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All things are appointed. Yet it pleases our little vanity to imagine that we appoint some things ourselves. Oh the fuss of the world, and the noise, and the fruitlessness! We have deposed God from being husbandman, and have taken to growing crops of our own kind. They always fail.
The appointing God is on the throne; the Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.
It is interesting to me as a student of the Book to see in how many aspects Divine appointment is presented in the Holy Scriptures. God has taken everything under His own care; He has allowed no one little inch of His great creation to bear any name but His own.
Let us look at some of the instances in which the Divine appointment appears as the central thought. 'Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth?' (Job 7:1 ). Job found that out by sorrow.
I. Sorrow is one of the head-masters in God's school; it is the costliest department of the great school of God, is the department of sorrow. To think of it all: the child's little face all bloom waiting the sharp chisel and the heavy mallet of the sculptor. It is so that we learn really where we are, and what we are, and what we should be, and what we should do. He who made man appoints his time; all our days are in God. He never shows us tomorrow; He might do that. No, therein is the sovereignty of God. This is Sunday; might not God show us now, getting on to midday, just one gleam of Monday? Never! Monday is where God is; the future is as invisible and as incomprehensible as God. Men do not think of that. They chaffer about tomorrow as if they owned it.
II. Sometimes the appointments of God are associated with high joys, with royal feast and plenteous-ness, and the wine in which there is no drunkenness. So in Psalms 81:3 , I read, 'Blow up the trumpet... in the time appointed'. It would be a poor world without the trumpet and all that the trumpet means. The trumpet means victory, progress, thankfulness, courage, and an enemy beaten and blown off. So there is an appointed time for bright joy to come and take up the trumpet and blow a blast that will be music in the ear of God. The world shall not always be sunless. We live in these high promises; these are the vaticinations that make the future tolerable; but for such prophetic outlook and forecast who dare pray that he may awake tomorrow? God has filled His book with trumpets and shawms and cymbals and dances, and sometimes the Church even now goes wild with holy ecstasy. There is great danger in that, however, because only the ecstatic can understand ecstasy, and only those who were born full of red blood can enter into Pentecostal thunder and fury and anthem.
III. Then we come to another view in Daniel 10:1 : 'The thing was true, but the time appointed was long'. What does it matter about the time if we have got the truth? Mark these wonderful words: 'The thing was true' that is the point to stop at 'but the time was long'. A century is nothing to those who have the truth and hold it for man and God. God counts time in His own way. He does not listen to the tick of our poor pendulum; a man might stop that, a little child could stop the pendulum, but not the time, not the evolution, not the certainty of the final point.
IV. The old saints were trained by waiting. Habakkuk was; he says, 'The vision is yet for an appointed time... wait for it' (Habakkuk 2:3 ). Can we go further Today than this grand prophecy? Is not this one sentence a great philosophy of history and of time and of divinity? The vision was for an appointed time. If the Lord has said, 'I will wait,' that is enough for me; I do not ask when, nor do I ask how; He has defined my function, He says in one pregnant injunction, 'Wait for it'. Beware, however, of intellectual or spiritual indolence; it is not a question of turning your back upon the Divine word, and saying, 'Let it come, then, according to some Divine appointment,' but waiting is worshipping, waiting is hoping, waiting is praying. Do not imagine that we are remitted to a sleepy slumberous ministry of inertness or inactivity in any shape or in any degree. The highest expression of power is repose; the highest expression of energy is standing still under Divine conditions and according to the movement of the Divine inspiration.
Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. vi. p. 19.
Then suddenly would come a dream of far different character a tumultuous dream commencing with a music such as now I often heard in sleep music of preparation and of awakening suspense. The morning was come of a mighty day a day of crisis and of ultimate hope for human nature, then suffering mysterious eclipse, and labouring in some dread extremity. Somewhere, but I knew not where somehow, but I knew not how by some beings, but I knew not by whom a battle, a strife, an agony, was travelling through all its stages was evolving itself, like the catastrophe of some mighty drama, with which my sympathy was the more insupportable, from deepening confusion as to its local scene, its cause, its nature, and its undecipherable issue.... Some greater interest was at stake, some mightier cause, than ever yet the sword had pleaded, or trumpet had proclaimed. Then came sudden alarms; hurryings to and fro, trepidations of innumerable fugitives; I knew not whether from the good cause or the bad; darkness and lights; tempest and human faces.
De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.
Reference X. 1. J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (7th Series), p. 174.
The Unseen Vision
Cyrus had been King of Babylon three years when the revelation was vouchsafed to Daniel. He had a vision of the eternal Son. And so overpowering in its glory was it all that the comeliness of Daniel was turned into corruption, and he retained no strength.
I. The circumstances at once suggest that vision is not conditioned by locality. Daniel and his friends; were all in company, but 'I Daniel alone saw the vision'. The same thing meets us in life on every hand; set down a poet on any spot on earth and he will enmantle it with gold and glory, and have his vision in it of all lovely things.
II. The same thing is very true of pioneers in social reform. Picture the first poor homeless waif who arrested the gaze of a Dr. Barnardo. Many an eye had glanced at him that night; some had bidden him move on, and some had pitied him; but 'I Daniel alone saw the vision,' a vision of that boy clothed and redeemed; a vision of the boy out on the fields of Canada, with the sunshine on his cheek. All great movements for bettering mankind have begun not in a brain that schemed, but in a heart that saw.
