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Christian Witness Ministries

Into the Lion's Den
By Roger Winter Smith

“Then these men said, we shall not find anything to charge against this Daniel, unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God. .... Therefore King Darius signed the written decree. Now when Daniel knew that the decree was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he knelt on his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did before, Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. Then they went and spoke before the king concerning the king’s decree; Have you not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, the thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not change. Then they answered and said before the king, that Daniel, who is of the children of the captives of Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day. Then the king, when he heard these words, was very displeased with himself, and set his heart to deliver Daniel. Then these men approached and said to the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed. Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spoke and said to Daniel, Your God whom you serve continually, he will deliver you. And a stone was brought, and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring, and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting; neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went quickly to the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a troubled voice to Daniel; and the king spoke and said 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 has sent his an-gel, and has shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: inasmuch as I was found innocent before him; and also be-fore you, O king, I have done no crime. Then the king was exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury was found on him, because he believed in his God.”Daniel 6:5, 9-23

T HIS wonderful story shows that God reigns and He keeps His servants even though they may be in terrible danger. How important it is that these two truths should be understood by every one of God’s people. God is Almighty. He does reign.

The book of Daniel demonstrates this, perhaps more plainly than some of the other scriptures. In chapter 4 we see how King Nebuchadnezzar learns the hard way that God reigns on earth over both pagans and believers. From his position of supreme earthly authority at a stroke he is made helpless and deranged.

In our time the Divine authority is vested in Jesus Christ. He is Lord of all. When He was leaving His disciples He confirmed to them that all power is given to Him in heaven and on earth. He reigns and He keeps His servants.

Daniel is one of the scripture’s most remarkable characters. His prayer affected the principalities and powers that exercise authority and control over this fallen world. His life and prayers had a direct impact in the heavenly realm.

I believe that Satan, the enemy of God and man, was determined to stop Daniel praying. This was the real issue. Babylon’s leaders may have been resentful but they were being used by the devil to try to bring an end to this ‘effectual, fervent’ prayer life. There were human adversaries but that is so natural. Fallen human nature is allied to Satan.

Daniel was disliked because he was prominent and the other leaders were jealous. He was prominent because God had elevated him even though he was a foreigner, a Jew and a captive — all good reasons why he should never have got any-where in the society of Babylon which was then the world’s leading imperial nation.

However, because God was with him he was raised to power and was at the centre of authority, and the king’s “nobles” did not like it. The other courtiers conspired against him. All through history that has happened. It happens now. The cabinet coup, the plotting, the conspiring; leaders rise and fall. No doubt unseen powers are frequently involved. It is reasonable to assume that the conspiracy against Daniel was part of the design of Satan.

The lowliest Christian who sets himself to pray will find the evil one will oppose him. Every obstacle is put in the way. The attack will take various forms. Other duties suddenly become unusually pressing. A circumstance will arise that demands attention. A problem occurs that is time consuming. Health concerns, especially feelings of fatigue, are often used against us. It seems that the enemy is content, even quiescent, with most of the Church’s activity but he will contend to stop God’s people praying.

In spite of the decree Daniel continued to pray three times a day. I remember some-thing that our dear late brother David Powell said, that as a young man he knew Smith Wigglesworth — a man who supernaturally moved in faith. David had quite a lot to do with Wigglesworth. He said that in his early Christian life one thing that he gained from Smith Wigglesworth was the practice of praying three times a day. Most probably this biblical model of Daniel’s had influenced Smith Wigglesworth into this way.

Daniel’s jealous colleagues wanted him toppled and thus the decree went out that for thirty days no one in the empire was to make any petition to any God or any king or any lord except Darius. Regardless of this imperial decree Daniel would not cease praying to the living God even though it meant death by being torn to pieces by lions.

I have recently been reading a book about London in the days of Dr. Johnson going back some 250 years. One of the sights in those days was the menagerie at the Tower of London where there were some exotic animals including a formidable African lion. His roar could be heard at night across the city! This lion’s roar was chilling but also thrilling for people safely in their beds with the lion safely caged, but how different if he were free and you are his intended prey.

Daniel habitually prayed three times a day, but suddenly the lion became a real issue to be confronted – to continue to pray he must be prepared to die. This is a different proposition to those usual impediments to prayer. Perhaps his praying had become a comparatively easy routine.

