In 587 BC Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar besieged, defeated, and occupied the city of Jerusalem. The people were his to kill or enslave. He chose to make use of the talented young men of the city in his own government. Daniel and a few of his friends were taken back to Babylon to learn the language and the customs of Babylon, and then enter the king’s service. Daniel’s trip to Babylon was, therefore, not by choice, but it was not without its benefits. There would be no such opportunities in his now defeated nation, and, if he worked hard and did a good job, he could live rather well in Babylon. He had little free will in the matter, but it turned out to be the best career move available to him.
Daniel did make the best of it. Daniel 6:3 says, “Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.”
The success of this foreigner irritated Daniel’s jealous Babylonian co-workers, and they tried to find some fault in the performance of his duties (verse four). But, says the verse, “they could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”
The co-workers realized that the only opportunity to bring Daniel down would be to present a challenge to his faith in his God (verse five). They knew Daniel would never compromise on that. So they appealed to the king’s vanity, getting him to sign a decree ordering that no one but the king could be prayed to or worshiped for thirty days. Knowing how faithful Daniel was at his prayers to his God, they needed only to catch him at it, and then inform the authorities of the crime. They had no problem finding him praying to his God at the usual time, and Daniel was arrested.
The king liked Daniel and regretted having to lose him because of a foolish decree. But the decree could not be altered. The punishment for Daniel was to be thrown into a den of hungry lions, there to be torn to pieces and devoured. As the order was being carried out, the king declared his hope that Daniel’s God will be able to protect him.
Daniel in the Lion’s Den, 1872, Briton Reviere (1840-1920)
God protected Daniel and he was not harmed by the lions. His accusers then received the punishment they intended for Daniel. God did not protect them and the hungry lions finally had their lunch. The king then issued a new decree, calling on people throughout the kingdom to pray to Daniel’s God.
Daniel and his friends served in Babylon for many years. The book of Daniel records other stories of times when they had to take a stand for their faith in a hostile environment. Remember the story of the three men in the fiery furnace? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were friends of Daniel and also worshiped God. Like Daniel, they were intelligent and skilled young men, working for a foreign government. They also were as loyal to the government as they could be; but they would not bow down to the idol that was set up for everyone to worship. They too were sentenced to a certain death, to be cast into a huge furnace and incinerated. But God protected them also, and they were seen walking around in the fire. They were asked to come out, and they, like Daniel, were restored to their positions. (continued…)
Daniel 6:10 — Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Daniel 6:19-22a — At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.”
Daniel 3:16-18 — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
THE PRAYER OF DANIEL FOR HIS NATION; Daniel 9:4-5…8…11…17-19:
I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws… We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you… All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you… Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant… Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”