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Bible Commentaries

Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Daniel 6

Verse 3

A REAL HERO

‘This Daniel.’

Daniel 6:3

I find at least three noble and outstanding qualities in Daniel which I covet for myself.

I. There is his fidelity to the earthly king.—He is too honourable, too incorruptible, too unbending in his loyalty to Darius, to be popular with the presidents and princes, who would willingly have feathered their own nests while protesting their faithfulness to their lord. So, in whatever station in life I am, I would fulfil my work as well as it can be fulfilled, I would hate everything fraudulent, and self-seeking, and false.

II. There is his courage on behalf of the truth.—I would copy him here. I would reverence the dictates of conscience, once it has been enlightened by the Word and Spirit of God. I would follow wherever it tends.

III. Best of all, there is his communion with God.—Three times a day he prayed and gave thanks. There, at last, is the hidden and potent secret of his fidelity, and the courage. I cannot pray too often and too earnestly. It is as I come down from the mount that my face will shine, and my garments will smell of aloes and myrrh and cassia.

Verse 10

TRIAL AND DELIVERANCE

‘Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.’

Daniel 6:10

I. In these few and simple words we have an insight given to us into the true character of Daniel, and into the hidden source of his strength.—Many years had elapsed since he had been carried, in early youth, into the land of Babylon, and there exposed to the temptations of a heathen court, and surrounded by the debasing rites and superstitious emblems of idolatry. But amidst all these incentives to apostasy, Daniel had not swerved from his allegiance to the one true God, and he was neither afraid nor ashamed to make an open confession of his faith.

Daniel was emphatically a man of prayer. Had he become remiss in prayer, amidst the cares of office, the allurements of pleasure, and the baits of worldly ambition, he might well have been tempted to yield such an amount of outward obedience to the king’s edict as would have sufficed to deliver him from the machinations of his foes. Had he been accustomed to permit any excuse, however plausible, to interfere with his appointed hours of prayer, how strong would have been the temptation to plead such an excuse at a time when it might have availed him for the preservation of his life. It was but the omission of an open confession of his faith at particular seasons of the day which was demanded at his hands. During the silent watches of the night he could still have held communion with his God, and none could at such a time have been witnesses of his devotions. Nay, more, it needed only, during the hours of day, that he should withdraw from the scrutinising gaze of his adversaries, and he might have still continued to pray ‘as he did aforetime.’

But as Daniel’s accustomed mode of prayer was not prompted by the desire to be seen of men, but was designed and regarded as an open profession of the worship of the one true God, in contrast with the prevailing forms of idolatry, so any deviation from that custom, in compliance with the king’s edict, would have been regarded by Daniel as an unworthy compromise with the claims of conscience, and would have been esteemed by his heathen adversaries as a virtual abandonment of his faith.

As regards the three hours of the day which Daniel observed for prayer, although there is no law which expressly prescribes this practice, nevertheless we find in a psalm, which is not without cause assigned to David, words which imply that in his time this custom was not unknown to the faithful, and that in addition to those hours of the day at which the offering of the morning and evening sacrifice was regarded as a summons to prayer, the hour of noon was also deemed a suitable season for pouring out the souls of the faithful before God, and for making known to Him their request—‘As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and He shall hear my voice’ ( Psalms 55:17). Nor must the fact be overlooked, that during those anxious days of suspense which preceded the accusation which was preferred against Daniel, he continued not only to pray and make supplication before his God at his wonted hours, but, as he had been accustomed to do whilst he was in the enjoyment of outward prosperity and honour, to unite praise with prayer—‘He prayed,’ we read, ‘and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime’ ( Daniel 6:10).

II. The opportunity for which his adversaries had long looked, and which they so eagerly desired, was now afforded.—The accusation was at once preferred against Daniel, that he regarded not the king nor the royal decree, an offence which, in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, could be expiated only by the death of the offender. The absolute power of a despotic sovereign appears to have been unequal to the pardon of an offence committed against his own sovereignty, In spite of the bitter remorse which the king experienced when he awoke to a consciousness of the snare into which he had fallen, the fatal sentence which his courtiers desired was reluctantly extorted from him, and, in accordance with the new custom which a change of dynasty had introduced, Daniel was consigned (not, as under the Babylonian sway, to a furnace of fire, but, in accordance with the equally barbarous custom of the Persians,) to the den of lions.

