Sad Tidings
Daniel 4:19-26
Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonished for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spoke, and said…

There was silence in the king's chamber whilst the prophet of God meditated on God's mysterious message to the king, and considered how he might best impress upon the king the meaning of the Divine sentence. So for that while, during which Daniel sat mutely pondering the matter, we cannot doubt his heart was lift up to the throne of the Heavenly Grace to obtain for himself from the Holy Ghost the "power to speak as he ought to speak"; and for the king his master a teachable disposition, and such a penitential submission to the Almighty, as might ensure him forgiveness and mercy. The "one hour" during which Daniel is said to have been "astonied" is an indefinite note of time. Daniel was "astonied and his thoughts troubled him," because in the first place I think (as the LXX expression for his "troubled thoughts" will suggest), Daniel had to unravel and reason out in his own mind the mysterious intimations of the dream, and make it clear to himself, before he ventured to speak. Then, in the second place, the thought of all the indignities and suffering implied in the terms, which described the impending madness, might well make a tender-hearted man hesitate to announce the details of such a calamity about to fall on one whom he regarded with admiration and gratitude. Daniel grieved to think that one who had promoted him to a share in his glory, and to the honour of governing the chief of his provinces, should be in danger of such a terrible reverse! And then again — as he thought over the humiliating decree of Heaven, this question would rise in his mind — how would the king receive the announcement? If Nebuchadnezzar required such a chastisement for his pride, would he be in the temper to listen patiently to the declaration of such a rebuke from the God of the Jews, whom as yet he had not learnt to honour? But Daniel knew (in the conflict of his feelings) how to gain courage and strength; and how to "set his face as a flint," and deliver without flinching the word of the Lord. If the Spirit of God was in him, could it be there except he prayed? Now see how God had strengthened him! Not only did Daniel interpret the dream, but (with an earnest concern for the king's welfare) he dared to speak to him of his sins — which were bringing this dreadful punishment upon him! And Daniel could do this with a clear conscience, since he was ruling his province well himself to the benefit of his people, and doing his best to "shew mercy to the poor" — not living in luxury at their expense, nor exalting himself to their hurt.

I. IN HIS ANXIETY TO HELP HIS ROYAL MASTER, DANIEL PRESENTS A CONSPICUOUS EXAMPLE OF THE VALUE AND POWER OF SYMPATHY. During that "one hour," as he sat "astonied," mutely contemplating the abstruse subject, on which the king not only demanded an explanation, but asked for it with such evident desire for relief from a pressing anxiety and trouble — Daniel felt for the king; and with all his heart he laboured to find words which would meet the case, and which should not merely solve the mystery, but should at the same time touch the king's conscience and heart. He studied the case with the penetrating interest of a good physician. As he contemplated the pitiful sight of the grand monarch become a grovelling maniac, driven from the dwellings of men, and left to the full sway of his mental aberration — Daniel could not but feel as Elisha felt when he "settled his countenance steadfastly" upon Hazael till he wept at the thought of all the misery which God had showed him the murderer of Benhadad and the usurper of his throne would cause. Daniel yearned to impress the king with the same vivid apprehension of impending danger as he himself had, that it might lead him to an effectual repentance. Sympathy is one great element of success in winning souls to God; without sympathy religious influence is scarcely possible. In the present state of society, when at the same time that class-distinctions are becoming less rigidly marked class feelings are often being deeply stirred, and when the lowest grades are gladly accepting the newly invented ministrations of men and women from amongst themselves — it is of paramount consequence to the church that it should be plainly seen her ministers have a real love and concern for all, however far removed in the social scale. How is this sympathy to be cultivated? Few are intensely sympathetic by nature; others must supply the default of nature by much "stirring up of the gift that is in them" through the laying on of hands. True Christian sympathy proceeds from love of souls; it is the result of having mastered the fact that every soul is of value to Christ, who gave Him blood to redeem it. The sympathy of Jesus Christ can only be reflected in our ministry for Him, when we are willing to study each particular soul's need; and that upon our knees in prayer. If the message we have to deliver is to be regarded by those who listen to us, they must perceive that we believe it ourselves; and, in the next place, that our thoughts trouble us with sorrow for those whom our words condemn. Daniel (as he pondered over the future of Nebuchadnezzar) evidently perceived further terrors than the insanity which was to reduce the king to such a vile estate; he feared his waking from the dust of the earth, in the latter day, to "shame and everlasting contempt." Hence his earnestness. But it might seem as if Daniel's sympathy was wasted, since we are told of no immediate results. Not so however; though the king may have remained unaffected by it till his reason was restored to him, after the "seven times had passed over him," still it is clear he then submitted to be taught by the man of God, whose word had not failed, whose heart he knew he might trust.

II. In the second place, DANIEL MAY BE LOOKED UPON AS THE THOUGHTFUL AND REVERENT STUDENT OF GOD'S WORD. The Bible is full of mysteries, which it is our bounden duty to look into; and full of difficulties which must be faced. Thoughtful and educated men in every congregation are demanding of the clergy not only more heart, but more intelligence and more culture. They have grown tired of sermons that shirk the difficulties which perplex their own minds. "Knowledge is power," but there is no power like the power of the Holy Ghost. The mere cultivated intellect is no adequate weapon wherewith to fight against sin.

III. Again, we cannot fail to see in Daniel (to whom God had given such insight into Divine mysteries) THE TYPE OF ONE WHO IS PURE IN HEART AND PURE IN LIFE. At the period of his life which we are considering, Daniel allowed himself (it would appear from what he says in the tenth chapter) a moderate use of "pleasant bread" with flesh and wine for his usual diet; when, however, he was the recipient of Divine communications, he fasted, and (as a strict observer of the law) he would not fail to east often. But we remember, when he was only a boy of 14, with a wonderfully precocious faith, he had denied himself all the dainties of the king's table lest he should be defiled by what had been offered to idols. He knew that "man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God," and God's word, heard in his own heart, was "abstain." We learn from the first chapter that God gave him for his reward (above and beyond the skill in all learning and wisdom which his three companions were blessed with) "understanding in all visions and dreams." How good for the Church of England it would be if those who are to be her future ministers would make that noble venture of faith; "Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days, and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink." Happy those who, when called in the exercise of their office to rebuke sin in others, have no rebuke of conscience to make the words falter on their lips! Daniel's thoughts troubled him; but no regrets for his own misconduct made him dumb, nor mingled with his sad forebodings as to the fate of one whom he saw pursuing with headstrong course the road to ruin.

(W. Morrison.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies.

WEB: Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was stricken mute for a while, and his thoughts troubled him. The king answered, Belteshazzar, don't let the dream, or the interpretation, trouble you. Belteshazzar answered, My lord, the dream be to those who hate you, and its interpretation to your adversaries.

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