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Welcome to Sunday School

September 24, 2023 

"Live Courageously"

Daniel 6:6-13; 16-17; 21-23
The Point:
"Do the right thing in God's strength."
How do we respond to change? What changes do we embrace? What happens when cultural changes occur that are at odds with our beliefs? What is non-negotiable, and how do we decide?
Daniel 6:6-10
6  Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. 
7  All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king he shall be cast into the den of lions.
8  Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. 
9  Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. 
10  Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. 
Daniel's wisdom, reputation, and ability to solve problems had distinguished him from others. He was one of three federal appointees who oversaw the 120 "princes" (meaning protectors of the Kingdom or realm) who governed smaller territories. These local officials were essential because at its zenith, the Persian Empire was the largest kingdom that had ever existed. 
THE PLOT.  The princes and Daniel's fellow overseers became jealous when they learned Daniel was about to receive a promotion; they devised a plot to remove him. They knew Daniel was a man of deep and  sincere faith, and that he would choose to show loyalty to God rather than loyalty to a king. 
The phrase "assembled together" carries the idea in Hebrew of rushing like a loud mob to see the king. Regardless of how many had agreed to the idea, the statement is a reminder that proper action is not determined by popular vote.  Just because something is legal doesn't mean it's right. The conspirators' claim also highlights that wrongdoing is always based in a lie, whether it's "I won't get caught", Nobody thinks it's wrong," or "Nobody will be hurt." We know the conspirators' statement was a lie; Daniel had not agreed to the idea. 
Running all the prayers and official requests through King Darius set him up as the various gods' lone representative on earth and the final voice for all political authority. In essence, it meant that for thirty days, Darius was ruler of heaven and earth, at least in his own mind. The proposition appealed to Darius' ego, his lust for power, and maybe his personal insecurity. He put the decree in writing, which meant the order was irrevocable (Esth. 1:19). Disobedience meant death. 
THE PRAYING PROPHET.  A new law did not change Daniel's behavior. He continued praying "as he did aforetime." The Bible does not require a person to kneel and pray three times a day. The priests presented offerings and prayers in the temple at the time of sacrifice in the morning and the evening. Further, many Jews prayed while standing (1 Chron. 23:30); Matt. 6:5). Daniel's visible practice and posture reflected what could not be seen, the commitment of his heart and his love for the Father. Daniel knew prayer is essential for a person of faith and that it changes things. Prayer was a priority for Daniel. 
Having a room upstairs indicated Daniel had an elevated status in Persian culture.  Daniel's upstairs windows though were open, giving a clear view into the room. 
At the temple dedication, Solomon introduced the practice of facing Jerusalem when praying (2 Chron. 6:34-39). God had revealed His presence and glory in the temple (1 Kings 8:10-11). Although the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem and its temple, God promised to return and reveal His glory there again (Ezek. 42:1-5; Jer. 29:10-14). Facing Jerusalem while praying symbolized faith and hope. 
Daniel had heard about Darius' decree.  Nonetheless, Daniel bravely resumed his usual prayer practice. He was not trying to flaunt his disobedience or draw attention to himself. He was doing what he had likely been doing three times a day for his sixty-plus years in Babylon; he knelt, faced Jerusalem, and offered his prayers and thanksgiving to God. 
Prayers this day, though, took on a new status - they were illegal. We can learn from Daniel's example that Daniel prayed consistently. He set aside time each day to pray, which meant prayer was a priority. He prayed unashamedly and expectantly, trusting God would keep His promises. Daniel set a pattern for us to follow still today. 
Daniel 6:11-13
11 Then these men assembled, and found Daniel 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 Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
13  Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou has signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. 
How long did Daniel's accusers stare at his windows, waiting on him to have the nerve to pray? The Hebrew verb translated "assembled" in verse 11 carries the idea that they worked together with a malicious intent. In English it's the difference between planning and plotting. 
THE CONSPIRATORS.  Once the group saw Daniel pray, they sprang to action. Those who had convinced King Darius to enact the decree now rushed to get him to enforce it against Daniel. This had been their evil intent all along. They reminded Darius of his decree - the offense and the punishment - and had him verbally agree to enforce it. Only then did the group identity the offender. They wanted the king to paint himself into a corner, and it worked.
The New Testament teaches us that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. His intent is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 8:44; 10:10). Satan is the one "which deceiveth the whole world" and accuses "our brethren" before the throne of God, day and night (Rev. 12:9-10). Easily, we see the conspirators of Daniel doing the same works: lying, intending to kill; deceiving, and accusing before the throne. The battle here was not physical or political; it was spiritual. 
THE CONUNDRUM. The scene compels us to ask ourselves what we should do when faced with obeying what God says or what the law says when the two conflict with each other. The Bible teaches us that we are to obey the law (Rom. 13:1-2). it also shows, though, that God's law takes priority over man's law (Acts 5:29). 
As our world becomes increasingly secular, there will be occasions when obeying God's Word or man's law will be in opposition to each other, Believers will be forced to weigh the consequences and decide who to obey. It's easy to boldly proclaim, "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Josh. 24:15), when there is no penalty for choosing otherwise. But we are called to a different level of commitment when following God's will means losing a job, a business, or even going to jail. The time to make the decision is beforehand, not in the heat of the moment. 
Daniel 6:16-17; 21-23
16  Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, 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 Daniel. 
21  Then said Daniel 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 exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. 
Torturous death sentences were common in the ancient hear east. Daniel is the only known example from the ancient near east of someone being dropped into a den of lions as punishment. Since Darius issued the royal decree with its accompanying punishment, he was the one to seal the entrance to the den of lions. People entered Babylon from the north through the arched Ishtar gate which stood forty feet tall. The street, known as Procession Way, extended approximately half a mile through the Ishtar Gate. 
Ishtar was the Mesopotamian goddess of love, fertility, and war. Emphasizing her strength, she was commonly depicted standing on the back of lions. In time the lion itself became the symbol for Ishtar. People entering the city were reminded visually that Ishtar protected Babylon. 
Daniel had seen the figures of Ishtar that lined the Procession Way. He had been present during its construction. Daniel was used to seeing these lions, but instead of being symbols of protection, they now symbolized death for him. 
It is possible that the den of lions or pit into which Daniel was dropped was a dry underground cistern that people no longer used for storing water. Sometimes they were used as prisons. When Daniel was ultimately brought up from the den of lions, it is likely he was pulled out by a rope. 
Daniel's world had changed its standard for acceptable behavior. Daniel, however, had not. He remained faithful to God, regardless. He was willing to pay the ultimate price for his faith. Increasingly, our changing world wants us to embrace standards that are contrary to God's Word. Our challenge is to remain faithful to him, regardless of the cost. 
For more information on this lesson attend Sunday School at our church. We will be glad to have you.

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