God Opposes The Proud
Daniel 4,5, and 6. We’re going to try to cover three chapters tonight. So we are going to be moving somewhat quickly through these three stories.
Human pride. This is one of the biggest problems with humans, is our pride. When God looks down at the human race, it must be very strange for him to see these tiny little beings shaking their fists and claiming to be something great on our own. It would be like if you could look down on an ant and that ant would walk along and boast that he is the greatest creature that has ever lived and shake his little fists (or whatever they have at the end of those legs), claiming to be an end in of itself. But you think, “you are so small, why can’t you see that? Why can’t you see things the ways they really are?” We have these delusions of grandeur and God loves us enough that he opposes those. He opposes our pride and it’s because he’s got something to give you and you can’t receive that as long as you persist in pride. And so, he loves us enough to break through those delusions of grandeur.
Tonight, we are going to see three kings, each with their own version of pride, three of the greatest men who’d ever lived. And we’re going to see how God worked in their lives to try to humble them to give them a chance to come to grips with reality. And we’re hoping to learn something about pride as well and how God might work in our lives.
So let’s just go ahead and look at the first of these three stories, starting in Daniel 4. Daniel 4 starts with our good friend King Nebuchadnezzar. We have seen a couple of stories about him already. And it says,
King Nebuchadnezzar sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world
What follows is the only chapter in scripture written by a Babylonian. Now, I’m sure Daniel helped write this down. I don’t know how much Nebuchadnezzar saw of Daniel’s final product that we have in the pages of scripture here, but this is a pretty unique first person autobiographical account from Nebuchadnezzar’s life about when he came to be a believer in the true God. This story we are going to read is probably a decade or more into Nebuchadnezzar’s 43 year reign. In fact, we have that one story we studied last week in Daniel 1 about the very beginning of Daniel’s time in Babylon. After that, there are only two more stories from the rest of Nebuchadnezzar’s 43 year reign. The one we studied a few weeks ago about the fiery furnace and then this one here tonight. So these must be very significant stories for these to be the ones that God wanted to record. He says,
Peace and prosperity to you! I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me. I, Nebuchadnezzar, was living in my palace in comfort and prosperity. But one night I had a dream that frightened me; I saw visions that terrified me as I lay in my bed.
And so, on the one hand this guy, he’s not just a king, he is a king of kings. He’s an emperor. He’s conquered other kings and he’s made them subject to him. And you know, you probably couldn’t find a guy who is more comfortable and prosperous than King Nebuchadnezzar. And yet, he’s like one of those people that has climbed the ladder all the way to the top and gotten to the top and realized, this is not what I expected it to be when I got here. And so, even though he’s as comfortable and prosperous as any human being perhaps has ever been, he’s still lying there at night, frightened and terrified as he thinks about the future. And he’s looking for answers.
Well, he calls in his wise men and none of them could interpret his dream. He says,
At last Daniel came in before me and I told him the dream.
Yes, Daniel, the interpreter of dreams. He says, Daniel,
I saw a large tree in the middle of the Earth. The tree grew really tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. And then as I lay there dreaming, I saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven. The messenger shouted, “Cut down the tree and lop off its branches! For seven periods of time let him have the mind of a wild animal instead of the mind of a human...so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world.
So this is a lesson about the sovereignty of God. That’s the theme in the book of Daniel, one of the themes, the sovereignty of God over all human mighty people and empires. He gives the kingdom to the world to anyone he chooses even to the lowliest of people. Well,
upon hearing this dream Daniel, also known as Belthesazzar, was overcome for a time frightened by the meaning of the dream.
So he hears this and sits there terrified. He can’t even speak and then the king says to him,
Belteshazzar, don’t be alarmed by the dream and what it means.
He says, ‘tell me!’ And so this would be like going to your doctor and he’s got the test results and he’s just sitting there trembling. He doesn’t want to tell you what it is. That would be terrifying.
Belteshazzar [Daniel] replied, ‘I wish the events foreshadowed in this dream would happen to your enemies, my lord, and not to you!
And here I think you see some of Daniel’s care for Nebuchadnezzar. You know, he’d known him for 10-20 years. I’m sure he was praying for him and you know, seeing this guy who’s king of the world and praying that God would somehow break through to him, serving him faithfully. And now here is this guy who he has become friends with and he’s sad about what this dream predicts is going to happen to him. He says,
That tree, Your Majesty, is you.
