Have you ever noticed how we tend to highjack Bible stories and put them in a context that does not exist? We treat the book of Job as a book that answers the problem of suffering, and yet the answer is never given in the book. We look at the character of Jonah as someone who finally got it in the end, and yet the book ends with him sitting outside a city waiting for God to destroy it. We like to take stories and add an element to them in order to help us feel as though we can relate to it a little more, and get a “bonus” lesson out of it. Daniel in the lion’s den is a perfect example. Sadly by doing this we often end up missing a deeper and richer lesson within the text.
The character of Daniel has often been labeled as a man who is rebellious towards authority that defies God. He takes daring actions that purposefully place him in harm’s way. He constantly throws his life on the line and makes a big show out of it. While there is no doubt Daniel is willing to risk his life to serve God, we still go overboard on this and miss the most crucial lesson we can from Daniel. It is the lesson of consistency.
Let’s refresh our memory on the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Daniel is well loved by the current king on the throne. Some other servants grow increasingly jealous of Daniel and his favor with the king so they start to look for a scandal in his life to bring to the light. After thoroughly observing Daniel they discover there is nothing wrong with him. The guy is full of integrity. Their only chance is to create a scandal.
They trick the king into making a law that will require everyone to pray only to the king for a few days. Anyone who breaks this law is to be thrown to the lions. The king agrees to this silly law in order to feed into his own pride. It should be noted that it was never their idea to keep Daniel from praying to God. They were counting on it. Daniel was a creature of habit as far as they were concerned. They understood that his passion, consistency, and dedication to God were so strong that the only way to have him be punished was to make it illegal for him to talk to God.
Some people assume Daniel flaunted his prayer life after the decree was made. They read the story and see how he opened his windows towards Jerusalem and prayed. Why was Daniel not more careful? Was he trying to put on a show? What a bold rebellious streak from Daniel. We need to boldly pray in schools and show we will not stand for injustice. Lock us up and throw away the key. Hold up. Was Daniel really putting on a show?
If Daniel were putting on a show he would have gone into the middle of the city where everyone was running around and prayed in a loud and boisterous voice. No no no. This was not about making a political statement. This was not about taking a stand for religious freedom. This was about a man who was in exile with the rest of his people and was desperately turning to God to take his people back to their land. This is not a political figure. This is a humble man who is on knees that are calloused from the years of prayer.
Daniel did not read this decree and then go off and start praying to spite it. The story says that Daniel went off to pray with his window open towards Jerusalem as he had done previously. When these evil men observed Daniel to find a flaw they noticed that no matter what he went to his room and three times a day. Three times a day he opened the same window. Three times a day he got down on his knees and began to give a prayer to some invisible God. Nothing ever stalled Daniel form doing this. He made it a top priority. These evil men had to have had a huge amount of confidence and Daniels consistency and dedication in prayer to think he would be willing to risk death to do it. No my friends, this is not a story of a man making a scene.
When King Solomon had built a beautiful temple for the lord he gave a speech to his people. He said that if God’s people should ever turn their back on God and be punished with exile that they would humble their hearts, look toward Jerusalem where the temple was built, and pray to God for forgiveness and salvation. This isn’t a man out to make a point. This is not a man who is trying to draw attention to himself. This is a man who realized his people had failed and they were all paying the price for it. This is a man who was willing to consistently humble himself before the Lord even if it meant death.
Daniel received salvation in the lion’s den, but I doubt he would consider that the greatest gift for his consistency. The greatest gift is that God never forgot about his people even in there exile. They returned to their land. The Messiah came. A man with calloused knees and a humble heart had his prayers fulfilled. Daniel should not be known as the rebellious zealot of God. Daniel is the consistent man of prayer who remained humble in the face of death.