Five Words on Daniel
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Five Words on Daniel

From Series: Jars of Clay

Daniel 6:1-28  (ID: 0173)

Daniel was a man of great integrity with a genuine passion for purity. Nevertheless, his resulting favor with King Darius—and his unwavering commitment to God and prayer—caused other high officials to despise him, ultimately making him the target of a plot to face death in a lions’ den. Noting how the evil plan backfired, the schemers were destroyed, and God was glorified, Alistair Begg encourages us to emulate Daniel by boldly living according to the truths of the Gospel.


Sermon Transcript:

Now, I invite you to take your Bible and turn to Daniel chapter 6. If you look at it, you’ll notice that there are twenty-eight verses in Daniel chapter 6, so we’re not going to take the time to read them now, but you may read them as your homework. You’ll need to, ’cause I’m gonna try and go scrambling through the whole of Daniel chapter 6.

And here’s how I arrive at it. All the way through the week, we have been dealing with these essential elements of practical godliness. If you try and string them all together, that’s what it’s been about. And last night in particular, we talked about the whole idea of the characteristics involved in maintaining a passion for purity. And if you’re like me, you love illustrations, and you like to see principles and truths embodied in the lives of people. And I found myself thinking along these lines and saying, “Where do we have a wonderful and classic illustration of a man who had, throughout the course of his life, put together all these various pieces—had managed to display radical friendship, had managed to resist the inroads of jealousy, was certainly not falling foul to the laziness with which we will conclude tomorrow morning, and he was manifestly wise in all of his dealings? Where was this kind of individual who was concerned to display humility under God and who, at the same time, would display a genuine passion for purity?”

And surely, of course, amongst many to whom we might turn, there is perhaps no one who embodies it better in the pages of the Old Testament than Daniel himself.

Most of us know the story of Daniel, I assume. We certainly know the early days: of how he was gathered up and taken away into captivity, how he was part of a select group of outstanding young men, how he purposed in his heart that he would not engage in defilement, how his name was changed, his education was changed, and so many things were changed in his life. And yet through it all, distanced by many miles from familiarity and from family, Daniel stands out as a man of integrity in the midst of the declension of his day.

By the time we arrive at the sixth chapter of Daniel, many years have passed. Daniel’s accent would no longer be distinguishable, probably, from the people around him. He would have watched his family all grow up and mature in what was an alien context. His loyalty within the framework and structure of this environment had been unquestionable over many years now, and he was a man of consistency—a consistency which he had displayed through a succession of kingdoms coming and going. He had served under Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, and now he was serving under the rule of Darius.

We can probably safely estimate that by this time, Daniel was seventy or eighty years old. Seems so far away, does it not? Now, I’ll quote Paul Simon just one more time for you:

Old friends
Old friends
Sit on their park bench
Like bookends
Newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes
Of the old friends

Can you imagine us
Years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy
Old friends.[1]

Well, I am well past halfway now, and as strange as it seemed in the ’60s, when I used to pick the song out on the guitar, it doesn’t seem so strange tonight. But it’ll seem bizarre to most of you. You’ll say, “Yes, he is losing it a little bit. He’s obviously moving in that direction himself. After all, he should know that we are a long way from that.” Listen, you’re a lot closer than you realize, let me tell you. And the consistency of Daniel in the ages of seventy and eighty, in those decades, was directly related to the choices that he made when he was your age tonight. And what you will be if God spares you to be seventy or eighty will be directly related to the choices you’re making at this point in your life—and not least of all in this particular week at the beginning of this academic year.

We might have expected that Daniel, by this stage, was living somewhere in a gatehouse of the royal palace. When people came on tours—you know, the sort of sixth-century-BC coach party trips—they would come down the road and expect to see Daniel pottering around in the garden somewhere, and they would crane their necks out of the charioteer’s coach, and they would look and try and see him. No such picture is accurate. He was like Caleb: “Here I am, still alive today, eighty-five years old. Give me this mountain! I’m ready for more! I’m ready for action.”[2] Still going strong. Still marked by these elements of commitment.

