SECT. XII.—THE GOLDEN IMAGE (Chap. Dan )
We may observe as lessons from the passage—
1. The danger of losing good impressions and turning asiae from a good profession. Too many copies of Nebuchadnezzar to be found in the Christian Church. "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." Constant need of David's prayer: "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe."
2. Impressions, however good and deep, not to be mistaken for conversions. Present feelings neither to be slighted nor trusted to. A true conversion will in time produce its own evidence. "Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance." "By their fruits ye shall know them."
3. Mere human authority neither to be exercised nor yielded to in matters of religion. "Render to Csar the things that are Csar's, and to God the things that are God's." "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Act ). So Act 4:19. The case of a parent in regard to his children who are under the years of discretion, an apparent exception to the above rule. But even here the authority is to be exercised only in commanding what God has already enjoined. "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment" (Gen 18:19).
4. Care to be taken not to follow the multitude to do evil. That a practice is popular, no proof that it is right. Neither the rectitude of a course, nor the truth of an opinion, to be decided by the law of the greater number. "The customs of the people are vain." "Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat."
SECT. XIII.—THE FIERY FURNACE (Chap. Dan )
God has never left Himself without a witness. An Enoch and a Noah found on the eve of the Flood; an Abraham in Chaldea, and a Lot in Sodom. While the multitude were falling prostrate before the golden image, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were in their closet on their knees. Where was Daniel? Probably now, as often, at some distance from the court. Wherever he is, he is worshipping the God of heaven. If at hand, like his three friends, fearless of the consequences, he refuses to obey the summons to the plain of Dura, but for this time left unmolested by his enemies, for reasons which we can only conjecture. Now not Daniel, but his three friends, are to be made illustrious through all time for their faith in and fidelity to the true God. Daniel, in noble self-forgetfulness, is content to leave them the honour of the deed, without being careful to give the grounds of his non-participation in it; an incidental confirmation of the genuineness of the history. We may notice in the narrative—
I. The accusation (Dan ). The accusation probably the offspring alike of envy and religious zeal. The accusers the Chaldeans, the priests and religious teachers of the country. The charge, as in Daniel's own case (chap. 6.), probably the thing the accusers desired, expected, and waited for. "Who can stand before envy?" The accusation betrays itself. "There are certain Jews, whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon." The language indicative of the spirit which prompted the accusation. Three faithful Jews so exalted, a likely butt for the shafts of envious idolatrous natives. Nothing to be found against these men except, as in the case of Daniel, "concerning the law of their God." In a world "lying in the wicked one," fidelity to God hardly able to escape the malice of men. In a corrupt time, "he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey." False or hostile accusation for the truth's sake, according to the Sermon on the Mount, to be rather rejoiced in by the servants of God. The footprints of the prophets and of the Master Himself. The servant not greater than his lord.
"It is explicitly affirmed by Mr. J. S. Mill (System of Logic) that on this view of the constancy of nature,—on the hypothesis that the governing power of the universe is an infinitely wise and Almighty God,—a miracle is no infraction of nature's harmony and concord, and, of course, not beyond reach of proof.… Lord Bacon declared that, in regard of redemption, ‘to which all God's signs and miracles do refer,' the Almighty could indeed ‘break the law of nature by miracles.' The Saviour is called by the father of modern philosphy ‘the Lord of nature in His miracles.' … Miracles are thus shown to be in harmony with a higher constancy than that of physical nature—a constancy of eternal purpose and everlasting wisdom, a course of mercy in the moral government of the world, a constancy of creative power, varying at pleasure its modes and its habitudes."—P. Bayne, "Christ's Testimony to Christianity."
1. Persecution the frequent lot of God's faithful people. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2Ti ). In a world of which God's enemy is the prince, His faithful servants not likely to be long without trouble. As surely as a knife cuts and fire burns, so surely will he who by his life and lips reproves the ways of the world incur its hatred and persecution. "The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil" (Joh 7:7).
