While I was speaking, praying, confessing my sin and that of my people Israel, and presenting my petition before the LORD my God concerning His holy hill--
I. PRAYER IS THE BEST PREPARATION FOR RECEIVING LARGER REVELATION. The exercise of real prayer develops humility, dependence, self-forgetfulness; and these states of mind are favourable to ingress of light. "The meek will God show his way;" "To that man will he look, who is of humble and contrite heart." Prayer brings the soul near to God; it lifts us up to heavenly elevations; it clears the eye from mist and darkness. The Apostle John was engaged in lonely worship, when the final revelation of Scripture was made to him. Our Lord was in the act of prayer when heaven came down to earth, and his whole Person was enwrapt in glory. The response to Daniel's prayer was immediate. He had not ceased to pray when the answer came. Swifter than the electric current came the oracle's response.
II. LARGER REVELATION COMES BY A PURE AND PERSONAL SPIRIT, We may fairly conclude that angels have larger knowledge of God's will than have we, because they are free from the darkness and the doubt which sin generates. If they are not counsellors in the heavenly court, they are heralds, ambassadors, couriers. What God wills should happen they know is wise and right and good. In their estimation it is an incomparable honour to be engaged on Divine errands. Swift as their natures will allow, they fly to convey instruction or help to men. It is consonant, no less with reason than with Scripture, that there are ranks and orders of intelligent beings with natures more ethereal than ours, and that communication between us and them is possible. Every form of service is attributed to the angels. An angel ministered to our Saviour's bodily hunger. An angel strengthened him in the garden. An angel rolled the stone from his sepulchre. An angel released Peter from prison. Gabriel interpreted the vision to Daniel. Gabriel announced to Zacharias and to Mary the approaching advent of a Saviour.
III. LARGER REVELATION IS AN EVIDENCE OF GOD'S SPECIAL LOVE. The despatch of a special messenger from the court of heaven was in itself a signal token of God's favour. Not often in the history of our race had such a favour been shown. Further, Gabriel was well pleased to assure the man of prayer that, in heaven, he was "greatly beloved." Every act of devotion to God's cause had been graven on the memory of God. His character was an object of God's complacency. On account of God's great love for Daniel he gave him larger understanding, and disclosed to him the purposes and plans for man's redemption. God's intention was that Daniel should enlarge the area of his vision, and look with solicitude, not on Israel after the flesh, but on the true Israel of God. Yet all revelation is a mark of God's love to men. Because men are "greatly beloved" of God, therefore he has given them this complete canon of Scripture, therefore he gives them understanding to discern the meaning, therefore he leads them further into the truth.
IV. LARGER REVELATION IS FOUNDED UPON A TYPICAL PAST. The thoughtful love of God adapted this new revelation to the capacity and mood of Daniel's spirit. Daniel had been dwelling on the seventy years which Jeremiah had declared to be the full period of Israel's captivity. His hope was resting on the fact that the seventy years were accomplished, and that God was faithful to his word. Gabriel was charged to assure the prophet that restoration was nigh at hand, but that other epochs of "seventies" were opening. The desolation of Jerusalem in the past was a type of a sadder desolation yet to come. The visible reconciliation between God and Israel (implied in the restoration of the Jews) was a type of a more complete reconciliation when sin should be purged away. By identifying himself with the nation, and confessing its sins as his own, Daniel himself had become a type of that Deliverer who should "bear our sins" and "make intercession for the transgressors." Time is reckoned in weeks, to remind Israel of the perpetual obligation of the sabbath. After each cycle of desolation rest shall follow, until the world shall enter into the enjoyment of Jehovah's rest. The mind of Daniel is thus carried onward from the consummation he so much desired to a grander consummation still - the appearance of Israel's Messiah; and this vital truth is impressed upon his soul, that no triumph is real or enduring which is not the triumph of righteousness over sin.