III. This, too, is preeminently true of Christ. If He was separated from His race by being sinless, He was separated not less by what He saw. He saw such heights and depths and undiscovered glories that, matched with His, the keenest eyes are blind.
IV. There is another suggestion in the words; it is that the secret of vision lies in character. Why did these men who were with Daniel see nothing of the glory in the heavens?
a. They were not on the path of duty. It was such a smooth and easy life in Babylon that they shirked the toil and the hardship of return. Daniel was there because God willed it so.
b. They did not see the vision because they felt not the burden and sorrow of Israel. That burden had wellnigh broken Daniel's heart, but there is no sign that it troubled them at all. Must there not always be a preparation of that kind if we are to see the vision of Christ Jesus? The man who has seen the depths of his own heart, and knows how tangled are the roots of evil, is ready for the appearing of the Lord.
G. H. Morrison, The Wings of the Morning, p. 145.
It takes solitude to get yourself saturated by any thought, and to the great majority of men even solitude will not effect it, but only lower their thinking power to the congealing point. Nevertheless, as Mr. Darwin saw in relation to the growth and decay of species, the very condition which kills out a weak thinking power, feeds and elevates to the glowing point a strong thinking power.... Till the life of a thought becomes identical with the life of an emotion, it will never really dominate the minds of men. And so far as I can judge by history, this result is never attained for thought, without long, solitary brooding over it.
R. H. Hutton.
And as I walked towards the jail, the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'My love was always to thee, and thou art in My love'. And I was ravished with the sense of the love of God, and greatly strengthened in my inward man. But when I came into the jail, where the prisoners were, a great power of darkness struck at me, and I sat still, having my spirit gathered into the love of God.
Fox's Journal, 1649.
Do you know, more people perish from lack of proper self-appreciation than from consumption.
Reference. X. 11. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No. 2256.
It is strange to say, but it is a truth which our own observation and experience will confirm, that when a man discerns in himself most sin and humbles himself most, when his comeliness seems to him to vanish away and all his graces to wither, when he feels disgust at himself, and revolts at the thought of himself seems to himself all dust and ashes, all foulness and odiousness, then it is that he is really rising in the kingdom of God, as it is said of Daniel, 'From the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words '.
See Dora Greenwell's Covenant of Life, pp. 134 f.
The Practical Difficulty of Prayer
Daniel's difficulty is our difficulty. How can we talk with our Lord? That is the perpetual problem. It is not that prayer is impossible, or that we are unwilling to pray; it is that 'we know not how to pray as we ought'.
I. Let us contemplate the inquiry.
a. What was the actual motive in the case before us. It was the sense of ignorance. 'This my lord 'was mysterious and overwhelming to Daniel. If Daniel had known this 'Lord' more fully he could have talked with Him, but ignorance gives him a stammering tongue: ignorance almost seals his lips. That is often our difficulty in prayer.
b. Reverence moulded Daniel's inquiry. See t repeated 'my lord'. Shall the servant utter flue familiarities to the Lord? Nay verily. That, too, is our difficulty in prayer. Divineness arrests our presumption.
c. The sense of sin prompted Daniel's cry. He felt the awful disparity between himself and the Lord to whom he spoke. To talk with One holy, harmless, and undefiled seemed impossible. Penitence arrests speech. Sinners realize the incongruity of talking with their Lord.
d. Forgetfulness of former answers to prayer often lies at the root of this inquiry. We deem prayer beyond us, because we do not recall what it has wrought for us in the past. 'They soon forget' is true of God's Israel Today as of Israel in the olden day.
e. Lack of spiritual aspiration sometimes explains this inquiry. Bishop Creighton said that the greatest danger of the twentieth century would be 'the absence of high aspirations'. It is an ever-present danger with us all. And it works fatally in the world of prayer.
II. Let us suggest response to the inquiry. The practical difficulty of prayer has been abundantly resolved in Christian experience.
a. Recollect the Lord's love. Love can be talked with, though it be 'lord'. Love is approachable, even when Divine. Love is full of sympathy, and sympathy delights to hearken when need tells its story. Could we but realize the loving sympathy of Christ we should know how to pray. He is always accessible. He desires us to talk with Him.
b. Remember the Lord's promises. The servant can talk with the Lord when the promises of the Lord shine before his gladdened eyes. John Bunyan spoke of 'leaping into the bosom of the promise'. They find a tranquil refuge who do so. The Bible is one colossal promise to the praying soul.
c. Plead His atonement. The greatest secret of successful prayer is an evangelical secret. To multitudes of supplicants prayer would be an insuperable difficulty were it not that they have recourse to the sacrifice Christ offered on Calvary. The cross solves the riddle of prayer. Surrender the substitutionary sacrifice, and you lose the key of prayer. Many a prayer is sore labour and ineffectual labour, because it is not bedewed with Jesus' blood.
d. Expect the help of the Holy Spirit. We sadly multiply the practical hindrances to prayer because we so ignore the work of the Holy Spirit.
e. Bethink you of the evil of restraining prayer. How you reflect on God His veracity and His fidelity by so doing. Base, too, is the ingratitude of suppressing prayer. Says John Pulsford, that noble mystic, 'sow your prayers into the heart of God'.
Dinsdale T. Young, The Enthusiasm of God, p. 192.
References. X. 18. G. Mulligan, Comradeship and Character, p. 173. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii. No. 1295. X. 18, 19. Archbishop Benson, 'Boy Life,' Sundays in Wellington College, p. 219. X. 19. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1089.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Daniel 10". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany