Daniel 6 : The Lions' Den
We are again in the great proud city of Babylon, with its palaces and temples. Another grand story is told us, and this time of Daniel himself. Darius was king, and Daniel was the most trusted and most honored of the rulers set over the kingdom. Other men less honored disliked Daniel and wished to do him harm. What complaint could they make against him? For he was faithful in everything and did everything well. They knew that Daniel worshiped the Lord and prayed to Him, and never to any idol or to any person. And so they came with a plan to the king, that a law should be made that no one for thirty days should make any prayer to any god or person, but only to the king, and that any one who broke this law should be cast into the den of lions. The law was made and signed.
What would Daniel do? His enemies knew what he would do. "He went into his house, and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." They came and found Daniel praying, and they complained to the king. The king was sorry, but the law had been made and signed. He could find no way to save Daniel, and he was cast into the den of lions. A stone was laid upon the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it so that it would not be moved. I am telling you too much of the story. We must read it in the Bible words, and listen for the part that tells what the king found when he came in the morning to the lions' den.
It is another grand story of Babylon, and Cyrus was the king who took Babylon and gave the Jews liberty to return to their own land. The Darius spoken of in Dan. 3:31 and in our story may have been an officer of Cyrus, temporarily in power. Soon Cyrus himself took charge. (Dan. 6:28)
We have learned of Cyrus king of Elam, the country to the east of Babylon, who after conquering Media, Persia, and much country to the north and west, took Babylon. It seems that for a time he made Darius ruler, but afterward Cyrus himself was king. This was the Cyrus who was hailed as the deliverer of the Jews in the prophecies of Isaiah. "That saith of Cyrus, He is My shepherd, and shall perform all My pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid." (Isa. 44:28; 45:1) It was this Cyrus who released the people from captivity and sent them back to Jerusalem, as we shall learn.
The pride and foolishness of Darius is shown in his commanding that prayers should be made to him, which ought only to be made to the Lord. It seem like the pride of Nebuchadnezzar over again, and grown worse.
How plainly we can see Daniel, not afraid of the king's law, going to his house and opening his window toward Jerusalem, kneeling in prayer three times a day. We remember the petition in Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple, that the Lord would hear and answer even captives in distant lands who should pray to Him "toward their land which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name." (1 Kings 8:44-48) We remember how the thoughts of the captives flew with the little birds to Jerusalem and how they longed to be there in the courts of the temple. (Ps. 84) In eastern countries, we think of Solomon's words and of the prayers of Daniel when we see faithful Mohammedans bowing in prayer toward their holy city Mecca. The Lord told us to go to our closet for prayer; and how can we open our window toward Jerusalem? Are we as faithful and as brave as Daniel in remembering our prayer to the Lord? In the spirit, we are on our knees in prayer though walking or sitting, when in desperation our desires to do right and to be right are strong and availing.
The lionsí den, like the fiery furnace, is a picture of the fierce cruelty of selfishness toward those who will not yield to it, when they wish to have their own way, or to be admired. Even in the church, there have been cruelties and persecutions of those who would not follow selfish leaders and give them honor. The Lord protects those who bravely trust in Him; even when they lose worldly things, even when their bodies suffer, their souls, their real selves, are safe and may have a sense of safety in the Lords protection. See the same promise in Ps. 91:1, 7.
Someone is waiting to tell me that there is no den of lions hereabouts, of which we need be afraid. But someone else replies that the den of lions that is really dangerous to us is not a den of wild beasts, nor the anger and violence of other people, but anger and hate rising up in our own hearts. The Lord warned us to beware of such beasts. (Matt. 5:21-22) And in that lionsí den of angry feelings and passions, the Lord will protect us. He met and overcame these lions in His temptations. (Mark 1:13) His power will protect us if we think of Him and ask His help and say His prayer or His commandment. The Lord is with us to protect us in the fiery furnace and to shut the lions' mouths. Were we in a fiery furnace or a lions' den during the week just past? Did we think of the Lord and feel His protection?
