Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Psalm 138:3). We have also the advantage of seeing him contrasted with a blameworthy and contemptible weakness, as well as with something worse - with weakness passing into wickedness.
I. STRENGTH. As exhibited by the saint, statesman, and prophet. See it:
1. Advancing to the throne in common life. The new organization included a hundred and twenty satrapies; over these three presidents in close relation to the king; of these Daniel was "one (not the first"). But he stood out in bold relief against the other ministers of the crown. By intelligence, experience, industry, and piety, he moved at once to the front (ver. 3). Religion king in every realm. Fidelity in common things (ver. 5).
2. In the absence of egotism. Shallow scepticism charges Daniel with egotism, partly on the ground of ver.
3. The tables may here well be turned on the adversary. Considering the exalted power and position of Daniel, that we have here too autobiography, the absence of self-allusion and self-praise is wonderful, and that throughout the book. Besides, this seeming self-praise was necessary to account for the action of enemies. Moreover, moral greatness does not quite preclude all allusion to self (Numbers 12:3; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Nehemiah throughout).
3. In Daniel's continuance in the habit of saintly life. (Ver. 10.) Note:
(1) The simplicity of action. "He kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed."
(2) The absence of ostentation. No opening of the windows in order that all might see. To have so done would not have been to exhibit religious courage, but foolhardiness. Such conduct would have been bravado. Religious courage is a calm, wise, brave thing. Picture the palace-house of one so great; the parlour on the roof; the lattices closed (as in hot climates) towards the east and south, but open (at least in the early hours, perhaps always) on the west, and intentionally "toward Jerusalem."
(3) The fearlessness of consequences.
(4) The reason of the act. "Because [Chaldee] he had done so aforetime." The persistence of the strong. "What he was as a dear little child, when his mother taught him, and prepared him with prayers and tears for the perils of Babylon - albeit she did not know he was to live the hard life of an exile - that he is now, though his hair be grey and his body bent with years." One holy, consistent life.
4. In the permanence of his patriotism. "Toward Jerusalem."
5. In the grandeur of his faith. After all these years and vicissitudes, the home of his soul was still in the Hebrew tradition - in the Hebrew history, literature, prophecies, liturgies, etc,
II. WEAKNESS. As illustrated in the character and conduct of the king. The moral weakness of the man appears:
1. In the evasion of responsibility. There is evident an indisposition to uttered to the affairs of government, which are left in the hands of officials. No surer mark of moral weakness than to leave what should be alike our duty and honour to others - possibly to the incompetent.
2. Accessibility to flattery. Keil's view of the proposal of ver. 7 commends itself to us, that it referred only to "the religious sphere of prayer. On this assumption the king would be regarded as the living manifestation of all the gods, of the conquered nations as well as of Persia and Media; and the proposal was that all prayer to all divinities should for thirty days be stayed save to this divinity - the king. The inflated vanity which could accept so obsequious homage!
3. Pliability to the will of others. (Ver. 9.) He had not the courage to live his own life, to think his own thoughts, and act them out.
4. Indifference to suffering. Weakness of soul means usually the weakness of every part - a feeble, emotional nature, at least on its nobler side, as well as weakness of intellect, conscience, will. Note the den of lions" (vers. 7, 24). Deficiency of sympathy, leading on to frightful cruelty, is oft the result of feeble moral imagination. No child or man could torture insect or man who vividly realized the exquisite agony.
5. The violence of passion. (Vers. 14, 18-20, 24.) Take the violence of his grief and indignation alike.
6. Moral helplessness. What an humiliating picture have we in vers. 14, 15 1 (The speech of the conspirators is clearly prompted by what they had observed on the part of the king - an attempt to evade the law, vers. 19, 20.)
III. The strength of Daniel, his magnanimity, is here set, not only against the weakness of the king, but also against the darker background of WICKEDNESS exhibited by those who conspired against the prophet. Moral weakness is not far off deep depravity; e.g. the depravity of Ahab - perhaps the weakest character in the Old Testament. Observe:
1. The vision given to these men. Of a saintliness like that of Daniel - elevated in its devotional life, ripe with the maturity of years, clearly manifesting itself in common scenes, excellent beyond all praise by their own admission (ver. 5). A beam, a ray from the holiness of God.
