Daniel - From the Jaws of Death – Hope 103.2

Daniel – From the Jaws of Death

By Simon ManchesterSunday 4 Aug 2013Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes

Transcript:

St Thomas’ Anglican Church
North Sydney

Daniel – From the Jaws of Death

Our heavenly Father we pray you would be gracious to us,to help us to see in this familiar story more of your goodness,your power,your faithfulness,your kingship,in order that we might live in the light of your truth. And we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Many of you will remember the story which I have told very often of a man whose new parachute won’t open,and as he is racing down towards the ground,for some strange reason a man goes shooting up straight past him right beside him. And he calls out to the man who is shooting up beside him,”You wouldn’t happen to know how these new parachutes work would you?” And the guy who’s shooting up calls back,”I am having enough trouble with my new gas Barbeque!” It is an old story,not quite as old as Daniel chapter 6 which is so familiar as to be almost impossible to preach on. And I found Daniel 6 to be quite a hard task this week to go back to the famous,familiar story of Daniel in the lions den. The other thing about that story of the two men,one speeding up and one speeding down,is that they are dividing or separating drastically. And there couldn’t be in Daniel chapter 6,I think,a greater divide or separation that takes place between the 2 kingdoms. The kingdom which is really a dark kingdom,and the kingdom which is the kingdom of God. And we’ve been looking over the last 5 Sundays,and this is the sixth,at this kind of clash between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of men. And we’ve observed that the kingdom of God has impacted the world in such a way that it is possible to recognise that God is the king of all the universe,and that the kingdoms just come and go. And so we’ve been observing over these Sundays these clashes which have taken place: chapter 1 where Daniel decides that he will be allied to God the king; and then chapter 2 where we recognise that human kingdoms are temporary and only God’s kingdom is forever; and then in chapter 3 the three men you remember who stand firm for God the king,and even though they are threatened with punishment and death from the earthly kingdom,God preserves them; chapter 4 you remember,
Nebuchadnezzar the earthly king learns that God is the king; and chapter 5 Belshazzar learns too late that God is the king and he’s judged or punished; and now we come to chapter 6. And I think in chapter 6,the last of the history chapters in the book of Daniel,we’re going to see the clash where you must make a choice. It’s the clash where you must make a choice. I am going to look at it under two headings this morning,the first 14 verses: The kingdom of death. You read these first 14 verses and they really are about a kingdom which is powerless to do anything except sentence you to death. And then we are going to look at the second 14 verses under the heading: The kingdom of life. And you will see there the remarkable work of God producing life out of death.

Well you know the story don’t you? I imagine there is hardly anybody here who doesn’t know the story. Daniel is there in Babylon,he’s forbidden to pray,and he refuses to stop praying,and so he is captured and he’s thrown into the lions den. And there in the lions den he is miraculously preserved through the night and brought out the next day.

Let’s think first of all about The kingdom of death. And the first thing I want you to know about The kingdom of death is that The kingdom of death is not necessarily the world that you live in. Daniel has been in Babylon for nearly 70 years and it has been for Daniel quite a successful time. It’s a place of exile,yes we know it is a place of exile because God took His people out of the promised land and sent them as refuges into Babylon. But Babylon is also under God’s control just because it is not the promised land doesn’t mean that it is not God’s land,and Babylon is clearly under the control of God. And it is a place where God instructs them how to live,even though they are not in the promised land and they’re in this exile,they are instructed how to live. And this is what God tells them in Jeremiah 29,’Build your houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Raise your family. Seek the peace of the city. Seek the shalom of the city. Pray for it. Don’t be deceived by the prophets who tell you that you’ll be back in a few days. When 70 years are completed says the Lord I will bring you back to Jerusalem. For I know the plans I have for you,says the Lord.’ And if you look at chapter 6,and start to read it you’ll see that Daniel living in exile lived extremely successfully. It says in verse 1,that Darius appointed 120 satraps and three administrators to rule the satraps. And Daniel was one of the three and,in verse 3,so distinguished himself that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Daniel is doing what he is told and he is extremely blessed and therefore we must recognise that the round world is not necessarily the kingdom of death.
The round world in which God has placed us is still a beautiful world. It is still a world of plenty. It is still a world of opportunity. It is still a world where God is faithful,even though it is fallen and it is not yet heaven. And therefore if you live in the world it is perfectly possible to live in the world by the word of God most of the time. It is possible to live in most free countries and serve God in the very middle of business,in the very middle of industry,or politics. In the very middle of almost every profession it is possible to serve God and live according to His word in His world. And you can do almost anything that does not compromise His word. And Daniel lived without compromise in the world,and God greatly blessed him. It is a very rare thing I guess to be promoted to the top of the kingdom,but it is a very real possibility and God makes it possible for Daniel. Then comes the opposition,and the opposition comes from what we would call the hostile world.

