Standing Up In A Falling Down World 5: Praying While the World PlotsVideo Link
Word Doc Link
Text: Daniel 6:1-28
The older I get there is one aspect of God’s word that impresses
me more and more and that is its ability to give us, as God’s people,
perspective. The Bible lets us see from outside our own time and circumstances,
it even lets us see the final events of human history and God’s
ultimate victory over all that is sinful, hurtful and evil. Through scripture we know that whatever is happening now, God in His Providence
has dealt with it, planned for it and provided whatever we may need to overcome
in the midst of it.
Do I need to gain insight about a time when God’s people
were uprooted, their world changed to the point they feel as Moses did when he said,
“I am a stranger in a strange land?” Then, just read the books written during the
exile, books like Jeremiah, Lamentations, Daniel and Ezekiel and you’ll see
that God’s people not only have had it much worse than we ever will but that
they survived and even thrived. Such is our passage today Daniel chapter 6 or
as most of us first heard it Daniel in the Lion’s Den. It’s a story that gives
us the perspective of courage, faith, loyalty and duty to God at a time when
those things were outlawed. I needed Daniel 6 this past week and I think we all
might need it this morning and over the course of the next few years. We may
feel like strangers in a strange land, but if we take Daniel as our example
then in the end we will know that “(God) is the living God, enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.”
The Perverse Plot - Daniel 6:1-9
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; 2 And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. 3 Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. 4 Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. 6 Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. 7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. 9 Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree..
At this point in the book, Daniel is over 80 years old. Babylon has fallen and a the new kingdom of Medo-Persia has arisen and will become one of the most powerful kingdoms to ever have existed, The world’s first superpower easily defeating the once great kingdom of Babylon. Cyrus, the ruler of Persia, appoints Darius the Mede, as a kind of subking over the province of Babylon now no longer an empire but just another conquered nation, as God had foretold through his prophets years before. Daniel being the one who told King Nebuchadnezzar directly what God would do.
Darius needs good administrators to help him govern his providence. He appoints 120 satraps or governors and then sets three high officials to oversee the 120, one of whom is Daniel who had built over his lifetime a reputation for honesty and wisdom. Over time those qualities begin to cause Daniel to rise until he becomes the chief advisor to the king. The Bible says 6:3 Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. Therefore, the king decided to put Daniel above all the other officials, over the entire kingdom.
Of course, this didn’t please the other officials and, in their envy, greed and desire for power, they began to conspire against Daniel and plot a way to remove him from the Kings favor. They know they can’t do this by finding a flaw in his character and instead they try to use the very thing that made Daniel honest and loyal, against him. They plot to use Daniel’s devotion to his God as a trap to destroy and discredit him.
And weren’t these bureaucrats so typical in their plotting? They were not the first and certainly not the last denizens of the politic swamp that always form around governments and kings. People who will promise anything, do anything and lie about everything to gain or keep power. Remember what I said about the Bible giving us perspective? Well, here it is by the bucketful. Power and the desire for power breeds corruption and that has been true since the Garden of Eden and every king or tribal leader that has risen throughout time. It shouldn’t surprise us that it is still true today.
These plotters know they can’t attack Daniel’s reputation and so they attack his devotion to God. They appeal to Darius’ pride and to his desire to transform a defeated kingdom into a loyal province of Persia. What better way, they reason with Darius, than to make him the one god over all the kingdom for one month. To make sure all get the point they ask for a law that anyone who prays or worships any other god during those 30 days would be thrown into a den of lions. A punishment so terrible that all the kingdom would know. Darius, guided by his ego, signs the law and by the custom of the Medes and Persians once signed the law cannot be nullified, if the King changes his mind.
The plot is hatched, the trap is set and now the just wait for 80 year old Daniel to do what they all know he will do because Daniel’s first loyalty and devotion is to his God first and to the laws of the kingdom second.
Believer Today Targeted
The powers that rule this world are still out there plotting to destroy everything they can’t control, and they know they can’t control the people of God. Those powers, whether they be atheists, humanists, socialists or just good old fashioned greedy, corrupt politicians, don’t like the people of God, they hate the church of Jesus Christ because, just like Daniel the true people of God and the true church of the Lord have our first loyalty to the eternal God of Heaven and Earth and not to those who have been granted temporary power over a small portion of it.
It does not matter who they think they are, nor how powerful they may think they are, we know who we are and we know how powerful God is.
Isn’t this exactly what Paul told us last week in Ephesians 6:10-12? 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
John when he was about the same age as Daniel was when these events take place wront in his first epistle, 1 John 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
James the brother of Jesus is even more to the point, James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
They are both saying that this world is not your friend and you can’t count on help or friendship from this world and its powers because this world is opposed to God. It shouldn’t surprise us when the world tries to silence us, ignore us and in the worst cases as it is happening around the world, kill God’s people, just like they tried to do with Daniel.
There are many enemies today that are plotting to destroy you, your family, your church and your faith, thought they go all the way back to Satan’s rebellion against God in the Garden, today’s modern sophisticated attacks are often in the following camps.
Marxism (Socialism and Communism)
Karl Marx, the father of socialism and communism, expressed his hatred of God and identification with Satan throughout his life but here you can see it here in a poem written to his wife,
Heaven I would comprehend
I would draw the world to me;
Living, hating, I intend
That my star shine brilliantly …
… Worlds I would destroy forever,
Since I can create no world;
Since my call they notice never …
Humanist Manifesto II (1973)
We believe that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species. Any account of nature should pass the tests of scientific evidence; in our judgment, the dogmas and myths of traditional religions do not do so. Even at this late date in human history, certain elementary facts based upon the critical use of scientific reason have to be restated. We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of survival and fulfillment of the human race. As nontheists, we begin with humans not God, nature not deity.
Too often traditional faiths encourage dependence rather than independence, obedience rather than affirmation, fear rather than courage. We can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.
Man is his own god.
Man is the measure of all things.
Saul Alinsky, the teacher, activist and author who is the inspiration for today’s liberal leaders and neo-socialist, wrote this in the dedication to his book, Rules for Radical, “Lest we forget … the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”
We are under attack from those who worship Evolution. They despise believers because we do not bow with them at the throne of so called Science. Nor can we ever accept what evolution tells us is true, that Man is the product not of a creator but of mindless, random chance. That man is no more important than a bug or animal in the ecological world governed not by God but by laws of nature. And because man is only an animal, he has no soul and there is no afterlife, no judgment by God, no heaven, no hell only nothingness after this life.
These plots lead us to a culture and society, that lay traps to destroy God’s people. The trap is not as obvious as that laid for Daniel, no God’s enemies have gotten much more sophisticated. They lay their traps of popularity, social pressure and peer groups, that silence us when we give in to them. Sometimes the traps that are laid result in apathy toward the things of God. Nor do the enemies of God mind using the carrot instead of the stick and instead of appearing hostile it pretends to be our friend and offers us success, money, fame or influence. Yet in accepting those things the trap is sprung and the believer is destroyed perhaps even more effectively than if they had been jailed or physically attacked.
Among the great number of books authored by C.S. Lewis is the highly provocative The Screwtape Letters. In it the profound Englishman had the devil brief his nephew, Wormwood, on the subtleties and techniques of tempting people. The goal, he counsels, is not wickedness but indifference. Satan cautions his nephew to keep the prospect, the patient, comfortable at all costs. If he should become concerned about anything of importance, encourage him to think about his luncheon plans; not to worry, it could induce indigestion. And then this definitive job description: "I, the devil, will always see to it that there are bad people. Your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with the people who do not care."
People who did not see or make it past the traps laid for them by the enemies of God in this world. We all know church members and Christians who no longer care about God or the things of God. Christians whose lives, marriages and homes are ruined and broken. Christians whose children are rebelling against the Lord, His church and their parents.