2. The Divine aim in the vision. Beneficent and moral we may be sure. To awaken admiration; to bring home the sense of defect; to lead to penitence; to arouse to efforts after likeness.
3. The human frustration of that aim, What was intended for salvation became the occasion of moral ruin, the cause being the deep depravity of these hearts. Note:
(1) The audacity of their aim. Men usually come to perpetrate great crimes step by step. These aimed at the ultimate of evil from the first - the utter ruin and destruction of the prophet.
(2) The recklessness of their counsel. If there be no law sufficient to crush, they will make one.
(3) The pertinacity of their pursuit of their miserable object. Shown in their dealing with the king (ver. 15).
(4) The meanness of their conduct. Over that parlour on the roof of Daniel's palace-home a watch must have been meanly set.
(5) The mercilessness of their cruelty. (Vers. 16, 17.)
4. The judgment that befell. (Ver. 24.) - R.
I. ENVY CAN EXIST IN THE BEST-ORDERED COMMUNITY. Whatever may have been the faults of Darius, he had a remarkable faculty for wise government. The difficult task of ruling a large empire was distributed among suitable orders of men. He was not only successful in war, but also skilful in council. Unlike many Oriental monarchs, he was neither an autocrat nor a tyrant. He did not suppose that all wisdom resided in himself, nor did he imagine that intelligent beings could be ruled by sheer will. Therefore he laid the basis for constitutional government, and appointed a prince in every province of the empire, whose business it would be to maintain the royal authority, and to secure to all subjects rights of freedom and property. But no human government, however wise or good, can check the growth of immoral principles. Human authority, at the most, can deal with overt crimes; it cannot check or punish the iniquities in the human heart. There is need for higher authority - for a heart-searching God - to control the tempers and passions of the soul.
II. ENVY IS EXCITED BY THE SIGHT OF SUPERIOR GOODNESS IN OTHERS, It is a strange phenomenon that virtue in one should be the occasion of vice in others. Yet virtue is not responsible for this result. Eminent goodness either allures or repels men. Virtue may be the innocent occasion of wickedness: it is not its originating cause. The warmer the sun shines on our gardens, the faster grow the weeds on the dunghill. Yet the sun is not to be blamed. The peerless purity of Jesus Christ exasperated men to commit the foulest offence that our earth has ever witnessed. As a rule, it is not the virtue itself that is envied, but the advantages and rewards which virtue secures. Men, for the most part, wish to gain the fruits of virtue rather than the virtue itself; and if they cannot, with facility, rise to the elevation of their rival, they seek to bring him down to their level or else destroy him altogether. Because Daniel was preferred by the king on account of his probity and prudence, the evil nature in his competitors developed in the direction of bitter envy.
III. ENVY IS LABORIOUS IN THE SEARCH AFTER OTHERS' SINS. The base and contemptible nature of envy is seen in its occupations. It is not conducive to the health of men's minds to be perpetually engaged in the study of disease. There may be compensations and alleviations to be obtained from other sources. But the pursuit itself is injurious. Much more injurious to the soul is it to be on the search for diseases of the soul, and to find a satisfaction in the supposed faults of our fellow-men. In the case of Daniel, this search served only to bring more clearly into view Daniel's exceptional virtue. Not even the sharp lynx-eye of ambitious envy could find a blemish on his reputation. His unworthy detractors were at length compelled to acknowledge his private and his public virtues; so they confessed to each other, "We shall find no occasion of blame against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the Law of his God."
IV. ENVY SEEKS TO GAIN ITS END BY THE MOST DISCREDITABLE METHODS. It matters little to Envy whether she speaks the language of truth or of falsehood; whether she employs just or unjust measures. These jealous rivals of Daniel went to the king with a lie in their mouths when they said that "all the presidents" and princes had united in asking this decree. How sedulously busy is Envy in her intrigue! She counts no toil inordinate! She had paced up and down the land, whispered in the ear of every state official, and secured their adhesion to this deadly plot. Seeming success makes her bold. She will involve the king himself in her murderous scheme. A crafty use of flattery will win his powerful patronage. The intrigue shall be masked under the pretence of excessive loyalty. For thirty days the king shall be the sole dispenser of bounty to the people. His ear shall be open to every complaint. This will gain him wide popularity; this will bring pious Daniel within the meshes of contumacy. These professed believers in other gods will neglect their deities for a whole month in order to encompass the murder of the best and noblest man in the empire.