The history proceeds to record a signal intervention of Divine power on behalf of Daniel, similar to that which had been already vouchsafed in the case of his three companions in the captivity.

III. The history of Daniel teaches the importance of habitual preparation for the hour of trial; and that more especially in the time of outward prosperity. Had Daniel, in the plenitude of his power and the distraction of a heathen court, yielded to the many temptations by which he was surrounded, and broken through his habit of prayer at stated hours of the day, we may well believe that he would have been induced, in the hour of his yet severer trial, to tamper still further with the voice of conscience, and, by falling into the snare which his wily adversaries had prepared for him, to pave the way for the open denial of his faith. It must have required the exercise of no ordinary amount of self-control and self-restraint to persevere, amidst the many calls of duty and of pleasure, in the course which Daniel prescribed for his own adoption. But Daniel had learned the great lesson that in exact proportion to the magnitude and multiplicity of the duties which devolve upon us is the need which we have of grace and of strength for their rightful discharge; and he had learned also that as long as man continues to make a faithful use of the means of grace which God has provided for him, no temptation too strong for him shall be suffered to assail him.

IV. There is another lesson which the history of Daniel is well calculated to enforce, and that is that true security is to be found only in the path of simple obedience to the Divine law, and of humble reliance upon the Divine protection.—In some one or other of the many forms of error and of temptation by which the great enemy of souls lies in wait to deceive, the faith and the constancy of all God’s people must be tried. Their own unaided strength is as unequal to enable them to endure the trial as that of Daniel was to effect his own deliverance from the den of lions. But God still gives His angels charge over His people now, as, in the days of the captivity in Babylon, he gave them charge concerning Daniel. To us, equally with him, it is permitted to plead the fulfilment of the promise—‘Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet” ( Psalms 91:13); and to us, more clearly than to him, has been revealed the nearness of the presence of Him, of Whom it is declared that He will Himself bruise Satan under the feet of His people shortly. If, then, like Daniel, we continue steadfast in faith, patient in tribulation, and instant in prayer, our path, like his, will be made plain before our face, and either a way of escape will be opened for us from the trials which we most dread, or grace and strength will be given which will enable us to endure them.

—Canon Elliott.

Verse 10

TRIAL AND DELIVERANCE

‘Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.’

Daniel 6:10

I. In these few and simple words we have an insight given to us into the true character of Daniel, and into the hidden source of his strength.—Many years had elapsed since he had been carried, in early youth, into the land of Babylon, and there exposed to the temptations of a heathen court, and surrounded by the debasing rites and superstitious emblems of idolatry. But amidst all these incentives to apostasy, Daniel had not swerved from his allegiance to the one true God, and he was neither afraid nor ashamed to make an open confession of his faith.

Daniel was emphatically a man of prayer. Had he become remiss in prayer, amidst the cares of office, the allurements of pleasure, and the baits of worldly ambition, he might well have been tempted to yield such an amount of outward obedience to the king’s edict as would have sufficed to deliver him from the machinations of his foes. Had he been accustomed to permit any excuse, however plausible, to interfere with his appointed hours of prayer, how strong would have been the temptation to plead such an excuse at a time when it might have availed him for the preservation of his life. It was but the omission of an open confession of his faith at particular seasons of the day which was demanded at his hands. During the silent watches of the night he could still have held communion with his God, and none could at such a time have been witnesses of his devotions. Nay, more, it needed only, during the hours of day, that he should withdraw from the scrutinising gaze of his adversaries, and he might have still continued to pray ‘as he did aforetime.’

But as Daniel’s accustomed mode of prayer was not prompted by the desire to be seen of men, but was designed and regarded as an open profession of the worship of the one true God, in contrast with the prevailing forms of idolatry, so any deviation from that custom, in compliance with the king’s edict, would have been regarded by Daniel as an unworthy compromise with the claims of conscience, and would have been esteemed by his heathen adversaries as a virtual abandonment of his faith.

As regards the three hours of the day which Daniel observed for prayer, although there is no law which expressly prescribes this practice, nevertheless we find in a psalm, which is not without cause assigned to David, words which imply that in his time this custom was not unknown to the faithful, and that in addition to those hours of the day at which the offering of the morning and evening sacrifice was regarded as a summons to prayer, the hour of noon was also deemed a suitable season for pouring out the souls of the faithful before God, and for making known to Him their request—‘As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and He shall hear my voice’ ( Psalms 55:17). Nor must the fact be overlooked, that during those anxious days of suspense which preceded the accusation which was preferred against Daniel, he continued not only to pray and make supplication before his God at his wonted hours, but, as he had been accustomed to do whilst he was in the enjoyment of outward prosperity and honour, to unite praise with prayer—‘He prayed,’ we read, ‘and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime’ ( Daniel 6:10).

