The story of Daniel in the lions’ den, recorded in Daniel 6, is one of the most beloved in all Scripture. Briefly, the story involves Daniel, a prophet of the true and living God, who defies King Darius’s decree that the people should pray only to the Persian king for thirty days. Daniel, an otherwise law-abiding man, continues to pray to Israel’s God as he has always done. Evil men, who instigated the decree in the first place in order to entrap Daniel, of whom they were jealous, report him to Darius. The king is forced to put Daniel into a den of lions where he would be torn to pieces. King Darius is greatly distressed about having to punish Daniel, and he says to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you” (Daniel 6:16). God does indeed rescue Daniel, sending His angel to shut the mouths of the lions so they do not harm him. Daniel is removed from the lions’ den the next day, much to the relief of the king.
One of the chief lessons we learn from this narrative is gleaned from the confession of King Darius himself: “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end” (Daniel 6:26). For only by faith in such a God could any man have “shut the mouths of lions” (Hebrews 11:33). As with Daniel, the faithful Christian must understand that God is sovereign and omnipotent and His will permeates and supersedes every aspect of life. It is God’s will that takes precedence over everything and everyone. The psalmist tells us, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). If God’s ways are “perfect,” then we can trust that whatever He does—and whatever He allows—is also perfect. This may not seem possible to us, but our minds are not God’s mind. It is true that we can’t expect to understand His mind perfectly, as He reminds us in Isaiah 55:8-9. Nevertheless, our responsibility to God is to obey Him, to trust Him, and to submit to His will and believe that whatever He ordains will be for our benefit and His glory (Romans 8:28). In Daniel’s case, “no wound was found on him, because he had trusted his God” (Daniel 6:23). Joseph, too, understood that sometimes evil men plan things for evil, but God means them for good (Genesis 50:20).
There is more to learn from this remarkable story that makes it relevant to our postmodern culture. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:13-20 to “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him” (1 Peter 2:13-14). Daniel not only followed this principle, he exceeded it by distinguishing himself as one with “exceptional qualities” (Daniel 6:2-3). Taking this lesson further, we read that submission to our political authorities “is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk as foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15). Daniel’s faithfulness, his outstanding work ethic, and integrity made it next to impossible for his adversaries to find “grounds for charges against him” (Daniel 6:4). Instead, they found that “he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” The world now, as it did then, judges us not by our faith but by our conduct (James 2:18). How many today could stand such a scrutiny as did Daniel on this occasion?
The story ends badly for Daniel’s accusers, just as it will for those who accuse and persecute Christians today. King Darius, on the other hand, recognized the power of the God of Daniel, turned to Him in faith, and commanded the people of his kingdom to worship Him (Daniel 6:25–27). Through the witness of Daniel, his faith, and the faithfulness and power of God, an entire nation came to know and reverence the Lord. “For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end.”