V. ENVY IS NOTHING BETTER THAN INCIPIENT MURDER. No tender or humane feeling can dwell in the same breast as Envy. She will gradually banish every virtuous occupant, and introduce instead the basest crew. Hide her final intention as she may, she must at length confess that murder is the final act in her programme. These jealous colleagues of Daniel would probably have been for the moment satisfied, if only they could have deposed Daniel from his just eminence, or if they could have seriously injured his reputation with the king. But since these ends were compassed with insuperable difficulty, they determine to aim higher still, and because this end seemed within easier reach, they make a thrust at his life. It is a perilous thing to harbour an evil principle in any corner of the heart. Like a tiny leak in a mill-dam, it will steadily increase: the trickling stream will carve for itself a larger and a larger channel, until every barrier at last gives way, and devastation on a large scale is the result. "Keep thine heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." Envy, when developed to maturity, becomes red-handed murder. - D.
I. TRUE PIETY FINDS ITS CHIEF EXPRESSION IN PRAYER. Piety shows itself in many acts, some of which, though useful, are accidental; one, however, is essential, viz. prayer. If there be no outgoing of desire from the soul Godwards, there is no real piety; if there be prayer, vocal or silent, there is piety. Pious men, when placed in perilous circumstances on account of their faith, may suspend (sometimes must suspend) overt acts of public worship; they may never relinquish prayer A beggar asking alms, a child thanking its parent, a subject honouring his monarch, - these are earthly acts parallel to prayer. When first the gospel found its way into the hearts of the Malagasy, they did not style themselves Christians - they simply styled themselves the praying people. Prayer is the distinctive mark and badge of piety. What colour is to the rainbow, what saltness is to the sea, what roundness is to the circle, - such prayer is to piety. It is its essential element. It is the breath of spiritual life.
II. TRUE PIETY HAS RESPECT TO MINUTE PRECEPTS. For Daniel to pray was the first principle of his religion. To pray three times a day, to pray with his window open, to pray with his face toward Jerusalem, - these things were non-essentials. Nevertheless, there was a fitness and a propriety in these minuter acts. If not positive commands from God, they were indications of God's pleasure. Daniel had found them helpful to his spirit's health. Such habits of piety had been sanctioned by the most eminent saints who had gone before him. David had ascribed his elevation and his prosperity to the favour of God, and David had been accustomed to pray three times a day. The temple in Jerusalem had contained the only visible symbol of the Divine Presence on earth. Thither the longing heart of every pious Jew turned. On what ground should these pious habits be abandoned? It would not conciliate the unreasonable hostility of Daniel's detractors. The king's decree was not directed against these minor forms, but against prayer itself. Amidst so many unfriendly influences, it is wise to secure every vantage-ground for piety.
III. TRUE PIETY IS SELF-CONSISTENT. When the ridiculous decree of the king was promulgated, Daniel wisely resolved not to alter his course by a single point. He will steer his bark straight for the port of heaven, come what may. To a self-willed man, the temptation would be strong to resist the imperious interference of the king, and to pray more frequently and more prominently than before. To a timid man the inducement would be to close his chamber-window, and clandestinely do that which the new law disallowed. But Daniel leant neither to temerity nor to timidity. He maintained an upright and straightforward demeanour. Every habit of his life had been formed under the guidance of wisdom and discretion, and terror shall not rob him of advantages which experience has given. His loyalty to God is an obligation earlier, stronger, deeper, than loyalty to an earthly king. As God bad been a true and trusty Friend for seventy years and more, it would be base ingratitude to neglect him now.
