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The Lions are real.....

“It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, 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 these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing. Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?” The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.” So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep. At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth: “May you prosper greatly! “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” (Daniel 6:1-28, NIV)

The story of Daniel in the lion's den illustrates the promises and faithfulness of God, even if we feel like everything is hopeless. But we sometimes forget that Daniel was a man. It was a very scary thing to be fed to vicious lions. They did not keep those lions there as pets or as in a zoo. They were kept there for the purpose of executing people in a horrific way; anyone that made the mistake of crossing the king would suffer a very horrible death. It was located in a prominent place within the city so that folks could walk by and see those lions, hear them roar, and listen to the screams of those that were being made into a feast for those lions. No, Daniel had reason to be afraid, he had cause to consider compromise, to reason, within in his mind, that he would be serving God and his fellow Israelites better by bowing down to a stupid statue than being dead.

Daniel understood the new law about not praying to anyone but the king, and yet he decided to remain steadfast in his prayer and praise to the Lord. Daniel prayed three times a day with his windows open. When the men saw Daniel and brought accusations against him to King Darius, the king was devastated because he favored Daniel. The king knew he could not change the law and Daniel was thrown into the lion's den.  The penalty for disobedience was to be a horrifying death in a den of ravenous lions. And now Daniel, his most gifted officer, had been charged with flagrantly violating an irrevocable law.

Daniel had already served with distinction in the administrations of the Babylonian kings Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar when the Medo-Persian Empire conquered Babylon. In chapter 6, Daniel now starts serving King Darius. At this point in his life (539 B.C.), Daniel was a prominent elder statesman close to 80 years old. Darius called upon him to be one of three governors over the satraps. Because of Daniel’s skill and integrity, though, Darius decided to promote him to a position above the other governors (Daniel 6:3).

Envy appears to have been the motivation for the plot to disgrace or destroy Daniel, but Daniel’s honesty prevented these men from illicit revenue through bribery, fraud and misappropriation of funds. To Daniel’s credit, his enemies could find no fault that would discredit him. They had seen Daniel’s unswerving dedication to God. They schemed to manipulate circumstances such that Daniel’s dedication would appear to be disloyalty to the king. These governors and counselors then approached Darius (verse 6) and had him thrown into the lion’s den.

Even though the king was compelled to have Daniel thrown into the lions’ den, God miraculously spared Daniel’s life. As Daniel told the king the next morning, “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me” (verse 22).

But here’s my focus this morning—-the passage pastors often gloss over:

“At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.”

The men that tried to discredit Daniel were given the same punishment that had wished on Daniel—-but also their wives and children perished! That’s the amazing/startling point. It’s not the first time that this happens in scripture. Entire cities —-with women and children —-were wiped out for the sins of their fathers. King David gave the Gibeonites the surviving sons and grandsons of King Saul for the sins of King Saul—-who was long dead and gone. “David handed over Armoni and Mephibosheth, two of the sons of Saul and the five sons of Merab (Saul's daughter) to the Gibeonites, who hanged them. (2 Samuel 21:1–8, NIV).

Children and wives often shared in the judgment meted out to their dads or husbands, and that seems to be unfair and unwarranted. But historical fact that families suffered because of their fathers and leaders—— and it was also true the lives of even the heroes of the Hebrew and those of the Christian Faith. When Achan broke God’s command to NOT take anything from Jericho when it fell, he was punished along with his wife and their children and all he had. The earth swallowed them all up alive! There is, consistently, an idea in the Bible of community responsibility for the sins of our leaders, fathers and even our children.

So how does this speak to men, women and children today? The first point is that Daniel did nothing wrong! Stop expecting life to be fair——never has been and never will be till Christ returns. These men 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.” For the record, I think it’s extremely hard to be a person that is trustworthy, intelligent and free of corruption and also serve in high levels of government. There’s too much temptation for power and corruption. It’s not impossible, but very difficult and very rare. The entire system seems to be bent towards breaking a person’s integrity and good intentions down with compromise—-they’re encourage to wink at those things that are wrong. Don’t think that Governor Cuomo is only governor or national leader that is a bully or dishonest. He got caught—-most don’t.

On the other hand, it was precisely because of Daniel’s bureaucratic skill and integrity that Darius decided to promote him to a position above the other governors (Daniel 6:3 NIV). We want people we can trust to represent us and our values. Daniel did not bend or fret about doing the right thing. He made his choice of who to follow many years earlier-but later he paid for it with false accusations, plots against his life and a totally arbitrary verdict. If we are righteous and serve the living God and risen Savior, why do we expect less?

Secondly, is there any doubt that Germany suffered because of their leader in WWII, or that Venezuela and Mexico are similarly suffering because of the poor leaders they elected? When our leaders, governors, or families are led by dishonest, self-serving or maniacal people, the families, states and countries will suffer collateral damage.

To be plain spoken, it’s best not to live in a home complicit with sin if you are able to leave. I don’t advocate divorce or running away, but you can’t live around sin and wink at it or assume that you are not being corrupted and your moral foundation eroded. The author of Hebrews said: "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" (Heb. 12:1). It is the nature of sin to entangle, to trip us up, to drag us down. When we're around those whose lives are enmeshed in sin, we are exposed to its entangling influence in at least three ways: through the appeal of rebellion, through the desire for man’s approval, and through the inherent pleasure of sin.

Finally, when the heroes of our faith were told that they would be burned alive, thrown into a lion’s den, boiled in oil, skinned alive, beheaded or crucified, hanged with piano wire or shot by a firing squad, the did not go to sleep their last night certain that God would rescue them. They steadfastly trusted in God, and like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego courageously proclaimed: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

You and I might be delivered from suffering, or false accusations, or from being set-up for prosecution, but we might not. Paul, Peter, Bonhoeffer and unnamed millions have suffered and died for Christ—-but they bravely followed Jesus to the gallows or executioner’s block. Our blood might be spilled for the purpose of spreading the gospel in a way it could not be spread unless we are thrown into lion’s dens, hot ovens or jails. But may Christ be glorified and may God whisper in our ears, as we enter into His presence, “Well down, you good and faithful servant.”

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