Daniel 019: Balance in the Christian Life

Daniel 019: Balance in the Christian Life
Daniel 6:12-17 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 9, 2017 • Daniel


Andy Woods

Balance in the Christian Life

4-9-17     Daniel 6:12-20   Lesson 19

Let’s take our Bibles, if we could, and open them to the book of Daniel, Daniel chapter 6, beginning at verse 12, as God allows it perhaps making it through verse 20 this morning.  The title of our message this morning is Balance in the Christian Life.  No, that’s not my own title, I stole that from Charles Ryrie.  He wrote a book a few years ago called Balance in the Christian Life and I shame­fully took his title.  You know this really is an enjoyable time of the year, would you not agree?  We’re celebrating today Palm Sunday.  Did you all bring your palms, I brought two, right here.

Essentially we’re celebrating the journey that Jesus made (Bruce spoke of it, Veronica sung about it) that He made to Jerusalem coming to His own people only to be rejected.  John’s Gospel said “He came to His own yet His own did not receive Him.”  [John 1:11]  Isn’t that a painful thing to come to people that are yours and yet they turn you down.  [John 1:11, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.”]  And yet God turned lemons into lemonade; He used the events of that rejection, which we begin to think about this week, Passion Week, particularly on Friday where we typically reflect upon the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, God took that rejection and the Jewish relinquishment of  Christ to the Romans for execution to pay the sin debt for the whole world and so that people, by simple trust in what Christ has done, can be saved.

And of course next Sunday we begin to learn, and even in our passage this morning we begin to learn that He is not a dead Savior but He is a living Savior, because out of that grave He came Sunday morning, one week from today.   And so it’s a wonderful time as we think about the things of God and what Jesus accomplished in our place.

Daniel chapter 6, which as we’re going to see, interestingly expresses many of these same themes, is found in a book called The Book of Daniel.  Daniel is being raised up by God to sort of portray, depict, what the nation would experience.  The nation of Israel during a very difficult time that they were in, in Babylon as captives, inaugurating a time period when the nation would have no king reigning on David’s throne and the nation would be trampled down by various pagan powers.  Daniel is raised up to identify that time period and explain it prophetically.

And how do you live for God, exactly, when you’re not on Israeli soil?  That’s a relevant question for us too, isn’t it, because we’re Christians trying to live in what today is still the devil’s world.  The devil will still be the prince and power of this age until the personal return of Christ one day.  So how do we live as God’s people on hostile territory?  Daniel is a model for us; his priorities become our priorities; his stances become our stances.  If you are a pictorial learner, as I mentioned last time, you might try to associate every chapter we cover with a picture.  And this is my mother that taught me how to do this and that’s how I was able to get so far in school because I had this memory device that she taught me.  And of course I want to make a shout out to my mother today, it is her birthday so I’m thankful for my mom.

Chapter 2 is a statue; chapter 3 is a fire, that’s where the fiery furnace happened.  Chapter 4 is a cutting down of a tree; that was the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar.  Chapter 5 you can remember was handwriting on the wall, which was the final judgment on Babylon as Babylon was giving way to Persia.  Chapter 6  you might think of Daniel there in front of those lions, and that’s the story that we’re looking at this Sunday.  Chapter 1 really lays the foundation for us and then we move into chapters 2-7 which is organized like what we would call in Hebrew or Greek a chiasm.  The whole section is not in Hebrew but it’s in Aramaic and so it stands out as a literary unit.  And in a chiasm the things started at the beginning are repeated at the end.  So we’ll read chapter 2 and then we’ll read chapter 7 and we’ll say wait a minute, didn’t the stuff in chapter 7 already get stated in chapter 2.  And the answer is yes, there’s just a little different spin on it.  The same with the information in chapter 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego had to make a stand and they were thrown into the fiery furnace as a result.  The same exact thing is happening in Daniel 6, Daniel makes a stand.  He is thrown, not into a fiery furnace but he is thrown into the lion’s den.  The information in chapter 4, God’s revelation to a Gentile king, Nebuchadnezzar, that theme follows into chapter 5 as God reveals Himself to a man named Belshazzar, the last reigning king of the Babylonian Empire.

And so we move into chapter 6 and we start to discover that many of the things in chapter 6, the same themes anyway, are recapitulated and that is an awareness that we have when we understand this literary pattern called a chiastic structure or a chiasm.  By the time we get into chapter 6 Babylon has already fallen.  Babylon fell in chapter 5; we are no longer dealing with Belshazzar as Darius of Medo-Persia, the conqueror, the entity that conquered Babylon now rises to the forefront.

