“We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” – Daniel 6:5
The book of Daniel is in its letter a book of the captivity of Babylon. The opening chapters are a narrative of Daniel’s experiences, written in the third person. The remainder is written almost entirely in the first person, and describes visions which were seen by the prophet alone. The book is one of marvelous interest even for its story, and contains some of those chapters in the Word which appeal to young and old alike, and which we love to read over and over again.
But the book becomes more wonderful and impressive when we know that it treats of spiritual conditions in which the soul appears to be captive and is threatened by worldly ambitions, which Babylon represents. Baal, Babel, and Babylon are words frequently met with in the Word, and they represent a state in which selfish and worldly ambitions aspire to domineer over spiritual things.
Daniel was a prophet. As a young man he had been marked for his unusual abilities, and was among the first of those taken into captivity by king Nebuchadnezzar. He was a man raised up by the Lord to hold his people steadfast during the trying times which were to come. He soon came into prominence in Babylon, and the Babylonians learned that he had a wisdom superior to that of their soothsayers, magicians, and astrologers. He could interpret dreams and read strange writings. He was feared and persecuted, but always remained steadfast.
Two striking pictures stand out in this sixth chapter of Daniel. One is that of Daniel disregarding the king’s command and kneeling three times a day in his chamber with his windows opened toward Jerusalem. The other is the picture of Daniel safe in the lions’ den, the angels of the Lord protecting him from the power of the lions.
We are living under spiritual conditions which these pictures portray. There is the Lord, our Helper and Protector, to whom we should always look. There are the powers of evil which seek to destroy us.
We have noted that Babylon is the symbol of the love of dominion. We are commanded to “have dominion.” There is a kind of love of dominion that is good. It is the desire to overcome obstacles, to rule over and govern subordinate things so that they do not interfere with those of greater value, the desire that urges one on to succeed in his tasks. Every difficulty overcome serves to spur him on to encounter others of greater magnitude. And, if his purpose is good, this love will aid him in fulfilling the Lord’s purposes through him. For to man was given “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
The love of dominion signified by Babylon is, however, not of this character. It involves the subordination of spiritual interests to those which are natural and material. This love of dominion acts in subtle ways. At first it may appear to be really interested in the welfare of those whom it wishes to rule. The king had Daniel brought to Babylon that he should be educated in all the language and learning of the Chaldeans. And as Daniel proved his worth, he was raised to higher and higher positions of power. In the chapter which we are considering he was advanced to the chief place over a hundred and twenty governors. He was preferred above the other presidents and princes because it was seen that “an excellent spirit was in him.” How often at this day the church is supported because of the use that religion plays in the maintenance of order, peace, and prosperity! If the ten commandments were obeyed, crime would be unknown. Even most worldly men can appreciate the beneficial results of religion, and are prepared to give outward respect to any religion which induces men to refrain from some of the grosser evils. Yet this outward deference is not sincere. It merely means that it cannot be denied that the whole social fabric of a country, its government, the stability of its business life, and the security of its homes are dependent upon a general acceptance of the ten commandments. What is denied is the Divine authority back of those commandments. Men are prepared to accept them as the product of an advancing civilization, of the growth of commercial morality, of the development of human ideals, indeed of anything which does not involve the acknowledgment of a Divine Being whose control is over the whole of the human race. Men are willing to make the second table of the commandments a part of their civil laws, as desirable and necessary for the external wellbeing of the country, but they evade the recognition of them as having any Divine authority.
“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.” So they approached the king of Babylon and induced him to make a “royal statute and firm decree” that to him alone every petition should be directed. By this is signified the desire of the worldly-minded that all beneficial legislation, all progress, all morality, and every good quality should be ascribed to a human origin, that they should be attributed to man’s unaided power.
This attitude is reflected in the “humanism” of today. Some may recall the poem “Abou Ben-Adhem,” which was an expression of this humanism in its early development. In this poem an angel is seen writing in a book of gold the names of those who love the Lord. Abou Ben-Adhem, made bold by a feeling of exceeding peace, asks if his name is there and is told that it is not. Then he requests that his name be written as one who loves his fellow-men, and when the list is complete, it is found that “Abou Ben-Adhem’s name led all the rest.” How often we find even those who ridicule belief in God and in His Word, professing and priding themselves on their love for their fellow men! This is the lowering of Daniel, the man of God, into the den of lions. “There is none good but one, that is, God.” If we do not look to the Lord, we look to self.
There is a constant temptation to ascribe our achievements, our successes, our mental and even our physical abilities to our own powers. This is to attribute to human prudence what belongs to the Divine providence; so it is written: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”
The action of Daniel which the “royal statute” and “firm decree” called forth is the symbol of the attitude which we should take. When he “knew that the writing was signed,” he went into his house, his windows were opened toward Jerusalem, and he prayed to his God. We should not let ourselves become enslaved by the conditions in the world. Our minds should always be open to the Lord. Three times a day Daniel kneeled in prayer. Three here denotes continuity. We should be constantly in the state of prayer and praise. While intent upon our immediate duties, we may seem to be prayerless, for our thoughts are upon our work, yet at all times our spirit may be kneeling before the window of the soul which is always open toward Jerusalem. The Apostles were faithful in this way. They were sent out as sheep among wolves, yet the Lord was always with them and they accomplished His purposes in the world.
We may undergo temptations. It may seem that we are doomed to defeat. But if we look to the Lord, His power will protect us. And He asks us to believe that He is ever mindful of us and that, if we look to Him, He will protect us from every spiritual harm.
“With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”