Finally these men said, "We will never find any charge against this Daniel, unless we find something against him concerning the law of his God."
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. THE VERY UNFAVORABLE SOIL IN WHICH A CHARACTER OF SINGULAR BEAUTY AND DEVOUT CONSECRATION MAY BE ROOTED AND GROW. What sort of a place was that court where Daniel was? Half shambles and half pigsty. Luxury, sensuality, lust, self-seeking, idolatry, ruthless cruelty were the environment of this man. In the middle of these there grew up this fair flower of a character, pure and stainless, by the acknowledgment of enemies, and in which not even accusers could find a speck or a spot. There are no circumstances in which a man must trove his garments spotted by the world. There were "saints in Caesar's household." It may sound a paradox, but it is a deep truth that unfavorable circumstances are the most favorable for the development of the Christian character. For that development comes, not by what we draw from the things around, but by what we draw from the things in which we are rooted, even God himself, in whom the roots find both anchorage and nutriment. The more we are thrown back on him, and the less we find food for our best selves in the things about us, the more likely is our religion to be robust, and thorough-going, and conscious ever of his presence. He that has vitality enough within him to keep hold of Jesus Christ has thereby power enough within him to turn enemies into friends, and unfavorable circumstances into helps instead of hindrances. Purity, and holiness, and communion with God do not depend on environment, but upon the inmost will of the man.
Except we find it against him concerning the law of him God.
I. AN EXCELLENT SPIRIT. In him, and seen to be in him. For be a man's spirit excellent or the reverse, it cannot be hidden. It comes out. The churl, the cruel, the malignant man, may mask the spirit, and hypocritically appear what he is not. But such are often surprised into conduct in which the real bad spirit is revealed; or they weary of playing a part. The spirit of Daniel was the secret of his elevation by Darius. How it showed itself is not told. He was a man of rare sagacity, and of incorruptible integrity. He had a kingly soul, with a spirit that thrilled his very silences, looks, tones, with excellence. We are more as forces in the world, than speakers and toilers. The Spirit we are of is an essential part, the largest part of our influence. It is the eloquence of tone and look and silence — it is ourself. Let the spirit be right and the life will be.
II. FAITHFULNESS TO DUTY. Daniel had enemies. They plot against him. He was faithful to his earthly master, because in all faithful to his Master in heaven. The secret of his faithfulness was that very piety through which his foes sought to assail, and take his life from the earth. There still is the secret of well doing, and continuance in well-doing, whatever be the station.
III. PRAYERFULNESS. Busy had been Daniel's life. But he was never too busy to pray thrice a day. From this habit, not even peril of death could daunt him. Daniel knew that the writing was signed, but it made no difference. For he knew also the helpful and sublime privilege of prayer. The baffled king sought by delay to save Daniel. It was in vain. The den probably was an underground cave. This method of punishment is attested by the discovery of statues and bas-reliefs among the ruins of Babylon. Daniel was willing to meet his fate. Prayer to God was the necessity of his life. Life might be surrendered rather than prayer. Life fruitful is ever life prayerful.
IV. TRUSTFULNESS. What a moment when the aged prophet was cast into the den! Daniel was calm. He trusted in God. From early youth, through manifold perils, Daniel had trusted in his God. He had never been put to confusion, nor would he be now. The angel Jehovah was with him.
(G. T. Coster.)
II. THE KEEN CRITICS THAT ALL GOOD MEN HAVE TO FACE. In this man's case their eyesight was meaded by the microscope of envy and malice. However unobtrusive and quiet a Christian person's life may be, there will be some persons standing close by who, if not actually watching for his fall, are at least by no means indisposed to make the worst of a slip, and to rejoice over an inconsistency. We do not need to complain of that. There will always be a tendency to judge men who by any means profess that they are living by the highest law, with a judgment, that has very little charity in it. And it is perfectly right that it should be so. Be content to be tried by a high standard.
III. THE UNBLEMISHED RECORD. These men could find no fault. They were very poor judges of his religion, and they did not try to judge that; but they were very good judges of his conduct as Prime Minister, and they did judge that. The world is a very poor critic of my Christianity, but it is a very sufficient one of my conduct. If we call ourselves Christians, we are bound, by the very name, to live in such a fashion as that men shall have no doubt of the reality of our profession, and of the depth of our fellowship with Christ. And it is by our commom conduct men will judge us.
