Now it pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom,
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.
It pleased Darius to set over the Kingdom.
(W. H. Rule, D.D.)
Of whom Daniel was first
(Joseph Parker, D.D.)
I. THE WORLD HONOURS CHARACTER WITH ITS RESPECT. And that is far better thing than position, riches, and fame. Have character rooted in God, and if men mock you to the face, you may be sure that in your deep heart they think of you as Balaam did of Sarah. The respect in which the good man is held comes out when he is dead.
II. THE WORLD HONOURS CHARACTER WITH ITS MATERIAL BLESSINGS. This is not an invariable rule. Some cannot bear the risks of prosperity. Many of us do well to pray, "Give me neither poverty nor riches." Yet it is generally true that character wins the places of trust, and character keeps the places it gains. Illustrated by Joseph and Obadiah. But how does God honour character? With His approval, and with the sense of that approval in a man's own soul. With His special acceptance in the world to come. By making it witness for him here on earth; as in this case of Daniel God makes the men of character to be in His world as "salt," as "cities on hills," and as the "Light." Their highest honour lies in their influence, their witness, and their work.
(Robert Tuck, B.A.)
(John Cumming, D.D.)graving tool. The first mention of such a thing occurs curiously enough in connection with the act of Aaron in making the golden calf. Though he would fain have us believe that the molten gold took that peculiar shape of its own accord, it appears in evidence that he "fashioned it with a graving tool" — a "cheret" as it was called in the Hebrew tongue — in which we distinctly trace the original derivation of our word "character." At first, then, this term stood for an instrument — a means to an end. But by a very natural transition it came to be applied to the result. From the tool attention is inevitably directed to the work of art, from the pencil to the painting, from the chisel to the finished sculpture. We preserve, however, the original use of the word when speaking of a man of parts. We say, "He is a character," thereby signifying that he impresses others, that he cannot be overlooked, that he is indeed a graving tool with the added element of life. It is, in fact, this power of impressing others by the force of our own personality that distinguishes man from the brute creation. Charles Dickens once remarked that "some very fine ladies and gentlemen might as well have been born caterpillars for any good they do, or any impression they make on the world." But, dear friends, God has not placed us here to be caterpillars lazily crawling over the smooth surface of things, and leaving no trace behind. He intends that we should be carving tools; that under His hand, and each in his own sphere, we should press heavily upon and cut deeply into this disordered world, seeking to shape it more after the mind and will of its Lord. This brings us at once to the practical question. We cannot stop at the tool. That is often a very rude and primitive affair. But the design or inscription written or graven therewith, what vast and varied possibilities are there? Even animals can make marks after a fashion — as some of us possibly know by experience — very ugly and painful ones. But they can usually be predicted. Every youth secretly hopes to make his mark and to pass for something in the world. What sort of a mark will be yours. No one can predict that. We can only hope and pray. Much might be said as to the elements of character, for, as Bishop Butler reminds us, it is, of a complex nature, there being greater variety of parts in it than there are features in a face. "Giving all diligence add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. These being the elements which make a manly and Christian life a word may be said as to their cultivation. Human nature is the raw material out of which character has to be manufactured, and very tough stuff it is. It has to pass through the mill a good many times before it is good for anything. Not forgetting the requirements mentioned by the apostle in the passage just quoted, we may add one or two others that go to the making of a man. One important factor is Labour. Dr. Arnold insisted that the difference between one man and another was not usually ability but energy; and Lord Lytton tells us that he made it a rule never to trust to genius for what could be won by toil. Another and most unwelcome agent in this process is trouble. "Great sufferings," says a powerful writer, "swell the soul to gigantic proportions." This had probably much to do with the strength of Daniel. Simplicity of aim, sincerity of aim, and modesty of manners are also essential to a healthy nature. And so is a perfectly trained will. The importance of arriving at and adhering to an intelligent decision cannot be too strongly emphasized. We are all acquainted with the description of the irresolute man who wastes the first half of the day in hesitating which of two courses to take, and the other in reproaching himself for not having taken the other. Only when all these qualities are present and active; only when those springs of action — our thoughts, desires, and affections — are cleansed by the Spirit of God and fed by communion with Him, do we attain our complete and destined development. We fall short of our own capabilities if we fall short of God. The result of this varied discipline and careful training is to exhibit what comes out so clearly in the life of Daniel. One of the most accomplished scoundrels of the last century declared that he would give ten thousand pounds for a character, because he could make above twenty thousand by it. Considered even from this sordid standpoint character represents capital, commands credit, and is a negotiable asset. The day has passed when is this land a man could rise to the highest place in the estimation of his fellows merely by the circumstance of noble birth. He must be and do something. Merchants and tradesmen often complain of the havoc and loss entailed by excessive competition. But there is a rising market for moral integrity and a brisk demand for it. To men of different callings I often put the question, "Is there s good prospect now for a young fellow in your business?" And the answer is almost invariably this, "Yes, he may do nicely if he is square, sober, and industrious; there are so many of the other sort, you know." So it is vice not virtue that is the drug on the market. Cleverness minus character — the world reeks with it. Most of the world's woes are in fact traceable to this pestilence, Satan himself being the chief example and promoter of it. In the hour when, after sufficient trial, it becomes known that you at least can be depended upon, you will become a person of importance. The world surely needs and is waiting for such as you. King Darius had that gift so essential to a ruler — the power to discern moral excellence. And finding it, he had a courage to utilise and reward it. He is worthy to be king who prizes virtue above rank. Hence "this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm." Only when men of sincere conviction, high principle, and indisputable integrity are at the helm of affairs is there any hope for the prosperity of any people. Not politics, not commerce, not creed, but character is the supreme test of prosperity and the harbinger of peace. When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice. Thus the welfare of nations comes at last to be simply a matter of the individual spirit and conduct.
(A. E. Hutchinson.)
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