Online Text Sermon - Daniel's Courage, Daniel ch.6 v.10
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||Daniel's Courage|
|Text||Daniel ch.6 v.10 |
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"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).
1. Daniel's piety
2. Daniel's courage
3. Daniel's reward from God
Daniel is one of the few men in the Bible against whom there is no criticism. The Bible not only presents us with great men and women, and shows us their excellencies and their virtues; but it also shows us their faults and their failings. You can think of many examples of this:
Noah was a great man of God and a great man; but after the flood, on one sad occasion, and perhaps as the result of accident on his part, he got drunk and a rather unfortunate event occurred in the family;
Now, Abraham, too, was a very eminent man of God; but, again, on a certain occasion, we are informed by the Scriptures that he told a half-truth: he said that his wife was his sister;
Then, you can think of Jacob, who was, again, an eminent man; and received the title of Israel. No one is more famous than the man who bears that name. His very name was given to the nation - the Israelites. And, yet, this Jacob, who was so great, was a man who could deceive his own father;
And we move on to David, who was a man after God's own heart; and yet even David fell into gross sin, and scandal, on one occasion of his life;
So, we could go on. Peter, too, in the New Testament: a wonderful man, and yet a man who had a blemish in so far as he denied his Lord three times on oath.
So, I say, it's remarkable that we find here in the figure of Daniel, a man against whom there is absolutely nothing said of a critical or an adverse kind. Daniel was a model of spirituality; and I have to point out that this is all the more amazing in so far as he did not live in an easy time. He lived in a day when his people were in captivity, in Babylon. His whole life (apart from the early years of a child) was spent in Babylon, a city renowned for idolatry, superstition, and religious darkness. He was one of the many hundreds of thousands of Jewish captives who were led away because of the judgment of God upon his nation. And yet, against this Daniel nothing is said in Scripture which is of a critical or an adverse kind.
So here, in chapter six and verse ten, we are told something about him which I wish to draw your attention to this evening.
"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", or previously.
Let's look at three things here in this verse.
First of all, Daniel's piety, that is to say, his devotion to God. He was a very devout, religious, pious man. And then, secondly, we see here, Daniel's courage. And then, thirdly, we shall look at Daniel's reward from God. Those three things this evening: Daniel's devotion, Daniel's courage, and Daniel's reward from God.
1. DANIEL'S PIETY
Now, what are we told firstly, then, about his piety and his devotion.
Well, it's all in this verse. We are told that he prayed. Daniel, we are told, prayed. My dear friends, here was a man, if ever there was, who, by the world's standards, did not need to pray - he had everything. He would be what today would be called 'a millionaire'. He was the most wealthy, and prosperous, and influential man in the whole of this huge empire of the Persians. We call it today the Medo-Persian Empire. It consisted of 127 provinces and stretched from part of the Middle East to part of the West; a huge empire - many, many languages, nations, cultures, and religions; and he was the supreme Prime Minister under King Darius over all these provinces, and their governors, and their princes and petty kings; a man who had abundance of work to do - a very busy life indeed. If ever there was a busy man, here was the one; and yet we're told in the midst of this busy and prosperous life, he took time to pray to God.
I want to make that point; and to say to you: here is the way to live your life - to order each day so that you pray to God. Let me ask you if that's your practice? Older people, and young ones; boys and girls, let me urge you every day to pray to God more than once. It was the practice of all the good people who ever lived, and also of this Daniel.
Now, the next thing we're told about him, he not only prayed, but you notice he gave thanks. He was a man who thanked the Lord for everything he had; and that's a great example to us. You know what I mean when I say that it's so easy for people to grumble. I knew somebody who used to do a lot of grumbling when they lived in London. And, then, after that they became missionaries as a family in the Middle East. And I remember this person coming back from this Middle Eastern country with all its squalor, and poverty, and idolatry, and saying to me: 'I'm so thankful to be back in London; or anywhere else in a country like this.'
My friends, let us thank the Lord! We're not living in a paradise - of course not; but we are living in a land where there are great blessings even still, and great freedoms, and in which we have many provisions and mercies. It's not every country in the world whose shops are as full of food as our shops are. It's not every country that provides medical services for its citizens as our does. Let us give thanks for all we have. Daniel shows us this by his example. "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thessalonians 5, 18). So did Daniel.
Now, notice what he did. We are told here that he "gave thanks before his God". That's interesting-"before his God"; in other words, he used to wait on God. Every day he worshipped God, he sought God; he put God first and foremost in his mind. He did this in God's very presence. He was not content to be in king's palaces, or to be passing huge sums of money from hand to hand. It was not enough for Daniel that he was a man of immense importance and fame throughout the world of that day. What mattered most to him was to be in communion-with God!
And then we are told here that he went into his house. You see that in the verse: "he went into his house". Now that is to say his very house and home were a kind of church. His house was a place which was known for devotion to God. There are houses like that; and you associated them with godliness, and with the Bible, and with prayer, and with the meeting of God's people. They're known to be associated with these things. And when you read the New Testament epistles you come across this phrase: "the church in thy house" (Romans 16, 5; 1 1 Corinthians 16, 19; Colossians 4, 15; Philemon 1, 2). Some houses and homes are like a church, or a place of worship, because that is the prevailing spirit within them; and it was so with this man.
And then we're told: "he kneeled upon his knees". Now, you understand, we don't always necessarily have to kneel upon our knees before we can pray. It's not that we must always on all occasions kneel. That would be superstitious. But in our own private devotions; if health and strength permit; we should place our bodies in such a position that our very posture indicates our reverence and awe of God. The Lord Jesus Christ used to kneel upon His knees. You will find that written in the gospels. That was the way He addressed God-on His knees, often (Luke 22,41). And the apostle Paul bowed his knees unto the father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3,14)
But then we're told something further. He opened up his windows (the windows of his chamber or bedroom, I suppose) toward Jerusalem. Now, Jerusalem was the capital city of his own people; and it lay hundreds and hundreds of miles away. Jerusalem was not next-door. This man was in Persia, and that was, as I say, probably well over a thousand miles away from Jerusalem. And he opened his windows, and he looked towards, and faced towards, Jerusalem; because that was the capital of the kingdom of God at that time. It was the capital city of the theocracy - the people of God - that's where God had His temple. That's the center of God's worship: it was from Jerusalem that the gospel went out to the whole world, on the Day of Pentecost.
So he was praying that God would bring the exile to an end. He knew that Solomon before him had prayed that when the people of God would enter into exile and captivity, that God would hear from heaven and that He would hear the prayer of His people and return His children from their captivity. He knew that. He also had studied the book of Jeremiah in which Jeremiah tells the people that their captivity would last for seventy years; and Daniel was calculating the time and he saw the time was coming when God would carry His people home again.
Now, we should show the same faith, and the same desire for the blessing of God's church. We don't, indeed, know the date when God will revive His work again. We don't know the date of Christ's return; but this spirit of expectancy should be in us desiring that God would open the windows of heaven and pour a blessing down, and that rivers of spiritual blessing would flood our land and our churches. It is an example to us of faith.
And the next thing, and last thing under this heading that I look at here, is what we're told about the frequency of his prayer. You see it there? He did this, we're told, three times a day. Three times a day: no doubt he did it about breakfast time, about mid-day, and sometime in the afternoon or evening. Three times a day this dear man set himself to seek God and to pray to Him. Why did he do it this frequently? Well, the answer was: in order to keep up his communion with God - in order to keep his soul alive.
Now friends, there is much for us to learn from the practice of this man. Let no one say he is too busy to attend to his family and personal devotions. There's none of us half so busy as Daniel was. Let no one say that we are so consumed by the duties of life that we cannot make it our rule and practice to rise with sufficient time in hand, in the morning (normally) for us to attend to the worship of God; and indeed throughout the day. To this very hour the Dutch people worship God in this same manner, three times a day. When the breakfast is over, in a Dutch reformed family, out comes the Bible, and the reading, and the singing, and the prayer; after lunch - the same; and after the evening meal, the same. The Psalmist said, "seven times a day" will I give thanks to thee (Psalm 119,164).
Well, it doesn't matter how often we do it; but we should do it as a matter of regular practice. Daniel, I say, was a man of devotion, and a man of piety; and all of this was reflected in his character. My friends, here's the point: it's not just that we do these things because they're written down in the Bible, full stop. If we do these things in the right spirit they will have a transforming power upon our lives. They will make us the kind of men and women God requires us to be. They will make us the kind of men and women who can be trusted to do the work of the Lord faithfully in this life; and for that reason, and similar reasons, the Word of God tells us about Daniel's piety.