And in essence what has happened is the head of gold that Daniel saw as a teenager has now shifted to the chest and arms of silver.  Nebuchadnezzar  is no longer on the scene, Belshazzar is no longer on the scene but right into front stage moves this man, Darius of Medo-Persia.  And God is busy agitating this man, Darius, just like He agitated Belshazzar, just like He agitated Nebuchadnezzar.

Why does God bother people?  Why does God agitate people?  Because He loves people, He wants people, men and women, to enter into a right relationship with Him.  And if a person is not in a right relationship with Him He sics what we would call the hounds of heaven on that person and just keeps annoying them over and over and over again until they reach a point where they trust in what Jesus has done for them and they become saved at that point.  Aren’t you glad that God loves us enough to bother us?  I’m sure glad God bothered me as a sixteen year old, which was the point in time in which I trusted in Christ for salvation.  And I’m sure if  you’re a saved person you’re grateful for the agitation and the bothering of God that God does to our lives.

The date of these events would be about 539 B.C.  Daniel is about 83 years old when these events happen.  Now that in and of itself is going to wreck a lot of Christian artistry because all of the pictures I see of Daniel in the lion’s den make it look like he’s Arnold Schwarzenegger with muscles popping out all over the place, ready to take on these lions. And the reality is nothing could be further from the truth; Daniel was not at his prime of life.  When this happened he was in a state of vulnerability physically as an aged person.  And isn’t it wonderful that the promises of God that sustained us in our youth continue to sustain us into old age, because God’s promises never change as we progress through the various stages of life.

David, in Psalm 37:25 said, “I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor their seed begging for bread.”  He said I’ve gone through the whole spectrum of life, I’ve gone through the prime of my youth to the vulnerability of old age and yet God keeps coming through for me over and over again.  Daniel is experiencing that faithfulness of God to him.  He experienced it as a  youth in Babylon and now the whole political environment has changed, the Persian Empire is in power, Daniel is in an advanced age and yet the promises of God, the faithful-ness of God, the God who does not change, the God who does not lie, keeps being faithful to Daniel throughout the rest of his life.  And so that’s a glorious thing as we recognize that the circumstances of our life are really not dictated by the circumstances of our life; they’re dictated by God Himself who looks after His own and cannot lie.  Aren’t you glad about that this morning?  I’m glad about it.

Here is an outline of chapter 6, we saw, number I, these all begin with the letter P, the position of Daniel, this is where Daniel begins to rise through the ranks in the Persian system, just like he rose through the ranks in the Babylonian system.  Isn’t it interesting that cream always rises to the top?  Isn’t it interesting that if a person is in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ that no matter what circumstance you put them into, a different job, a different career, a different church, a different state, a different territory, that God continues to use that person, He continues to promote that person.  And this is what Daniel is experiencing as an older man.

You know, a lot of people in the body of Christ, and it’s sad to watch, they have a retirement mindset, and what they mean by that is well, you know, in my youth I did this for God and did that for God, now I’m just going to kind of rest, relax on my laurels, rest on my laurels.  And the fact of the matter is there’s not a shred of evidence in the Bible to support that mindset.  As long as there is breath in your lungs and your heart is beating, it doesn’t matter what your age is, God has something He wants to do in and through your life.  You never disqualify yourself from usability by God simply because of age.  You might retire from a job but all that does is free your time and resources up to be used elsewhere.  So there is no such thing as retirement in God, I like to call it refirement, as in refiring up, not retiring.

And what happens to people when they are blessed by the Lord is onlookers don’t like it and the reason they don’t like it is because you’re creating a standard;  your life is being held out as an example and that is a standard that makes them look bad (in many cases) and so they to tear down the person that’s being promoted and used by God.  And we should expect this in our Christian walk.

The Apostle Peter, in 1 Peter 4:12 says, “Do not be surprised as by the fiery ordeal that you are experiencing as though it were some strange thing.” Many times when family members turn against us, when church members turn against us, when even our brothers and sisters in Christ turn against us, when the unsaved world turns against us we think it’s some odd thing, or strange thing, it’s something that only we are experiencing but nobody else.  And yet what we discover in the Scripture is this is the norm.  Daniel is being used by God, he is being promoted by God and immediately what happens is a plot is hatched to catch Daniel in a snare.  And that plot is described in verses 4-9.

