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DANIEL, GOD'S MAN IN THE FIELD (PART XII)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
17 SEPTEMBER 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Corinthians 2:16
Preparation Verse: (Isaiah 59:1)
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.
Last week we finished our discussion of leadership, and the fact that there can be both good and bad leadership.
We saw that both Darius and Herod made the wrong leadership decisions because of their pride.
We also talked about the fact that we who are Christians are all called to be leaders, and that we should be setting the example of righteous living to the remainder of the world.
Today we are going to look at the results of bad leadership, and see how God
intervenes at times to correct the situation and then at other times He doesn't.
What we are going to have to ask ourselves is: Do we love and trust God enough to accept His decision, even if that decision is not to deliver us from evil during this lifetime?
Let's return to our story of Daniel, beginning with verse 6:10 which takes place right after Darius had signed the injunction that was set forth in order to accuse Daniel.
10. 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.
Not only was Daniel under the sentence of death, if he continued praying as He is now doing in his upper room, but at the same time, he is praising and thanking God.
11. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God.
These men knew beforehand what Daniel was doing. They didn't have to come together to see him praying again, except for the fact that they were trying to justify to themselves their evil acts by saying in front of each other, "See, he is breaking the law."
If our heart is set on doing evil, we will do evil; but if our heart is set on doing good, we will do good.
12. 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?" The king answered and said, "The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked."
Through their action and the king’s pride, they have successfully moved the responsibility for their actions to the king.
But they are nevertheless guilty themselves.
13. 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."
This is where the king’s balloon of pride is broken.
The first pin was stuck in when he heard them refer to Daniel, the second highest ruler in the land, as an exile from Judah.
The second pin came when they admitted that this was done just to remove Daniel from his office, for when they said that Daniel "keeps making his petition," it showed that this was their intent all along.
The king may have been prideful, but he was not stupid.
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.
His pride trapped him, and kept him trapped, in a foolish law.
He was still the supreme commander. He could have admitted his mistake by stating the facts; but he did not, for his whole culture was trapped in this rigid form, and he was not about to test the system.
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."
Note how crafty they are. They are the ones who convinced the king to establish this injunction, and then they blame the king because he has not done something to carry it out.
This is a lesson to all of us. There are people with the same evil intent today. They just love to get us to do their dirty work, and then when they get caught, they blame it on us.
Watch out for such people.
Don't get caught in the same trap as the king.
16. Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions' den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, "Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you."
The very fact that the king could still talk to Daniel was already a sign that God was helping him.
17. And a stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing might be changed in regard to Daniel.
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.
It does not say that the king prayed to God; but by his actions, there is evidence that he is truly sorry for what he has done.
He is repenting before God.
19. Then the king arose with the dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions' den.
20. And when he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?"
The king is troubled in his heart.
He cries out to Daniel, in hope beyond hope that he is still alive.
And for the second time in this passage, he expresses the witness that Daniel has had before him: as a man who constantly serves God.
Because of that witness of Daniel, Darius seems to have been delivered from his idolatry, for idols are not living, and he refers to God as "the living God."
If we, as Christians, would only learn to live as Daniel's example:
a life that reflects our living God,
a life that does no harm to another living being,
a life in Jesus Christ,
we also might turn more people to God.
In his humbled state, the king hopes to hear something from Daniel.
21. Then Daniel spoke to the king, "O king, live forever!
22. "My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime."
Here Daniel addresses the king in the same manner that the unrighteous administrators addressed him: "O king, live forever!" They did it for flattery and to play on the king's pride, but Daniel does it in a manner that reflects the king’s change of heart: that he might truly live forever with God in heaven.
Daniel also acknowledges that because he didn't sin against God, he has been spared, and he also acknowledges that he hadn't sinned against the king either, for he had respected his authority and knew that his reaction to the king's edict had nothing to do with his obedience to him, and understood that the king knew this also.
23. Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
His deliverance was as a sign to a heathen nation, so that they might repent and come to our God who is different from all other so-called gods; for none of them could have saved anyone from the lions' den.
24. The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children, and their wives into the lions' den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
Do you see the parallel here between the lions' den and hell?
Those who believe in the Lord and serve Him will not be hurt by hell, but those who do not, will be overpowered and crushed by the powers of hell, and their lives will be taken away from them.
The choice is really ours.
