Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” (Daniel 6:3-5)

The late Eugene Peterson called the Christian life a life of obedience; he called it “a long obedience in the same direction.” The prophet Daniel embodied this. As a young man, he and his friends refused the king’s diet in obedience to God’s mandate in His Word. As we have seen, Daniel and his three friends’ obedience was tested early on and throughout their lives while in exile in Babylon. Chapter six opens up with Daniel now an elderly man around the age of eighty. Daniel has possibly outlived his three friends who are not mentioned here in chapter six. However, now nearing the end of his life, Daniel is confronted with the greatest test of his life: the test of the lion’s den.

Daniel chapter six opens with Darius, king of Persia, setting over his domain 120 satraps. The satraps were high ranking officials, something like governors in our day. Darius places a Triandria over the 120 satraps: that is, three prominent rulers who were the political elite of the elites.  Daniel, we are told, was one of three elite rulers of the elites. Their job was to make sure that the Persian Empire ran smoothly with special emphasis on the treasury so that the king was to “suffer no loss” of royal income. However, vv 3-4 tell us that Daniel so distinguished himself not only by his skill-sets but also because an “excellent spirit was in him,” that the king was planning to bestow on Daniel the office and position of prime minister over his entire kingdom, making Daniel second to no one except for the king himself. 

It’s in this context we find collusion; the two other members of the Triandria and the satraps (maybe all 120 of them) conspire to destroy Daniel’s reputation. However, they concede that Daniel was a man of such stellar reputation and integrity and virtue that they could not find any fault with him. The conspirators are shrewd enough to know that the only way they could remove him from office was by pitting the law of the land against the law of God. These schemers convinced the king to sign into law an edict, an edict that would prohibit praying to anyone other than king Darius for thirty-days. We all know the rest of the story: the threat of penal sanction is death via the lion’s den; Daniel chooses to obey God rather than man; he gets thrown into the lion’s den; God shuts the mouths of the lions; Daniel is delivered, while his schemers and their households are in turn thrown into the lion’s den.

Alistair Begg asks a challenging question: “would it make any substantial difference in our lives…if prayer were to be banned for the next thirty days?” Usually when we think of obedience, we think of big things: remaining chaste in singleness or faithful to one’s marriage vows or refusing to embezzle money from one’s employer, etc.; but how about so called little things: e.g., prayer, reading the Bible, not forsaking the assembly of the saints on the Lord’s Day, etc.—these little things were nonnegotiable. Daniel was willing to die rather than not pray for just thirty-days. All of us will go through a time of crisis in our lives; not once, not twice, not thrice, but throughout our lives, especially near the twilight of our mortal lives like Daniel. Such crises do not create who we are, but reveal who and what we are. Long obedience in the same direction is the only way you and I are going to be ready for a crisis in our lives. You and I may never endure the crisis of being thrown in a lion’s den, but crises will come rest assured. The key is to get routinizes and familiarized through daily and weekly habits of grace: that is, daily prayer and reading God’s Word both individually and corporately in worship on the Lord’s Day. So when a crisis comes a long obedience in the same direction will get you through!   

In Christ

Pastor Carl  


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