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We have seen that the moral characteristics of the governing powers during the times of the Gentiles are set forth in the historical incidents recorded in Daniel 3 to 6. The worst and final evil is apostacy, or man usurping the place of God upon the earth. The setting aside the rights of God, the exaltation of man, the open defiance of God, that have already passed before us, end in the awful attempt to stamp out all recognition of God on the earth by dethroning God and enthroning man in His place.
This climax of all evil is forecast in the decree signed by King Darius whereby no petition is to be addressed to any God or man, save to the king, for thirty days.
This apostacy is clearly presented in the New Testament as characterising the end of the times of the Gentiles. In the second chapter of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, the coming apostacy is foretold in connection with the revelation of the man of sin who opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he himself sitteth in the temple of God showing himself that he is God. From Revelation 13 we further learn that this man of sin is the second beast. The acts of this wicked man are shadowed forth by the decree of Darius, not, be it noted, by what Darius was as a man, but by what he did. Personally, Darius appears to have been a very different character to the vile Belshazzar. He would seem to have been an amiable man, and, in this respect, he may set forth the character of the man of sin who will probably appear in the sight of men as an exceedingly attractive man.
(Vv. 1-3). The opening verses give the occasion which called forth this wicked decree. Daniel had been appointed by Darius as chief of the three presidents to whom the one hundred and twenty princes, who ruled the kingdom, had to render account. That a child of the captivity should be exalted to this high position aroused the jealousy of the Chaldean presidents and princes. Moved by jealousy, they sought in malice to find some fault wherewith to prefer a charge against him before the king.
(Vv. 4, 5). First, they sought occasion against him in connection with his administration of the kingdom. But, though all these presidents and princes sought to find some Fault in Daniel's management of the affairs of state, forasmuch as he was faithful they could find neither "error" nor "fault" in him. They concluded that it would only be possible to find a complaint through the law of his God - a wholesome lesson or the Christian, whose relations with the world should be so faithfully carried out, that the world would only find it possible to condemn us by intruding themselves into the things of God and passing decrees, the observance of which would involve disobedience to God.
(Vv. 6-9). This is the situation that these presidents and princes, with satanic subtlety, conspire to bring about. Apparently, it was customary for the administration to make the decrees and for the king to give them authority by his signature. Accordingly, these men present themselves before the king with a decree, that no petition should be made to any God or man, save the king only, for thirty days on pain of being thrown into the den of lions. Three things mark this decree. First, the decree is in itself the very height of wickedness, for it is the awful attempt to dethrone God and set up man in His place. It seeks to install the king in a place of absolute supremacy over heaven and earth, above God and man, for, during the thirty days no petition should be asked of "any God or man." Great as was the sin of Nebuchadnezzar this is far greater. Nebuchadnezzar had set up an idol in the place of God; but now Darius sets himself up in the place of God. It is the deification of man. Secondly, the motive of the decree is evil in the extreme. Trading upon the uprightness of Daniel's character, and his known fidelity to the law of his God, these men purposely devise a decree which they know Daniel will not obey. Thirdly, the decree that they frame appears highly flattering to the king. The decree is so presented that the true motive is carefully concealed, and the king foolishly falls into the trap and signs the decree.
( V. 10). Daniel Is evidently aware of all that is taking place and yet apparently he makes no charge against these wicked men, nor does he seek to defend himself. His faith is in God (verse 23), not in himself or his own efforts. His part is simply to obey God and leave the results with Him. Consequently, he goes to his house and, as usual, he prays towards Jerusalem three times a day, the windows of his house being open. In all this there is no ostentation; he simply acts "as he did aforetime." Having been in the habit of praying in this open way, suddenly to close the windows and pray in secret would have been interpreted by all Babylon as cowardice, or acquiescence in the decree. In the midst of that idolatrous city Daniel had borne a public witness to the true God. He was not a secret disciple. To obey the decree would involve the transgression of the first commandment. Moreover, the word of God gave Daniel plain directions for the circumstances in which he found himself. Solomon's prayer, at the dedication of the Temple, anticipated his difficulties. "If," said King Solomon, "they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives . . . and pray unto Thee toward their land, which Thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which Thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for Thy name: then hear Thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven Thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause" ( 1Ki_8:46-49 ). Such was Solomon's prayer, and God accepted his prayer, for the Lord said, "I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before Me" ( 1Ki_9:3 ). In faith in God, Daniel acted according to the word of God. He refused to make any compromise. The carnal mind might suggest, Why not close the window and pray in secret? Refusing any such compromise, he prayed, "his window being open." But if he must pray with his window open, why select a front room facing towards the street? Without hesitation he prayed "in his chamber toward Jerusalem." But if he must pray with an open window toward Jerusalem, why need he go down on his knees; could he not assume some other attitude that would not call attention to the fact that he was praying? No, Daniel will not give up the right attitude toward God; "he kneeled upon his knees." If, then, he is so very strict that he must pray with his windows open, looking toward Jerusalem and kneeling upon his knees, what need is there for doing it "three times a day"? Surely he could pray early in the morning before anyone is abroad, or late in the evening after everyone has retired? Indeed, could he not for these thirty days give up praying by day and pray by night instead? God can see and hear in the dark. No such suggestions influence Daniel: he prays three times, and in the day. And though he is in captivity, and surrounded by those who are plotting for his life, he finds occasion to "give thanks," as well as to pray. Moreover, he prays and gives thanks "before his God." Men may see him praying, but it is before God, not men, that he prays. This was no new thing with Daniel. It was not something that he suddenly commenced in a fit of religious zeal for his God, or in defiant opposition to the king's decree; it was the continuance of his usual ways - "as he did aforetime."
