and over them three administrators, including Daniel, to whom these satraps were accountable so that the king would not suffer loss.
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.
Then the King commanded and they brought Daniel.
1. The text records the sentiments of an inspired prophet respecting the interference of human authority in the concerns of religion. Daniel honoured the King, but would not render to him the homage which interfered with the claims of God and the rights of conscience. Does it become Christians to evince less of fortitude and firm decision of soul?
2. In the temper and conduct of Daniel we may learn how all good men should act under the rod of oppression. To lawful authority obedience is due; but to yield submission to the will of a capricious tyrant, arrayed in the trappings of assumed and self-constituted authority, to a task dreadfully irksome to a reflecting mind. Absolute power cannot govern the region of the soul. If the Christian had power, he has no disposition to render evil for evil. His temper is that of meekness, and peace, and goodwill towards men. He, therefore, is not fitted to subvert establishments and to dethrone tyrants. His spirit gives him patience to endure, but inspires no feeling of resistance; and he prefers being made the victim rather than the agent of vengeance.
3. The case of the afflicted prophet reminds us how religious persecution defeats its object, by extending the cause which it is intended to repress. It was Daniel's fortitude in subduing misfortunes, and his faith which conquered death, that made his religion popular.
4. The holy fortitude and triumph of the persecuted prophet, show that God affords support to his servants under the pressure of their heaviest trials. (Chap. Daniel 6:16, 28)
I. — DANIEL DELIVERED TO THE LIONS. In the delivery of Daniel, to be cast into the den of lions, we are reminded at once of the similar fate which befell the three young princes, his early friends. Darius had been more boastful in the decree which made him god for thirty days, than had Nebuchadnezzar, who only ordered that his god should be worshipped by everybody; yet he had less power than his more modest predecessor. We cannot but reflect on the latent sarcasm involved in the boasted despotic power of earthly monarchs. Their power is always absolute to do evil, but limited to do good. Zedekiah could consent to the imprisonment of Jeremiah, but said he had not power to deliver him out of the hands of the nobles, his enemies. Herod had power to deliver John the Baptist to the executioner, but no power to save him from the result of his rash vow. Pilate seemed to have no power to save Jesus from his malicious enemies, but had power to deliver Him to the cross. And so we might further illustrate this power for evil, this impotence for good, when it is vested in the hands of the kings of the earth; but these cases will suffice. It was thus that Darius exercised his power and exhibited his powerlessness, when he ordered Daniel to be cast to the lions.
1. The king's speech. — "Thy God, whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee." Thus he shifted responsibility from his own hands upon the God of Daniel, whom he had denied. So perhaps Herod hoped that somehow John the Baptist might be delivered out of Herodias' hands. So perhaps Pilate may have thought. Darius seemed not only to desire that God would deliver Daniel, but had a strong hope that he would. Perhaps Daniel had told him how, forty or fifty years before, God had delivered his three friends out of the fiery furnace; for Darius seemed to know a good deal of Daniel and his God. But this good-will, and even this gleam of faith in the power of God to deliver his servant, did not excuse his own evil act in delivering the innocent to death. If God does not interpose to frustrate our evil doings or overrule them for good, that does not make our sin the less, though it brings equal glory to God.
2. The double sealing of the den. — "And a stone was brought and laid upon the month of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel." This reminds us very much of what the rulers of the Jews did when Jesus was buried. Did these lords fear that somehow Daniel would come out of that den of lions? It would almost seem so. There is always a fear in the heart of those who fight against God that he will defeat them.
II. THE DISTRESS OF THE KING.
1. A troubled conscience. — "The king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and his sleep went from him." It was well that he did so; though it had been better had he boldly delivered Daniel. How often, when we weakly yield to sin, and suffer the torture of an offended conscience, we try to compensate for our sin by some acts of self-denial. If the fasting was a sign of repentance, it was well; but if it was simply to ease the pain of conscience, and seek in that way to atone for the evil, it was a mere mockery. We are so often quick to sin and slow to repent; prompt in doing wrong, but dilatory in making reparation. We are not sorry that the king had a bad night of it. We have had bad nights ourselves, and know how he felt. On the other hand, we cannot but think how differently the night was spent, by Daniel. Peter slept quietly in his gaol while the angel was coming to deliver him; and Paul and Silas waked the prison's echoes with nightly song. Happy children and servants of God, who can be at peace, can sleep soundly or sing gleefully in lion's den or prison's dungeon, while the monarch persecutors spend nights with tortured consciences in their splendid palaces!
