The Secret of Success
Daniel 6 July 25, 1999
Chapter 6 parallels chapter 3 (reiterate) in some interesting ways. In ch. 3 we see the three friends without Daniel, here we see him without his friends. There we see a refusal to participate in idolatrous religious practices, here we see a refusal to refrain from the proper worship of God. To fail in either of these refusals would be sin. In both we see the jealous motive of enemies to betray those who serve God and not the world. In both, the king’s pride and vanity are patronized for selfish ends in a conflict between the two empires, that of God and that of the world political system. There we see not even a singed hair or the smell of smoke on Daniel’s three friends, here we see not even a scratch on Daniel. In both we see a decree that God delivers his servants. Devotion to God comes full circle (explain).
Daniel has come a long way since he refused the food of King Nebuchadnezzar’s court as a young exile from Judah. There we saw his success without compromise. The food was the issue on which he refused to yield in order that God might receive whatever credit was to be given for whatever success he would provide. And Daniel distinguished himself as a wise man because he chose to follow God rather than the culture of the king’s court. This chapter opens with Daniel having made the transition between the Babylonian Empire and the takeover by the Medes and the Persians. Belshazzar’s reward of third ruler in the kingdom for reading the handwriting on the wall fit nicely into this transition. That very night Daniel’s interpretation came true and Belshazzar was killed by the succeeding World Empire. The new king, Darius, was very discerning of human loyalty and capability and kept Daniel in position. Now, nearing 90 years old, Daniel has another opportunity for success. This time will reveal once and for all the secret of his success as we look at a day in his life as an administrator in Darius’s government.
I. Daniel’s devotion prompts deception (6:1-9)
Notice the number of times Daniel has had to face down fear, danger, and persecution for his faith and service. Even now at almost 90 you would think God would ease up on him a bit. But that isn’t the way it works. As long as God gives us life, he intends to be glorified by it. Age is no barrier to serving God, nor is it any protection against temptation and testing. But Daniel was as faithful now as he was when he started out. He had flown his flag of faith early on and he has never let the sun go down on it. Daniel was devoted to his God and to his government, and you know what always came first. Although Daniel faced conflicts with this in his years as a civil servant, he knew what took priority. The time may be coming soon when many of us may have to choose in this way – to follow God’s law or man’s law.
Darius had reorganized and decentralized his government under 120 governors, or satraps as they are called here. To make sure they would not steal from the king and cover their thefts with false accounts, as perhaps many were already doing, they were to be held accountable to three administrators, of which Daniel (the mole – operation ‘silver shovel’) was one. In fact, Daniel was the best and the king planned to put him above them all because of his excellence. Daniel was trustworthy. Daniel’s promotion shows that you don’t have to compromise to succeed. Now, I’m sure that Daniel got tempted just like every other man in power. But he kept himself pure by keeping himself close to purity. He prayed three times a day as a normal practice just as it says in 6:10. Ps. 55:17, which we read this morning, says, “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress (pray), and he hears my voice.” Daniel followed God’s law to seek him consistently. And it was a good thing he started this particular day out with the Lord. Prayer for Daniel was not incidental but essential, and he was highly esteemed by God (9:23). All the great men of God started their day with prayer (i.e. Abraham, Gen. 19:27; David, Ps. 5:3; Jesus, Mk. 1:35).
When we look good and we talk wise we make enemies because of man’s sinful jealous pride. And when a Jew does it he is doubly cursed because Satan and the rest of the world especially hate God’s chosen people. When one man does well by not stooping to the tactics of dishonesty he exposes all the rest. Jesus spoke of this as light (Jn. 3:19-21) and that he is that light. When we are light we are like Jesus. When we are light we reveal that what we do, we do through God. Daniel has 2 other administrators and 120 satraps on his tail – not too good of odds unless God is on your side. They look high and low to get something on Daniel, but he is squeaky clean. Looking for dirt is the first rule of politics. Not only was Daniel honest but he was diligent. Can it be said of you or I that nothing can be found against us except righteousness? They will have to manufacture a flaw in Daniel’s personality. They know he would betray the king before he would betray his God. What a reputation!
Look at the setup here. The rest of Darius’s government now put into effect a plan to take advantage of the king’s weakness and use it against Daniel. They have an ulterior motive. It is one form of pride using another. Anyone in leadership must be as wise as a fox and as innocent as a dove. Whatever this law they want passed is to fix, it is a temporary fix for 30 days. The king should have seen the setup. Perhaps the king fell for this so readily because he saw it as a chance to assure his continued central place in the government while at the same time delegating authority to others in his decentralization plan. At any rate, the law is a test of extreme loyalty to the king for these 30 days. But it will be revealed just who is being disloyal, and it isn’t Daniel. It is the satraps who lie by saying that they all agreed to propose this to the king. Daniel was not consulted. They set up the king through his own vanity and pride and work against his intentions to put Daniel in charge. The king was discerning regarding Daniel’s intended promotion, but not about his own vanity and pride. We must all be so careful of our blind spots, and we all have them. This law that has as its apparent purpose to set the king up as an ultimate authority actually imprisons him to his own authority, and it brings the king into conflict with God and his law. That law is, for Daniel to be allowed to pray to the ultimate authority of the universe and not to a man. Every time we rely upon our own authority instead of God’s we are trapped.
Darius was not above his law, is God above his? No. The thing we should note is that God is perfect and so is his law (Ps. 19:7-11). Darius’s law was the expression of his flawed character and he falls for the deception of the satraps. God’s character and law are not flawed. This issue of a law being unable to change is like what Jesus said about swearing oaths (Mt. 5:34-36; James 5:12). It can get us into trouble because we don’t have the right to God’s sovereignty. Also, we can make laws that are our own undoing – like we are now doing all the time in our country.
II. Daniel’s decision prompts detection, disappointment, and detention (6:10-18)
What is the first thing you do when you are in trouble? Do you cry, or worry, or get depressed, or talk to someone you know? Daniel prayed to the God he knew intimately. He doesn’t question, doubt or worry, he acts. But he acts on his knees and gives thanks just as before. He returned to the same righteousness he was being accused of. If we are being accused of trusting God, would we trust God all the more? And he trusts God openly. Are we as determined not to sin? Daniel went home and sought God in prayer in his upper room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem (1Ki. 8:35-36). This was not an afterthought in a crisis, this was premeditated. Prayer had always worked in the past and now he trusted God even more. He didn’t flaunt it (Mt. 6:5-6) nor did he hide it. It is business as usual with the Almighty regardless of man. When they come to arrest us, will they find us in prayer, asking God for help? Or will we run or fight, taking it into our own hands?
Don’t think for a moment that Daniel might not have been tempted here at the close of his life in his old age to compromise. After all, he had served faithfully all his life. What would yielding to the pressure hurt this time? Well, it would destroy everything he had accomplished in his life so far. It takes a long time to build a reputation and only a split second to destroy it. Would Daniel waste the sum of his life now in these final hours? Wouldn’t he be of more use alive than dead? He refused to compromise. He would rather face the lions than miss one prayer meeting. After all, he was already sold out to God – he was already dead – to the world that is. He built his spiritual habits early in life. It was too late to change now.
These weasels now remind the king of his foolish law and their one-ups-manship. Notice their craftiness in explaining this to the king. They know where his sympathies lie. When the king finds out now about their plan to trap Daniel, he is devastated. He knows he has been had. He searches the records for loopholes and makes every appeal to no avail for Daniel. Daniel’s accusers said he pays no attention to the king, but I wonder how much attention Daniel has paid to the king in intercessory prayer. Perhaps the king knows this but too late. Daniel must suffer the ordeal. An ordeal is not so much a sentence of execution as it is a determination of innocence (Num. 5:11-31). Daniel suffers because of the jealousy, but his survival attests to his innocence. The satraps don’t like him because his righteousness has distinguished him, and he is about to be placed over them. But better to suffer for righteousness than evil (1Pet. 2:20, 3:17).
Do you see the lie? We must be careful not to take action based upon the lies of men. How often do we discover our foolishness too late when we have allowed our sins to be manipulated for our entrapment? The king was greatly distressed not only because he valued Daniel, but because he now knows he was setup. How often have we had our sins thrown up in our face? How often have we, like Darius, not been able to eat or sleep because of our foolishness? His evening will be much worse than Daniel’s. It is amazing how much grief our foolishness causes us.
The actions we take are always our own choice. God never causes us to sin (James 1:13-15). We are responsible for our own sins. But woe to those who promote sin (Lk. 17:1). Note also God’s use of Daniel. He is being considered as a sheep to be slaughtered. God makes whatever use of us he desires, and that is what we also are to desire. There is eternal safety in the hands of God.
