“In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight….”
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls about roaring like a lion looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5: 8).
I wonder if Peter was recalling the night he could not stay awake and alert in the Garden when he wrote this passage. The night of the Lord’s arrest when Peter denied Him three times. Peter was afraid. He feared for his life. After his third denial which occurred as the Lord Jesus was leaving the house of the High Priest, we read the Lord Jesus looked straight at Peter. Peter went outside and wept bitterly.
Our grandchildren have always enjoyed the Memphis Zoo. Our granddaughter Sloan, who is only three loves to go to the zoo and she can imitate the different animals. Last summer Gina and I took all three grandchildren to the zoo for the morning. Our first visit was to the lions. They were up close to the window that morning and while we were watching them, the male lion came up close to the window and roared. It startled all of us. We were glad he was behind the reinforced window. It reminds me, we are living in a lion’s den. This world and this culture are his cage. And it seems we wake up each morning with the lions roaring.
This is the third of the most well-known stories in Daniel following the fiery furnace, the moving finger that writes, and this story of Daniel in the lions’ den. This chapter completes the historical account of this era and the remaining chapters are about prophecy.
THE DECLINING OF THE EMPIRES.
In interpreting the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel had revealed each empire which took the place of the previous empire was inferior to the empire it replaced. The morals of each generation continued to decline until we see the epitome of wickedness and degenerate behavior in the Roman Empire under Nero.
The first sign we see of the decline is in Darius’s action once he takes over. He appoints 120 satraps. These were governors over provinces in the empire. Next Darius appointed three administrators to oversee these 120 governors. Notice what their role was: to make the satraps accountable to them so the king would not suffer loss. Darius did not trust these leaders. He knew they would “skim” money off the top for themselves. Graft. Lining their pockets with money, pay-offs, bribes, etc. Daniel who is now in his 80’s is appointed as one of the three administrators. He soon distinguished himself with his excellent work and his integrity. He was consistently the best administrator and unfailingly loyal and honest. Consistency is something people observe in others. Children see it in their parents and adults. Students in their teachers. The governed in those who govern. How do they treat everyone? Do they treat them the same? Or do they show preference?
In 2015, of the 535 members in the congress, 50.8 % were millionaires. That is 271 members out of the 535. Of the remaining members, their net worth of over $500,000 was 5 times greater than the average citizen they represent. Their benefits and retirement are way beyond what the average person expects to get. How did this happen? They voted to give themselves these perks. Enriching one’s self in positions of power is a common practice.
Those who were under Daniel’s authority resented him, envied him and conspired to find a way to bring him down. We are facing another election year in 2020 and we will see political opponents from each party attempting to tear down each other with smears, lies, accusations, and rumors. Unable to find any wrongdoing in Daniel’s life, they realize they must use his faith against him. Knowing Daniel prayed to his God three times per day, they would use this against him. To do this they persuaded King Darius to pass a law that anyone who petitions any god or man besides the king for the next 30 days would be thrown into the lion’s den. This law according to the law of the Medes and Persians could not be altered.
Daniel knew the law had been signed. Daniel still went home as he always did and prayed in plain sight before open windows. My first reaction was- why not just close the windows, or go into a closet where no one can see you. Is this what we do as Christians today for fear of retribution or persecution? Do we become secret Christians for fear of becoming attacked by others? Daniel was in a position of leadership and was also being watched by his fellow Jews who had been exiled with him. Even more importantly, God was watching Daniel. Why did Daniel do this? This is the question I wanted to know the answer to. I found it in a prayer of dedication at Solomon’s Temple in 2 Chronicles 6: 36-39. Inspired by God, Solomon prays a lengthy dedication prayer at the dedication of the Temple. We read in these verses what the people of Israel were to do when they were taken into captivity for their sinful rebellion against God. Solomon tells them when they find themselves in captivity, they were to pray facing Israel, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple built in God’s name. This is why Daniel was praying what I call the “captive’s prayer”. From Genesis to Revelation there have been two cities of great importance in the Bible: Babylon, the unholy city and Jerusalem, the city of God. Daniel knew he must pray just as he was commanded to pray in Solomon’s prayer if they were ever to be set free to return to Israel. It was because of his faithfulness to pray, under King Cyrus the people were set free to return and rebuild the temple. Prayer matters!
