Are you in the lion's den? Can't you sleep well? or, do you trust the God who can deliver you from the lions?
Daniel 6:19-21 (NIV 18-20)
"Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep"
"At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?"
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If you compared the New International Version with the original Aramaic then you have seen an excelent rendering. But there is a difference in other many versions that we should be able to explain.
The "entertainment" which wasn't brought to the king is the Aramaic "dakhaván", it means "dakhavá" in plural. This word is only found here in the whole Bible, and is understood often as "musical instruments" because to play music before the king after supper was usual, and because "dakhavá" comes from the same root as "dakhákh" which means to "strike", as you do with the strings of the instruments.
In other versions you will find "dancers" or even "concubines", because they compare dakhavá with the Arabic similar word, and because dancing girls and concubines were also usual to bring before the king at night. But in that case you should read "lekhená", same word for "concubine" in Daniel 5, and it is not probable that a scribe should write a "D" for a "L" in the Aramaic alphabet. Other versions render it as "food" - as the Wycliffe Bible, which takes this word from the LXX. "Musical instruments" is the rendering adopted by most Hebrew / Aramaic lexicons, and "entertainment" is a plausible paraphrasis which helps us to avoid any discussion among "dancers" or "instruments".
Why couldn't the king sleep? Was he suffering because of his sin?
Certainly the royal decree he signed was a foolish thing to do, and to realise the manipulation that his subalterns had done against him was not exactly a reason to rejoice. But the text shows us another reason. The king was troubled because of Daniel's punishment. He was worried all night long because of the prophet, who was among savage beasts, and at the first light of dawn he ran to the den to see if the prophet was still alive.
The pain in the king's soul can be understood in his question. He calls Daniel's God "the living God". The fact that he wanted Daniel as his second in the kingdom implies the possibility that he was informed about Daniel's events which had happened in Babylonia, and that he had heard about the God of the Jews who had worked such miracles in their favor. But when he asked "was he able to rescue you from the lions?" it means that the king didn't know that "living God" as the "Allmighty God".
It is not enough to know that there's a God. The demons know that. It is necessary TO KNOW God.
There is another king who sent to death anohter prophet. From thursday night, when Judas delivered Our Lord and when Jesus' agony began, to the next day's afternoon (ca. 3:00 PM) Our Father God saw the injust accusation, the mistreatment, humiliation and crucifixion of His Son. He heard even His cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", and He saw Jesus dying on the cross, after all torments that they had inflicted on Him.
But we don't read in the Word that God the Father "couldn't sleep". There is a huge difference: He knew that His Son should be buried till sunday morning (the "first day") and that He would rise with power, and with a glorified body that would never die again.
There is a big difference between faith, "confidence in what we hope", and incertitude, the "doubt in what we hope". There is a huge difference between that night of the king Darius the Mede and the night (plus more than half day on friday) of the King of the Universe, the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. That difference which faith causes is a reason that God gives us faith, and He urges us to live by faith through the whole Bible. Faith means we have a knowledge of God ways, and that we believe Him, even when any solution is not in our power or when we don't understand what's going on.
It was not only the king Darius who needed faith. For Daniel the prophet, it was a tremendous test of his faith to spend the night among lions. Faith reminds us that aflictions are temporary, but beatitudes are eternal. It reminds us also that not even lions use their claws if God doesn't want. And last but not least, that if it would happen, then we should go to the Presence of Our Father forever.
The Word of God says that "...everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope" (Romans 15:4) This is palpable in the book of Daniel, especially in the first half, which contains the stories about Daniel's life and his friends in Babylonia, and about God's miraculous interventions in their favor.
