Daniel 1:1, 2
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Jerusalem, and besieged it.…
I. THE TREMENDOUS RESPONSIBILITY LODGED IN KINGS. We sometimes speak of Oriental monarchs as holding an irresponsible sceptre, by which we simply mean that there is no earthly tribunal before which they can be cited; yet, in reality, they are the appointed guardians of a nation's well-being, and are responsible to the supreme Sovereign of heaven. The morals, the religion, the temper, the habits of a monarch have always been eminently contagious. Evil results of vice in a private individual are restricted within a circle comparatively narrow. But the influence of a king radiates in a thousand directions, as from the apex of a pyramid. Peace or war, order or anarchy, liberty or thraldom, godliness or impiety, abundance or famine, in the empire depend largely on the personal character of the sovereign. Without a copious supply of Divine wisdom, this elevated position is not to be envied. A true king should aspire to be eminently holy.
II. AMPLE OPPORTUNITY FOR AMENDMENT. Jehoiakim had inherited by nature qualities both bad and good. To him had been entailed the evil example of his ancestor Manasseh, and the noble pattern of his father Josiah. Here was a grand opportunity for making a wise choice - an opportunity for stemming the ebbing tide of prosperity, and averting the anger of Jehovah. His father's excellent counsellors had advised, admonished, warned. Special prophets had brought counsel and remonstrance from the source of heavenly wisdom. Sufficient time was allotted for reflection, decision, amendment. For three years in succession the great Husbandman visited his vineyard, and tested the fruitfulness of this royal tree. The patience of God was richly displayed. But as sunshine and rain and dew fall in vain upon the sandy deserts of Arabia, so did God's alternations of kindness and severity leave Jehoiakim unmoved. He preferred the patronage of Pharaoh to the favour of the omnipotent God.
III. THE IMPOTENCE OF MATERIAL DEFENCES. Material fortifications and material weapons have their use. Even David, notwithstanding his stalwart faith in God, did not confront the Philistine without his sling. Bars and ramparts, shield arid sword, may be regarded as instruments by means of which faith exercises an active obedience; they are not to become objects to detain our faith or to supplant our dependence on God, else they become fetishes and idols. As fishermen of old bowed down to their net and burned incense to a drag, so many a warrior nowadays worships his artillery and his ironclads. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;" but "God is our Refuge and Strength;" "In the Name of our God we will set up our banners." Hezekiah's fervent prayer had proved, in former years, a better protection for the royal city than all its wails and towers. If God is on our side, weakness itself becomes for us a very "munition of rocks." But all the mountains and natural bastions round about Jerusalem are no mightier than a spider's web if God be arrayed against it. The crystal flakes of snow did more deadly work for Napoleon than all the thunders of Russia's artillery. "The Lord gave Jehoiakim King of Judah into his hand."
IV. PARTIAL DISASTER SHOULD BE A PRACTICAL WARNING. An old Roman legend affirms that "the gods have feet of wool." They conjectured that, when their deities bestirred themselves to avenge injustice, they came silently and suddenly upon their victims. So does not our God deal with his subjects. When the interests of righteousness demand that the scourge of judgment shall be inflicted, the God of heaven gives timely and repeated warning. "The axe is laid at the root of the tree " - a visible premonition that doom awaits unfruitfulness. One defeat in battle was not final overthrow. Honour, virtue, dignity, power, might still be saved. The favour of Jehovah might yet be repaired. Repentance and reformation might even then have stayed the setting sun. What though some of the vessels of Jehovah's temple have become the spoil of the foe? Their loss can easily be repaired, if only the Lord of the temple be there in Person. But if the real presence of the living God has been withdrawn, the symbols of heavenly things may as well follow his departure. The truths symbolized in this temple-furniture shall now proclaim, in silent eloquence, their pregnant message in heathen lands. The God of Israel, who aforetime gave the ark of the covenant into the hands of the Philistines, now gave the vessels of the sanctuary into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.