And tonight, those of us who are a little younger, who were born a little later, have discovered that God is able to save and keep through these early days. Some of us in our middle years are able to give testimony to God’s goodness and his faithfulness. But we’re looking now for those who’ve run a little further round the track; we’re looking for those who are closer to breasting the tape, and we’re looking for men and for women who will finish well.

It is said that few individuals finish well. Eric Liddell, who ran to Olympic gold in the 1924 Olympics but was better known for his unwillingness to run in the heats because they fell on the Lord’s Day, was once asked what was the secret to his success in running the 400 meters. And he replied, “The secret of my success in the 400 meters is that I run the first 200 as hard as I can. Then, for the second 200, with God’s help, I run harder.” And when the Edinburgh Evening News wrote concerning his victory in Paris, they said it was the last 50 meters that meant the making or the breaking of Liddell—the last 50 meters. How many sorry tales are there in the course of church history of people who in the last 50 meters somehow or another capitulated, fell apart, gave up, keeled over, disintegrated? But not Daniel. True to the end.

Now, I have five words for you. That’s five words for you. (That would be ten words for you.) Five words for you, to try and summarize this. I’ll go through them as quickly as I can. Remember what I told you the first night? If you finish your part before I finish mine, just wait for me; I’ll get there in the end.

Daniel Was Distinguished

Number one, Daniel is introduced to us as someone who was distinguished. If you have an NIV in front of you, you’ll find the word in the third verse: “Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps…”

The structure of government is there for you as you scan the opening verses: 120 satraps, whose responsibility extended to various parts of the kingdom. They, in turn, were under the jurisdiction of three men. The job of each one was to ensure that the king didn’t “suffer loss”—presumably not suffering the loss of revenue, not suffering the loss of little pieces of territory out on the fringe of the empire. They were to be men of integrity, guarding the king’s interests.

And what we’re told is that although these fellows were possessed of certain characteristics, Daniel stood head and shoulders above them. He was a man of exceptional capabilities, and so much so that the king had decided that of the three, he was the man to become his prime minister. And that’s what it says in verse 3: “The king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.” He had distinguished himself by two things, largely. By the quality of his life. The quality factor—actually, the quality factors. He was exceptional. When you read the early chapters of Daniel, you know that he had an extraordinary capacity for facing and overcoming difficulties. He had come up trumps on numerous occasions by his ability to explain dreams. He had uncanny wisdom, which he brought to bear upon particular circumstances, and which had enabled him to give practical judgments which had actually altered the course of human history.

His colleagues around him were jealous of him. They knew this to be true of him, and they knew that they couldn’t catch him out, as they wanted to do, on the basis of the responsibilities of his job. In the second half of verse 4 we’re told, “They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.” And verses 6–9 provide us with the record of these colleagues of his going to persuade the king to issue an edict that would be short enough for them to be able to cope with and long enough to give them time to trap Daniel. And the reason they wanted to trap him was simply so that he didn’t get the top job.

They go into the king, verse 6 tells us, en masse—there’s always safety in numbers, in a show of solidarity. They are less than truthful. They run through the ranks of the people who think this is a great idea. If Darius had had his thinking cap on, he would have said, “Is Daniel involved in this?” But he wasn’t thinking. He perhaps was considering other elements, or he was overwhelmed by the people that came in numbers. And so they were able to manipulate the king. They appealed to his ego, and they told him, “Listen, I want you to issue this edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days”—now notice the next little phrase—“except to you, O king…” Now, if you’re a king that probably feels really good. That makes you feel really kingly, you know: “We want to make sure that nobody’s doing anything towards any god or any other man, except to you, Darius.” And these individuals are cool, they’re calculated; their spite and their hatred is deep-seated. And they are responding to the quality factor in Daniel’s life.