II. The opportunity for which his adversaries had long looked, and which they so eagerly desired, was now afforded.—The accusation was at once preferred against Daniel, that he regarded not the king nor the royal decree, an offence which, in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, could be expiated only by the death of the offender. The absolute power of a despotic sovereign appears to have been unequal to the pardon of an offence committed against his own sovereignty, In spite of the bitter remorse which the king experienced when he awoke to a consciousness of the snare into which he had fallen, the fatal sentence which his courtiers desired was reluctantly extorted from him, and, in accordance with the new custom which a change of dynasty had introduced, Daniel was consigned (not, as under the Babylonian sway, to a furnace of fire, but, in accordance with the equally barbarous custom of the Persians,) to the den of lions.

The history proceeds to record a signal intervention of Divine power on behalf of Daniel, similar to that which had been already vouchsafed in the case of his three companions in the captivity.

III. The history of Daniel teaches the importance of habitual preparation for the hour of trial; and that more especially in the time of outward prosperity. Had Daniel, in the plenitude of his power and the distraction of a heathen court, yielded to the many temptations by which he was surrounded, and broken through his habit of prayer at stated hours of the day, we may well believe that he would have been induced, in the hour of his yet severer trial, to tamper still further with the voice of conscience, and, by falling into the snare which his wily adversaries had prepared for him, to pave the way for the open denial of his faith. It must have required the exercise of no ordinary amount of self-control and self-restraint to persevere, amidst the many calls of duty and of pleasure, in the course which Daniel prescribed for his own adoption. But Daniel had learned the great lesson that in exact proportion to the magnitude and multiplicity of the duties which devolve upon us is the need which we have of grace and of strength for their rightful discharge; and he had learned also that as long as man continues to make a faithful use of the means of grace which God has provided for him, no temptation too strong for him shall be suffered to assail him.

IV. There is another lesson which the history of Daniel is well calculated to enforce, and that is that true security is to be found only in the path of simple obedience to the Divine law, and of humble reliance upon the Divine protection.—In some one or other of the many forms of error and of temptation by which the great enemy of souls lies in wait to deceive, the faith and the constancy of all God’s people must be tried. Their own unaided strength is as unequal to enable them to endure the trial as that of Daniel was to effect his own deliverance from the den of lions. But God still gives His angels charge over His people now, as, in the days of the captivity in Babylon, he gave them charge concerning Daniel. To us, equally with him, it is permitted to plead the fulfilment of the promise—‘Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet” ( Psalms 91:13); and to us, more clearly than to him, has been revealed the nearness of the presence of Him, of Whom it is declared that He will Himself bruise Satan under the feet of His people shortly. If, then, like Daniel, we continue steadfast in faith, patient in tribulation, and instant in prayer, our path, like his, will be made plain before our face, and either a way of escape will be opened for us from the trials which we most dread, or grace and strength will be given which will enable us to endure them.

—Canon Elliott.

Verse 16

IN AND OUT

‘Into the den.’ … ‘Out of the den.’

Daniel 6:16; Daniel 6:23

Daniel was made one (R.V.) of the three presidents of the kingdom, but he so outshone the others by the excellent spirit that was in him that the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Hence arose the envious conspiracy of the other courtiers.

I. Mark here, first, the spirit of murder that lurks in envy.—The very excellence of Daniel’s spirit bred in his enemies all that was evil and murderous, as ‘the sun breeds maggots in a dead dog.’ Happy is he in whom the only cause for envy is his virtue, but he must lay his account for it that his very virtue will draw out towards him the hatred of the evil-hearted. The strength of sin is the holy law of God. A minister once exclaimed from his pulpit: ‘O Virtue! if thou wert embodied, how all men would love thee!’ On the same day his colleague rejoined: ‘Virtue has been embodied. Did all men love her? No; she was despised and rejected of men, who led her to Calvary, where they crucified her between two thieves.’ And the servant is not above his Lord.

II. The culpable blindness of pride.—As the efforts of the plotters were set against the high excellence of Daniel, so they made their appeal to the kingly pride of Darius. They interpreted his nature by their own, and they so far judged accurately. According to Babylonian theology, the king was ‘the living manifestation of all the gods.’ Hence the decree which they drew from Darius was calculated to make him feel that now he was given the real semi-divine status of a Babylonian king; and so he was completely blinded to the motive that lay behind their adulation, and to the doom that was intended for Daniel. Darius was quite evidently a high type of an Eastern potentate. But, like many another, he was led blindfold by his own pride, and in the agony which he endured when he saw the precipice to which he had been dragged, he was made to feel the culpability of the pride that seeks to pose as Divine.

III. The steady courage of the prayerful heart.—The decree was signed and Daniel knew it, but he went openly on with his thrice daily times of prayer. That was the testing point for Daniel. He did not flinch when it came to the lions’ den, but the secret of his courage lay back at that moment when, after he had heard the decree, he first threw open his lattice towards Jerusalem. As a good general does not wait till the enemy is upon him ere he makes his dispositions, the faithful soul makes prayer the battlefield of his life, and when the actual peril comes, it finds him calm and steady. David Brainerd tells of an intended visit of a band of savage Indians which perturbed him much, but he spent the intervening time in a great agony of prayer, and when they came, the steadiness of his faith awed them and won many to his Master. As with his Lord, the Christian’s Gethsemane ought always to come before his Calvary. The disciples failed at Calvary because they slept through Gethsemane.

IV. The angel in charge.—The victory was already won, and all the rest lay with God. The king was at first infected by the faith of Daniel, but he had had no open lattice, and ere the morning came he was smitten with abject fear at the outcome of his blind pride. But the angel had been in charge, and no hurt was found on Daniel. As Jesus has taught us by His answer to Satan, the angel is not in charge when we presumptuously tempt the keeping power of God, but when we are found in the path of duty and testimony, then the angel of the Lord encampeth round about us; and whatever form our lions may take, though we may not see the angel, by the shut mouths we always know that he is there. This is the great compensation in all trial for His Name, that it does bring us into the near company of all holy beings, while the craven heart never feels even the refreshing breeze from the angel’s wing.

V. Lastly, see how God brings His servants through trial to triumph.—The plotters were caught in their own snare, while Daniel was left peerless, and the story of his life closes in sunshine. But the greatest triumph of his faith was the issue of the king’s second decree. The first was meant to minister to his own vanity, but this to give all the glory to the God of Daniel. Surely that was Daniel’s greatest triumph. His firm faith had brought the king, and the people through the king, to acknowledge the supreme rule of the living God, Who is steadfast for ever. It is much if we have such faith as keeps the angel near us in our lions’ den, but the wider glory of all faithfulness is that it brings others to look for the angel too. And though, as we have seen, such virtue may be despised and rejected of the evil-hearted, to such as are ‘disposed towards eternal life,’ she becomes, when once their eyes have been opened to behold her, omnipotently attractive.

Verse 23

DANIEL CONTRA MUNDUM

‘So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.’

Daniel 6:23

If you ask, How a man could rise to such a height of holy heroism, that he feared not, for conscience sake, to face the united malice of Darius’s court, and the scarcely more terrible array of the hungry lions, I answer, first and chiefest, it was all of grace; all of grace.

But there is another and very remarkable feature about Daniel, to which I should trace, under God, his singular courage.

From his childhood Daniel was a man who was accustomed to great self-discipline. As a boy, he refused to eat the dainties which came from the royal table, because he judged it would be displeasing to God—no mean act of self-control. As he grew up, the same habit of mind followed him.

He was the chief president over the almost boundless empire of Babylon. Millions looked to his word as law. He lived in the midst of the proudest families of the earth. He was Israel’s prophet, and he was Assyria’s lord.

And yet, notwithstanding all, every day of his life Daniel prayed three times to his God.

I. Now, the secret of the outer life must always be found in the sanctuary of the inner life.—I see in this habit the mark of a mind which had been taught to exercise a most wonderful resolution over itself. He did not suffer indolence to cloak itself under the plea of engagements; but, the busiest man perhaps that ever lived upon this earth, he did what there is not a man in the world may not do, if he likes—he found time for God every day. He sought daily power for the daily burden. He would go and pass a little time facing eternity; he would go and be in the contemplation of grand realities.

And we can easily see how he would come down again—after this exercise of the soul—to the cabinet, or to the judgment-seat, with a mind calm, and prepared, and armed, at every hand, for life’s perplexing load.

As he did it, day by day, his mind learnt how to get up into a higher atmosphere and a loftier region of being. The habitual self-denial, the familiar prayer, enabled him to stand forth, when a great occasion came, a hero. He had lived for God, and therefore could die for God.

We all of us sometimes love to fancy how we would act upon some mighty emergency. What champions we would be! How conspicuous we would be in the way in which we would bear trial! But, believe me, those heights of Zion are never reached but by little daily ascents. The way is a way of common life that makes the martyr. He who indulges appetite every day would never be a man who would brave the fire! He who shrinks from a little cross, would never carry a heavy one! Show me—not what you are when you sit down in your reveries and your imaginations, but what have you been since last Sunday? What pleasure have you forgone for God? What contempt have you borne for Jesus? What cross have you taken up? What act of love have you done to the brethren of Christ? He who wishes to be illustrious before the world, must be a man very lowly before God. He must remember the words of the chief of martyrs—that challenge of our great Leader, as He was going to scale the heavens—‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’

II. It was, doubtless, the consequence of these exercises and habits, that, when Daniel’s enemies would find occasion against him, they could find no error, or fault, or pretext, to accuse him—‘except as concerning the law of his God.’

I should think that, at that moment, there was not, upon the face of this earth, a man who had such abasing views of himself as Daniel had. He was nothing in his own eyes but a poor miserable sinner.

But his outward life gave no manner of offence before men. Oh what a testimony! Oh that men should say of us—Oh that the greatest enemy we have, if he were asked—Oh that the brother, or sister, or the friend who lives with us under the same roof, if they were asked, could say, ‘The only thing I have against that man is—he is too religious; he loves and serves God too much’! Happy those whose only shame it is that they are Christians!—blessed souls, whose only excess is an excess of prayer! Very noble is the testimony that they are giving to the grace of God!—very near are they walking in the steps of their Blessed Master!—very legibly are their ‘names written in heaven’!—and very close will they sit to the Lamb presently!

No sooner was the king’s decree signed, forbidding prayer—than Daniel, whatever might have been his custom before, saw it right now to give the greatest possible publicity to his daily devotions; and therefore, with ‘his windows open in his chamber towards Jerusalem, he prayed’—and, mark the words—‘gave thanks before his God, three times a day, as he did aforetime.’ That his prayer should go on, we should not so much marvel—the very danger might drive him to his knees; but here lay the grace—that, under the dark cloud, he ‘gave thanks.’

The hour of trial did not shorten the hallelujah. That is beautiful! When you are in sorrow, put more praise into your prayers.

But did not he violate—by ostentatious display—the proprieties of Christian secrecy? Did not he act wrongly not to shut ‘his door,’ when he ‘entered into his closet’?

III. In these matters, motive is everything.—There is a text often quoted, ‘Let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth.’ As though it meant: ‘The world is not to know what you do.’ It means, you are not to know it—for your ‘left hand’ is you; ‘Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand doeth.’

The question is always this: ‘Is my heart seeking its own praise or the glory of God?’ The motive is everything. Thus the line of duty may vary according to circumstances. What would be a right humility if you were in one society, would be an unworthy flying from your colours when you are in another! The road to heaven, for the most part, is a retired path; but sometimes it crosses the beaten track.

Daniel went from his prayer to his trial; and he carried with him, from his closet, the faith which trembled not at the gate of the horrible pit, and before which the brindled lions closed their mouths.

There are times when a man’s mind is compassed with all horrid shapes, and thousands of evil lusts and passions are rampant about him. And then, perhaps, more than in his worst days, monstrous things come crowding in upon his fancy. They are dreadful temptations! But God speaks lovingly. In the hottest of Satan’s fight, God is on your side; and His shield is over you—‘Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.’

And Daniel came up safe ‘out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.’

The night of this little dark world is already quickly passing away. The dawn of eternity will soon appear. And then the King’s own voice will speak; and every ‘prisoner of hope’—the despised, and the injured, and the struggling ones—at that King’s royal voice will stand forth—emancipated and unhurt—the brighter, the gladder, and the more beloved for all the sufferings through which they passed. And there they will magnify God’s holy name for the salvation He has wrought. And as each faithful and redeemed spirit goes up to its eternal rest, and the foe, and the pit, and the hell are at His feet for ever and ever—this will be all his history, and all his boast—‘ He believed in his God.’

