June 13, 2024
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Daniel and the Lion’s (Angel’s) Den Manuscript

SERMON TITLE: Daniel and the Lion’s (Angel’s) Den
‌TEXT: Daniel 6:1-28 (NLT)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
‌DATE: 6-16-24

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WELCOME

As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re here with us for the first time — are joining us at our North Main Campus or are with our friends in Bucyrus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.

SERIES INTRO

We’re continuing our series in the book of Daniel today — looking at what it means to live in exile. And we’re picking up in a section of the book that we didn’t have time to finish last week — a section that contains a familiar story for many of us — Christian or not — possibly the moment Daniel’s life in exile is known for. We covered much of the chapter last week — but let’s read it in its entirety — so we’re all caught up. We’re in Daniel chapter six — beginning in verse one.

Daniel 6:1–28 (NLT)
1
Darius the Mede decided to divide the kingdom into 120 provinces, and he appointed a high officer to rule over each province. 2 The king also chose Daniel and two others as administrators to supervise the high officers and protect the king’s interests. 3 Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire. 4 Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. 5 So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.” 6 So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! 7 We are all in agreement — we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors — that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human — except to you, Your Majesty — will be thrown into the den of lions. 8 And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” 9 So King Darius signed the law. 10 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. 11 Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking for God’s help. 12 So they went straight to the king and reminded him about his law. “Did you not sign a law that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human — except to you, Your Majesty — will be thrown into the den of lions?” “Yes,” the king replied, “that decision stands; it is an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they told the king, “That man Daniel, one of the captives from Judah, is ignoring you and your law. He still prays to his God three times a day.” 14 Hearing this, the king was deeply troubled, and he tried to think of a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament. 15 In the evening the men went together to the king and said, “Your Majesty, you know that according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, no law that the king signs can be changed.” 16 So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” 17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night. 19 Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?” 21 Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22 My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” 23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God. 24 Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den. 25 Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! 26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. 27 He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

INTRODUCTION

Last week I mentioned how I think we’ve made a mistake in the title we give this story — Daniel and the Lion’s Den. I like Daniel and the Angel’s Den better — as the angel — not the lions — plays a more significant role in the story. And — even though I’m sure that one sermon won’t change our minds on what we call this story — for today — we’re calling it Daniel and the Angel’s Den.

Something important we learned last week is how — in this land of exile — we’ll experience opposition from those who disagree with our faith. And this will happen even when we’re good citizens, productive employees, and kind to our neighbors — for this world is not our home — this nation is not where our primary citizenship lies — thus we should not be surprised when we experience opposition. 

We also talked about the various ways Christians have responded to this opposition: adapting, adopting, or resisting. And we saw that resistance — which is what we see in Daniel’s life — resistance requires us being committed to God and how he’s told us to live — while we live in this land of exile. And this idea of resistance — because of our commitment to our God — comes from the key verse in our chapter — verse ten — which states…

Daniel 6:10 (NLT)Z
10
But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.

THE DEN AND THE CROSS

Daniel knew both what the land of exile demanded of him and what his commitment to God required of him — and he chose commitment to his God regardless of the consequences. And — what may have surprised you the most — if you were with us last week — is that Daniel does all of this while being somewhere around the age of ninety years old! He’s lived in Babylon for about seventy years — he’s been a faithful servant to multiple kings — he’s done what’s only been best for this foreign land while being faithful to his God. And — what kind of thanks has he received? Multiple threats against his life which we’ve previously encountered in the book.

Yet the opposition he’s faced has not caused him to waver in his commitment to his God. Even when his opponents knew the only way to trap him was by creating a law that would force him to compromise his faith — Daniel would rather break the law — and suffer the consequences for doing so — rather than compromise on his faith. An example — for us who follow Jesus today in this land of exile — of the commitment required of us to be faithful to our God and Savior. A commitment we can’t live up to — on our own — for our commitment to our God and Savior must find its strength in our belief that he first demonstrated his commitment to us. And — his commitment to us — includes going with us — even into the pit of death. We’re in verse fourteen and — for some context — the king’s just been informed by Daniel’s opponents that Daniel has continued to pray to his God three times a day.

Daniel 6:14–28 (NLT)
14
Hearing this, the king was deeply troubled, and he tried to think of a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament. 15 In the evening the men went together to the king and said, “Your Majesty, you know that according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, no law that the king signs can be changed.” 16 So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” 17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night. 19 Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?” 21 Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22 My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” 23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God. 24 Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den. 25 Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! 26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. 27 He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Daniel’s commitment to his God results in him being put in a den — a pit — essentially he’s buried alive to be torn to shreds by the lions. His opponents meant for this to be his death. And all of this is happening to him because he refused to compromise his faith. I appreciate what one pastor says about this moment in Daniel’s life. He writes, “The Lord allows the aged Daniel to face his greatest challenge in a lion’s den to say to his people then and to us now: Trust me.” (Bryan Chapell)

Trust me. 

