Of all the people in the scriptures, Daniel stands out as an exemplar of true faith and commitment to God. His purpose earlier in life was not superficial; the strength of his firm purpose carried him through till old age. Though he was a captive in Babylon, he was courageous, not cowardly, in standing by his godly conviction. He did not think that when you are in Rome, you must do as the Romans. He was as righteous in Babylon as he had been in Jerusalem. To him, it mattered not whether his actions brought him loss or gain, frown or favour, pain or pleasure, condemnation or commendation of the world. Cost what it might, righteousness was always the best policy. Each of us needs such a spirit of decision in times like these.
Why would Daniel be so particular? Were there not other Jews in the land, who kept their religion to themselves and quietly refrained from attracting attention to their conviction? The temptation to look at others is always strong, but Daniel was not going to yield to any pressure to compromise. He was being considered for the highest position in the government. If he were very conscientious in keeping to his conviction, would he not miss the opportunity of that special promotion? No position in an earthly government was as important to Daniel as a place in the Kingdom of God. Some might have said ‘it is the law of the land not to pray to God’ but God’s children are under a higher law and “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Daniel’s heart was set and settled. His decision was not floating in his head but deep-rooted in his heart.
The presidents and the princes conspired against Daniel. They, by flattery and deception, perverted the king’s mind to pass an unchangeable edict. The penalty for disobeying the king’s decree was death in the lions’ den. The situation would have put Daniel in great dilemma, but his first allegiance was to the King of kings and his fearless and unqualified obedience was to the law and edict of His everlasting Kingdom. The great trial did not crush his spirit of praise. He still “prayed and gave thanks before His God.”
The dread of the den of lions did not stop Daniel from worshipping God. The lions in the den, indeed, all the lions in all the dens on earth are under God’s control. If he had compromised and sinned for fear of Darius’ den of lions, he could still have encountered a fiercer doom than the terror from which he shrank. Lions could still crush and kill the compromiser (1 Kings 13:24; 2 Kings 17:25,26; Job 3:25). Compromising men have declined to bear a light burden and they have been constrained to bear a far heavier one. They have fled from a lion and a bear has met them; they sought to escape from a bear but a serpent killed them (Amos 5:19).
To deny Christ because of danger is always risky, unsafe and dangerous. It is better to go forward than to draw back. The safest thing is to trust our souls into God’s care and do His will. Even if there are lions in front, it is better to go ahead doing God’s will than to draw back. “Remember Lot’s wife.” It may be hard going forward, but it is worse going back. If a man lost his life to save his coat he would be a fool; if a man were to lose his soul in order to save his life, he would be a greater fool. So, Daniel knew that the risk of being cast into a den of lions was nothing when compared to the risk of being cast into hell. He chose the smaller risk and continued living for God’s glory.
Ultimately, the great conflict was between “the law of his God”, “the LORD that change not” (Daniel 6:5; Malachi 3:6) and “the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not” (Daniel 6:8,12b, 15). It was a conflict between the everlasting King and an earthly ruler. Daniel knew that God is greater and disobedience to His law carries eternal punishment. The penalty in the den was temporary and brief; the punishment in hell will be endless and eternal. It would have been foolish to fear the den and risk being cast into the eternal lake of fire. There was a choice to make and Daniel, strengthened by habitual prayer and faith in God, made the right choice.
Further Reading (King James Version): Daniel 6:10; Daniel 6:10,7; Amos 3:4; Hebrews 11:33; Psalms 7:1,2; 10:2-9; 57:4-7; 35:17-20; Nahum 2:11,12; 2 Timothy 4:16-18; 1 Peter 5:8,9.