God’s Worship Preserved in Babylon
July 27, 2008 / No. 3421
Dear radio friends,
It is our intention today to treat an Old Testament historical account. But the account we want to consider requires reading an entire chapter of the Bible. It is the account of Daniel and the lion’s den recorded for us in Daniel 6. Because I am not able here to read the chapter, it is my hope that you can remember this well-known story that was told many of us, maybe all of us, even when we were little children. If you do not recall this account, please read Daniel 6 at the conclusion of our broadcast.
Daniel, by the time of this account, was a fairly old man. He was taken captive under Nebuchadnezzar at the age of about thirteen to fifteen years old. And he served in Nebuchadnezzar’s courts. Daniel saw kings come and go. In fact, Daniel saw the fall of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, the Chaldean Empire. And he saw also the rise of the Persian Empire. Darius, of the Persian Empire, was then ruler over the region of and around Babylon. And it is on something that happened during his reign that this chapter of Daniel focuses our attention. It was then that the church and her worship was threatened. We are going to consider that threat and how God also preserves His church at a time when it is threatened especially as far as her worship is concerned.
When Darius was given the rule over Babylon, he immediately set about to organize it according to Persian custom rather than Chaldean custom. We learn that he appointed 120 princes or governors over the whole kingdom, that is, over that part of the kingdom entrusted to him, namely, Babylon. Over these 120 governors he appointed three presidents or overseers, one of these being Daniel. How Daniel was promoted so quickly to this position can only be explained by the fact that Darius chose men from the Chaldean Empire who were well acquainted with the ways of this people here in Babylon. And Daniel, who was a man of prominence in that Chaldean Empire, no doubt once again showed himself an able leader now, too.
Besides, we know that God was blessing Daniel. God, according to His providence, had seen to it that Daniel was again placed in a position of leadership in the Persian Empire. In fact, Daniel had shown himself so capable in the affairs of state that Darius came to trust and depend on Daniel more than anyone else. Daniel was fast becoming a personal friend of the king and, therefore, he was becoming the king’s right-hand man. A new king knows how precarious his position is. There are many who would take from him his throne if given a chance. But Daniel was not like that. Daniel served the king faithfully and honestly. He was not a man of guile. There were no pretensions with him. And it was for that reason that Darius thought to set Daniel over all the affairs of his realm.
Even the wicked presidents and governors, though they wanted to, could not find fault with Daniel. In other words, radio friends, here was a man who let his light shine. Daniel lived a godly life, an exemplary life, as a citizen of God’s kingdom in this world. Though living in Babylon almost all his life, Daniel had not given in to the godless living that he saw all about him there. He had not given in to the temptations of this world. If any believer would, in faith, look on this aged man now, they would do so with awe and admiration. What a godly example Daniel leaves to us who also live in modern Babylon today.
But not only did Daniel live a godly life in Babylon, Daniel also worshiped God faithfully there. While away here in exile, far from Jerusalem and its courts where the Jews had before worshiped God, Daniel saw to it that he spent time in worship of God. Three times every day Daniel would enter into a particular room in his house that had open windows facing the west. He would then, on his knees, face Jerusalem and spend time in prayer, giving thanks and making supplication to God. This was the only form of worship that was left to this child of God. He was in captivity, remember, far away from the promised land, far away from the temple—which by this time had been utterly destroyed. Neither was this worship of Daniel a private worship in his home that forgot about the true worship of God in the temple. Daniel could not make sacrifice to God in the temple; he could not go to the priests in order that the priests might make intercession for him; he could not attend the feast days that were ordained for the nation of Israel—because all of this had been destroyed. But Daniel did remember them. It was not his desire merely to have his prayer-life to take the place of the true worship of God in the temple. On the contrary, we find Daniel remembering the temple and its worship while in exile. And his prayers centered in and around that worship. That is revealed in Daniel’s actions. He prayed, facing Jerusalem.
This worship of Daniel was therefore pleasing to God. And as such, the worship of this godly man also represented really the worship of Israel at that time. This was the way that worship was conducted, for the most part anyway, while Israel was in captivity. The morning, the afternoon, the evening prayers by God’s people were a practice that was very evident in the time of the captivity, a practice that had already begun at the time of David. David speaks of that morning, afternoon, and evening prayer. There are even several passages in the Psalms that seem to indicate that the custom of praying toward the temple in Jerusalem might have started already with David. For sure we know it was customary when Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem. In Solomon’s prayer to Jehovah at that time, words were specifically spoken that point to the reason that Israel worshiped the way they did in captivity. In I Kings 8:46-49 mention is made that if God’s people in captivity would bow and pray toward this temple here in Jerusalem, that God would graciously hear them when they prayed.
