Great stories of the Bible: Part 5: Daniel and the lions’ den

Joel S. Heckendorf

“God bless our native land. Firm may she ever stand.”

A Massachusetts native penned those words in 1835. But the words are a free translation of an 1815 German song. Apparently, the tune was first sung in England in 1740. In between, it was used for political songs in Denmark, France, Austria, and Russia. So which “native land” is God supposed to bless?

When we hear Daniel, a word association game may follow up with the words lions or prayer. Certainly those are major themes of this popular story (Daniel chapter 6). But don’t miss how Daniel was a blessing for the governments—yes, governments—he served.

Showing leadership potential at a young age, Daniel was ripped away from his country to serve a king hundreds of miles away. Instead of kicking and screaming, he served the king and was a blessing for a government that threw his God-fearing friends into a fiery furnace and that consulted sorcerers and astrologers.

When that Babylonian government was overthrown by the Persians 60 years later, Daniel didn’t protest, “I’m too old to help.” He didn’t grumble, “I don’t have enough energy to learn this new Medes and Persians system.” No. He served. He served so exceptionally that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.

This month, we have an obligation to pay taxes to our government. While grateful for our government, our gratitude is often challenged. It’s especially challenging when a government makes decisions and implements laws that don’t always reflect God’s will for our lives. What should we do when some laws make it more difficult to be honest about what God’s Word says? God gives us an option, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:7). In other words, as you live in “Babylon,” continue to be faithful to your God and show your love for “Babylon.”

That’s what Daniel did. “He was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (Daniel 6:4). He was a blessing to those around him. He let his light shine. His light was faithful, diligent service to his adopted country. He made enemies; they tried to destroy him in the lion’s den. But his light also caused some to notice his faith and his God. Darius even issued a decree saying that “in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:26).

Perhaps it’s not the main point of the story. But as you pay your taxes this month, may the story of Daniel lead you to wrestle with these thoughts: How can I be a blessing to those in authority? How can my deeds lead others to glorify God?



1. Tell the story in your own words. Then read the account. Which details did you omit or mistakenly add?

Answers will vary. If studying in a group, split up into smaller groups and see how many different details are included in the exercise. Why do you think some details made every list and other details didn’t make any lists?

2. Why do you think this story is one of the most popular stories included in children’s Bibles?

As with many popular stories, the “good guy” lives and the “bad guys” die. In addition, the miracle of surviving an overnight stay in the lions’ den would seem to be a remarkable feat for children.


3. Agree or disagree: We encourage too much time to be spent with fellow Christians instead of letting our light shine for others.

Your personal situation will differ. Point is, we will want a balance. God warns, “Bad company corrupts good character,” but also encourages us to be light to the world. Looking at how Daniel was able to positively influence the king is a model for us to be a shining light in society.

4. Name at least three lessons you can learn about prayer from Daniel’s example?

Answers may vary. Perhaps most amazing is the content of Daniel’s prayer. He “gave thanks, just as he had done before.” Through Jesus, we have reason to give thanks in all circumstances. Other lessons to learn from Daniel include his humility (kneeled) and his regular prayer life (three times a day).


Contributing editor Joel Heckendorf is pastor at Immanuel, Greenville, Wisconsin.

This is the fifth article in a ten-part series on the top ten stories included in children’s Bibles and how they apply to our lives today. Find answers online after April 5 at


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Author: Joel S. Heckendorf
Volume 103, Number 4
Issue: April 2016

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