I must qualify this suggestion. It is not easy to pray. It requires determination and discipline and a willingness to overcome all kinds of opposition from both within our-selves and without but we can pray if we mean to pray. Of the essential practices of the Christian life prayer is a vital discipline, perhaps the most vital discipline of all. Other things must also be in place. Speaking to the lost; standing for Christ. Devotion to the Word of God so that we love His Book and absorb it until it be-comes our guiding light and supernatural food. Devotion to God’s house, to be where His people gather and devotion to that people, a heart that says, “I will love the people of God, they are my choice”.

We can possibly have a circle of friends in the world but they will be very different to the people of God. We can enjoy some fulfilment with them and no doubt we can have all kinds of interests. However such can only satisfy at a certain level. It is God in His Three Persons and His people that a Christian desires. This is so in spite of the diversity, the different types and the various backgrounds that the church comprises. These things are right for a Christian and become natural to those who truly are regenerate. For those of us who are born-again, such things are our life.

How different it must be if we have to face death or choose to depart from God’s ways. That is what Daniel had to face and none of us know whether we are going to have to face persecution and trial and testing or how soon this may come. I some-times think it might be quite close.

The certainty that God reigns and He keeps His servants who are faithful to Him is of great comfort. In this comparatively easy time do we devote ourselves to the Lord? Do we really seek first His kingdom and His righteousness? To do so is commanded commanded us by the Lord Jesus and this will never lapse or be superseded. Do we systematically discipline our lives to practise prayer, devotion to God’s house, to His people and to His Word?

In chapter 12 of Jeremiah the prophet questions God. To paraphrase, he says, “Lord you are just and good; so why do the wicked prosper and conversely why do I suffer the way I do?” The Lord’s answer seems pretty severe: “Look – you’re just running with the footmen – wait until you have to contend with the horses, and if in the land of peace you find life a trial, wait till death stares you in the face”.

It may not seem a very comforting answer, but God’s answer to him was “Jeremiah – don’t complain! It’s comparatively easy now”. I think God might say to us, with all our troubles and trials, “Don’t think this is so testing – wait until you are really facing the lion that is unrestrained”.

It’s a scriptural comparison because Satan is described in that way. He is referred to as a “roaring lion going about seeking whom he may devour”.It is Peter in his first epistle who describes him in that way and the apostle emphasises the importance of sobriety and vigilance at the same time.

The devil wanted to stop Daniel’s prayers. Later in the book we see the effect of Daniel’s prayers on the Heavenly Powers – both good and evil. Those mighty unseen forces that contend for this world are affected by prayer.

Angelic powers were specifically concentrating on the pagan king Darius. It seems that the battle over Darius had been won for the kingdom of God. Is this not the reason why he so wanted Daniel to be pre- served and why he knew that he had been tricked into getting Daniel condemned? The reason is in the unseen world.

At the beginning of chapter 11 we see that a holy angel had confirmed and strengthened this king. This being states, “I stood to confirm and strengthen him”. This angel had visited Daniel as Daniel had prayed and prayed. The visitation followed three weeks of prayer and a partial fast. He prayed and the angel came to him and what a being he was. What a visitation! The glory of an angel can be astonishing. His description is given in chapter 10, verses 5 and 6:
“Then I lifted my eyes and looked and behold a certain man clothed in linen whose waist was girded with a fine gold of Uphaz. His body was like beryl and his face as the appearance of lightning. His eyes were as lamps of fire and his arms and his feet like burnished bronze in colour and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude”.
When he spoke it was like a huge crowd roaring. What a voice! Daniel alone saw the vision – the men that were with him seemed to experience a great quaking and they fled to hide themselves. They didn’t see anything but a terrible fear came upon them. They could not explain it but a supernatural visitation from the unseen world had happened. They were in the presence of a holy sinless angel with God’s glory upon him.

This holy angel had supported king Darius – “I stood to confirm and strengthen him”. That is surely at least part of the reason why Darius was the way he was and why he favoured God’s servant. Why did this happen? Surely it is because Daniel had prayed.

No wonder the devil was frustrated with this man. No doubt he had intended Darius to be a hateful enemy of God’s kingdom. The issues were very significant – it was about the government of the world. The angel makes reference to the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece – angelic beings, powers apparently seeking to control earthly kingdoms for their own ends.

It is so encouraging to see how prayer can affect the world’s leaders. We are not to be overly critical of our leaders or frustrated at their failings. We are to pray for them to be conformed to God’s will.