Let me ask you: Would someone reading and writing about your life have the same things to say? If they were to write a short biography of my life would they have the same things to say? Is this same spirit yours? and mine? Well, certainly, it was that of Daniel; and in this respect, and in all other respects, he was a model for Christians to follow. His piety. Well now, secondly, let me come on to his courage.
2. DANIEL'S COURAGE
What are we told in this portion of Scripture? Verse 10: "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 so on. Notice that: "when Daniel knew that the writing was signed".
My friends, let me remind you what Daniel knew. He knew, for one thing, that the price for worshipping God was that he would be thrown into a den of lions. As each day he opened his windows, during the period of this thirty days, he knew full well that if any spies were to be spying on him he would be reported to the king and the king would be obliged to put him into the den of lions. This was a most horrid thought, and it was something that the king himself would not be able to undo or to alter; because it was the great pride of the Medo-Persian empire that their laws, once made and signed, were absolutely unalterable. We still to this very day use that phrase, that when a law is unalterable we say it is like the laws of the Medes and Persians - it cannot be altered. And the king, himself, having signed the law couldn't undo it, as we see in the reading.
How then could Daniel who knew this still continue his life-long practice of opening the windows toward Jerusalem and worshipping God? The answer is because he knew that the glory of God is the most important thing of all; and that God must have His glory whatever may happen to us as a consequence. And that truth is to be seen in the lives of all the men and women of God who come before us as heroes and heroines throughout Scripture. They all had the same spirit - more or less - that they saw that the glory of God, and the worship of God, and the truth of God, and the acknowledgment of the being of God is the most important thing of all.
Let's take a look at these persecuting princes. We meet them at verse 4: "Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault;" because "he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him." It's very clear what these evil men were about. They were watching Daniel with the green or yellow eye of jealousy. They saw that this man had been promoted above themselves; and anyone who's ever been in a position of responsibility or promotion knows that all those, or many of those anyway, who are underneath him are longing to pull him down! so that they could climb up into his place and into his seat.
Their motive is, therefore, one of jealousy; but we are told about this Daniel something of great importance. He was, we're told, of an "excellent spirit" (Daniel 6,3). Now, isn't that a great commendation of this man. Oh that you and I, my friends, would be so described by God as people who are of an excellent spirit.
And God goes on, and He says this: "and neither was their any error or fault found in him" (verse 4). It doesn't mean he was sinlessly perfect. No one but our blessed Saviour in this world was ever sinlessly perfect; but it does mean that his life was carefully watched over by himself. Everything he did, everything he said, every decision he took, it was prayed over and it was matched by the teaching of the Scriptures. He did nothing but he put God first, and the cause of God first. He was seeking first in everything the kingdom of God, and the glory of God, and the truth of God; and so we're told there was this excellent spirit found in him.
Now this is very rare in this world. How often do you meet a man like Daniel? How often do you meet a man or a woman who in their public and private life is faultless? and blameless? always truth-telling, always scrupulous about what they do? always honourable? always conscientious?
And so these evil conspirators saw there was only one possible way of bringing Daniel down; and they don't hesitate to say it. I'm going to read it to you, verse 5: "Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God." That was their one hope. There was a way of dragging Daniel down. There was a way of killing him; there was a way of destroying him; there was a way of getting rid of him and that was if they could bring in some law which they knew his conscience could not agree to. That, my friends, is the spirit of the devil - the spirit of persecution: to place this great, and honourable, and faithful man in such a position that a law would be brought in which in good faith he could not accept.
Now I hope you realize, my dear friends, that there are Christians living in countries of the world today, as we're sitting here in ease and comfort, and they also are faced with the same problem. They live in nations where there are laws which they cannot keep because of their duty and conscientious service of God, and so they are in prison and suffering; and who knows how greatly they're suffering in countries of the world. I hope that every day you live you remember them and pray for them, these honourable men and women whose feet we are not worthy to wash in many countries of the world, who are suffering for the love they bear to God.
Well, Daniel became one of these, because these wicked counselors went into the presence of king Darius, as we saw, and with cunning craftiness they flattered him, and they induced him, and encouraged him to bring in a new law. We should be very watchful about the new laws that come in. They may look innocent enough on the surface but there might be an awful lot behind them which will leave trouble for the people of God. Perhaps anti-smacking laws are of that nature. Perhaps the clause 28 law is going to be of that nature; might seem to be all right to the eye of sense, but the eye of faith realizes there is a terrible danger ahead for godliness and godly people.
