At the end of Daniel Chapter 5, we are introduced to a new character, Darius the Mede who takes over the kingdom. However, Darius is not Babylonian. He is a “Mede” or Akkadian. The Medes were an ancient Iranian people who allied themselves with Babylon to defeat the Assyrians but were then conquered by Cyrus the Great king of Persia who then together with the Medes conquered the Babylonians. Just a quick history lesson.
So, there is a new sheriff in town, Darius the Mede, but historians aren’t really sure about who this guy is because Darius the Great, king of Persia doesn’t reign until after Cyrus the Great. If you’re confused, so am I. There are several different theories about this Darius. Is he just a fictional character or does Daniel mix up the chronological order in his writings? Who knows? If Daniel says it was “King Darius” then I believe him.
Daniel chapter 6 begins with “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.” (Daniel 6:1-2) The Persians are now in charge of the region after conquering Babylon and Darius is appointing new leadership. He appoints “satraps” or provincial governors to rule throughout the Persian Empire. It is interesting that Daniel, along with two others, are appointed as administrators over all 120 governors. This will become a problem later but for now I wanted to ask, how is Daniel able to remain an influential leader in the region even after Babylon is conquered by the Persians? What is it about Daniel that makes him so invaluable and useful to multiple kings and kingdoms?
3Now 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 6:3 NIV
Verse 3 says that Daniel is able to make the transition from Babylonian to Persian leadership because He “distinguished himself by his exceptional qualities”. One would have to be exceptional to navigate this kind of transition. I started thinking about all the qualities that Daniel would have to possess to make it this far and remain so influential in an environment that was so foreign and so transitory. Remember he’s still a slave, a stranger in a strange land, living in a culture that is hostile to his faith and customs. Persian religion or spiritual practices were polytheistic, worship of many gods, like the Babylonians, and it didn’t include the Hebrew God. So, nothing has changed for Daniel from that perspective. He just trades one for another.
Daniel by this time is probably 70-80 years old. He has survived captivity, slavery, and transitions of power exceptionally well. The Israelites are still in exile and serving their sentence of disobedience to God. They won’t return to Israel to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem for another 100 years or so. Despite his circumstances, Daniel is still making the best of the situation and remains steadfast in his faithfulness to God.
Finally, we are getting to the part of Daniel that most people know about, “Daniel and the Lion’s den”. Most children who have attended Sunday school or VBS (Vacation Bible School) know that Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den to be devoured by hungry lions, then God rescues Daniel by keeping the lion’s mouths shut, but most may not remember why Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den in the first place. While this is another dramatic and impressive account of Daniels faith, I really want to focus again on Daniel’s “exceptional qualities”, his character. So, how does Daniel keep his seat at the table of leadership especially in an environment where his God and his entire system of belief is not relevant or popular? Remember, what we learn from Daniel can help us navigate and remain faithful to God in our current culture that is becoming increasingly unpopular and hostile to our faith.
Regardless of the source, the qualities of a successful leader will usually include a combination of the following: vision, inspiration, strategic-critical thinking, authenticity, self-awareness, open-mindedness, creativity, flexibility, responsibility, trustworthiness, dependability, patience, perseverance, integrity, etc. All these leadership-character traits or abilities are applicable, useful, and transferable regardless of environment, religion, politics, or ideology but all of them come directly from God whether we recognize it or not. We were created with them and so much more. We just have to choose to apply or use them. My point is that Daniel’s “exceptional qualities”, including some of those mentioned above, enable him to rise to the top. These qualities don’t violate of God’s law. We are all free to practice them. It’s called doing the right thing, the right way, and that’s how Daniel does it. Yes, God is protecting him and working behind the scenes, but Daniel must walk the walk so that good things can happen.
Unfortunately doing the right thing doesn’t always have a happy ending, sometimes it can get us into trouble, especially if our “right thing” or truth is not popular or relevant to our current environment or culture. It may get us crucified, thrown into a fiery furnace or a lion’s den. At some point, our faith will require us to take a stand or choose between relevancy, fitting in, and obedience to God. Daniel isn’t thrown into the lion’s den because of his character. He is above reproach, so what is Daniel’s kryptonite?
“4At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5Finally 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 6:4-5 NIV
For whatever reason, envy, jealousy, or because Daniel is a Hebrew, the governors don’t like him and want him gone, out of office. The problem is they can’t find anything wrong with him, a smoking gun or skeleton in his closet. Daniel is squeaky clean, so they decide to use Daniel’s faith against him. They set a trap. They come up with a new law or decree that prohibits the worship of any god or person except king Darius for thirty days. The punishment for violating the law is being thrown into the lion’s den. The governors know that Daniel goes out on his terrace every day, in full view of the public, to pray to his God. So, if Daniel prays, he’s cat food.
The other problem is that Darius likes and respects Daniel, or he wouldn’t have wanted to put him in charge of his whole kingdom (Daniel 6:3). So, the governors must be sneaky about how they do this. They have to pull a fast one on the king by getting him to sign off on this decree without realizing he is condemning Daniel to death. They also make sure that it is “in writing”, so the king can’t undo it later because he likes Daniel. The king will be forced by law to follow through with the punishment.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Of course, we know what happens, so I’m not really going to leave you hanging till next week. You can read the rest of Daniel 6, but there is more to the story so stay tuned!
Have a great weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC