At the beginning of your petitions, an answer went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly precious. So consider the message and understand the vision:
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
At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth.
I. First, have we any REASONS TO EXPECT THAT AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF OUR SUPPLICATIONS THE COMMANDMENT OF MERCY WILL COME FORTH? Rest assured that we have, if we are found in the same posture as Daniel, for God acts towards His servants by a fixed rule. Let self-examination be now in vigilant exercise while we compare ourselves with the successful prophet. God will hear His people at the commencement of their prayers if the condition of the supplicant be fitted for it. The nature of such fitness we may gather from the state of Daniel's mind and the mode of his procedure. Upon this our first noteworthy observation is, that Daniel was determined to obtain the blessing which he was seeking. Note carefully the expression which he has used in the third verse — "I set my face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplication." That setting of the face is expressive of resolute purpose, firm determination, undivided attention, fixed resolute perseverance. "I set my face towards the Lord." We never do anything in this world until we set our faces thoroughly to it. The warriors who win battles are those who are resolved to conquer or die. The merchants who prosper in this world are those who do their business with all their hearts, and watch for wealth with eagerness. The half-hearted man is nowhere in the race of life; he is usually contemptible in the sight of others, and a misery to himself. If a thing be worth doing, it is worth doing well; and if it be not worth doing thoroughly, wise men let it alone. Especially is this a truth in the spiritual life. Wonders are not done for God and for the truth by men upon their beds asleep, or out of their beds, but still asleep. A man if he would do anything for God for the truth, for the cross of Christ, must set his face and with the whole force of his will resolve to serve his God. The soldier of Christ must set his face like a flint against all opposition, and at the same moment set his face towards the Lord with the attentive eye of the handmaiden looking towards her mistress. This was the first proof that God might safely give Daniel the blessing at once, for the prophet's heart was fixed in immutable resolve, and there was no turning him from the point. Next, Daniel felt deeply the misery of the people for whom he pleaded. Read that expression, a under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem." The condition of that city, lying in ruins, her inhabitants captive, her choicest sons banished to, the ends of the earth, afflicted him very sorely. He had not a light superficial acquaintance with the sorrows of his people, but his inmost heart was embittered with the wormwood and the gall of their cup. If God intends to give us souls he will prepare us for the honour by causing us to feel the deep ruin of our fellow-creatures. In the next place, Daniel was ready to receive the blessing, because he felt deeply his own unworthiness of it. I do not know that even the fifty-first Psalm is more penitential than the chapter which contains our text. Read the chapter, and note how he humbly acknowledges sins of commission, sins of omission, and especially sins against the warnings of God's word and the entreaties of God's servants. Let us confess our unworthiness, our coldness, and deadness, and lethargy, and wanderings of heart, and the backsliding of many among us, and then, having confessed our faults, we may expect that at the very commencement God will visit us. When the vessel is empty, Heaven's fountain will fill it; when the ground is dried and chapped, and begins to open her mouth with thirst, down shall come the rain to make fat the soil. But again, we have not exhausted the points in Daniel which deserve our imitation; you will notice that Daniel had a clear conviction of God's power to help his people in their distress, his lively sense of Divine power being based upon what God had done in the olden time. One is interested to note in the history of the Jews, how in every dark and stormy hour their minds reverted to one particular point in their history! Just as the Greek would remember Thermopylae and Marathon, and feel his eyes sparkle and every sinew grow strong at the thought of the heroic day when his fathers slew the Persians, and broke the yoke of the great king, so with nobler emotions, because more Heavenly, the Israelite always thought of the Red Sea, and what the Lord did to Egypt when He divided the waters, and they stood upright as a heap, that His people might pass through. Daniel in the prayer says, "Thou hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day." He lays hold upon that deed of ancient prowess, and pleads in effect after this fashion: "Thou canst do the like, O God, and glorify thy name anew, and send deliverance to thy people." We worship the God who loves His chosen now even as He did of old. But once more, the most apparent point about Daniel's prayer is his peculiar earnestness. To multiply expressions such as " O Lord! O Lord! O Lord!" may not always be right. There may be much sin in such repetitions, amounting to taking God's name in vain. But it is not so with Daniel. His repetitious are forced from the depths of his soul, "O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hearken and do!" These are the fiery volcanic eruptions of a soul on fire, heaving terribly. It is just the man's soul wanting vent. No prayer is at all likely to bring down an immediate answer if it be not a fervent prayer. We must get rid of the icicles that hang about our lips. We must ask the Lord to thaw the ice-caves of our soul and to make our hearts like a furnace of firs heated seven times hotter. Thus much upon that first reason. We may expect a speedy answer to prayer when the condition of the suppliant is as God would have it. Secondly, I believe we have every reason to expect a blessing when we consider the mercy itself. That which we as a church are seeking is, if I understand your hearts and my own, just this: we want to see our own personal piety deepened and revived, and we want to see sinners saved. Well, is not that in itself so good a thing that we may expect the giver of every good and perfect gift to give it to us? What we ask is for God's glory. We are not seeking a boon which may glorify us or may exalt some one of our fellow-men. We crave not victory for the arms of a warrior; we ask not success for the researches of a philosopher. Thirdly, there is another thing which encourages me, namely, the nature of the relations which exist between God and us. Is not that a choice word, "O man greatly beloved"? "Yes," you will perhaps say, "it is easy to understand why God should send so swift an answer to Daniel, because he was a man greatly beloved." Ah! has your unbelief made you forget that you are greatly beloved too? Who will refuse to ask when such encouragements are suggested to our, minds?
