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SEPTEMBER 23, 1917.

Daniel in the Lion's Den.

"The angel of Jehovah encampeth round about them that fear him,
And delivereth them." (Psalm 34: 7.)




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The Intervening History.

DANIEL because of his evident genius was appointed to a station of great responsibility as the ruler of the whole province of Babylonia (2: 48). Then after a time Nebuchadnezzar had another dream, as told in the fourth chapter, and Daniel was called upon to interpret that. There was indicated the insanity of the king which continued through seven years. It is described as a punishment for his unrighteousness, and especially his oppression of the poor. During the period of his beclouded mind he abandoned the palace and its luxurious life and made his home among the beasts of the fields, while his queen administered the national affairs. When he recovered his senses he expressed his gratitude in a very notable declaration, preserved in 4: 34-37. At this point the sacred history leaves him, but his after life is made very clear by profane history. He again began to build immense structures, and attained once more to his greatness and splendor as a brilliant monarch. He lived to an advanced age after reigning forty-three years, dying about the year 561 B.C. His successor was named Evilmerodach, under whom it would appear that the imprisoned king, Jehoiakim, who had lain in confinement for eight and thirty years, was released and admitted to the royal family (2 Kings 27-30).

A new power was seen arising in the territory called Media. Its queen was married to a prince of Persia, and from this union came the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. From that marriage came Cyrus. When he became a man he was raised to dominion by a revolutionary movement, and he began to figure in the history of the world. After attaining much territory he attacked Babylon, as is told by Jeremiah (51: 28-32). The ruler of Chaldea at the time was Nabonades, who, when he was called away to suppress revolt in a distant part of his dominions, left the supposedly impregnable city of Babylon to the care of the prince, Belshazzar. When the city fell, and Belshazzar lost both the kingdom and his life, the conqueror placed as viceroy that Darius, the Mede, as known in sacred history, or the Neriglissar of the profane historians. This ruler re-organized the administration of the province of Babylon by appointing three superior men as presidents, of whom Daniel was the chief. The reason for that was the excellent wisdom which he exhibited, and which so awakened the admiration of Darius that he was minded to place him over the entire empire. This very naturally awakened the jealousy of the other rulers, and unable to find any flaw in him, they devised the scheme which is found in our study.

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Lesson Text.

10 ¶ Now when Dăn'iĕl knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jĕ-rû'să-lĕm, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
11 Then these men assembled, and found Dăn'iĕl praying and making supplication before his God.
12 Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king's decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Mēdes and Pēr'siăns, which altereth not.
13 Then answered they and said before the king, That Dăn'iĕl, which is of the children of the captivity of Jû'dăh, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou has signed but maketh his petition three times a day.
14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set  his  heart on Dăn'iĕl to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him.
15 Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Mēdes and Pēr'siăns is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.
16 Then the king commanded, and they brought Dăn'iĕl, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Dăn'iĕl, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.
17 And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Dăn'iĕl.
18 ¶ Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep went from him.
19 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.
20 And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Dăn'iĕl: and  the king spake and said to Dăn'iĕl, O Dăn'iĕl, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?
21 Then said Dăn'iĕl unto the king, O king, live for ever.
22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
23 Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Dăn'iĕl up out of the den. So Dăn'iĕl was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.

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Explanatory Notes.

The writing. The foolish decree of verses 7-9; it is probable that the enemies of Daniel were quick to inform him. Windows being open. The Oriental house of the wealthy had on its roof a pavilion with latticed openings at all sides. Toward Jerusalem (cp. 1 Kings 8: 47-49; Psalm 5: 7; 28: 2). Three times a day. Being the hour of

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prayer, he calmly maintained his custom which the Jews had maintained from David's time (Psalm 55: 17). Men assembled. As in verse 6 the word implies haste, coming eagerly and with tumult; they felt that they had attained their purpose, because they had found Daniel violating the decree. Hast thou not, etc. Reminding him before accusing Daniel, and receiving an affirmative reply. Law of the Medes and Persians which held royal decrees as inviolable to avoid criticism of inconsistency or impeachment of wisdom (cp. Esther 1: 19; 8: 8). That Daniel. An undignified and spiteful reference.  Children of the captivity. Revealing their jealousy, a foreigner and a captive, not comparable to their proud lineage and dignity; Daniel's great service to their nation was as nothing to them.  Regardeth not. The accusation of contempt. Sore displeased. Because he discovered that he had been made a tool of these jealous men. Labored, etc. By argument or seeking a pretext by which he could deliver him.  The unalterable law . . . That no decree, etc., prevented the purpose which he sought to accomplish.  Den of lions. After the sunset; thrown into the orifice by which food was given to the beasts. This fortified by a stone  which was sealed . . . with his own signet, to break which was punished by death; to this, so keen were these lords that additional sealing was done by them (cp. Matt. 27: 66) [[large bullet point mark]] Fasting. His anxiety depriving him of a desire for food; not to be understood as a religious rite; further emphasized by dismissing the musicians who regaled the king with instruments, his sorrow keeping him awake, and he had no heart for the usual practice of lulling to slumber. Arose very early. Another indication of an anxious mind, also going in haste. Lamentable. Sorrowful as hoping against hope. The living God (cp. 4: 34). Using a phrase that he had often heard Daniel use to describe the Almighty. Sent his angel. Not that this messenger was seen, but that his presence was the only possible explanation of his protection. Innocency. Straightforward fidelity to his duties, so that no ground of offense could be truthfully charged against him, as qualified by the words before thee . . . done no hurt. Believed in his God.  Had trusted from the beginning, assured of divine favor.

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Special Topics.

The most severe trial of the faith of Daniel came, like that of Abraham, when he had attained old age. In each case there had been a preparation extending throughout many years. The severity of this trial should not be under-estimated. So far as we know there had been no test like this. The decree was ridiculous, to be sure, but that did not relieve the peril. Daniel went on just as he had been in the habit of doing. His action was not one of bravado, but of confidence in God. He was too old now to distrust God. Gideon had a sword, and David a sling, but Daniel was without defense. He had the more difficult task, merely to pass a dark night in patient waiting. To remain passive under affliction is the peculiar sorrow of the aged when the spur of active energy has been blunted. Years bring prudence; why not prudently avoid inflaming the jealousy of his enemies?

Why not do his praying in secret? Why not shut his window? Why not suspend praying for only thirty days? The most of us would have done this, but the glorious fact about holy character is that it grows granitic. A man may become so settled in his actions that there is nothing that can swerve him. It is so when sin, habitually performed, hardens into a garment of brass impossible to mold into varying shapes. Some sins have such a hold upon us that there is no avoiding them what ever be the circumstance. It is equally true of gracious character. There is such a thing as a habit of righteousness that cannot be swerved.
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This man had formed a habit of prayer. We all admit its potency for those whose habit it is to be prayerless are quick for others to pray for them in sudden trouble. Some men do not begin to pray until the stone is rolled against the door, and the lions begin to growl and lash their tails. Daniel had formed the habit of prayerful trust. Of course, he could not know what purpose God had in this strange experience; but he must have been convinced that what God did would be the right thing. The main thing in prayer is not to seek to discover the future or dictate to God what he must do, but to trust God to carry out what he desires, and not what we desire.
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Here is another lesson for us: One has composed a stirring song, the refrain of which is "dare to be a Daniel". It is easy to sing that to someone who is in a strait, but how about us? There is a difference between recklessness and courage. With all his courage there was an element of fear with Daniel, not fear of lions, but fear of distrusting God. Not everyone can do that. [[large bullet point mark]] Observe that there were to be no spectators to witness the proposed feast of lions. In that case we might suspect the existence of a sort of pride or manliness, the kind of thing that makes men go to scaffolds with a smile. A throng of watchers may make us bold to endure the severest experience, a fear of men's comment upon cowardice. With Daniel it was solitude amid the dark shadows, and if he had shown terror or cried out to the living God, none would have seen or heard. That made it all the harder to bear. 
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Courage is really more distinctive by what it shrinks from than from what it is emboldened to attempt. Joseph was afraid when he had his great temptation, but it was the fear of sinning against God. Peter and John had the same experience when they were in the presence of the lion-spirited Sanhedrin, and declared their purpose of obeying God even if stripes and imprisonment waited for them. When a man has a fear of God, he has found the secret of a true courage. Rashness is allied with thoughtlessness. Daniel was very thoughtful we may be sure.
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It is by no means certain that God has ever promised to deliver us from peril or death of the body, but from the evil intentions of our enemies. That is quite different. Stephen was not saved from the stones that showered upon him, but a Saul afterward put those very enemies to shame.

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