By J.R. Miller
Daniel was a wise man, and his wisdom and faithfulness made him a very valuable man in the affairs of the empire. When the new king appointed his officers--he put Daniel at the head of those who were set to rule. This made the other officers envious. They could not bear to see Daniel so honored. So they determined to find some way to drag him down. First, they sought to find something wrong with his official record. If they could only discover some dishonesty or some injustice they would soon get him put down.
There still is envy in the world after all these centuries of Christian teaching and life. Those who excel in any line or department are sure to suffer in some way for their excellence. Watkinson has a very suggestive chapter in one of his books on "The Sorrows of Superiority." The business man who succeeds above his competitors almost certainly incurs dislike and sometimes is made to suffer. It is so in school and even in the home. Envy was the cause of the hatred of Joseph's brothers. There are men in politics who are envious of those who have got above them, and this old Babylonian wickedness--searching into a man's record just to find some weak or questionable act in order to destroy him--is quite well understood.
"They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent." It is well when a man has lived so blamelessly, that even envy cannot touch any act of his life. This same wretched work of envy is done too among boys and girls at school. Many times have efforts been made to hurt the record of the most successful pupil. Envy is a very ugly passion. Before we get through with this story, we shall see that it usually harms most the person who indulges it.
When they failed to find anything to hurt Daniel in his record, they thought of his foreign religion, and decided to arrange a plot that could not fail to get him out of their way. So they prepared the decree that for thirty days no one should make any petition to any god or man--but to the king.
They asked the king to sign the decree, and in his pride and weakness he did as they wished. "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."
Let us linger a moment at Daniel's window and watch him at prayer. His regular habits of devotion should be noted. He had set hours for praying. This is the only way to maintain a life of prayer. People may sneer at clockwork devotion--but clockwork has its essential place in all godly living. Wholesome habits are nine-tenths in business, in study, in friendship, in character. They are just as necessary in religion. One who has no regular habits of praying--will soon not pray at all.
Notice, also, that Daniel paid no heed whatever to the king's decree. Yet he was loyal and obedient to the king, never disregarding his commands. But there are some things with which the law of the land, has nothing whatever to do. God's law is to be the first guide of our life, and if the law of a country requires us to deviate from that, we have only one choice. A law forbidding us to pray to God, or read our Bible, or meet with others for God's worship, would have no authority at all over us. It was on this principle that Daniel acted.
It might be said that Daniel did not need to pray before the open window. Was there not a little unnecessary bravado in this? But this is answered by the words "just as he had done before." That was the way he had always prayed, and to draw a curtain that day would have shown fear and would not have been a loyal confession.
Daniel's enemies were watching, and when they saw the young Hebrew kneeling before his window in prayer, they lost no time in reporting the matter to the king. The king was angry with himself for having fallen into the trap set by Daniel's enemies. It grieved him that he could not save Daniel--but his courtiers reminded him that no decree which the king established could be changed. He felt himself compelled therefore to have Daniel cast into the den of lions. "Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions."
An incident told of Palissy, the Huguenot potter, illustrates the position of king and prisoner here. Palissy was in the prison for his devotion to the Protestant faith, and the king of France, who had a high regard for him, visited the prisoner in his dungeon. He told him of his friendship--but said that unless Palissy would comply with the established religion he should be forced, however unwillingly, to leave him in the hands of his enemies. "Forced! Sire!" replied the noble old martyr. "Forced! This is not to speak like a king. But they who force you cannot force me. I can die!"
The king was distressed that he had to cast his favorite minister and friend to the lions. He went to his palace--but could not sleep. "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." No wonder. How could a man eat or sleep after such an act?
We see here, in the palace, what remorse does for a man. It turned the king's royal bed-chamber into a chamber of horrors. By way of contrast we may look into the lions' den which was Daniel's bedroom that night. So far as physical surroundings were concerned, the king had far the better of it--with his luxurious apartment, his rich furniture, his soft couch, with all that the world could give him of pleasures; while Daniel had only a dark, filthy cavern, with wild beasts round him. But while the king was wretched, consumed with remorse, Daniel was in sweet peace. We can imagine him sleeping in the den, amid the lions, as quietly as ever he had slept in his own house. The fierce animals lay about him, as harmless as lambs, because God's angel was among them. This is a picture of the safety and peace which are the portion of those who trust God and do His will.
The king must have had a hope that in some way Daniel had been kept unhurt in the den through the night. His cry in the morning, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?" showed that he knew of Daniel's religion and hoped that God had delivered him. "Yes," said Daniel, from within the den, "my God has sent His angel, and has shut the lions' mouths, and they have not hurt me."
Of course, we are not to conclude from this, that in all cases of much danger God protects His own children from bodily harm. Many times since that day Christian martyrs have been thrown to the lions and have been torn to pieces by them. Yet this is no evidence that these were not godly men, or that God was not able to deliver them. Sometimes the best use that can be made of a noble life--is to have it offered to God for death, sacrificed for the truth.
The king's joy was very great. Then his thought turned to those who had brought about the attempt to destroy Daniel. "The king commanded, and they brought those men that had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions." We need not consider the question of right in this case. No doubt these conspirators deserved death, since they had deliberately and wickedly plotted against the life of Daniel. The point to be marked, is the doom which comes upon envy. These men conspired against Daniel, securing an edict by which he should be torn to pieces by lions. The outcome of the conspiracy, is that Daniel is preserved alive and is promoted to still higher honor in the kingdom for the remainder of his life--while the men themselves who envied him and sought his destruction, to get him out of the way of their own promotion, were themselves cast into the den they had prepared for him. The principle is that envy always brings back the curse upon itself.