Trial and Triumph
May 23rd, 1971 @ 10:50 AM
TRIAL AND TRIUMPH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-23-71 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Daniel, a Type of God’s People. This will be the last message delivered from the Book of Daniel for a long time. I felt, as I came to the end of the sixth chapter, that I wanted to deliver one more message on the life of this prophet statesman.
When we come to the conclusion of chapter 6 [Daniel 6:25-28], we enter an altogether different substance and matter when we start with chapter 7 [Daniel 7:1]. The Book of Daniel is divided exactly in the middle—just as is the Book of the Revelation. Chapters 1 through 11 in the Revelation are one thing [Revelation 1:1-11:19]. Chapters 12 through 22 in the Revelation are something else [Revelation 12:1-22:21]. The Apocalypse is divided exactly in the middle. The Book of Daniel is also. Chapters 1 through 6 are one thing [Daniel 1:1-6:28]. Chapters 7 through 12 are another thing [Daniel 7:1-12:13]. Chapters 1 through 6 are narrative and biographical. Chapters 7 through 12 contain the vision and the dreams of the prophet and their interpretation.
So before we leave the narrative, biographical section of the book [Daniel 1:6:28], I wanted to deliver this one more sermon on the life of this great prophet statesman. And they will be published this fall. I am working day and night on the sermons that have been delivered. And this coming week, the manuscript will be mailed to the Zondervan Publishing Company. And this fall, the third volume, the volume of sermons that I am preaching now, will be published and sent to us.
I shall read as a text the last verses of chapter 6:
Then King Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you (Shalom).
I make a 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 for ever, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be even unto the end.
He delivereth and rescueth, and He worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions
Then the concluding sentence:
So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
We shall follow this morning the life of this prophet of God as it becomes an example and an encouragement to us. For in the tenth chapter of the 1 Corinthian letter, the eleventh verse, Paul writes: “Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” [1 Corinthians 10:11].
If therefore, I receive the Word of the Lord, I am taught to believe that what happened to Daniel is an example for our benefit, and our blessing, and our encouragement. Therefore, the experiences of this prophet are an example for us who pilgrimage through the wilderness of this world. We shall speak therefore first of the Trial and the Triumph of Daniel. First, his trial and there are three of them: the trial of the flesh in chapter 1; the trial of the mind and of the intellect in chapter 2; and third, the trial of the soul, of the spirit, in chapter 6.
The trial of the flesh in chapter 1 [Daniel 1:1-21]: Daniel was a captive. He was a trophy of war. He was a slave, uprooted out of his country and deported to a strange and foreign land. He was a servant in the court of the king of Babylon [Daniel 1:1-6]. But he also was in a most unusually salubrious and solicitous place. He had every opportunity for advancement and preferment. Chosen as one of the seed of the royalty in Judea, handsome and brilliant, even as a teenager, the king chose him to be taught and to be trained in all of the wisdom of the Chaldeans [Daniel 1:4]. He was to be presented, after that university course, as one of the magi, in the counselors of the king. How many uncounted thousands there were in the city of Babylon and in the great Babylonian Empire, who were not so felicitously placed—he sat at the king’s table. He ate the king’s meat, and he drank the king’s liquor—that is, he was supposed to—it was prepared for him [Daniel 1:5-6].
He was unusually placed: and therein came the fierce and awesome temptation to the boy. For the temptation, the trial, lay in being congenial, in being hospitable, in being appreciative, and in being gracious; for he is selected among thousands and thousands for elevation in the king’s cabinet. And thus to receive with appreciation and gratitude the largess and generosity of the king was something that would but reflect a generous, and appreciative, and noble soul.
Remember also he’s a teenager. He’s a youth. And he’s away from home; away from his parents; away from his country; away from his people [Daniel 1:1, 3, 6]. And there, alone in a strange land, he has every opportunity for advancement and preferment, being thus wise in his graciousness and gratitude. Who would wish to insult the host so noble as the golden king of golden Babylon? And being a slave and a captive of battle, who would be but thoughtful and appreciative of the marvelous open door that the reigning monarch himself had set before him? [Daniel 1:4-5].