—Rev. Jas. Vaughan.

Illustration

‘The heroic missionary of the New Hebrides, John G. Paton, gives a very remarkable account of a journey during the night through some hostile tribes in Tanna. So dense was the darkness that at a certain point where he had to descend from the top of the cliffs to the shore, he could not find the path. He says: “I feared that I might stumble over and be killed, or, if I delayed till daylight, that the savages would kill me. I knew that one part of the rock was steep-sloping, with little growth or none thereon, and I searched about to find it, resolved to commend myself to Jesus and slide down. Feeling sure I had found this spot, I hurled down several stones, but the distance was too far for me to hear or judge. At high tide the sea there was deep; but at low tide I could wade out of it and escape. First, I fastened all my clothes tightly so as not to catch on anything; then I lay down at the top on my back, feet foremost, holding my head downward on my breast to keep it from striking on the rock; then, after one cry to my Saviour, I at last let go, throwing my arms forward and trying to keep my feet well up. A giddy swirl, as if flying through the air, took possession of me; a few moments seemed an age; I rushed quickly down, and felt no obstruction till my feet struck into the sea below. It was low tide, I had received no injury, and wading through, I found the rest of the way easier. When the natives heard next day how I had come all the way in the dark, they exclaimed: “Surely any of us would have been killed! Your Jehovah God alone thus protects you, and brings you safely home.” ’

Verse 23

DANIEL CONTRA MUNDUM

‘So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.’

Daniel 6:23

If you ask, How a man could rise to such a height of holy heroism, that he feared not, for conscience sake, to face the united malice of Darius’s court, and the scarcely more terrible array of the hungry lions, I answer, first and chiefest, it was all of grace; all of grace.

But there is another and very remarkable feature about Daniel, to which I should trace, under God, his singular courage.

From his childhood Daniel was a man who was accustomed to great self-discipline. As a boy, he refused to eat the dainties which came from the royal table, because he judged it would be displeasing to God—no mean act of self-control. As he grew up, the same habit of mind followed him.

He was the chief president over the almost boundless empire of Babylon. Millions looked to his word as law. He lived in the midst of the proudest families of the earth. He was Israel’s prophet, and he was Assyria’s lord.

And yet, notwithstanding all, every day of his life Daniel prayed three times to his God.

I. Now, the secret of the outer life must always be found in the sanctuary of the inner life.—I see in this habit the mark of a mind which had been taught to exercise a most wonderful resolution over itself. He did not suffer indolence to cloak itself under the plea of engagements; but, the busiest man perhaps that ever lived upon this earth, he did what there is not a man in the world may not do, if he likes—he found time for God every day. He sought daily power for the daily burden. He would go and pass a little time facing eternity; he would go and be in the contemplation of grand realities.

And we can easily see how he would come down again—after this exercise of the soul—to the cabinet, or to the judgment-seat, with a mind calm, and prepared, and armed, at every hand, for life’s perplexing load.

As he did it, day by day, his mind learnt how to get up into a higher atmosphere and a loftier region of being. The habitual self-denial, the familiar prayer, enabled him to stand forth, when a great occasion came, a hero. He had lived for God, and therefore could die for God.

We all of us sometimes love to fancy how we would act upon some mighty emergency. What champions we would be! How conspicuous we would be in the way in which we would bear trial! But, believe me, those heights of Zion are never reached but by little daily ascents. The way is a way of common life that makes the martyr. He who indulges appetite every day would never be a man who would brave the fire! He who shrinks from a little cross, would never carry a heavy one! Show me—not what you are when you sit down in your reveries and your imaginations, but what have you been since last Sunday? What pleasure have you forgone for God? What contempt have you borne for Jesus? What cross have you taken up? What act of love have you done to the brethren of Christ? He who wishes to be illustrious before the world, must be a man very lowly before God. He must remember the words of the chief of martyrs—that challenge of our great Leader, as He was going to scale the heavens—‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’

II. It was, doubtless, the consequence of these exercises and habits, that, when Daniel’s enemies would find occasion against him, they could find no error, or fault, or pretext, to accuse him—‘except as concerning the law of his God.’

I should think that, at that moment, there was not, upon the face of this earth, a man who had such abasing views of himself as Daniel had. He was nothing in his own eyes but a poor miserable sinner.

