November 2, 2017 Chapel Service — Dr. Larry G. Mininger
Posted On November 05, 2017
“Preparation for the Lion’s Den”
Dr. Larry G. Mininger is the student care administrator at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Fla. and pastor at Lake Sherwood Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Orlando, Fla.
Let us pray together. Almighty God, as we join ourselves together in praise and worship and look into your Word, we ask your blessing upon the reading and understanding of the Word and that you’ll especially strengthen us with vision to go forward in serving you. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
If you have your Bibles, you can turn with me to our text in Daniel, chapter 6. As you’re turning there, I would just like to say a word of appreciation: I really cherish this opportunity to serve alongside of you in this ministry. I’ve gotten to know some of the students. I pray for you all, even though I don’t know you all. And, in praying for you even this morning, I pray that God will bless you through this study. I am impressed with the students I have met, some for different reasons, but you know, I’m still impressed. And I really do cherish this opportunity.
Daniel chapter 6 is kind of the middle of the story of Daniel, but you know the story fairly well. I’ll read the first ten verses. I’ll provide you an outline to take some notes, just to keep you following along, and you can use this for devotions and for people that you may be ministering to.
Daniel 6:1 —
“It pleased Darius [ruler of the Medo-Persian Empire] to set over the kingdom 120 satraps [governors] to be throughout the whole kingdom and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give an account so the king might not suffer loss. Then, this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps because an excellent spirit was in him. The king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then, the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel, with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault because he was faithful; and no error or fault was found in him. These men said,‘We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.’ These presidents and satraps came to the king in agreement amongst themselves and said to him,‘O King Darius, live forever! All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects, the satraps, the counselors, and the governors were agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction that whoever makes petition to any god or man for 30 days except to you, O King, should be cast into the den of lions. Now, O King, establish the injunction and sign the document that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.’ Therefore, King Darius signed the document an injunction.”
Skipping to verse 10, we see:
“When Daniel knew that the document has been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber opened toward Jerusalem, he got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.”
This is God’s Word. Now, you students are probably all reading Tabletalk faithfully, every day, as part of your routine. And the one for this month has the picture of Daniel. You can picture him on your own copies, no doubt, in your minds—the picture of Daniel in a lion’s den, and he is bound. You especially notice that idea, that he is bound there in the lion’s den. We don’t know that for sure, but it shows his abject submission to this fate.
What I want to talk to you today about is my sermon title, “Preparation for the Lion’s Den.” I want to go back with you a little bit and see what preparation God had given Daniel for this experience, and I think you’ll see an evident application to you as we go along. So, follow along.
Daniel before the lion’s den: we’ll go through point one quickly, because it’s a review of the first six chapters of the book of Daniel. First of all, Daniel was faithful and, therefore, promoted. One of the major themes of Daniel that you all probably recognize that Daniel was a type of Christ. There is no sin of Daniel mentioned in the Bible—it doesn’t simply say he never did sin, but rather, there’s no actual mention of it—which sets him up in a unique way to be a model for Christ. And, Daniel’s life was marked by small beginnings and faithful service, and in that faithful service, he was then promoted, gradually, throughout his years of service and, of course, is a parallel to Christ, though we’re not going to be able to dwell on that too much today for the length of our time.
But Daniel was first of all, in chapter 1, captured from his homeland Judah in Jerusalem by the King of Babylon’s (i.e., King Nebuchadnezzar’s) troops. And he was brought with others because in him and in those others there was found to be an excellent spirit of kind—some talent, some grace, some ability. And then they were brought to Babylon as cherished possessions, but they were not slaves in a common or ordinary sense; they were actually utilized in strategic positions. So, Daniel was, by God’s grace, faithful and gifted; and from the very beginning, he was promoted. Now, that’s a theme that runs throughout his whole life, and it could be your life as well in some measure. Because in chapter 1, Daniel’s faithfulness was seen in that he would not eat the king’s food. Now, he had the best of food in the land and the best of the wines, but Daniel had a conscience bound by the Word of God—he would not eat certain foods. Because he was faithful to God, God promoted him. Even though he ate vary sparing food—maybe only vegetables, and vegetables are not a remedy for health here; it’s not going to make you very strong, that’s the point. In spite of this sacrifice, God blessed him. He was faithful and promoted.
