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Daniel, the Seer
As we enter the study of Daniel, the Seer, it is well to note the conditions under which Daniel was found in the city of Babylon. The captivity of Israel had long since occurred. The captivity of Judah had now begun. King Nebuchadnezzar had besieged Jerusalem, had taken it, and had carried Jehoiakim its king unto Babylon. Among the captives were found Daniel and his three friends, who were picked out by Ashpenaz to be trained to stand in the king's palace.
1. Daniel was a youth of royal blood. He was taken from the king's seed, from among the princes. We do not know that the mere fact of his royalty added anything to his value, but it was so reckoned by King Nebuchadnezzar.
2. Daniel was trained in Israel. Verse four tells us that he was without blemish, well favored, and skillful in all wisdom; cunning in knowledge, and understanding science. This statement shows that even in the days of Israel's departure from God, they still were a people of learning and of scientific ability.
3. Daniel's spiritual and moral integrity. Had Daniel merely possessed royal blood, and had he been no more than skillful and cunning in knowledge and wisdom, he would never have been honored and owned of God as he was. The glory of Daniel's character and spiritual integrity shines out in this first chapter in a wonderful way.
(1) He purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king's meat, nor with the wine which the king drank. This presents Daniel in his moral aspect, as a youth unwilling to contaminate his body. It took no little courage for Daniel to keep himself clean from moral defilement. The easy path is to go with the crowd, and when you are in Babylon do as the Babylonians do. This was not at all Daniel's method of life.
(2) He acted wisely. Daniel did not open a tirade against the king, and against his meat and drink, he quietly requested of Ashpenaz, the prince of the eunuchs, that he might not defile himself.
(3) He put God to the test. When Daniel spoke to Ashpenaz, the prince of the eunuchs was afraid to grant his request lest he should endanger his head to the king. Daniel wisely said, "Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days * *. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee."
4. Daniel blessed of God. Here is the summing up of God's dealings with Daniel and his friends. "God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams." Thus it was that God brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
I. DANIEL AND NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S DREAM (Daniel 2:26 )
1. The dream of Nebuchadnezzar. It was in the second year of his reign that King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed a dream and then forgot it. The strange effect of the dream lay heavily upon him. He could not get away from it.
2. The demand made. The king called his wise men and magicians before him and commanded them to tell him his dream and the interpretation. This they could not do, insisting that no one dwelling in the flesh could show to any king both his dream and its interpretation. The king became angry and with great fury commanded the slaughter of all the wise men of Babylon.
3. Daniel's plea. When it was made known to Daniel what the king was about to do, he answered wisely that he might be given time and he would make known unto the king both the king's dream and the interpretation of it. Then did Daniel and his three friends seek God's face. God heard and answered prayer and revealed to Daniel the secret in a night-vision. Then did Daniel bless God, proclaiming His wisdom and might.
4. Daniel delivers God's message. When Daniel was brought before the king, he did not boast his own wisdom or power, but he said, "There is a God in Heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days." Daniel proceeded to tell the king his dream and the interpretation thereof. The king saw so plainly that Daniel was sincere and true that he rewarded him and made him a great man in the kingdom, giving him many great gifts, and making him ruler over the whole province of Babylon.
II. DANIEL AND NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S SECOND DREAM (Daniel 4:8 )
1. The dream stated. This time Nebuchadnezzar remembered his dream. He saw a tree in the midst of the earth of great height. The tree grew and was strong and reached unto Heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth. The leaves were fair, the fruit was plenteous, the birds dwelt in its boughs and the beasts lay under its shadow. Nebuchadnezzar saw until the tree was cut down and the stump only remained.
2. The demand made. King Nebuchadnezzar, as in his first dream, commanded the magicians and astrologers and Chaldeans and soothsayers to interpret the dream, but they could not. How helpless do the wise of this world stand in the presence of the Divine revelations of God! Their minds seem utterly blinded to the most simple of prophetic truths. They know nothing of Christ's glorious Return and Reign. What God tells them, they believe not; what they see, they know not. Woe unto him who makes the wisdom of man his stay!
