Address on Daniel 1
2nd December 1910
130 Queen Victoria Street, London EC
NOW it is Daniel's personal history as a man, and as a saint of God, and as a servant of God I want to travel over with you this evening. Daniel was a captive. Now I think you know, dear friends, that the thing that struck one first of all was this, that if Daniel looked round he must have felt this, that everything is gone, it is all up. Here am I, a captive in this strange city. If he had not been made of the kind of stuff that he was he would have gone with the tide. The tide was running tremendously strong in Babylon. Here is a man who has enough grit to stand, to take his stand for God. The meaning of his name is interesting, 'God is judge.'
The king for his own purpose tells the master of his eunuchs that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, of the king's seed, and of the princes, and he now indicates what kind of an examination they should go through. You have his preliminary examination, his curriculum, that which he fed upon, his character developed, and in the close of the chapter you have his final examination. He and his three comrades come out at the top of the class. I have heard it said that if a man is a Christian, he must necessarily be a milksop. Nonsense, don't you believe it. A man that is a downright Christian, it is wonderful what God will do with him, and you will find as you read this man's history how step by step he was promoted, until I say, first of all, he is on the Bench; then he is made Prime Minister; then he is made Chancellor of the Exchequer of the whole kingdom of Persia. That is where he comes in for his deepest trials, at the close of his history.
Well now, the examination was this - it was a matter with them what they were personally. Because you are a Christian, you need not be a fool. Because you are on the Lord's side there is no necessity for lacking anything that a man should be as a man passing through this world. God has given to us all a little bit of gift, and each one according to his several ability. I do not doubt that God took into account the ability of this fine young man. The next thing is that he is appointed a provision of the king's meat, and the wine he drank, so that at the end of three years he might stand before the king.
Now look, the moment he sees what is before him, he begins to feel, 'Well, I belong to God, and I know Jehovah has got certain principles and lines for his servant', and he had not forgotten what he had learned as a youth, that is to say, he knew the Scriptures. I think the great lack, my dear friends, today, is that young men do not know the Scriptures. There is not the study of the Scriptures there might be, and there should be. Timothy was told that from a child he had known the Holy Scriptures. The fact is, my dear friends, the character of things today is immensely altered. When I was an unconverted lad, I remember my dear mother somehow instilled into my mind as a child that there was something very wonderful in the book, and although I did not know Christ - I was not converted as a child - they told me I used after breakfast in the morning get hold of the big family Bible my father had been reading in, and I would squat cross-legged under the dining-room table with the old book on my knees, and there I was poring over the Old Testament and its stories. I attribute a good deal of the little I do know to the early training my dear mother gave me. If any of you here tonight are fathers, see that you instruct your young ones in the Scriptures. Inculcate the value of them, and beget if you can in their hearts a desire that they might learn and know the Scriptures, and possibly your son may turn out a hundred fold better than his father.
When it comes to this point in the 8th verse, we find Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat. He had a good chance of eating and drinking, and most men are governed by their stomachs when they are young, and even when they get up a little bit in life, too. Do not pretend to be men that are not influenced by this. We are so constituted that we are so influenced, but here comes in the opportunity for self-denial. It is a grand thing, purpose. Old Barnabas exhorted the converts that with purpose of heart they should cleave to the Lord. I exhort you tonight with purpose of heart to cleave to the Lord. I think purpose is a grand thing. We are far too much like those jellyfish that you always form the acquaintance of when you go to the seaside in the summertime. You say, 'Oh yes they are very pretty, but mark, every wave moves them. Young men today - lots of them - they are a mere conglomeration of jellyfish. They are moved by whatever comes along. Now, I ask you honestly, as you weigh up your own history, and cast a retrospective look at your life, so you think, my beloved young fellow-christian that you have been like Daniel, a man of purpose? 'No', you will say, 'no'. The man that can say 'No' is the man for a difficulty. If you will take the trouble to go back and read what God told His people in Leviticus, as to what they were to eat, Leviticus 11, and 22, you will find the kind of food God said His people were to eat, and what they were.not to eat. Then again you will find the story of the Nazarite, the man who denied himself wine from the day of his birth. Daniel says, 'I am not going to act on the world's lines. In plain language, he was a separate man. He had this sense that this does not exactly suit a man who belongs to God, and he therefore declined to mingle it in his food, to be on all fours, so to say, with the world about him. I will tell you what you will find. A separated man will very soon be an enlightened man, and the enlightened man will be the useful man and the useful man will be the preserved man.
