Daniel and the Lions
- Tell what happened to Daniel.
- Realize that God was with Daniel, and God is with us.
- Praise God for being with us—always and everywhere.
The story in this session once again places us in the court of a foreign king while the Israelites are in exile. Now, however, the king is not Nebuchadnezzar but Darius, king of the Medes and Persians. While Nebuchadnezzar had been hostile to Daniel's three friends in their disobedience, King Darius seems to love and respect Daniel.
Daniel has become one of the top administrators---he is about to be placed over the entire kingdom. But it's dangerous to rise too high in that foreign world of bureaucrats and officials. It invites their jealousy, especially if, like Daniel, you are an extraordinarily loyal and faithful servant of the king, and a Jew who worships a strange God.
This jealousy causes the officials to set a trap for Daniel. Finding nothing questionable in the way he carries out his office, they turn to his religion, "the law of his God." These officials had seen Daniel pray, or heard from the servants how he prayed aloud to his God three times every day. Facing Jerusalem, where the temple was located, he knelt and prayed regularly and faithfully. They believed that Daniel's uncompromising character was the key to taking him down.
Daniel's enemies began to flatter King Darius, proposing a law that said that for thirty days, prayer could be offered only to the king, on pain of death in the lions' den. Again, we see the tendency of despotic monarchs to desire not only their subject's allegiance, but their worship. King Darius approves the law, and, like all laws of the Medes and Persians, it is unchangeable.
When the plotting officials accuse Daniel of breaking the law, the king is shocked and heartbroken. He liked and trusted Daniel, and must have suspected that this was all a plot to destroy Daniel. But he is bound by the law. He cannot make an exception, even for his trusted administrator.
As Daniel is about to be thrown into the lions' den, the king expresses his desire, even now, that he will be saved: "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!" (6:16).
When finally the stone is placed over the mouth of the lions' den and sealed, the king returns to his palace, but he can't eat or sleep. At dawn he hurries to the den and calls out to Daniel, hoping against hope that his God has saved him. Daniel shouts to the king, "My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty" (6:22).
In the end, Daniel's accusers are punished, but Daniel prospers. King Darius takes the highly unusual step of decreeing that everyone must honor the God of Daniel, "for he is the living God and he endures forever" (6:26).
Why is Darius so loving and respectful toward Daniel?
How did Daniel’s enemies discover that he was praying to God?
Why did Darius go through with the punishment even though he probably knew that it was a trap?
For little ones, this is not, first of all, a lesson about prayer—or even about obeying God rather than kings. It’s about God’s presence with us, wherever we are.
Tell Daniel’s story in a way that reinforces last week’s session focus, repeated in today’s session. Remind the children that God loves them and is with them. Young children (and adults as well) need to hear this over and over—especially in situations that are intimidating or frightening.
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