And so the trial that came to Daniel—to eat the king’s meat which had been sacrificed to idols and which he was taught was an affront to God, and to drink the king’s liquors [Daniel 1:5], which he had been taught brought woe and redness of eyes, that it stings like a serpent and bites like an adder [Proverbs 23:31-32]—what should the young man do? Shall he not be gracious to his host, when that host is the king himself? And when the master of the court says that “You endanger my very head if you do not be thus gracious and responsive” [Daniel 1:10], isn’t that a trial and a decision for the young man to make? And he’s alone. And he’s responsible to God, and he makes that decision [Daniel 1:8, 11-16].
We have an altogether different attitude today, taught by these pseudoscientists who say that the youth today are not responsible for the decisions they make. They murder, they rape, they riot, they pillage, they burn, they destroy, they rob, they kill—but the sociologist say they are not responsible; they are but the product of their environment, and of their circumstances, and of their friends, and the decisions they make and the choice of life they live is not accountable to them, it is accountable to something or somebody else. That is a lie of the first order! God’s Book says that every man is morally sensitive and morally accountable unto God [Romans 14:12; Revelation 20:12]. And whether that man be in the heart of Africa—where I preached, and the missionary was our guest this morning—or whether in a Stone Age Indian tribe in the Amazon, where I preached, or to the ends of the earth, there are no people, there are no families, there are no nations but who are sensitive to morality, right and wrong. And there is no teenager and no youth who lives, but that when he makes a decision he knows that he makes it, and he is accountable to God no matter what his environment, or what his circumstances, or who are his friends.
And this Daniel is a youth, and he’s by himself. He’s been deported and captured, and he’s a slave. And he stands before the king, and he makes a decision for his life [Daniel 1:1, 3-5].
You know, that’s a strange thing how God has made this life. It is made up of decisions and nothing else. That’s what it is. And that’s how God made us. The Lord made us free. We are spiritually and morally free. They can put my body in prison, incarcerate this physical frame behind stone walls and iron bars, but my spirit is free! No man can coerce my soul! Made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27], I am free. And those decisions that I make in my soul, make me. Look at this poem:
When in the dim beginning of the years,
God mixed in man the rapture and the tears,
And scattered through his brain the starry stuff.
God said: “Behold! Yet this is not enough,
For I must test his spirit and make sure
That he can dare the vision and then endure.
I will leave man to make the fateful guess,
Will leave him torn between the no and the yes;
Leave him unresting till he rests in Me,
Drawn upward by the choice that makes him free—
Leave him in tragic loneliness to choose,
With all in life to win or all in life to lose.”
[“The Testing,” Edwin Markham]
That is the way God made us. And the life is nothing but a reflection, and a repercussion, and a reproduction of those decisions and choices that we make, that freedom to answer before God. If I make choices that are wrong, and yield in trial and temptation, my life turns downward and downward and downward, and weaker and weaker and weaker. But if I make those choices in God, my life tends upward and upward and upward, and God-ward; and I am stronger and stronger and stronger.
There are so many who trade their lives for a mess of pottage. They exchange their day for preferment and advancement, would do anything in order to climb, to succeed, to get up, to get on, to get out, to get above—anything! But there are others who, under God, had rather die than to compromise God’s call and God’s will in their lives.
John Bunyan, our great Baptist preacher of the 1600s in England, languished in Bedford jails for twelve years—twelve years! And any day of the twelve years, he could have been given his freedom, had he acquiesced in one simple sentence. Had Bunyan said: “I will not preach the gospel,” the doors would have been opened. But he languished there twelve years in the jail in Bedford. And when he was accosted with a proposition, not to preach and have his freedom, or to preach and be incarcerated, he replied: “I had rather stay in this jail until the moss grows over my eyelids rather than to promise that I will not preach the gospel of the grace of the Son of God!”; the trial of the flesh.
Second, the trial of the mind, of the intellect: this is the second chapter of the Book of Daniel [Daniel 2:1-49]. The dilemma of the dream was very succinctly said. It was most distinctly and lucidly presented: “You either tell me the answer or you die” [Daniel 2:1-5]. I think anybody could understand that; that would be most plain. “You tell me this dream and what it means, or you will be liquidated, that simple. Now, tell me” [Daniel 2:5-9].
He called in the magi; he called in the astrologers; he called in the sorcerers; he called in the wise men—that’s what they were paid to do—to answer [Daniel 2:2]. That’s why they were trained for the king’s cabinet—to tell him. They said: “We are wise. We know. Ask us.” They were professional “knowers,” they were real Gnostics before the time.