Why are these things happening, why have they always happened? because the enemies of God in this world plotted, they set the traps and too often we the believers, did not think we were being targeted. Didn’t think the trap was for us. Didn’t think it could come down to this. And yet here we are. So how to overcome the evil plans of this world. How do you spring the trap without your reputation and your relationship with God being destroyed?
Transition: Look at what Daniel did
The Prophet Prays - Daniel 6:10-17
10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. 11 Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. 12 Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, 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 altereth not. 13 Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. 14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him. 15 Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. 16 Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. 17 And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
How did Daniel respond? What did he do when he knew he had been targeted and the trap had been sprung? Well, He just went home, opened his window wide so all the world could see he prayed. He prayed just like he always did, three times a day, every day.
I imagine he was following David’s example in Psalm 55:16-17 As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
The exiles in Babylon, Persia and Egypt, like Daniel, would turn and face Jerusalem where God’s temple had once stood, where God had dwelt among his people and they would pray.
Look at what Daniel’s pray teaches us.
It is Bold: He Prayed with the windows open, not hiding in a closed room, or running away for the month Darius was to be worshipped as a god. No there was no hiding for a child of God.
His prayer showed Faith, he prayed toward Jerusalem, the city of God. He had faith that one day God’s people would return. He had faith that God’s promises were true and that His covenants would never be broken.
In his prayer he worshipped. When Daniel prayed, he met with God, talked with God and walked with God.
We see his Humility, as he kneels before the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and holy God of Israel.
In Daniel Prayers that we can read there was always Praise for his Lord and a Petition to his Lord for what Daniel and the people of God needed.
And there was Gratitude. Even as he knew the teeth of the trap was about to ensnare him, even while those who sought his life watched, Daniel gave thanks to God.
What does this tell us about this world’s wickedness and the plots and plans it has for our destruction? This example of Daniel shows us that it was not Daniel that would overcome, but the power of God that Daniel unleashed when he prayed.
How are you going to respond over the course of the next few weeks or next four years? Are you going to hide, your beliefs, wait it out until things are more in your favor? Are you going to go into hiding and worship you God in the most inoffensive manner possible, hoping that this will appease those who despise everything you believe in? No you won’t, not if you are a believer, not if you are a child of God and a member of the Lord’s church. Our response should be as Daniel’s.
Go home, open the windows and let the world see what believers do when they are attacked. They turn to their God and they pray. We need to pray more with the windows open wider. Keep faithfully serving God, like you have always served Him.
Yes, and pray the way Daniel prayed. Have faith in God’s promises, worship in God presence, and let God hear your heartfelt petitions.
Remember what Jesus said in Luke 18:1? And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; at the end of that parable he then gives a warning,
Luke 18:7-8 7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
Illustration: Bro. Jim Dearmore’s remark on prayer
Jim Dearmore was a missionary to Rhodesia during its civil war. He was one ambushed while driving in his Land Rover. Hundreds of shots hit the vehicle, he was hit dozens of times, his glasses were even shot off his face and a rocket propelled grenade landed in the back seat without exploding. Here is a man who understood opposition and standing for God.
I was in college listening to him preach when he made this statement, “Telling a Christian that he is reduced to prayer is like telling a soldier he is reduced to the atomic bomb.”
Prayer is not what you do because you can’t do anything else. Prayer is what you do to experience God and his power. It is what you do to accomplish the impossible and unleash the power of God.
What happens next is where we really gain perspective, especially when it comes to the Providence of God in our lives and in this world.
The Providence of God Protects - Daniel 6:18-23
18 Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him. 19 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. 20 And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? 21 Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. 22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. 23 Then was the king exceeding 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 manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. 24 And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den.