So this was a part of worship at that time. It was a part of the faithful worship of the church of Jehovah. Daniel was only representative of the worship that was going on among the captives who lived along the River Chebar. The decree of the king, therefore, was a decree that affected not only Daniel personally but all of the Jewish people. In that we must understand the horrible threat that was raised against the church at that time. Satan was attempting to destroy the church.
The two other overseers or presidents were jealous that Darius wanted to elevate Daniel to second in command under himself. And yet they knew that Daniel led an impeccable life inservice to the king. They would never be able to find an occasion to accuse Daniel of wrongdoing. He had no fault.
It was then that the other two overseers, along with a number of other governors, came to the conclusion recorded in verse 5 of chapter 6: “Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” They had already observed, you see, the practices that Daniel and other Jews kept. The worship of the Jews was not kept hush-hush. The Jews were not ashamed to let others see that they worshiped Jehovah. In fact, these princes hated these foreign people who had been given so much special attention and whose religion had always been protected, it seems, by the government. They were jealous of these Jews. They were jealous of Daniel. Unbelief reacts that way against faith. Those who walk in sin are always offended, it seems, by those who wish to remain faithful to God. Unbelief looks at an act of faith as smug and condescending because it condemns unbelief. Unbelief always therefore reacts adversely to an act of faith.
So these fellow governors of Daniel devise a way to destroy Daniel. We read in verses 6-9 of Daniel 6: “Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes [that is a lie, it did not include Daniel], the counselors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.”
These wicked men appealed, of course, to the pride of this wicked and weak king. The kings of these empires loved to view themselves as divinity themselves, as if they were gods before whom men must bow. And this suggestion of the governors to worship just Darius was quite an honor they were bestowing on him. In foolishness and weakness of character, without even studying the issue, Darius signed into decree what these men requested.
Now everyone in the realm was required, on punishment of death, to pray only to the king for thirty days, a full month. No prayer could be offered to any other man or God for a full month.
Now the Jews were set before the test: Do we obey God or do we obey man?
That is the ultimate test that the church of Christ in the last days is going to be put before, too. It is true that our worship today is not the same as that of the Jews of old. In fact, the old worship of the Jews was already starting to disintegrate here in captivity. It had to. It had to be replaced by New Testament worship. We today no longer pray facing Jerusalem. There is no need for that. The worship of God in Jerusalem is no longer necessary. All the sacrifices and ceremonies of the temple worship are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. When we pray, therefore, it is not toward some building. We pray toward Christ. We face Christ when we pray. He is our High Priest, who has offered the one sacrifice of His body on the altar of the cross. He atoned for our sins and has taken away our shame. He is the One who has delivered us out of the captivity of sin. And everything represented in the priesthood and the ceremonies of the law are all wrapped up in Christ. Even now our Savior sits at the right hand of God and makes intercession for us there. All of our prayers and all of our supplications are toward Him in heaven. He takes our prayers and brings them before God’s throne of grace for us. Our prayers, therefore, are the same as the prayers of the Old Testament church, but they are not connected with the worship of the temple.
Nevertheless, it is not simply the prayers of the saints that stand on the foreground here in this passage. It is the entire worship of the church of Jesus Christ today. You and I are called to worship God according to His Word. We must regulate our worship according to the principles set forth in God’s Word. What we do in our worship is not just arbitrary. It is not just a matter of preference, what we like. It is not just superficial. The elements of our worship are not optional. Our worship must be a faithful worship according to the Word of God, as was that of Israel in the captivity. Even when we see so many today around us departing from that proper worship of God, we are called to worship God in spirit and in truth. However, in these last days, the proper worship of Jehovah will be threatened and, one day, even outlawed. What we share in today so joyfully will someday be banned by the wicked world, perhaps even by the government of our own land and nation. We will not be allowed to worship the God of heaven and earth in the way that He prescribes for us in His Word, but we will only be able to worship God in the way that the wicked world wants us to worship Him. And that, of course, is doing away with the proper and true preaching of the Word. Then you and I will be put to the test, too. Do we obey God or will we obey man? Will we bow before the threats of the government that refuses proper worship of God, or will we bow before God and His Word? Will we continue to worship our God in the way that He has taught us to do so in His Word, or will we not? Christ is coming. The world is developing, even now. And we see that worship itself departs from the Word of God. Will we remain faithful to the Word of God?
That was the question Daniel was faced with. And Daniel did not flinch. He knew the decree; he knew the consequences; he knew that the laws of the Medes and the Persians were unalterable. What Daniel did not know is whether God would deliver him from the punishment inflicted upon him.