So they come before the king, and the king says: Answer or die. And they answered and they said: O king, there is not a man upon the earth that can answer, that can show the king’s matter: nor is there a king, or ruler in the earth that ever asked any such thing of any magician, or magi, or astrologer, or Chaldean. And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other in this earth that could answer, but God! [Daniel 2:2, 10-11].
Well, that part of it they had sense enough to recognize: “We do not know. And we cannot answer, and there is nobody that knows or could answer but the gods. And their dwelling is not with men who are made out of flesh” [Daniel 2:11].
We have the “know-it-alls” today. They are the magi of this modern era. They are our pseudo-intellectuals: “We’ve got all of the answers,” they say, “and we teach as men of great learning and distinction in our universities and in our colleges of the land. We are the magi of the modern world and we know. We can answer. Why, we know that the Bible is fictitious. It’s nothing but legends and myths. We know there is no such thing as God. We know that these testimonies and revelations, so-called, of the great God in heaven, are nothing but superstitions of people who lived back in dark ignorance. But today, we are enlightened! We are the magi of this modern world. Ask us!”
Wonderful! Nothing would please me more than to ask. For there are great basic questions that my soul cries to know, and I’m like all humanity—God answer! Where did we come from? And where are we going to? And is there any purpose and meaning in life? Tell me, for the sake of my soul!
And the magi and the pseudo-“know-its” of this day say: “We don’t know. We have no idea where we came from. And we have no idea where we are going to. And we have no idea of any purpose or meaning in life.” And that’s why the modern world is plunged in existentialist despair: there is not any meaning, and there is not any purpose, and there is not any God. And we don’t know where we came from, and we don’t know where we are going to, and we don’t know anything.” And yet, they say: “We know it all.” You cannot know anything in yourself. You cannot. All that a man can do is observe, that’s all. He can see the planets swing; but that’s all. He can see the flower grow; but that’s all. He can see mitotic processes, and he can follow mitosis; but he can’t explain it! He can never explain it. The man in himself cannot know. All we’re able to do is just observe; but we can’t give the reason why. Nor can we offer any purpose or any reason or any goals.”
Are we therefore shut up to the blackness of existentialist despair? Are we therefore plunged into the abyss of darkness and ignorance? Just like pawns, like ships on the face of a moving river, just like atoms that are fortuitously concoursed and then break up. Is there any meaning? Is there any purpose in life? Daniel said: “O king, there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets” [Daniel 2:28].
God knows! And after Daniel had laid the answer before him, from answered prayer, the king answered unto Daniel, and said: “Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of [kings] and a revealer of secrets” [Daniel 2:47].
How does a man know? We know by the self-disclosure and self-revelation of God. We have a sixth sense. We have an intuitive response. There is something on the inside of a man that can see with eyes of the heart; can even endure as seeing Him who is invisible [Hebrews 11:27]. There is something about a man that is more than just the anatomical collocation of all of these organs, and pieces, and parcels, and atoms that make him up: there is something in him of God that can respond, and see, and understand, and know, and comprehend. There’s a spiritual part to a man that can be quickened, and enlightened, and taught [Ephesians 2:1]. Just like his mind can be taught, and he can understand. Just like his hand can be taught and trained, and it can respond. So a man’s soul, in God, can be quickened, and it can respond. He can see. He can understand. He’s a child of the great King. He becomes a man of faith, and wisdom, and understanding [Ephesians 2:1-8].
I’m not preaching something strange this morning; as though I had concocted it out of my theological chair. Listen to the apostle Paul. Writing to the Corinthians about the wisdom of this world and the wisdom of God, he said:
The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men…
God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of this world to confound those that are mighty;
And base things of this world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, even things that do not even exist, in order to bring to nought things that are:
That no flesh should glory before God in His presence.
[1 Corinthians 1:25, 27-29]
It is all of the Lord, if I am to know. As Paul writes in the second chapter of that same Corinthian letter: “For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him” [1 Corinthians 2:14]. They are idiocy to him.
Just like Edward Gibbon that I’m reading now: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I had a dear man here in the church who wanted to give me a book. Well, I imagine that he thought that I might chose some $2.50 or $2.95 book that he can get down here in the store. I told him I wanted the volumes of Edward Gibbon, The Decline and the Fall of the Roman Empire. God bless him. And he was generous enough to buy it for me. Edward Gibbon—one of the most capable and able literary figures of the age of King George III, of the generation of George Washington here in America—a tremendous intellect, but he had no idea or any conception of what he called the fanaticism of those first Christians. Could not understand it!