II. If we are to gain the blessing at the commencement, IN WHAT FORM SHOULD WE PREFER TO HAVE IT? Could I have my heart's desire, I would crave a blessing for every one of you. I was turning over in my mind how early and sweet a blessing it would be if the Lord would give us to-day some conversions. But make no tarrying, O our God! Make haste our Beloved. "Be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether," for Thy name's sake. Amen.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
For thou art greatly beloved
I. THE EXALTED CHARACTER OF DANIEL.
1. The inflexible constancy with which he adhered to the service of Jehovah. No honours could win him from his allegiance to the true God; no dangers could deter him from openly maintaining and professing the true religion.
2. He was s man of prayer. Such firm and determined adherence to true religion as his could be kept alive only by regular and intimate intercourse with Heaven. He prayed frequently. He prayed in a right spirit — this is seen in his just views of God; in his deep humiliation before God; and in the earnestness of his pleadings.
3. He was eminently faithful in discharging the duties of his exalted station. The insidious acts of designing men could not impeach his integrity, or darken the lustre of his character. This fidelity and honesty in his office were indeed the natural effects of his eminent piety. Religion is the only sure foundation for the regular and faithful performance of the duties of our office and station in society. Principles of honour, and prudence, and self-interest properly understood, will often go far in leading to fidelity in secular trusts; but religious principles will enable men to resist greater temptations, and be more uniformly and perfectly upright than any inferior motive. If our religion has not a similar influence upon us, to that his religion exerted on Daniel, it is vain and insincere. Faith in God necessarily leads to right conduct towards mankind.
4. Daniel was distinguished by the pious and patriotic interest which he took in the welfare of his countrymen. Every Jew, indeed, had something of this feeling. In a particular manner, however, were these the sentiments and feelings of Daniel. His views on national matters were of a more enlightened and spiritual character than those of his countrymen in general. He saw that the glory of God and the interests of true religion were intimately connected with the re-establishment of Israel. This made him so peculiarly ardent in the cause of his people, and led him to use all the influence of his exalted station, and all the might or power which he possessed with God, that Zion might no longer be a desolation. Patriotism is a feeling honourable to the character. But how is that feeling hallowed and exalted when we feel that, with the prosperity of our country, the glory of God and the everlasting interests of mankind are most intimately connected.
II. THE HIGH PRIVILEGE OF DANIEL.
1. He was greatly beloved of God. All the people of God, indeed, are the subjects of His affection. But, in addition to this, He bears to everyone of them a love of complacency founded on the amiable and holy qualities with which they are endowed by the Spirit of grace. No privilege is more amazing than that with which Daniel was favoured. Gabriel was despatched from Heaven with an ample answer to his prayer, and a pointed assurance that he was a special favourite of Heaven.
2. Daniel was greatly beloved of men. It is natural to us to desire the esteem and friendship of men, and the gratification of that desire is, in no slight degree, conducive both to our usefulness and our happiness. And this did Daniel enjoy in no ordinary measure. Then(1) Imitate the conduct and character of Daniel. Like him, be steadfast in the faith. Like him, be men of prayer. Like him, discharge with fidelity the duties of your station. Like him, be solicitous for the good of the Israel of God.(2) Remember that, if you resemble Daniel in character, you shall also be like him in privilege. You shall be in favour with God and man.
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