Now time goes on, and he feeds on that which is exceedingly simple. Let me apply it. You will find that as Christians what you feed on will form you. I mean what you read. Reading today forms men's minds immensely, forms their feelings. If you are feeding on the stuff which is around you today, do you think you are going to grow up spiritually? Not you, nor I. You will have to be careful what you are feeding your soul on. You will not be the worse for carrying with you a small pocket Testament. That is where the Spirit of God will turn you to, to enlighten you, to feed you and refresh you.
Well, the curriculum runs by. Of all the places in this world, where would you have expected to find, or not find, I should say, a man of God who could unfold the mind of God? Most certainly not in Babylon. It was the last place in this world where you would have looked to find a man like Daniel. Now at the end of the days they come in before the king Nebuchadnezzar, and among them all was found none like Daniel and his companions; therefore they stood before the king. In all matters of wisdom, and understanding that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. I like to see men come out at the top. If you are in for some examination it is no evidence of Christianity for you to be at the bottom of the class. I know when I was a student up at King's, I must honestly own the Lord helped me to hoist my flag a little for Christ. They used to dub me 'Spurgeon' there. When they had their little go, it was my turn, and I turned the gospel guns on them till bye-and-bye they gave me a pretty wide berth. They all took for granted that 'Spurgeon' was a numbskull, and he would be at the bottom of the class. Well, they were surprised. They did not get all the prizes, I can tell you.
Daniel comes out here at the top of the class. I do not know whether you have noticed a striking verse in Psalm 119, verse 98. 'I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation.' That was the concluding point Daniel reached here. Of all in his class, of all in his college, the king felt these four young men could be trusted. They had wisdom from God. God helps His children if they are set to be here for His glory and for His service.
Well now, the next chapter, the second chapter, is not so much Daniel's personal history, but you get how he was used of God. What you have got in the second chapter takes place in the early part of King Nebuchadnezzar's reign. He had a dream. He could not remember the dream, and nobody could give him any light upon it. It is the vision he had of the great image. He had had that dream and could not recollect what it was about. He demands that his wise men shall recall the dream and likewise interpret it. They admit they cannot deal with this difficulty. Nebuchadnezzar was a very hot-tempered man, but I believe in chapter 4 he wrote of his conversion and published it to the world. That wicked and godless man was at length brought down, and he was brought to a knowledge of the Lord. Here in his hot temper he sends an order out that all the wise men should be killed, Daniel included. Now observe what Daniel does. He desired of the king that he should give him time, and he would show the interpretation. He went to his house and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, his companions. He was a great believer in fellowship and prayer. He gets his brethren together. First he was a separate man, next I find God helped him greatly and he was an enlightened man. Now I find he is a very prayerful man. What is the result of this little prayer meeting? It is a very interesting story. He goes to God with his brethren, and then was the secret revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blesses the God of heaven. There is something very lovely about this. When he got an understanding of the vision, he did not bolt off to Arioch, and say, 'I have got it.' He turns round and praises and worships God. He blesses God for the revelation. Then observe how he draws his brethren in, 'Thou hast made known to unto me what we desired of thee, for thou hast made known to us the King's matter.' If you can get another brother to get with you in prayer, do so. Show me three or four fine hearty young men who love to come together and pray, and I will show you men whom God will use. And show me men that are prayerless, and I will show you men who will drift along through life, one day happy and the next day miserable, and really no practical use. I never forget the night when I was converted I got an invitation to go the next night to a prayer meeting. That was a splendid start. If you have to do with some young converts, give them a nice, warm, affectionate shake of the hand, and say, 'We will pray together, and we will praise the Lord together.' It is wonderful how it works. Why is it nowadays we hear people talking of not much blessing? I tell you why. There is not much prayer. There is not much individual and collective waiting upon God. There is not the expectation, you see. I do want to stir your minds up, my beloved brethren over this matter, and I learn a great lesson here from Daniel. He goes to God in prayer to have revealed to him a most momentous thing, and it was revealed. When it is revealed, he gives God thanks, but delightful to me, he brings his brethren in. There was nothing at all of self in Daniel. It was fellowship. 'Thou hast made known to us the King's matter.'
He comes in to the king, and reveals to the king what nobody else could reveal. You have that remarkable story of the figures which stood before him, and which is a remarkable panoramic view of the history of the world, and the four monarchies that have dominated it. The Roman Empire is gone today. I do not doubt it will be revived again, but an empire that has perhaps thought itself as great is going to pieces in exactly the same way. The nation is on the downgrade today. The iron and the clay, what is firm, rigid, and divine in itself, is mingled with the clay, which is merely human. You see today how Socialism and all that kind of thing is working. The end will be exactly the same as it was with the empire of Rome. When Rome was at its full height, people began to get engrossed with pleasure, and money making and the like, and they lost what marked them as a martial nation, and they were overthrown. Today you will find it is the same thing. What marks the young men of today very, very largely? It is pleasure, and the acquisition of money so that it may be spent in pleasure. Daniel sees the end of it. He sees the stone cut out, and falling upon the feet of the image. That is the coming back of our Lord Jesus Christ in power and might and majesty and glory. The empire will come up again by and bye, but it will have this remarkable feature. There will be the recognition of an imperial head, and at the same time the ten kings. That is why I have little doubt Britain will come in, and not Ireland, and that is why Home Rule is bound to come, let me say in passing. I do not know when it will come, but it will come. Ireland never formed part of the Roman empire, and when that empire is revived, I have little doubt Ireland will then have what it is determined to have, so I have not the shadow of a doubt that will come. That is the value of reading Scripture, and knowing Scripture. You need not meddle with politics one bit, because a Christian belongs to heaven, and it is a great thing to see that a Christian belongs to heaven.
The result of Daniel unfolding the image is this that in verse 18, the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon. The king saw he was a man of wisdom and knowledge and could be relied upon. He was God's man in Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego over the affairs of his prosperity. Daniel sat in the gate of the king. He was raised to what we should term 'the Bench'. He was the Lord Chancellor to give a judgment in the place of the king, the most important position, perhaps that he could occupy at that time.
Now I pass over chapter 3, which does not give you Daniel's history. You find these three men who were influenced by him. Here is a very great lesson, my dear young fellow. You do not know what influence you have on the people round about you. Look at the influence Daniel had on these three men. His personal influence on them was this, it made them firm, and when Nebuchadnezzar in his impiety and folly put up a great big image of gold, what did those three young fellows say? They say to the king, 'If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us. If not, be it known to thee, O king, we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image that thou hast set up.' I think that is splendid. Look at it, those men with the fiery furnace facing them. What would be the harm of bowing down to worship? It is the king's command, too. But the King's command involved the denial of what was due to Jehovah, and that they could not give up even if it was to cost them their lives to maintain it. It is remarkable to see the result. Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished and says, 'Did we not cast three men into the midst of the fire. Lo I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and the form of the fourth is like a son of God.' What was the effect of this splendid devotedness? They got the company of Christ. If you want the company of Christ, you will have to be firm. You cannot have His company if you are going to let slip that which is very precious to his heart. God in his wonderful grace preserved them. The only thing the fire did was that it burned off their bonds, and set them free. We have to take care lest we get weak, and lose our moral fibre, or spiritual muscle, so to speak, which the Holy Ghost alone can produce in us.
