I Sent A Lion To Eat Him - A Brief Study Of Darius And Daniel The Prophet
It's funny how vastly different societies of people can be. You can tell a story common to one society to another, and it will sound like some piece of fiction that could never be true. In the following poem, the society was a monarchy and the time was a period of peace for the government in control. That peace was maintained by a man who ruled with an iron hand. He was known for his quick temper, harsh judgments, and exotic methods of execution. To live in his kingdom, a person had to tread lightly, else the punishment would be swift and (for the people) entertaining.
The following poem is based on the true story of the king Darius (Cyazares II) king of Media (and Persia) who was just such a king. Babylon had decided to conquer the kingdom of Israel. They went about to spoil the Israelites and harvest as much booty as the kingdom would yield, thus bringing a great treasure home with their victory. They took much money, as much goods as the land would yield, and brought home alive the very best of the people to serve the king. One special group was to be a hand-selected group of boys to personally serve the king's needs. What a great way, they thought, to glorify their gods while humiliating Israel's God. One of those men was the man Daniel. Then over time, the kingdom of Persia destroyed Babylon and took over their lands, goods and people. Darius became king and loved his role as compete dictator and being worshiped as a demigod. But then Darius met the man Daniel and Darius was forever changed.
Young people gathered in a circle, around the royal throne
Every ear was attentive, to the king as he spoke,
A change had come to the monarch, and the story would tell them why
He changed from bad and selfish, to worship the God on high,
Listen to me young ones, and what I say to you
Learn a lesson from me now, and do what I say to do,
I will tell you all a story, that happened a year ago
It happened to a famous man, that everybody knows,
I met him when he was still young, and then I wasn't king
I thought I knew so much of life, but I knew not anything,
I remember when first I saw him, a strong young Jewish man
I saw him be so very good, in him not a hint of bad,
I saw him refuse the food, that was given him to eat
I saw him eat of *pulse, instead of the King's own daily meat,
He grew in stature and was liked by all, trusted by the king
Given position of governor, was strong in everything,
But did this power go to his head? did it give him any greed?
My friend continually served his God, the answer is no, indeed!
The governors and satraps under him, hated Daniel so
They tried so hard to harm his name, and wouldn't let it go,
The more they plotted, the angrier they got, until they noticed my sin
They noticed how I loved to rule, and the power God put me in,
They noticed how I began to think, how important is my name
That everyone should think of me, and thus will spread my fame,
Like Nebuchadnezzar the king was trapped, they knew they could trap me
I should have seen it coming, 'twas there for all to see,
And when I fell prey to my sin, Daniel would meet his end
And so they came to me one day, so I would kill my friend,
"King Darius, live forever!" is what they said to me
In my flesh that sounded good, for a king I was meant to be ,
"We have counseled together, and we thought it would be good
To have all the people's mind on you, as king you know they should,
We advise you make it law, that can not be undone
If anyone decides to pray, they'd pray to you as one,
And if anyone be so bold, so to another God to pray
They be cast into the lion's den below, and all be swept away!
Here, we have written it on a scroll, right here in our hand
All you do is sign it, to clean up all the land."
My hand shook with excitement, as I held in hand the quill
There was nothing like this moment, I was imposing my own will
On a nation of people, so they could pray to me
I was the king , after all, I deserved this prayer, you see?
I should have seen it in their eyes, their victory was complete
They succeeded in tricking their own king, to their enemy's defeat,
And they were just so happy, to point out that very day
That my dear friend Daniel, to his God did kneel and pray,
They could hardly stand it, they rung their hands in glee
As they brought in the man Daniel, to plead his case to me,
I told him, "I am so sorry Daniel, I only thought of me
I never thought of you, and all your prayers continually,
I will see if I can but break, this one and only law
If I fail I know your God can, spare you from their jaws!"
I watched as Daniel was taken, to the hole to throw him down
And a roar came from below, from that hole there in the ground,
When the men threw him in, and to the bottom he did fall
The lions didn't do a thing, they hardly cared at all,
For as he fell, the lions, stopped their awful fearful roar
And Daniel stood among them, on that terrible deadly floor,
I had a stone put over then, and sealed it with my ring
In case my wish would come true, and God would do something,
They could kill him anyway, and go on to blame the beasts
And I retired to my room, to get down on my knees,
I said, "O great God of Daniel, please spare this man his life
For the greatness of my sin, has cut me like a knife!
Whatever is your will, to work this night in us
I forever will serve you God, and in You will I trust."