You’ll see in verse 4 as soon as the king plans to set Daniel over the whole kingdom,”the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs,but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him,because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said,”We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” So this servant of God is going to be opposed unreasonably. They’re going to have to bring across the bow of the word of God,something which contradicts the word of God and causes Daniel to be faced with a clash of kingdoms.
Daniel so far has been quite constructive in the world living under God,but now this hostile world is going to be destructive towards him. So can you see that there is a distinction,I am saying this to you this morning everybody,there is a distinction between the round world in which you live and work,and it is normally possible to live and work in the round world under the blessing of God without having to compromise your convictions.
But when the hostile world brings across your path a clash commanding,demanding that you compromise the will of God and the word of God,that’s where you’ll find yourself faced with the hostile world,not just the round world. And this hostile world not only resents Daniel’s position,but wants to make sure that he is brought down. We see an absolute fulfilment of this in the New Testament where the Lord Jesus who was infinitely more constructive to the world,living obediently and perfectly under His heavenly Father,was nevertheless challenged and opposed by the hostile world who wanted to prevent Him from living faithfully and successfully as He was doing. And so they brought across the bow of the Lord Jesus unreasonable opposition. So I am reminding you that this hostility that comes to God’s people is traceable not just to the round world,not just to the organisations of the round world,it is traceable to something more sinister. It is not just groups that lobby against Christianity that we have to be concerned about,it is not just governments which occasionally legislate against Christianity that we have to be concerned about,we need to be concerned about the root cause of the hostility. And the root cause of the hostility is spiritual.  It goes back to the spiritual forces that influence the groups and the governments,who pull the strings as if they are their puppets. There is says apostle Paul in Ephesians 6 a spiritual battle and people are always going to be naive,and they are going to be superficial if they don’t understand that behind the opposition that seems to be just physical is actually opposition that is spiritual.

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Notice how the opposition is produced. The administrators,the leaders go to the king in verse 6 and they do a series of things that are very cunning. First of all they talk big,they say verse 6,’O king Darius,live forever.’ As if they could possibly talk like that,or as if they could possibly pull that off. And then they say in verse 7 totally dishonestly,’We are all agreed on this. All the royal administrators,prefects,satraps,advisors,and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict.’ The only problem is that there is one person who was not consulted and would not agree and that of course was Daniel. Then they try flattery,or they add flattery,they say,’O King,only you should be prayed to. How great you are. We have a thought that is all about you O king. Only you should be prayed to.’ And I imagine that the king must have found this almost intoxicatingly impossible to resist. And then they said verse 8,’Just sign here on the dotted line. Just sign here on the dotted line. Just sign here on the dotted line.’ And so the king foolishly gives in. Ultimately of course it is really anti God. These people are against Daniel,but of course they are against Daniel because behind Daniel is God,and they are going to prevent Daniel from praying to God. They’re going to prevent anybody from praying to God. They’re going prevent anybody from depending on God. They do not want anybody to recognise or honour God and so that’s what they are about. So this is the kingdom of darkness in action,it goes all the way back to Genesis 3 where again you see the devil saying ‘You can be God. Just do the opposite of what God says.’ And here it is resurfacing again,’O king Darius,we want to treat you as God,let’s stop anybody else being treated as God.’ And so they set up laws which cross the path of God’s word.

It is very rare in this world thankfully,especially in western countries,where we have been blessed for a long time with the word of God,it is very,very,very rare for any institution to come across the path of Christians and legislate against the will of God. It does happen of course in countries that are not blessed by the word of God,and occasionally it happens in the church,as has recently happened around the world asking believers to contradict the word of God for the sake of some institutional power. We do however see even in our own country,even in the west today that there is a great escalation of controlling law. One of the reasons that there is this great escalation of controlling law,or what is often called positive law,is because there is this desperate need and desire to control what is increasingly out of control. And we see this being done at the expense of much more liberating and what is generally called natural law. But whenever the positive law comes across the bow of the believer and suddenly becomes a request or a demand to contradict or disobey God,you can be absolutely sure that what is behind that are spiritual forces,the devil himself calling on believers to be disobedient or to forsake God altogether.

