THE ANCIENT OF DAYS
"I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool : his throne was like the fiery flame, and its wheels as burning fire." Daniel 7:9
It is at this point in the book that the prophetic character is clearly seen and henceforward maintained. Men may criticise the book as apocryphal but one thing is very clear. Daniel is set forth as a man deeply concerned about the will of God, impressed with visions which, as we shall see, cannot be dismissed as unsubstantial, and is most certainly a man much in prayer. If we spend as much time in agonising prayer over his words as he spent over the visions granted to him, we shall then be endued by the Holy Spirit to test and detect the substance and power of his message.
It is not my intention to take a detailed study of the chapter because time does not permit and also, unless the mind his been prepared by preliminary information, no clear perception of truth would be possible. There are, however, three great truths set before us and if these are grasped the Holy Spirit will take us on to know more. You have here World Power, Divine Power and the Power of the Saints. To see those three clearly and in contrast and in comparison will be very helpful.
1)THE POWER THAT IS IN THE WORLD
In his vision Daniel tells us he saw four great beasts come up out of the sea diverse one from another. Nebuchadnezzar himself had previously seen a gorgeous image in four parts, an image which so gripped his imagination that in all probability a replica was set up on the plain of Dura. What Nebuchadnezzar saw as a splendid image, Daniel saw as a series of beasts. Nebuchadnezzar saw the empires of the world, so did Daniel. One, saw their political magnificence, the other saw their bestial cruelty and power. It is no exaggeration to say that the man of the world would be amazed and staggered if he knew how the things which grip his imagination appear to a spiritual mind. The cruelty of those empires, this bear with three ribs between his teeth, devouring much flesh, this last dreadful and terrible, cannot be doubted. Whatever magnificence Nebuchadnezzar may have seen, Daniel did not see other than the truth, for the empires of time have the hearts of beasts.
They arise out of the sea, which indicates their circumstance. The empires of the world are born out of crisis and chaos, bloodshed and strife. Empires rise and fall in blood. Troublous times make and unmake kingdoms. In the day of challenge, thrones totter and .kings disappear. At the same time, as in the interpretation in verse 17, these four great beasts are of the earth. As the sea indicates the circumstances in which they emerge, so the earth indicates their character; they are of the earth. Their power springs out of the earth, they come into being by earthly power, they are maintained by force, and their ends are in the earth. The union of Church and State may be a creed in the minds of bishops but in spiritual minds it is utterly fantastic, for the State springs out of the earth, while the true Church is from heaven. It is utterly impossible for the thing that is of heaven to be joined to the thing that is of earth.
In the last phase of world empire as seen by Daniel there emerges a horn, a little one, having eyes and a mouth speaking great things. You will find if you pursue investigation that the eyes and the mouth are suggestive of Satanic energy. It may be that the old days of burning at the stake are gone, I trust so, but that Satan can take hold of a government must be perfectly clear to all who know anything about the conditions in Russia today. For years peril to the Church from Russia has been foreshadowed. Our Lord said "Ye shall be hated of all men for My Name's sake," and there is no Name on earth that arouses the fierce hatred of the Bolshevik like the Name of Jesus. Satan is there. And may I say that he is in London too.
What has brought this Naval Conference to its present position? I would not doubt for a moment that there has been a genuine desire to limit naval armaments. And yet fears and suspicions have been sown. Nations are in fear. They are in fear of war, and so they prepare for war, and war comes not out of a matter which could not have been settled otherwise, but because of the deadly snare of Satan in the earth. World-power today is energised satanically. The hope of the world was once believed to be in democracy. However men did not foresee that as democracy had a larger share in policy, so democracy would have to have a larger share in defence and attack. With the result that in the days of democracy we have larger armies, more powerfully equipped than ever in the history of the world.
I do not expect the man of the world to see these things, but I am appalled that Christian men and women do not perceive them. Such is the world-power seen by Daniel and as demonstrated before the world today.
2)THE POWER THAT IS ON THE THRONE
There are two unique titles in this chapter and they are worth considering. There is this of " The Ancient of Days." Daniel alone uses it, and we must suppose that by it he sums up the thought of God as existent long before the great empires of time symbolised by the beasts. There lies behind the empires of men thrown up periodically in the passage of time, the Ancient of Days, enthroned impregnable, with myriads of heavenly beings at His command. I doubt sometimes whether we within the Church have seen Him yet as the Ancient of Days, unshakeable on the throne illimitable in His power, profound in His Purpose. If we did we should be less concerned with the ideas of man and more concerned with obedience to God.