[Daniel 6:4, “Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. [5] Then these men said, ‘We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.’  [6] Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: ‘King Darius, live forever! [7] All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. [8] Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.’  [9] Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.”]

A law is passed.  The law simply says you can’t pray to anybody other than Darius.  And his enemies understood if they couldn’t find any flaw in his work ethic, his career, and so they realized that the only way to bring Daniel down was to find something that would put him on a collision course between his relationship with God and the Persian legal system.  And so this law against prayer is passed.

I think of things going on in our own country where if a teacher puts out their Bible on the public school desk then all of a sudden they are forbidden from doing that.  There is a federal lawsuit that begins to take place.  And it is interesting that even our own culture is moving in a direction where more and more laws are being passed, more and more restrictions are being given and articulated to restrict the Christian’s freedom of thought, the Christian’s freedom of speech, and the Christian’s right in their own work place.  It’s almost as if the Book of Daniel is written for our times.

We move into Roman numeral III where Daniel immediately goes to prayer and it’s an astounding thing how dominant prayer was in the life of this man.  When a crisis hits and he’s aware now of this Persian law he immediately begins to pray; he doesn’t pick at his government, he doesn’t organize a protest, he doesn’t write letters to the newspaper, not that those things are bad in and of themselves, they have their place, but his first order of business is to pray to his God.  Let me ask you a question: when the crisis hits your life what’s the first thing you do?  Hopefully your attitude is a posture of prayer because that’s what Daniel is role modeling for us.

The prayer of Daniel is now followed by the prosecution of Daniel.  Notice, if you will, verses 12-15, notice how the enemy has set him up.  Notice chapter 6 and verse 12, it says, “Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king’s injunction, ‘Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?’”  So the enemies of Daniel who got this law passed in the first place now that they have Daniel caught praying they remind the king of the edict or the law that Darius had passed.

And Darius affirms that this law is in effect, notice the end of verse 12, “The king replied, ‘The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.’”  The enemies were so skillful at passing this law that they followed the common practice of the Persians which simply said that once a law goes onto the books it cannot be revoked, it cannot be changed.  In fact, that concept of the irrevocability of the Persian law is going to become very prominent and popular later on in our chapter as we work through it this morning.

So once the law is on the books, once the trap has been set, once Daniel is in the snare, once his foot or leg is in the bear’s trap now the enemy pounces, reminding the king of this law and pushing in a direction of prosecuting Daniel.

Verse 13 you discover the enemy’s complaint.  You really get to the bottom line; what is it that bothered these contemporaries of Daniel so much about the life of Daniel.  You find that described there in verse 13 that says, “Then they answered and spoke before the king, ‘Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.’”  A law is passed you can only pray to Darius; Daniel  as a monotheistic Jew obviously can’t follow that, he serves one God, he doesn’t pray to Darius, he prays to the real God, the true God.  And when you study the times when the nation of Israel came under persecution during this time period this is always the issue.  It’s the issue of monotheism; it’s the issue of exclusivity, it’s the issue where you Hebrews keep saying that your way is the only way.

You know, these early Hebrews and then later on in the church age, as the church moved into being persecuted by Rome, these early Hebrews (and the early church for that matter), could have gotten along hunky-dory with everybody if they had just said Christ is not THE way but A way.  Just change the definite article “the” to the small letter “a”, make Jesus not THE God but A God and they could have gotten along fine.  The Romans could have had their god or gods; the Babylonians would have their god or gods; the Persians would have had their god or gods and the issue would have been resolved.  Just compromise a little bit Daniel.  Don’t pray so openly, don’t pray so aggressively, don’t pray so publicly, don’t pray so boldly, and while you’re at it just throw a few prayers, if you don’t mind, towards the direction of Darius.  Just compromise a little bit on this issue of exclusivity and the world will be a wonderful place.

The problem is, the more committed you become to the things of God and the God of the Bible the more you realize that you cannot do that.  The moment you do that you’re not being fair to what the Bible itself reveals concerning exclusivity.  This is the whole problem with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego back in the opposite end of the chiasm, Daniel 3:12, it says, “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.  These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”

What is the matter with these Hebrews? What’s the matter with these Jews, why don’t they get with the program, why don’t they pray allegiance to all gods.  And yet they won’t do it, they won’t bow down to a pagan god, they only worship their own God.

The Book of Esther, which is going to take place in the Persian era about 60 years later, that’s the same issue related to Mordecai.  Esther 3:5 says this: “When Haman saw that Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage to him, Haman was filled with rage.”   You mean, you just worshipped your God and  you won’t worship me?  Esther 3:8 says, “Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, ‘There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain.”’

These people will do their own thing; they go their own way.  They say that their system is the only system.  They use the definite article “the” instead of the small letter “a” which is what we would all prefer.  This is what got the Hebrews in trouble.  And beloved, as God is my witness this is the exact same issue today.  What gets us in trouble with the world is the statement that Jesus is not “a” way but He is the what?  “THE WAY.”

And people act like we just made this up but the fact of the matter is Jesus Himself, did He not say in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Did not Peter, as he’s being quoted here in the book of Acts, chapter 4:12, did he not say, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Did not the Apostle Paul, in 1 Timothy 2:5 say, “For there is one God and one mediator also between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”

Did not Christ Himself say in the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew 7:13-14, “’Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.’”

The moment a person moves in the direction of this idea that the things of God, the things of Christ is just a possibility of many, one of many roads, is to negate the reason why Christ died.  Paul says in the book of Galatians, chapter 2 and verse 21, He in essence says if righteous could be gained another way then Christ died needlessly.  [Galatians 2:21, “‘I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.’”]

If there are many paths, many roads, many ways and all that matters is one’s sincerity then Jesus really didn’t have to die at all, did He?  Think of the horrors that Christ went through on that cross as we celebrate this this Friday, Good Friday.  Think of the path, as was so beautifully sung this morning, the pathway to suffering, to Jerusalem, essentially if you say that Jesus is just “a” way that path is unnecessary.  Everything that He went through is unneeded.  Jesus has to be the only way given the lengths that He went to and through to procure for us our salvation.  And the more you talk like this the more you find yourself on the outs with the unsaved, unregenerate world.

Oprah Winfrey, who I believe is the most influential theologian in the world today and I don’t say that tongue in cheek, I say it because it’s true.  This woman has more power over more people on this planet related to spiritual issues than any other person I know of.  She is all about all paths lead to God.   She says this, “…one of the mistakes that human beings make is believing that there is only one way…”  There are “many ways…many paths to what you call God.”  [www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lb2RUpMDk34]

She says it doesn’t matter whether she called it God along the way or not, there couldn’t possibly be just one way, there couldn’t possibly be just one way with the millions of people in the world.  Are  you telling me that in some remote part of the earth if you’ve never heard the name Jesus, you can’t get to heaven?  And what we’re saying is yes.  In our soteriology lectures we’ve gotten into that issue and how to explain that issue.  But the biblical standard isn’t something that I created, it’s not something that I made up, it’s what the Bible itself declares.  It is an immutable, unchangeable spiritual law.  And what people do is they attack the messenger but the reality is who they’re attacking is God Himself because God is the one that created the law.

The laws of God are not subject for debate; they’re not subject for disagreement.  The laws of God are not open to dialogue over the subject matter anymore than the law of gravity is open for debate.  God also created physical laws, like the law of gravity; now you might disagree with the law of gravity,  you might find your personal lifestyle impinged by the law of gravity but the law of gravity still is subject to you, you throw yourself off a two story building, which I don’t recommend you do any time soon, and the law of gravity is in effect, is it not?

It’s the same with spiritual laws; this is a spiritual law; the exclusivity of Christ is something that God ordained, something that God established and it’s not up to us to decide what parts of it we like and what parts of it we don’t like; it’s the way it is!  It’s the way the world works.  And taking stances like this on the authoritative Word of God never engenders the appreciation of the unsaved world.  This is why Daniel at this time in history, as an 80 year old man who probably should have been enjoying his sunset years, finds himself looking at ravenous lions in the lion’s den.

Notice if you will verse 14, Darius realizes that he’s been had.  He realizes that he has been manipulated.  Darius, I believe is generally a good king and you see this there, as it dawns on him in verse 14, it says, “Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him.”  Darius is starting to see through the motive of Daniel’s accusers and attackers and he is in great distress because the bear trap is already around Daniel’s leg and there’s nothing he can do as a king to spring Daniel from this bear trap, because as we indicated before, once the law goes into effect in the empire of Persia it become irrevocable.

The Book of Esther, as I mentioned before, taking place about 60 years into the future, says this of Persian law.  Esther 1:19 says, “the laws of Persia and Media so that it cannot be repealed.”  Esther 8:8 says, “for a decree which is written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s signet ring may not be revoked.”  There’s a reason why these enemies of Daniel wanted this law passed fast and quick, without a lot of discussion.

It kind of sounds like modern day politicians, doesn’t it?  We’ve got to get this done now!  We can’t have any delays, we’ve got to act fast, the security and the safety of the American people is at stake.  We’ve got to pass a law to find out what’s in it as one politician said. Whenever someone is in a hurry to act fast, get it done now, tie it off, this law that’s coming to pass with too much dialogue discussion and debate, that’s when your radar should start to sound; you know that something isn’t right because the whole American system of government is based on long protracted dialogue and discussion.  I’m always nervous about people that want to do things, particularly putting them into the force of law so rapidly and so quickly.

I get a chuckle out of these commentators, they say there’s too much gridlock in Washington, nothing’s getting done in Washington and I say to myself every time I hear that, “praise the Lord” and thank God because our Founding Fathers wisely gave  us a system where things couldn’t get done fast, it’s called the separation of powers, it’s called Federalism, it’s called checks and balances.  Things are supposed to happen in America slowly after vigorous debate.  You say well I want more efficiency.  Okay, if you want more efficiency move to Iran.  Once the hierarchy in Iran want’s something done there isn’t any discussion, there isn’t any debate, it just happens.  I don’t want efficiency, I want things to move slow, particularly when it comes to legal subjects.

But you see, these guys knew what they were doing, they knew they were springing this trap, they wanted this law passed quick.  In fact, it was passed so fast that Darius himself didn’t even understand the intent of those pursuing this course of action.  And while I’m on the subject another thing that makes me very nervous is legislation that looks like the GTE phonebook, that goes on and on and on for thousands and thousands of pages, a piece of legislation that’s so voluminous who could ever read that?  Who could read it within seven days, ten days, ninety days?  You need a lawyer and a CPA to help you handle ten pages.  And yet what we’re being given today by politicians is not things like The United States Constitution, which by the way if you were to go home today and read The United States Constitution you could finish it in eleven pages, including The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to The United States Constitution, ten pages, maybe eleven pages and you’re done.  Think about universal health care, three thousand pages, four thousand pages, and that should send alarms off everywhere that someone is trying to sneak things in without an opportunity for vigorous debate.  Okay, I’m off that subject, back to the Bible

Verse 14, “Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him.”  Everything we know about this man, Darius, he was a good man.  In fact, when you go down to verse 18, when Daniel was actually thrown into the lion’s den what we learn in verse 18 is Darius keeps on fasting, praying, refusing entertainment, looking out for Daniel’s best interest. [Verse 18, “Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him.”]  He realized that he had been played for the fool here.  He realized that the situation was outside of his control and consequently he began to tell Daniel himself to seek his God because that’s the only place where help is going to come from.

It’s interesting, we read these words in Daniel 11:1, it says this, “In the first year of Darius, the Mede, I arose to be an encouragement and a protection for him.”  That’s an angel talking. Isn’t it interesting that when a person is sincere about God and pursues the things of God and has a clean conscience before God, as apparently Darius had had, that the angels are dispatched from heaven to help that person.  Did you know that?  Hebrews 1:14, of angels, says this:  “Are they” angels, “not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”

Isn’t it interesting that the positions that we take in life help us or assist us in taking a position in the angelic conflict.  If I am working against the things of God then I am working with demons themselves.  Demons themselves are cooperating with me and I may not even realize it, doing the things of the devil by matter of converse, if I, or the opposite, if I am sold out to the things of God, pursuing biblical priorities, then God, as in the case of Darius here, is the recipient of angelic blessing.

The fact of the matter is we can’t see it happening but there’s an invisible spiritual war around us all of the time.  The Bible is very clear about this because it says “we wrestle not against” what? “flesh and blood, but against principalities, and powers and rulers of this dark world.   [Ephesians 6:12, KJV, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”]

A demonic conflict verses the good angels and every single day of my life I’m having to make a decision, am I going to be for God today or against God, in any realm of decisions you can think of.  And the moment I begin to move in a particular area I’m either siding with the devil and his work or I’m siding with God, the good angels and their work.

Darius was a good king and he found himself, if I’m reading Daniel 11:1 correctly, the recipient of angelic help in the midst of this conflict.  Darius, as we talked about last time, was such a good king that he didn’t even destroy Babylon.  We talked about the circumstances of that, I think not last week, a few Sundays ago, he left Babylon intact.  All of our historical sources seem to indicate that.  And Persia itself was on the right side of the angelic conflict because it would be under Persia that the three returns would take place where the nation of Israel would be released from the seventy years of captivity in Babylon back to the Promised Land.  That happened in three waves; the books of Ezra and Nehemiah describe it and those all take place under Persian kings; Cyrus and also Artaxerxes, Darius being part of that group was actually one of the good guys in biblical history, working for God.  That’s why he is exerting himself to delivering Daniel from sunset into sunset, trying to rescue him because he knew he had been played for the fool and the law was now on the books and Daniel, absent the intervention of God, was going to be all but destroyed.