The book of Daniel is very revealing on the subject of the heavenly powers. The beginning of chapter 11 is so impressive.
This mighty being stood to confirm and strengthen him. Christians are served by angels too, for “they are ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14)

Daniel’s visitation is remarkable and most people do not normally have such experiences. However, the Christian actually enjoys an even better ministry. As I have thought on these verses I have been led to the truths in Ephesians 3.

We might not have such experiences as those of Daniel, but we have something superior. God Himself ministers to us in the same way i.e. to confirm and strength- en. The Spirit of God will strengthen and confirm the Christian. This is plainly shown in Eph 3 in verses 14 to 16, where the apostle Paul explains the reason for and substance of his prayer for the Ephesians. He says,
“For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family of heaven and earth is named. That He would grant you according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man.”
This is wonderful. God strengthens us by His Spirit, how much better is this even shall than angelic ministry. This is the heritage of the Christian. How vital it is that we should pray. We are to pray, “without ceasing.”

In Daniel’s case no prayer was to be made to any man or god for thirty days. What folly! What was Darius thinking that he should succumb to this flattery? Did he crave more than the respect properly due and the moderate affection of his people? He apparently wanted more than the loyalty and submission due from a people to their king – from mere creatures to an-other mere creature.

He was encouraged to seek from the people that which was due to God alone. This is surely an example of the true in-tent of the antichrist spirit. What an arrogant foolish usurping thing to do and so much awful injury, fatal injury is caused in that way.

A similar appeal to pride destroyed King Herod. He made a terrible mistake with an oath, offering the dancing girl anything she wanted, and then the devil pulled him into the snare. His mistake cost John the Baptist his life. He knew immediately this was the biggest mistake of his life – indeed of his eternity. Nevertheless for his oath’s sake and for those who sat at table with him, because he would not lose face in front of his lords, he sent and had the messenger of Heaven killed – because of his pride.

The very destiny of his soul was in the balance but he wouldn’t climb down. He should have said “I’ve made a wicked and foolish mistake and whatever the consequences I will not kill God’s man”.

The Medes and Persians knew the need for certainty in governance – “the law of the Medes and Persians which does not change”.Nothing that was decreed could be altered. I have very mixed feelings about this because of the way our own society has deteriorated. It seems that the law means nothing at times. People can defy the law so easily. Where respect for law is gone anarchy must follow. We see the foundations being removed. There is such equivocation and if law isn’t absolute and enforced absolutely anyone can take advantage. The Medes and the Persians understood that. In that respect they were much wiser than we are.

They said if this thing is decreed you must apply it – nothing you say will change it. The government will not yield to anyone in its decrees.
There is a sense in which nations can only be governed uncompromisingly be-cause of the wickedness and deviousness of human nature. On the other hand, how-ever, such totality of authority must be re-served ultimately to the Divine One. God with His infallible mind and infallibly just character, who knows all things, who cares for all men, can say, “My Word is final, is changeless; it is forever, no-one can get round it, no-one can cunningly argue against it in a court and water it down and make it say something different to what I intend. It is Divine, it is eternal.”

Jesus said heaven and earth will pass away but His Word is forever – it will not pass away. For men to take that kind of authority for their decrees is pretentious even though to run this world there has to be resolute governance. Here it was the very immutability of their decrees that trapped the king.

Daniel was saved and the lions had no power over him. God reigns and He keeps. In verse 21 Daniel says to the king, “O king, live forever”. This is an interesting thing to say – it was the proper way to greet royalty. It was obviously a vain wish but perhaps shows the longing that has been in all cultures for an end to the penalty of death, which is the common lot of man.
“My God has sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: inasmuch as I was found innocent before him.”Dan 6:22
If we obey the Lord He will protect us. If we will do as He commands He will do what He has promised.

Those who are serving God perhaps in earnest prayer like Daniel may find that to continue praying will become very costly indeed. How important it is that we strengthen one another in our respective ministries.

How needful it is in this time of warfare that we should not allow petty differences to fester. Even in doctrinal matters there are areas where honest differences should be accommodated, but foundational truths must never be compromised.

The church is in such turmoil. Often the lone man of prayer is attacked, troubled, slandered, brought low in the esteem of others but it is vital that such a ministry continues and we should support all of God’s true servants enthusiastically. This biblical episode confirms that it is certain that God reigns and that He keeps His own.

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Appeared in Issue 16 Vanguard - May 2003
"...contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" -- Jude v3

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-Last revised-Tuesday, May 27, 2003