Now there is only one bit more, and I am going to close. I find in chapter 5 Daniel is able to unfold things to Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar's grandson. You will find at the close of this 5th chapter again a bit of exaltation. You may say, 'Why the third place?' Belshazzar was reigning as joint king with his father, inside the city, and now the promise was that the man who could read the writing on the wall, he should be the third ruler. In fact, he was made Prime Minister. Daniel read the writing. Belshazzar was infidel, but nevertheless he proclaimed the tidings that Daniel was the third, and he was. It was not very long lived, his position, because the king passed away that night. But look at the next chapter, and you find somehow or other Darius came to understand about Daniel. Who was this man that was made Prime Minister in the very moment of the death of Belshazzar? You see what he does. It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 princes, and over these three presidents, of whom Daniel was first. I should call him Accountant General of the whole empire. He was the man whom the king held responsible for all the accounts. Well, what follows? He got hated. If you are going to be faithful to God you may expect to be hated. Your master was hated and rejected by the world, and men of the world will do their best to trip you up. Look at the man, they say to one another in verse 5. The princes and the presidents sought to find an occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom, but they could not, because he was faithful, neither was there error or fault found in him. It is a fine thing when you are in an office and you are surrounded by godless men, if they are able to say this, 'You will find no fault with his work. He is the best worker in the whole place'. Then they appeal to Darius's vanity, and say, 'O king, make a law that nobody shall be prayed to for 30 days except yourself.'
Look at Daniel in verse 10. When Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went unto his house, and his windows being open, he kneeled on his knees and prayed as he did aforetime. What effect had that decree upon Daniel? It had not a feather's weight. He was not driven to his knees in a difficulty. When the difficulty came it found the man in this condition of power. He had his windows open. Now you know the Eastern houses were built low upon the ground. He was not afraid of being seen. He flung his windows apart. I tell you what I think some of us would have done. We would have shut the windows, or drawn down the blinds. He had learned in his book that when God's people were captive in the land of the enemy, if they turned towards Jerusalem, and looked towards Jerusalem, and prayed towards Jerusalem, God would hear and answer. Here is this man in the face of an edict that consigned him to a den of lions looking towards Jerusalem. Very well, of course they come and find him praying and making supplication before his God. You know the end of the story. He was pitched into the den of lions, but you must remember, he came out of it, too, and he came out unscathed.
Now today there has been no book assailed like the book of Daniel. In our day Daniel is not cast into a den of lions, but he has got into a den of critics. Do you think the critics are going to destroy him? His book will come out from the den of critics, and when the critics are dead and damned, the book of Daniel will stand. It is the word of God. That is the point.
The story is a very beautiful one. That night the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting, and his sleep went from him. Darius had a miserable night, and Daniel had a grand one. The man in the den of lions passed a grand night, and the man who sealed him in could not sleep. The man with a bad conscience has an awful bedfellow. Darius had a very bad night, but in the morning he comes out with a lamentable voice, and says, 'O Daniel servant of the most high God, has thy God whom thou servest continually been able to deliver thee?' That is fine. I think we serve Him intermittently. Then said Daniel, 'O king, live for ever'. I am all right. You have had a miserable night, but I have had a grand one. 'My God has sent His angel, and shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me.' Daniel comes out, and his accusers go in and you will find, of course, the king exalted Daniel. He is more than ever exalted and confided in by the king, and this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. He lived through three kings.
We must not go further, except only I will draw your attention to one verse in chapter 10, verses 10 and 11. 'O Daniel, man greatly beloved.' If you can put at the end of your name M.G.B. that is the finest affix you can get to your name. 'Man greatly beloved.' By whom? By God. He greatly loves the man that is here for God, set for His will, determined to be by grace for Him. I desire, my young friends, that it might be so with you to purpose in your heart to follow the Lord, that He may able to use you, and to come and communicate His mind to you, expressed in these three words, 'Man greatly beloved.'