THE POWER OF PRAYER
God desires a praying people. His command from Jeremiah 33: 3 is still in force: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” This story is an exciting story which children have loved for generations. But do not miss the point of this story which is about the power of prayer. As far as your accusers, attackers and those who roar like lions and seek to devour- God can and will shut their mouths.
Do you ever pray some of Paul’s prayers? Do you realize prayers do not die? Prayers outlive the lives of those who pray them. Prayers can outlive a generation, an age, even outlive this world. Prayers Jesus prayed for us 2,000 years ago are still in force and still changing lives. Prayers we pray for our grandchildren and their children and grandchildren will outlive us.
Only God can move mountains, but faith and prayer move God. Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God. The Word of God is the support on which the level of prayer is placed. Archimedes understood the principle of leverage. He said if you gave him a fulcrum large enough and a lever long enough and a place to stand outside of this world, he could move the world. It is the principle of the playground seesaw. Our fulcrum is the Word of God. Our lever is prayer placed upon and supported by the fulcrum of the Word of God. The lever reaches into heaven where my High Priest, none other than the Lord Jesus intercedes for me. We read in Ephesian1, Jesus was lifted up to heaven and seated at the right hand of God. In Ephesians 2:6, we read “God raised us up and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms. We are sitting on the side of the seesaw with Jesus!” Are you wear and heavy laden today? Jesus says come to me and I will give you rest. How do you come to Him? In prayer. Call on Him. Cry out to Him.
Why do you think you are burdened and heavy laden? Could it you are bearing a burden by yourself? Or are burdened and heavy laden because you are fighting against the will of God?
Do you remember what was before the veil of the Holy of Holies? The golden altar of incense. The priest burned the incense with the coals of fire from the altar where the sacrifice was burned. To let the fire go out would have meant the incense could not be burned. The fragrance of the incense going up to the heavens, is picture of our prayers going up to the Lord. The incense was a blend of rich spices. They had been blended, refined and intermixed by beating or grinding. But at this stage there was no fragrance, no pleasant aroma coming from them.
The essence of the incense is released when burned. The spirit and life of the incense is released only in the fire. Prayer is likened to incense. Incense must be burned. Without the fire of passion- prayer has no spirit. Remember on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, the two disciples did not recognize the resurrected Lord. Then Jesus began to sooth their troubled hearts, for they were unsure what had happened to Jesus who was their hope. Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. As He sat at the table with them and took the bread and blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them, they recognized Him. We are told then their eyes were opened. Listen to what they said: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us and walked with us on the road, and while He opened the Word of God to us. Do you see what lit the fire in their hearts? The Word of God!
See the sequence of events? Broken hearts, broken dreams, lost hope. Confusion over what has happened on this horrific weekend 2000 years ago. Was Jesus really resurrected? They were not sure. Unsure. Uncertain. It is this darkness and desperation, light is needed. The fire is a refining fire, but also a fire which provides light. Are you in a scary situation? Imagine Daniel placed in a den of lions. Sometimes it seems all we can do is hope to survive the fire, or get through the night. The disciples were not doing any better back in Jerusalem. They were hiding, afraid of every sound they heard. Then in a heartbeat everything changed. Jesus was alive. Resurrected. Their hope was resurrected, their purpose was resurrected.
I know how those disciples felt. I know how that couple on the road to Emmaus felt. I know the promises of God, just as they all did. Yet sometimes the reality of our situation which may be dire, we take our eyes off of Jesus. We cannot recognize Him in our current and ongoing problems. Yet He is there. He is only a prayer away. Help me Lord!