But his outward life gave no manner of offence before men. Oh what a testimony! Oh that men should say of us—Oh that the greatest enemy we have, if he were asked—Oh that the brother, or sister, or the friend who lives with us under the same roof, if they were asked, could say, ‘The only thing I have against that man is—he is too religious; he loves and serves God too much’! Happy those whose only shame it is that they are Christians!—blessed souls, whose only excess is an excess of prayer! Very noble is the testimony that they are giving to the grace of God!—very near are they walking in the steps of their Blessed Master!—very legibly are their ‘names written in heaven’!—and very close will they sit to the Lamb presently!

No sooner was the king’s decree signed, forbidding prayer—than Daniel, whatever might have been his custom before, saw it right now to give the greatest possible publicity to his daily devotions; and therefore, with ‘his windows open in his chamber towards Jerusalem, he prayed’—and, mark the words—‘gave thanks before his God, three times a day, as he did aforetime.’ That his prayer should go on, we should not so much marvel—the very danger might drive him to his knees; but here lay the grace—that, under the dark cloud, he ‘gave thanks.’

The hour of trial did not shorten the hallelujah. That is beautiful! When you are in sorrow, put more praise into your prayers.

But did not he violate—by ostentatious display—the proprieties of Christian secrecy? Did not he act wrongly not to shut ‘his door,’ when he ‘entered into his closet’?

III. In these matters, motive is everything.—There is a text often quoted, ‘Let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth.’ As though it meant: ‘The world is not to know what you do.’ It means, you are not to know it—for your ‘left hand’ is you; ‘Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand doeth.’

The question is always this: ‘Is my heart seeking its own praise or the glory of God?’ The motive is everything. Thus the line of duty may vary according to circumstances. What would be a right humility if you were in one society, would be an unworthy flying from your colours when you are in another! The road to heaven, for the most part, is a retired path; but sometimes it crosses the beaten track.

Daniel went from his prayer to his trial; and he carried with him, from his closet, the faith which trembled not at the gate of the horrible pit, and before which the brindled lions closed their mouths.

There are times when a man’s mind is compassed with all horrid shapes, and thousands of evil lusts and passions are rampant about him. And then, perhaps, more than in his worst days, monstrous things come crowding in upon his fancy. They are dreadful temptations! But God speaks lovingly. In the hottest of Satan’s fight, God is on your side; and His shield is over you—‘Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.’

And Daniel came up safe ‘out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.’

The night of this little dark world is already quickly passing away. The dawn of eternity will soon appear. And then the King’s own voice will speak; and every ‘prisoner of hope’—the despised, and the injured, and the struggling ones—at that King’s royal voice will stand forth—emancipated and unhurt—the brighter, the gladder, and the more beloved for all the sufferings through which they passed. And there they will magnify God’s holy name for the salvation He has wrought. And as each faithful and redeemed spirit goes up to its eternal rest, and the foe, and the pit, and the hell are at His feet for ever and ever—this will be all his history, and all his boast—‘ He believed in his God.’

—Rev. Jas. Vaughan.

Illustration

‘The heroic missionary of the New Hebrides, John G. Paton, gives a very remarkable account of a journey during the night through some hostile tribes in Tanna. So dense was the darkness that at a certain point where he had to descend from the top of the cliffs to the shore, he could not find the path. He says: “I feared that I might stumble over and be killed, or, if I delayed till daylight, that the savages would kill me. I knew that one part of the rock was steep-sloping, with little growth or none thereon, and I searched about to find it, resolved to commend myself to Jesus and slide down. Feeling sure I had found this spot, I hurled down several stones, but the distance was too far for me to hear or judge. At high tide the sea there was deep; but at low tide I could wade out of it and escape. First, I fastened all my clothes tightly so as not to catch on anything; then I lay down at the top on my back, feet foremost, holding my head downward on my breast to keep it from striking on the rock; then, after one cry to my Saviour, I at last let go, throwing my arms forward and trying to keep my feet well up. A giddy swirl, as if flying through the air, took possession of me; a few moments seemed an age; I rushed quickly down, and felt no obstruction till my feet struck into the sea below. It was low tide, I had received no injury, and wading through, I found the rest of the way easier. When the natives heard next day how I had come all the way in the dark, they exclaimed: “Surely any of us would have been killed! Your Jehovah God alone thus protects you, and brings you safely home.” ’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Daniel 6". Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/daniel-6.html. 1876.