What If Daniel Had Died In The Lion’s Den?

If there’s nothing we learn from Daniel’s story, it’s how treacherous the corridors of power can be. It’s a cloak and dagger world and full of long shadows. In that world, brilliance can be severely punished. But we seem to be getting ahead of ourselves, let us back up a little.

Daniel was a gifted administrator with exceptional capabilities. A member of the elite Babylonian captivity, he ended up serving two dynasties and three kings. Babylon witnessed political instability over a short period of time. The irascible Nebuchadnezzar had conquered the southern kingdom of Israel, Judah and abducted the intelligential, transplanting them into his kingdom. After his death, his son Belshazzar succeeded him but Darius the Mede conquered Babylon and overthrew him. Darius made Daniel a third vice-president of the kingdom and soon elevated him to next in command. The guy was simply brilliant! – “Darius reorganised his kingdom. He appointed one hundred and twenty governors to administer all the parts of his realm. Over them were three vice-regents, one of whom was Daniel. The governors reported to the vice-regents, who made sure that everything was in order for the king. But Daniel, brimming with spirit and intelligence, so completely outclassed the other vice-regents and governors that the king decided to put him in charge of the whole kingdom.” (Daniel 6:1-3 MSG) So we do know Daniel was that kind of all-rounder guy. He’s actually a typology for the Order of Melchizedek, the operative spiritual order to which all Christians belong. He excelled in both the spiritual and secular spheres.

That elevation soon proved too much for his political opponents – read every other person in government. Envy is scary. It can radically unite rivals. To nail Daniel, they searched for skeletons in his proverbial cupboard – some sex scandal, financial impropriety, fiscal negligence, political misconduct… They found none. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission could find nothing against him either. Not one kick-back. Neither did the Secret Police or State Department. The guy was loyal to the king. Soon his enemies concluded the only way to nail the guy was to become inventive, formulate a special statute with him as target. Nothing existing could catch him. They narrowed down to religion. Daniel was very religious. He was a fastidious Judaist who prayed three times a day religiously. He never forgot God despite all that elevation. He therefore makes nonsense of the excuse tendered by those who become too busy to go to church once in government.

The political class came up with the idea of a bizarre executive order. What if King Darius were to act as God for 30 days! They proposed to vest absolutist power in the office of the king for 30 days. Everyone has to pray to him within that time frame. Not even crazy Nebuchadnezzar could come up with such a preposterous decree. The best he did was ask everyone to bow down to a golden idol. “The vice-regents and governors conspired together and then went to the king and said, “King Darius, live forever! We’ve convened your vice-regents, governors, and all your leading officials, and have agreed that the king should issue the following decree: For the next thirty days no one is to pray to any god or mortal except you, O king. Anyone who disobeys will be thrown into the lions’ den.” (Daniel 6:6-7 MSG) A leader has to be careful about the agenda of those around him. A leader has to be careful about sycophants, especially praise singers who are not in the church choir. But the challenge for Daniel was, Your God or your political position? If he chose God over political office, he would lose his head. If he chose political office over God, he has lost his head. It was a Faustian bargain.

Knowing Daniel, the outcome was more or less predictable. He prayed to God and not Darius. “When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed and posted, he continued to pray just as he had always done. His house had windows in the upstairs that opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he knelt there in prayer, thanking and praising his God.” (Daniel 6:10 MSG) It wasn’t until the decree caught Daniel that Darius realised he had been set up. And the king had no power to over-write Medo-Persian law. Funny thing was, they purportedly granted him absolute power to act as God, yet he had no power to exercise prerogative of mercy! Their God equation was wonky.

On his way to the lions’ den King Darius said to Daniel, “Your God, to whom you are so loyal, is going to get you out of this.” (Daniel 6:16 MSG) Well, such a rescue would not be entirely novel if it happened. That God had famously discharged Daniel’s associates – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego out of a fiery furnace; but could he deliver Daniel from the jaws of hungry lions? When Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego were threatened by Nebuchadnezzar they had said to him, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us into the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18 MSG) In other words, things could go either way. The legitimate question therefore arises, what if God didn’t deliver Daniel?

Based on the response of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to Nebuchadnezzar’s threat, it wouldn’t have made any difference if God didn’t deliver Daniel. They shared the same religious philosophy. Not sure many Christians wouldn’t have considered his death in such circumstances proof that he wasn’t a real servant of God. “He was probably in sin,” some might opine. But the reality is, many high profile servants of God died gruesome deaths. Many people of faith were actually eaten by lions, especially under Nero. Isaiah – the 8th century prophet – was sawn in two on the orders of King Manasseh. And yet his name means “Yahweh is salvation.” Jerusalem in particular was noted for murder of prophets, so much so Jesus lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who murders the prophets and stones to death those messengers who are sent to her by God!” (Matthew 23:37 AMP) He barely escaped stoning too, but they eventually nailed him to the cross. Obviously, gruesome death is not an invalidation of calling or anointing. If at all, it seems to be validation! Hebrews 11 talks about Christians who were “tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated.” (Hebrews 11:35-37 NLT) The ill treatment of the world is the validation of the saint. (Cf. Matthew 5:11-13) The gruesome death of a servant of God is not invalidation of his righteousness. God actually regards Death as enemy. (1 Corinthians 15:26)

To underscore the futility of Death’s enmity, the Bible refers to dying as nothing but sleep: “And Solomon slept [in death] with his fathers and was buried in the city of his father David.” (1 Kings 11:43 AMP)

“He said,… “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him.” The disciples answered, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” However, Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was referring to natural sleep. So then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” (John 11:11-14 AMP)

“Then falling on his knees in worship, he (Stephen) cried out loudly, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them, do not charge them!” When he had said this, he fell asleep [in death].” (Acts 7:60 AMP)

The comfort for the Christian concerning death is found in Revelation 14:13: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13 NLT) Death was no big a deal to Daniel.

If you’ll like to give your life to Jesus, please pray this prayer: Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Please forgive me Father. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.

The gruesome death of a servant of God is not invalidation of his righteousness. Click To Tweet