Daniel was a man of stability in a shaky world. A man of purity in a dirty world. A man of integrity in a shady world.

Also, they are responding to the integrity factor. The kind of positions that Daniel had enjoyed to this point in his life were all susceptible to corruption and to graft. If he had been a rascal, if he had been like this Gehazi in the story of Naaman and Elisha,[3] and he had been a bad character, then by this time he could have stashed a ton of money. But he had distinguished himself by saying no to all kinds of dishonesty, and he was blameless. He was neither negligent, nor was he corrupt. In other words, there was no gap between his public activities and his private life. He didn’t cheat at work, and he didn’t cheat at home. He didn’t cheat on his wife, he didn’t cheat on his tests, and he just flat out didn’t cheat.

I don’t know what contemporary politics would have done with Daniel, do you? Goodness gracious, they would have said, “Who is this individual? You mean to tell me that every stone we overturn, every investigative journalistic venture we engage upon, reveals the quality and integrity of his life? That this man somehow or another has a crystal-clear approach to living, that he is a man consumed with a passion for purity—in terms of his morality, and in terms of his integrity, and in terms of the quality of his existence?”

Yes! Yes, Daniel realized that God was interested and is interested first of all with the worker and then with the work he is doing. Daniel is the embodiment of Micah 6:8:

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
 And what does the Lord require of you?
[But] to [do] justly … to love mercy
 and to walk humbly with your God.

And people would have said, “I wonder who’s doing that?” And the answer would have been, “There is one fellow, and his name is Daniel.” He was a man of stability in a shaky world. A man of purity in a dirty world. A man of integrity in a shady world. Therefore, it is no surprise to see why such a man would be the king’s choice for such a key position. And we might assume that Daniel would be loved and admired by all. But not so—hence, the plot.

Daniel Was Despised

Second word is despised. He was not simply distinguished, but he was despised. The quality of Daniel’s life was more than matched by the jealousy of his colleagues. Because he was in line for the top job, they tried to discredit him in the conduct of government affairs. But as you will see in verse 5, they drew a blank. Why? Because in his day-to-day affairs, Daniel was displaying the characteristics of godliness. Like what? Like punctuality—punctuality. Respect. Attention to detail. Kindliness. Honesty. Do you and I show such attention to detail in our everyday activities?

Daniel would, I think, have been very, very unhappy with the bumper-sticker generation that thinks you can put some silly sign on the back of your car, and then live like a pig in eight hours a day in your office, and somehow or another point people to the information that’s on the rear of your car. Our pagan friends are too smart for that kind of nonsense. They’re clever enough to realize when something is skin-deep and when something goes to the core. And when they overturned the details of Daniel’s everyday activity, they found that it went right to the heart of the man. And consequently, they despised him.

What was the basis for their spite and for their hatred? Daniel hadn’t done anything to them. Daniel hadn’t trampled on them on his way to the top. Daniel was just doing a good job. Indeed, if he had trampled on them on the way to the top, there would have been no reason for most of them to be concerned, because that was the modus operandi of so many of them at that time. And it remains so in public and political life.

So why did they despise him? Why didn’t they like Daniel? Why couldn’t they say, “Daniel, you’re a good guy for this”? Let me tell you why. What they couldn’t handle in Daniel was his unswerving commitment to this God of his. They couldn’t handle the fact that he lived in such a way as to display an unshakable conviction as to the power and the might and the purity of his God. It was not that these friends and colleagues were irreligious. It was not that they had no interest in God; indeed, they had a lot of interest in gods. But they didn’t like this fanaticism on Daniel’s part. They would have been very happy if Daniel was prepared to succumb to the notion that what he was worshipping was simply one among many, but he wouldn’t. And as we’ll see in just a moment, when he got down with his knees on the ground and his face towards Jerusalem, he wasn’t simply going through a program of religious exercises. He was declaring his conviction that the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob was the final and ultimate truth and therefore left no room for the other religions of the world.

