Saturday, January 28, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel. Day 21, The Decree Of Darius

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 21
The Decree Of Darius

We begin Chapter 6 today and learn of a plot against Daniel. His enemies will persuade Darius to issue a decree that they hope will get Daniel killed.

"It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom." (Daniel 6:1-3) The dictionary defines a satrap as "a governor of a province under the ancient Persian monarchy". This was a fairly high position and Daniel was in an even higher position: that of one of the three administrators over 120 men. If the satraps were divided evenly among the three administrators this would mean Daniel supervised forty governors in the land. They would have reported directly to him and he would have reported directly to Darius. And now, because his honesty and trustworthiness exceeds that of all the other officials, Darius is thinking of giving Daniel a position which would make him second in command of the kingdom. 

There are always going to be those who envy the success of others. Sometimes it seems like they are more envious when they realize the success was gained simply by doing old-fashioned honest work. If we slept our way to the top, or if we were granted promotions by engaging in criminal business practices, enemies could dismiss our success by saying, "Well, if I did those things I could be successful too." But it's hard to say anything against honest work and it makes the native Babylonian men angry against Daniel. Even if his work is better than theirs, how dare anyone think of promoting this captive from Judah? They are insulted, in an anti-Semitic spirit, at the thought of this foreigner being in charge of them. It goes against their pride to report to a man who will now be almost a king himself. When Pharaoh made Joseph second in command of Egypt, he said to him, "Without your word no one will lift a hand or foot in all Egypt." (Genesis 41:44b) The Babylonian satraps and administrators know it won't be long until Darius says to Daniel, "Without your word no one will life a hand or foot in all Babylon."

A murderous conspiracy begins to emerge. "At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent." (Daniel 6:4) These men believe if they try hard enough they will find some skeletons in Daniel's closet. Being dishonest themselves, it's hard for them to imagine Daniel hasn't done something shady. They think his reports to Darius have been so impressive because he has done some cooking of the books. I picture the 120 satraps and the two other administrators huddled together in a secret meeting, agreeing among themselves that there has to be something they can charge him with. But they come up empty. All his numbers add up. He has embezzled nothing and he's squeaky clean.

"Finally these men said, 'We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.'" (Daniel 6:5) Amen! What finer thing can be said of any of us, by a corrupt system or by wicked enemies, that they will never find anything to charge us with except that we have faithfully served our God? 

Nebuchadnezzar never forbade Daniel to serve his own God. Neither did any of the kings after him. Even Belshazzar, blasphemous as he was toward the God of Israel, evidently never hindered Daniel or any of the Jewish captives from practicing their religion, since Belshazzar had never even met Daniel until the night Babylon fell. Cyrus of Persia, who conquered Babylon, was a believer in religious freedom and he would not have commanded Daniel to denounce his God. But this man Darius the Mede, whom Cyrus evidently set up as a vassal king over the newly conquered territory of Babylon, is going to be easily persuaded to pass a decree forbidding the people to worship anyone but himself. He has a weakness of character that Daniel's enemies are able to appeal to. When they come to him and suggest he is like a god and should be worshiped, something in him is immediately drawn to the idea. I believe we can safely conclude it never occurred to Darius what effect this decree might have on Daniel and on godly people like him. (As we will see, Darius is panic-stricken when he later realizes what he has done.) But right now, to Darius one god is probably the same as another. After all, he had helped Cyrus conquer many lands, and none of the gods of those lands had been able to stop the advance of the Medo-Persian Empire. Babylon was filled with people from the many nations Nebuchadnezzar had conquered and they represented a number of different religions and customs. Darius likely saw his decree as a way to unite the people and secure their allegiance. He either does not know or does not care that Nebuchadnezzar once attempted the same thing with a ninety-foot statue and failed.

"So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: 'May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions' den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered---in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed. So King Darius put the decree in writing." (Daniel 6:6-9) What a shameful group this is, coming together against an honest and godly man, pretending that anybody who is anybody in the kingdom has unanimously voted to make Darius a god for thirty days. The shortness of the proposed time period was part of their strategy. Darius knows the people might revolt if he declared himself a god from now on, but it seems fairly harmless to him to require such worship for only thirty days. At the end of that time, the people can go back to their various gods. The king signs the bill into law. Daniel is not present at this meeting but Darius evidently believes the statement that all the officials are in agreement. Since Daniel has such a strong work ethic, Darius may have thought he was so busy he couldn't come to the palace.

When Daniel hears the news, he knows immediately that a conspiracy is against him and that he was left out and not represented at the meeting, but he does the same thing he always does. "Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." (Daniel 6:10) Daniel was such a faithful administrator during the reigns of several kings because he was such a faithful servant of God. This was the secret to his success. Kings found him worthy of responsibility and promotion because he did his best to keep from sinning against God. Daniel wasn't a perfect man, because no man has ever been perfect except the Lord Jesus Christ, but he constantly strove to do the best he could. A man who deeply desires to never sin against God is a man who can be trusted not to sin against his superiors. 

I don't know whether his enemies burst into the room or whether they climbed up to peer into his window like a bunch of creepy peeping Toms, but they caught him praying to his God. "Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: 'Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions' den?' The king answered, 'The decree stands---in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.' Then they said to the king, 'Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.' When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him." (Daniel 6:11-14)

The trap snaps shut and Darius is caught in it along with Daniel. The plot is suddenly clear to him and he knows he fell straight into it. He works until sundown to find some loophole in the law that will allow him to pardon Daniel. Daniel is the best man in the entire kingdom. If Darius wanted to go out of the city on vacation or even leave the country for a time, he could safely place everything in the hands of Daniel. The king now knows none of the other officials can be trusted. They have betrayed a good man and in the process they have played Darius for a fool. I believe he called in every lawyer in the kingdom and that they pored over the books non-stop, while the king anxiously walked the floor, until they ran out of time to save Daniel from the lions' den.

But it's not God's will to save Daniel from the lions' den or to save Darius from the consequences of his mistake. If Darius found a loophole that allowed him to pardon Daniel, he would congratulate himself for being so clever and Daniel would owe all his thanks to the king. But by placing Daniel in the lions' den and by giving Darius an agonizing and sleepless night, God is going to pull off a miracle that pardons Daniel and causes the king to recognize that the God Daniel serves is real and is mighty to save.

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