IV. TRUE PIETY ACTS WITHOUT REGARD TO MAN'S JUDGMENT. In every circumstance of life, God's honour being first secured, the pious man will find a delight in serving his fellow-men. But to attempt to appease malice by abandoning honest principle, would be, in very deed, to "cast pearls before swine," Full well Daniel knew that his enemies were watching his every step, yet would he not submit to the slightest compromise or concealment. These princes and presidents degraded themselves into spies and informers. They watched, as with wolves' eyes, the open lattice of this man of God. Their organs of bearing were made sensitively alive by keen suspicion. As the fowler watches for his prey in the net which he has spread, so these inhuman spies watched for the successful issue of their plot. In breathless haste they press into the council-chamber of the king, and divulge what they have heard and seen. They employ every stratagem that can arouse his anger and enflame his wrath. They meanly point to Daniel's foreign origin. They knavely describe his deed as treason against the king. "This fellow," urged they, "doth not regard thee, O king. He tramples on thy authority, and treats as a dead letter thy royal edict." Not a stone was left unturned by which they might injure the innocent man. Nevertheless, Daniel maintained a dignified and peaceful demeanour. To be right was with him a higher honour than to be respected. He was no stoic. He had all the better feelings of a man. He entertained the good opinion of his fellows at its true value. He would be delighted to enjoy that good opinion if he could have, at the same time, the approbation of his God. But the latter was paramount, transcendent, priceless. And if, as the result of his loyalty to God, men maligned and hated him, much as he lamented the fact, he was content to face the consequence. It is, after all, comparatively a little thing to be approved or reprobated by man's judgment. "He that judgeth us is the Lord." - D.
in a king be ruinous to the nation.
I. A THOUGHTLESS ACT REVEALS THE INTERNAL WEAKNESS OF CHARACTER. King Darius, having discovered the practical outcome of the rash edict, was "sore displeased with himself." This feeling is commendable. He does not blame the cunning, the envy, the malice of others, so much as the easy thoughtlessness of himself. Others may be more blameworthy accomplices than ourselves in an evil transaction; but if any blame attach to ourselves, it is wiser first to discover and remove the mote in our own eye, before we touch the beam in another's eye. An hour's serious reflection, at the right time, would have prevented this Oriental king much anguish and remorse. It was an alleviation of his inward grief that he had not intended to do Daniel harm; yet, in effect, his thoughtlessness had produced as much suffering on others as if he had been instigated by feelings of bitterest malice. He ought to have given the edict mature consideration before he gave to it the authority of his great name. He ought to have inquired into its purpose, its meaning, its probable effects on society. The very haste of the councillors ought to have awakened his vigilance. Too easily his supple will yielded to others' inclination. Too easily he swallowed the bait of human adulation. Truly saith our poet -
"Evil is wrought by want of thought, II. A THOUGHTLESS ACT GIVES SCOPE TO WICKED MEN TO EXECUTE THEIR PLOTS. Want of vigilance upon our part gives an advantage to our enemies, which they seize upon with avidity. We might often nip iniquity in the bud, if we were only on the alert against the secret machinations of the tempter. We encourage wicked men in their base intrigues, if only inadvertently we smooth the way for their success. We are counselled by a high authority to be "wise as serpents." Intelligence has been given to us for this selfsame purpose, and it is a sin to allow any faculty of mind to be lulled into needless sleep. Darius had both admiration and personal regaled for Daniel; but this very esteem and preference of the king brought with it elements of danger to the prophet. Hence the affection of the king ought to have been thoughtful, inventive, watchful. The mean-souled officials had prepared the axe, and unwittingly the king gave them the handle by which the better to use it. For want of wariness, we may lend sheep's clothing to human wolves. III. A THOUGHTLESS ACT OFTEN LEADS TO SAD AND IRREPARABLE RESULTS. It was a settled principle in the Persian government that a law, having once received the sign-manual of the king, could in no way be altered or repealed. This principle in the main was beneficent and useful. In a period when communication between the palace and the remote provinces was difficult and tardy, it was a great advantage to the people to know that a law, once enacted, was fixed and irreversible. But the knowledge of this first principle ought to have made Darius all the more cautious and wary in affixing the seal of authority to any new decree. He was master of that simple act; but, having performed it, he was no longer master of its consequences. It would have imperilled his reputation, his influence, perhaps his government itself, if he should have ventured to rescind it. Yet no sooner was the effect of his rash deed discovered than remorse seized his mind. Conscience lashed him for his folly. His appetite departs. The desire for enjoyment ceases. Yea, the very capacity for enjoyment is suspended. Sleep forsakes his bed. His pillow is sown with sharpest thorns. No rest can the king find for body or for mind, because an innocent life, a noble life, is jeopardized through his rash deed. His mind roams over a variety of devices by which, if possible, he can yet protect Daniel from the ferocity of human wolves. But the king himself is powerless - as powerless as the meanest peasant - in this matter. He had, not long since, the power to deft, rid any and every subject, but he has thoughtlessly allowed the power to depart. It is in other hands now, and cannot be recalled. Opportunity has fled. The king is a prisoner in the hands of evil workers, and is compelled by them to do a disgraceful deed - to sign the death-warrant of his best friend. Nothing is left to him but his tears. Oh the bitter fruits of rashness! - D.
II. A THOUGHTLESS ACT GIVES SCOPE TO WICKED MEN TO EXECUTE THEIR PLOTS. Want of vigilance upon our part gives an advantage to our enemies, which they seize upon with avidity. We might often nip iniquity in the bud, if we were only on the alert against the secret machinations of the tempter. We encourage wicked men in their base intrigues, if only inadvertently we smooth the way for their success. We are counselled by a high authority to be "wise as serpents." Intelligence has been given to us for this selfsame purpose, and it is a sin to allow any faculty of mind to be lulled into needless sleep. Darius had both admiration and personal regaled for Daniel; but this very esteem and preference of the king brought with it elements of danger to the prophet. Hence the affection of the king ought to have been thoughtful, inventive, watchful. The mean-souled officials had prepared the axe, and unwittingly the king gave them the handle by which the better to use it. For want of wariness, we may lend sheep's clothing to human wolves.
III. A THOUGHTLESS ACT OFTEN LEADS TO SAD AND IRREPARABLE RESULTS. It was a settled principle in the Persian government that a law, having once received the sign-manual of the king, could in no way be altered or repealed. This principle in the main was beneficent and useful. In a period when communication between the palace and the remote provinces was difficult and tardy, it was a great advantage to the people to know that a law, once enacted, was fixed and irreversible. But the knowledge of this first principle ought to have made Darius all the more cautious and wary in affixing the seal of authority to any new decree. He was master of that simple act; but, having performed it, he was no longer master of its consequences. It would have imperilled his reputation, his influence, perhaps his government itself, if he should have ventured to rescind it. Yet no sooner was the effect of his rash deed discovered than remorse seized his mind. Conscience lashed him for his folly. His appetite departs. The desire for enjoyment ceases. Yea, the very capacity for enjoyment is suspended. Sleep forsakes his bed. His pillow is sown with sharpest thorns. No rest can the king find for body or for mind, because an innocent life, a noble life, is jeopardized through his rash deed. His mind roams over a variety of devices by which, if possible, he can yet protect Daniel from the ferocity of human wolves. But the king himself is powerless - as powerless as the meanest peasant - in this matter. He had, not long since, the power to deft, rid any and every subject, but he has thoughtlessly allowed the power to depart. It is in other hands now, and cannot be recalled. Opportunity has fled. The king is a prisoner in the hands of evil workers, and is compelled by them to do a disgraceful deed - to sign the death-warrant of his best friend. Nothing is left to him but his tears. Oh the bitter fruits of rashness! - D.
I. WE HAVE PRESENTED TO US HERE NOBLE ACTIVITY IN THE PLACE OF INDOLENT EASE. The craft of these base politicians was too short-sighted. Within reach of success, they were doomed to ignominious failure. Fortunately for the interests of justice, the king awoke to the deceit that was practised on him. At once he shook off his lethargy, applied such mental energy as he had to the business of the state, and searched in every direction for an expedient to save Daniel. Now that the king has discovered the treacherous design of his princes, all his wits are summoned to meet craft by craft. No effort shall be left untried by which his trusty and noble servant may be saved. He will no longer be a pliant tool in the hands of others, but a master of his own destinies. The hour was critical for Babylon, and Darius rose to the high demands of the occasion. King he will be yet.
