“DANIEL: A Life of Integrity”
Read Daniel 6:1-5
This morning I want to begin a conversation about the characteristic that every human being admires, but that most of us struggle to obtain or maintain: INTEGRITY. So, to begin, and in the interest of integrity, let me mention that the overall trajectory and some of content of this series was inspired by another pastor, Steve Yates from Conroe, TX.
What is integrity? Online dictionaries offer the following:1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. INCORRUPTABILITY.
(Similar: honesty, uprightness, probity, rectitude, honor, honorableness, upstanding, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, nobility, high-mindedness, right-mindedness, noble-mindedness, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness. Opposite: dishonesty.)
2. The state of being whole/complete and undivided.
3. An unimpaired condition. SOUNDNESS.
My favorite definition comes from Clive Staples Lewis, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” We could spend all morning talking about examples of people in our society who LACK integrity. It may be harder identify men and women of high moral character and integrity. We could easily name people like Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, or Martin Luther King, Jr., as we should. But what about more run-of-the-mil people in politics, business, the arts, etc. The list gets a little shorter doesn’t it. I wonder why?
Maybe it would be more productive to consider the qualities of a person of character and integrity. Over the coming weeks we will look at the book of Daniel and the character of its main character, Daniel, along with his three exiled Israelite companions—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Let’s look a bit of historical background first.
The timeline of the events in Daniel is between 605 B.C. and 535 B.C. Being good students of the Old Testament, you remember that Babylon, under King Nebuchadnezzar, attacked and destroyed Jerusalem, the Temple, and the entire region of Judah around 587 B.C., taking captive many Israelites and assimilating them into the Babylonian Empire.
But Nebuchadnezzar took the best and brightest young captives into service at his palace. Among those were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Their Hebrew names were changed to Babylonian names:
Daniel was called Belteshazzar; Hananiah was called Shadrach; Mishael was called Meshach; Azariah was called Abednego.
We will talk more of their struggles and successes in the coming weeks, but here’s a quick overview of how we got to chapter 6 today. This Dream Team refused to eat the king’s meat but turned out healthier than the others who did eat from the king’s table. [Maybe that’s a biblical cue that we might take to eat more veggies and less fatty meats!] Anyway, in chapter 2 we see how God has gifted Daniel to interpret dreams for King Nebuchadnezzar, affording him to be rewarded to a very high position over the province of Babylon, and his three sidekicks with him.
Chapter 3 records the great event known as the Fiery Furnace, where our heroes—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—escape without so much as smoke on their garments. Chapter 4 we’re back to dreaming with Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel interpreting his dream—which basically says he’s going to go crazy but later be restored to sanity.
Chapter 5 switches kings to Belshazzar who foolishly decided to throw a party, using the sacred things from the Temple of God, which had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar during the exile. The “writing on the wall” was the Belshazzar’s character had been weighed by God and was found wanting. His kingdom would be divided between the Medes and the Persians. He died that very night, even after he rewarded Daniel for interpreting the handwriting on the wall.
Enter Darius the Mede in chapter 6 and where our story picks up today. The Book of Daniel is NOT a history book of great empires of the Mesopotamian Basin. It doesn’t describe the great conquests of Babylon over Israel, Judah, and other nations; nor does it tell of the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon. Instead, chapter 6 tells about Daniel and the lion’s den. So, why would a wise, good-looking, successful, dream interpreter like Daniel be thrown into a lion’s den by Darius? Basically because of the very thing we’re talking about today—integrity and character.
Let’s look at some truths about honesty and integrity in context of Daniel and why character matters.
Living with integrity brings success and opportunity.
Daniel 6:3 says, Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire.
As Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Daniel was gifted with wisdom, to be sure. He caught a few breaks when Nebuchadnezzar asked his chief of staff to select some healthy, strong, well-learned, good-looking men. He happened to have those qualities. BUT the greatest benefit to Daniel was…Daniel! He was willing to use the gifts God gave him, to tell the truth, and to LIVE OUT the truth in every aspect of his life!
Proverbs 11:3 says this, “Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people.” I’ve never known of anyone being called GOOD who were also known for being DISHONEST. Dishonesty is ALWAYS synonymous with bad, treacherous people. The Bible is filled with exhortations to be honest and avoid lies. Honesty is the best __________.
People are watching the way we live.
Look at 6:4à Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. Others are watching, even if it’s to trip you up…to catch you compromising your integrity.
Those who were threatened by Daniel’s high position and his accomplishments were looking to find fault with him so that they might report it to Darius and have him knocked down a peg or two. I’m not sure who Lars Lau Thygesen is, but he is credited with this quote : “If you value your integrity, then be prepared to take a beating by those who have none.” Is that ever more true for Daniel! His adversaries could not find anything in his character that was corrupt, so they plotted to use his integrity against him.
They suggested that King Darius issue a 30-day moratorium on the worship of other gods, and instead only worshipping Darius. The penalty for violating this decree was dinner with the lions…or should I say, “dinner FOR the lions!” Daniel, being a man of integrity and having heard of the law, did what he always did three times a day—he went to his prayer room, open the window toward Jerusalem, and prayed. His enemies were watching! When they saw Daniel maintaining his integrity (violating law), they reported the violation to Darius.
The King didn’t want to throw Daniel into the lion’s den, but what could he do? The irony is this: Darius was honoring his word by executing Daniel. He gave a lot of thought to how he could get around his edict, but he couldn’t. If Darius had acted more wisely when approached by his officials, then he wouldn’t be in this mess!
Genuine integrity is rooted in a profound trust in God.
Though it tormented Darius to throw Daniel to the lions, he had no other choice. But he even offered a blessing to Daniel as he did, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” Early the next morning Darius, hurried to the lions’ den calling out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?”
Daniel calls back, “Yep! My God sent his angel to shut the mouths of the lions.” The king was elated and ordered Daniel be lifted from the den. God’s Word says that not a scratch was found on him, for he had TRUSTED IN HIS GOD. A profound trust in God…in the promises of God…in the truth of God’s Word…guides us to being men and women of integrity and honesty.
When we go back on our word…when we compromise our integrity through lies, deception, failing to fulfill our commitments, etc…then what we are REALLY demonstrating is that we either don’t believe God and his Word or we don’t TRUST Him. The implications are enormous!
The rest of that story is powerful and karma-like, if you think about it. Daniel sleeps with the lions all night, is discovered perfectly fine in the morning. His enemies are found out, thrown into the lion’s den with their families and devoured. They got a taste of their own medicine! Proverbs 10:9 says, “People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed.” Be sure that your sins will seek you out. When Cain murdered his brother, Abel, the Lord God, called out to Cain, saying “the blood of your brother cries out to me from the ground.”
How, then, shall we live? As people of integrity. SPEAKING words of truth and LIVING words of truth. If we are truly to be followers of Christ that the world can see and be drawn to the Savior, we can not live duplicitous lives. We can’t act one way at church, then another in the marketplace or even behind closed doors. Jesus’s blood was spilled for our salvation from such a life. May we be found faithful men, women, and children of high integrity and character. AMEN.