There was not a word, from the children all around
They were listening intently, to the story they were bound,
"Young ones something changed me, it happened in the night
My heart was turned from hardened stone, my eyes opened to the light,
In the early morning, when enough lawful time had passed
I ordered the pit be opened to see, if God let Daniel last,
I said, "Servant of the living God, has God delivered you to live?"
I barely could speak the words, I had nothing left to give,
Daniel said, "O king, live forever!" his voice came from below
"The angel of the Lord has closed their mouths and didn't let them go!"
Tears of joy filled my eyes, I was happy as I could be
My God had answered my request, I was forgiven, I was free,
Those evil men were tossed down, the lions began to roar
They were torn apart before, they ever hit the floor!
To worship the living God, I made a decree that day
He is steadfast forever, and His kingdom never goes away.
The story above was told from the perspective of Darius (Cyaxares II), King of Media, when Daniel was thrown to the lions. Daniel, the servant of God, had been taken captive into Babylon when Cyrus, King of Persia, Darius' nephew, conquered Babylon. Cyrus in deference to his uncle, gave him the throne and chief monarchy of the empire at age 62, which he ruled with Cyrus (Cyrus was still regent in Persia). Darius reigned, ruler of Media and chief monarch for two years until he died, when his nephew reclaimed the throne of all of Media-Persia.
Something happened to the old man. The testimony of the life of Daniel had an effect on him, of course, but I believe this event, and the night he spent in sleeplessness over Daniel's trial, is the circumstance that made him bow hisknee to God. He tried to undo his mistake. He sought the lawyers and advisers of the kingdom to change the law of the Medes and the Persians "which cannot be altered" but to no avail. Daniel was to be the one and only violator of the king's new law. He loathed himself for falling prey to his pride. He hadn't been king that long. The sound of the words chosen by the men to deceive him into making a trap for this example of a God-fearing man must have rung in his ears, making him sick to his stomach. He realized that he had signed into irreversible law (at least for Daniel) an edict that, in effect, made him god. He realized the pride that he had held in his heart and loftiness of spirit. He knew it to be the same kind of pride that the king of Babylon had when God turned him into a beast and made him eat grass for years. (Dan. 4:33) He remembered the story of Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar's successor, and of the hand that wrote on the wall of the palace of the defeated Babylonian king. (Dan. 5:5) He remembered how that king's pride made the God of Daniel angry and he realized it is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the living God.
The shame he felt as they cast Daniel into the pit must have felt like the world was on his shoulders bearing the burden of innocent blood. Historians suppose that he sealed it with a stone and the royal signet ring because it would protect Daniel (in case he survived the lions), from the human beasts that may do him harm. Had he left it open, the deceivers could kill him and say it was the lions that did it. Darius had told Daniel he believed his God could save him.
In the pit was as many as 50 to 100 lions, kept at the brink of starvation for any person who dared commit an offence worthy of death. But it was what happened after Daniel was sealed in the pit that was really the miracle because a soul was saved that was lost. A man dead in trespasses and sin was brought to the newness of life.
Darius stayed awake all night praying to Daniel's God. I imagine that Darius was ashamed to call Him his God after such an error in judgment. But what changes happened to him that night that made him into such a different person?
Let me tell you what I believe:
I believe that he came to an end of himself. He looked at himself in his royal looking-glass and saw a sinner, a person that is in need of forgiveness. Though he was king, He saw himself small in the eyes of Daniel's God in whom he did believe.
"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)
He saw himself worthy of death. He knew that for the evil he did, he himself deserved to be punished. He probably wished it was he in the pit instead of this noble man that he condemned.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
He cried out to the God of Daniel, Jehovah God, whom we now know as Jesus Christ, God who came in human flesh to forgive him and redeem him.
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)
How do we know that the heart change was real and that he received the God of Daniel in his heart that day? Well, first his language changed, and he called God, the "living God, and steadfast forever" whose "kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed." Next, he destroyed the enemies of God that would dare design such a plan as the one to which he fell prey. Then, he wrote into law, an edict to undo his damage, making it impossible to ever have anyone craft law making a god to replace the true God.
Now I don't know if you as the reader have experienced a point in your life, that you have come to the end of yourself in this way, and called on the Redeemer to save you, but if you have not, pray with me as you read this. You must mean it in your heart for repeating words will not save you. It must be as sincere as Darius was in this situation.
Pray: Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve punishment for the sin in me. I know that I cannot save myself and I need to be redeemed. I need a Savior. Please forgive me and save me right now. I believe that you died for my sin and were buried in a tomb and rose from the dead on the third day. I ask that you be my Lord and Savior and Master of my life. I ask this in Jesus' holy name. Amen.