Did you catch that? And all these generations later, to maintain such a posture remains equally and totally unacceptable. That’s what I was suggesting to you this morning: that in a culture that has embraced pluralism, relativism, and syncretism, where tolerance has been exalted above truth, to put truth on the agenda at the expense of apparent tolerance is to create the only crime that is now punishable.

Let me say to you young people, if you’re prepared to walk out from the walls of this institution and proclaim that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and all who ever came before him are thieves and robbers;[4] if you’re prepared to declare that Jesus Christ is alone the way, the truth, and the life;[5] if you’re prepared to affirm, in short, with the apostles in Acts 4 that there is “salvation … in no one else, for there is no other name [given] under heaven [among] men [whereby] we must be saved”;[6] if you’re prepared to give your life unstintingly with a passion for the purity of the gospel, then keep your armor on and be prepared. For to live with that kind of distinction will be to bring that kind of despite. Surely Jesus meant something when he said, “Blessed are you when men will persecute you and hate you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.”[7] That’s not in the Bible for us to imagine; that’s in the Bible for us to experience. Not to go out with a persecution complex and seek to have people not like us, but to be prepared to be unequivocal in our commitment to the issues of the gospel.

Daniel, you see, was framed. They hated him. They plotted against him, not because he was a bad fellow but because he stood for truth. He loved what God loved, and he lived it out. The hatred that is revealed against him is surely what Paul refers to in 2 Thessalonians when he talks about “the mystery of lawlessness.”[8]

Daniel Was Disciplined

Third word: disciplined. He was distinguished, he was despised, he was disciplined. Actually, this characteristic of Daniel’s life was the foundation of their plot. They knew that they could count on one thing in Daniel, and that is that he would be absolutely consistent.

I can imagine Daniel, if we had seen him: you know, if he had a dog, I bet he walked it at the exact same time every day; I think he was that kind of guy, you know. You would be able to set your watch by Daniel coming round the block. “Oh, there’s Daniel. I saw him walking the dog. It must be 8:30,” you know. He’d be that kind of man. You say, “Where’d you get that from?” I just made it up. I mean, we can check in heaven. It’s just conjecture. It’s an observation.

The fact of the matter is, if his commitment had been spasmodic, if Daniel had been more like me—maybe more like you—if his life had been marked by bursts of enthusiasm followed by chronic inertia, they could never have been sure of catching him. How many times have you started an exercise program? Be honest. How many times have you started a program where you’re going to memorize, you know, every book in the Bible, every verse in the Bible? Be honest. Right? Okay, fine. So we know the difference between absolute consistency and bursts of enthusiasm followed by chronic inertia.

Some of our Christian lives are like human cannonballs, you know: a great surge of energy, we come flying out the end of the thing and fall in a net and lie there for days on end. Somehow rejoicing in the fact that we got propelled out the mouth of the cannon, you know: “It was a good feeling for a while. We must do that again sometime.” Well, that wasn’t Daniel. He was like a Rolls Royce engine on a 747: once they cranked him up, he just kept going and going and going and going. And so his friends said, “We’ll get him on the basis of his consistency.”

So they show up at his house. If your Bible is open, you’ll see it there in verse 11. They “went as a group.” They went as a group to his house. See this safety in numbers thing? You can all imagine them going, “No, you go in first.” “You go in first.” “No, no, you go first.” “It was your idea; you go first.” Bunch of creeps! These men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. They weren’t surprised; they knew they would.

So they shoot off back to the king: “Okay, saw him, been there, done that, back to the king.” And they spoke to him about his royal decree. Presumably, he was issuing decrees all over the place. And so they said, “You know, we want to remind you of your royal decree.” “Which one?” “The one, you know, that we thought up for you a few days ago, where you were going to shut everything down for thirty days,” and eventually said, “Oh, yeah, yeah, I’m with you. I’ve got that.” And having caught Daniel, now they catch the king.