3. The Divine warning. It was easy for Daniel to make known unto the king the interpretation of his first dream, but now Daniel was astonished for one hour and his thoughts troubled him. However, Daniel was faithful to his God and to his king. He told Nebuchadnezzar that he was the tree which had grown unto Heaven because he was great and had become strong, and that his kingdom and dominion had reached unto the end of the earth.
Daniel moreover told Nebuchadnezzar that he would be cut down even as the tree was cut down, that he would be driven from men, and be made to, dwell with the beasts of the field, and to eat grass like oxen. Then did Daniel plead with Nebuchadnezzar to repent and to humble himself before God, that the Lord might spare him this judgment. God give us men faithful to Him and faithful to their fellow men; men who will preach the whole truth and proclaim the whole counsel of God without fear or favor.
III. DANIEL AND BELSHAZZAR'S FEAST (Daniel 5:17 )
1. The madness of Belshazzar. It seems almost impossible that any king in his right mind could give so great a feast at such a crucial time as that which faced Belshazzar, when a thousand of his lords sat down to eat and to drink with him.
Outside the city of Babylon were encamped the great armies of Cyrus and Darius. Belshazzar ate and drank under the spell of a false security. He imagined that his walls were impregnable against the armies of the Medes and the Persians. There was much food stored away in the city and the river Euphrates coursed its way through under the walls so that there was no danger from thirst.
2. The handwriting on the wall. As the feast progressed with the madness of revelry, and as the king and his princes and wives and concubines drank wine, praising the gods of gold, of silver, and of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone, the same hour the fingers of a man's hand wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall. As the king saw the hand moving, his countenance was changed and his thoughts were troubled. He quickly called for his wise men to come in and read the writing and make known the interpretation. Once more the wise men failed Belshazzar as they had of old failed Nebuchadnezzar. Then was Daniel brought in.
3. The charge of Daniel. It seems to us that in all the lore of the ancients, and that in all charges of the judges of our own day, there has never been just such a charge as this. Spurning the king's gifts and proffers of reward, Daniel declared unto the king the writing. The declaration was preceded, however, with the charge. First of all, Daniel reminded Belshazzar of that which he well knew. How Nebuchadnezzar, his father, when his heart was lifted up, and his mind was hardened with pride, had been deposed, and his glory had been taken from him. Then Daniel said: "Thou * * O Belshazzar hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of Heaven; * * and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified."
IV. THE FEARLESSNESS OF DANIEL (Daniel 6:25 )
1. The meaning of the word MENE. Daniel interpreted the word thus: "God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it." There was no opportunity for repentance given to Belshazzar. His days of grace were passed. God had come to make a full end.
2. The meaning of the word TEKEL. Thus Daniel interpreted it: "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting." Belshazzar stands before us as a type of all men who in the madness of their folly lift themselves up in pride against the God of Heaven and are weighed and found wanting.
3. The meaning of the word PERES. Here is the way Daniel put it: "Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians." Before Belshazzar there was nothing but night. As we hurriedly think of these three words, let us imagine Daniel the heroic Prophet as he faces an autocratic ruler and pronounces upon him his doom.
How startling is the verse that follows: "In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain." History tells us that as the feast progressed, Darius the Median and Cyrus entered the city with their vast army. They had dug a new channel for the Euphrates River above the city, and upon the river bed they had marched in under the walls.
V. DANIEL IN TRIAL AND TRIUMPH (Daniel 6:5 )
Daniel is now under the third king who ruled in Babylon.
1. Daniel the mark of prejudice. It pleased Darius to set over his kingdom one hundred and twenty princes, over these there were three presidents, and among the presidents, Daniel was first. In this Daniel was preferred above all the mighty men of the Media Persian Empire.
2. Daniel's impregnable honor. The words of these enemies to Daniel are most illuminating. They said, as they sought to find some occasion against him, that they could find no fault in him and no error inasmuch as he was faithful, excepting they found it against him concerning his fidelity to his God.
Thus it was that Daniel stood in the limelight as a man of impregnable honor. The presidents and princes knowing Daniel's fidelity to his faith inveigled the king to establish a decree that no man should ask anything of any God or man for thirty days save of the king, upon the penalty of being cast into the den of lions. The unsuspecting king signed the edict which meant to all human purposes the downfall of Daniel and his death.
