Lesson 6

Faith Amid Turmoil

(Daniel 6, Esther 3 & 4)
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Introduction: Last week we discussed real people who were caught up in the cosmic conflict between good and evil. In the cases we studied (David, Samson, Elijah) we found people of faith who gave in to sinful impulses. This week we look at real people who suffered through no apparent fault of their own, but remained faithful. Let's jump in.

  1. Daniel


    1. Read Daniel 6:1-3. What position did Daniel hold in the kingdom of Medo-Persia? (Daniel had a remarkable career. If you look at Daniel 5:29 you will discover that Daniel was promoted to "third highest ruler" in Babylon the night it fell to Darius the Mede. However, when Darius organized his new kingdom, he made Daniel one of the three top administrators that reported directly to King Darius.)


      1. How good was Daniel at his job? (Verse 3 tells us that Darius intended to further reorganize and make Daniel the number one administrator. He would be second in charge to the king.)


    2. Read Daniel 6:4. What does "at this" mean? What is motivating these leaders to plot against Daniel? (When they learned that the King intended to promote Daniel over all of them, they were jealous and plotted against him.)


      1. What was the problem they faced in plotting against Daniel? (He was "neither corrupt nor negligent.")


    3. Read Daniel 6:5. What is their only angle of attack against Daniel? (A potential conflict between the law of God and the law of the government.)


      1. Friend, can this be said about you? There is nothing in your work that others can attack? The only way to attack you is to find a conflict between your obligations to God and your obligations to the government?


    4. Based on this only approach, a plot is hatched. Let's read on: Daniel 6:6-9. While Daniel's "weakness" was his allegiance to God, what is the weakness of King Darius? (Pride. Maybe a little mental weakness too, since one of his principal advisors was missing from this group -- the one who prayed to a different God.)


    5. Let's read on. Daniel 6:10-11. To whom does Daniel turn for help? (Verse 11 says he was asking God for help.)


      1. Wouldn't a little "self-help" have been appropriate here? For example, why not close the windows? Nothing requires you to pray with the windows open! Indeed, Jesus said ( Matthew 6:6) to pray behind closed doors.


      2. Read the story in Matthew 17:24-27. Was Jesus' approach to this "governmental regulation" the same as that of Daniel? (It seems not. Jesus was willing to compromise (not give offense) as much as possible without compromising the principle (which was who Jesus was).)


      3. Why do you think Daniel refused to change anything about the way he prayed to God? (I think he viewed this as a test of his allegiance to God. It was an open challenge to his faith. The context of Jesus' statement to pray behind closed doors was to those hypocrites who were praying just to be seen by men. Since they were doing this only for self-glory, you can be sure they would have closed the door if death were the reward for public prayer.)


      4. Why did the other administrators (v.11) go "as a group" to find Daniel violating the law by praying? (These guys were schemers and cowards. Since the King liked Daniel, if just one reported this, the King might have ignored the report and punished the one who gave the report. If a whole group of the administrators reported this, King Darius would be trapped.)


    6. Daniel 6:12-13 records that the group then reported Daniel's praying to King Darius. Let's read Daniel 6:14. What do you think is going on in the King's mind right now? What were his views about Daniel? His views about his decree on worship? His views about his advisors? (He clearly knows he has been tricked and trapped. He still has a very high view of Daniel because verse 14 tells us that he "made very effort" to rescue Daniel. The King thinks killing Daniel is unfair and not in his best interests.)


      1. The advisors keep reminding King Darius that his edicts cannot be changed (vv. 12, 15). Consider the situation: the King and his most trusted advisor (Daniel) agree that Daniel should not be killed - yet Daniel is going to be thrown in the lions' den. What does this teach us about relying on men for our freedom and welfare? (This shows why Daniel, in verse 11, was "asking God for help." We cannot depend on the state, powerful friends or any other person. We must depend upon God not only for our salvation, but for every other aspect of our life.)


