Lessons We Learn from Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Den of Darkness

Daniel then said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.” (Daniel 6:21–22)

As mentioned on Day One of this week, Daniel’s calm resolve is contrasted with the frenzied nature of the conspirators and the king. In our reading for today, Daniel gives us a model picture of faith in the midst of crisis. In response to the king’s anxious question, Daniel’s calm and polite response, observing proper courtly formalities, is nothing short of amazing. I should probably say, his response is nothing short of amazing grace. Daniel has prayed for God’s grace to abound in his life in his daily prayers offered three times a day.

In verse 21, God answers his prayer in a most astounding manner. God says, “Daniel, I am going to show through you how my grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). Daniel’s standard kingly greeting, “O King, live forever,” acknowledges Darius’s earthly power and rule. But, notice that Darius affirms that Daniel’s God is “living” both before and after Daniel’s greeting in verses 20 and 26, relativizing the glory, duration, and power of an earthly kingdom. Let us also observe that Daniel’s response reframes his situation in the lion’s den as one of not simply salvation, but also of judgment. Daniel broke a foolish law of the king, but his actions did no harm to the king or the state. So, Daniel asserts his blamelessness and his rightness in violating the binding decree. Daniel has walked in right paths for the sake of the Lord’s name (cf. Ps. 23:3). It certainly was not Daniel’s intention to amplify the sin of his conspirators, but this is precisely what occurs when we live righteous lives, doing what is right according to God’s instructions to us.

Daniel was protected not from danger, but while in the midst of danger. This is precisely why God employs angels in the life of his people. Holy angels are God’s emissaries to protect the people of God in danger. As in the story of the fiery furnace, God sends an angel to protect his people from danger. Daniel describes his divine protection this way: “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me.”

But, if the angel  ad come and ministered to Daniel even as the lions licked their chops while eating Daniel’s flesh, one thing is for certain. Based on Daniel’s character of faith and from his interaction with his accountability partners, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel would have rather died the faithful death of a martyr serving God than to have lived in unfaithfulness serving in Darius’s court. Job 13:15 says it well, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (NIV). Or consider again the words of our Lord Jesus, who said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Bad things will happen to all of us in this life, so put your hope in God. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Hope, for the Christian, is not a made-up word. Christian hope is not a politician’s word. It is not job security for Christian preachers. Genuine Christian hope is a certain expectation for God’s salvation, his power and presence, to be manifest in one’s life even if one’s physical life is lost. Christian hope is based on the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Daniel possessed this kind of resurrection hope. How about you?

1. How are Daniel’s actions contrasted with the conspirators’ and the king’s actions in the story?
2. What is meant by Daniel’s words, “I was found blameless before him,” and, “I have done no wrong”?
3. Define Christian hope. How is biblical hope often misunderstood as wishful thinking?

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Michael D. Matlock is a Professor of Inductive Biblical Studies, Old Testament, and Early Judaism at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is the author of Discovering the Traditions of Prose Prayers in Early Jewish Literature (T&T Clark) and is currently writing commentaries for 1 & 2 Chronicles and the Prayer of Manasseh (E. J. Brill) as well as a book that invites Christians to rethink why it is a devastating proposition to try to live a Christian life while devaluing the First Testament or the portions of it that are not liked.