As I read this part of the scripture, I’m reminded of the difference between a northern and a southern fairy tale. A northern fairytale begins "Once upon a time... but A southern fairytale begins 'Y'all ain't gonna believe this…. And when it comes to Daniel in the lions den, “Y’all ain’t gonna believe this!” Except you will because you know God just as Daniel knew him.
Was the pray that Daniel’s pray through open windows answered? Yes, it was but probably not in the way you or I would have answered it. What we can’t see is what God always sees. What we can’t know God has already fully understands. What we can’t plan for, God has already made provision for. God in his Providence had already prepared what Daniel was going to go need.
You and I might have thought it would have been nice to prevent all this, but God rarely works that way, because it is in going through these trials that His power is seen through his children.
Instead of preventing, God had prepared. First, He had prepared the heart of Daniel and what a masterpiece of provision that was. Daniel was the right man in the right place at the right time. Prepared by his life in exile, prepared by his trials in the past, prepared by the word of God for this time and place. God didn’t just prepare help for Daniel, no He prepared Daniel to the help for others.
In God’s providence we see that He prepared hungry lions in a pit, but He also prepared an angel to shut the mouths of those lions. He had prepared a Prince who wanted praise as a god, but he also prepared that same Princes to come to praise the true God.
Isn’t is eye-opening, doesn’t this give us a mind-altering perspective, to realize that Daniel’s prayer was answered by his being placed into the pit and not by being kept from its danger?
God’s Protection and Providence
Did you pray for this past week? I sure did, nor have I quit praying. How will God anwer that prayer? I’m don’t know, I know how I would like Him to answer it. Not just over the events of the past week but over many other concerns, fears and circumstances I face. I know how I hope he answers but what if His answer is to allow us to go into the pit rather than prevent the pit from being opened? What then? What then? What if your prayer, like Daniel’s is answered by us facing the lions?
This is what scripture says and there is no bravado in Peter’s warning, 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
As believers haven’t we have always had to face the lions of Satan in this world? We could even give them names like immorality, adultery, pornography or apathy, ignorance and addiction.
These are spiritual devourers and if their mouths are to be shut, then it must be by the power of God. Daniel’s pray wasn’t answered until he face the lions and I don’t believe our prayers will be either. God has made provision; in His providence we already, have waiting for us, all we need to step into the lions den. That providence, like a great storehouse, or a well-equipped armory, will be unlocked with the key of faithful, consistent and fervent prayer.
Illustration: Paul writes to Philemon (1:4)
When Paul wrote to his friend and supporter Philemon about what to do about the runaway slave Onisomous, He began his letter by saying, “ I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; (and then he says this) That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.”
Isn’t that what happened with Daniel? His faith was communicated, shared and that shared faith was effective because Daniel had stepped into the lion’s den, not because he had stepped away from the lion’s den.
Here once again we gain some eternal perspective about God and His providence. Sometimes the purpose of God isn’t what we can see or understand, but if we are faithful then the communication of our faith will also be effectual and that is why we are here.
Transition: Daniel’s faithfulness was effectual because it brough
Darius, the Prince to praise the true God, Daniel’s God.
Conclusion: The Prince Praises – Daniel 6:25-28
Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
I’ve been praying, I’ve been praying a lot and I would really like to see my vision of an answered prayer granted. I would like my family, my church and my nation to not have to step into the lion’s den, but if there is one thing that Daniel 6 teaches us, it is to have a higher perspective than just the last week or the next few years. We need to see with an eye from God’s word, from a plane of sight that looks down from heaven and across to eternity, not just from where we stand now.
Maybe the trap has been sprung, that’s okay, it does not be surprise us. We know who we are, we know who our enemies are and most importantly we know who our God is.
So, go home and as should be your custom, throw open the windows and pray. Enter into the presence of God, praise Him, place your petitions before Him and if we have to step into the lion’s den, know that in our prayers we have unleashed the power of God. Whatever happens, He has already provided what we need and if we face the lions then let us bring glory to His name.