We have treated in this site the "teaching", "endurance" and "hope" that the book of Daniel gives us. God can work even in the worst crisis, as He did with Daniel and his friends, who saw their country conquered and who went to captivity with many of their countrymen, but in the land of their captivity God made them to Babylonian officials (you can read about it in Daniel 1:1-2 in this site) Even when it seems that God has forgotten us, the nation of Israel and the prophet Daniel are good examples that it is not so, "for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable" (you can read about it in Daniel 5:13-14 in this site) To live in sin, in a "spiritual prison" with a "depraved mind", is no match for God, who is Mighty to break all chains that Satan has bound us with, and who is Mighty to set us free in Christ Jesus (you can read about it in Daniel 5:20-21) To be attacked and persecuted because of our faith isn't meant to destroy us but to test us. When we believe, when we keep the faith to the end, God gives us victory (you can read it in Daniel 6:10-11)
Are you in a lion's den, like prophet Daniel?
Of course your anwer should be "no" if we only think in some "lions" of flesh and blood. But "lions" means many different things in the Bible. Our Lord is called "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" and Satan "prowls around like a roaring lion".
Observe this last example, that you find in 1 Peter 5:8 :
"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour"
That "roaring lion" is not on vacations. He's looking for som prey all the time. We can read about it in the book of Job, a "blameless and upright" man who "feared God and shunned evil". Satan sent some "lions" to him that make his state miserable:
- pillagers who robbed his donkeys, oxen and camels
- a fire from heaven that burned his sheep and servants
- a mighty wind which killed his children
- painful sores that tormented him
- his wife's rejection and despise; she said to him, "curse God and die"
- his friends' "help"; they accused him of great sin that had brought those terrible plagues from God upon him
Job was plagued not only with catastrophes and misfortune. His nearer friends who apparently came to comfort and help him, and his wife, the same who had married him and promised faithfulness "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health", all of them became his enemies, accusers who reinforced his torment instead of healing it.
The verse we saw before - 1 Peter 5:8 - is in a letter that Peter sent to the first Christians, suffering persecution from the Roman emperor Nero. This is happening in our days also in Nigeria, Syria, Irak, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries, that Christians are persecuted by Muslim terrorists. But in Rome's times this persecutions took place in the Roman Empire. "Persecution" is the "lion" which Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 4:17 when he says, "And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth".
Observe now these "lions" which we read about in Proverbs 28:15 :
"Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a helpless people"
Maybe you have heard about a terrorism wave from the Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria shaking the land of Israel in the last months, and about the agression coming from the Gaza strip which has caused defensive counterattacks from the Jewish part. These are the result of a "helpless people" which leaders get billions in international aid, but they keep the people in poverty and with a high level of unemployment - many of them live as refugees in the same territory their leaders are governing on - and use the money to buy weapons, explosives and rockets, and to build a whole structure of tunnels destined to invade Israel. Whereas these "roaring lions and charging bears" are teaching their people to become terrorists, and indoctrinating them in a relentless antisemitism, most of the world is acting as Job's wife and friends, blaming Israel.
Evil rulers, or "lions" in Jeremiah 50:17, where a scourge for Isreal from ancient times. They conquered their land and took them captives. And even in our times there are many "lions" blaming Israel for the agression and hate from the Palestinian Arabs, and making a terrible press upon the Jews so that they cede to the pretensions of the terrorists. The only purpose of the so called "Palestinian Authorities" is to occupy the whole Israel, rename it to "Palestine" and make it to a caliphate, expelling all Jews.
Persecutors and detractors were called "lions" also by king David, who was many years under persecution and defamation. The book of Psalms shows us this use in several verses:
"Lord my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me apart like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me"
"They are like a lion hungry for prey, like a fierce lion crouching in cover" [talking about "the wicked who were out to destroy him, from his mortal enemies who surrounded him", verse 9]
Psalms 22:13, 21
"Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me"
"Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen"
This Psalm is messianic and prophecies the crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But it is also David's prayer because of his enemies and detractors. The description of David's enemies as lions is a figure we can find in the book of Psalms again and again:
"How long, Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions"
"I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts - men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords"
"Lions" mean also "false prophets". Observe Ezekiel 22:25 :
"There is a conspiracy of her prophets within her [the "city of bloodshed" in verse 2] like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make many widows within her"
All kinds of lions - enemies, detractors and false prophets - threatened and persecuted Martin Luther to death, as well as other reformers. The German reformer was banished from the church, persecuted to death by the Papacy and saw his doctrine treated as a "heresy" and rejected. His well known 95 thesis were a response to the false prophecies of Johann Tetzel, the papal commissioner who promised that "as soon as the money [of the price of indulgences] clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory"
The book of Job shows us how that "blameless and upright" man, who "feared God and shunned evil", saw his life "in the lions' claws", but was finally rewarded by God because of his faith. He didn't renege on his Creator and Redeemer, but kept the faith. The history of Israel shows us nowadays the most prosperous country and only democracy in the Middle East, surrounded by enemies living in war and devastation.
King David was able to govern till he died. He strenghthened Israel as a kingdom with Jerusalem as capital, and let as successor his son Solomon, who built the temple, increased Israel's territory, created alliances with Israel's neighbours and ruled Israel in its most splendid age in ancient times. "For the sake of His servant David", the God of Israel permitted the Jews to live in the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for more than 1000 years, and even when He delivered them to be conquered and spread among all countries, He has gathered them together again from every corner of the earth to give them their inheritance.
The Roman Empire which persecuted Christians fell before the "barbarians". But the church of Christ is alive after more than 2000 years and has no intention to dissapear. The names of those who flagellated, stoned or imprisoned Paul the apostle are unknown and forgotten. But Paul founded several churches, wrote half NT and left us an exposition of Christian doctrine which is "Word of God" fo all believers, and basic for our evangelical churches (where the Bible is the norm of faith, and the grace of God received by faith the only means of salvation)
Luther's persecutors are not so well known either. But Luther's Reformation is alive for everyone who believes in the Bible and accept it as Word of God and basis of the Christian faith. It is in the Reformation that the truth was revealed about our salvation, which has nothing to do with "belonging to a religion" but to receive Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of our lives and follow Him (it is, to have a personal relationship with Him)
I don't know which are those "lions" which are making your life miserable. But I do know the ones who did it to Job, king David, the apostle Paul, the Jewish people and the Christians. And I do know as well that those lions didn't succeeded, but God did. We live in a world that believes in hazard and other many things, but Our Lord Jesus Christ taught us that nothing happens on earth if God doesn't permit it:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
"Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven"
The word for "sparrow" in Greek is "strutíon". This means not only litlle birds from the sparrow family, but any little bird (contrasting ostriches or eagles, the big ones) Now the most minuscule bird in the whole world is called "zunzún", is a specie of hummingbird which lives in the island of Cuba and is only 5 cm (max) lenght. It is so little that someone could take it for an insect - maybe also because his wingbeat frequency is about 80 to 200 times PER SECOND. This quality of beating his wings so fast causes him to be able to stand in the air as a helicopter, and drink the nectar from the flowers without standing on them, neither in the blades or the branches of the plant (as you can see in the picture)
The Word of God states that not even a zunzún falls to the ground if God doesn't permit it. And that our own lives are more more valuable than the lives of the hummingbirds. The King of kings carried His cross, was crucified on it, died because of our sins, and rised from the death to justify us. He didn't return to justify hummingbirs or sparrows. They have not sinned. He rised from the death for OUR justification and salvation. The God who controls a hummingbird so that he doesn't fall to the ground is the same one who controls the lions so that they won't devour us. He says that whoever acknowledges Jesus Chrust before others will also be acknowledged before His Father in heaven.
To "acknowledge" in this verse comes from the Greek "omologéo". This word means also to "profess" (a belief) to "agree" (be of the same opinion than other one) to admit (accept) or to "consent" (not to deny the word of the other but to approve it)
Have you received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you profess your faith in Him? Do you agree with the Word of God? If your answer to these questions is "yes", it doesn't matter which ones, or how many are the lions surrounding you. The Lord will deliver you from all of them.
If you have not yet received Christ as your Lord and Savior, there is time yet! You only need to pray to Him, ask Him for the forgivenness of your sins and ask Him to come to your life, to be your Lord, your salvation, your God. He says that there is joy in the Kingdom of Heaven when a sinner repents. There is no greater joy for Our God than seeing His children coming back home and walking in the truth.
May the Lord bless you! In the love of Christ, your brother
PS. Jesus is coming soon!