In chapter 2, we see that Nebuchadnezzar had this metal statue image in a vision. And, as you know the story, he made this terrible demand of his counselors,“Tell me what I dreamed, first, and then tell me what it means, second.” And the counselors protested,“Nobody can do this!” Which, of course, is true. But Daniel and his three friends (who we read about later on) got together and they prayed to God, and God gave Daniel, who was a prophet, this vision to be able to know the dream and to interpret the dream, for which faithful service, he was promoted. Later again in this chapter 2, there was another image, another dream, that the king had. This was revealed, but only God’s hand could promote Daniel to interpret the dream for which he was again promoted. And so we see a pattern of faithfulness and promotion throughout Daniel’s life. Of course, you see it in Jesus’ life, and it is, among other things, a model for you to follow as students, of course. You’ve got to be at the soccer game today or you won’t be promoted. In chapter 4, there is another dream, and another promotion.
In chapter 5, the kingdom experiences switches, between rulers rather, that is, from Nebuchadnezzar to Belshazzar. And Belshazzar was a fairly incompetent, party animal guy. And so, he had this great feast, he had the cups from the temple brought in to use for their libation. And there’s the hand-writing of God on the wall, which causes their knees to quiver. Belshazzar weakens and stoops down, and he promises that whoever can interpret that handwriting will be promoted. And Daniel, with the grace of God upon him, faithfully explains the interpretation: the judgment of God. And I want you to pause another second or two to think about what that cost him, what potential there was in that, to call out a tyrant like Belshazzar and pronounce judgment on him. But Daniel was faithful, and this tyrant, whose death sentence Daniel had now pronounced, promoted him.
And so we enter chapter 6 of our text, with Daniel now promoted because he is faithful. Now, this process of faithfulness—listen here, this is kind of the end of the story—this process of faithfulness and promotion was key to Daniel’s preparation for the lion’s den. That’s my sermon to you. And skipping ahead, I’m going to imply and state that your faithfulness to God is a key to your graduation, of course, but also to your usefulness in the hand of God. This is not just a model—this is more than that—but there is this model here: faithfulness leads to God’s blessing and promotion in his service to His kingdom.
Now, we’ll move on to the next point: Daniel was faithful and, therefore, persecuted. And that’s more the substance of this chapter, we read. Faithful, therefore persecuted: point two. Now, we see in the beginning of this chapter another promotion in store for Daniel. He is one of three presidents under King Darius of the Medes and Persians, and he’s doing such a good job that the king, the tyrant, planned to promote Daniel above the other guys. And so arises persecution. The sinful nature of these men! These other presidents and satraps sought to find ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom. But they could find no ground for complaint or any fault because he was faithful and no error was found in him. Now, sinful nature, all by itself, sets us up to be envious and jealous of those who do well.
My wife has a personal story that she’s told the family. When she was a student in high school, walking home with her friends, they had their report cards in their hands, and they said to Gail, “What is your report card like?” Now, she never had anything but A’s, so it wasn’t unusual for her to have all straight A’s. But, to other people, it seemed rare. Sound familiar? And so, when they found out she had all straight A’s, the came up with a little nickname for her. They were still her friends, but they were a little more guarded now. This is much more serious than that, and as you know politics, it’s even worse now I think than when I was a child or a student, I should say. It just seems that politics is all about defeating the guy on top.
These men had perhaps another reason for wanting Daniel demoted and that is that their responsibility was over the finances that the king might suffer no loss (verse 2). Daniel, therefore, at the top of the food chain (at least part of the food chain), made sure that all the books were right. There wasn’t gonna be any cheating on his watch. And I think it’s stated in this way to give us a hint at another motivation for these men to persecute Daniel, and that is because he was honest, not subject to corruption, and cut into their paycheck and benefits. Verse 5 tells us,“we shall not find any ground for complaining against Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” This is, of course, a compliment to him and would be to you if said of you. But they had their spies out. You’ll see an example of this if you read the same chapter, verse 11. They were looking for fault in Daniel. They checked his Facebook page. They did all kinds of research and could find no fault in him. And they concluded the only place they could find fault in Daniel was in his faith and religion. And so, they turned there. They began this plot against him. Of course, it’s the same with Jesus—which I mention again just to keep your minds on two parts of the Bible at the same time. Jesus was faultless, and the only place fault could be found was in His religion, His faith in the Lord, His belief in following the Scriptures. But that’s another sermon. And so, these men got together and they did not want to have Daniel demoted—they wanted to have Daniel eaten, eaten by the lions. They were out for complete disgrace, for complete condemnation. They only wanted this man’s blood to satisfy their anger and their lust for power. Again, that is why Jesus was killed, too—not for anything He did wrong.