So, they induced the king to bring in this law that there must be no religious prayer or worship to any god - except to the king, for thirty days, one whole month. The worship of God had to be suspended for one whole month. No prayer. No worship. No singing. The voice of psalms must be silent for thirty whole days so that the king could receive all this adoration - and it flattered him! And in his thoughtlessness, and in his foolishness, he agreed and signed this iniquitous law. Of course, it was aimed at destroying Daniel. The devil was behind it, and the devil's servants were behind it.
Well now, he had to overcome certain tempting thoughts. Let's place ourselves in Daniel's position. He had to calculate what could he do in those thirty days; and I have no doubt that the devil presented certain thoughts to his mind, like this: first of all, he said, Daniel, don't forget that the king's authority is absolute; he is the king of the whole empire and his authority is absolute.
Now, there are people who do present their laws like that. The Pharisees and the Jewish council did this to the apostles, Peter and John. They were preaching Christ, and telling the people how to be saved; and they were baptizing the penitent, and drawing them into the church, and having fellowship, and the Lord's Supper, and preaching and all the rest of it. And along came these Pharisees and they said: You have no business at all to be preaching. We have commanded you in the name of God to stop this preaching! And the apostles had to decide whether they would obey this authority, or obey God. And you remember what they said: "We must obey God, rather than men" (Acts 5,29).
Dear friends, we must tell ourselves again and again: Over and above all earthly laws, whether it be of kings, governments, or churches - I say, above all earthly laws - stands the law of the living God. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me...Thou shalt not make a graven image...Thou shalt not take my name in vain" (Exodus 20, 3-4; Exodus 20,7). And Daniel saw that whatever authority the king had, the authority of God was above it; and that's why he disregarded this law and opened the windows of his room.
And then, perhaps, I could refer you to another temptation that must have come to him, like this. The thought must have struck Daniel: Now, I'm a very useful man in this kingdom; and my influence is so great I can help thousands of Jews in all the provinces of Medo-Persia. If anything were to happen to me, Daniel could say, all these Jews would be exposed to who knows what dangers. So, he would have thought, I ought to look after myself.
But he didn't do so - for this reason: that he knew that we must never act by 'expediency'; we must always act by 'principle'. We must do what is right, regardless of imagined consequences. And in the event, of course, we see, God honours him and rewards him for it; but that's a very hard thing to do.
You will meet with many people who do not live by principle at all; but they live by consequence. They say, if I do this then that will follow, and then this will go on after that, and so on; and they're looking ahead and looking ahead. What we must do is not to look to consequence, but to do what God has commanded. That's what this dear man did.
Then, I suppose, there was still a third temptation of the devil. I guess that this was maybe the most tempting of them all. You can imagine the devil would whisper in his ear and say, Daniel, why not take a thirty-days holiday? Go off into the country where no one can observe you; and into some quiet retreat you can pray to God there in secret and nobody will ever know what you're doing; but here in Shushan the palace someone may see.
Now, he didn't yield to that temptation because it was inspired by 'fear of man'; and "the fear of man, my friends, bringeth a snare" (Proverbs 29,25). It could have reflected badly on God had this man in his position sneaked away. Remember what Nehemiah said when he was similarly tempted. He said: Can such a man as I am be afraid? (Nehemiah 6,11) So he refused all these temptations of the devil. He refused to act in any unworthy way.
My beloved friends, we are called upon in this life to act courageously in the light of all that God has promised, to take God's promise of comfort and strength and help and protection seriously. I don't pretend it's easy. The Bible does not pretend it is easy; but it is the way to glorify God; and it is the way, as we'll see in a moment, to be rewarded by God.
Let me refer to something that happened in Scottish history some years ago at the covenanting time. You may not all know this, but not too far from Linlithgow, near Edinburgh, stands a bleak and dreadful dungeon. It's called Blackness Castle; and some of the Covenanters were put in this terrible dungeon. It didn't even have even floors. It had very awkward floors to walk on. I think it's still there; you could probably go into it still - a miserable, depressing, wretched, dark place - Blackness Castle: it's very name is depressing. Well, some Covenanters were put in there, and they managed to get a letter to their dear friends, I think, in Edinburgh, and they said: Brethren, pray for us. We are in the darkness; we are in the darkness of Blackness, they said. And the brethren who were out of the prison sent a letter back: Take heed, dear friends; and they said: Be of good cheer, dear friends! It's better to be in the darkness of Blackness, than in the blackness of darkness! And this cheered them! It's far better to suffer in this world, than to be in those terrible places of hell where there is nothing but eternal darkness.
