Monday, March 15, 2021

When the Stakes are High

Ever been thrown under the bus. It’s a modern expression of being hung out to dry or stabbed in the back or blamed for something someone else did. It’s the sacrificial lamb in a group setting. You may have all had the same idea or been in on the same plan but when the temperature rose and things looked uncertain, everyone else backed away and left you to take the blame and face the consequences.

Sometimes it’s done intentionally. Maybe someone within the group or the group itself wants you out. Maybe they’re jealous or maybe they consider you inferior or you make them feel inferior. Maybe they don’t like what you stand for. Removing you or taking you down a notch or two are often their only ways of coping.

If you were the youngest in the family you understand this. If you were low man on the totem pole at work you understand this. If you were recently placed in a position superior to others who doubt your abilities or resent your promotion you understand this.

Daniel was among a small group of three men who were over the satraps of all the provinces of Persia. Three men oversaw the work of 120 governors, who were directly accountable for the work they did on behalf of the king.

Then, one of the group of three began to rise in importance above the other two.

Daniel 6:1-3 It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, 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. 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

Daniel was distinguished and operated at a level unachievable by the other two. Darius was ready to make him the sole overseer of the Kingdom, second only to the king. And therein lies the problem. If the favor given to one person makes someone else feel inferior, a nasty environment develops within their heart and gives rise to jealousy. Jealousy is a worldly response to someone else’s success. It creates strife that can destroy relationships, families or organizations.

1Cor 3:3 For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? In the Bible, worldly and fleshly are synonymous. We’re acting our of character of who God has made us to be and taken up the world’s characteristics for now we live.

Gal 5:19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing

Prov 27:4 Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealousy? 

Wrath and anger are explosive responses. Jealously is the vindictive response.

There is a distinction between jealousy and envy. To envy is to want something that belongs to another person. Jealousy is the fear that what we possess will be taken away. Both are driven by insecurity.

When my security is wrapped up in what I have and that’s taken away, I’m at a loss at how to feel secure again and may take desperate measures to get it back. If what you have makes me feel inferior to you, I may want to take that away from you. Both envy and jealousy come from an insecurity that I don’t have what I need to feel complete. And if I don’t have it or someone takes away what I think should be mine, I feel inferior.

You see this in the politics of wealth distribution. Some see wealth as a single pie with the crust forming the boundary how much wealth there is. They think when you get your portion of that pie it leaves less for them to get. That’s the cry for taking away from the rich and giving to the poor. But that’s not the way economics works. What I get has nothing to do with what you get and what you take doesn’t take anything away from me.

But in Persia, these two men saw Daniel’s favor taking away from theirs. They blame his advancement as the reason they feel inferior. Instead of enjoying what they do have, they feel they must take away what he has. So, they create a plan to throw Daniel under the bus.

Daniel 6:4-5 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. 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." 

There was no accusation against Daniel they could take to the king, so they created one. They watched how Daniel practiced his faith then decided to create a scenario where what he did habitually would violate an edict from the king.

Daniel 6:6-9 Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: "King Darius, live forever! 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. 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." Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction. 

Do you recognize this as the same approach the Philistines took with Samson? He is much too strong for us. He’s more powerful than we are. We can’t attack him at the point of his strength. Let’s find his weakness and exploit that. And in walks Delilah.

It's finding a person’s vulnerability. Like discovering Superman’s sensitivity to Kryptonite. Do anything you want to attack him, only Kryptonite will hurt him. That’s his weak point.

However, in Daniel, they picked an area to attack that wasn’t a weakness but a strength – his faith. But they plotted to turn the practice of his faith to their advantage to take him down. There was no way they could disconnect him from his God, or get him to stop his daily prayers, which wasn’t the goal in the first place. But if they used that, they could to set up a prohibition that would produce a rule he would inevitably violate. They used his prayer life to set up an ambush.

Realize why such a decree would interest Darius. The Persians had just conquered Babylon and a test of loyalty was a good idea. Would the Babylonians submit to him as they had to their kings and would this requirement bring them under his control? Worshipping him would elevate Darius to god-like status over the people. It could pay great dividends.

Daniel 6:10-13 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. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. 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." 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." 

Remember what their goal was. They weren’t offended by his religious practice. They were planning to use it to throw him under the bus and get him out of the way. Jealousy, when left unchecked, takes matters to the extreme.

Daniel 6:14-16 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. 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." 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." 

It was obvious that the king was also caught in their trap and realized he could do nothing about it. The law of the Medes and Persians established the groundwork for how life was lived in Persia. Once the king spoke, whatever he said was law and could not be revoked, even by himself.