Behind the scenes, is the real enemy: Satan. You know, of course, that this is part of redemptive history. And so, as you’re reading the Bible and you’re reading redemptive history, you know that there are connections that go throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. There are themes, and one of the major themes, of course, is Satan, our enemy. Though he subtly seduced our mother, Eve; and as he tried with great biblical trickery to seduce our Savior, Jesus; in the case of Daniel, he was not quite so subtle. And the motivation of these men was to set a trap for Daniel in the matter of religion.
The story is that they got together “by agreement” the ESV says. The idea is more like a pep rally. They all came in praising the king, boosting up his spirits, you know, lathering on the praise in order to seduce him quickly into a hasty decision to sign an injunction that—“you’re so great, O King, why don’t we agree to celebrate your greatness by having you sign this injunction that, for 30 days, nobody can make any petition to any other god or ruler except you.” I think it sort of flattered the king to have these underlings praise him so, and he signed the document very foolishly. Now, it says all the satraps and presidents were there, but one wasn’t there: Daniel. He was one of them, and he wasn’t there. And so, of course, they were lying when they told the king that,“we all agree—everybody’s agreed on this.” Maybe he thought it would bring their people together in some sort of unified way—I’m just supposing here that there’s any sort of reason why he would sign this other than vanity. But this is a picture of the spiritual warfare, because as the Bible tells us in 1 Peter, Satan is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. In the same manner, he is after you, as a roaring lion, seeking to persecute you if necessary. If he can’t get you to join the world, he’ll find some way to persecute you and discourage you, and then make you unfaithful, so you’re ineffective in the work of God’s kingdom. Now, I think another reason why Satan was after Daniel is, of course, the remaining chapters of Daniel, which are prophecy. Now, this is an educated guess on my part. The Bible doesn’t specifically point this out, but Satan of course knows what’s happening here. He knows who Daniel is. He knows that not only is he a type of Christ, which he despises, but he knows he is going to produce new revelation about the future and about the way to escape his own, Satan’s own, traps. And, for these reasons, Satan seeks to kill Daniel by the methodology.
Now, the story goes on, and verse 6 and following, we can examine their agreed upon plot. Their plot is to have this agreement made—signed, sealed, and delivered. And, notice how they emphasize that no law signed in this manner can be changed. We even have this phrase today: “the law of the Medes and the Persians.” So, you may come to your administrator and ask to have more time to do your paper, and you might say,“This isn’t the law of the Medes and Persians, after all!” It’s just a metaphor we use today. But anyway, they emphasize that so as to make clear that the king is trapped, and they remind him of that—“they came by agreement again and reminded him of the ordinance he signed that could not be changed.”
It’s come to the final point, and I think the main point I want to leave with you, and that is: Daniel was faithful and, therefore, prepared. That’s my point. The whole story of Daniel leads to and prepares for this. Not just prepared you, but prepared him. All that God had done for Daniel and through Daniel—all the grace God has shed abroad in his life to enable him to be faithful in service and persecution, promotions, all these things—led him to be prepared for the lion’s den. I want that to be what you take away today. “And when Daniel heard that the document had been signed, he went home crying.” It doesn’t say that. “He got his friends together and protested.” It doesn’t say that either. Rather, he went to a room in his house where he had upper windows facing Jerusalem (which would be East or Southeast), and he got down on his knees three times a day and prayed, gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. This is his routine.
I’ve said to some of you in private conversation that the fact that Daniel did this three times a day doesn’t make it a law for you. What happens in history in the Bible is not necessarily given as a law for you, unless it’s specifically written that way, or God commands you to do that. But this does give you the sense that there is need for regular times of prayer. And so that’s my first point under three: A. “by prayer.” How did he prepare himself? He was prepared by prayer. He did this regularly. He got down on his knees and cried out to God, and notice if you would that he prayed thanksgiving prayers. Not just pleas for help but also thanksgiving.