V. LARGER REVELATION CENTRES IN THE PERSON AND WORK OF MESSIAH. If now and then God should lift us up to some spiritual height, and give us a wider vision of human destiny, we should be amused and saddened at the littleness of our petitions. Often do we pray and plead for some good, which seems to us a very consummation of blessing; but when we have gained it, we find that there are far larger possessions awaiting us. The desires of Daniel's soul were concentrated on Israel's return to Palestine; yet, at the best, this was only a temporal advantage. Change of place and resumption of worldly power would not in themselves secure nobleness of character or purification of soul. The best blessings of God can be enjoyed anywhere, and amid any outward conditions. But God is too wise and too beneficent to confine his gifts within the limits of human request. "His thoughts are not as our thoughts;" and from inferior restoration to outward privilege, as a starting-point, he leads our expectations onward to a nobler restoration of character and of life. The centre of the world's hope (whether the world so regards it or not) is Jesus the Messiah. Before Gabriel had satisfied Daniel with respect to Israel's earthly fortune, he poured into Daniel's ear what was uppermost in his own mind - the advent of the Son of God. The grandeur, the value, the triumphant issues of Messiah's work, - these were the tidings which he delighted to convey. The revelation which, in any age, man most needs is revelation respecting the removal of sin - knowledge how the great redemption can be accomplished. No tidings from heaven can ever be so joyous as these, viz. that sin shall meet with final destruction, and that reconciliation between God and man is made secure. Such a revelation embraces an enormous sweep of blessing, and comprises every possible interest of humanity. The possession of the earthly Canaan is a very short-lived benefit; the inheritance of heaven is an eternal good.
VI. THE LARGER REVELATION EMBRACES THE FINAL TRIUMPH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS; For the present the outlook of Israel is flecked with light and shade. Like an April day, our present experience is an alternation of blustering storm and bright sunshine. The defences of Jerusalem, Daniel was assured, would be rebuilt, but would be rebuilt amid harassing trouble. Messiah the Prince should in due time appear; but Messiah should be cut off. The city and the sanctuary should rise from the reproach of present ruin, but they would again be destroyed - desolation, like a flood, would sweep over them. Sacrifice should be restored in the temple, but sacrifice and oblation should again cease. These were but temporary arrangements to prepare the world for a real atonement. But the final upshot shall be the destruction of abomination. Upon the desolater there shall be desolation. "All that defileth" shall be exterminated. Death shall die. "Captivity shall be led captive;" "God shall be all in all." - D
O Lord, hear.
(R. Gordon, D.D.)
I. THAT PRAYER IS A LEGITIMATE AND EFFECTUAL METHOD OF COMMUNICATION BETWEEN MAN UPON EARTH AND THE WORLD OF SPIRITS.
II. THE RECEPTION AND RECOGNITION OF TRUE PRAYER ARE IMMEDIATE, ALTHOUGH THE ANSWER MAY BE DELAYED. "At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth."
III. THAT PRAYER SECURES FOR ITS OFFERER THE SERVICE OF THE GREATEST AND MOST EXALTED OF GOD'S SERVANTS.
IV. THAT PRAYER IS A VALUABLE AID IN THE STUDY OF DIVINE THINGS. "I am now come forth to give thee knowledge and understanding."
V. THAT THE SUCCESS OF PRAYER DEPENDS UPON THE MORAL POSITION THE OFFERER OCCUPIES BEFORE GOD. "For thou art greatly beloved."
(J. H. Morgan.)
I. THE PROPHET'S OCCUPATION AT THIS TIME. He was secluded from the bustle of business and the turmoil of Society, and engaged in meditation on the things of God, and in communion with his own heart While retirement is necessary on occasions for all men, it is especially necessary for those who are busily employed in the concerns of public life. There are two extremes into which it is possible for us to fall on this subject. There are two devotional employments in which Daniel was occupied.
1. Penitential confession of sin. This was both personal and relative.
2. Intercessory supplication.
II. THE SEASON AT WHICH DANIEL WAS THUS ENGAGED.
1. It was the evening hour.
2. It was a time when he was desiring and expecting a revival of the Church, and the return of the people of God.
III. THE SUCCESS WHICH FOLLOWED DANIEL'S DEVOTIONAL EMPLOYMENT.
1. The promptitude of the bestowment.
2. The messenger who conveyed the intelligence.
3. The nature of the communication which Daniel received through the instrumentality of this Heavenly messenger.Partly it respected his own personal character. And partly he obtained clearer and much more copious views of the designs of God in reference to a fallen and ruined world. Learn, then, that humble and devotional prayer to God is one of the best means of ensuring clear views as to the prophecies of God, and clear views as to the prosperity of the Church in the latter days.
(John Clayton, A.M.)
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