by Mike Ratliff
10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:10-13 (NASB)
“Christians” in the United States and other “civilized” countries do not exist in a climate of a fear of persecution like those in China and India. Some would say that is because of our culture or that there are huge numbers of Christians here. However, the truth of the matter is that Christians who live in total obedience to their Lord will be persecuted. So, what does that say about Christians who live at peace with the world around them? The truth of the matter is this; the reason Christians are not persecuted in the US is that very few of them are walking in the level of obedience to their Lord that would draw attention to them from those who hate the real Jesus and the Word of God. However, if they were living holy lives, sharing their faith, actively making disciples, and preaching the whole Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ the wrath of Satan and his seed would come upon them.
Nothing has changed in the hearts of men and women since the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Men’s hearts are wicked beyond belief. None are righteous and no one seeks after God. Unless God regenerates sinners’ hearts then no one can believe and repent. Therefore, those who have followed hard after God have always been the persecuted, the ridiculed and those of whom the world is not worthy. Daniel was one of these.
1 It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, 2 and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. 4 Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.” Daniel 6:1-5 (NASB)
Never let anyone tell you that God’s Law and His ways can ever be at peace with the world and its ways. That is why this merging in the US of the “Religious Right” with the Conservative wing of our political system is a foolish match. The fact that it has been going this way for so long should be a huge warning to us that the “Religious Right” is Christian in name only. If these people were living Righteous, Holy lives in obedience to their Lord; they would not be concerned about worldly things, but would be obeying their Lord in all things. That would mean living lives that please their Lord by seeking first the Kingdom and His Righteousness instead of trying to build that Kingdom here in partnership with godless men and women.
Daniel lived that way. He served his King, but his primary purpose in life was serving God. That is why he had such an excellent spirit. He was not bound to “stuff” or “money” or “fame” or “self.” Instead, he simply lived out his live in obedience to God in whatever he did. This provoked the godless men he kept honest to try to have him removed. Without Daniel in charge these men could line their own pockets at the King’s loss. They were right about one thing though. The only way they could ever get leverage against Daniel would be through his uncompromising service to God.
6 Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: “King Darius, live forever! 7 All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. 8 Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction. Daniel 6:6-9 (NASB)
What was the method of attack they came up with in order to have Daniel removed? They incited the King to pass a law that no one could pray to any god or man for thirty days except to the King himself. This sounds strange doesn’t it? However, these pagans knew in their hearts that their gods were impotent therefore they often worshipped their monarchs as gods. This plot was based upon stroking the King’s ego to have people actually worship him. We may see this as strange, but the Lawless One will demand and receive worship during his reign over the whole Earth during the Great Tribulation. What is the penalty for not worshipping the King exclusively? It was death by being cast into the lion’s den. The Lawless One will have those who refuse to worship him beheaded.
10 Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. 12 Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king’s injunction, “Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?” The king replied, “The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and spoke before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.” Daniel 6:10-13 (NASB)
Did Daniel hide his faith? Did he try to appear innocuous to everyone in an attempt to avoid this danger? No! He did not compromise anything. He knew the law was meant to “get” him. He knew he was being watched. He knew that he could simply not pray to God for thirty days and there would be no danger, but he also knew that thirty days without prayer and fellowship with God would be like death to him. In his economy, God’s glory and his obedience far outweighed any temporary benefit that would be gained by compromise. He had eternal focus. He had a heart that went hard after God. To him, the eternal was far more important than the temporal. Therefore, he changed nothing. He prayed to God three times a day as he always did. Then his accusers went to the King to bring charges against Daniel. I am sure they thought that this was it. Daniel would soon be gone and the kingdom’s riches would be easy pickings for them. Notice also that their total accusation against Daniel is not that he doesn’t serve the King with an excellent spirit, but that he is praying to and serving his God.
14 Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.”
16 Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “ Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.” 17 A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing would be changed in regard to Daniel. 18 Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him. Daniel 6:14-18 (NASB)
We see in these verses that this King saw the folly of this stupid decree now that Daniel had been caught in its net of intrigue. He knew that Daniel had done no wrong. He had obeyed his God over the commands and laws of men. That was his crime. I believe that God is calling His people now to live at this level of commitment to Him and His commands. The reason that most professing Christians are not persecuted is that they do not live this way. They do not have this level of commitment to their Lord. The vast majority of them are not genuine. However, those who are should repent, seek the Lord, go hard after Him and then walk in repentance and obedience to Him in all things. Persecution will surely come to those who do this, but what is that when we are eternally focused? The King’s heart was broken over these events. I am sure he saw the folly of the decree. God gave him no rest this night.
19 Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den. 20 When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.” 23 Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children and their wives into the lions’ den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Daniel 6:19-24 (NASB)
This miracle of the lions not harming Daniel is one that only God can do. Daniel was not harmed. Why? He constantly served His God and trusted Him. The King knew this. He prayed as Daniel was cast into the lion’s den for him to be protected by God. He cried, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” That is quite impressive that this King knew that Daniel’s God was the Living God not anything like those impotent stone gods his people worshipped. The King’s justice is swift and succinct. He casts those who accused Daniel into the den of lions. This time no angel stopped up their mouths. Before they, their wives and children even reached the bottom of the den, the lions overcame them crushing their bones. This is a good analogy of the final judgment by God. When people are judged by God it is always just and right. These evil people were killed the way they sought to have Daniel killed. Instead of removing Daniel, they were removed.
The enemy of man, Satan, is a liar and a murderer. He accuses God’s people continually before God’s throne. However, he is powerless to touch any of them unless God allows it. The persecution that comes may be unto death or great pain, but in it God’s will is done and He is glorified. Justice will prevail in the end as God is worshipped and glorified, as he deserves.
25 Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound! 26 I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel;
For He is the living God and enduring forever,
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed,
And His dominion will be forever.
27 “He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth,
Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”
28 So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel 6:25-28 (NASB)
Why is it that professing Christians would ever believe that God is not sovereign? King Darius (or Cyrus) was not a Jew and probably not a believer, but he knew that God was the living God who could humble the proud and deliver His people with no problem at all. Tragically, most professing Christians are in love with this world and see their religion as a ticket to Heaven so they will not go to Hell. In the meantime, they simply live as they please. Why? Their religious leaders tell them that it is okay. God is love and just wants to save everyone. Forget that repentance stuff. Just love Jesus and you’re okay.
That is a “fairy tale” folks. God is the living God, enduring forever. His Kingdom shall never be destroyed. His dominion shall be to the end. He judges the wicked and demands obedience from His people. Our Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross to be the propitiation for the sins of His people. He took their sins upon Himself and had the Father’s wrath against those sins poured on Him. This satisfied the Father. The penalty had been paid. The work of redemption was complete in His death. He rose from the dead on the third day. He is risen! This proves to all those who believe on Him that their sins are forgiven and they have eternal life in Him. Those who are Born Again believe and repent then are justified, sanctified, and adopted. They are not perfect, but live lives of repentance. They do not take their salvation for granted and live any way they choose. They are New Creations who have been freed from the penalty of sin in their justification and are being freed from the power of sin in their sanctification.
Only those who are truly Born Again believe and are saved. Only they will be able to stand and not fall before the fires of persecution when they come. Those who are not genuine will compromise their faith and do anything possible to avoid the persecution. On the other hand, those who do know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour will be given courage and the words to speak when the time comes. We must pray that the Lord be with us in these last days that we will stand and not fall as He gives us the grace to do so.
Soli Deo Gloria!