Babylon, an ancient city in the Bible known for its wickedness, has become a symbol for all that is in rebellion in any culture, against the one, true God.
Active grace and truth, are the lifestyle pillars of every Christian who longs to be light and salt in an ever-darkening world.
Many of us go in and out of lion’s dens every day. Some of us work in them and maybe live in them too. These are environments that are not favorable, at best, and openly hostile, at worst, to godly values. The Babylon mindset of going man’s way instead of God’s is strong in such places. If we are not remaining intimate with our Father, the lions can tear us to shreds. However, those who dwell in the secret place of the most high, like the prophet Daniel did in the Old Testament, can survive carnivorous environments without even getting any slobber on us.
Consider these various dens of lions and their impact on a believer. We must recognize when we are on Satan’s turf and that we are his prey.
Being in intimate relationship with an unbeliever
A work environment filled with godless behaviors like gossip, treachery, adultery, etc.
A school system that exalts humanistic philosophies and ignores Judeo-Christian belief
A shopping mall with storefronts displaying nearly nude mannequins or CDs loaded with mason and Satanic symbology
A neighborhood where raucous, loud, drunken behavior is the norm on weekends and beyond
What’s your lion’s den? Maybe it’s unsaved extended family who turn holidays into nightmares or friends involved with a cult. Whatever it is in your life that questions God’s character and precepts and threatens to tear apart your belief system, that’s a lion’s den. That’s part of Babylon.
Daniel’s lion encounter occurred in the real Babylon. During this year of self-examination to see where we might be entangled or endangered by the world, let’s start with a look at a Bible hero who lived and served in one of history’s most godless cultures but never compromised with it.
I long for the day when someone takes the time and invests the money to tell Daniel’s life story in a movie. The drama, intrigue and power struggles he lived through are epic. His time in the lion’s den happened at age 70 but the other fascinating events of his life are well worth re-reading in Daniel chapters 1-5. I read through them again with these questions in mind:
Why did God rescue him instead of letting him be killed as other martyrs were through the centuries?
How did he survive the lion’s den without going insane or losing his faith?
First, some thoughts about why God rescued Daniel, and these are just my opinions. It seems that as I read Daniel’s story again, the greater theme God brings forth is the contrast between the darkness of the Babylonians and the light of Daniel and his friends. The way Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego behave as slaves in a foreign country is unique from the get-go. They risked their lives by refusing to do what they were told and eat the original food provided for them at the king’s table. The fiery furnace episode and Daniel’s ability to repeat and interpret dreams when no one else could, further cemented their unique approach to life in exile.
Even as teenagers, Daniel and his pals knew who they were and who they belonged to. They feared the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob more than King Nebuchadnezzar. They committed themselves to standing out when, apparently, the rest of the Hebrew captives chose to fit in an behave like the Babylonians. That must have been very hard and lonely at times. I wonder if it made God deeply sad that He could use only four of the exiles from Jerusalem as examples of living in the Light.
I believe God was telling a multilevel story to the people of that time and a story that would last for millennia for Christians living in godless cultures. He wanted us to know some intimate details of what it looked like, and the prices paid to stand out in a godless society. The three boys did not know that Jesus would appear in the furnace. Daniel did not know that he’d live through the night in the lion’s den. These guys had a reckless faith and I think that’s what God wanted the Hebrew captives, the Babylonians, and the rest of us through the centuries to see.
God created a dramatic story of rescues in the most impossible situations for those who remained faithful to him because that suited his purposes at this time. I think he decided that everyone in Babylon needed some grand gestures of the one true God’s power and authority more than they needed to see faithful Jews killed.
Did God love all the other martyrs of our faith, torn apart by lions in the Roman colosseum centuries later any less than these four Hebrews though? Of course not. I am understanding better that how God deals with us is far more about his greater purposes than our comfort or safety. It’s not that he doesn’t care about the latter, he does, deeply and dearly, and tells us that many times in his Word. If you will look at Christ’s torture and death though, it becomes clear that the salvation of humans, for example, became more important than the safety of Jesus.
So, that’s what I think God might have been doing in Babylon but what was Daniel’s role in coming up safely out of the lion’s den? We can reason that it wasn’t because God loved and valued him more than any Christian martyr. God preserved Daniel and his friends to demonstrate his greatness. However, Daniel’s faith played a role in his safe exodus from that terrible place. Remember, the people who framed them, and their families, certainly did not survive being tossed into the lions.
Let’s try to imagine what it was like for Daniel from beginning to end. First, let’s talk about the lion’s den. The water table is very high and there are no natural caves where Babylon used to be. Ancient scrolls and carvings show that places like the one where Daniel was imprisoned were created specially to house lions, probably out of brick. So, we can picture more of a large, inescapable room, rather than a pit. Access in and out of the room would have been from two ways. One would have been a door, at ground level, used to allow the lions in and out so the kings could hunt them on occasion. The other entrance would have been an opening at the top, well out of reach of any lion’s ability to jump. It was from there that people would be tossed into the room so that no one else was put in danger.
Daniel was tossed in from a height of probably fifteen feet or so, which could have damaged his body immediately, but it didn’t. Then, Daniel 6 describes how the room was sealed off with a stone, I presume to ensure that no one could rescue him. The king sealed the stone to the room with his signet ring and then spent a sleepless night.
The next morning the king eagerly opens the lion room and there is Daniel, unharmed explaining how God sent angels to shut the beast’s mouths. Again, Daniel did not know that God would rescue him or how he would do it. I’m sure he was quite surprised that the lions remained docile around him. Yet, he obviously remained calm, and I think, stayed in prayer. Daniel 6:24 says that he was then brought up out of the room “and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” God’s larger plan and Daniel’s faith in God formed a partnership that created a miraculous outcome to Daniel’s story.
I don’t know about you, but I think I’d be hysterical in those circumstances, making it difficult to access my faith. Daniel didn’t behave that way at all. I think there’s several reasons but I’m going to ask you to think about only two of them.
First, Daniel set the pattern of faithfulness to and trust in God, at a young age. The reason many of us struggle with either fearing Babylon or complying with it is because we have not “set out faces like flint,” (Isaiah 50:7) as Daniel did. It’s not too late. We can start today and restart tomorrow if we fail today’s challenges.
Secondly, Daniel didn’t mess around with prayer. He took it seriously. That’s what landed him with the lions in the first place. I am endlessly grieved at how poorly attended most prayer meetings are at churches I’ve known. Schedule an auction and a pig roast and the pillars of the assembly will be there with bibs. But prayer meetings…… Folks, we need to spend less time reading books about it and talking about it and commit ourselves to the sacrifice of an effective, fervent prayer life. We may need to turn off our TV’s and social media and put our phones down. Just sayin…and I’m preaching to myself here.
Daniel is a hero of living in the world but not of it. We can model our lives after him. There was a carelessness with his own life, for the sake of God’s kingdom. I think I’ve gone to caring more about my own life, than the souls of others and God’s greater purposes. I confess I’m too much of a fun and comfort seeker by nature. That’s a part of how Babylon seeks to entwine me in its ways.
Concern for my own entertainment and comfort has edged lost souls and the voice of Holy Spirit out of the place they belong in my prayers and my heart. I think if I’m going to become entangled from Babylon, I’m going to need Holy Spirit’s help to recognize where I am wrapped up in some tentacles and get free. It feels uncontrolled and scary but I’m also asking God to grow more of a reckless faith in me like Daniel and his crew. How about you?