I can understand it. I can understand how those first Christians, in calm and in dignity and in quiet self-assurance, were fed to the lions or burned at the stake. I can understand that:
Enduring as seeing Him who is invisible.
For they looked for a city whose builder and maker is God . . . Wherefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them that city. . .
[Hebrews 11:10, 16]
“For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God” [1 Corinthians 2:14]. They are idiocy unto him; “they are foolishness unto him.” Neither can he even know them, as brilliant as an Edward Gibbon is, “because they are spiritually discerned” [1 Corinthians 2:14].
A man must be quickened in the heart, in the soul, in the mind, in the intellect, in the understanding if he is to know God. There is no knowledge of God apart from a self-disclosure and a self-revelation of the Almighty. You can study, and study, and study forever; and observe, and observe, and observe forever, but all you can ever see is just the outward phenomenon of God’s handiwork. You can never know Him, nor the divine will and purpose that lie back of His majestic work, unless you find Him in His self-disclosure and self-revelation. I come to know God—His name, what He is like; why I am here; where I am going—I come to know God and the meaning of the Lord only in His self-revelation in that Holy Book.
We must hasten. The first chapter, the trial of the flesh [Daniel 1:1-12]; the second chapter, the trial of the mind, of the intellect [Daniel 2:1-49]; the third trial, chapter 6, the trial of the soul, the spirit [Daniel 6:1-28]. In the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel, one time; and in the tenth chapter, two times, making three is it written: “Daniel was greatly beloved.” They addressed him as “O Daniel, greatly beloved” [Daniel 9:23; 10:11, 19].
Heaven loved him—God did; the angels did; the saints did—heaven loved Daniel. Would you not have thought that the earth would have loved him, too? Yes, there never lived a purer spirit. He’s like Joseph; he’s like Jonathan; he’s like Jesus. You would think all men would love Daniel. Here is a man with astute wisdom in administering the affairs of the empire [Daniel 6:1-3]. Here is a man who is impeccable in character and in life. Even his enemies could impute no flaw or mistake in his character or conduct. His administration was faultless [Daniel 6:4]. It was if a man had inquired of an oracle of God.
That great, benevolent, generous-hearted prophet statesman, would you not have thought he would have commanded the approbation of the whole world. No! For he is as detested and despised, this Daniel, as he is pure and holy [Daniel 6:4]. What an astonishing thing! The first man who died was a martyr to his religious faith, Abel [Genesis 4:4, 8]. And the last to die are martyrs in that awesome tribulation at the great consummation of the age [Revelation 6:10-11].
This Daniel, well, how it came about was a strange, strange thing. A decree was signed; thirty days interdiction to call upon the name of any god [Daniel 6:6-9]. What an unusual and extraordinary extravagance. Who could afford it? If the sun seared the land, could not pray for rain. If pestilence stalked through the people, they could not appeal that the plague be stayed. If fire or enemy sought to destroy the kingdom, no cry for help to heaven could be laid. Just as if a man were sick, he couldn’t call for the physician; as if he were drowning and he couldn’t plea for help from the shore; as if a man were a sinner and couldn’t ask for forgiveness. That was the decree.
Where did such a decree come from? The answer is very patent. It came from their idea of their gods. Man is always made in the image of his god. Yesterday, today, as long as we live, we are what we worship. We are the image of our gods and what kind of gods? These enemies of Daniel had gods that they used and manipulated. Thirty days, they said in this instance [Daniel 6:7], thirty days and all of those gods, Baal-Merodach, Ishtar, Nebo, ad infinitum all of these gods must with patience wait upon us. We have decreed and we have decided—thirty days, ninety days, one hundred twenty days, three years, ten years, a lifetime—we have decided. And God wait upon us!
Using God, manipulating God! No wonder the soul of Daniel felt an innate abhorrence. As though God could be used or dictated to or manipulated—the great God of all of the earth and the heavens and the eternities, the great mighty unapproachable Sovereign of the creation—to use Him and manipulate Him, a worm, a piece of dust. “Why, in His sight,” Isaiah said, “the nations are but as a drop in the bucket, as a fine inconsequential dust in the balance” [Isaiah 40:15]. And they proposed to decree, to manipulate, and to say: “Wait with patience until we have decided when and where and what” [Daniel 6:7].