IV. OBEDIENT DISOBEDIENCE. The plot goes on the calculation that, whatever happens, this man may be trusted to do what his God tells him; no matter who tells him not to do it. Daniel brushes the preposterous law of the poor, shadowy Darius on one side, in order that he may keep the law of his God. If earthly authorities command what is clearly contrary to God's law, a Christian is absolved from obedience, and cannot be loyal unless he is a rebel. Obedience to God needs always to be sustained. In our little lives, the motto, "This did not I, because of the fear of the Lord," is absolutely essential to all noble Christian conduct. These people calculated upon Daniel, and they had a right to calculate upon him. Could the world calculate upon us?
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
I. IN CHILDHOOD, There is intense personality of teaching in the example here presented. As he was a child of the captivity, so are we. We are heirs of another kingdom. That kingdom is to come; we are to be trained for it. Parents are to follow a higher standard than this world can give. As the Chaldean lore of Daniel was all sanctified by piety, you are to see that the wisdom which is from above is made prominent in the training of your child for God.
II. IN HIS YOUNG MANHOOD. In Daniel's treatment of himself young people may learn a useful lesson. Self-indulgence emasculates moral as well as physical vigour. The purity of innocence retained is better than that which comes by repentance and pardon.
III. AS A MAN, FULLY OCCUPIED. He was a statesman, and scientist as well. No man in this city is as busy to-day as was he. Yet he found time to pray thrice a day. He took time, and so may you.
IV. IN THE DEN OF LIONS. It was his prayerful communion with God that now risked his spiritual life and fortified him against perils which otherwise would have destroyed him. The den of lions was, indeed, a historic reality. Yet it was no less a figure of the tribulations into which our Lord Jesus and all his followers are thrown. We are powerful if we are in communion with God, and powerless if we attempt to cope with Him alone.
(Bishop W. C. Doane.)
I. THE HONORABLE TESTIMONY BORNE BY HIS ENEMIES TO HIS EFFICIENCY IN OFFICE. By the death of Belshazzar, and the conquest of Babylon, Darius, the Mede, had added an extensive territory to his empire, teeming with a numerous population. Such an addition required a corresponding increase in the staff of officials requisite for its management. Darius, admiring the administrative talents of Daniel, and having unbounded confidence in his character, formed the purpose of making this Daniel prime minister over the whole empire. Hence arose a conspiracy among Daniel's associates in office. They have become jealous of Daniel, and seek his downfall.
1. The enemies of Daniel had powerful motives to seek his downfall. Motives impure indeed, but powerful. The spirit of envy had seized them. It cost them something to tolerate the Jewish statesman as an equal, but they could not brook his being their superior. Promotion to him was degradation to them.
2. They had ample scope. When men are bent on doing mischief, they can generally succeed, even where the sphere is limited, and the chances comparatively few. Shortcomings in accounts, and cases of maladministration on the part of Daniel could not have escaped the quick eye of his two rivals. Errors of this kind would have served their purpose. But they found "none occasion nor fault."
II. THE LAST RESORT OF HIS MALICIOUS ENEMIES. They basely plot for his ruin concerning his religion. The cowardly conspiracy, together with its terrible recoil on the conspirators, is fully developed in the remainder of the chapter. The enemies of Daniel are "taken in their own trap, and are fallen into the pit their own hands have digged."
1. There was another chance, and that chance lay in the man's religion. Daniel was known to be eminently devout. Prayer was the element of his soul's existence. Thorough honesty and honour might sufficiently explain the accuracy of Daniel's accounts. But his religion was something beyond common honesty and honour. Without true religion, without a life of prayer, without a life of faith on the son of God, and obedience to his commands, without a life in which the moral nature shall have its share of attention, in which the soul shall get spiritual culture, and preparation for the future, your life, however satisfactory in other respects, is an incomplete thing, and if persisted in, will eventually prove a failure.
2. Daniel's religion was reliable. His enemies and rivals knew this, and matured their plans accordingly. They saw in Daniel an honest and fearless professor of religion; a man of decision, the tone of whose piety was elevated, whose religious habits and exercises were fixed and punctual. They could make his frequent prayers to God a sure basis of calculation, in forming their schemes for his overthrow. Nor did they over-rate his constancy.
3. Eminent piety and thorough efficiency in business are not incompatible. Some have a notion that personal religion and proficiency in any trade or profession cannot go together. And, indeed, we do not always find piety and skill united. It need not be that the two are separated. And religion supplies the highest motives for the efficient discharge of all duties.
