Faithfulness to the One Who is Able - Daniel 6 – Chris Wu
A brief review: Daniel chapter 2 – this dream about kingdoms represented by a big statue/image; chapter 3 – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace; chapter 4 – Nebuchadnezzar getting humbled by God; chapter 5 (last week) – Belshazzar getting humbled by God; and now in chapter 6 – Daniel in the lion’s den; then next week chapter 7 – a dream about kingdoms represented by beasts. God designed these chapters of Daniel to follow an inside-out/outside-in parallel structure. See the pairing of dreams about kingdoms? The pairing of kings getting knocked down by God? And the pair we are in now – God rescuing faithful servants?
Each pair reinforces a key message God has woven into this book about His rule and reign – about His eternal rule and sovereignty over nations, peoples, and history. And the pair we are in this week is all about God’s power to deliver faithful servants from the hand of kings and schemes. It’s about faithfulness – both God’s and His servants.
Faithfulness is a big deal here, but I hope we can see that while Daniel’s faithfulness is a prominent part of the story, it’s actually not his faithfulness, character, or his uprightness that is the take-home message. It’s the object of Daniel’s faith – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and His faithfulness, that is at the center. Daniel followed the God who proved Himself faithful time and again. Daniel’s God is the one who can be trusted no matter where we find ourselves in history. It’s His plans that are never thwarted. It’s in Him that we find shelter from the chaos around us.
1) Faithfulness is the occasion for persecution. (vv.4-5) The first thing we can note is how faithfulness becomes the occasion for persecution. That is, when we look at the circumstances around what happened to Daniel, we can see that the whole reason he’s targeted is because of God’s faithfulness and Daniel’s faithfulness combined.
So, here we have Daniel, still being a faithful servant – even in this God-rejecting kingdom that was responsible for killing his people and destroying his home. And we have God, again faithfully granting him success, raising him up to show His goodness.
It’s this faithfulness – Daniel’s and God’s – that prompted jealous men to scheme against Daniel and his God. Faithfulness was the occasion for persecution. “But they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.”
Daniel only sought to be found faithful and obedient, and God used Daniel to show just how good his master is, how blessing and flourishing can be found in Him. Daniel’s faithfulness mirrored God’s faithfulness. And that’s why these men schemed against him. That’s why their plan was specifically set up to trap him by pitting their law against God’s law. The officials knew the only way to get rid of Daniel was to use that faithfulness against him. We see in Daniel something that’s common throughout the Bible: on this side of eternity, until all is made right again, allegiance to the living God, and God’s faithfulness to His servants, will frequently result in harassment, oppression, targeting, and mistreatment.
That’s pretty backwards from the way we often think, isn’t it? We think, “If I’m faithful, God will only allow good things to come into my life.” But that’s not at all what He’s promised us in this life. Daniel knew it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew it. Jesus knew it.
God allows persecution to come in response to faithfulness, because He uses those situations to show He’s still faithful. That trust in Him is not misplaced. We know that’s where this story goes, and we’ll turn there in a moment, but we will have such a hard time understanding that conclusion if we don’t first learn and accept that yes, faithfulness (God’s and ours) can be the occasion for persecution. And yet, God is sovereign over that.
2) Faithfulness is the response to persecution. (vv.10-13) Secondly, we should note that once this trial, this obvious persecution hits the scene, faithfulness isn’t just the reason for it – it’s also the right response to it. When Daniel hears about the law, and since he was already one of the higher ups, it’s pretty likely he knew this was coming, his response is remarkably…undramatic. He went home, went to his usual praying place, and kept up his habit. “He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” (v.10)
Daniel doesn't start a new program to counter the evil plot and unrighteous law. He just stays faithful. He keeps showing where his hope is – not in some protected place in King Darius’ court, not in his job or position of power, not in the good life as anyone in Medo-Persia thought of it. He kept up his practice of prayer, faced toward Jerusalem, because he kept trusting that God would be faithful to His promise, faithful to restore Israel, faithful to deliver. His faith was based on a trust that God never stopped being faithful.