DANIEL’S NIGHT VS DARIUS’ NIGHT
The king had been caught in his own pride. These insincere men used flattery and trapped him into doing something which brought great despair into the life of the king. He spends a sleepless night after sealing the stone of the den of lions where Daniel has been locked in. These men who wanted to remove Daniel from his position knew his habits. Knew he prayed each day three times. The solution to Daniel’s predicament was clear: cease praying in public; cease spending time openly defying the new law. Only had to do it for 30 days and he would be safe and secure. But Daniel knew the eyes of the Lord were on him. And also the eyes of those other Jews who were exiled in this godless culture were on him also. Daniel obeyed God rather than men. He slept peacefully that night with a lion for his pillow. But actually the pillow he lay his head on was the promise of God, who said, “call to me and I shall show you great and mighty things you know not.
Daniel’s faith was in the Lord and His promises. Even though he is not mentioned by name in Hebrews 11, we know who the author is writing about when he wrote in Hebrews 11: 33 & 34:“… who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire..” Daniel spent a restful night.
King Darius on the other hand was so upset he could not eat nor sleep. He arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den to see if Daniel’s God had delivered him. The burning question King Darius had which kept him awake all night was: Has your God been able to deliver you? God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or think. He says ‘ask of me and I will give you the world. Is God saying it is ours for the asking? Perhaps this is why we are where we are today; we have not because we ask not. Or we ask amiss. We ask for God to bless our little kingdom rather than for His Kingdom to come and rule in our lives.
A cynical, skeptical world needs to see our God is able.
King Darius will recognize the God of Daniel is the most high God. He will cast those who deceived him into writing that prideful law into the lion’s den. He destroyed them with their own wicked intentions, just as Haman was hanged on the scaffold he built.
Why has this happened to Daniel? Well one thing we know is this: “These things were written before were written for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15: 4, James tells us ‘the testing of your faith produces patience (persistence, endurance, perseverance). But let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect (mature) and complete lacking nothing.’ Paul says we should rejoice in tribulations for tribulations produce perseverance and perseverance, character and character, hope, which does not disappoint.” Romans 5
Jesus told us two parables about persistence in prayer. In Luke 11, it is about a man who comes to his neighbor in the late night hours knocking on his door and requesting three loaves of bread for a visitor. The neighbor tells him to go away, they are all asleep. The man keeps knocking. He is persistent. Jesus says the man will get up and give him the loaves, not because he is his friend but because he is persistent. The second parable is found in Luke 18 which is about the widow and the unjust judge. The judge relents and gives her what she wants, because of her persistence. Jesus tells us God is not like the neighbor or the unjust judge, God is gracious and good, every good gift comes from Him. If we fathers who are evil can give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Heavenly Father give us- He has given us His Son. He is not an unjust God like the unjust judge in Luke 18, He is just and righteous and if He delays it is not because He is cruel or unjust or does not want to be bothered. In His delays which may have multiple reasons, one thing is sure- we learn persistence with patience. I believe God always has my best interest in mind. I am not to grow impatient with His delays. He delays that He might be gracious to me.
Prayer is an expression of faith. Prayer is an exercise of faith. It develops patient, endurance, perseverance and persistence. All of which are used to mature our faith. To test our faith. To enlarge our faith. To make us better prayer warriors. Training us to do the work of effective, fervent prayer.
In Daniel 10, Daniel is persistent in praying and fasting for three weeks. God had been training Daniel for decades for such as time as this. Daniel was well into his 80’s, yet the work he was doing was some of his best and most long-lasting.
Set aside time each day to spend time with the Lord, just you and Him. Let Him speak to you through daily reading and meditation on His Word. He or she who prays well must first study God’s word and store it in their memory and thoughts. Be patient. It takes time. There are numerous verses about waiting on the Lord.“ Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God: and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4) Let not your heart be troubled- you believe in God believe also in Me, said Jesus. (John14) Anxious, worried and fearful? Got a lot on your mind? He will keep in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast on Him. Weary and heavy laden? come unto me, said Jesus. Matthew 11,
Need someone to talk to? Call to me and I will show you great and mighty things you do not know. “Let prayer be the key to the morning and the bolt of the night.” E M Bounds