III. Religion not only places us under the power of mighty motives, IT ALSO SUPPLIES IN ITS HOLY EXERCISES THE BEST PREPARATION FOR MEETING THE CLAIMS OF OUR EARTHLY CALLING. There is a wear and tear of the system incessantly going on, in the pursuit of any trade or profession which demands occasional relief. The wheels of life want oiling. There is a fountain of strength free to all. Daniel knew its power. He found relief at the throne of grace, in his prayers and regular communings with God. Three times a day he retired and prayed. Here was the secret of his strength. Our religion, while it is spiritual, is practical.
IV. SUCH A COMBINATION REFLECTS HONOUR ON RELIGION, AND MATERIALLY AIDS ITS ADVANCE. Manifest discord between the religious profession and the common life, dishonours the name of Christ, creates doubt in the minds of men as to the power of His truth, fills their minds with a false and unfavourable impression of its general influence, and thus tends to strengthen those prejudices, already too strong, which prevent their forming a just estimate of a true Christian life. In this respect we have all to confess manifold deficiencies. Let us, however, remember and imitate Daniel's conduct, and we may yet render the cause of Christ important service. Combine thorough effciency in business with all the exercises of piety, and you will in your own person demonstrate that the two things can co-exist.
(David Jones, B.A.)
I. WHAT THE BELIEVERS MAY EXPECT FROM THE WORLD. The world is very little altered since the days of Daniel. Occasion against the believer is sought with equal earnestness, though not perhaps, with equal openings. This enmity should not come out on the Christian as a strange and unexpected thing. It should enter into his reckoning.
II. WHAT THE WORLD WILL EXPECT FROM THEM. It is evident from the context what opinion had been formed concerning Daniel's moral character, by those who had leagued together to compass his overthrow. We should take heed that we knowingly afford no vulnerable point, no exposed and unguarded quarter, on which we may be assailed by the envenomed arrows of the ungodly. Like Job, we should put on righteousness that it may clothe us. To this a great auxiliary is singleness of mind. The human mind is so constituted that man is always under the guidance and control of some one master-principle to which all Others are subordinate or subservient. To realise consistency of conduct we should seek unity of motive.
III. THE HAPPY CONSEQUENCES THAT MAY RESULT HERE, AND THAT WILL RESULT HEREAFTER. If actions be ours, consequences, even as to the present life, are in the hand of God alone. It is ours to purpose, but he fulfils.
(T. Dale, A.M.)
1. The baseness of envy. Daniel's character was, long ere this, fully established in Babylon. Darius had promoted him. We can easily imagine how distasteful such a promotion must have been to the Persian nobles. How hard do we find it to bear quietly the promotion of others. Let us tremble lest anything in the advancement or welfare of others excites a malign sentiment in our minds, lest we come to envy them that which, by the appointment of providence, has become theirs, and which they have a right honestly to keep and to enjoy: — the moment such a disposition arises in our minds, that moment are we Daniel's persecutors, without the power.
2. Daniel's Crime. In what way his ruin was to be accomplished does not as yet seem clear to those who have resolved on that view. Possibly they were not as incorruptible as he. Possibly they had consciences that allowed them to do what Daniel's conscience forbade him to do. How very unpleasant it is to have an upright person near us when we want to do wrong! Very perplexing and annoying this Jew Daniel, a perpetual decalogue before them, telling them they have broken all its precepts. He must be removed. To get rid of him, however, will require considerable skill, nothing less than the invention of a new crime hitherto unheard of in the annals of idolatry.
3. The rash-resolve of a weak king. On the side of his self-importance the poor king was caught; He forgot the impiety of the request, and established the statute framed by Daniel's enemies.
4. Daniel's unmoved perserverance. All through his life he has been a man of prayer. Prayer is with him a necessity of his nature. Learn a lesson here. Religion must be all, or it is nothing. Every day of your life it will say to you, what Daniel s said to him, "Without me ye can do nothing," and the religious life which in youth was your calm and deliberate choice, whose power and beauty you so imperfectly apprehended, will then become the necessity of your nature, the secret of your happiness, the source of your inspiration and the blessing of your house.
5. Darius the Mede had gone too far to retract. He is obliged to think now, after the act is done, instead of thinking beforehand, and he cannot sleep.