I think our approach to Him in private prayer would be thought of as an august privilege instead of a duty we would gladly avoid. The House of God itself would have a new meaning. In it we should act with reverence, abysmal awe. It is one of the perils of our Nonconformity that we estimate His presence too cheaply, we forget He is the Ancient of Days, Who has breathed us forth out of His own eternity, Who is there the Master and Lord of our eternal destiny. In the night vision, says Daniel, " I saw one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven," and he " came to the Ancient of Days and they brought him near before Him."
Here is another title-"a son of man." It was a title taken by the Lord to Himself, and very few critics indeed hesitate to affirm that here is the source to which our Lord went for His word. Why He took it need not detain us this morning, but this much is clear, God gave it to Daniel that it might have its place in prophecy an instrument of thought and ideation ready for the Master hand of the Lord to use and wield. When our Lord on the early morning of His passion faced His accusers who enquired if He were the Christ, Mark tells us He replied: " I am ; and ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." There can be no doubt He was stamping verse 13 with His Divine authority. It was a vision Daniel had which can by no means be explained as an hallucination, for our Lord explicitly confirms its Divine and eternal authority.
It is interesting to observe that in this chapter the Ancient of Days is described in terms, which find their repetition in Revelation 1. where they describe the Glorified Christ, and the parallel indicates their marvellous unity. The thought however is clear. All peoples, languages, and nations are destined to serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting kingdom and it is not of this world in its stability, content, character or purpose. There lies behind its crown the mystery of a Cross. Its king has shed no blood but His own, His throne is built on sacrifice but not of others. At a great price was its prosperity purchased, but He paid it all. He spurned the legions of angels that were at His command and took the Cross for that was the way to a kingdom embracing the universe. It was the secret of a power that broke out of the tomb. When a man's eyes are deeply and widely opened by the Holy Spirit to the marvellous implications of this kingdom of redemption, he pities the nations in their blindness and prays for the coming of the kingdom and the appearing of the King.
3)THE POWER VESTED IN THE SAINTS
'I'he kingdoms of the world have little patience with the saints. They cannot understand them for the saints are in rebellion against the spirit of tlis world empires. The little horn is declared to be at war with the saints. Why should it bother about the saints? The saints are harmless enough. 'They commit no crime, they pay their bills, they create no social evils, and yet not with murderers and adulterers, not with brewers and bookmakers, but with the saints war is made. That very fact itself indicates the satanic energy behind the oppression. And the saints are thus worn out. It does not appear that they are summarily executed, but by unremitting persecution they are worn out..
Very few Christians are being shot in Russia, but thousands are being unmercifully worn out. Dr. Rushbrooke told us the other evening of Russian ministers and priests so broken financially, so deprived even of bread, that they have in despair become anti-god lecturers in order to get enough to eat. Let us not condemn them lest God permit us a similar testing, but thus are the saints oppressed by the satanic energies of the little horn. I am not saying that the events in Russia are prophesied here, but I am showing there is something of the same spirit.
But when the Son of Man comes in the clouds of heaven, the judgment shall sit, the kingdom of the little horn shall be destroyed. The kingdom into which the Son has entered shall be shared by the saints of the heavenlies. There are numbers of Christians neglecting their Bibles who think of 70 years here and then some sort of hereafter in Elysian fields, the conception of which is dim. The Scriptures do not talk like that. They speak of the saints of the heavenlies judging the world. "Know ye not," says St. Paul, "that the saints shall judge the world ?" The saints are already doing it. God, by the Holy Spirit, has given them discernment and they recognise one another. The saints of the heavenlies know already the Christian whose spirit is joined to the Lord in One Spirit, they know the Christians whose religious experience is of the soul and not of the spirit, and they know the man whose life is entirely in the flesh.
But while they discern they are at present called to suffer, and in the fellowship of the Cross they suffer now. But this discernment, now being developed and trained by the Holy Spirit, is for the greater task in the day yet to be. We are not anticipating dreamy eternities, but we believe that where Christ worked out redemption there it shall be applied in victory and for that not only must He reign, but He must reign through the Church which He has purchased with His own precious blood. Men today take little account of the saints. They make much of their lords and leaders, they respect their ecclesiastics and applaud even their preachers, but they have not the spiritual insight that can appraise and value the saints who know the mysteries of the eternal kingdom and are bringing it in--on their knees. Yet the sceptre is not with the statesmen as such, it is with the saint. There resides in the Church the energy which springs out of the blood of the Cross, the power that is of the resurrection, the body of the glory and that peerless eminence of experience which is immortality. May God open our eyes to see the chariots of fire and the horsemen thereof! That day is getting nearer and out of the dust of sorrow we shall be raised, by the Grace of God, to the glory of the kingdom of the Son.
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