    7. Read Daniel 6:16-17. If we must depend on God, why didn't God work something out before Daniel got thrown in the den? I am not a procrastinator. I am not a "last minute" guy. Is God a procrastinator or a "last minute" guy? (God often lets matters get to their worst point before He intervenes. His thinking on this is revealed in the story of Gideon fighting the Midianites. In Judges 7:2 God tells Gideon to get rid of some of his soldiers "in order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength saved her." God wants us to be clear on who saved us. In Daniel 6:16, the ruler of the empire acknowledged that the matter of Daniel's life had come down to a miracle from his God.)


      1. What lesson do we learn from this for the problems in our life?


    8. Read Daniel 6:19-22. Now, what do you think about the idea of Daniel just shutting the doors when he prayed?


      1. Read Daniel 6:25-27.(I believe that God impressed Daniel that praying privately was not the right answer. As a result of Daniel's faithfulness, the power of God is clearly displayed to King Darius and to the entire empire.)


      2. Did Daniel suffer just so that God would look good? (Daniel obeyed. If this event had not happened, Daniel would always have had his jealous competitors trying to harm him. Instead, Daniel 6:24 reports that they were no longer a part of Daniel's life. Daniel 6:28 reveals "So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian." This event also caused the King to be converted and to announce the empire was now "Christian.")


  2. Esther


    1. Read Esther 3:13. Do you know why this edict to kill the Jews was issued? (There was a rising young star in the empire of Medo-Persia, a man named Haman. He was like Daniel in that the King elevated him above all of the other nobles. The King ordered all to bow down to Haman when he passed by them. A guy named Mordecai refused - probably because of the first two of the Ten Commandments. When Haman saw this he decided to kill not only Mordecai, but everyone with his same religious background. (See, generally, Esther 3)


    2. The Queen, a lady named Esther, was a Jew who had been raised by Mordecai. He turned to her for help. Read Esther 4:12-14. What did Mordecai want Esther to do? (Intervene with the King about the edict to kill all the Jews.)


      1. What did Mordecai warn would happen if she did not? (He said she would die.)


      2. Read Esther 4:10-11. What was Esther worried about if she intervened with the King? (That she would die. She was facing death either way.)


        1. What do you think about Mordecai's warning? Was this just "scare tactics?" (It is hard to imagine that the Queen would be killed as part of the decree to kill Jews. However, we learned about the absolute nature of the Medo-Persian royal edicts in the story of Daniel.)


        2. How do the problems in your life compare with the problems facing Esther?


      1. Let's go back and look at Esther 4:14 again. Was Mordecai worried about being killed? (He says that God would find a way to deliver His people regardless of whether Esther helped.)


        1. Are the problems we face obstacles or opportunities? (This story suggests that God will have his way. The only question is whether we will be co-laborers with Him in resolving the problems in life.)


    1. Read Esther 4:15-16. What were Esther's two approaches to resolving this national religious liberty problem? (I say "religious liberty problem" because lives were being threatened because of Mordecai's obedience to God. Esther turned to God (fasting and prayer) and direct political action (approaching the King).)


      1. Are these two approaches to religious liberty problems still valid? (They certainly reflect the Biblical blueprint for any country where individuals have a say in the nature of the laws and individuals can express their views without risk of harm. Beyond that, this is a blueprint for individuals who can influence government, even at the peril of their life. This would not seem to be the blueprint (the direct political action part) for individuals who have no real influence on government and are simply risking their lives. Prayer and fasting would be appropriate for all situations.)


    2. Read Esther 8:11, 16-17. What was the outcome of prayer, fasting and courageous political action? (God intervened - He worked with Esther to save the lives of His people.)


    3. Friend, in these two stories we see people who remained faithful to God even at the risk of their lives. Do you face life-threatening problems in your life because of your allegiance to God? God calls on you to trust, obey and be co-laborers with Him through the most difficult of times.


  1. Next week: Jesus Models Victory.

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