Daniel was part of the very elite of Babylon. The highest position was that of the King; beneath him were the presidents, and beneath them were the princes. Daniel had been made a president, and was preferred over all of the other presidents and princes because he had an excellent spirit. (Daniel 6:1–3.)
There were those in the kingdom who became jealous of the success Daniel accrued. They tried everything to find a flaw in his character in an attempt to remove him from his position, but they were unable to find one single flaw with him. As determined as these jealous people were, they devised a plan whereby Daniel would be forced to break the law of his God, or face the consequences.
The king at the time was a Media-Persian, Darius. He had come into power after the death of Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar. Darius was approached by all the presidents and princes, and it was suggested by them that a royal statute be passed, that if any man worships or prays to any god or man other than the king for 30 days, he should be thrown into the lions’ den.
Darius passed the law, leaving Daniel with a choice to make. He could follow the law of King Darius, or he could follow the law of His God. Daniel decided to return to his house. As was normal, he got on his knees and prayed. Daniel prayed three times a day, setting himself by the open window and lifting his face to God. Daniel chose to change nothing about the way he prayed—not even by closing his window.
The men that had suggested the decree, expecting Daniel to carry on as usual, saw Daniel praying and immediately told King Darius what they had seen. The king had no choice but to follow the punishment as set out in the decree—to cast Daniel into the lions’ den.
Now the King was very displeased about this. He valued Daniel very highly in his kingdom and did not want to throw him to the lions. But Darius could not change the law, for the laws of the Medes and Persians could not be changed. When the time came for Daniel to be thrown to the lions, the king said, “Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.” Daniel was thrown in, and a stone placed over the entrance. (Daniel 6:16, 17.)
On the king’s return to the den, he ordered the stone to be rolled away. Now, as he looked into the den, he saw that Daniel was untouched by the lions, and was overjoyed to see Daniel alive! Daniel turned to Darius and said, “My God hath sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me.” (Daniel 6:22.)
Darius was extremely angry with the men that had accused Daniel, and ordered Daniel’s accusers to receive the same punishment—to be thrown into the lions’ den. Seeing the power of God, Darius proceeded to write to all the people in his kingdom, telling them to worship the living God of Daniel. (Daniel 6:26.)
So there we have the story of Daniel and the lions’ den. Daniel had been given the highest position available beneath King Darius. In this world today, there are many people who consider themselves to be powerful. In fact, there are very many who believe that their success and safety will continue forever. But not even the God-fearing Daniel was safe from harm. He too had to face his trials, and none of his own power could save him. Only the power of God would be sufficient to save his life.
The very foundation of Daniel’s life, the very reason he was serving King Darius in one of the greatest positions within the kingdom, was his love for God and His Word. Think about your own life for a moment. For what things in your life can you thank God? If we follow God’s laws, if we ask God to guide us in all things, He will bless us in so many ways with more blessing than we can imagine. Daniel did all these things; He followed God and kept His laws. But Daniel was still thrown to the lions. The jealous people in the kingdom conspired against him and used the one thing they knew Daniel would not break—God’s law—against him.
When the decree was passed, Daniel had to make a decision: stop praying to God and avoid being thrown to the lions, or continue praying and face almost certain death. Daniel showed us that he was able, through strength in God, to stand strong; he showed the courage that we all associate with his name even today. He went back home and prayed with the windows open, proclaiming to all that he would rather die than displease the God he loved.
Daniel did not deliberately antagonize those who were out to get him. He did not go to his window to pray to infuriate the men who were trying to destroy him. He prayed in this manner to let the people know that God is bigger than they, and no law should be acknowledged if it is contrary to God’s law.
