THESE three studies are designed for those who are not able to give very much definite and progressive attention to the Book of Daniel. There are parts of Scripture which are, perhaps, better adapted for the encouragement and nurture of one's spiritual life and you may feel that this is a Book which you cannot altogether ignore, yet you cannot give it a prominent place in your study. If I can make some contribution in these three studies to the opening up of this Book in any way, then I shall have achieved my purpose.
I cannot give space to full discussion: I can only use the opportunity to announce conclusions, as one believes them to be of God. In attempting to give a picture of this Book in three stages, I am compelled to give a broad outline so that we may get a comprehensive understanding of the Book as a whole.
Now first of all, a word about the book itself. Is it history, or prophecy? There are those who find in it an extraordinary revelation of events as the world has known them, and, rather discomforted by the fact, prefer to believe that it is history. They claim that Daniel did not write it at all, but by someone in the second century before Christ. Of course a very "reverent hand", did it: (it is always a reverent hand does these things!) but it has been palmed off on to us as being from Daniel somewhere about the sixth century. They say that it really comes from this "reverent hand" which flourished somewhere about the second century before Christ, who was writing history, and trying to persuade readers to believe that it was prophecy.
I cannot spend time upon this issue except to say this that our Lord referred to Daniel as a- prophet. Now it is a very important thing that you should remember that our Lord said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." He was "true" in a very distinctive way. I am uttering what I believe to be true, and yet it may be false. To the best of my understanding and judgment, and with the utmost sincerity what I am now saying I believe to be true. But when our Lord said a thing, it was not that He merely believed it to be true, but because it was true. He is the only Man who has ever lived who has been the Truth-subjectively and objectively, speaking truth out of His perfect heart. That is the difference between Jesus Christ and everyone else- in the realm of truth. And He called Daniel "a prophet" because He spoke the truth.
Now a word about the man himself: Daniel-his name means "God is my Judge." Probably he was of royal descent, and a man of exceptional intellectual ability. He was about eighteen or nineteen years of age. He saw his country face a tremendous disaster. He may have seen the eyes of the king put out (Jeremiah ch.. 52 verses 8-11). He saw the walls of Jerusalem raised to the ground: he saw the magnificent temple of Solomon destroyed. He watched the Chaldean hordes take away the golden vessels of the temple, and he himself came under the foreigner's orders as he was What would be the effect of that experience upon a young man between eighteen and nineteen years of age? What would be the experience upon yourself if the Germans were to reach London and you saw some of our most prized structures destroyed and London laid waste? And then, when by an order of the Gestapo you were taken exile into Germany, what would be your state of mind and what would be your reaction of faith to an issue like that? That was Daniel's position.
We find the keynote of Daniel's character in Chapter 1 verse 8. "Now Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat nor with the wine which he drank." Here was a man in the court of Nebuchadnezzar separated unto God. A man of eminent probity to be compared in the Old Testament with Joseph in situations that were frequently parallel. A man who in the hour of great challenge to the nation proved to be God's pivotal man for that hour. God's pivotal man was not a king: not a statesman: not a general; God's pivotal man as always was a prophet. We do not understand the situation today if we do not realise that God's pivotal man when he arises at this time- and we pray he soon may do so- God's pivotal man for today will be a prophet of divine truth.
Now the theme of the Book is the unfolding of the history, the progress, and the destiny of the Gentile world. God had appointed Israel to be a light to the nations: but Israel failed: until it is recorded in the last chapter of the 2nd Book of the Chronicles, that God was left without a remedy. "There was no remedy." All that God had promised to Moses, and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had to be left in abeyance. God permitted Gentile nations that had been surging around Israel for centuries to come to a place of world domination, while Israel came into a place of permanent subservience, until there should arise in their midst a King in Whom God trusted, even the Messiah Himself. This Book deals with that period in which Israel is set aside, the period that our Lord names as "the Times of the Gentiles." You must clearly see that all through those "times of the Gentiles " God gave Israel into the hands of Gentile rulers. God gives Babylon into the hands of the Medes and Persians and the successors to power are always Gentiles. The history of nations is not written in their military might, but is wrought out by divine decree. That is another point to he grasped.
Let us turn now to our study of Nebuchadnezzar. Only two years after the events related in chapter 1, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. I suppose he could not remember it: but he wanted to get this troublesome dream cleared up. So the next morning he called for those who were the automatic writers, the exorcisers, and enchanters, and the Spirit-mediums. He said to them: "You know, I have been keeping you all these years because you are the fellows to help me out of a religious difficulty when it arises. Now I am in a corner. What was the dream I had last night? What does it mean? If you can tell me what it is I have some jewellery that I shall be very glad to hand round amongst you; but if you cannot- your heads will be chopped off!" Now I have always agreed with Nebuchadnezzar in this matter- not being in a position to share his wealth, and to hand out the diamonds. I have always felt that he was right. If you get into a difficulty like this, surely those fellows who are supposed to have contact with the invisible ought to be able to help you out of it. That is what people are saying today. If there is anyone to help us out it must be the religious leaders. However, the people are not chopping their heads off, but they are chopping their Churches out, and I think quite rightly.
Here is Daniel, twenty years of age. Mark you God has always been the God of the young generation. In our stained glass windows they have been given beards which give them an elderly appearance but most of them were young men.
Daniel said to his three friends, "This is serious: I suggest that we have a prayer meeting about this;" and those four young men laid hold on God in prayer, to know what was the dream, and to understand its interpretation. Presently Daniel, rose from his knees, and said, "God has given it to me," and the others believed him. The next morning he told the king's officer that God had given it to him. When later he stood before Nebuchadnezzar he said, "God has given me the dream and the interpretation thereof: it is not mine, but God's." This young man of twenty stands beforc this Eastern potentate, with his very life in his hands, humanly speaking; and he dares to affirm with confidence what was the dream. It proved to be true to the recollection of the king. Then Daniel had the audacity, in God's name to give the interpretation of the dream. He says, "There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets and maketh known to the King Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days." This is the young man who two years before had seen the defeated and dissemination of the nation; but his faith in God had never faltered. So Daniel disclosed to the king the image of varying metals. The figure of a man: and in contrast to that, "a stone cut out without hands;" that is to say: nothing human explains its origin. The action of the stone was to smite the image on its feet, with the result that the image collapsed; it was ground to powder and the wind blew it away like the chaff. "You Oh king are the head of gold,," said Daniel, "and you are the chaff which is blown away." Well there is not one man in a thousand in our Christian Churches who would have the courage to say that to our ruling statesman in England today.
It is all very well to read these delightful things in the Word of God and to say how brave Daniel was. But you need to put yourself right into the heart of a situation like this in the court of Babylon, which was under the domination and government of an absolute autocrat! We have not the pluck to speak like that to England. Gentile Government was not going to be a theocracy like Israel: it was going to be a government by men, "Thou art the head of gold."
Now this is the important point to he noted in this chapter. The stone does not grow out of the image. Your religious leaders say it does, but I believe Daniel. It is this, which will divide you from professing Christendom to day. First of all, the stone does not grow out of the image. 'The Kingdom of God will not arise out of the kingdoms of this world.... That is the basic principle from which you must not depart. Notice this also: there is no contribution by the image to the stone. In Christendom to day, everyone says, "It is the image that is going to make the stone, but there is NO contribution by the image to the stone. The stone is antagonistic to the image. The action of the stone to the image is not redemptive, but destructive.
God's investment is in the stone, and not in the image. The everlasting kingdom does not proceed out of the image. Get hold of these fundamental facts, make them basic, not only in your under- standing but also in your practice. Then you are bound to be a revolutionary Christian wherever you are, for man in his sin is incapable of realising the Kingdom of God, no matter what they say when they "Lift up your Hearts" at five to eight in the morning. These things are obvious, but they have to be underlined. It is not the divine revelation, when we tell people today, that out of the present Gentile disorder there is coming a new order. The only thing that the Gentile domination is facing with certainty is its absolute extermination by an act of God. These things are important, and if you do not agree with me look at the Word of God for yourselves. Here are some vital conclusions:-You cannot at one and the same time polish up the image, and be preparing for the stone. Either your hopes are in the image: either you are saying, "Oh God, bless the image: keep it on its feet: keep it brilliant and bright; centre everyone's hopes on the image." Or else you are saying, "Oh God, bring in the stone." You can pray one or the other of those prayers, but you cannot pray them both. If you are really going to come into the purpose of God you must see that God has His entire investment in the stone, and that He has no investment in the image. Are you beginning to realise that you cannot keep the image going? To put it rather bluntly, we have got to come to business, or the stone will be upon us!
Now we come to the plain of Dura. I suppose here was this image, reproduced by Nebuchadnezzar in its excellence. Now Nebuchadnezzar is concerned about worship. Every statesman has to come at one time or another to the serious subject of worship. You see, you cannot create national unity until you have got a national religion. You cannot build up a national unity apart from a national religion. Therefore, whenever a man is attempting to make a united nation he has got to establish a united religion; because you can only achieve national unity if you have solved the question of religion. Nebuchadnezzar can see that. Very well, There must be a united religion. Now of course, the State and the Church are quite distinct with God. One is political, material, visible, and temporal. The other is spiritual, the abiding-place of the Holy Ghost in the world, invisible, eternal, and supreme.