The tree that was chopped down. He says,
You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You’ll eat grass like a cow, your highness. You will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.
Nebuchadnezzar has become too proud. He won’t acknowledge God and God is going to send this into his life. And so he says,
King Nebuchadnezzar please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.
You know, it would be pretty hard to be humble in King Nebuchadnezzar’s shoes. You know, he’s the King of the World. I mean, we have trouble being humble and so this guy, you can understand where he is coming from. But at the same time, God has already declared that you defeated Jerusalem because God let you. He sent him this dream that shows the succession of world empires that Babylon is going to go down. And he’s also had this miracle of the fiery furnace where Nebuchadnezzar’s greatest efforts to destroy these three guys was thwarted, and yet he still will not bow before the true God. And so, God is opposing Nebuchadnezzar’s pride because he wants to give grace to him. Because he has something he is offering him, but he can’t receive it in this state of pride.
And so how does Nebuchadnezzar respond to this warning from God? Well, as far as we can see, he does nothing! A whole year goes by. He does nothing! Then, twelve months later, it says he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace of Babylon which was one of the ancient wonders of the world. And it says,
As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’
God is not against architecture or beauty. He created those concepts. What he is against is pride. And,
While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom.’
BOOM. In that same hour, the judgment was fulfilled. And Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He goes crazy.
He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws.
Could A Man Really Live Like An Animal?
It seems like one of those crazy stories that show Daniel is B.S., and that there is no way that it could have happened. Not so fast. Maybe some of you who are psychology majors know this about the rare human disease known as Boanthropy. From the words bovine (cow) and anthrose (man). Cow-man-syndrome. It’s different from mad cow disease. It's a psychological disorder where you think you are a cow. Perhaps you have seen the 1969 Ukranian movie “The Cow.” Award winning actually. This farmer loses his cow and is so sad that he starts to become a cow. It could be the related syndrome Clinical Lycanthropy. Anybody know what that is? Right, it is where you think you are a wolf. That one is a little more common than Boanthropy. A lot of the werewolf lore, it comes from people who had Clinical Lycanthropy. They started howling thinking they are wolves.
I don’t know how Daniel knew about these very psychological illnesses, unless maybe he witnessed one. How does this fit in with historical records of Nebuchadnezzar? That’s another question people wonder about. We don’t have anything from secular history on this. You know, it lasted seven ‘periods of time.’ Some of our bibles say seven years but it just means seven periods of time. Long enough for him to get eight inches of hair and one inch nails. But you know, it wouldn’t have to take seven years to get that long to get eight-inch hair. I mean eight-inch hair, some of us in this room have that. Some of us have eight-inch beards and we are proud of them for some reason. It is a judgment of God, okay! One-inch nails? I bet some people here have one-inch nails. Seven days wouldn’t be long enough but seven months would be enough to get there. Ancient historians didn’t highlight the failures of their kings; it was a good way to get executed. Even today royal families will cover up embarrassing things, mental illnesses for example, and he had a mental illness. They were embarrassed by it. And we should keep in mind that archaeology is still discovering and translating the cuneiform tablets.
For example, “Meticulous historical records are available up to about the eleventh year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, after which the chronicles are practically silent.”
Paul Ferguson, “Nebuchadnezzar, Gilgamesh, and the ‘Babylonian Job,’” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (37/3, September 1994), 332.
You can also Google tablet BM34113 and you can read more. This is a pretty intriguing tablet that seems to indicate that there came a point in time, it’s fragmentary, but a point in time where people had to stop listening to Nebuchadnezzar. His son ruled for a while and then he took back over at a certain point. And so, it actually fits with this right here, this account in Daniel’s history here. Daniel was pretty close to the king. He was very high up in the government; he had to see things like this. Well, he got better.
After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven.
And it looks like he was conscious throughout this. And you know people would have nervous ticks. You can feel them coming on but you can’t stop them. It probably would have been like that for him. But he reached the point where he was so broken that he looked up to heaven, not just with his eyes, but with his heart and he acknowledged the true God. His pride was broken and he says,
My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever… When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom.