And here it is in the book of Daniel,we see it again in the New Testament of course most clearly where the hostile world attack the Lord Jesus,conspired against Him,and He chose the road of faithfulness and paid the price for faithfulness. We see it again with the apostles being commanded by the government not to preach,and refusing to stop preaching and paying the price of their decision and being beaten and jailed for it,but deciding that they will continue to be faithful. And so here is Daniel faced with what is unreasonable law,anti God law,and having to chose whether he will go that particular road which will be the easiest road,or whether he will stay with the will of God. Well Daniel is an old man this is the very end of his life. He must have come into Babylon when he was about 20,and this is nearly 70 years later. He’s a very old man. And for those who think that the battles of the Christian life are all over in the 20’s and after that it is all pretty straight forward,it is a good thing to remember that a lot of battles take place for believers at the end. Not that God will be unfaithful,but just that we should not be complacent. Daniel knows that the 70 years are nearly up. It’s going to be any day that they are going to return from Babylon to Jerusalem,and this threat to stop praying is not the same as the threat to Shadrach,Meshach,and Abednego who were told that they had to bow down to a statue and be idolatrous,this seems much more manageable it’s just don’t bow down,that’s all he is being told,just don’t bow down. And it is just for 30 days,I mean that’s all,just hang in there 30 days,cut your prayer out,30 days will soon be over,in will come the permission to return to Jerusalem and you will have preserved your life. And in the end prayer is a pretty private thing anyway Daniel so why don’t you just pray in your head? Why don’t you just pray in such a way that nobody ever sees you pray? Why waste your life? Now Daniel wonderfully is determined that he will not only maintain his allegiance to the Lord,but that he will also maintain his witness. He is not as interested as many others in avoiding trouble. And he is very interested in declaring that God is the king,not only of his life but even if God calls him to die. And he believes that God is faithful to him in life and death and can be trusted. He must have known what Shadrach,Meshach and Abednego said,’Our God is able to protect us,and save us and rescue us,but if he doesn’t rescue us from this immediate trouble,we still will not serve the other gods,or stop serving the living God.’ And so in verse 10 he maintains his regular prayers.

It must have been a very painful thing to have been left out of the process,it must have been a very hurtful thing to have had something so personal and vindictive brought against him,but he just decides that he will commit everything to God and he just goes back to pray,and he will not hide his witness. He is not being a show off when he prays of course,he is not praying out on the street corners,he’s just continuing his normal prayer life and the people have learnt that they can observe him at his normal prayer life. And so he goes to the window which is open towards Jerusalem,interesting isn’t it that Daniel prayed looking towards Jerusalem,Jerusalem was a pile of rubble but of course it was destined to be the great future,and he looked past Babylon which was magnificent but Babylon was doomed to perish. And so Daniel was a man who lived completely by the word of God and completely by faith. The opposition come in and as they expect they find him praying,and they run to the king and they say ‘Daniel is praying.’ And interestingly the king is deeply,deeply distressed. When Nebuchadnezzar heard that Shadrach,Meshach,and Abednego were not going to bow down to the statue he was very angry,but when Darius hears that Daniel is not going to stop praying,Darius is deeply distressed. And for all his power Darius is trapped by the law. He’s trapped by his own law,it is a godless law,and it has trapped him,and he is now absolutely helpless. He knows how to sentence a man to death,he does not know how to save a man from death. And he becomes as restless and unhappy and as sleepless as you can possibly be. There is no rest,says the bible,for the wicked. Daniel for all his weakness and impending death is living by the word of God and he is continuing in prayer,he is as peaceful as a baby.