What is a man’s place before the great High God? Down on his knees! Down on his face! [Daniel 6:10]. It’s in confession, subjection, submission: “Lord, Thou art God, and I but dust and ashes. Lord, it is not my place to dictate to Thee or decree. My place, Lord, is to sit at Thy feet and learn God’s will for my life. The choice, Lord, is with Thee. And Master, if the choice is difficult and hard, then Lord, there must come with it strength for the way.”
God must help me. Does He answer? Does He? Why, now, I speak of the triumph. All the resources God’s man ever needs in any trial is at his hand, near as an appeal, a prayer. And the man of prayer is ever destined to triumph. And Daniel comes forth. Ah, can you imagine that? The awe, almost ninety years of age if not ninety, at the call of the king when the stone is rolled away and that statesman prophet walks up out of the dungeon [Daniel 6:16-17, 19-23]. I can just see it! And the king stands before him and the courtiers, and the captains, and the Chaldeans, and the prince, and the throng stands around him, looking at him. What a testimony, and what a witness, and what an encouragement to his people. The king to all the peoples of the earth: “This is the decree that throughout my kingdom, men shall reverence and tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” [Daniel 6:25-26].
Look at that just a second: he didn’t use polysyllabic words to describe the great Lord in heaven—such as “the Immutable” or “the Omniscient” or “the Omnipresent,” but what he did say was: “The God of Daniel!” The only God the world ever sees in us, in us—our witness and our testimony before the earth: “This God of Daniel” [Daniel 6:26].
Well, as I said at the first service, that is one-half of my sermon. The other half, I just mention: Daniel is a type of Christ as though he were in the grave [Matthew 27:57-61; Daniel 6:16]—in the den, in the dungeon, in the sepulcher with a stone rolled over it and sealed with the king’s seal [Matthew 27:66; Daniel 6:17], and came forth alive [Matthew 28:5-7; Daniel 6:23]—a type of the triumph of Christ over the grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Daniel 6:22-23]. Daniel is a type of the great consummation of the end time [Daniel 12:4], a type of the deliverance of God’s Jewish remnant through the great tribulation [Matthew 24:13], and a type of God’s deliverance to those who believe on Christ through their testimony at the consummation of the age [Revelation 19:10]; all in the Revelation.
And Daniel, last, is a type of God’s judgment upon those who refuse the mercies of God. The enemies of Daniel were cast into the den, and the lions brake them [Daniel 6:24]. God intends that someday this world be delivered from iniquity, and injustice, and wrong, and violence, and sin, and wickedness. Satan shall not reign forever. No! Someday, God shall purge this world. God shall cast out Satan and cast out sin [Revelation 20:10-15]; and when God casts out sin and Satan, there is cast out with him death, and sorrow, and suffering, and crying, and pain. For these things are all passed away [Revelation 21:4]. That good thing God hath purposed for those who love Him [Romans 8:28; Corinthians 2:9].
We’re going to sing in a moment, and while we sing our song of appeal, a family you, a couple, or just you to give your heart to the Lord, would you come and stand by me? In the balcony round, you, on this lower floor, make the decision in your heart now. Do it now, right where you’re seated: “Lord, I decide for Thee, and I’m coming. I’m bringing my family, pastor, my wife and children, all of us are coming today.” You, a couple, just you and your wife, or just you alone, down one of these stairways or into the aisle and here to the front, “I’m coming, pastor. I don’t have all the answers, but He does. I don’t have strength for the way, but He does. I don’t know of a tomorrow, He does! And I’m trusting Him for it. I’m coming.” As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, on the first note of the first stanza, come. When you stand up, stand up coming. God bless you, angels attend you, as we stand and sing.
TRIAL AND TRIUMPH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Trial of the flesh
A. Fiercely brought into captivity
B. The decisions he made
C. Life is made up of decisions
II. Trial of the intellect
A. Case secretly stated
B. Pride and vanity of man
C. Only by self-revelation of God can we know Him
III. Trial of the spirit, soul, heart
A. Beloved of God
B. A type of Christ
C. A type of the faithful remnant during the tribulation
D. A type of judgment to those who refuse the mercies of God