You have this in the book of Ester when the decree by Haman to kill all the Jews on a certain day could not be changed even by the King, since it was made law using the king’s authority delegated to Haman. All they could do was make a counter-law. They could not change the original.

If Darius had asked me, I would have told him to remove the lions. Throw Daniel into the lions’ den but the lions wouldn’t be there. The law didn’t say the lions had to be present. Just thrown that person into their den. But nobody asked me. And of course, that would have ruined the whole story.

But what the king said is significant. "Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you." The words are He will deliver you. It wasn’t a question: will your God deliver you? Or a petition: I hope He will deliver you. It was a statement: He will deliver.

Darius was a pagan king. Even pagans believed in the intercession of the gods at certain times to do favors for their faithful worshippers. Maybe that’s what Darius had in mind for Daniel. Your God whom you constantly serve. “Surely your God will reward your faithfulness.” Perhaps, Darius knew the history of what God did during the time of Nebuchadnezzar. “Daniel, the God who did all those great works in the past, surely He can deliver at times like this.” See, knowing what God did in the past gives confidence for what He is capable of doing today.

Honestly, that’s a good approach for our own struggles. The same God who has helped us in the past, who has done great and amazing things for us and has filled the Bible with examples of the kinds of things He has done, can do and is willing to do, is the One we trust now in this moment.

Daniel 6:17-20 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. 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. Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions' den. 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?" 

Now here’s the all-important question. “Daniel, did your God come through for you?” But notice how the king spoke it – trembling. The king had no genuine confidence in God coming through. Honestly, how could he? He didn’t know God. All he had was the natural reality of what should happen if someone is thrown into a den of lions. He had no understanding of the supernatural possibilities of a faithful God. He let what should happen rob him of any since of what could happen when God intervenes. He cried out with a troubled voice – a shallow voice of unbelief. But God was at work in Daniel’s life.

Daniel 6:21-24 Then Daniel spoke to the king, "O king, live forever! 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." 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. 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. 

This is the point in the movie where everyone stands to their feet and cheers. I remember seeing Apollo 13 in the movie theater years ago. Everyone there knew the story. But when the silence of re-entry was broken by the voice of the astronaut, everyone in the theater clapped and cheered. It was the evidence of a safe return, the end of a miraculous journey. That was this moment for Darius. Not so much for the two guys who plotted against Daniel or for their families. (Sometimes jealously takes out the jealous person and destroys what he hoped to protect.)

Daniel 6:25-28 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! 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. 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." So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. 

By delivering Daniel, God convinced Darius He was the real God. Now how does that work out historically? Daniel continued to play a prominent role throughout Darius’ reign and continued into Cyrus’. Cyrus was the king who decreed the Jews could go home.

Now, look at this. A moment of terror became the necessary, convincing factor that established favor for the Jews. It reminds us of the truth Joseph spoke to his brothers that is now a promise for all God’s children: Gen 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 

When the stakes are high, faith must rise higher. Rarely do we know what God intends to do through our own struggles. There is always a bigger picture.

What we’re going through may not even be about us but as an example for someone else.

2Cor 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 

Someone may need to know that when life gets critical, they can trust God with their crisis. But they may also need to see how that’s done. How does a believer deal with cancer, covid, an accident or even death? How we handle the intense moments of our life can help someone else do the same in their own struggles. It raises the stakes for what we’re going through.

A high-stakes game or decision is one in which the people involved can gain or lose a great deal. Investments can be high-stakes, oil exploration can be high-stakes, relocation can be high-stakes. Life becomes high-stakes when we face a challenge that requires a level of faith we didn’t even know we had. It requires a faith that places our life into the hands of God knowing what we face is beyond our ability to do anything about. It is a moment where God uses circumstances to reveal something about Himself we’d otherwise never see.

Are you facing a lion’s den?  Does what lies ahead have the ability to overpower you and even consume you if you don’t get help from the Lord? There is a purpose for what you are going through. Ultimately, to point you to what the Lord can do.

David wrote: I look at the mountains but they make me realize, my help doesn’t come from the mountains but from the Lord.

When the stakes are high, we may look everywhere we can for help, but our answer is to look to the Lord. When we do, we’ll find only He can close the mouths of lions, open the door to the den and set us free.


  1. Not all crises are comparable to being thrown into a den of lions.
  2. But in all crises the stakes are high.
  3. We can become absorbed by the natural reality of what should happen or we can submit ourselves to the supernatural possibilities of our faithful God.
  4. Our answer is to look to the only One who can close the mouths of lions, open the door to the den and set us free.

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