6. An interposition by miracle God had sent his angels and the mouths of the lions had been shut. How this was done we know not, nor can there be much profit, in our speculations on the matter. But it was done. If any of you ever resolve to serve God, never fear the lions' den that may come. God will interpose in some marvellous way at the right time; a friend will be raised up that will be as an angel of God; troubles will disappear as soon as you meet them. God says, "Them that honour me I will honour."
(W. G. Barrett.)I. HIS CHARACTER.
1. His consistent integrity. For this we have the evidence of his enemies.
2. His habitual piety.
(1) (2) 3. Daniel's special confidence in God. Not professed with his lips, but calmly and touchingly exhibited in his actions. II. GOD'S MYSTERIOUS DEALINGS WITH HIM. 1. They were deeply mysterious. God permits his enemies to succeed. So God often deals with the world; in his Church; with individual Christians; and with his own son he did so deal. 2. See Daniel delivered and God's dealings explained. Consider the effects of this deliverance on Daniel; on the King; on the enemies of God; on the people and cause of God. Apt representation of God's universal providence — all things shall terminate as He wills, and shall glorify Him-in the world at large; in the Church. Individuals continually perceive the blessed results of their afflictions, trials, darkness, and fears. How truly this was shown in the Son of God, need hardly be observed. Let the timid, the undecided, or the inconsistent, go and study the character of Daniel. Let them confess their faith as he did. (F. Close, M.A.) 1. Daniel does not go out of his way to show his determination to honour his God before his king. He simply persists quietly in a practice which he felt to be his duty. Come what would, he must honour God at any risk and st every cost. 2. Daniel prayed thrice a day. We might have expected prayer only at the morning and evening sacrifices. It has been objected that three times was a Parsee, not a Jewish custom. But see Psalm 55:17; and for mid-day prayer, see Acts 10:9. (Dean Payne-Smith.)
(2) 3. Daniel's special confidence in God. Not professed with his lips, but calmly and touchingly exhibited in his actions. II. GOD'S MYSTERIOUS DEALINGS WITH HIM. 1. They were deeply mysterious. God permits his enemies to succeed. So God often deals with the world; in his Church; with individual Christians; and with his own son he did so deal. 2. See Daniel delivered and God's dealings explained. Consider the effects of this deliverance on Daniel; on the King; on the enemies of God; on the people and cause of God. Apt representation of God's universal providence — all things shall terminate as He wills, and shall glorify Him-in the world at large; in the Church. Individuals continually perceive the blessed results of their afflictions, trials, darkness, and fears. How truly this was shown in the Son of God, need hardly be observed. Let the timid, the undecided, or the inconsistent, go and study the character of Daniel. Let them confess their faith as he did. (F. Close, M.A.) 1. Daniel does not go out of his way to show his determination to honour his God before his king. He simply persists quietly in a practice which he felt to be his duty. Come what would, he must honour God at any risk and st every cost. 2. Daniel prayed thrice a day. We might have expected prayer only at the morning and evening sacrifices. It has been objected that three times was a Parsee, not a Jewish custom. But see Psalm 55:17; and for mid-day prayer, see Acts 10:9. (Dean Payne-Smith.)
3. Daniel's special confidence in God. Not professed with his lips, but calmly and touchingly exhibited in his actions.
II. GOD'S MYSTERIOUS DEALINGS WITH HIM.
1. They were deeply mysterious. God permits his enemies to succeed. So God often deals with the world; in his Church; with individual Christians; and with his own son he did so deal.
2. See Daniel delivered and God's dealings explained. Consider the effects of this deliverance on Daniel; on the King; on the enemies of God; on the people and cause of God. Apt representation of God's universal providence — all things shall terminate as He wills, and shall glorify Him-in the world at large; in the Church. Individuals continually perceive the blessed results of their afflictions, trials, darkness, and fears. How truly this was shown in the Son of God, need hardly be observed. Let the timid, the undecided, or the inconsistent, go and study the character of Daniel. Let them confess their faith as he did.
(F. Close, M.A.)
1. Daniel does not go out of his way to show his determination to honour his God before his king. He simply persists quietly in a practice which he felt to be his duty. Come what would, he must honour God at any risk and st every cost.
2. Daniel prayed thrice a day. We might have expected prayer only at the morning and evening sacrifices. It has been objected that three times was a Parsee, not a Jewish custom. But see Psalm 55:17; and for mid-day prayer, see Acts 10:9.