(V. 11). For the success of their plot, the enemies of Daniel had counted upon his known habit of prayer, and his unswerving faithfulness to his God, and they did not count in vain. Assembling before Daniel's house they find, as anticipated, that Daniel is praying and making his supplications before his God, undeterred by the decree of the king, the plot of his enemies and the den of lions.
(Vv. 12, 13). Having gathered their evidence, these men draw near to the king and remind him of the terms of the decree, the truth of which he has to admit. Then they prefer their charge, pressing the fact that Daniel is a captive of Judah and he regards not the king and ignores his decree. They refrain from saying that he makes his petition to his God and regards His law.
(Vv. 14-17). For the success of their plot these men had counted upon the vanity of the king and the faithfulness of Daniel. Had the king been proof against their flattery, or Daniel unfaithful to God, their scheme would have miscarried. But Daniel remained faithful, and the king accepted their flattery, and so far their plot prospered. Accepting their flattery the king became their slave. Betrayed into the hands of these wicked men by his own vanity, he perceived when it was too late the real object of the decree that he had signed, with the result that he "was sore displeased with himself." Appreciating the integrity of Daniel, the king set his heart to deliver him, labouring throughout the day to this end. The problem that Darius sought to solve was, how to carry out the desire of his heart and yet maintain the law to which he had put his hand. David, in his day, had to face this problem in the matter of his son Absalom. David could not reconcile love with law, so he ignored the law and acted in love, with the result that he was driven from his throne by the man to whom he had shown grace. Darius ignored the dictates of his heart and maintained the law, with the result that he retained his throne, but Daniel was cast into the den of lions, every precaution being taken that the king's decree be carried out to the letter.
God, alone, in His dealings with the sinner can reconcile the claims of righteousness with the sovereignty of grace. On the ground of the death of Christ grace reigns through righteousness.
Though carrying out his law to the letter, the king has the conviction that Daniel's God, "Whom," says he, "thou servest continually," will intervene for the deliverance of His faithful servant. The king commends Daniel for doing that which was in direct disobedience to his own decree, and he is confident that the man who puts the fear of God above the fear of the greatest man on earth, will not be abandoned by God. His conviction was right, and it is ever so, though, in this dispensation of faith, the intervention of God does not always take the direct and miraculous form that it did in past dispensations.
(V. 18). In spite of his conviction that God will intervene on behalf of His servant, the king is filled with remorse for his own action and spends a sleepless night in fasting.
(Vv. 19-24). Early in the morning the king hurries to the den of lions, and, to his relief, finds that God has indeed intervened. In calling to Daniel he addresses him as "the servant of the living God," and again he recognises that Daniel has served God continually. In their charge the wicked men had made everything of the king and nothing of God; the king makes everything of God and nothing of himself.
Daniel informs the king that God has intervened on his behalf through angelic power, and stopped the mouths of the lions, for he had a good conscience toward God and toward the king.
The men who drew up the decree left God out of their calculations. They had not counted upon any power being able to restrain the ferocity of the lions. They had made no provision in their decree that anyone thrown to the lions must be killed by the lions. Thus the law was fulfilled and Daniel was saved, and these malicious men, having been thoroughly exposed, were themselves with their families cast into the den of lions, and thus caught in the snare they had laid for the man of God.
(Vv. 25-27). Darius now sends forth a second decree to all that dwell upon the earth, that all men are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. This surpasses the decree of Nebuchadnezzar, recorded in Daniel 3 , which merely commanded that no one was to speak anything amiss against God. This decree commands that due respect and fear be paid to God as a recognition of His sovereignty as the living God. Thus, through the faithfulness of one man, the effort to set up man in the place of God becomes the occasion of a world-wide testimony to the living God.
The whole incident strikingly illustrates the truth of Psalm 57 . There the Psalmist finds himself in the presence of those who would swallow him up. He cries to the Most High God that performeth all things. Having cried to God, he has the confidence that God will "send from heaven" and save him. In this confidence he is kept in calmness, though, as to his circumstances, he "is among lions," and surrounded by enemies whose tongue is as "a sharp sword." In result, the Psalmist says, "they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves." Moreover, God is exalted; His praise goes out "among the nations," and He is exalted "above the heavens" and "above all the earth." The final end of the apostacy of men will be that the wicked will be punished with everlasting destruction, the godly will be recompensed for all their suffering, and God will be glorified throughout the earth through the glory of Christ.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Daniel 6". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30