The empire of Persia is very interesting because Persia continued on as a modern nation and what modern nation today comes from Persia?  The nation of Iran.  Isn’t it interesting that in Ezekiel’s prophecies Ezekiel, in chapter 38, verses 1-7, saw something in the end times.  He saw Persia no longer being a friend or an all of the nation of Israel but turning against Israel.  And Ezekiel probably told the Lord, Lord, this is crazy, Persia is the good guy, Persia is the assister, Persia is helping the Jews return into their land after seventy years of captivity.  But God says back to Ezekiel most likely, no, this  concerns something yet future, this is distant.

And it is very interesting that even in my own lifetime, as a 50 year old, I have seen the Persian Empire change; I have seen the Persian Empire get on the wrong side of the angelic conflict exactly like Ezekiel said would happen one day.   In 1979, you will recall, the Shah, who was a human rights violator, no doubt, but also at the same time was considered an ally of the nation of Israel, considered an ally of the United States of America, the Shah was deposed and  replaced by the Ayatollah; this happened in 1979, I can remember it as clear as day, I was in the 7th grade when this happened, I wasn’t even saved at the time but I was watching the news reports and I knew that this was big.

And since the Islamization, a Shite Muslim theocracy in Iran subsequent to the deposing of the Shah and the advent of the Ayatollah you have seen Iran, or Persia, turning against the nation of Israel.  In fact, the leaders of that particular theocratic regime Ahmadinejad said very clearly that he wanted to wipe Israel off the map.  Turning against Israel, turning against the  United States of America, that is not the history of the Persian people.  That is not the history of Iran.  This is a group of people, because of a bad theology, that have come under the influence of something that I think is quite wicked, and something that is causing them to lose sight of their culture and their heritage as a people.

Jim McGowan and I did a Facebook live feed on this which you can find on the SLBC Facebook page if you’re interested, tracking the trajectory of this international change and how the world today is being set up exactly like the prophet Ezekiel indicated would happen in the last days.

And yet Persia, you can see here, is a helper of Israel, not an enemy as she is today.  Cyrus is exerting himself trying to rescue, trying to save Daniel, just as the Persian people helped the nation of Israel to return to their land.  Isn’t it interesting that you can become so out of focus with your own history and traditions that you lose sight of what your ancient culture once stood for.  And I don’t just point the finger at Persia or Iran, I point the finger at the United States of America.  Even our own culture we’ve lost sight of why we’re here.

If you get into the writings of Christopher Columbus, in his book called The Book of Prophecies, he believed that he was sent to the United States of America by God for the purpose of furthering and expanding the gospel.  When you study the Mayflower Compact created about 1620 you discover that this country was started for evangelism and the propagation of what they called the Christian faith.  And look how far we’ve fallen from that.  Today your average Americans see themselves largely in America to become prosperous, to achieve the American dream.  We promote ourselves and advertise ourselves economically, as if God gave us this country and this culture and this continent so I could keep up with the Joneses, and buy more toys.  And we’ve lost sight of why we exist and what our founding documents actually say.

And in fact it’s gotten so bad that you can’t even mention our founding documents many times in school.  Try talking to some of these millennials, teenagers or younger; ask them about the Mayflower Compact, see what they know.  You’ll be shocked at what they don’t know.  Ask them about the Declaration of Independence.  Ask them about the United States Constitution.  You’ll be shocked little, if anything, they know.  Go into a public school, look at its curriculum, what are they teaching?  Where is the Mayflower Compact?  Where is the treatment of Christopher Columbus and His Book of Prophecies.  It’s not there.  It’s all been eviscerated from history.  It’s not just Persia that loses sight of her heritage, it’s the United States of America.  May God help us to understand the time period that we are living in.  Darius is trying to rescue Daniel, unlike Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs of today. 

And look at verse 15, as the enemies are sensing what Darius is trying to do and they bring out this technicality of Persian law.  Verse 15, “Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, ‘Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.”’  They sprung the trap, they know the law, they understand the irrevocability of Persian law and they bring this technicality to Darius’s attention, and Darius at this time recognizes that all of his good intentions are not going to save Daniel.  If Daniel is going to get bailed out of this it’s got to be his God that comes through.

May I just way to you that is the exact same circumstance that God is creating in your life as I speak.  He is putting you into circumstances where the only thing that’s going to help is God Himself.  He deliberately puts us into those circumstances so that we will reach out to Him and if we’re not put in those circumstances our natural inclination will be through the flesh or human energy to manipulate our way out of our problems.  But the arm of the flesh reaches this way and God shuts it down.  The arm of the flesh reaches that way and God shuts it down.  And He closes this door and He closes that door and He puts  you into circumstances that are bigger than you.  And then you finally say to yourself, we say to ourselves, well, I’ve got one to trust in but God and God says thumbs up.  That’s the response I’ve been waiting for all along.  And now that your human options are exhausted and you have called for My help, watch My hand move miraculously through your life.

There would not have been a rescue of Daniel in the lion’s den, there wouldn’t have been a rescue of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego from the fiery furnace if God had not put these individuals in this circumstance.  If you find  yourself in this type of circumstance, something impossible, rather than getting angry, rather than getting upset, it’s the time for optimism and joy because now that you’re out of human options you’re going to start to see the hand of God.   And it’s a wonderful place to be in but God has to set it up accordingly.

Notice, if you will, verse 16 and 17 as we move now into the presentation of Daniel into the lion’s den.  Look at verse 16, very interesting, “Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den.” Why is it that a man that’s living for God is cast into the lion’s den.  Shouldn’t it be the opposite?  Shouldn’t it be the more you’re living for God the more you get out of trouble?  Not so!  What did Paul say in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be” what’s the rest of it? “persecuted.”

We oftentimes reach for the promises of God; in fact I’ve been in many Christian bookstores, they have little books on the promises of God, usually happy promises.  But what about these negative promises; how come they never include this verse as a promise from God to you.
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  Persecution and trouble and problems are part and parcel of a walk with Christ and growth in Christ.  And this is what Daniel is experiencing.

The rest of verse 16 says this, King Darius understands he’s out of options, “The king spoke and said to Daniel, ‘Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.”’ I can’t deliver you, the legal system won’t allow me but God Himself will deliver you.  Notice that Darius saw a relationship between God and Daniel as he refers to Daniel’s God as the God that Daniel constantly and continually serves.

Is that true when people look at your life as a Christian?  That God, would they say of you, who you continuously serve, the God who you constantly serve.  1 Corinthians 16:15 says this, “Now I urge  you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints),” Paul says I want  you to observe this particular household, it’s a family apparently, that household of Stephanas, and I want you to see what makes them different.  They have devoted themselves for the ministry of the saints.  These people are so on fire for God it’s obvious and it’s contagious, because you know that these people are serving God every chance they get.  That’s what Darius noticed about Daniel.

And this is why I have entitled this message Balance in the Christian life. I want you to see the balance here.  Daniel, going back to Daniel 6:10-11 of last week, was a man of prayer.  [Daniel 6:10-11,“Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.  [11] Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God.”]

This same Daniel who was a man of prayer was also a man of action.  He was a man of service.  He was a man that when the church doors opened he was there.  When the Word of God was being taught he was listening.  When the opportunity to give arose he gave of himself, of his financial resources.  When service projects were opened up, help with the kids, teach Sunday School, whatever the case may be, Daniel was the guy.  He was serving, he was active, it was contagious.  He was on fire.  The fact of the matter is he was so on fire that even Darius, a pagan, recognizes this character trait in Daniel.  Do people see that in our lives, or do they see a Christian on holiday, a Christian on vacation, a Christian who has mentally checked out because the warfare is just too great for us, we mentally check out.  And in fact, every time I go to church someone hurts my feelings so I guess I won’t go to church.

Let me let  you in on a great secret here… you ready for this?  There is no perfect church. Why is that?  Because everybody in church still is susceptible to a sin nature.  People that have walked with God for  years still have a sin nature that they go back to.  In church you’ll be disappointed.  In church you’ll get your feelings hurt.  In church some standard that you have won’t be met.  That’s the way it is and it’s going to be that way until the rapture.  And by the way, if you find a perfect church I would advise you not to join it because your presence will end up ruining that perfect church.  [Laughter]

Sometimes we need a little reality check, don’t we?  People expect church to be heaven itself; I know of no such church.  In fact, I saw a sign on a church the other day, they articulated themselves or promoted themselves as a First Century Church.  “We are,” the marquee said, “a first century church.”  And I said to myself, I wonder which one, Corinth, Laodicea, those are all churches with problems.  Just because it’s a first century church doesn’t mean it’s not beset by problems.

And yet Daniel didn’t allow hurt feelings or whatever the case may be to serve and to vigorously pour himself out before the Lord.  Daniel didn’t just pray, pray, pray, pray, pray but he served.   You know some people are like that; they have this mindset it’s just me and God, I’m in prayer, all I need is God and my Bible and I’ll sit under a tree and I’ll just cut myself off from the body of Christ.  That’s not the life of Daniel.  Daniel was a prayer warrior, no doubt, but he was a servant.  Other people are like this: they serve to the point of exhaustion, and yet they never get into communion with God where they need their batteries recharged.  If you’re not getting into communion with God through prayer, getting your batteries recharged, you will exhaust yourself serving the Lord—the balance in the Christian life.  Daniel was  a man of intimacy with God but not just that, he vigorously served God. Daniel was a man of vigorous service to God but not just that, he was a man that experienced great intimacy with God. We can see that very clearly from his own lifestyle.

Verse 17, notice if you will Daniel 6:17 where the king has made an order, the king has made a judgment, and now comes the authorization, verse 17.  Look at this: “A stone,” let me say that again, “A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the lion’s den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet ring of his nobles, so that nothing would be changed in regard to Daniel.”  I don’t know what you think of when you read that, a stone being placed over a cave with an insignia on it where it couldn’t be violated, does not sound a little bit like Matthew 27:66?  It says this of Christ: “And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.”

Isn’t it interesting that as we go through the Bible verse by verse that the Lord would have us in Daniel 6:17 on Good Friday (coming up) getting ready to celebrate Good Sunday.  You say wow pastor, you’re a master of calendar work… let me tell you something, I don’t have enough smarts, I don’t have enough intelligence, I don’t have enough organizational skill to plan something like that out. I just go until the text is over and sometimes the people are over before I’m over, but that’s the way I do things.  I have no agenda at all and it just fascinates me, and I’ve seen this time and time again, the Lord, just by gradually moving through His Word, would put us in an exact verse that has an exact replica, resemblance, of something that we are getting ready to celebrate.  That’s not the work of myself; that’s the work of the Holy Spirit.

You know what I hear all the time from the various Sunday School teachers in this room?  They say you know what?  Exactly what you covered in the sermon is what we covered in our Sunday School.  Or you hit it from one angle and I hit it from a different angle but it comes together beautifully.  And let me tell you something, that is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Do you think I have some kind of conference with our Sunday School teachers every week… all right, let’s plan it out this way…  Nonsense!  It’s hard enough just getting our staff together to pray for an hour.  The fact of the matter is it’s God that does this, it’s God that organizes this church.  It’s God that puts teachers on the same page.  It’s the matter of walking under the Spirit’s direction and being open to His leading and then marveling at what He’s able to do.  It’s the kind of thing that keeps me in the ministry.  It’s the kind of thing that keeps me at Sugar Land Bible Church because I see the hand of God moving.  If the hand of God wasn’t moving, if the hand of God wasn’t doing anything what’s the point?  I’ll find a church where the hand of God is moving.

The reality of the situation is the hand of God is moving at Sugar Land Bible Church, sometimes in obvious ways, sometimes in more discrete ways that it takes a little bit more time to think about but God is the author and the builder of His church.

Christ goes into a grave, He’s thought of by the world as dead, it’s over.  And yet what we’ll see next Sunday is He comes out of that grave alive.  We serve, not a dead Savior but a living Savior.  In fact, there’s a song about that, isn’t there.  I won’t be singing it for you but it says “I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today, I know that He is living whatever men may say.  I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him, He’s always near.  He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today, He walks with Me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.  He live, He lives, salvation to impart.  You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.

Isn’t it interesting that we have the objective evidence of the empty tomb as proof for the risen Christ and yet we see the hand of the risen Christ over and over again in this church, and in our personal lives as we walk with Him.

Well, you might say to yourself, I’m sitting on the edge of my seat pastor, what’s going to happen to Daniel.  Is he going to be protected?  Will God be vindicated as not the God of history but the God who is alive?  And you’ll have to come back Sunday morning, Resurrection Sunday, to find out.  Shall we pray.

Father, We’re grateful for this time of the year; we’re grateful for the things that  You teach us through  Your Word.  We’re grateful for Your resurrection and for the hand of Your Son in our church and in our lives.  We pray that You’ll be with us as we continue through this series and as we move through the book of Daniel. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.