"The fear of man brings a snare;" and Daniel is an example to us of how we must gird up the loins of our mind and be sober, and courteous - but firm, when it comes to the worship of God.
3. DANIEL'S REWARD
Now, that brings me to say something, finally, and thirdly, about Daniel's reward. It's very touching that king Darius was very troubled by this plot. He had to sign the document, or, at least he did sign the document, and having signed it he had to stand to it; and he was obliged in the consequence of this to put Daniel into the lion's den. What a fearful thought; and he did so with the uttermost sorrow. He spent the night fasting; he put away all pleasurable music, which is the delight of kings; he refused all entertainment. His thoughts were taken up with this Daniel and the condition in which he would be through the night. And when the morning light came he hurried to this dungeon with the den of lions, and he cried out: Oh, Daniel, Daniel, is your God in whom you trust able to deliver you? And Daniel said: Oh king, live forever, my God sent His angel and has shut the lions' mouths (Daniel 6,19-22).
It's very clear, then, that God rewarded the faith of this man and his steadfastness to the truth. How did He honour him?
In several ways: first of all: by miraculously sending His angel and shutting the mouths of these lions. Now, the likelihood is that you and I will never be called upon - literally - to face a lion's den or real lions; it's most unlikely we shall; but there are human beings who at times can behave like lions; and there are situations in life which are hardly less appetizing and appealing than a lion's den. And this passage of Scripture is a reminder to us that whatever we have to face: of men or brutes, of men or beasts, of lions or lion-like enemies of the gospel, we must put our trust in the living God; and by faith we are able to stop the mouths of lions.
How else did God reward this man? Well, God vindicated him against all his persecutors. This is written for our learning. When Daniel was taken out of the lion's den, at verse 24 we read this: "and the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den."
It's very clear, therefore, that the stopping of the lions' mouths was supernatural; and it was in answer to God's power in hearing the prayer of Daniel, because as soon as these evil men, and their families, were put into the same situation they were ground to powder.
I don't know whether we have ever seen a lion, probably not, and certainly only, I suppose, in a zoo. I remember reading some years ago of a very serious incident. One of those big cats - a tiger or a lion or something - got free from a zoo somewhere, in some country; and it was reported like this: a huge Alsatian dog in its kennel sniffed, and it sniffed this huge wild cat going some yards away along through the garden before it was caught and shot. And somebody observed it: this great Alsatian dog was trembling like an aspen at the very smell of this beast, so terrified was it instinctively, of the enormous power of a lion or a tiger or whatever it was. How terrifying to be put in that position.
God is able to save you, my friend, when you trust in Him, from all these dreadful situations in life. On the other hand, where men refuse to glorify God, in the end of life - what is hell, after all, but a kind of lion's den multiplied by a million. It's a place where all the wicked will be cast forever! and if you like to say, by a figure of speech, their bones will be ground to powder forever and their soul in utter terrible misery! That's going to be the end of a Christless life! And that's why we are bidden in the gospel to repent of our sin! and believe Christ and trust in Him!
And God honoured this man still more. Listen to this. Darius now is speaking and making a decree. Here's the king. He makes this new decree: that in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for He is the living God, and steadfast forever, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end" (verse 26).
So you see, Daniel's courage and faithfulness did more to glorify God than anything he could ever have possibly done in his life. He caused the God of heaven to be known throughout all the dominions; and everybody heard - in all their languages! - that the God of Daniel can deliver you from the power of the lions. And what a transformation this was in the world.
And then, before I close, I point out this: that He gave Daniel prosperity and wonderful encouragement, and usefulness, all the days of his life. Look at this wonderful final verse of the chapter: "So, this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian" (verse 28).
Now, am I speaking to somebody here who has never professed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? My friends, I say to you, don't hesitate to trust Christ! He is the one who has delivered Daniel, and He can deliver you - through all life's trials - if you will trust in Him. Still more terrible than that He can deliver you from the coming Judgment of God, when we all have to appear before God's Judgment Seat in the day of death and eternity when He returns again at the end of the world. Christ is able to deliver you from all condemnation, as He delivered Daniel from this condemnation in the lion's den.
The great question, then, with which I must leave you tonight is this: Have you trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you seen that He is worthy that you should give your entire life to Him?
God help you so to do.
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