Helpless under the Law


Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him. Daniel 6:14-18 ESV

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 ESV


In 1919, the United States passed some laws known of as Prohibition. These laws said that alcoholic drinks, such as wine, beer, and whisky, could not be made, transported, or sold in the United States. These laws seemed to be a good idea at the time. Alcohol caused a lot of problems with fights and accidents and men spending all their money on drinks and not bringing their paychecks home to their families. People who drank too much also didn’t work well in the factories. Prohibition seemed like a very good idea, but it wasn’t. People still sold and drank alcohol in places called “speakeasies,” and people made alcohol illegally, sometimes bad alcohol that was poisonous. It was very hard to enforce Prohibition laws, and they led to a big increase in crime and violent activities by gangs who fought over who would control illegal alcohol businesses. In 1933 the United States repealed the Prohibition laws. This meant that it was legal to make, sell, and buy alcohol again. Lawmakers came to see that the law really wasn’t a good idea, and that it had made more trouble than it had tried to fix.

The legal system in the Medo-Persian empire was different. Once a law was made, even if it was a bad law, it couldn’t be changed, not even by the king himself. When the government leaders told Darius that Daniel had broken his new law, the king was very upset. He understood that he had been trapped, and that there was nothing he could do. Even though he had made the law, he had no power to change it. He had no choice but to throw Daniel into a den of hungry lions, and to seal the opening to the den with a stone, as well as official government seals, so that no one would be able to rescue Daniel. King Darius was terribly upset by all this. He didn’t eat anything, and wouldn’t listen to court musicians or watch court dancers or have any other entertainment, and he couldn’t sleep that night. He was completely powerless to save Daniel, but he had one small hope that the God Daniel served might be able to protect him.

We were also completely helpless under God’s law, and we had no way to change that or to free ourselves. God’s law is holy and good, but we were under its power because of our sins. People who don’t obey God’s law perfectly are under the power of death, and nothing we could do would change that. But God was not powerless to save us. He didn’t change his good law, but instead he came to us in Jesus to keep the law perfectly for us. Jesus obeyed God’s laws, and he died on the cross and rose again to break the power of sin and death in our lives. Because of Jesus we are free from being condemned by the law, and he forgives our sins every day. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us walk in his ways, and we are free to serve the God who loves us.


Dear Jesus, thank you for keeping the law for us and for setting us free from sin and death. Amen.