For Daniel, when the crisis hit, it did not create his disciplined lifestyle; it revealed it.

They get his verbal concurrence with his written edict, and then they inform him—they drop the bomb—they say, “By the way, you know, you said that anybody who wasn’t doing this would be thrown in the lions’ den.” The king says, “Yeah, you’re dead right. The decree stands”—you can imagine him just kinda waking up to it—“in accordance with the laws of the Medes and [the] Persians, which cannot be repealed.”[9] You can just see them going, “This is gorgeous. Watch him, we’re just bringing him in,” you know, like a tarpon in the Florida Keys. “We’re just pulling the baby in.” And then they drop it on him. Then they said to the king, “Hey, Daniel…” “Daniel, who[’s] one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree …. [In fact,] he still prays three times a day.”[10]

“He’s not paying attention to you.” That wasn’t true.

I wonder if any of us have the impression that Daniel’s activity in prayer was some kind of reactionism to the king’s edict. In other words, he became a sort of political insurrectionist as a result of what had suddenly come down from the equivalent of Washington, DC. Somebody had said something that he didn’t like, and he said, “I’ll soon sort that out. What I’m going to do is, I’ll go to my house, and I’ve got a great big bay window, and I’ll sit in my bay window, and I’ll show them: I’ll pray three times a day.” Was it a display of defiance? After all, it would be one thing for him to pray briefly, to pray quietly, but with the windows open and three times a day? That’s something special, don’t you think?

Well, actually, that perception is absolutely false. And most of the little Bible books with the picture of Daniel praying are completely bogus, if you’ll pardon me. Because most of them—at least the ones that I had as a wee boy—had him praying in front of a big picture window. You know, like it was the end of the High Street, and everybody was going up and down, and Daniel was kinda like doing his thing for all the public as they passed by.

No. The history and architecture of the time points to the fact that Daniel’s house would have been as other houses. And the windows were not at ground level; the windows were up high. And not only were they up high, but they were small. And the reason they were small and up high was to protect from the heat and from the robbers. Therefore, the picture is not so much of Daniel posturing in public as it is of the evil hearts of these characters, who invade his legitimate privacy and prize him out of his routine activity.

Will you notice very carefully that for Daniel, when the crisis hit, it did not create his disciplined lifestyle; it revealed it. When crisis hits a marriage, it reveals the strength of the marriage—or otherwise. When crisis hits a school, it reveals the character and caliber of the leadership of the school, or the student body, whatever it might be. It reveals what is there. Oh yes, it has an impact. Yes, it does create certain things. But the first thing it does is it shows up what’s there. And when the crisis hit, it showed up where Daniel was. He had made prayer such a habit in his life that probably the very momentum of the custom of praying itself would have been enough for him to stay faithful, with or without a sense of inspiration. You understand what I’m saying? That he was so committed to praying disciplined prayer in this way that he prayed whether he felt like it or whether he didn’t feel like it.

See, most of us begin our plans on the basis of a feeling in our tummy, you know: “Well, I really feel I ought to do this.” And we do it as long as we feel we ought to do it, and then when we don’t feel we ought to do it, we close it down for a while. That has nothing to do with discipline. “Why didn’t you pray at the prayer meeting?” “Well, I didn’t feel like praying at the prayer meeting.” For goodness’ sake, what is prayer, a glandular condition or something? Jesus said, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”[11] That’s good enough for me. It’s a prayer meeting; pray! We didn’t all come together to sit in silence, for goodness’ sake. We could have done that and unhooked our telephones and laid them down on our bedside tables and laid on our beds in total silence.

The discipline of his life. Probably there were times when he felt like praying and other times when he didn’t feel like praying. There were times when he got a great surge out of it, and there were other times when, frankly, he got nothing out of it. There were times when he left feeling really blessed, and there were other times when he left feeling really flat. But he didn’t care. He prayed because he prayed because he prayed. That’s discipline.