II. THE GUILTY PUNISHED IN THE PLACE OF THE INNOCENT. Darius perceived that it would be perilous to abrogate, in unseemly haste, an edict so lately made. It would weaken the force of all imperial laws. It would loosen the bands of loyalty. It would arouse the sleepless hostility of his captains and princes. He had heard strange reports of the power of Daniel's God to save in times of danger. He believes that the same God will rescue now. The penalty which Daniel had incurred was that he should be cast into the den of lions. The edict did not say that he should be, left there to die. The king's decree would have been fulfilled if Daniel had spent an hour or less amid the caged beasts. All through that dismal night the king had taken counsel of himself. Desiring, on this occasion at least, to do for Daniel all that justice and good will could devise, we cannot doubt that his mind came under the influence of the Divine Spirit. The selfsame God who, through that long night, was giving Daniel courage to control and subdue the lions' rage was also conveying wisdom to King Darius. At earliest dawn the king goes in person to the den, and finds faith in God honoured, human malice frustrated. The king's edict had been observed to the letter. But there was an authority, appertaining to the king, beyond what was embodied in law. He held in his hand the lives of all his subjects. It is clear as noonday that these envious statesmen had basely deceived the king. Under cover of bringing him honour, they thought only of glutting their own malice, and robbing the state of its best servant. It was nothing less than a murderous conspiracy. They were as guilty of murder as if Daniel had died. Justice plainly demanded that summary retribution should follow; and at once these crafty lords were consigned to the death they had prepared for Daniel. Every man shall receive the due reward of his deeds.
III. GOD MAGNIFIED INSTEAD OF BEING DISCREDITED. Profane men thought to use God only as a tool in order to gain their nefarious end. If God was defrauded of his daily tribute of praise, what cared they? If humble souls were deprived of guidance and pardon and heaven, what heeded they, so long as they could lay murderous hands on Daniel? But will men rob God with impunity? Be well assured that God can defend his own! The opposition of vain men shall only advance his cause. The attempt to gag the mouth of prayer shall make even kings vocal in God's praise. When pompous statesmen league themselves against him, "he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh." The proposal was that all prayer should cease for the space of thirty days. The effect was that Jehovah was proclaimed as the True and Mighty all through the Persian empire; and a wider effect has been that God has been more honoured and trusted all the world over. "His Name shall endure for ever;" "To him all flesh shall come."
IV. THE ELEVATION OF THE MAN WHOM MALICE SOUGHT TO DEPRESS. These worldly wise statesmen felt that Daniel was a superior man to themselves. They could not expect promotion so long as they had to compete with him. Hence they resolved that what they could not gain by fair means they would gain by foul means. But they reckoned without their host. It came to pass that they were degraded, and that Daniel was advanced. True merit will, sooner or later, find its fitting level! Now that these grasping placemen are removed from the empire, there is all the more room for Daniel - the more need for an able and trusty councillor. Step by step he rises in favour and in influence. His increasing power brings advantage to the captive tribes of Israel. The sunshine of his prosperity lends brightness to their fallen fortunes. They, too, begin to lift up the head. This event becomes another step in the way of Israel's restoration. And Daniel rises to the enjoyment of a reputation which is world-wide and immortal. "Me shines as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever." - D.
Hebrews 1:14). The text in Daniel suggests the whole doctrine of angel-ministration. That imperilled life guarded by a sentinel from heaven is no solitary spectacle. It has many parallels. There had been the ministration of angels before, as there has been a thousand times since. We cannot help looking upon the scene with memories charged with all that has been revealed of the relation of that higher world to the world of men. It was a remarkable instance of a universal fact in the experience of the Church of God - a fact not limited to particular ages, but existing from the beginning to the end of time. We suppose that the angel in this case may have been invisible to Daniel; Daniel having simply inferred his presence; and further, that the action of the angel may not have been strictly supernatural. The occasional supremacy of man over savage beasts may be an illustration of the dominance of the angel. The subject, then, is - The ministration of angels.
I. THEIR EXISTENCE. Say there are angels; and some would receive the statement with scepticism. But the evidence is:
1. The analogy of the case. The interdependence of material worlds points to a similar interdependence of moral worlds. The commerce of earth to a commerce between the varied worlds of God.
2. The craving of the human mind. There is a craving for the knowledge of creatures higher than ourselves. The craving universal. It points to an objective satisfaction.
3. The testimony of Scripture. Previous argument, only presumptive; this conclusive. Fulness of Scripture on the subject.
