We continue looking at Daniel in the time of the Babylonian Exile. We discuss the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. We also look at a significant prophecy of Isaiah and the story of King Cyrus. There is a spiritual battle throughout history. These characters were involved and so are we. It is our time to fight for God’s kingdom and we can learn a lot from those who went before us about what it means to fight.
Daniel in the lions’ den
So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” An amazing thing for Darius to say.
But Darius, perhaps, knew the story of the handwriting on the wall. Perhaps that’s why Daniel was spared.
Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, to make sure nobody could break it. —that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed.
Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him.
He stayed up all night because he was so concerned for his guy that he wanted to be the head guy.
Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions.
And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever!
My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.”
Now the king was 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 injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.
And the king gave the command, and they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast them, ate them up straight away.
We see pride is the source of downfall for Belshazzar. Greed is the source of downfall for these eunuchs who wanted to kill Daniel. And both of them are rooted in the same thing which is the attitude of Satan.
Let’s look at Isaiah 14. Isaiah was written during this 700ish time frame, during Hezekiah. And he predicts this exile and return. During the course of doing so, in Isaiah 14, he talks about Lucifer and Lucifer’s attitude.8
“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
I will do what I want to do.
I will impose my will on others.
I will put others beneath me,
and I will be served.
I’ve been told that they’ve done some kind of study about language in our time and era, and the incidence of the words I and me in everyday conversation has exploded because, in fact, the heart of Satan is the heart of being elevated and being served through coercion by other people.
There’s no greater elevation and coercion than being able to kill people if they don’t give you their money. And that’s the position these eunuchs found themselves in, and they liked it. So they manipulated it.
And that’s what we see: pride, greed. They are the root of violence and coercion.
Now it may be that in a domestic situation inside a family that you never get to the point of violence so instead you use emotional coercion. Or perhaps exclusion. But it all amounts to the same thing. And it’s all rooted in pride.
And I think what God is giving us here is a very stark example of the fruits of pride. The wages of sin is death. The root of sin is pride. I will do my way.
And he’s also given us an example of a great man who, in spite of the consequences, in spite of what the world says, he says, I’m serving God.
I got eunuched. I’m serving God.
I got taken away from my home, put in a place I didn’t want to be. I’m serving God.
I got put in a university to get brainwashed in a foreign philosophy. I’m serving God.
I’m threatened with death because somebody can’t interpret the dream. I’m serving God.
I have a chance when I interpret the dream to wipe out all my competitors. I’m going to save them.
I have the opportunity to compromise just a little bit and let the money keep flowing and have my position. I’m serving my God.
It’s really an amazing, amazing contrast. Pride and humility. Pride and bowing the knee before God.
God uses Cyrus
Now, of course, God is sovereign over this entire situation. And it’s interesting to look at what happened shortly thereafter. And we’ll just look at the very, very first part of the return under—and it begins with the character Cyrus.
Let’s look at Ezra chapter one. Cyrus perhaps is king during Darius the Mede, perhaps comes after him. It’s not clear. What is clear is that Cyrus makes a proclamation.
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem—
And he goes on; and, basically, he orders the return and the rebuilding of the temple.
Now, remember, Isaiah was written back in here in this 700 timeframe. And let’s go back to Isaiah again. Chapter 44. Isaiah 44:28.
Who says of Cyrus, speaking of God, ‘He is My shepherd,
And he shall perform all My pleasure,
Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,”
And to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.” ’
“Thus says the Lord to His anointed,
To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—
To subdue nations before him
And loose the armor of kings,
To open before him the double doors,
So that the gates will not be shut:
‘I will go before you—
To Cyrus, “I’ll call you by name.
And this is probably, oh let’s see, what would it be? Maybe a hundred years before Cyrus is even born? This is a time when Persia is not the dominant power in the world. Assyria is the dominant power in the world. And it’s going to go to Babylon and then to Persia before a possibility of somebody named Cyrus coming up.
Liberal critics who say the word of God is just mythology, something people made up to explain things, and all that sort of thing, they try to make Isaiah two books so that everything after chapter 40 is something that was written much later. They call it Deutero-Isaiah. And this is one of the reasons why. Because you can’t really predict someone by name in a nation that’s not even involved in the world affairs that much to rebuild Jerusalem while Jerusalem is still standing, has never fallen, and that guy’s not even born—unless it’s God prophesying about the future. And these liberal guys don’t think that that’s possible.
That was a pretty widely-held view until they found a Dead Sea scroll with a roll of Isaiah pretty well intact. And, of course, there are no chapters in the original scrolls; and it had no break at chapter 40. It just kept right on going. So they’ve got to find some other way to doubt.
Here you’ve got a pagan king who is a type and image of Jesus, which—now, so what does that tell us? Well, God’s sovereign over all this stuff. I mean, he can use anyone he wants to.
And the Proverbs tells us that the heart of a ruler is in the hands of God. Remember who was one of the people that prophesied Jesus’s death and resurrection? Caiaphas, the high priest, who was the instrument of killing him.
And God used a jackass at one point in time to say something.
He can use anybody any way he pleases. And here he’s using Cyrus. It’s really encouraging.
And all of this is under the umbrella of a great spiritual warfare.