That Church, as a Body indwelt by the Holy Spirit, can never be subservient to the State. Wherever there is the worship of God it is a worship that brings out the individual, and is redemptive to the individual. So Nebuchadnezzar said, "Look here, we have no time for tender consciences. If you have a tender conscience I will see that you have a tender body also. I must get my world religion into action and if you don't step into it you will step into the fire." Well! Nebuchadnezzar is perfectly logical; he knows that, if you get men whose conscience are being exercised towards God, there must be an end of dictatorship. So there are these three men whose freedom of conscience arouses the fury of Nebuchadnezzar, and in their firm stand there is One that they look unto- the Son of God they come out of the furnace unscathed because God has been through the fires with them, and that is a never-to-be-forgotten experience by any human being- Nebuchadnezzar who had hitherto opposed them, now declares that nobody is to say a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. So there is a movement you see, in the experience of Nebuchadnezzar.
Now I come to the chapter, which is the consummation of our present, study, and it starts with a vision on the part of Nebuchadnezzar. He dreamed again. This time it is of a tree, a tree that is growing, a tree that reaches to the heavens, a tree that provides meat for all. While the tree is growing there comes a Watcher from Heaven, and he decrees; the tree is to be cut down and only its stump is to be left in the earth; "let his heart he changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him." Now when Daniel interpreted that dream for Nebuchadnezzar, he said, "Oh king Nebuchadnezzar, why don't you repent and mend your ways. Break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity." But Nebuchadnezzar did not profit by it for he was still absorbed with the greatness of Babylon, and the greatness of its king; he has now reached the height of his pride, and self-confidence and self-assurance. The decree goes forth and twelve months later Nebuchadnezzar becomes insane, probably for seven years. In the 34th verse of the 4th chapter we read "And at the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever and ever. Whose dominion is an everlasting dominion and His kingdom is from generation to generation." At the end of the days his reason returned to him. At the end of the days he humbled himself before God.
Now headship is always interesting. Adam was the head of the human race: and through Adam death passed upon all men. Christ, the Head redeemed the race, and life eternal has passed upon all who believe. Nebuchadnezzar, the head of the Gentile world, vaunted himself against God, and through Nebuchadnezzar we can see the same spirit dominating the nations right down to this very moment. After all, pride is insanity and every man or woman who thinks much of himself or herself, is in the first stage of insanity. You may smile, but it is perfectly true. I remember a nurse telling me when I was visiting a mental hospital that the only subject about which the patients talked was themselves. I said, "Is that an evidence of insanity?" "Of course it is," she replied. "Then you will need a tremendous number of hospitals to house the people who ought to be inside them," I answered. 'Whenever y ou speak or think about yourself, pull yourself up quickly, and say "This is the first step to insanity. It is perfectly true.
If you do not remember anything else, for your own sake remember that, and remember it also for the sake of other people whom you meet. Nebuchadnezzar said, "This is the great Babylon which I built" That was the first step of insanity. But when his reason returned, he praised God. I wonder if your, reason has yet returned. Are you praising God for His salvation? Have you praised God for what you have learned out of the fires of affliction and sorrow? Are you able to say as you read this, ''My reason has returned." "I praise God for a full salvation. I praise Him that He has redeemed me from sin?" The end of the Gentile world is to be a return to reason. "Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
Now we are moving to a great moment. There is a great forward movement going on in the world to day. We are able to say that the insane misgovernment of man by man is doomed. What a mighty message to announce to the world! We are able to announce to the world that God is carving out a stone for the fulfilment of His purpose. We are able to say that you can never judge the prospects of God by the position of the image. The image may he shaking, and the more it shakes until it totters the nearer will be the unveiling of God"s glorious Kingdom in Jesus Christ. Where are you? In the image? Or are you in the stone? Are your prayers for the image? Or for the stone? Where are your activities, in the image? Or in the stone? Where are you? With Nebuchadnezzar,-still absorbed in self? Or delivered from self, and praising God? If you are, delivered, and your heart is set upon the stone, then you will he able to say with calm and confidence and conviction-
Even so come, Lord Jesus."
"There is a very impressive phrase in Daniel chapter 10 verse 1:-"The thing was true, but the time appointed was long." In the Old Testament the word often used for a prophetic message of doom had the sense of 'burden' It was a 'burden' as being a heavy responsibility for the prophet with a burdening sensitiveness of keen sympathy and compassion, but also a difficult burden as being hard to understand. But it was a pronouncement that was TRUE, certain of fulfilment; for the prophet a task to be discharged, but UNDERSTANDABLE to all those, who opened their hearts to its message. Many more voices are asking the question to day: "Where is the promise of His Coming?" Well- 'the thing is true', though 'the time appointed was long. Let us therefore, 'be patient unto the Coming of the Lord.'
"ln the Revised Version the phrase reads: 'the thing was true, even a great warfare.' In our day we are wondering if we have not seen the worst that the devil can do, but there is a greater warfare yet to be witnessed and the close of that warfare would see the triumph of Christ in the setting up of His Kingdom." -Dr. G. R. Beasley-Murray, B.D.
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