gets used.
Meaning there will be no tricks. Daniel is in the lions’ den. Daniel is dinner. And only God can save him.
Which is the point of the repetition here. Daniel consistently and courageously chooses to trust God. Darius can’t save Daniel. Daniel can’t save Daniel. But God can.
Point being, as much as we might be tempted to think that all this is about Daniel and a den of lions this isn’t about Daniel and a den of lions but about God who alone is worthy of our trust.
Which brings us to verse 19 and God’s Glory. God bringing glory to Himself. God testifying about Who He is by how He - God - chooses to act.
Verse 19: Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lion’s mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before Him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.”
Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, and their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
How starving were the lions? Really really starving. Meaning Daniel should have been devoured and he wasn’t. Emphasis… God.
Verse 25: Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for He is the living God, enduring forever; His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and His dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, He who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”
So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Four ways God is glorified.
First: Daniel is spared. Verse 23 - “because he had trusted in his God.”
The word for “trusted” has the idea of continually leaning on something for support. Daniel centered on God. Consistently leaning on God for support - his sure foundation the rock - to sustain him.
Consistency - every day - three times a day - prayer. From that daily intimacy with God - reliance on God for over 80 plus years - comes courage - live or die - Daniel trusts God.
Which is about God. God who chooses to deliver Daniel. To God alone be the glory.
Second: True justice is served.
They never saw this coming. Daniel isn’t dinner. They are. The satraps and presidents - the skimmers and bottom feeders - and their families all become Meow Mix.
Why? Because they’re guilty... before God and guilty before Darius.
Justice is served. Not man’s version of self-serving justice tainted by what conforms to the culture of the day. But justice that’s about God dealing with what’s righteous and what’s not.
Justice based on the unwavering standard of Who God is. God who alone is just and holy and righteous. To God alone be the glory.
Third: Darius testifies of God’s sovereignty. Darius goes off with a decree declaring that Daniel’s God is the eternal living God - sovereign over it all - now and forever. All of what God has created and done it testifies of God’s eternal power and deity. Only Daniel’s God is able to deliver and rescue those who trust in Him.
The testimony of Who God is and what God does that’s declared across this vast empire - proclaimed on three continents - by Darius - the Mede - a pagan.
To God alone be the glory.
Fourth: God blesses Daniel. Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and Cyrus.
Daniel consistently and courageously chooses to trust God. To stay centered on God regardless of the pressure coming at him to conform to what is social acceptable and seemingly safer. And God chooses to deliver Daniel.
Point being, as much as we might be tempted to think that all this is about Daniel and a den of lions this isn’t about Daniel and a den of lions but about God who alone is worthy of our trust. God who uses Darius and Cyrus to prosper Daniel.
To God alone be the glory.
Pulling all that together - what Daniel went through and how Daniel went through what Daniel went through can help us go through what we’re going through today.
First: What are the lions in your life? Because we all have lions.
Maybe we can’t see the lions. But, we can hear them growling. Consequences - real or perceived. What will happen if we choose to go there. To conform or not to conform.
Times of crisis and transition when we’re wondering what the way forward might look like and we’re tempted to trust ourselves and not God? Maybe with the deeper issues of our hearts? Maybe with issues in our families - or school - or work? Or stuff from the past that chews on us?
We all got lions.
Question Two: Why trust God?
This is church. It almost seems like we shouldn’t be asking if we can trust God. He’s trustworthy. Have faith is the right answer.
But let’s be honest. There are times when we hesitate. Our default isn’t God. Especially when we hear lions growling.
Daniel chapters one to six are the historical section of the book that record Daniel and team Daniel living courageously for God in an ungodly culture.
Going through all that we need to be reminded that as much as we might be tempted to think that all that is about eating vegetables and interpreting dreams and statues and future history and Nebuchadnezzar getting pasteurized and graffiti on a wall and Daniel and team Daniel getting blessed - that all that isn’t about eating vegetables and interpreting dreams and statues and future history and Nebuchadnezzar getting pasteurized and graffiti on a wall and Daniel and team Daniel getting blessed - but about God. To God alone be the glory.
Confronted with lions and the pressure to conform - Daniel centers his life on God - Daniel trusts God because He knows God alone is worthy of trust.
This church is in transition in a time of crisis in our community.
Hang on to all the ways that God has already provided for that transition and trust God for what He will yet do. Be willing to go where He leads wherever He leads and calls you to trust Him. Because He is worthy of that trust and He has great things ahead for this congregation.
And hang on to the ways that God has already provided for you personally. Make a list. Keep track of all that God has done for you. Read Scripture and hear God speaking to you - Genesis to Revelation -the testimony of Who God is and what God does - about His love and provision for your life.
Hang onto to the ways God has already proven Himself - His track record in your life - and trust God when you hear lions. He’s got you.
Question Three: How consistent is your center?
If we’re comparing ourselves to Daniel we’re all going to come up short.
So, the takeaway here isn’t about being guilted or beating ourselves up because we’ve failed to trust God or live courageous for Him.
What we’re seeing here is great opportunity as we move forward. To grow in the midst of transition and crisis. To gain God given stability in our lives. To have courage for the hard times, To have what it takes to stand for God.
This week - even today - be encouraged to intentionally program in what will help you to be more centered on God - what can help you to be more consistently committed to God - building on the foundation of your relationship with the God who is worthy of our trust.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.