2. The power and preciousness of faith. The noble act and glorious deliverance of these three Jewish captives ascribed to this divine principle. "By faith they quenched the violence of fire." "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith" (1Jn ). Faith able to triumph over every difficulty and every trial. The same principle that enabled Moses to choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, raised these exiles above the fear of a fiery furnace. Its natural effect to make men heroes. Its property to give "substance" and reality to "things hoped for," and "evidence" or conviction in regard to "things unseen." Looks not at the things that are seen and temporal, but at those which are unseen and eternal. Believes that God not only can, but that according to His promise He will, in one way or other, deliver. To faith deliverance is certain, whether in this world or the next. Looking into the glorious future, it thinks it matters little which. Eyeing Him who said, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world," it sings, even at the stake, "O death, where is thy sting?" "Deny Christ," said the Roman governor to Polycarp, "or thou shalt be thrown to the wild beasts." "Call for them," said the venerable bishop; "we have no mind to change from better to worse." "But if thou thinkest so lightly of wild beasts, I shall have a fire that will tame thee." "You threaten me," replied Polycarp, "with a fire that will burn for an hour and then be extinguished, but remember not the fire of eternal damnation reserved for the punishment of the ungodly. But why do you delay? Execute whatever you please." "The emperor commands thee to do sacrifice," said the proconsul to Cyprian; "therefore consult for thy welfare." "I am a Christian," was the heroic reply; "and I cannot sacrifice to your gods; do therefore what you are commanded: as for me, in so just a cause, there needs no consultation."
3. A faithful adherence to God's prescribed worship one of our first duties. The first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me;" the second, "Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image; thou shalt not bow down to them nor worship them." God jealous both of His worship and the manner of it. "I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God." Will-worship among the things condemned in His Word. "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Col ; Mat 15:9). God's glory to be esteemed "of more consequence than a thousand lives, and the gratification of a thousand senses."
4. Christ ever present with His suffering servants. The Son of God a fourth in the fiery furnace. "Fear not, for I am with thee." He that has power over fire present with His people in every fiery trial which is to try them. "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the floods, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" (Isa ). Faith, laying hold of the Word, sings with the Psalmist, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me" (Psa 23:4).
5. Believers gainers rather than losers by their sufferings. The three confessors in Babylon lost nothing in the furnace but the bonds that bound them. Believers lose nothing by their sufferings but the bonds of corruption and sin. "When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." "This is all the fruit, to take away their sin." Trouble often the method which God takes to consume our bonds and to purify our souls.
"I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.
'Twas thus He taught me thus to pray;
And He, I think, has answered prayer;
But it was done in such a way
As almost drove me to despair."
6. God glorified by the trials of His people. The fiery furnace a platform for the display of God's glory in Babylon. His name raised higher by the deliverance of the three martyrs than by the interpretation of the king's dream. The trial of believers, whatever it may be here, "found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." The high privilege of Paul and of all suffering believers, to "fill up in their flesh that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ for His body's sake, which is the Church" (Col ). Their patient suffering made to glorify God as truly as their active service. The blood of the martyrs the seed of the Church.
7. Something to be imitated in the conduct of Nebuchadnezzar. A prompt, humble, and decided submission yielded to the truth as revealed in God's deliverance of His servants. The effect and fruit of it the immediate employment of his influence in honouring God and advancing His cause. The threatened penalty to be condemned, as only corresponding to the character and customs of the time and country, and the ideas of an Oriental despot. Otherwise the edict an example to all in authority, whether as magistrates, parents, or masters, to employ their influence in restraining open ungodliness and forbidding profanity on the part of those who are under them.
8. Miracles precious as God's testimony both to His power and to His presence with His people. One of the objections made against the genuineness of the book of Daniel is its alleged "aimless profusion of miracles." But, as Hengstenberg remarks, the object in each miracle occurring in the first six chapters is distinctly stated—the manifestation of the omnipotence of the God of Israel before the heathen kings and nations, the circumstances of the chosen people at the time being such as to render it desirable that the weakness of their faith should be assisted even by sensible means of support. Objectless, says Dr. Pusey, they can only seem to those to whom all revelation from God seems to be objectless. "On the one side was the world-monarchy, irresistible, conquering, as the heathen thought, the God of the vanquished. On the other, a handful of the worshippers of the one only God, captives, scattered, with no visible centre or unity, without organisation or power to resist save their indomitable faith, inwardly upheld by God, outwardly strengthened by the very calamities which almost ended their national existence; for they were the fulfilment of His Word in whom they believed. Thrice during the seventy years human power put itself forth against the faith; twice in edicts which, if obeyed, would have extinguished the true faith on earth; once in direct insult to God. Faith, as we know, ‘quenched the violence of fire, stopped the mouth of lions.' In all cases the assault was signally rolled back; the faith was triumphant in the face of all the representatives of the power and intelligence of the empire; in all, the truth of the one God was proclaimed by those who had assailed it. Unbelief, while it remains such, must deny all true miracles and all superhuman prophecy. But, if honest, it dare not designate as objectless miracles which decided the cause of truth in such battlefields."
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Daniel 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany