I. PREJUDICE MUST BE DISARMED. The anger of the king had been so greatly excited by the impotence and the imposture of his wise men, that Daniel perceived it best to forego his privilege of entering the monarch's presence at will. It was better to take the circuitous route of a formal introduction, as if he were a stranger. Hence the marshal of the court precedes the Hebrew prophet, secures the monarch's attention, and introduces Daniel, not as one of the royal college of sages, but simply as a Jewish captive. The former credulity of the king had given place to utter scepticism. So men's minds oscillate between the points of easy, groundless belief and obstinate prejudice. No vice so frequently assumes the air of respectable propriety as this vice of prejudice. It serves as a thick fog to shut out from the mind the clear light of heavenly truth. "There's none so blind as those who will not see."
II. INQUIRY MUST BE AWAKENED. "Art thou able to make known the dream?" Inquiry is the natural state of the human mind. It is its sense of hunger - the putting forth of its prehensile organs to obtain food. To the spiritually inert nothing will be revealed. Sincere desire for wisdom will impel us to interrogate every possible teacher, and to say, "Art thou able to add to my stock of knowledge?" The true philosopher or prophet will often appear in very modest garb, as did Daniel; but the spirit of the learner is a spirit of humility - 'tis the spirit of a child. Remote as the antipodes is the temper that asks, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" "Every one that seeketh findeth." We may often find through a dependent - through a despised slave - what we cannot find ourselves. Nebuchadnezzar, with all his royal gifts, could not find an interpreter. Arioch, the captain of his guard, greets him with the news, "I have found him!" A little captive maid in Naaman's kitchen could direct her master where to find a cure for his leprosy.
III. TRUST IN FALSE PROPHETS AND IN FALSE SYSTEMS MUST BE DESTROYED. Side by side with the growth of true faith must proceed the destruction of a false faith. The pompous monarch had rested his faith in the magicians and soothsayers, without sufficient reason. He had very likely prided himself on the superhuman wisdom of his counsellors. Yet what guarantee had he that they had ever spoken truth? Had he ever examined their credentials? ever put to the test their real capacity? If not, he was simply the victim of self-imposed credulity. The institution of sorcery was ancient and time-honoured, but none the less was it false and corrupt. If the king would not take the pains to examine the pretensions of these magicians, he deserved to be deceived. A Heaven-sent teacher is an incalculable treasure; a false prophet is a poisoned cup - a wolf in sheep's clothing "Try the spirits, whether they be of God." No human authority is self-odginative; we must know the source whence it sprang. "Cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils."
IV. RECOGNITION OF GOD MOST BECOMING IN MEN, ESPECIALLY IN TIMES OF PERPLEXITY. "There is a God in heaven." Nor is that heaven far removed. "In him we live and move and exist." Even the magicians had confessed that there were invisible deities: "The gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh." Why did not the king in secret prostrate himself before these, and entreat their aid? If we believe in God, we shall recognize him, honour him, and use him in seasons of need. The true God does not love to see us grope in darkness; he longs to give us light. Our mental capacities preach to us this truth. He "revealeth secrets." "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." The secrets of nature he reveals to the patient investigator; and if we will inquire at the portals of the heavenly kingdom, we shall know, by gradual disclosures, the secrets of the invisible world. Even our inner solves we do not accurately know, until God unveils to us the mystery. Daniel was sent to the king, that he might know the workings of his own heart.
V. GENUINE HUMILITY IS A MARK OF GOD'S SERVANT. "This secret," said Daniel, "is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have." Natural endowments of intellect often puff men up with vain conceit of themselves; but the enlightening grace of God's Spirit develops their humility. "The meek will he teach his way." Having revealed to suppliants their own nothingness, their absolute dependence on the heavenly source, he unveils to them all truth that ministers to happiness and purity. The mysteries of his kingdom he hides from the boastful wise and prudent, but reveals them unto babes. The messenger of Divine truth will divert the attention of men from himself to his Master. Like John the Baptist, he accounts himself only as a "voice," and announces that One mightier and worthier cometh - the true Light and Life of men. Humility is a pre-requisite for Divine employment.
VI. WE MUST RECOGNIZE THE NEED OF VICARIOUS MERIT. It is noteworthy that Daniel disclosed the reason why God vouchsafed this revelation to the king. It was not done for the sake of the king, nor for the sake of the magicians, nor for the sake of the empire, but for the sake of the Jewish suppliants. It would be galling to our pride sometimes if we knew to what human mediation we were indebted for Divine blessing. The prayer of some bed-ridden saint has brought down the treasures of heavenly rain upon the Church. For the sake of Paul the prisoner, the lives of all on beard the imperilled ship were saved. For Joseph and his brethren's sake, famine was averted from the Egyptians. Yet these are but faint and imperfect types of that grand scheme of mediation which God has provided for the redemption of the world; and for Jesus' sake, mercy flows in a full stream to men; for Jesus' sake, heaven is opened to all believers; for Jesus' sake, prayer is heard and the Holy Ghost is given. We, too, can be mediators for others; and it may yet be said that for our sakes, and in response to our intercessions, dark minds are enlightened, a world is blessed. Christ the High Priest puts a censer into our hands, and asks us to tilt it with the fragrant incense of spiritual prayer. - D.
Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever.
(P. H. Hunter.)
1. And I apprehend that the narrative ought to prove to you that under the pressure of even the very heaviest afflictions nothing, in a multitude of instances, can be less to the point than inaction or despair. There are, of course, numerous cases wherein the exhibition of a meek resignation involves the sole duty required; but those dispensations are frequent, concerning which it is the appointment of Providence, that men shall help themselves; entreating fervently, indeed, the bestowal of that gracious aid without which their most toilsome exertions must be futile; but still tasking their own energies to the utmost. In the instance before us, prompt action was the primary obligation of the prophet. He accordingly proceeds at once into the royal presence, and undertakes to set at rest, within a reasonable time, the monarch's anxiety as to both of the points specified. But it does not, for a moment, occur to him that he could be competent, in his own strength, to fulfil his engagement; for, together with his three companions, he directly betakes himself to the Divine footstool; and they offer their joint supplications that it may please the Lord to disclose the nature and bearings of the secret. So then, it was no outburst of self-sufficiency which impelled the prophet to apprise the king that in due time he would discover to him all which he desired to know. A more striking illustration of the unlimited possession and of the unbounded influence of faith, than is supplied by the prophet's course of action and its consequences, it were hardly possible to conceive. You recollect what strong terms our blessed Saviour employs as descriptive of the mighty effects which would be produced by the manifestation of such a spirit. Faith would even remove mountains, He declares. And you cannot but remark that Daniel seemed to entertain no doubts of the satisfactory accomplishment of the wondrous task undertaken by him; he, without a moment's hesitation, assures the king of his ability to perform it. At the same time, I would again remind you that his confidence was strictly connected with his resolution to resort, with assiduity, to the right means of procuring success; and I repeat that the work of earnest supplication to which he betook himself was undeniably the strongest evidence of his faith. His, you see, was not that so-called faith which eventuates in nothing practical; his assurance of the result, unwavering as that was, was nothing else than an assurance that God's blessing would rest upon the due employment of those fitting means which he was determined not to neglect. It rested with the Almighty to suggest to the mind of the prophet the dream and its interpretation, whilst it devolved upon His servants, with all earnestness, to entreat the bestowal of suggestions which He alone could impart. And may we not succeed in deriving hence a lesson for ourselves? Whilst it should at all times be the highest delight of the Christian to repose on the justifying merits of his Redeemer an unhesitating and a grateful confidence; whilst he should permit no floods to overwhelm, nor fire to consume, nor lapse of time to impair the vigour of his faith; oh! let him ever keep in remembrance the great truth, that the character of his works and his course of life will, after all, stand as the final tests of the genuineness of that faith; and that no mere consciousness or semblance of occasional spiritual fervour can compensate for the absence of all practical evidences of the sincerity of his profession. Like Daniel, he may feel perfectly assured, whilst adopting this course, that the requisite support will be given; and thus is he completely equipped for every enterprise.