In fact, in relationship to the edict that had come down, he could probably by this time have rationalized the fact that he’d stored up such a phenomenal credit, on the strength of all the things that he’d done for God, that God would let him off for thirty days. Don’t you think you and I would have rationalized a little bit like that? Isn’t that what you do when you go on vacation? “Well, I don’t think I need to go to church this Sunday. After all, I’ve been going to church for the last fifty-one Sundays.” Who cares? Since when was that a New Testament question?

Or he could have said, “You know, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that I’m soon going to be home out of here. Would be a dreadful thing to get my head chopped off or eaten up by lions just when I’m about to go home and see some of my old friends and my old cousins and my own family.” And he could have said to himself, “You know, I think the Lord, he won’t mind if I shut it down just for a little while. After, you know, thirty days goes past very quickly, especially at my age,” he said “You know, seventy-five or eighty years, and I’ve been praying up a storm for years, Lord, you know…” Never even entered his head, apparently! He just is straight at it, the same way as ever. Bam, you know, bam, bam. Praying!

You ever been in the company of somebody like that? The kind of involuntary reaction of their life is prayer. I got a little friend called T. S. Mooney; I may have told you about him before. He’s living in heaven for the last little while. He was a bachelor all of his days. He taught a boys’ Bible class for fifty years of his life. He was a banker. The boys’ Bible class that he taught was in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. I asked him one day, I said, “What’s your plan and purpose with these boys?” He answered instantaneously: “My plan for the Bible class has always been to give every boy a Bible in his hand, a Savior in his heart, and a purpose in his life.” Straight out.

Every boy that came to his class, he prayed for. Always. By the time I met him, he was in his seventies, and when I went to his apartment in Londonderry, it was like a rogue’s gallery. There were photographs all around the walls. There were judges from the High Court in London. There were famous surgeons. There were schoolteachers. There were mechanics. There were plumbers. There were all kinds of people all around. And who were they? They were his boys! And I counted it an amazing thing, as an apostle—one untimely born[12]—to be added to the list and to get my face in the rogue’s gallery. And he used to write to me and say, “I remember you daily, at the best place.” And I believed him. I met a young man the other day. He said to me, “I pray for you every Tuesday,” and I believed him.

Whose ministry is being held up on the strength of our disciplined commitment to prayer? We can do more than pray after we’ve prayed, but we can’t do more than pray until we’ve prayed. If our prayer is meager, it’s because we regard it as something supplemental rather than as something fundamental. And for this guy Daniel, it was fundamental. It was like breathing. It was like putting on his sandals. It was like drinking Diet Coke—whatever it was, you know. He was absolutely committed to it.

Incidentally, T. S. Mooney died a few years ago. The housekeeper found him in the morning, fully dressed and kneeling over his bed. He had gone into the presence of Jesus on his knees. She called for two young men—one a headmaster, another young man who had grown up through his Bible class—and they came to the house, and they lifted T. S. Mooney’s body off the floor. And as they prized him back from the bed, they pulled up the little black book that he used to keep alongside his Bible, that was wrapped in a rubber band. And they looked down to find their names amongst the list of many names. It was morning. It was time to pray, and he was praying.

Loved ones, the door is wide open for that kind of consistent commitment, if you are prepared as a young man or a young woman tonight to say, “Wherever he takes me, whatever I do, whatever I’m going to become, I know I can be that.” And so it was that Daniel displayed his discipline in his prayer.

Daniel Was Dumped

Now, there’s two words left. You know that. Some of you have already finished your part; I can see you. So let me just give you the two remaining words. The first word was, he was distinguished by his quality and his integrity. The second word was that he was despised. The third word, which I’ve just dealt with, I’ve forgotten. And the fourth word… What was it? Disciplined. And the fourth word was, he was dumped. (That’s why you should never feel bad if you’ve forgotten, you know. I fall asleep reading my notes on Saturday evenings, and so I’m never surprised when people fall asleep listening to my notes on Sunday mornings.)