We cannot say that the reason Daniel could be so calm about all of this was that he knew that God was going to protect him from punishment anyway. Daniel did not know that. God had not always miraculously deliver His people in that way. Look at the martyrs in the Scriptures: Stephen; the apostle James beheaded; the persecution of the early church. Daniel did not know. But Daniel did not flinch. As he always did, three times every day, Daniel went to the chamber or room of his house and he prayed to Jehovah.
It was not as if Daniel was publicly flaunting his worship of God. He went into the privacy of his own home. But the windows were open and he prayed to God as usual. And the wicked presidents and governors, of course, followed Daniel and spied on him. Then they returned to the king and reported what they saw.
The king balked at punishing this man whom he had come to trust and love. He labored the entire day in an attempt to deliver Daniel from the decree that he had signed. But he could not. And the evil governors came to him at the end of the day and reminded him of that.
So the king commanded that Daniel be thrown into the den of lions.
This was an underground den with its mouth above the lions. The lions were deliberately kept hungry in order that a punishment of this sort could be carried out swiftly. And into this den, filled with ravenous lions, Daniel was cast. The stone was replaced on the mouth and sealed with the king’s seal.
The king spent a sleepless night. Not only did he feel the guilt of killing an innocent man, but he was truly worried about Daniel—this man whom he had come to love. We learn that the king arose early the next morning, had the stone removed, and then cried out these words into the den: “Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?” (v. 20).
“O king, live for ever. 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.”
Daniel was alive and well. God had stopped the mouths of the lions. Daniel had spent the whole night with these hungry, ferocious beasts. They were as tame as kittens. But that they were ferocious lions cannot be denied.
The king rejoiced. And now he brought Daniel up out of the den. What is more, the king commanded that the conspirators against Daniel be cast into the lions’ den. These men were caught in their own snares, as we read in verse 24: “And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den.” So ferocious, so hungry, were those animals that they devoured these men, their wives, and their children before they even hit the bottom of the pit.
God had preserved Daniel. And in this way God had preserved Israel as church. And, what is more, God had preserved His worship among His people. For the remaining two years or so of captivity, Israel was free to worship as they must. In the Persian Empire, these people flourished and were protected by law.
But what is true of them is not necessarily going to be true of the church in the last days. Because, you see, at the time of Daniel the church was still being gathered. In the last days the gathering of the church will come to an end. But we, too, in those last days, will be put before the same question as Daniel was. And the faithful few of God’s saints will indeed continue to worship God in the way that He has dictated to them in His Word. The faith of a Daniel inspires us to do that. God will give His people the grace to stand in the last day, rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ, who will give strength in those days when they, too, are brought before rulers and examined according to their faith.
We must not be embarrassed at the worship of the church today—even when those about us, even family and friends, mock us in our worship, telling us that we are out of touch with modern man. We must not flinch when there is this modern attempt to replace worship. We must be faithful. We must stand—because the preaching of the Word must go forth. The prayers of God’s saints together must be spoken—and that unto the gathering of every last believer in this world.
Revelation 11 speaks of the fact that just prior to the end of time the true worship of God will cease. Those who remain faithful will be silenced. And the Antichrist will rejoice because he believes that he has finally destroyed from the earth those who oppose his kingdom. That day comes.
But will man receive the victory? Never. Did the evil men in Daniel’s day receive the victory? They fell into their own snare and God destroyed them. Then listen to the confession that this unbelieving king, King Darius, yet made concerning God in verses 25-27 of chapter 6: “Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he workethsigns and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”
Oh, if only sinful man could hear and believe! God lives forever. He is the great King who stops the mouths of lions and governs the nations of this world. Nothing takes place by chance. He will destroy His enemies and will exalt His kingdom.
Yes, the worship of God may cease for a short period of time, but only according to the sovereign will of God. Yet God saves His people. And our enemies will be caught in their own snare. The church of Jesus Christ will be exalted. The kingdom of God will then be established and the wicked will perish.
Will God require of you and me great things in that day? All He will require of us is simple faithfulness.
May God give us the grace to dare to be a Daniel! That requires steadfastness and faithfulness in the worship of Jehovah.
Who is on the Lord’s side? Come, let us stand by the side of Daniel. Hold the gospel banner high; on to victory grand. Satan and his host defy. All hail to Daniel’s band.
God grant us faithfulness to stand by a purpose true. God grant us faithfulness to heed His command.
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we thank Thee for Thy Word that reassures us that Thou wilt preserve Thy church and that the worship of Thy name will go forth among Thy saints in this world. We thank Thee that we can learn of Daniel and his godly example to us. May we dare to stand at his side. And in these last days, too, may we maintain the proper worship of Thy name. Bless us, Father. Strengthen us according to this Word, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.