and declared: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him.
I. IN THE SHADE.
1. The position. Although Daniel had been trained for distinguished services, pronounced by the king to excel all the magi (Daniel 1:20), he was forgotten by the king, ignored by his fellows of the magian college through jealousy, only discovered to share a common ruin. This was a picture of the trials of his whole career. Daniel the eminent had to contend with the jealousy of the mean. This spirit begot the attempt to cast his companions into the burning fiery furnace. Years after it throws him to the lions. So now the captain of the king's guard "sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.
2. The moral attitude. Daniel was ever animated by a sense of duty, and more by a readiness to serve those who either neglected or opposed him.
3. The providential call. At the critical moment God, in wisdom and love, supervened and intervened; broke the meshes of the confining net; and called the saint out into that ministry for which he was intellectually and spiritually fit, and also morally ready.
II. AT THE KING'S GATE.
1. The calm spirit of Daniel. There was much to exasperate in the whole situation. Cruel death was impending. But Daniel lived high above events in a serene heaven of the soul, and was, therefore, prepared to come down into the incidents of life, and act with the best effect.
2. His use of means. To act well in great emergencies requires the coolness of spiritual wisdom. Daniel:
(1) Had conference with Arioch.
(2) Sent a respectful message to the king. (We understand that Daniel did not go himself, till later, actually into the presence of the king, but sent in the request by the proper officer.)
3. His success. This may be attributed especially to three causes, note specially the last:
(1) The king's remembrance of Daniel.
(2) The awakening of a great hope in the king's breast.
(3) The hearts of men are in the keeping of God.
III. WITH HIS OWN COMPANY.
1. The prayer. Here observe:
(1) Daniel did not delay. He lost no time. He did not go to consult with the magi, whether there was anything in their art, in their books, that might be of use in the matter. With some men prayer is the last resort instead of the first.
(2) Resolved to make the difficulty a matter of prayer.
(3) Fell back into the soul fellowship to which he belonged. (ver. 17).
(4) Seemed the power of united supplication.
In the prayer itself the following specialities are suggestive:
(1) It kept prominent the exalted supremacy of God.
(2) It appealed to his mercies."
(3) It went upon the principle of committing all that troubles us to God.
(4) It concerned a great public interest. But
(5) one in which the private safety of the petitioners was involved.
2. The prevalence. The all-important fact is that the prayer was answered. The answer was revealed either in a dream, or more probably in a waking vision of the night; and the vision was no doubt accompanied by a clear attestation of the truth of it. Can any one doubt the possibility of such revelation, who has realized to himself the nearness of the Eternal to the human mind?
3. The praise. This was:
(1) Instantaneous. Daniel did not wait till he had verified the dream by audience with the king. As soon as ever he received the mercy, he was ready to praise.
(2) Full. Matthew Henry puts it well.
(a) Daniel gives to God the glory of what he is in himself.
(b) Of what he is to the world of mankind.
(c) Of this particular discovery.
(3) Sympathetic. Friends were associated in the praise, as in the prayer.
IV. IN THE KING'S CLOSET. Here we have Daniel, the living representative of what a true prophet should be. He is not only a type of him whom technically we call a prophet, but of every one who is for God the mouthpiece of vital truth to man. Before the king:
1. He sinks himself. (Ver. 30.)
2. He forgives personal adversaries. (Ver. 24.)
3. He is forward to put down all that exalts itself against God. (Ver. 27.)
4. He has a sense of the moment of his message. (Vers. 2:8, 29.)
5. He glorifies God. (Ver. 28.) - R.
etc. While all knowledge comes from God, this is specially true of the knowledge of what is hidden and future. "He revealeth the deep and secret things." Whatever glimpses men have gotten into the future, have come from God. And how consolatory is it to reflect that God sees into the darkness of futurity. The throne of providence is often encompassed with clouds and thick darkness. Let us remember that when Daniel disclosed the dream which baffled all the wisdom of Chaldea, he fell down before God in grateful adoration, and, instead of boasting over the wise men, as many of the expositors of prophecy have done over one another, his very first request, as we shall see in the following verses, was in these words, "Destroy not the wise men of Babylon." And in all cases the study of prophecy is profitable only when it increases our admiration of the Deity, and our humanity to our fellow creatures. On the other hand, it is a sure proof that they have not studied prophecy aright, who, as the result of it, have increased in dogmatism, and not in devotion — who, as if inspired by misanthropy, become denouncers of wrath upon the world, and seem to exult in fancy over the downfall of nations, and hurl forth their anathemas against all who refuse to receive the wildest wanderings of their imagination as the infallible dictates of Divine truth.
Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever.
(P. H. Hunter.)
1. And I apprehend that the narrative ought to prove to you that under the pressure of even the very heaviest afflictions nothing, in a multitude of instances, can be less to the point than inaction or despair. There are, of course, numerous cases wherein the exhibition of a meek resignation involves the sole duty required; but those dispensations are frequent, concerning which it is the appointment of Providence, that men shall help themselves; entreating fervently, indeed, the bestowal of that gracious aid without which their most toilsome exertions must be futile; but still tasking their own energies to the utmost. In the instance before us, prompt action was the primary obligation of the prophet. He accordingly proceeds at once into the royal presence, and undertakes to set at rest, within a reasonable time, the monarch's anxiety as to both of the points specified. But it does not, for a moment, occur to him that he could be competent, in his own strength, to fulfil his engagement; for, together with his three companions, he directly betakes himself to the Divine footstool; and they offer their joint supplications that it may please the Lord to disclose the nature and bearings of the secret. So then, it was no outburst of self-sufficiency which impelled the prophet to apprise the king that in due time he would discover to him all which he desired to know. A more striking illustration of the unlimited possession and of the unbounded influence of faith, than is supplied by the prophet's course of action and its consequences, it were hardly possible to conceive. You recollect what strong terms our blessed Saviour employs as descriptive of the mighty effects which would be produced by the manifestation of such a spirit. Faith would even remove mountains, He declares. And you cannot but remark that Daniel seemed to entertain no doubts of the satisfactory accomplishment of the wondrous task undertaken by him; he, without a moment's hesitation, assures the king of his ability to perform it. At the same time, I would again remind you that his confidence was strictly connected with his resolution to resort, with assiduity, to the right means of procuring success; and I repeat that the work of earnest supplication to which he betook himself was undeniably the strongest evidence of his faith. His, you see, was not that so-called faith which eventuates in nothing practical; his assurance of the result, unwavering as that was, was nothing else than an assurance that God's blessing would rest upon the due employment of those fitting means which he was determined not to neglect. It rested with the Almighty to suggest to the mind of the prophet the dream and its interpretation, whilst it devolved upon His servants, with all earnestness, to entreat the bestowal of suggestions which He alone could impart. And may we not succeed in deriving hence a lesson for ourselves? Whilst it should at all times be the highest delight of the Christian to repose on the justifying merits of his Redeemer an unhesitating and a grateful confidence; whilst he should permit no floods to overwhelm, nor fire to consume, nor lapse of time to impair the vigour of his faith; oh! let him ever keep in remembrance the great truth, that the character of his works and his course of life will, after all, stand as the final tests of the genuineness of that faith; and that no mere consciousness or semblance of occasional spiritual fervour can compensate for the absence of all practical evidences of the sincerity of his profession. Like Daniel, he may feel perfectly assured, whilst adopting this course, that the requisite support will be given; and thus is he completely equipped for every enterprise.
2. But let me now more particularly call your attention to the circumstance that the prophet, when in quest of the inspiration which alone could enable him to perform his task, did not satisfy himself with merely presenting his own supplications, how impassioned soever, before the throne of grace, but desired his companions to mingle their entreaties with his; and thus may be considered to have taken every possible means of obtaining from his Maker a favourable response. And hereby also may we receive instruction — instruction having reference to the value of united prayer. But Daniel did not confine himself to entreaties that God would graciously enable him to disclose the details and import of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. His supplications having secured the accomplishment of his desire, he omitted not forthwith to tender to the Divine Being the unfeigned and reverential expression of his gratitude. "I thank Thee, and praise Thee, O Thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of Thee; for Thou hast made known unto us the king's matter." And it must at once be admitted that in pursuing the course which he did, the prophet set an example which should be copied even by ourselves, who enjoy the privilege of living under another and far higher dispensation. We complain, and justly, that men do not sufficiently betake themselves to prayer; and yet, after all, they far more frequently cultivate prayer than praise. How many are there who, when visited with afflictions, their deliverance from which appears to be almost hopeless, or when placed in some position of difficulty or danger, where special Divine assistance is absolutely required, will humble themselves in the dust before the Majesty on high — will confess unreservedly and earnestly their sins and shortcomings; and will almost "pray without ceasing" that they may be guided amid their perplexities or rescued from their perils! Yet let a kindly Providence but accede to their entreaties — let these perplexities be surmounted, or these perils be happily removed, and, in multiplied instances, the warmth and constancy of their devotions survive not the change; the period of distress and trial seems now to be passed; and alas! the very consideration which should call forth the loudest accents of thanksgiving and praise tends only to the renewal of that spiritual indifference which had for the time been parted with.
3. Let me ask you, in the next place, to observe the mode in which the prophet addresses the Great Being whom, in the words of the text, he was approaching with "the voice of thanksgiving." His experience, doubtless, supplied him with many instances of Divine watchfulness, Divine care, and Divine support. That he cherished a most grateful sense of God's mercies to him is quite undoubted; and we may rest assured that at all times he recognised in the Maker of heaven and earth his Guardian and his Guide. But, nevertheless, it is not as his own God that he addresses the High and Holy One in the passage under consideration. He addresses Him as the God of his fathers, thus showing that his memory was stored with incidents wherein, in former times, God had proved Himself a Shield and a Succour. His words tell that he must have felt, and have exulted in feeling, that — "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever" — the eye of that mighty and uncreated Intelligence which had looked down with tenderness and affection upon the ancestry, would continue to beam brightly and benignantly upon the descendant. Oh! that there were more amongst ourselves of such simple but well-founded, beautiful, and heaven-born faith! Oh! that our hope, that our trust, that our joy, that our love, might be inspired, elevated, augmented, as well by the remembered history of the past as by personal and more recent experience! God is still, as in the days of David, "a very present Help," a "Fortress," and a "Deliverer!" But the declaration of Daniel that the "wisdom and might" which then belonged to him had been conferred by God, demands, in another point of view, our attention. I have already admitted that there were, in his case, peculiar circumstances which exist not in our own. But acknowledging that both in the mode of their communication and in the largeness of their amount, as well as in the direction which they took, his endowments differed very widely indeed from any which have ever been bestowed in modern times — throughout which, in fact, there has been no occasion for the exercise, to any extent, of supernatural powers by man — we may contend still for the desirableness of ever cherishing the recollection, that the human faculties have been imparted by a higher Power, as calculated to exert a most salutary influence. It will dispose us to dedicate these faculties to our Maker's service, engaging in no pursuit which His statutes have condemned, and devoting ourselves to the practice of every virtue which He enjoins. It will tend to bring home to us the consciousness that "we are not our own." It will beget a sense of responsibility to which otherwise we should be strangers. It will check pride, and will thus prepare the heart for profiting by progressive communications of Divine grace.
4. In conclusion, let me point out to you that the Almighty availed Himself of even the iniquitous decree of a selfish tyrant by producing a most striking display of His omniscience, by making an important addition to the prophetic announcements, and, farther, by promoting the temporal welfare of one of the most devoted and distinguished of His servants. Doubtless, indeed, His providence was at work, suggesting to the monarch's mind the exciting dream. But assuredly the edict by which the dream was succeeded can be regarded as no dispensation of His providence. Yet mark how speedily that providence brought good out of evil! Then, under no circumstances, however apparently untoward or threatening, must the Christian give way to despair.
(H. B. Moffat, M.A.)
1. The value of united prayer. When Daniel undertook the solution of the difficulty, he engaged his three friends to pray earnestly on his behalf, and we may be sure he was fervent in supplication on his own account. He believed in God as the hearer of prayer. The issue showed that he acted wisely. There is a special promise to united prayer.
2. An illustration of the workings of gratitude. The moment he had received the revelation Daniel poured out his heart in thanksgiving to God. How many, when they have got the blessing for which they asked, forget to be grateful for it! We cry when we are in extremity, but when the terror passes we forget to give thanks to Him who has removed its cause.
3. An illustration of the devout humility of genuine piety. Daniel is careful to let the king understand that he has not received the secret from God for any excellence about himself. He fears to stand between the king and Jehovah. He gives all the glory to the Most High. There is always a modesty about true greatness, and you may know whether or not piety is genuine by inquiring if it be characterised by humility. The good man will never seek to hide God from the view of his fellow men.
4. An illustration of faithful friendship. When Daniel was exalted, he did not forget his companions. Knit to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah by congenial tastes, as well as by the ties of country and religion, he had become to them a friend indeed; and they had shown their deep interest in and attachment to him, not only in sharing his protest against the diet of the College, but also in praying for him at his special request. It was meet, therefore, that he should remember them in his prosperity. But this conduct is not common.
(W. M. Taylor, D.D.)
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