2. Daniel's faithfulness to God. When Daniel knew that the decree was signed, he opened his window toward Jerusalem three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God as he did aforetime. Where is he who could prove a better fidelity? Daniel did not argue that he could pray under cover and behind the scenes. He was unwilling to sell out. He had of yore prayed with open window and still thus he prayed.
VI. DANIEL AND THE DEN OF LIONS (Daniel 6:21-22 )
When King Darius saw the trap into which his presidents and princes had led him, he sought diligently to deliver Daniel. He labored until the going down of the sun, but the law he had made was according to the law of the Medes and the Persians which altereth not.
1. The faith of King Darius. As Daniel was thrown into the den, the king said unto him, "Thy God whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee." This was a tremendous statement for a heathen king to make; but he had known of Daniel's faithfulness during forty or more years of service under Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and himself. He knew that Daniel had never failed either his people or his God. He believed somehow that God would deliver Daniel. All that night King Darius fasted and his sleep went from him.
2. The protected Prophet. As morning broke, Darius hastened unto the den of lions, fearful and yet hopeful. He cried with a lamentable voice, and said, "O Daniel, servant of the Living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" Then it was that Daniel replied, "My God hath sent His angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me."
It pays to live in innocency and in all good conscience toward God and toward man. All of the wise men who had connived against Daniel with their wives and children were now cast into the den of lions and were destroyed by the lions or ever they came to the bottom of the den.
3. The far-reaching results of Daniel's deliverance. King Darius made a decree which was sent unto all the world commanding that throughout his kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. When we are true to God, our lives will tell for Him to the ends of the earth.
VII. DANIEL, A MAN GREATLY BELOVED (Daniel 9:22-23 )
Daniel was owned and loved of God.
1. Unto him God delivered in visions and dreams the story of His people Israel down to the time of the end. He gave through Daniel an outline of the history of nations that almost startle us as we study them in the light of present-day events; a story of Christ's Return in the clouds of Heaven, and of the investure of the Kingdom as He the Lord shall reign upon David's throne; the story of end-time moral and spiritual conditions. He told Daniel how many would be purified and made white, and tried, and how the wicked would do wickedly. He told how in the end-time knowledge would increase and many would run to and fro.
2. Unto him God sent Gabriel to tell him how he was loved in Heaven. This is most illuminating. To think that a man moving among men and occupying a prominent place in the political realm of his day could so live through a long period of time that he would be not only loved but greatly beloved in the sky. No wonder that God delivered Daniel from every foe.
3. Unto him God gave promise of his own resurrection and service in the latter day. To Daniel God said, "Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." Thus we are made to understand that Daniel shall awake, and that he will shine as the brightness in the firmament, and as the stars forever and ever. Not only that, but we are led to believe that Daniel will be given some place of honor and trust when he stands in his lot at the end of the days.
Since all are to stand before the judgment seat of Christ and receive according to the deeds done in their bodies, let all, therefore, endeavor to live a life of faithfulness to God and man, so that they too may stand in their lot, and reign with Christ.
"' If a man set his house on fire, he is liable to the law; if it be fired by others, or by an ill accident, he is pitied and relieved.' We are to take up our cross when laid upon our shoulders by God's providence; but we are not to make trouble for ourselves. We are not to fill our own cup with gall and wormwood, but to drink it off when God puts a bitter draught into our hand. We are to meet temptation and overcome it; but we may not venture into temptation on our own account, or we may have to rue our foolhardiness.
"The figure of the burning house is a very apt one, and capable of many illustrations. A man who partakes of wine or strong liquors wilfully fires his own house, and, whatever may be the result of his intemperance, he can only blame himself. He who reads skeptical works, or frequents infidel society, cannot be pitied if he loses faith and comfort, for he runs a wanton and useless risk.
"To be taken at unawares by a fierce temptation, is to be like a building fired by a malicious hand, and this is a grievous calamity; but to go wilfully into temptation is another matter, and is comparable to the crime of arson, in which a man collects combustible materials and secretly kindles them, that his house may be burned down.
"Lord, evermore keep me from being my own destroyer. Let me not, like Absalom, grow my hair for my own hanging, 'Let not any iniquity have dominion over me.'"
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Daniel 1". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany