Daniel 6—The story of Daniel in the lion’s den
Here is a case of a Bible story that is extremely pertinent to everyday adult life that has been trivialized and cutesified for us in Sunday School class when we were little. In fact, it’s so familiar, I don’t think I need to quote it for you here. You probably remember that Daniel was thrown into a den of lions by some mean old person, but because he prayed and because he was a Good Guy, the lions suddenly decided he wasn’t tasty and didn’t eat him.
But in reality, Daniel was the victim of some pretty vicious office politics.
If you examine this passage again, you will find that Daniel and the king were very chummy, and that several of Daniel’s rivals were very jealous. In fact, Daniel was about to be made their manager, something which they couldn’t stand. So they plotted about how to out-maneuver him, but they couldn’t find any dirt, because Daniel was such a goody two-shoes that they had nothing to bring against him.
“I’ll bet the only way we’ll ever trip him up is in his religion,” they said, “and what good will that do us?”
So they hit upon the idea of looking at his personal religious beliefs. Now Daniel was a Jew, and as a Jew he could only worship and pray to the One True God, which he did, three times a day. But Daniel’s rivals thought up a nice, patriotic-sounding law that restricted all petitions and prayers to the king alone under penalty of death. Then they tricked the king into making it into a royal decree to go into effect for one month.
Of course, Daniel continued his daily prayers. Daniel’s enemies, seeing that Daniel had fallen right into their trap, brought this matter to the attention of the king, who was greatly distressed by this unforeseen consequence of the law he had decreed. But Daniel’s enemies pressed him, recalling the legal principle that there are no exceptions to the law. The king found himself bound by his own law to punish Daniel, his friend.
The king was as terrified as Daniel was when Daniel entered the lion’s den. It is a terrible thing to be manipulated into position where you must bring about the demise of a person you admire and trust! When the time was up, the king rushed to the lion’s den at the earliest possible moment, and found that Daniel had survived. Then Daniel’s enemies were punished for their treachery.
Now I want you to notice some things:
- People who are good at office politics are very good at exploiting other people’s integrity against them. In other words, the only way they could take advantage of you in the first place is because your integrity makes you predictable. Take some consolation in the fact that your troubles come, not from your weakness, but from your virtue.
- In office politics, the person who seems to be your immediate enemy might really be your friend who was out-maneuvered. If you don’t jump to conclusions, this might work out to your advantage. Notice that Daniel never once accused the king of intransigence.
- In office politics, the bad guys always work in groups and go strictly by the book, writing the book if necessary. They patiently lay the trap long in advance, using proper procedures to do it. You didn’t see it coming, but it was long in coming.
- God did not spare Daniel from the lion’s den. He had to go in it. It was terrifying for Daniel and his friend the king. In the same way, God has never guaranteed that the going will not get rough. However, you are assured that when the going does get rough, the outcome will be okay if you trust God.
- God did not give the king special wisdom to figure out some procedural loophole to spare Daniel. There was no magical shortcut for them, there was no magical shortcut for Jesus when He faced the cross, and there is no magical shortcut for you when you face trouble. Jesus doesn’t give you a remedy for hard times; He reveals a purpose for them.
- Avoiding adversity is not as good as overcoming adversity. In this case, Daniel’s religion was vindicated, the king came to see the power of God, and the truth was proclaimed throughout the land. None of these things would have happened if Daniel had avoided the lion’s den.
- God is interested in everybody, not just the faithful. if God had intervened so that Daniel wouldn’t have had to enter the lion’s den, Daniel would have been edified, but no one else. As it turned out, by putting Daniel through some anxiety, many people benefited. (Daniel’s enemies were losers no matter what happened, but I’m sure they knew their plan could backfire, and they took the risk.)
- The lions weren’t Jewish and yet they did not harm Daniel. Our God is not just the God of the good guys; we worship the God of all things and all people. Before Jesus ascended, He assured us that He has all power in heaven and on Earth. So when your heart is troubled in your own lion’s den, remember that He reigns not just over true believers, but over the lions as well. Jesus has overcome the world.
So the next time you are out maneuvered in office politics, and the people whom you thought were your friends find themselves consigning you to the lion’s den under political pressure, take heart. Trust in God, and don’t let your perceptions be distorted. The lions won’t hurt you, and you can come out a winner.