We can be so convinced that the best way to fight the good fight of faith is to start up a campaign or program of action each time we experience persecution, or discrimination against Christianity, or any injustice, really. We try to think of strategic responses to these attacks, ways to show we won’t be deterred by unrighteous plots. And those are not necessarily bad or wrong responses – sometimes that’s part of a faithful response. But I think Daniel gives us a great example of what our first question should be: how do I stay faithful in the midst of this situation?
Daniel shows us that a faithful response isn’t always a dramatic one. The first move is more like, “God – you’ve taken me this far. Why would I turn and change course now? Give me strength to keep looking to you today just as I did yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. God’s faithfulness and our faithfulness in turn is not just the occasion or reason for persecution, it’s the response we continue to have in the midst of trials.
3) Faithfulness is possible because of the Faithful One (vv.20-23) Finally, Daniel 6 shows us that faithfulness is vindicated in God, the Faithful One. Just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel is found completely unharmed despite being sentenced to a gruesome, certain death. This is amazing – yes, because the mouths of the lions are shut by an angel of the Lord, but also because all along the way it’s been reinforced to us that nobody could stop this plot against Daniel, and his fate seemed so certain and inevitable.
Think about all the times we heard words like, “establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction” (v.7), or “it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked” (vv. 8, 12, 15), or how we were told right at the beginning that, “All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed” on this law targeting Daniel.
Or think about how even Darius, the great king, actually liked Daniel and seemed frantic to try to stop this terrible thing from happening. But even he, the most powerful man in the whole known world at that time, could not stop Daniel from being cast into the lion’s den. Or how the den itself was sealed so nobody could interfere with the judgment.
In storytelling terms, we’re being told – this was unchangeable, and no one short of God could have altered the path Daniel was on. So, when God rescues Daniel, there’s no doubt – this is His doing and none other. This is His powerful working, to show Himself faithful through His faithful servant, to show that His rescue is inevitable, even if everything up until that point made it seem like the opposite.
This is the big reveal. Up until this point, God was faithful to Daniel and Daniel was faithful to God. But would God prove Himself still worthy of being trusted and worshipped, even when everything turned south for His most loyal servant? Was He really worthy of this devotion? Will Daniel’s faith be vindicated? Will God’s promise of faithfulness be proven true? Here in the end, we have our answer. Daniel has his answer. Darius has his answer.
Conclusion - Just as we would have our answer, in Christ. You see, this whole situation of faithfulness and persecution should remind us of another story that was to come: Jesus, the most faithful Son, Himself, even more so than Daniel, was persecuted for being obedient to His Father, plotted against by unrighteous men, yet responded to persecution with consistent obedience and trust, even to a death sentence, and was seemingly swallowed up in death (just as Daniel would have seemingly been good as dead). But God showed Himself faithful and raised Him from the grave.
So, instead of a good example of faithfulness like we have in Daniel, in Jesus we have the one who actually lived and died the life of faith we always should have lived. And in so doing, He purchased for us eternal assurance that God is faithful to save. He bought the rescue that our unfaithfulness never deserved. He is the more perfect Daniel.
And He is the reason we can live like Daniel. We can live like Daniel, because Jesus already proved that God made good on His promise to save us, to give us life forever, to restore us and to bring us to Himself forever. So, what threat could come along today to take that away?
We can live like Daniel, because our hope doesn’t have to be in a “lion’s den” rescue in whatever dark persecution or trial we face. Jesus already faced it for us, and we know what’s waiting on the other side of that dark night. So, what punishment or discrimination or hate or oppression could overcome the victory already found in the cross and empty tomb?
We can stay faithful like Daniel, because Jesus proved to us that persecution for faithfulness isn’t abnormal, but it’s actually the mark of following the one who already saved us. We have that perfect provision now. We can have peace when faithfulness is the occasion for persecution. We can actually respond with continued faithfulness when that persecution comes. And all this faithfulness is possible because we know the Faithful One, and all that He has already done to secure our rescue.