The lion’s den is like the tomb or the grave, even of Jesus. Daniel was as if accused by Satan because of jealousy for righteousness, and delivered from death because of righteousness, like Jesus. The difference would be that Daniel would come out alive without death and Jesus would come out alive after death. The king is held accountable for his foolishness with the sealing of the stone. But “what is impossible with men is possible with God” (Lk. 18:27). Daniel’s situation would change regardless of the seal upon the stone. God didn’t want Darius to deliver Daniel anyway, this was God’s privilege reserved for himself. Daniel wasn’t depending upon the king either (Ps. 146:1-6).
III. Daniel’s deliverance prompts demise of the deceivers (6:19-24)
Darius had no peace, but Daniel did. Daniel was in a perfect place of safety because God was there. Darius had labored all the day to save Daniel from judgment, yet he could not break his own laws. Darius, the most powerful human in the world, has no power to save Daniel. But Daniel’s faith is founded on a person who is more powerful than the king. Daniel just had to talk to God and found all that he needed. It was Daniel who was the king now and Darius was the slave. Daniel’s daily fellowship with God was his secret. He had faith and he was faithful (Ps. 18:20-25a). The safest place to be is in the will of God. Daniel would rather die than disobey God’s will and worship the king. Like his three friends in the fire, he was willing to die for his faith. And may we, like Paul, desire that Christ be magnified in our bodies whether by life or by death (Php. 1:20).
Like the king, we sometimes awake and hope that it has all been a nightmare. He calls Daniel the servant of the living God even before he knows whether he is dead or alive. But since God is alive, so will those be who trust in him. God is indeed able to rescue his own from death, and Daniel calls God his own. Even pagans respect consistent and ethical devotion when they see it. Daniel’s reputation has distinguished him, dead or alive. What about ours? The ultimate court of law is the hand of God. It is the court that all must respect. It supercedes the hand of man and no man can argue with it. Daniel is vindicated like we who believe in Jesus shall be vindicated (Rev. 6:10). We are innocent because of the blood of Jesus that covers us. What is covered by the blood shall leave no stain of sin. And Daniel has not even a scratch. Why? Because he trusted the God who saves. Just like the fourth man in the fire who saved Daniel’s three friends, God sent his angel to shut up the mouths of the lions.
This passage pictures our resurrection from the dead. God will protect every hair on our head. He is the lion tamer that even takes us to the point of placing our heads in the mouths of lions without getting bitten, because he controls the lions. Trusting God will never leave us disappointed. Daniel, at almost 90, probably didn’t even have much meat on him – but this was God’s doing. The miracle of Daniel’s deliverance is not over. God saves Daniel from destruction and even from the threat of any further accusation. The ravenous condition of the lions that God withheld is proven by their attack on Daniel’s accusers. And we are shown here that just as our salvation affects our families (Acts 16:31) so also our sins. These lions got their craving for fast food satisfied. To know what God saved Daniel from, see here that the lions quickly devoured 2 administrators and 120 satraps and their families (Prov. 11:8, 28:10). How many lions might that have taken to devour that much food that quickly – before they hit the floor? Of course, the lions were probably a bit ticked-off that they had to sit there and look at Daniel without getting even an hors d'oeuvre. What we witness here is a complete change of administration that Daniel probably has a great deal about which to say, seeing as how his proposed advancement was to handle corruption in the kingdom.
IV. Darius’s decree prompts devotion (6:25-28)
Either this new decree is given now after the 30 days time limit of Darius’s first law or God has just superceded the laws of the Medes and the Persians at the urging of Darius. After all, Darius has just seen Daniel vindicated. At this point, Darius probably doesn’t want to place himself in competition with the power of the true God that he has just witnessed. He now gives praise to an authority and a kingdom far greater than his own. The result of it all is that another king has been influenced toward Almighty God. Daniel’s faith has glorified God once again. It is amazing the conclusions that people draw about God when they see true faith in action. This is now the third empire-wide decree of reverence toward God that has been inspired by Daniel’s faith, all as a result of divine deliverance, not as a result of his interpretations. You see, trouble is tantamount to tribute.
We don’t often think of our senior citizens, like Daniel, as potential heroes, but they certainly can be. No matter how long we live, the lessons of faith continue to come. But their faith has endured, they have been kept safe, they have lived long enough and seen enough of God not to fear those kept lions who must pay homage to the Lion of Judah.
Timeless Truth: The secret of success is not lion but prayin’.
The secret of true success is continuing prayer. Daniel’s fellow administrators sought to promote their position through lying and manipulation and half-truths and playing the angles and working human weakness. But it didn’t work for them because Daniel trusted God and truth and righteousness through prayer which always wins in the end. Their lion turned on them and not Daniel. Through Daniel’s consistent relationship to God, he climbed up the political ladder from prisoner to court initiate to wise man (ch. 1), to chief wise man (ch. 2), to the king’s personal advisor (ch. 4), to third in the kingdom (ch. 5), to the intended prime minister (ch. 6) and now on to actually be that man. This was accomplished through his honest and humble relationship to God which was nourished through prayer.
And we shall find as we move on to the remaining chapters of Daniel in the coming weeks that God showed his servant great and mighty things to come – because he didn’t feed the lion but the spirit. He didn’t feed Satan who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1Pet. 5:8). He didn’t buy into Satan’s lies and tactics. He was an honest and a forthright man, like Nathanael of whom Jesus said, “Here is a true Israelite in whom there is nothing false” (Jn. 1:47). And it gave him success that God used in behalf of his people. Isn’t that what we would want to be? Isn’t that what we would want Jesus to say of us? “Here is a true disciple of Christ in whom there is nothing false.” There is nothing to be gained from lion except a bad case of consumption. And what began with Daniel’s devotion to God ends with Darius’s devotion to God and the decree that all should reverence the God of Daniel – because Daniel knew the secret of success. Like Paul said in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.” This is a process powered by prayer.
Let us take this a step further to the discussion of righteous political efforts in our own country, such as the push to get prayer returned to the public schools. Daniel wasn’t prohibited from praying in a certain place, he was prohibited from praying to God at all, even in private. When he heard about the law forbidding his prayer, he did not rally the troops for a strike or armed resistance, he prepared himself for death. Christians do not successfully fight for their beliefs or win them by assaulting or killing, but by dying or being willing to die. If Daniel could muster such strength and faith in a God he could not see, what more must we have at our disposal through a God we have seen in Jesus Christ? We do not look forward to the incarnation of God’s Son, the “rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands” that broke the statue to pieces (2:45), but we look back to the cross and what now has been accomplished. Christ, our Rock, has been set as the cornerstone of our faith. Our faith gives us the courage to risk all, even death. Often we act as if we are unwilling to risk anything for Christ. We must ask the Lord to make us ready when our day of testing comes. Our willingness to risk even our lives is what will turn the heads of the secular culture that surrounds us. Our complaints, our legislative attempts to compel people to live according to God’s standards may only close their ears. May we have the secret power of Daniel’s faith through prayer to lead us into his success, and more. (What are we to take home with us?)
Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. (Psalms 55:17 NIVUS)
As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision: (Daniel 9:23 NIVUS)
In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. (Psalms 5:3 NIVUS)
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:19-21 NIVUS)
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalms 19:7-11 NIVUS)
But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. (Matthew 5:34-36 NIVUS)
Above all, my brothers, do not swear-- not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned. (James 5:12 NIVUS)
"When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and confess your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance. (1 Kings 8:35-36 NIVUS)
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6 NIVUS)
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'If a man's wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure-- or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure-- then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder offering to draw attention to guilt. "'The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the LORD. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. After the priest has had the woman stand before the LORD, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, "If no other man has slept with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have defiled yourself by sleeping with a man other than your husband"-- here the priest is to put the woman under this curse of the oath-- "may the LORD cause your people to curse and denounce you when he causes your thigh to waste away and your abdomen to swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells and your thigh wastes away." "'Then the woman is to say, "Amen. So be it." "'The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering. The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the LORD and bring it to the altar. The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people. If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children. "'This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and defiles herself while married to her husband, or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the LORD and is to apply this entire law to her. The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.'" (Numbers 5:11-31 NIVUS)
But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:20 NIVUS)
It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:17 NIVUS)
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15 NIVUS)
Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. (Luke 17:1 NIVUS)
Jesus replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Luke 18:27 NIVUS)
Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul. I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them-- the LORD, who remains faithful forever. (Psalms 146:1-6 NIVUS)
The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I have not done evil by turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, (Psalms 18:20-25 NIVUS)
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:20 NIVUS)
They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" (Revelation 6:10 NIVUS)
They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-- you and your household." (Acts 16:31 NIVUS)
The righteous man is rescued from trouble, and it comes on the wicked instead. (Proverbs 11:8 NIVUS)
He who leads the upright along an evil path will fall into his own trap, but the blameless will receive a good inheritance. (Proverbs 28:10 NIVUS)
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NIVUS)
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." (John 1:47 NIVUS)
Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! (Acts 5:29 NIVUS)
This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands-- a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. "The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy." (Daniel 2:45 NIVUS)