Let someone take up the last thought, about the lions, and show more fully how we may be in a lions' den, and what protection is promised in this story of Daniel. Animals represent affections, and fierce cruel animals represent fierce and cruel passions. In the account of the Lord's temptations, it is said that He "was with the wild beasts" (Mark 1:13), and in explanation the beasts are said to mean "the hells and the evils that rise out of them." (E. 650 end) A Psalm speaking of the Lord's crucifixion, and at the same time of our temptations, says, "They gaped upon Me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion." (Ps. 22:13) And another Psalm says, "My soul is among lions: and I lie among them that are set on fire." (Ps. 57:4) The lions are fierce evil passions; and the lions most dangerous to us are fierce passions aroused by evil spirits in our own hearts.
The lions of Babylon are the fierce passions that spring from a supreme self-love and desire to rule by means of holy things. Religions intolerance is one of them. (A. 10412)
It is the height of self-love and pride for a person to desire and to accept worship that belongs to the Lord alone. How did the angel answer John? "See thou do it not, for I am thy fellow servant . . . Worship God." (Rev. 22:9; 19:10) This spirit is the opposite of the spirit of serving others, which is the greatest in heaven. (Matt. 20:25-28)
The safety of Daniel in the lions' den (like the safety of the three friends in the fire) pictures the safety of those who seek the Lord's protection from these fierce passions. Remember the promise in the Psalm, "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet." (Ps. 91:13) The destruction of the enemies of Daniel by the lions (like the consuming of those who cast the three friends into the fire) pictures the spiritual destruction of those who indulge fierce evil passions and do not seek the Lord's protection from them. The anger which they feel towards others does more harm to themselves. The wives and the children of these men, who shared their fate, represent the developments of evil life that make one with the evil passion and should be condemned with it.
We remember the Lordís reference to Daniel in Matt. 24:15, which shows a relation of this book to states of the Christian Church, for the Lord in that chapter of Matthew is telling of states coming in the church toward its close. And we have found a development of this application of Daniel in Prophets and Psalms. In Daniel, as in Revelation and in all Scripture, Babylon is the symbol of love of rule, even by means of holy things. This spirit even claims to exercise Divine powers, and seeks honor and profit by them. We see this spirit in the decree of Darius, and we see the cruel rage of this spirit toward those who will not yield it worship in the lionsí den. It is rather startling to read in Prophets and Psalms that the lions' den is the Inquisition: not that the cruelty in the Christian Church known as the Inquisition is all that is meant by the lionsí den, but this was an example of the violence of self-love toward those who will not yield to it and give it worship.
The den of lions within ourselves is more to be feared than any outward persecution. What do fierce beasts represent? Lions may have a nobler meaning, but here they are symbols of fierce and cruel passions. But they are passions that the Lord overcame in His temptations and that He will help us to overcome. (Mark 1:13; Ps. 57:4) Think of the Lord and His protection when we read of one "like the son of God with the three in the fiery furnace," and when we read of the angel who closed the lionís mouths so that Daniel was unhurt. (Isa. 63:8-9) We may also think of angel helpers sent by the Lord to camp about us and to bear us up in their hands (Ps. 34:7; 91:12), and again we may think of these angels as the Lordís Divine truth given for our protection. Angel means messenger, and abstractedly, an angel is a message of Divine truth given for our guidance or protection. If in a time of temptation or of danger, we will remember the Lord's prayer or His commandment or other words of Scripture and feel its protection, we are realizing something of the lesson of the fiery furnace and the lions' den. There is power in the Divine truth of the Lord's Word to protect us in the den of lions, and to shut the lions' mouths. There is power in the Divine words to restrain hell itself, and to keep us safe in every temptation. (R. 900, 910)
Read in E. 1086 of the power of the Divine Word to restrain hell itself and to keep us safe in every temptation. "A man who is in genuine truth from the sense of the letter of the Word can cast down and dissipate all the diabolical crew, and their arts in which they place their power, which are innumerable, and this in a moment, by a look alone and by an effort of the will. In fine in the spiritual world nothing can resist the power of genuine truth, confirmed from the sense of the letter of the Word."