2. But let me now more particularly call your attention to the circumstance that the prophet, when in quest of the inspiration which alone could enable him to perform his task, did not satisfy himself with merely presenting his own supplications, how impassioned soever, before the throne of grace, but desired his companions to mingle their entreaties with his; and thus may be considered to have taken every possible means of obtaining from his Maker a favourable response. And hereby also may we receive instruction — instruction having reference to the value of united prayer. But Daniel did not confine himself to entreaties that God would graciously enable him to disclose the details and import of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. His supplications having secured the accomplishment of his desire, he omitted not forthwith to tender to the Divine Being the unfeigned and reverential expression of his gratitude. "I thank Thee, and praise Thee, O Thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of Thee; for Thou hast made known unto us the king's matter." And it must at once be admitted that in pursuing the course which he did, the prophet set an example which should be copied even by ourselves, who enjoy the privilege of living under another and far higher dispensation. We complain, and justly, that men do not sufficiently betake themselves to prayer; and yet, after all, they far more frequently cultivate prayer than praise. How many are there who, when visited with afflictions, their deliverance from which appears to be almost hopeless, or when placed in some position of difficulty or danger, where special Divine assistance is absolutely required, will humble themselves in the dust before the Majesty on high — will confess unreservedly and earnestly their sins and shortcomings; and will almost "pray without ceasing" that they may be guided amid their perplexities or rescued from their perils! Yet let a kindly Providence but accede to their entreaties — let these perplexities be surmounted, or these perils be happily removed, and, in multiplied instances, the warmth and constancy of their devotions survive not the change; the period of distress and trial seems now to be passed; and alas! the very consideration which should call forth the loudest accents of thanksgiving and praise tends only to the renewal of that spiritual indifference which had for the time been parted with.
3. Let me ask you, in the next place, to observe the mode in which the prophet addresses the Great Being whom, in the words of the text, he was approaching with "the voice of thanksgiving." His experience, doubtless, supplied him with many instances of Divine watchfulness, Divine care, and Divine support. That he cherished a most grateful sense of God's mercies to him is quite undoubted; and we may rest assured that at all times he recognised in the Maker of heaven and earth his Guardian and his Guide. But, nevertheless, it is not as his own God that he addresses the High and Holy One in the passage under consideration. He addresses Him as the God of his fathers, thus showing that his memory was stored with incidents wherein, in former times, God had proved Himself a Shield and a Succour. His words tell that he must have felt, and have exulted in feeling, that — "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever" — the eye of that mighty and uncreated Intelligence which had looked down with tenderness and affection upon the ancestry, would continue to beam brightly and benignantly upon the descendant. Oh! that there were more amongst ourselves of such simple but well-founded, beautiful, and heaven-born faith! Oh! that our hope, that our trust, that our joy, that our love, might be inspired, elevated, augmented, as well by the remembered history of the past as by personal and more recent experience! God is still, as in the days of David, "a very present Help," a "Fortress," and a "Deliverer!" But the declaration of Daniel that the "wisdom and might" which then belonged to him had been conferred by God, demands, in another point of view, our attention. I have already admitted that there were, in his case, peculiar circumstances which exist not in our own. But acknowledging that both in the mode of their communication and in the largeness of their amount, as well as in the direction which they took, his endowments differed very widely indeed from any which have ever been bestowed in modern times — throughout which, in fact, there has been no occasion for the exercise, to any extent, of supernatural powers by man — we may contend still for the desirableness of ever cherishing the recollection, that the human faculties have been imparted by a higher Power, as calculated to exert a most salutary influence. It will dispose us to dedicate these faculties to our Maker's service, engaging in no pursuit which His statutes have condemned, and devoting ourselves to the practice of every virtue which He enjoins. It will tend to bring home to us the consciousness that "we are not our own." It will beget a sense of responsibility to which otherwise we should be strangers. It will check pride, and will thus prepare the heart for profiting by progressive communications of Divine grace.
