Daniel Chapter Six
At the end of chapter five we find a desperate pagan king clothing Daniel in purple, placing a golden collar around his neck and proclaiming him third highest ruler in the Kingdom (5:29). Perhaps Belshazzar thought he could appease the God who had just spoken to Him, yet within this man there was no real acknowledgement of who God was; there was no repentance.
Judgement falls on what was the most powerful nation of the era, yet in the midst of this judgment Daniel was not only going to be kept safe, but was also going to retain a high position in a Medo-Persian government. Whilst one pagan power crumbled and was replaced by another, Daniel remained unmovable. He had very briefly been the third in power under the Babylonians and was now one of three in power under Darius.
An attempt to remove Daniel
Those around Daniel realised that the only way they could bring any charges against him would have to be in the area of his faith. As part of a plan to get rid of Daniel, they persuaded the king to issue a decree: no one should pray or worship any god but the King. They did not realise that, for those who are rooted and established in God and yielded to His presence, there is nothing that can stop believers worshipping God. For example, Allan Boesak in speaking of those imprisoned in S. Africa during the apartheid, writes:
“Prison wardens, policemen, and heavily armed soldiers cannot understand how people can sing under such circumstances. The more joyful the singing, the more aggressive they become. And so over the last few years we have learned another valuable lesson: The joy of the oppressed is a source of fear for the oppressor. But we sing because we believe, we sing because we hope. We sing because we know that it is only a little while, and the tyrant shall cease to exist.”
Allan A Boesak in ‘Comfort and Protest, p61
In the face of the challenge to stop praying and worshipping Daniel continued to prayer three times a day towards Jerusalem - this being a practice established during the early building programme of Solomon (1 Kings 8:35). Daniel continues to give thanks to God and focus on the eternal One.
Darius has now been persuaded to make a binding decree and Daniel comes into a place of pagan judgement. Although the king makes every effort to save Daniel, he bows under pressure and Daniel is thrown amongst the lions who were kept for hunting purposes in the ancient near east. As he is thrown in, it is as if Darius gets an insight into what is going to happen and says, “Your God whom you continually serve is going to rescue you (6:16).” The king’s seal is then placed on the ropes that hold the door closed and Daniel is in a place of death. The genuine concern that Darius has for Daniel is seen in that he spent the night fasting, despite the evenings being the most important time of the day in the Middle East. Here, in Darius, we have a man trapped by his own word and decrees.
In the morning, the King with a tormented heart goes to the place of death in order to see if the impossible has happened. He calls out, recognising the existence of the living God whom Daniel continually serves and is met with the words, “O king live forever! My God sent his angel and closed the lion’s mouths so that they have not harmed me, because I was found to be innocent before him. Nor have I done any harm to you, O King (v24).”
Daniel is rescued because of the grace and mercy of God and recognises that this mercy also extends, at this point, to Darius. Darius, who had bowed under pressure, receives mercy, yet does not in turn show mercy to those who wanted Daniel dead. Contrast this with the words of the eternal King who came as a servant and on the cross at Calvary says,
“"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
The supernatural way in which God sends an angel to prevent Darius’ lions from killing Daniel (Dan 6:22) is just one of many ways that God reaches into this world with His angelic beings. Before continuing onwards with Daniel, we now turn to look at the role of angels.
In Genesis 3:24 we read that cherubim were placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden. This was the last place where God’s localised presence had been known by Adam and Eve and therefore the place where Cain and Abel would have come to made their offerings to God.
The Cherubim’s were associated with God’s holiness and appear to be guardians at that time, preventing man in his sin from reaching to take from the tree of life (Gen 3:22). Yet the entrance to the Garden, before the Cherubim, was also a place of mercy. This can be seen from Luke 11:50-51 where Abel is spoken of as being amongst the prophets, since He approached God the correct way, acknowledging God as both the giver and the receiver (note also Romans 10:17). It is also seen in God’s words of mercy to Cain, even though they were rejected.
Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
Images of the Cherubim (speaking of God’s holiness and provision of mercy) are also found on the Ark of the Covenant where two cherubim made of gold were positioned on the Ark looking towards the mercy cover (Ex 25:17-21). In this we see, yet again, their association with both the holiness and mercy of God.
“It was called the "ark of the covenant" (Num 10:33; Deut 31:26; Heb 9:4; etc.), because in it were deposited the two tablets of stone upon which were written the Ten Commandments, the terms of God's covenant with Israel; "the ark of the testimony" (Ex 25:16,22), the commandments being God's testimony respecting His own holiness, and the people's sin; "the ark of God" (1 Sam 3:3; 4:11), as the throne of the divine presence.”
New Unger’s Bible Dictionary.
Images of the cherubim were also worked into the cloth in the tabernacle (Ex 26:1) and into the entrance doors of the inner sanctuary in the Temple (1 Kings 6:31-33). All the places where Cherubim are mentioned speak of the unapproachability of God (by fallen man standing in his own strength) yet also speak of the mercy of God.
Heaven interacts with earth
Heavens interaction with earth is seen in angels who approached Abraham (Gen 18:2, 19:1) and later went on to deal with Sodom and Gomorrah. In this incident we again see both judgement and mercy. Abraham was allowed to intercede, cities were destroyed, and yet Lot was rescued along with his daughters.
Moving onwards in God’s story we find heaven’s connection with earth being seen in the imagery of a stairway with angels ascending and descending (Gen 26:12). Shortly after this time, we also read of the place of two camps (where the angels of God met Jacob 32:1-3).
Moving on past the Exodus where magicians have their power consumed (Exodus 7:12, 8:19) as the master of nature reveals His authority (Ex 7-11,12), we find rebellious people being cared for in the desert. In the events of the Exodus and the shaping of the people of God, we see a clear contrast between Pharaoh’s failure to hear the cry of the marginalised (Ex 5:15-18) and God’s concern for all His people.
In the desert wanderings, bread came from heaven and water appears from a rock (Ex 16:4, 17:6 Nehemiah 9:15; 1 Cor 10:3-4) as God guided His people through a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night (Ex 13:21-22). Heaven is involved with earth.
Years later, the Jordan parts (Joshua 3:15f) as Israel enters Canaan and the supernatural food from heaven ceases as they begin to eat from the land (Joshua 5:12). Then, as they approach Jericho, where city walls would collapse as Israel called out to God, (Heb 11:30), Joshua encounters the commander of the Lord’s army who tells him that he is standing on holy ground (Josh 5:13-15). This person was none other than the pre-incarnate Christ. This fact can be seen in that the commander of the Lord’s army received worship, whereas angels do not (Rev 19:9-10). It is also seen in that Jesus will one day return with His army of angels (2 Thes 1:7).
The city walls of Jericho collapse as Israel calls out to God (Heb 11:30). Then, hundreds of years later, dreams are given to pagan kings (Nebuchadnezzar: Daniel 2:1) and the hand of heaven writes of judgment on a pagan kings dream-wall (Belshazzar: Daniel 5:25). During all this time, God revealed His grace, mercy and power through a displaced Daniel and his friends and allows Daniel to see some of the events that would occur at the end of time (Daniel 7:9).
The power of heaven touches earth and God continues to reveal His mastery over all things and does so whether speaking through a spewed up prophet in a pagan city (Jonah 2:10, 3:4) or a young girl snatched into slavery as He brings about the healing of a pagan army commander (Naaman, 2 Kings 5). And so we could go on.
Other interactions include the glory of the Lord filling the Temple (1 Kings 8:11), chariots of fire and horses of fire separating Elijah from Elisha at the time of Elijah’s departure in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). Isaiah has a vision and sees the head of the covenant seated on a throne, high and exalted (Isaiah 61:3). Mercy is then seen in that heaven touches earth and a struggling Isaiah is released from sin (v6-7). Decades later, the legitimate King of Glory is seen by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:3ff) whilst standing by the river Kebar in the land of captivity (Babylonian Empire). When God moves, nothing ever remains the same and God is always about His business of bringing redemption to a fallen world. Every event recorded in the Bible is recorded because God is about His business of redeeming a fallen world.
“Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell face down, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”
By the end of Daniel chapter six, Daniel is released and the men who had accused him, along with all their families were thrown into the lion’s den. Removing whole families was a common practice of the day as a means of removing any possible retaliation. For example, Herodotus tells of how during the reign of Darius, a high-ranking official and close associate of the king was judged to be involved in a revolt. As a result most of his family was executed.
The practice of removing families can also be seen in the assassination of the royal family during the Russian revolution and in North Korea today. In N.Korea three generations of a family are imprisoned if even one person in the family is found with a Bible. When we reduce someone to no more than a member of a so-called race, religious background, political system or enemy, we dehumanise them and in looking down on others, find it easier to justify coming against them.
“By having a bent toward evil and assisted technologically, man in rebellion against his Creator can turn his habitat into a living Hell. I was born before World War 2 and remember how technology was used to torture and murder and mutilate human beings. The Nazis in Germany performed horrible “scientific” experiments on people. Philosophical justification for these atrocities came from their naturalistic, atheistic view of origins.”
D. Chittick in ‘The Puzzle of Ancient Man’, p71.
Not everyone is an enemy
The horrors of war should never be forgotten, yet if we are not careful, we can end up amongst those who make sweeping generalisations such as “All Germans were at fault during the Second World War.”
There were so many films made after the second world war about the atrocities that occurred, and rightly so. Yet what was missing were the stories about ordinary, everyday Germans who stood up against Hitler and paid the price with their lives. One such person was, Sophie Scholl, a young graduate in her twenties who became part of a German Resistance Group called, ‘The White Rose.’ What started Sophie thinking was an anti-Nazi ‘Leaflet of the White Rose’ produced in mid-June 1942 which said:
“Nothing is more unworthy of a cultured people than to allow itself, without resistance, to be ‘governed’ by an irresponsible ruling clique motivated by the darkest of instincts.”
A. Dumbach and J. Newborn in, ‘Sophie Scholl and the White Rose’ p 58
Prior to this, Sophie had been ordered to go to a work-camp, housing thousands of German women conscripted for labour. Writing of her time there she comments, “We live like prisoners; not only work but leisure time is turned into duty-hours. Sometimes I want to scream, “My Name is Sophie Scholl! Don’t you forget it!” (Page 47).
There were many Germans who stood against Hitler and, like Sophie Scholl, lost their lives in doing so. One of the main points that come across in reading Sophie’s story is the dehumanisation of people around her.
A. Boesak in his book, ‘The Fire Within’, speaks of the selfishness and danger of Christians who see those around them as just enemies and in doing so, forget who God is. He writes:
“They are driven, not by love for the Lord or by a longing for the salvation of the world, but by the indulgence of their ‘lusts’. It is not the coming of the Lord, but the judgement of the Lord that inspires them. Not the salvation of the world, but the destruction of the wicked will be their vindication. They have forgotten who God is:
“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the LORD GOD. Repent and live. (Ezek 18:32).””
A. Boesak in, ‘The Fire Within’ Sermons from the Edge of Exile,’ page 165.
God has told us to love our enemies (Mat 5:43-44) and in my opinion part of this means remembering that all people are made in the image of God. Whilst all crime has to be dealt with we are still called to reach out with the truth of the gospel. Take the following story about Henry Gerecke and Joachim Ribbentrop for example.
Henry Gerecke was the chaplain assigned to speak to the German war criminals during the Nuremburg trials after the Second World War.
“On walking to the gallows Ribbentrop told Pastor Gerecke that he had put all his trust in Chirst. He climbed the thirteen steps to the trapdoor. The impassive soldiers and press representatives looked on. A guard tied his legs. An American officer asked for his last word. Ribbentrop responded: “I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul.” Then he turned to Gerecke and said, “I’ll see you again.””
War and Grace, Ed Don Stevens, p 269
In many nations in our world, there is great persecution of Christians. Yet the church still continues to grow and those who are persecuted continue to say, “Please pray for those who oppress us.” Yes we need to stand against sin wherever it is found, but we also need to pray for the sinner.