By the time he reached his elder years, the prophet Daniel had seen a lot. He and his friends had been carried off into exile in Babylon as teenagers, but the Lord did not forget him. Because of his faithfulness and God’s favor, he ended up in positions of authority in the king’s court of not only one, but two great world empires.
Witnessing the end of the Babylonian empire at the hands of Cyrus the Great, Daniel not only survived the transition of power to Medo-Persia but was given an even higher leadership position under King Darius. This king had appointed 120 governors over the empire, and wished to place Daniel over these, first in the top three, then over all 120, second only to himself. He was very close to Daniel and had a great appreciation and respect for his wisdom and integrity.
One of the major shortcomings of people is a tendency to be envious or jealous of those who receive something we want for ourselves. These 120 governors were no exception. The fact that Daniel was an outsider from Judah only made the matter worse in their eyes. They did not even believe in God let alone think that He could be responsible for Daniel’s great favor. They wanted to set a trap for Daniel to make him look bad in the king’s eyes, but all they could find fault with was his faith. So, they used his beliefs to set Daniel up, pushing the king to sign a decree that looked harmless to him on the surface, one that would punish those who prayed to anyone but the king for 30 days.
8 All the supervisors of the realm, the magistrates and satraps, ministers and governors, have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce a decree that anyone who prays to any god or man for 30 days other than you O king, will be cast into the lions’ den. 9 Now, O king, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it may not be altered, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” Daniel 6:8-9 (TLV)
A man of faith like Daniel would never stop praying to the God who had brought him safely through so many trials throughout his long life. He did not even try to hide his prayers from those seeking to put him to death.
Different forms of torture and execution were in vogue for the various world empires. Babylon threw their victims into a raging fire (as had happened to Daniel’s friends, though they were rescued by God). The Romans would impose crucifixion. The Medo-Persians preferred to drop people into dens of hungry and aggressive lions to inflict maximum fear and punishment before death. This was never the king’s desire for his trusted colleague Daniel, but once he had signed the decree, there was no way out of it for him.
17 So the king gave the order and Daniel was brought and thrown into the lions’ den. Now the king spoke to Daniel saying, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” Daniel 6:17 (TLV)
Darius had been tricked into throwing Daniel into the lion’s den, and he spent a sleepless night worrying about him. At first light, he ran to the den, hoping against hope that through some miracle, Daniel had survived.
To his surprise, Daniel actually answered his call.
23 My God sent His angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they haven’t harmed me, because I was found innocent before Him. Nor have I committed any crime against you, O king.”
24 Then the king was overjoyed, and ordered Daniel taken up out of the den. So Daniel was lifted out of the pit. No injury of any kind was found on him because he had trusted in his God. 25 At the king’s command, those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the lions’ den—they, their children, and their wives. They had not even reached the bottom of the pit before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Daniel 6:17 (TLV)
Not for the only time in the Bible, those who had maliciously set a grisly trap for others ended up falling into it themselves. Even their families paid the ultimate price for their evil scheme against Daniel and the king.
There are many aspects of this chapter we can reflect on, but here are three:
First, God rewards faithfulness and will fight our battles for us against those who are stronger than we are.
Second, there is a warning not to plan evil against others, no matter how small or trivial it may seem. We may end up falling into whatever harm we have arranged for others to experience.
Third, it reminds us just how dangerous envy and jealousy can be in influencing our actions. When others are experiencing God’s favor and blessing, it is not for us to resent it. We get our many blessings, too, within His will and by His timing, though they may be of a very different nature than the blessings of others that we are coveting.
May you be encouraged by God’s faithfulness to Daniel and know that He loves you and wants a close relationship with you, as well. He has opened the doors of heaven for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Am I envious or jealous of someone or of something that they possess? God warns us in the Ten Commandments not to covet the goods or relationships that He has granted to others.
Lord, show me the things in my heart that are displeasing to you and wash them away by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Grant me faith to overcome my unbelief. Grant me gratitude for my blessings while being glad that others are receiving theirs. Show me if I am setting anyone up to experience evil or hardship and help me to put an end to my scheme, even if it is only in my mind. Help me to walk in purity and to reflect Your divine Light to all others. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.