4. In conclusion, let me point out to you that the Almighty availed Himself of even the iniquitous decree of a selfish tyrant by producing a most striking display of His omniscience, by making an important addition to the prophetic announcements, and, farther, by promoting the temporal welfare of one of the most devoted and distinguished of His servants. Doubtless, indeed, His providence was at work, suggesting to the monarch's mind the exciting dream. But assuredly the edict by which the dream was succeeded can be regarded as no dispensation of His providence. Yet mark how speedily that providence brought good out of evil! Then, under no circumstances, however apparently untoward or threatening, must the Christian give way to despair.
(H. B. Moffat, M.A.)
1. The value of united prayer. When Daniel undertook the solution of the difficulty, he engaged his three friends to pray earnestly on his behalf, and we may be sure he was fervent in supplication on his own account. He believed in God as the hearer of prayer. The issue showed that he acted wisely. There is a special promise to united prayer.
2. An illustration of the workings of gratitude. The moment he had received the revelation Daniel poured out his heart in thanksgiving to God. How many, when they have got the blessing for which they asked, forget to be grateful for it! We cry when we are in extremity, but when the terror passes we forget to give thanks to Him who has removed its cause.
3. An illustration of the devout humility of genuine piety. Daniel is careful to let the king understand that he has not received the secret from God for any excellence about himself. He fears to stand between the king and Jehovah. He gives all the glory to the Most High. There is always a modesty about true greatness, and you may know whether or not piety is genuine by inquiring if it be characterised by humility. The good man will never seek to hide God from the view of his fellow men.
4. An illustration of faithful friendship. When Daniel was exalted, he did not forget his companions. Knit to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah by congenial tastes, as well as by the ties of country and religion, he had become to them a friend indeed; and they had shown their deep interest in and attachment to him, not only in sharing his protest against the diet of the College, but also in praying for him at his special request. It was meet, therefore, that he should remember them in his prosperity. But this conduct is not common.
(W. M. Taylor, D.D.)
PeopleAbednego, Arioch, Azariah, Belteshazzar, Daniel, Hananiah, Meshach, Mishael, Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach
TopicsArioch, Ar'i-och, Captives, Captivity, Clear, Daniel, Dream, Exiles, Follows, Haste, Hurriedly, Interpretation, Judah, King's, Presence, Prisoners, Quickly, Removed, Sense, Sons, Spoke, Thus
Outline1. Nebuchadnezzar, forgetting his dream,
5. requires it of the Chaldeans, by promises and threats.
10. They acknowledging their inability are judged to die.
14. Daniel obtaining some respite finds the dream.
19. He blesses God.
24. He staying the decree is brought to the king.
31. The dream.
36. The interpretation.
46. Daniel's advancement.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesDaniel 2:17-49
LibraryThe Image and the Stone
'This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. 37. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. 38. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath He given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. 39. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Book and Tract Catalogue.
The Scattering of the People
That Gospel Sermon on the Blessed Hope
Epistle Xliii. To Eulogius and Anastasius, Bishops.
A Description of Heart-Purity
The Wisdom of God
The Wicked Husbandmen.
The First Great Group of Parables.
The Necessity of Regeneration, Argued from the Immutable Constitution of God.
Letters of St. Bernard
Lii. Concerning Hypocrisy, Worldly Anxiety, Watchfulness, and his Approaching Passion.
Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus.
The First Sayings of Jesus --His Ideas of a Divine Father and of a Pure Religion --First Disciples.
The Gospel of the Kingdom.
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