As we’ve previously learned — faith and trust are synonymous. To trust God is to have faith in him. We never age out of faith — Daniel’s in his nineties. We never educate out of faith. We never “life experience” out of faith. We’re created to be men and women of faith — who trust our God always — in all situations — especially during the incredibly hard ones we experience in this land of exile. Daniel went into the pit trusting in his God. 

Now — at this point — what I find interesting is the difference we see between Daniel and Darius. Daniel — as far as we can tell — calmly — trustingly — with peace — goes into the den. Meanwhile Darius — who personally has nothing to worry about — can’t enjoy any of his usual forms of entertainment. One man’s at peace — the other isn’t — and the one who’s at peace is not who you’d expect to be at peace! Daniel’s trust in his God gave him a peace that surpassed his understanding of the situation. 

Trust me. 

Again, another author is helpful in stretching our imagination of all that’s happening. He writes, “Daniel actually spent a far more comfortable night in the stinking pit than Darius did in his royal luxury. We may almost imagine the prophet leaning back on a warm, furry lion, conversing for hours with the angel about heavenly things, until he was so rudely interrupted by Darius’s question [the next morning].” (Iain Duguid)

I don’t know about you — but I’ve never considered the king’s question — early the next morning — as an interruption for Daniel — but it’s a glorious thought, isn’t it? For Daniel to be at such peace in the presence of God’s angel — that he would’ve been just fine spending more time in a pit full of lions — in no rush to leave. Regardless of what’s going on in your life right now — what kind of peace do you have because of God’s presence with you?

The peace offered to you — is a peace made possible because Jesus went down into another pit — the pit of death and hell — when he gave his life — in love — for the sins of the world — including your sins. His death was a sacrifice needed in order to bring peace between us and God — for our relationship with him had been broken because of our rebellion and sin. That’s what the biblical theme of exile is meant to remind us — this world is not the way it should be — it’s not the home we were created for — something terrible has happened resulting in us wandering in a spiritual, relational, emotional, and physical wasteland. We’re all searching for home and can’t seem to find it. Yet — the promise for those who follow Jesus — is that our time here in exile is leading us to our spiritual home — a spiritual oasis — a beautiful garden in the center of a new heavens and earth.

However — and this is incredible news — instead of an angel of God being sent to protect and comfort us — Jesus — God in the flesh — came to earth to protect us from our enemy — Satan — by freeing us from our enslavement to him. And — in rising from the grave and ascending to Heaven — Jesus sent us the promised Comforter — the Holy Spirit — to live in us. Thus — we have something far better than what Daniel had in the lion’s den. An angel is great — but God the Son and God the Spirit being with us is infinitely better! And as we live — depending on the Spirit of God who is in us — we can fulfill the apostle Paul's words — when he tells us…

Philippians 4:6–7 (NLT)
6
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Here we are — brought back to prayer again. Daniel was committed to prayer — even when it meant breaking the king’s new law. And his commitment to prayer led to him experiencing peace even while being lowered into a pit of death. 

On the night he was betrayed — Jesus prayed. And — at the end of his prayer we see that he trusts in his Father’s plan. A plan of salvation and peace — though it would require Jesus entering a different pit of death. And Paul tells us that we too can experience peace — no matter the circumstances we face — a peace that comes through prayer — through knowing and trusting in our God. For our God — who defeated Satan — our enemy who prowls around like a lion — is the God who shut the mouths of lions for Daniel. And it is this God — who offers you peace — in any and all circumstances you might find yourself in — as you live in this land of exile.

FIGHTING THE DEVIL WITH PRAYER

In a book I was recently reading, I was introduced to a late fourth century monk named Evagrius Ponticus. History tells us that Evagrius went out into the Egyptian desert to fight the devil — I bet that got your attention. Well rumors began to spread that there was a monk — out in the middle of the desert — at war with the devil — and the word on the street was that he was winning. Folks started to brave the desert to find Evagrius and ask him his secret to fighting against the devil. Someone even asked him to write down his strategy, which became a book titled Talking Back: A Monastic Handbook for Combating Demons.

Now — our land of exile tells us that there is no devil — a lie the devil would love for us to believe. As a reminder — Jesus believed the devil was both real and an enemy. Even if you don’t believe that Jesus is divine — maybe you just think he was a remarkable teacher — don’t be quick to dismiss what he has to say about the devil.