So God preserved it for him. He came back to health and he was able to rule and finish out his reign.
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.
A proud guy like me, he says. And so, we got here is a story about Nebuchadnezzar and what it looks like is his conversion! I think we will actually get to meet Nebuchadnezzar in heaven! I think that he became a true believer here; that is how I read this chapter. He was probably still a little confused on some things but it seems like a genuine conversion story. And so, this is our first king with our first type of pride. What do we see here in the pride of Nebuchadnezzar? What is one face that pride can take?
Well, in Nebuchadnezzar’s life here, he was claiming the gifts while ignoring the giver. He’s looking out on everything that he ruled over and he’s taking credit for that and he is ignoring the one who made it all possible.
And so, two lessons I think we can take from this.
(1), We need to replace our boasting with thanksgiving.
1 Corinthians 4:7, a great verse to memorize. The apostle Paul says, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not?”
Yeah, Nebuchadnezzar. Why was he the first guy to conquer that much of the known world? Did he just figure it out? Was it just a coincidence? Was he just smarter than everyone else? Was he tougher than everyone else? Or is it possible that God had a purpose for his life and brought him along at just the right time? Was it possible that God predicted this and that God even called him to come in and take the people of Judah captive for disobedience to him? Take them back to Babylon for 70 years? He didn’t understand how much of a role God played in him being in the place that he was.
And the same question can be asked of us. What do you have that you did not receive? If you think about it, God gives lots of good things even to people who totally deny him. People who don’t believe in him; like the gift of life, like a mind to think, like the place you were born, like the fact that you are sitting here in this room right now in one of the wealthiest countries in the world? A lot of opportunities that people don’t have. And we’re like, “Oh yeah, it was me. I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps to get me here.” Yeah, I mean you’ve made some choices, I’m sure, but who is the one that gave you the ability to make those choices? Who’s the one that gave you free will? God came up with that! Who’s the one that put you in a position to make those choices? God!
We need to realize that God claims credit for every good thing that ever happens. It says that every good and perfect gift comes from God, from the Father above. And so this is something to really think about. This is at the heart of what it means to become a Christian. It is to receive from God. It’s not boasting that I am so awesome that God has to accept me. But it’s coming as someone that says “I can’t do it Lord. I’m not good enough. I need your free gift. I need a handout from you.” That’s offensive to the proud person, the religious person. But baked right into the very fabric of the biblical worldview is the need for humility. It’s a need to recognize reality. That’s what we need!
And so thanksgiving is what we need to replace our boasting with. Have you ever really met somebody who is a really thankful person that wasn’t also doing pretty well spiritually? This might be the answer to a lot of the problems in your spiritual life. If you can just learn to be thankful, a lot, for the things God has given you, even noticing the things you don’t normally notice, you’d probably be doing a lot better. Nebuchadnezzar needed to learn to replace his boasting with thanking.
(2), We need to be there for the breakthrough.
If you think about where Daniel was in Nebuchadnezzar’s life, he had known him 10, 20 years at this point maybe. He could have looked at Nebuchadnezzar and thought this guy, he is obviously too far-gone and never going to come around on this. We are just not in the position to see this. We are not omniscient. We can’t see the heart. God was at work in Nebuchadnezzar’s life lying on his bed at the top of the world, terrified and wondering if there is anything more than this. At the same time, we can’t humble them ourselves. We can’t force it and some people they are so persistent that they force God down someone’s throat. And we can’t do that either. We got to be patient; we got to let them come to their decision.
But Daniel seems like he did both. It seems like he was, I’m sure he was praying for Nebuchadnezzar all these years. He was there in his life. He wasn’t trying to force anything and Nebuchadnezzar knew where to turn when things really hit. He knew to turn to Daniel. And Daniel was there to interpret what was going on in his life and point him to God. That’s what we need to be in people’s lives. Not giving up on them, not forcing it either but there close enough that they know where to turn, checking back in periodically with people to see how they are doing. God is at work often through tragedy. It will often be when the painful things come into their lives, that’s what really gets their attention. That’s what breaks through their delusion like in Nebuchadnezzar’s case that he was the king of the world and he realizes how small he really is, how scared he really is. I have seen this many times.
One example pretty close to my own heart is that of my own family member, my brother who for 22 years of his life was just as hardened towards God as you can get. I remember trying to talk with him when he enlisted in the Air Force trying to talk him into coming up and you know, trying to give it a shot up here, trying to follow God. I think he was maybe a Christian at that point and it was just like talking to a brick wall, not interested at all. Went off to the military, did what you do in the military for a couple years. You know, we would talk occasionally, I would pray for him a little bit, not as much as I should’ve. And then, tragedy hit, we went to war. All of the sudden he is on the phone with me because his life has fallen apart and he was in tears. And I’m listening, trying to point him back to God. A couple more years went by and another tragedy hit. One day our dad woke up and had no feeling on the right side of his body. They did some tests and found an inoperable brain tumor the size of a golf ball. And I remember, people were kind of tip-toeing around how bad the news was, not really being honest and I remember talking with my mom and I was like, “I got to tell Jeff what is really going on here. Dad is almost certainly going to die.”
So, I remember calling him and I just told him, “Look, you really got to know what is happening up here. You are living pretty far away.” And, 22 years of resistance took about 30 minutes after we got off the phone with me for him to be down on his knees before God and saying, “Okay, I surrender.” And he has been going for God ever since. But you never know when something like that is about to break through like that. God was doing a lot of other things in his life as well that I couldn’t see. You can’t force it on people, God’s got his own timing but we can sure pray. We can’t make people say yes, but prayer can make it harder to say no. And we need to be there, be there for the breakthrough to point them to God. That’s what Daniel did here with Nebuchadnezzar. He was claiming the gifts while ignoring the giver.
Let’s talk about another face of pride, Daniel 5. By the way, my dad got better. That’s the end of that story. He went in to the neurosurgeon and the guy was like, to get his test results after many more months of just not knowing what is going on. And the guy was like, “I’m meeting with twenty people today and you’re the only one that I got good news for.” He is still alive today. You never know how long you got. You probably have longer than tonight although in this next story, you are going to see… Belshazzar did not. How can a human be that proud when we realize we can die any day? What’s going to happen next? We’re completely out of control of that. Let’s read Belshazzar’s story.
Many years later [So we are done with Nebuchadnezzar now, we are on to Belshazzar] King Belshazzar gave a great feast for 1,000 of his nobles, and he drank wine with them.
We talked about Belshazzar last week. I don’t have time to go back through that but this is a great argument for the reliability of Daniel. Belshazzar was doubted for centuries. History lost track of him. People laughed at the book of Daniel and said he made up Belshazzar and then we start finding all these tablets, including the Nabonidus cylinders with his name all over it. He was the final king of Babylon. He was co-regent, he was number two under his dad Nabonidus. Anyway, you can get last week’s study if you want to see that. So the lesson is you don’t doubt Daniel, that’s for sure.
He has given a great feast for a thousand of his nobles and is drinking wine with them.
While he (Belshazzar) was drinking the wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver cups that his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. While they drank from them they praised their idols made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
So he is toasting all these idols and all the gods that they have. Worshipping these things with these cups that were supposed to point to the glory of God and the temple. Drunk. As it says in Romans 1:25, “They worshipped and served created things rather than the true creator.” That’s one of the most proud things that we can do. To worship the created thing is supposed to point us to God and we worship that instead. Well,
Suddenly, they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lampstand. [Surprise.] The king himself saw the hand as it wrote, 6 and his face turned pale with fright. His knees knocked together in fear and his legs gave way beneath him.
A severed hand interrupting your party. Talk about a party foul, man. What did it say? Well we learn in verses later, it said,
“Mene, mene, tekel, parsin.”
Belshazzar’s Feast, Rembrandt, 1635-1638. National Gallery, London.
These were monetary units. This is like a severed hand writing, “Quarter, quarter, nickel, dime.” And you’re like, “What does it mean?” They’re freaking out. He sobers up pretty quick. All the king's wise men came in, none of them could read the writing or tell him what it meant. So Daniel was brought in before the King. He’s old now. He is probably 85. This is the very end of the time of Babylon. Belshazzar says,
I am told that you can give interpretations and solve difficult problems. If you can read these words and tell me their meaning, you will be clothed in purple robes of royal honor, and you will have a gold chain placed around your neck. You will become the third highest ruler in the kingdom. [He was third because Belshazzar was number two. He can only be three. He’s like, an old man blinged out, wearing royal robes.]
Well Daniel answers the king,
Keep your gifts or give them to someone else, but I will tell you what the writing means. [He’s not intrigued by this offer of wealth.] Your Majesty, the Most High God gave sovereignty, majesty, glory, and honor to your predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar [that was his grandfather.] But when his heart and mind were puffed up with arrogance he was brought down from his royal throne and stripped of his glory.
He goes on to tell the story about the beast that we just read in his loss of sanity, how God humbled him. Belshazzar knew that whole story.
You are his successor, O Belshazzar, and you knew all this, yet you have not humbled yourself. [You are still persisting in this pride.] So God has sent this hand to write this message. This is what these words mean: “Mene means ‘numbered’—God has numbered the days of your reign and has brought it to an end. Tekel means ‘weighed’—you have been weighed on the balances and have not measured up. Parsin means ‘divided’—your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
The next empire to conquer Babylon. We are going to see a lot more of them in the weeks to come in these prophecies.
And so Belshazzar gets this news and what does he do? Does he repent? Does he say God I am so sorry, please accept me? Nope. He is like, well alright, he gave the command to dress Daniel in purple robes, he put the gold chain around Daniel’s neck. I proclaim you the third highest ruler in all of my kingdom! And that very night Belshazzar the king was killed by the Medes and Persians who had surrounded the city. And you’re like, “Really, he’s throwing a feast with the city under siege?” Actually, yeah and we know this not just from Daniel.
Steve Miller, the OT scholar, not the space cowboy. He says,
“Xenophon added that the city was invaded while the Babylonians were feasting in a time of drunken revelry, and Herodotus also related that a festival was in progress. As a matter of fact, Xenophon cited the festival as the reason the Persians chose to attack Babylon on that particular night.”
Stephen R. Miller, Daniel: New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1994), 167.
Yeah, they actually dammed up the river that ran to the city, so it would get low enough that their troops would get under the marsh and up into the city. And they conquered the great city of Babylon without a fight. And we also learned that the people were so sick of Nabonidus and Belshazzar and their cruelty that they welcomed Cyrus in. And so the fact that it was taken so peaceably, it totally squares with these other secular historians. I don’t know how Daniel, the writer of Daniel, would have been able to fake that a couple of hundred years later unless he had access to these Persian libraries with these histories in it. Maybe he was there. Maybe he was relating the events as they actually happened that is confirmed by secular history.
Let’s talk about Belshazzar’s pride a little bit here. What was his pride? Nebuchadnezzar claimed the gifts, ignored the giver. Belshazzar, he worshipped the creation and ignored the creator. That’s about as proud as you can get right there. You know, God’s creation should point us to him. The heavens are declaring the glory of God. We should look around and know in our hearts that there is really a God who is there. That should lead us to seek God but instead, there are a lot of people who still worship idols in our enlightened world today. Literal idols on a shelf of gold, wood, stone, the things they would worship. But others, they look at the good things God has made and they try to explain them away. You think about something like free will. Such a powerful concept that God has built right into us. He has given us that ability. And yet, if you read the New Atheists, they essentially deny that there is such a thing as free will under the purely biological model it is hard to even find a case for the ability to choose this or that.
For example, Stephen Hawking in his 2010 book. He says,
“The molecular basis for biology shows that the biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and therefore are as determined as the orbits of the planets… so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.”
Stephen Hawking: The Grand Design, (NY:Bantam, 2010), 32.
Yes, he says that our thinking is as fixed as the orbits of the planets. Einstein said the same thing. And yet, he is writing a book, trying to convince people to change their thinking. And which he’s also arguing that our thinking is as fixed as the orbits of the planets. He has used his own freewill and his thought to decide to write this book and he is trying to convince you to change your thinking to side with him that you can’t change your thinking that it’s as fixed as the orbits in the planets. I wish I had time to go into this. We covered this in early Genesis. Ah, there are so many things that we could talk about here. I just want to give you a little sampling. Worshipping your creation, ignoring the creator.
A second point on this is what does Daniel do, he teaches us to see through the bling. He teaches us to see the folly of living for this world, for the created things around us. That’s really what living for the world is. I mean, imagine Daniel gets all decked out in the gold and the robes even though Babylon only has three hours left in their existence. And he’s like, “Finally I have made it! I’m really somebody… for three hours.” And then the Medes and the Persians waltz in and Babylon has fallen. That’s sort of what it is like when we follow the world. I mean, he’s at this party where he knows the party ends in three hours. Everything ends in three hours.
Living this life is sort of like living for this party. Imagine you are there at this party and after the three hours everyone dies. How would you spend your time at this party? Would you try to get as much gold as you can during those three hours? Would you try to experience as much pleasure as possible? Or would you think about: is there an after party? How do I get invited to that at the end of this party? I don’t know if you realize it, but everyone dies. The death rate is 100%. How much thought have you given to what happens at the end of the party? Belshazzar, none. He’s like, “Alright, I have three hours. Let’s partttyy!” And Daniel’s like, “I can’t believe you are loading this stuff on me. This is all going down. Your days are numbered. The clock is zero.”
And God is calling out to you. He is offering you a free gift. Belshazzar couldn’t humble himself like Nebuchadnezzar did, his grandfather. Can you? Can you humble yourself before God and receive the free gift through Jesus Christ?
Let’s look at one more form of pride. This one we’ll move more quickly through. Daniel 6.
Darius the Mede decided to divide the kingdom into 120 provinces
Daniel goes on to say that Darius was 62 when he took over the kingdom. Now, there’s some debate about who was this Darius because there was a guy named Cyrus who was the king that took over Babylon. He was the one that defeated Babylon and he sent the Jews back to Jerusalem. He also had a governor named Gilbrius who was actually his general who he made governor over Babylon but there’s no Darius for another couple of decades.
So what’s going on here? I’m not going to get in on all the difficulties here. This is the Archer article we talked about last week. I think one of the best ways to take this is that Darius is not a name but a title. The name means “the royal one” kind of like the pharaohs of Egypt being called pharaohs. It’s a title and then it can be either applied to Cyrus, it could be an alternative name for Cyrus, there is a case for that as well, which I kind of lean towards. Or, it could just be a title for the royal one and this could just be an alternative name that Daniel is using here in his account. Either way, Cyrus here and Gilbrius, both guys were in their early 60s when they conquered Babylon, so either one would fit. So, I think Cyrus fits a little better but it could go either way. Anyway, you could read up on that if that is something that you are interested in.
But, one his firsts acts is that he divides Babylon up into provinces. Remember Daniel said that your kingdom will be divided? He is dividing it up into 120 provinces and he’s got rulers over each, he’s got to govern this new territory. He picked Daniel as one of his three head supervisors who would oversee the leaders of these provinces. So he is sort of like a leader of these governors of these provinces who got like maybe a third of the previous Babylon under his administration. It made sense to pick someone that already knew the territory, someone he could trust. I guess he felt like he could trust Daniel.
So, Babylon falls and Daniel is still right there, right at the top. He’s old though.
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 put him over the entire empire.
Which the other guys didn’t like too much. They were jealous of Daniel. So,
[they] began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling the government affairs but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn.
And so, imagine this. They got the CIA, the FBI, they got Wiki Leaks on the case, Sherlock Holmes, Russian email hackers, anybody and everybody they could find to try to dig up some dirt on Daniel so they could take him down. This is a political move to try to discredit him but they couldn’t find anything. They looked through his emails, his web history, his credit card purchases, they got nothing on Daniel, his text messages, nothing. I wonder how well some of us would stand up to this kind of scrutiny.
He was faithful, always responsible, completely trustworthy.
But one thing their intelligence did turn up was this.
Our only chance of finding grounds for being able to accuse Daniel would be in connection with the law of his God.
One thing we learned this guy prays everyday, three times a day like clockwork. I wonder if we could use that against him? Maybe we can set the law of the Persians and Medes over against the law of his God and then we know that he’s going to obey what he thinks is the higher authority.
So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement 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.
Why not a fiery furnace? Well, Daniel knew the Persians didn’t kill people in the fire because they thought fire was divine and that it would immortalize the person. They killed people with lions. Nebuchadnezzar used the fiery furnace. Daniel knew how each kingdom executed their prisoners. Another point of historicity from Daniel, to be thrown into the den of lions.