I have been reading the letters of John Newton as I eat my weetbix in the morning,and John Newton wrote a lovely letter to somebody about secret prayer and this is a little paragraph,it is not easy to follow but if you get it,it is worth it. John Newton said this,”Secret prayer and the good word are the chief wells from whence we draw the water of salvation. These will keep the soul alive when creature streams (i.e. other people) are cut off. But the richest variety of public means (or we might say Sunday services) and the closest attendance upon them will leave us lean and pining in the midst of plenty,if we are remiss and formal in the other two (i.e. the praying and the reading).” Well to translate that into very simple language,if you keep up your praying and your reading it will be like living at the fountain of God and church will be a bonus,but if you give up on the praying and the reading,church itself will become inadequate and stale. And it is a good reminder to us you see Daniel is actually living on God,and when you forget that and you think you can just bypass God and be churchy you’ll find the church is going to be completely inadequate for you. Some of the grumpy letters that I have had recently about St Thomas’,and just a couple I have had recently,have got nothing to do with St Thomas’,they’ve really got to do with the people who wrote them,who are looking to the church to be their God and to provide everything. But you and I mustn’t make that mistake and Daniel certainly doesn’t make that mistake. He’s wise enough to seek his salvation and safety in God.

Second much more briefly,The kingdom of life. This is the section of the chapter that was read for us and it is by far the best known in the book,and I wondered if you’d noticed as the verses were read for us and Daniel is taken off and thrown into the tomb,I wonder if you notice how many amazing parallels there are between Daniel and Jesus? First of all Daniel is opposed by a stupid law,and Jesus is opposed by stupid law. Daniel of course has a ruler who is out to help him,called Darius,but he can’t,and Jesus has a helper called,or a ruler called Pilate who is out to help Him and Pilate can’t help Jesus,although makes some feeble attempts to do so. Both men are sentenced to death. Both are placed in a tomb.
Both are placed in a tomb that is sealed by a rock. Both are rescued from the tomb. Both have an angel involved in the rescue. Both of them have eager visitors who run down the next morning to see how things have worked out. This story of Daniel 6 is a great preview of Easter. It was one of the stories that must have helped the people of God in the Old Testament to see that there was a future and a hope. And when you get to the last chapter of Daniel,chapter 12,this is set out most wonderfully that the dead shall arise,and Daniel of course was just a little mini version,a preview,a model of what that really might look like.

But the similarities between Daniel and Jesus are much more superficial in actual fact there are very great differences,very,very great differences. And the thing that really got me thinking about this is the word in verse 22 which quite intrigued me and annoyed me,and it is where Daniel calls out from the tomb,’I am OK because I was innocent.’ Now I really didn’t want Daniel to say that. It does sound like he’s bragging,doesn’t he? ‘O Darius,I deserve to be saved. God shut the mouths of the lions’,it says,’because I was found innocent.’ Well I just wrestled with that through the week and I said I don’t see how that fits into scripture. Every believer,every person is a sinner. Every believer from Abraham to John is a sinner. Mostly the bible fits in a sin or two for us so that we’ll know they are sinners and we’re quite relieved when we read their sins. Daniel is strangely presented as sinless in this book,unless you think that his refusing to eat the king’s food in chapter 1 was a little bit precocious. It is very hard to find anything which is negative or critical about Daniel. So what are we to conclude? Are we to conclude that Daniel is sinless? Well I want to suggest to you that Daniel is not sinless for a number of reasons: First,the bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and that would include Daniel. Second,Daniel himself says he is a sinner when he prays in chapter 9,so we just have to wait a little longer in the book to discover that Daniel is a self confessed sinner. And the third thing this word innocent doesn’t mean perfect. He doesn’t call out from the tomb ‘I was saved because I was perfect.’ He calls out ‘I was saved because I was innocent.’  What is he innocent about? He’s innocent of deserting God. He made a decision which was that he would not desert God. He would stay with God,and to stay with God is to stay with the one whose able preserve you. To stay with the one who is able to protect you and deliver you,and rescue you and give you life. To stay with God is to stay with life. That’s what Daniel did,that’s why he is a wise person – he stayed with God. He’s innocent in deserting God,I think that is perfectly true. He wants to credit God with his rescue. He was told of course that he should deny God and stop praying,that he should withdraw,that he should betray,that he should compromise,that he should defect,maybe that he should apostatise,and Daniel would not. So in this one area of the law,this one particular decision,I think it is fair to say that Daniel was innocent. He was asked to disobey God,he did not disobey God in this area. He is innocent of disobeying God. No wonder therefore he is preserved,because he made the very wise decision to stay with God who gives life. No wonder he is still alive in the morning. He’s decided to go with the king,the kingdom,the God who gives life,and God therefore publicly vindicated him.
Now Daniel is a mini signpost then of what happens to a person who is innocent. A person who is innocent can go in and face the law and emerge. Daniel goes in to face the penalty for the law and because he is innocent he emerges. But he is only innocent in one area. I imagine if he was being tested,or tried,or judged for the whole of his life he could never call out ‘I am innocent.’ He would perish. Daniel was innocent in one area. Jesus was innocent in all areas. There wasn’t a part of his life,thought,word or deed,where he wasn’t innocent and perfect. Daniel was sentenced to death but he of course was spared,Jesus was sentenced to death but strangely he was not spared,the execution went ahead. We read in the New Testament,’He died for our sins,the righteous for the unrighteous.’
Daniel was removed from his tomb physically alive,that’s wonderful,Jesus was removed,resurrected from His tomb,eternally alive,that is infinitely more wonderful.

So when you remember the story of Daniel in the lions den and you ask yourself the question,why did he go into the lions den? You must remember that he went into the lions den because of an absolutely unreasonable law. And if you ask yourself why did he escape and get out of the lions den? You must remember that he was faithful in sticking with God. In this particular area he was innocent. But then you must ask yourself this question,when the time comes,and it is a when and not an if,when the time comes and I must go to face the very jaws of death,and I must find myself in a den or a tomb,much more serious than just facing physical lions,will I be vindicated? Will I walk into that death tomb innocent? Well friends there may be one thing that you are innocent of,you may never have killed anyone,but you are surely not going to walk into that tomb saying,’I am resting on my total innocence.’ There will be no escape for the person who walks into the grave depending on their total innocence,their absolute perfection. But is it possible for a person to walk into the tomb,into the very jaws of death and be vindicated? And I hope you will say yes it is absolutely possible,and the reason that it is absolutely possible is not that I am innocent,or perfect,or sufficient,but there is one who went into the jaws of death absolutely perfect and innocent,and He went in for me,the righteous for the unrighteous,and He emerged,praise God,with wounds. Wounds which I guess will be able to be seen forever. Daniel emerged without any wounds you see in chapter 6 verse 23,but Jesus emerged with wounds and His wounds are the proof positive that there is a saviour. His wounds are the proof positive that you have a solution,and I have a solution,and we have an answer to the very grave,to the very jaws of judgement. Without Jesus of course there is no hope,but with Jesus there is hope because He has emerged in order that you also might emerge by trusting in Him. If or course you turn your back on Him and you don’t trust Him,you must end up like the others in this dreadful chapter who are tumbled into the tomb,into the very den of lions and all of them perish because they are paying the price of this dreadful,dreadful law. But for the person who turns away and says I am putting my trust in the one who went into the very tomb of death and emerged,that person has all the hope and all the future that God has planned.

So Daniel is a mini signpost for the people of the Old Testament,and I guess the New Testament,that God is a great saviour. But the very great signpost of the Bible of course is Jesus. Jesus is the one who’s life,death and resurrection really does say to us there is an absolute future for you,and there is an absolute hope for you and nothing can stop it. How do you then become a member of the kingdom? Well it doesn’t mean that you’ve got to be in heaven,you can be in the world of Babylon and still be a member of the kingdom. It doesn’t mean that your life will be easy and cost free,you mustn’t imagine then when costs and difficulties come that you’ve somehow been dropped by God. It is perfectly possible to be in the world and walking a costly road and to be in the kingdom and to be greatly loved by God. It doesn’t mean that you have to be hostile to the round world,you can settle down and you can live for God in the world as a witness to the world,but you will fix your allegiance to God and sometimes when across your path comes error or evil you will pay the very great price of turning your back on the error and the evil. Sometimes that will be a simple thing to do,sometimes that will be a very costly thing to do,but that is what is marked by Christianity. And you will continue to trust God,thanking Him that His allegiance to you is more wonderful and more powerful and more secure than your allegiance to Him. And if He does not drag you immediately out of the trouble that you are going through you can be absolutely sure that He will ultimately drag you out of the trouble that you are going through,Jesus is the proof. So here is the evidence you see in the book of Daniel for all time that God is the God of the future. But the very best proof that God is the God of the future,is Jesus.

Let’s bow our heads and thank Him. Our gracious God we thank you for this account in your word of your faithfulness to a man who trusted you in the face of all the cleverness and all the evil. We especially thank you for giving to us in the Lord Jesus,one who has been faithful to death,and death in our place. And we ask as we put our trust in the Lord Jesus you will help us to live in this world as people who are thankful,and in your goodness,loyal,and bear witness to the future you have made clear,made possible for all who belong. We ask it in Jesus’ name Amen.