How many times are the foundations of our lives challenged in such a manner? Most likely there are not many up to this point, but we are rapidly coming upon a time when our rock will be shaken and God’s people opposed en masse—the national Sunday law. There will come a time when a law will be drawn which will require all people to worship on Sunday. When that law comes, we also will have a decision to make. Whatever the punishment may be, we will need to choose between worshipping on the seventh-day Sabbath, or on the first day of the week. So what will we do? Will we follow in the footsteps of Daniel; do we continue to follow the law of the Lord, regardless of the consequences?
We will have a very difficult decision to make. Our whole lives will depend on this decision. Now, there will be no need to go out to the world and advertise the fact that we are breaking a set law, but we will need to follow Daniel’s example and obey God under all pressure. If we follow the law of man, we may not be persecuted and thrown into the lions’ den right away, but we will face something far worse: missing out on the gift of eternal life.
Such a decision may seem insurmountable and impossible to make; however, in considering the other possibility, relenting the law of God has far more odious consequences than those imposed by man for the disobedience to His law. We need to be ready to follow Christ: to put all of our faith in Him who will strengthen us; to follow Christ to the letter of His law. There is no sin in God’s eyes that is not abhorrent or small. If we cannot follow God in the small things, there is no possibility of following Him when more serious matters are at stake.
There are three examples in the Bible of “small sins.” These three examples all involve food as temptation. Those tempted were Adam and Eve, Daniel, and Jesus. Adam was tempted with fruit, Daniel with meat, and Jesus with bread. Now, Adam did not stay strong; he accepted the lies of the serpent, and in so doing, rejected God. He gave in to sin, and sin has forever since plagued mankind. Daniel, however, did not give in, and the faith he showed in God was rewarded with his powerful position in the kingdom. And as for Jesus, did He sin? No! He was able to fight temptation and go on to live a sin-free life. The key is to overcome in the small things, that the big things may also be conquered. Daniel could have chosen to eat the meat, but he did not. Jesus could have turned the stone into bread, but He did not, despite His hunger in the wilderness. And when the time came for bigger tests, the faith they showed in the small things led them to show greater faith in the big things. Do not let the small things stop us from overcoming the big things. We need to prepare ourselves every day for the final steps of our Christian walk. We need to start to overcome the small things now. The question is: in the battle for your salvation, which choice will you make? Will you stay true to God, or will you give up? Remember, Daniel did not give up. Yes, he was thrown to the lions, but that was not a hindrance. And because of his faithfulness, God did not give up on him either. God delivered Daniel from the mouths of the lions, and in the same way, He will deliver us from evil.
Ellen G. White tells us that, “It may be a difficult matter for men in high positions to pursue the path of undeviating integrity whether they shall receive praise or censure. Yet this is the only safe course. All the rewards which they might gain by selling their honor would be only as the breath from polluted lips, as dross to be consumed in the fire. Those who have moral courage to stand in opposition to the vices and errors of their fellow-men—it may be of those whom the world honor—will receive hatred, insult, and abusive falsehood. They may be thrust down from their high position, because they would not be bought or sold, because they could not be induced by bribes or threats to stain their hands with iniquity. Everything on earth may seem to conspire against them; but God has set his seal upon his own work. They may be regarded by their fellow-men as weak, unmanly, unfit to hold office; but how differently does the Most High regard them. Those who despise them are the really ignorant. While the storms of calumny and reviling may pursue the man of integrity through life, and beat upon his grave, God has the ‘well done’ prepared for him. Folly and iniquity will at best yield only a life of unrest and discontent, and at its close a thorny dying pillow. And how many, as they view their course of action and its results, are led to end with their own hands their disgraceful career. And beyond all this waits the Judgment, and the final, irrevocable doom, Depart!” The Signs of the Times, February 2, 1882.
The fast approaching end will not be a time of ease. The decisions that will soon be facing the believers will be very difficult ones, but, like Daniel, we must make the right choice, or be faced with far worse consequences. We need to grow in Christ. We need Christ in our hearts and minds for Him to renew us. We need His strength to help us take the right path.
Daniel Murray lives in England and works in company law. He can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.