Daniel in the lion’s den
The Bible is all about dramatic reversals.
Perhaps Mary said it best when she was told that the Mighty Christ would be born into her humble circumstances:
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. (Luke 1:52-53)
Christ brings dramatic reversals into this world. He is the Mighty Lord who becomes meek to exalt “them of low degree.” And He is the Servant who rises to topple the proud.
Not surprisingly the Bible is filled with phrases to describe these great reversals.
On the one hand we have the victory of the underdog. There’s the “giant killing” of David and Goliath. There’s escape “by the skin of my teeth“. We remember that “Blessed are the meek” (Matthew 5:5). We speak of Lazarus back from the dead (John 11). And we glory in the biblical taunt “Where O death is thy sting!” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
On the other hand we read of devastating come-downs for the rich and powerful. How the mighty are fallen. Pride goeth before a fall, etc, etc. And in Daniel we’ve already seen mighty empires with feet of clay and the the writing on the wall for an arrogant king.
These dramatic reversals continue in chapter 6 as Daniel enters the lion’s den. Again Daniel is shown to be a righteous and humble servant. In Daniel 6 all he does to deserve the lion’s den is to pray to the LORD. Yet royal advisers, jealous at Daniel’s success, tricked King Darius into outlawing such prayer. Darius liked Daniel but his hands were tied – “the laws of the Medes and Persians” were irrevocable, (a famous phrase of its own).
And so the righteous servant of the LORD was cast into the pit to be devoured by roaring lions (see 1 Peter 5:8 where the devil is described as the ultimate “roaring lion”). Daniel is very Christ-like in his righteous suffering. What would happen next?
We pick up the story halfway through Darius’s sleepless night:
“Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him. 19 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. 20 And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? 21 Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. 22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. 23 Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.” (Daniel 6:18-23)
Even as Daniel enacts the part of Christ, he is also saved by Christ. He proclaims to the King: “My God hath sent His Angel.” How was Daniel saved? Not through a bolt of lightning from on high. No, this is how the Father always saves – by sending His Son into the midst of the trouble. The Angel of God (or “God’s Sent One”), descends into our plight to rout all our foes. This is the power, the pattern and proto-type for all the great reversals of the Bible.
When Christ descended into our pit, on the cross, He spoke of the roaring lions that surrounded Him (Psalm 22:13). Jesus endured the horror of what Daniel was spared. And through His sufferings, we too are spared from the great judgement. Therefore we can cry out, with Daniel: “My God hath sent His Angel!” The Mighty One has descended and we the helpless are rescued. Hallelujah!