The fourth word is he was dumped. Dumped. Okay? Verse 16: “So the king gave the order … they brought Daniel and [they] threw him [in] the lions’ den.” The king was trapped by his own poor piece of legislation. Verse 14 tells us “he was greatly distressed,” that “he was determined to rescue Daniel,” that he “made every effort until sundown to save him.” He tried to introduce another bill, you know. He tried to put together enough people in the congress who would vote to overturn his edict, and they all held absolutely true. “No way. We’ve got old Daniel this time. Daniel’s going down. Bye-bye, Daniel! We are gonna dump him once and for all.”

And the fact of the matter is that Daniel would not be here in chapter 6 were it not for the commitment that he declared in chapter 1, with his passion for purity. He would not be here at the age of seventy and eighty were it not for the persistence that he’d shown through his middle years. Daniel’s life was, in the phrase I used the other evening, “a long obedience in the same direction.”[13] And so he was dumped.

Verse 16 actually says that they “threw him into the lions’ den.” The architecture of the time and the little bit of historical and archeological research reveals that in these kind of structures there was a ramp for the animals and a hole for the victim. It causes me to say that every putrefying culture will take more concern of its animals than it will of its human beings. And we are living in such a culture.

The decision, from a human perspective, in dumping him was irreversible: “A stone was brought … placed over the mouth of the den … the king sealed it with his own signet ring and … the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.” In other words, it was a joint deal. They wanted to make sure the king didn’t bail out, and he was stuck with the fact that they were determined not to.

Empires come and go, kings rise and fall, fashions and lifestyles change, but God’s truth never changes.

And the evening passes, with nobody eating. Verse 18: “The king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without … entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.” He wasn’t eating. The lions weren’t eating. Daniel wasn’t eating. Nobody was eating. And as soon as dawn came, “at the first light of dawn”—you can imagine him just waiting, pulling the blinds and going, “I’ve gotta get down there”—“the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. [And] when he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice,” ’cause he didn’t know what he was gonna find.

Daniel Was Delivered

Brings me to my last word: Daniel was delivered. Calls out in a strangulated voice. Can you imagine him shouting? ’Cause he doesn’t—I mean, he doesn’t expect he’s getting any answer, right? “Daniel!” That’s not strangulated enough; I’m not going to mimic it. He shouts into the darkness. And you imagine Daniel going, “Yeah?” It’s like, “Hey, chill out, king. No problem.”

Verse 21: Daniel said, “[Hey,] king, live forever! My God sent his angel … he shut the mouths of the lions. They have[n’t] hurt me.” Reason: “I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.” See, that’s a passion for purity. That’s consistency. That’s integrity. You can’t say that unless you have lived that. Neither can I. “The reason that the angels came and shut the mouths of the lions was because I was absolutely innocent. It was a trumped-up charge. I frankly have never done anything wrong before you, O king.” And “the king was overjoyed and [he] gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den.” You see the difference now? He gets dumped in; he gets lifted out.

You know, it’s very hard not to read these verses and have your mind shoot forward in biblical history, is it not? To see a foreshadowing here of Calvary? Another one on trumped-up charges. Another one despised and rejected by those to whom he had done no wrong. Another one who was left behind a sealed den. Another one who had a stone rolled in front of the entranceway to prevent his exit. And then, in the first light of dawn, the discovery made: “He is alive!” And here in Daniel 6, there is foreshadowing of that day when the lion will lie down with the lamb and will eat straw like an ox.[14] An inbreaking, as it were, of the kingdom that is yet to come, in anticipation of the day when the King comes to reign.