2. A morning drive. — "The king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste to the den of lions." He could not spend the whole night in his bed. With the first suggestion of dawn he was up and his chariot was ordered, and he drove in haste to the place where Daniel was quietly reposing with the lions and God's angel. This indeed is a strange spectacle, for the monarch of the world thus to be attending upon a condemned servant of God. The spirit of God working in the conscience of Darius, compelled him to do the same thing; as once before the fear of Zedekiah brought him to the dungeon of Jeremiah, the imprisoned prophet. God knows how to bring down the head of the proud as well as how to lift up the humble. Happy we if we also may always repent in time.
3. The king's lamentable cry. — "O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" The king was deeply distressed and in an agony of anxiety. He had admired Daniel, and had listened to the old prophet's teaching concerning Jehovah. It all came back to him now; and he was both ready to publicly confess the excellency of the believer's character, and the dignity and sovereignty of the believer's God. In this "lamentable cry" there was both penitence and acknowledgment. What a splendid character he gave to Daniel: "Servant of the living God, whom thou servest continually." He also confessed God in a wonderful way: "The Living God." Thus he brushed aside all the pretensions of the idol gods, and gave honour to Jehovah. Daniel's teachings had not been in vain.
III. DANIELS'S TRIUMPH. That must have been a welcome sound to the king's ear, when the voice of Daniel answered back in clear, calm, and humbly triumphant tone, "O king, live for ever." Human nature would have been inclined to have added. "But no thanks to you."
1. Praise to God. — "My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions mouths, that they have not hurt me." In this he takes pains to ascribe his deliverance to his God. Here is a strong emphasis upon the fact that the Living God is not to be confounded with the false gods of the heathen. He is a God of providence, who watches over his servants and keeps his promise with them.
2. A defence of his innocency. — "Forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, I have done no hurt." Daniel does not boast of his goodness, but would set before the king that the favour of God to his servants in such a case is not regardless of the law of righteousness. Daniel had honoured God at a time when the world-power was denying and deriding him.
3. Daniel delivered out of the den. — Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel out of the den." Thus was Daniel delivered out of the den, and out of the hands of his enemies. His character was vindicated, and better still, his God was magnified and honoured.
IV. THE EDICT OF THE KING. God has never left the world without a witness for him; and now the last witness is being given to the nations by the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When this testimony is complete he will take to himself his great power, and finish the work in righteousness; he will set up his King upon the double throne of heaven and earth, and reign therein world without end.
(G. F. Pentecost, D.D.)
1. The one does wrong and hopes; the other does right and trusts. The deification of rulers was their general, as still the Russians regard the Tsar, and till lately, the Japanese the Mikado. The jewelled crown and sceptre were the signs of omnipotence. Darius had the ideas of his own time. In a way, he believed in his own divine nature. The flattery of courtiers was pleasing, and the imposing displays, in capital and campaign, helped to foster the self-delusion. It would never do for the Median lord to confess a mistake. We turn to look at that sincere, calm soul, whose love for his home wavered not through a life-time. A life of devotion was not to be abandoned because of any proclamation from men. Spiritual communion was as essential, after the famous behest, as before it was issued.
2. The one regards death as a sure agent, the other as under divine control. The love of life is an instinct. No one in his senses courts death. The taking of life is the last dread resort of the civil law. The unscrupulous ruler can rely on it to work his will. Daniel felt that if God had more for him to do in witnessing to the truth here, all the brute creation could not harm him. Death is not a certain victor when it suddenly confronts us.
3. The one decreed a universal religion; the other preached and practiced it daily. The safety of Daniel was proof enough to the king that the God of Daniel was no myth, but the living God. So he published an edict, demanding of all homage to Jehovah. But piety can never be the fruit of proclamation. In striking contrast with such, pretensions and wholesale religionism, there went forth, from the testing place, the plain lover of God, and preacher of righteousness, to take up his responsible duties as before, and to kneel in grateful acknowledgment of Jehovah's protection and furtherance.
(De Witt S. Clark.)
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