II. THEIR NATURE.
1. They are spiritual. "Are they not all spirits (πνεύματα)?"
2. But "clothed upon with some organization. Of a material kind, for it may become an object of sense; men may see the angel-form. Note:
(1) Angels appear in the human form. But:
(2) Glorified. (Daniel 10:6.)
(3) Men after the resurrection are to become like the angels. (Luke 20:36.)
We may infer that the organism of angels is well adapted to second the life abiding in it. Incorruptible, for the angel never dies; fit servant of high intelligence; offers no obstruction to their mighty power; no impediment to their swiftness; beautiful with immortal youth. The angels, like ourselves, are capable of everlasting intellectual and moral progress.
III. THEIR PUBLIC LIFE. Its essential characteristic is given in the question, Are they not all liturgic (λειτουργικὰ)?" But what is the meaning? We must go to Athens, the home of the Greek tongue, for the answer. A few words, then, on:
1. The Greek liturgy. It was a public service - a ministration of the citizens to the commonwealth. Certain citizens were bound to contribute money, labour, time, towards making Athens splendid at home, triumphant abroad. Such a contribution was a "liturgy;" it stood for the public service of the Athenian people.
2. The Hebrew liturgy. The word was transferred from things Greek to designate the public ministration of the priests in the temple. As the liturgy of the Athenians was for the glory of the Athenian commonwealth, so the liturgy of Hebrew priests was for the glory of the Hebrew commonwealth - a ministration to its awful King.
3. The heavenly liturgy. Here thought ascends to a higher state, to a grander temple, in which angels contribute to the public service. Their wealth, energy, time, are given for the glory of the Eternal, and for the majesty of his kingdom. "Are they not all liturgic? Do they not minister to God in the exalted service of the heavenly temple? Are they not employed in the administration of the celestial government? Do not ' thousand thousands minister to him, and ten thousand times ten stand before him '?" "The chariots of God are twenty thousand,"
IV. THEIR APOSTOLIC CHARACTER. "Are they not all... sent forth?" Where he appoints, they go. Describe their coming and going as recorded in Scripture. But all this mysterious appearing and disappearing was not at all of their own self-moved will; they were "sent forth." They came on embassage, and the love that sent them was the Lord of angels and ours.
V. THEIR MINISTRATION. They are "sent forth" to bring us help, to aid the otherwise helpess. Look at this:
1. Negatively. Their main object is not any of the following, though angels have been commissioned for them all.
(1) To glorify some great event; e.g. the incarnation.
(2) To answer prayer. (Daniel 9:21.)
(3) To terrify enemies. (Matthew 26:53.)
(4) To destroy the doomed; e.g. the Assyrian army.
2. Positively. To bring help. The lesson for us - not to live in the light that shines from superiors, not to enjoy the company of equals, but to minister to those below. (Why not include in this lesson from the angels, our duty of ministration to races of life below man?)
VI. THEIR RELATION TO REDEMPTION AND THE REDEEMED.
1. Their general attitude.
(1) With reference to redemption generally. The attitude is one of anxious interest, which was typified in the aspect of the cherubim over the ark, "towards the mercy-seat shall the faces," etc.; and declared in the New Testament (1 Peter 1:12).
2. Their critical services. Angels are prominent through all the great epochs of Divine revelation - in the patriarchal, legal, and prophetical dispensations. Keep watch and ward about the Person of Christ. (The annunciation to Zechariah, to Mary; the anthem at the birth; one in Gethsemane, twelve legions in waiting; two at the sepulchre.) They were active at the founding of the Church; are now agents in providence; will add to the glory of the last assize.
3. Their combined action. Militant action, we may call it. Much in the Bible to imply that the angels are ever exerting, on behalf of the saved, a moral influence, equal in extent, though opposite in kind and greater in degree, to that exerted by evil spirits. They are not idle spectators of the long-drawn-out moral conflict of this earth.
4. Their individual ministration. (See John 1:51; Matthew 18:10; Psalm 34:7; Psalm 91:12; 2 Kings 6:17; Daniel 6:22; Acts 27:23.) (The "Angel-god" passages not referred to, because his appearances were those of the Lord Jesus.)
1. The majesty of their King. Christ the Lord. Such a retinue.
2. The greatness of the object of angel solicitude. Salvation.
3. The brightness of the Christian prospect. "Equal unto the angels." - R.