And suddenly, Darius’s eyes are opened as a result of this encounter, and he issues another decree. He calls for the worship of Daniel’s God: “Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, [the] nations and [the] men of every language throughout the land.” He says, “Listen, Daniel’s God lives. Daniel’s God reigns. Daniel’s God rescues. Daniel’s God performs signs and wonders.”

Small wonder, in verse 28, that we read that “Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” Why? Because he was the embodiment of a man with a passion for purity. Empires come and go, kings rise and fall, fashions and lifestyles change, but God’s truth never changes.

It was in an event like this, many years ago, at a different college but a similar context, that one young man, on the strength of this kind of exhortation and encouragement, went back to his room, took his journal, opened it, wrote down the date, and penned, “He is no fool who gives [up] what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”[15] And Elliot said, “That is gonna be my life.”

You say to yourself, “Well, I’m not Elliot.” He wasn’t Jim Elliot then—you know what I mean? Well, he was Jim Elliot, but he wasn’t, you know, like Jim Elliot. You know what I mean? He was just Jim. His last name happened to be Elliot. And now we know him, because in the privacy of his life, he made this kind of commitment.

I want to encourage you young folks tonight to make sure, like in cross-country running, don’t get with a crowd that hangs around at the back. And there will be a crowd like that; there is in every school. Don’t hang around with those people. You’ve run about 150 yards, and they start to say things like, “Well, we don’t really need to do this.” They start to say things like, “Well, you know, there’s no need to be fanatical about this.” And eventually, they just get further and further and further behind. And then they criticize the people who are running hard out in front: “Look at him. Look at her. Who does she think she is?”

Let me tell you something: run out and run hard. “Well,” you say, “but I’m not much. I’m just me. No one knows.” Listen, God knows. Canon Farrar, in an earlier generation, wrote these words in his journal: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And what I can do, I ought to do, and what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.”[16]

If this was Scotland, we would finish with a chorus. But I’ve looked in your book, and it’s not there. This is how it goes:

Dare to be a Daniel!
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm!
[And] dare to make it known![17]

And for you ladies, let’s just change it ever so slightly: “Dare to be a Danielle!” For if truth were told, the pages of twentieth-century missionary biography have more testimonies to this kind of caliber in the lives of young women than ever in the lives of young men. So although he was a Daniel, why don’t you then be a Danielle?

Let’s pray together:

Dear heavenly Father, the day is almost over, and the night has drawn in. We have experienced so many different things today; it’s hard for us even to apportion our minds to all of the ebb and flow of our emotions and concerns. We just pray that you will speak into our lives a word of encouragement, a word of grace, a word of reminder that when you take up a life, that you delight to use it to your glory. That you’re not looking for polished people. You’re not looking for prominent people. You’re not looking for folks with the gift of the gab. You’re looking for FAT people: faithful people, available people, teachable people. Help us, Lord, to be those kind of people. For Jesus’ sake we ask it. Amen.


[1] Paul Simon, “Old Friends” (1968). Lyrics lightly altered.

[2] See Joshua 14:6–13.

[3] See 2 Kings 5.

[4] See John 10:8, 11.

[5] See John 14:6.

[6] Acts 4:12 (NIV 1984).

[7] Matthew 5:11 (paraphrased).

[8] 2 Thessalonians 2:7 (paraphrased).

[9] Daniel 6:12 (NIV 1984).

[10] Daniel 6:13 (NIV 1984).

[11] Luke 18:1 (KJV).

[12] See 1 Corinthians 15:8.

[13] Friedrich Nietzsche, quoted in Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000), 13.

[14] See Isaiah 11:6–7.

[15] Jim Elliot, quoted in Elisabeth Elliot, The Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (1958; repr. with new introduction, New York: HarperCollins, 1989), 15.

[16] Attributed to Edward Everett Hale in A Year of Beautiful Thoughts, ed. Jeanie A. B. Greenough (New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell and Co., 1902), 172. Paraphrased.

[17] P. P. Bliss, “Dare to Be a Daniel” (1873).

Copyright © 2020, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.