Let’s go back to Daniel, and let’s look at chapter 10.
An angel is delayed coming to Daniel
Daniel 10:13. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me—
This is an angel speaking. So if you go back up to, let’s say, verse 7.
And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision—
And verse 10, Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands.
And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling.
Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God—which was about 21 days earlier, as I recall—your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.
But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.
Here we’ve got Cyrus doing the will of God; and we’ve got Darius that’s a big fan of Daniel. But the Prince of Persia, here, is actually a satanic figure.
Daniel prays, and an angel’s dispatched to go and answer Daniel; but he’s blocked by this Prince of Persia for twenty-one days until Michael comes and helps him overcome this angelic figure.
And verse 14. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people—
I get involved in the government stuff a lot, politics. I’m trying to do what Daniel does here and bring transparency and honesty into government, which is a very underappreciated thing. And, I consider it to be a great ministry because it’s such a nasty arena. Most people that go into politics go in there because they want to get something from someone else. Instead of competing and serving for it, they want to just take it.
I have a congressman friend, and one day I was sitting in his office, and I was encouraging him to do something; and he said, “You know, 98 percent of the people who sit in that chair are asking for federal money.”
And later he said, “This is how it works up here.” A businessman wants a contract, and it’s a ten-million-dollar contract. So he goes and he hires an $80,000 lobbyist, and he pays a consultant a hundred thousand dollars, and he gives a hundred thousand dollars to the chairman’s re-election fund. And he gets a ten-million-dollar contract. I mean, it’s an unbelievable rate of return.
And then when some guy in Wyoming or someplace gets in trouble and he’s going to lose his election, he calls up all the committee chairmen who have these big slush funds, and they all give him some money to keep his seat. It’s just a giant incumbency protection racket. And nobody can extract themselves from it because the money is just too great.
Does that sound familiar? Is there anything new about this? It’s the same racket Daniel was involved in.
And I can just tell you from personal experience, when somebody tries to blow that up, they don’t like it; and they come after you. And they start looking for ways to overthrow you. They may even have an opposition research person come out and start spreading negative things about you in the newspaper or whatever. And I’ve got friends that this has happened to.
But you can do one of two things:
You can get mad at that person and say, “You’re just a lousy crook!”
Or you can look at it I think the way Daniel looked at it, which was, there’s something way bigger going on here. There’s an angelic battle happening. There’s good and evil. There’s the spirit of Satan that’s all about, “I want to be lifted up! And I want to put myself over you.”
And that spirit can exhibit itself in a family with a father that’s a buffoonish dictator.
It can exhibit itself in a family with a mother that’s a control freak.
It can exhibit itself in a company with a boss that’s a tyrant and is more interested in his or her own ego and in putting himself over people than he is and accomplishing something of service for someone.
It can happen in politics.
It can happen anywhere. Because that spirit and that force is at work in our world. And our flesh is in harmony with that spirit.
But I think what we see here is the end of that, the handwriting on the wall. You know, we still use that phrase. “He saw the handwriting on the wall.” It actually isn’t a very good phrase because Belshazzar didn’t understand what it meant. He was like, “What does that mean?” But we use that phrase as, “Oh, I see something’s coming. That’s certain. I’ve got to take action.”
Well, the handwriting on the wall for pride is here for us right now, and it is if we want to elevate ourselves, if we want to serve our own appetites, if we want to make things about our own ego instead of serving what God wants us to serve, instead of standing for truth, then we’re going to get the fruits of pride and greed, which is violence. And the violence may be physical, it may be some of something else.
And that, of course, carries right on to the judgment seat of Christ when wood, hay, and stubble is burned up, and there’s loss suffered. Because we reap what we sow.
And, on the other hand, if we sow life in peace, truth, light, transparency, serving God, we’re standing for freedom. It was for freedom that Christ set us free. The truth will set us free. And this world’s system doesn’t like either one of those. It doesn’t like freedom, and it doesn’t like truth. But there’s no reason to get mad at a person because of that.
We’ve got political figures that everybody likes to hate, and that’s counterproductive. All that’s doing is feeding into this flesh thing. There’s something bigger. It’s the heart of Satan that we’re actually fighting against. It’s a spiritual battle.
Fight the spiritual battle
So how do you fight it? You fight it like Daniel did. You keep your spirit of grace when the opposition comes. You stand up and say the truth unflinchingly when lies come. You sow life in peace when conflict comes. And when there’s a contest, you enter that contest with great vigor and don’t back down, and you don’t compromise your principles.
The other side will always cheat, and they’ll always lie because that’s the spirit of Satan. He is, by definition, a liar and a murderer. Coercion and deception, that’s what Satan is at his very essence.
And the essence of God is truth and grace.
Every one of us—you don’t have to be involved in politics to be involved in the spiritual battle. It’s everywhere. It’ll find you. It’ll find you at your office. It’ll find you in your home. It’ll come through your TV set and your radio. It’ll show up in books. It’ll show up in your neighborhood.
And the fundamental question for us is, are we going to be like Daniel, or are we going to be like Belshazzar and these other guys? Are we going to be like Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar, who humbled themselves?
Handwriting on the wall, lion’s den, spiritual battle. It’s as applicable to us today as it was thousands of years ago.