The author of the book I was reading said this: “If Jesus’s anthem is ‘On earth as it is in heaven,’ the devil’s anthem is ‘On earth as it is in hell.” (John Mark Comer) Which explains why this land of exile is full of hate, greed, murder, lust, and — well — hell. So — if you don’t take Jesus’ words about the devil at face value — just look around — evidence of his existence is all around us.

Here’s why I bring this up. I want to give us all some hope as I know we’ve been traveling in some challenging waters in this series. Living in exile isn’t easy. Remaining faithful to God in exile is like waking up in a war every single day. Add to this that — for some of us — maybe even many of us — the devil’s goal of “on earth as it is in hell” has been all too real — whether due to the death of someone we love, a broken relationship, the inability to get pregnant, depression, anxiety, spiritual apathy, cancer — you name it — this land of exile can really dish it out.

So — I want to end on some hope — with some good news. Let’s talk about fighting the devil in prayer — or — as Evagrius put it — talking back and combating demons — something all followers of Jesus can do because we have God’s Word and God’s Spirit to lead, guide, empower, and direct us.

The enemy we face is the father of lies. We see his lies in this land of exile — where God’s truth is constantly being exchanged for lies. But I want to talk — not about the lies out there — in culture — but how these lies show up daily in our lives and how we can fight back against them and — thus — defeat the devil by the power of God’s Word and Spirit. None of us are above believing these lies. None of us are immune to this — you don’t outgrow this with age — thus we’re all in desperate need of freedom from believing the lies of our enemy and trusting in the truth of God’s Word and his promises to us.

What are some examples of the lies I’m talking about? Again — let’s take a step back from the ideological lies of this land of exile — and face the messiness of real, everyday life.

It’s the lie believed by the teenage girl who constantly compares herself to what she sees on social media — the lie that says “Since I don’t look like that — I’m ugly and unworthy of being loved.”

It’s the man or woman working, doing their best, doing a good job — who’s constantly passed over for the promotion — the lie that says “Everything I do is a failure — I’m a failure — why bother.”

It’s the Christian living with chronic pain and doesn’t feel God’s presence — the lie that says “God doesn’t care about you — he’s abandoned you.”

It could be the middle-aged woman who was raised by a perfectionist mother — who believes the lie, “I have to be perfect or others will be angry with me.”

Or the lie many men believe who had an emotionally distant father — “My value is determined by my success.”

Let’s talk about these kinds of lies — the lies we’re constantly bombarded with. These lies — that we so easily believe — are cruel, painful, can paralyze us, cause us to doubt, make us ineffective, and keep us from experiencing the blessings that have been promised to us. These lies can make life hellish. This land of exile makes it easy to make a person or a group out to be our enemy — but the real war we’re in isn’t against flesh and blood. God’s Word tells us that our enemy isn’t each other — our enemy is the father of lies — one who’s like a lion ready to pounce.

So how do we fight the devil and his lies?

You’re going to see how this all connects to Daniel’s story in a moment but — for now — and as a warning — this will take intentionality and work on your part. The Spirit of God is willing to help you — but this is a work you must choose to do — it won’t be forced on you. Something I learned a long time ago is that God allows his people to be as miserable as we choose to be. He’s made freedom and joy and hope available — but he gives us a choice in the matter. And — far too many Christians never grasp the freedom, joy, and hope that is theirs — because grasping it requires that they fight against the devil and his lies and — instead of fighting — many Christians just live a miserable, hopeless, defeated life. 

But not us — not any more — let’s choose to fight against the devil…with prayer — there’s our Daniel connection — prayer. Here’s how we fight.

First, we must be aware of our thoughts. Those examples of lies — that I mentioned earlier — are just a handful of thousands of lies each of us think on a regular basis. Most of us have a few lies that are on repeat in our minds. Like a broken record — they keep replaying over and over again. So — to fight — we must be aware of our thoughts and what lies we’re believing. 

Here’s an example from the book I was reading — imagine this thought being on repeat in your mind: 

“What if I lose my job and can’t make my car payment? I really love my car — I’d hate to lose it.”

Again — this may not be something you think about — but imagine that you do. What’s the lie beneath this thought?

One possible lie is this: My safety and security are in my job — and owning newer, nicer things will make me happy. 

“Man, Josh. That takes some real reflection.” You’re right! So often we live in the world of our thoughts without doing the work of examining if what we’re thinking is based on God’s truth or the father of lies. And — for many of us — our thoughts are more influenced by the father of lies and this land of exile than they are by the truth of God’s Word. Which leads us to the next step — in how we fight — now that we’ve discovered the lie we’re believing.