We can take our chances with the lions of this world, or we can trust in the Lord our God. And even in saying this, I can't help but feel sorry for the comparison of using the lions' power as an example of the powers of hell, for even the lions were used by people, and would not do evil without the acts of humankind upon them.
25. Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language who were living in all the land: "May your peace abound!
26. "I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel;
For He is the living God and enduring forever,
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed,
And His dominion will be forever.
27. "He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth,
Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions."
28. So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Next week we will see more of Daniel, but in the meantime let's take a look
at Acts 12, beginning at verse one, and see something else about how God
delivers and does not deliver.
1. Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church, in order to mistreat them.
2. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.
3. And when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread.
Last week we saw that Herod had put John the Baptist to death, and here we see that James is put to death, and that Peter is arrested.
Why is it that Daniel was delivered from death and not these others?
Some of the answers we may never know before we get to heaven, but our understanding can only come through our faith and trust in God.
We must try to think like God thinks, or as we are told in 1 Corinthians 2:16, "we have the mind of Christ"; and with this mind of Christ we will obtain peace, if not complete understanding.
John the Baptist may have been allowed to die so that there would be no confusion between him and Jesus Christ. He had been the witness, but with the beginning of Jesus' ministry, his work was completed.
And with James, the first of the Twelve to be martyred, it may just have been
the witness of his death before others, just as the death of Stephen had a
positive effect on Paul.
We don't have a definitive answer, and just have to truly trust in God, and realize that even if we die in Christ Jesus, yet shall we live with Him.
But what about Peter?
4. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people.
The king’s reaction is overkill.
He doesn't really need four squads of soldiers to guard anyone in prison, but even four squads is not enough to prevent God from intervening.
5. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.
No matter what, no matter how bad the situation, we are never to give up; we are to continue to hope and pray.
6. And on the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains; and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison.
The Hebrew day is from sunset to sunset, and Herod is planning to bring him out in the morning following the night; thus he has placed many guards around Peter, because of his importance in the church and so that there would be no chance of escape.
But then, there is always God.
7. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter's side and roused him, saying, "Get up quickly." And his chains fell off his hands.
8. And the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and put on your sandals." And he did so. And he said to him, "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me."
9. And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.
10. And when they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street; and immediately the angel departed from him.
11. And when Peter came to himself, he said, "Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."
God had indeed delivered Peter.
So often we make the mistake of not allowing God room to move or to take the action He wishes, for we don't accept that it could be possible for Him to do anything and everything.
I waited for God, and He showed me Jesus.
I waited for God, and He placed me in the ministry in a way that is almost as
miraculous as that of Peter's release.
I waited for God, and He prospered our business so that it would support the ministry.
I waited for God, and He moved Mary and me away from contributing to the suffering or death of any human or animal to become vegan peacemakers.
Daniel waited for God, and he was delivered; yet James was not delivered.
Peter waited for God, and he was delivered.
God's ways are not always our ways, and His view of a situation is not always the way we see it.
We just have to learn to trust God's decisions.
12. And when he [Peter] realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
13. And when he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer.
14. And when she recognized Peter's voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate.
15. And they said to her, "You are out of your mind!" But she kept insisting that it was so. And they kept saying, "It is his angel."
Why were they gathered in Mary's house to pray, if they didn't want God to deliver Peter?
Yet when he came to the door, they wouldn't believe it.
They believed that Peter's angel could be at the door, but they couldn't believe that the same angel, or another angel, could also set him free.
They couldn't believe because their faith was weak, and they didn't leave room for God.
God's work is going on all around us, yet we fail to recognize it.
And through all of this, Peter was still outside:
16. But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.
So often we are like these people. We pray to God, and then we are amazed when He answers us.
Our God is able to do anything.
17. But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, "Report these things to James and the brethren." And he departed and went to another place.
He sent them to tell James, the brother of Jesus and the other believers, so that they also would realize that a miracle had indeed occurred. He knew that James would believe without seeing, as we all should.
But what about Herod and the guards?
What happened in the morning?
18. Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter.
19. And when Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there.
Herod also left no room for God; thus he was convinced that the guards were part of a plot to let Peter escape, and probably many believe that, even to this very day.
My brethren, as a church we must begin to leave room for God.
We must learn to trust Him more, so that He will answer our prayers.
And even if He doesn't answer us in the way that we think He should, we should still trust His decision, for He is God.
Deliverance can also be from our doubt.