Daniel was not only a spiritual leader (as the Lord's prophet) but also a member of the king's court. Throughout his life, Daniel would serve as a courtier to five kings, but his famous acts in the lions' den happened while serving under Darius of Mede.
Darius' court consisted of a large pool of men in line for the throne, who were presided over by a council of three presidents. These three presidents were in turn led by King Darius himself. Darius was fond of Daniel, viewing him with deep respect, so early in his kinghood, Darius promoted Daniel to the office of the first of these three presidents, in effect making Daniel second in command over the kingdom.
The men-in-waiting and the other presidents were not too pleased with this decision, and therefore set out to find something with which they could incriminate Daniel. Some past transgression, some scandal they could dig up to make him appear undesirable to be in such a high office. They came up empty. Daniel was a clean slate; nothing in his history could be used against him. If they were to condemn this man, they would have to somehow make his righteousness a crime.
So the court confronted the king and by some means coerced him to sign an abominable proclamation: In the next thirty days, anyone caught praying to any man or God, unless they prayed to the king, would be thrown in a den of lions. When he learned of this proclamation, Daniel boldly decided not to change a thing. He went straight home and poured out his soul to his God, and continued his usual habit of praying three times a day. As this edict was designed to snare Daniel in particular, those behind it descended upon him and caught him in the act of praying.
King Darius realized at this time the seriousness of the situation. His decree now put the life of his good friend Daniel in peril. Wanting desperately to rectify the situation, Darius sought to reverse the command. He was stopped however by his court, who reminded him that, under the laws of the Medes and the Persians, the decree was irrevocable. Darius was forced to put Daniel into the den and seal the entrance, but not before sharing a desperate, parting word with his friend: "Thy God whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee."
Reluctantly sealing the den, Darius went home. That night, he sent away all distractions from his quarters, and spent the night in prayer and fasting, losing much sleep begging the Lord to spare his friend. Early in the morning, the king ran for the lions' den, and opened it up. Not knowing what to expect, King Darius cautiously called out to Daniel, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?"
Miraculously, Daniel's voice rang out from inside the cave, "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's timeless story is a wonderful reminder of the blessings associated with righteousness. True, because of the wickedness of other men, Daniel's righteousness landed him in a den of lions, dire circumstances to be sure. But also because of his righteousness, Daniel was delivered. His personal righteousness and his insistence of praying to His God, seemingly damning in this situation, actually spelled his deliverance.
When the Lord commands, we do, and any trial we face because of our obedience is far outweighed by the blessing our righteousness will entitle us to. It may not come in such an evident and dramatic matter as it did for Daniel, and it may not even happen in this earthly life, but it will come, and it will be worth it.
I testify of these things in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ--Amen.