Again — the repetitive thought is: What if I lose my job and can’t make my car payment? I really love my car — I’d hate to lose it. The lie beneath the thought is: My safety and security are in my job — and owning newer, nicer things will make me happy. 

The truth from God’s Word is this:

Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)
5
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

If this land of exile wants us to exchange the truth of God for a lie — the way we fight the devil — and live with hope in this land of exile — is by exchanging his lies with God’s truth. Which means — we must know God’s Word if we’re going to use it to fight against the lies of our enemy in prayer. 

Take your pick of any recent research on Bible reading in the US and you’ll find that it…is…dismal. Most researchers don’t even bother to ask about daily Bible reading anymore because so few of us read our Bibles daily. Instead, they ask about reading your Bible “once a week or more” in order to get decent data. Once a week is now the gold star standard for Bible reading in our land of exile.

Folks, we’re bombarded with lies from our enemy all day long. Do we want freedom, do we want hope, do we want joy, and life? Do you want freedom, do you want hope, do you want joy, and life? You’re not going to find it without being a man or woman of God’s Word. Without being men and women of God’s Word the best we can hope for is to be men and women who’ve been set free by Christ — only to live defeated lives because we have no way to fight against the devil and his lies. Who wants to live that kind of life?

To fight the devil and his lies we must be aware of the thoughts we have — especially the ones that are on repeat. Then we must recognize the lie that’s behind these thoughts. And then we must replace the lie with truth from God’s Word.

If you’re not sure where to begin, get a copy of Talking Back: A Monastic Handbook for Combating Demons and see what Evagrius has to say about fighting the devil. Or grab a copy of John Mark Comer’s book Live No Lies for a modern take on the topic. And — if you don’t know where to begin with the Bible — I’ve written this booklet on how to make the most of your devotional time — an overview of what I do — both in God’s Word and in prayer — on a daily basis. You can grab a physical copy for free at the resource center at your campus and digital copies are available on our website — gatewayepc.org/booklets.

CONCLUSION

Back to Daniel.

About this moment in his life — it’s been said, “The message to Daniel’s people and to us is that our hope in God is not misplaced. Though we may have to wait to see the results of our faithfulness — and may never see them until we are with him — our God will accomplish his purposes. So we trust him and live for him.” (Bryan Chapell)

Ultimately, whether it’s fighting the devil or being willing to be thrown into a pit of lions — it all comes down to our trust in our God. What we’re to learn from Daniel’s life is that our hope in God isn’t misplaced — your trust in God isn’t a waste — in fact trusting God is the only thing that makes sense in this world. And the reason why it makes sense is because we’re the people who trust in what Christ has first done for us in coming to this world of exile — to be thrown into a pit of death — only to rise again as the conqueror of the grave and the one who defeated our lion-like enemy. And you trusting in Jesus — and what he’s done — is trust that’s never misplaced. Let’s pray.

PRAYER

Holy Father, as we come to you in prayer, we begin by thanking and praising you for giving us your Word. Your Word is truth. Your Word is what we’re to believe. It’s what we’re to live by. It’s where life, hope, joy, and peace are found. For it’s by believing in your Word — the gospel — that we experience Christ’s defeat of our enemy.

Holy Spirit, you take the truth of the Word and apply it to our hearts and lives. But there’s a freedom we have — a freedom that all who believe in Christ are given — a freedom to now live holy, committed, obedient lives for the glory of our God and Savior. To live according to your truth — or to live according to the lies of our enemy. Lies we’ve been set free from — are lies we so easily return to — for often it’s easier to believe a lie than it is to be men and women who are committed to living according to your truth.

But — Jesus — you’ve told us that you are the truth. And when the devil tempted you to believe his lies you rejected him — not once — not twice — but three times in the wilderness you rejected the lies of your and our enemy — and lived according to the truth — and you did so to purchase our freedom. For our freedom cost you your perfect life of obedience to your Father’s will and Word. And — in believing you — we now have the opportunity — and privilege — to live a life of obedience for your glory and for the good of those who live in this land of exile with us.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you’ve given us the truth of your Word, the power we need to reject the lies of our enemy, and the wisdom to replace his lies with your truth. Help us, we pray, to demonstrate our love for you by not giving in — but by fighting the devil and his lies — as we trust you and your Word of truth. We pray all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

BENEDICTION

May you go exchanging the lies of our enemy with the truth of God’s Word — trusting your God and Savior as you live in this land of exile. Amen.

God loves you. I love you. You are sent.

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