Daniel knew that where he now stood in that period of time in chapter 6, he was there because God had blessed him, because God had promoted him, because God had, so far, delivered him. And so, to pray to God was a most natural, heart-felt thing a servant like Daniel would do, like you do. He prayed three times a day as he faced Jerusalem. These years, these repeated days of prayer, these years of prayers had prepared Daniel to face the lion’s den. And, B. “By Scripture.” Now, Scripture is not pointed out as much as prayer, but why did Daniel, in chapter 1, not eat the king’s faire? It’s because he read Moses’ law and he was living his life according to Scripture, the Old Testament Scriptures. He would not eat the king’s food because the Word of God captivated his life. And, more than that, why did Daniel open his windows toward Jerusalem? Because he read 1 Kings chapter 8 where Solomon, in his great prayer dedicating the temple said to God,“If anybody is carried away from here and looks toward Jerusalem, will you hear their prayers?” So, you see, it’s Scripture that is guiding Daniel’s life. He won’t worship any other god, he won’t bow to any other image, because of the commandments of God, because of the covenant of God. And, we believe that Daniel, we’ll get to in chapter 9, you’ll see later on, that Daniel had also the prophecies of Jeremiah and Isaiah, which contain promises that this captivity would last only 70 years. He knew there was an end coming. And so, prayer and Scripture provided the strength for Daniel to prepare himself for the lion’s den or anything else that was happening.
You know the story of how God delivered him from the lion’s den. And the lesson is pretty simple: that there is possibly a lion’s den facing you, maybe of some version, now. But all your years of faithful worship, as Daniel’s, are given to prepare you for the future lions that come your way. I’ve been very encouraged as I’ve talked to you students privately about how you’ve come to this place—a Bible college—to get preparation for whatever life is before you. For some of you, you already know pretty clearly that God wants you in some form of full-time ministry. Some of you are looking at counseling—Christian counseling, serving the church. Others of you are getting a grounding for your life to do whatever other vocation God calls you to do. And God has given many vocations (i.e., Genesis chapters 1-2, the cultural mandate), which are just as valued to God as the spiritual ones. But the preparation for any calling from God is the same: the faithful, humble, diligent use of the means of grace. And that’s why you’re here today, listening to this chapel talk. I’ve heard it said a number of times, on T.V., in the news, even in my own ministry—when something awful happens, people have a way of saying, “Nothing, nothing can prepare you for this.” You’ve heard that. And in some ways it’s true. I mean, if you had certain kind of freak accident you hadn’t thought about at the time, that”s certainly true. But it actually is not true for you, for God’s people. In fact, everything that happens to you happens in order to prepare you for your next step of service. Everything that happens to you, from the hand of your Creator, happens to prepare you for the next step of service to God. It may be a lion—something gruesome, something awful. It may be a challenge that just takes your breath away—you’re afraid to enter into it. It might be marriage that maybe thrills you and also frightens you. But the thing that you need to realize is this: because God has put this in your life, whatever it is, He has actually prepared you to successfully negotiate this next step of service.
We know that this is again a model of Jesus, who, in His young life (Hebrews 5:8) suffered a lot to prepare Him for making Him more obedient, if you could imagine Jesus being “more obedient.” But Jesus went through all His young life of preparation and all His persecution, and was prepared for the cross because he spent time with His Father in prayer and immersed Himself in Scripture. Even better yet, now that He’s victorious, He is able to intercede for you.
Let’s pray to Him now. Our Father and God, we thank you for the Word that brings us such simple truths that are so profound. And no matter who we are, no matter what level we rise to or what depth we sink to, these biblical truths are always for us. And Father, I pray for these students, faculty, and staff, that You’ll bless them, that they will drink this message of Daniel into their lives this moment, and that I myself will, as well, that all that we will face tomorrow, we have been prepared for all these years, especially through our relationship of faith, Lord Jesus, and worship and prayer and Your Word. Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you rule in Heaven, now King of kings and Lord of lords. Our great High Priest, we turn to you in praise and thanksgiving and trust you to guide us through these next days, years, and lifetime. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Transcripts are lightly edited.