Daniel 6 takes us to a familiar story – one of my favourites from Sunday School many years ago. Reading it carefully again however, there are some striking verses that can be overlooked if we just apply our Sunday School understanding to the passage.
The passage is well-known for the jealousy of the administrators and satraps conning King Darius into a decree that would ultimately trap Daniel, and then for God saving Daniel from the den of lions. King Darius’s role in the story often gets underemphasised. It is really notable however that in verse 14, the king is determined to rescue Daniel and makes every effort to save him. However, he must justly serve the people by being true to his decrees, but hopes that Daniel will be saved from the lions’ den by his God (verse 16). He could not sleep that night (verse 18), and when at the crack of dawn it turns out that Daniel is saved from the lions, the king praises God and issues a decree requiring all in his kingdom to do likewise.
As unfortunate as it seemed at the time, Darius could not save Daniel. Thankfully our God could, and did. Unlike Darius, God could (and did) satisfy both His love and His justice by saving us by sacrificing his Son. That is an important and wonderful thing to remember.
More so, it is helpful to remember that Darius was not the only foreign ruler of the Israelites who reached such an epiphany about God’s greatness by seeing such miraculous deeds of God toward His people. I’m thinking of just a couple of chapters earlier in the case of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3-4), and later in the case of Ahasuerus (see the book of Esther). As it turned out however, neither king was faithful in establishing a kingdom for God. Nor did either of them ultimately save the Jews, given that successive kingdoms were later established that closely regulated (and regularly oppressed) the Jews.
Hence we will always, whilst on this earth, be contending with the cunning of non-believers who try to tear down our faith. This earth is never going to be perfect. Earthly rulers will never be able to prevent this from occurring, no matter their intentions. May we seek to emulate Daniel however by not shying away from this challenge or caving in to sin, but rather because of our good character may such people conclude that they “will never find any basis for charges against [us] unless it has something to do with the law of [our] God” (verse 5). In doing so may we look to the God who saves, and will bring us into the perfection of His kingdom in good time.