The book of Daniel is known for many thing, but the two most famous are the three (four!) men in the fiery furnace and our reading for today; Daniel in the den of lions. Because of the jealousy of a few Babylonian leaders and for his faithful homage to the living God, Daniel is thrown into a den of lions, kept specifically for the purpose of punishing those who do wrong before the king. Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego go bravely in to the furnace, believing God will take care of them, Daniel goes bravely into the lion’s den, know that God will care for him either in the den or in death. Either way, he does not waver from his faith.
While we pay attention to Daniel in this story, the reading is actually about King Darius. He’s the one who makes the transition from pagan to knowing about the True God. We watch in fascination as Darius is manipulated by his “governors” so that he will instate a law designed to stroke his ego and end Daniel’s life. Then Darius tries valiantly to undo the damage he has done in order to save Daniel’s life. When that fails, Darius struggles through a sleepless night hoping that the impossible has happened. Perhaps Daniel’s God is strong enough to save him from the lions! His response to Daniel being spared from death is instantaneous. Those responsible for setting Daniel up for this fall are thrown (along with their entire families) into the lions’ den themselves. And God is praised by Darius for His strength and sovereign power. We aren’t actually able to state that Darius became a believer in God right then and there and the text is silent about what was in his heart. What we know for sure is that Darius saw God act with power and might and recognized God when he saw Him. Daniel lives to be an old man, serving the kings of Babylon.
Hopefully, we too stand in awe of this God who is able to save a man through a night with lions. Sometimes we have lost the ability to be awed by what God has done and that is rather sad. I hope your imagination places you right there in the den with Daniel, praising God for His might and power to save Daniel's life and prove that He is worthy of honor and praise.
After this event, yet another king sits on the throne (Cyrus) before Daniel dies as a ruler and slave in Babylon. Of course we still have much of Daniel to study, for now we enter the part of the book that is eschatological (dealing with the end times) in tone. The study of one of God’s heroes of the Bible continues!