And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed that cannot be revoked.
Another point of historicity that Daniel gets right. Nebuchadnezzar was an absolute monarch. By now, we have moved to a constitutional monarchy where the king could sign and issue decrees but they couldn’t repeal a decree that they just issued. So it is kind of ironic. Darius is going to issue a decree that people could only pray to him yet he doesn’t even have enough power to repeal the decree that he’s about to issue. And so King Darius signed the law. Yeah, that sounds pretty good for people to pray for me for 30 days. Darius, on the one hand, doesn’t seem as bad as the previous two examples of pride but on the other hand, it is really a new level of pride. He is setting himself as god and saying you can only pray to me for the next month. That’s pretty bad. You know, it’s nice to live in a country of freedom of religion but what would you do if like Daniel, if that freedom is suddenly revoked in a single day? Let’s see what Daniel does here.
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.
And so what does Daniel do? He does what he always did. He is praying with the window open three times a day, which is probably why they couldn’t find anything wrong with him in those other areas because he walked with God. His relationship with God was tight.
Why didn’t he close the window? It doesn’t make sense to start closing the window at this point. Everybody knows that he does this three times a day and they have all the intel on him. They are going to come into the house anyway and see him praying. Closing the window just looks like he is trying to hide something and he is not. He just decides that I respectfully decline to follow that law because there is a clear higher law that I must obey. I can’t obey any law that says don’t pray for a month. And what is he praying? I don’t know, remember he is pretty old at this point. Is he praying for God to protect him? Or is he just saying, God, thank you that I have lived a long good life and for all that I got to see and that I can die with honor? I pray that I would die in such a way that is pleasing to you. I wonder if that is what he was praying. I wonder if he’s also like, this is what you had for me for all these years, torn apart by lions? Didn’t see that one coming. And so there he is for the world to see.
Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking for God’s help. So they went straight to the king and reminded him about his law. And then they told the king, that man Daniel, one of the captives from Judah is ignoring you and your law. He is praying to his God three times a day. Hearing this, the king was deeply troubled, and he tried to think of a way to save Daniel.
He realizes at this point that he had been tricked. This is a political move that he realizes he has fallen for. So,
He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament. 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.”
And he’s like, you’re right.
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,” as he lowered him down into the lion's den.
And Daniel is like, “Geh, thanks. Thanks for the prayer. God uses all things for good for those that love Him.” So there he is.
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.
He is really making sure here.
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. Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 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?”
And he waits. And then he hears a voice.
“Long live the king!”
And he thinks that isn’t a lion.
“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.” 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.
That’s where Daniel put his trust in the face of maybe the scariest thing that he had to face down. He was ready to die for his faith no matter how this turned out, sort of like his buddies, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had so many decades ago when they faced a fiery furnace.
Three Faces of Pride
Well, let’s try to summarize these three faces of pride.
What do we see from Nebuchadnezzar? Claiming the gifts while ignoring the giver. But from Daniel we learned to be there for the breakthrough, be there when God finally breaks through to this person.
Belshazzar, worshipped the creation while ignoring the creator but we learned from Daniel to see through the bling. To see it for what it really is, temporary, passing away, to live for the after party and not for the party.
And third and finally from Darius, setting himself up as a god while ignoring God, another face of pride.
And what do we learn from Daniel? He teaches us to keep trusting the true God no matter the cost.
And this is an important final point to understand the link between the narratives of Daniel and the prophecies of Daniel.
What Daniel is going to predict is that there is going to come a day where believers are suffering for their faith, where a proud ruler will set himself up as God and demand the allegiance of the world. And where it will be punishable by death and starvation if you refuse to bow to him. He says a day is coming where religious freedom will once again be lost, and I believe it. And what Daniel says is “we face something sort of like that in our day and we trusted God. We trusted in the sovereignty of God no matter how it looked on the outside. And we decided to throw in with him no matter what the cost.” And so then the question’s back in your court, what are you going to do? Some of us might live into that very time, the time of the end, the end times, a time that Jesus calls the Great Tribulation. And we get to decide, are we going to decide like Daniel and his buddies to trust God no matter what and live for what’s coming next?