Trial and Triumph
May 23rd, 1971 @ 8:15 AM
TRIAL AND TRIUMPH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-23-71 8:15 a.m.
On the radio 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 sermon that I shall preach on the prophet statesman for some time, for some length of time. We have come to the end of the narrative portion, the biographical portion of this book. Beginning at chapter 7 and going through chapter 12 in the Book of Daniel, the subject matter is altogether different. The first six chapters of Daniel are narrative; but the last six chapters of the book concern the visions and the prophecies that God gave to this Babylonian captive.
The Book of Daniel is divided into two separate and distinct parts, right in the middle, just as the Book of the Revelation is. The Book of the Revelation, chapters 1 to 11, are one thing; and chapters 12 to 22 are something else. Both books, Daniel and Revelation, are divided exactly in the middle.
Now, before I left this narrative section, I wanted to preach one more sermon on the man himself. We shall use as a background the concluding verses of the sixth chapter of the book. After Daniel is delivered out of the lion’s den [Daniel 6:19-23],
Then King Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
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 forever, 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." [Daniel 6:28]
We shall first look upon Daniel as a type of the trial and triumph of the Christian. The apostle Paul wrote in the tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians and the eleventh verse, "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]. What I read therefore in the Book of Daniel, in the life of this prophet statesman, I am to remember that it is presented in God’s Holy Word for my encouragement. We shall therefore look upon Daniel as a type of all of God’s people who pilgrimage through the wilderness of this world. There are three trials that he sustained that are common to us: one, the trial of the flesh; second, the trial of the mind and the intellect; and third, the trial of the soul, the heart, a religious, spiritual trial.
I speak first of the trial of the flesh. This is the trial of which we read in the first chapter of the Book of Daniel. The trial upon the young man was fierce. He was a captive in a foreign court [Daniel 1:1, 3-6]. He was a trophy of war. He had been uprooted out of his home. He had been deported into a strange country. But in that strange land and as a captive slave in that court, he was given unusual preferential treatment, reception. He himself was of the seed royal [Daniel 1:3]; and being fair of countenance and agile of mind, the great golden king, Nebuchadnezzar, had chosen him [Daniel 1:6] to be trained, educated, taught, in all of the wisdom of the Chaldeans that he might be a wise man, a magi, to stand before the king [Daniel 1:4-5]. As such he had opportunity for advancement, preferment.
There were uncounted numbers of subjects of the king, citizens of Babylon and Babylonia who did not live in the king’s court, who did not eat at the king’s table, who did not drink the king’s wine, and who did not share the luxuries and comforts of the king’s palace; but this Judean captive slave did. Though he was uprooted out of his country, and made a slave in the court of Babylon, he had every open door for preferment and advancement. And therein came the most intimate of all of the trials and temptations that can come to a Christian soul; for the temptation is to be gracious, to be appreciative, to be friendly, to be nice, to be socially acceptable, to be neighborly.
You could not imagine a situation in which any man could ever find himself that would have in it so many facets of what it is to be nice, and hospitable, and gracious. He was not tempted to become a thug, or a murderer, or a violent man. His temptation was to be nice, to be congenial, to be sociable, to be acceptable. This was the way of advancement and preferment. There was spread before him the king’s table, "Eat." There was spread before him the king’s liquor, "Drink." And his advancement depended upon that gracious response.
When he spoke to the captain and to the master of the king’s household, the master explained to him that this was the program of the king himself, the bounties of the monarch, the largess of the kingdom, the hospitality and the graciousness and the kindness of the king himself. All were bound up in this sharing of the king’s table and of the king’s liquors [Daniel 1:5]. I submit to you that in my judgment there could never have come a trial or a temptation as fierce as that or as intimate as that.
What should the young man do? Remember, he’s a youth, doubtless in his later teens. He’s a youth. He is away from home. He is away from family. He is away from country. He is away from people. He’s almost by himself, a youth in the king’s court, offered these luxuries at the king’s table [Daniel 1:5-7]. And the decision that he made he made for himself [Daniel 1:8-16] which reminds me to say emphatically that what a young person is, he decides for himself.
I don’t consort with these sociologists and other pseudoscientists who, when they see a youth in trouble, he’s breaking the law, he’s breaking God’s law, he’s breaking man’s law, he’s breaking society’s law, and they say, "It’s not his fault. He’s a victim of environment." Or, "He’s a victim of society." Or, "He’s a victim of circumstance." Or, "He’s a victim of his friends." Not so. Any youth anywhere decides for himself, and he is responsible for what he does.
God made us all alike. We are sensitive to right and wrong. Whether, Jim, that’s a Ugandan over there in the heart of deepest Africa, or whether he’s a child in the high school system of the city of Dallas, they’re all alike. They are sensitive to right and wrong. And when they choose wrong, they know it. They are responsible. Youth chooses. Daniel was faced with a choice as a teenager. God made it that way. God made us like that. That is what it is to be free, to be morally accountable. That’s what it is to be created in the image of God [Genesis 1:27]: "I can choose." Look at this poem, it’ll say it exactly:
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 bear the vision and 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 to lose.
[Edwin Markham, "The Testing"]
God made us that way. You are absolutely morally free.
Now they may put your body in prison, but your soul is free. They may compel you to do a thousand things, but your spirit is free. And what you are is a concomitant and a summation of the choices you make in your life. When you choose the weak and the down, you become weaker and weaker. But when you choose the strong and the up, you become stronger and stronger. You are what you decide. You are responsible, and it is not the fault of somebody else. And yet that is a trait that’s been in us from the beginning.
When God stood before Adam, Adam said, "The woman, she did it"; and when God stood before the woman, the woman said, "The serpent, he did it" [Genesis 3:11-13]; always it is somebody else. But in God’s sight, never! We are personally, individually accountable. There are some who will sell their souls for a mess of pottage [Genesis 25:29-34]. They will compromise for any advancement or preferment. There are some who will be true to God unto death.
I don’t know of a nobler example in human story than that Baptist preacher John Bunyan, twelve years, twelve years languishing incarcerated in prison in Bedford Gaol. And any day of those twelve years he could have had his freedom if would agree to say one sentence: "I will not preach the gospel anymore." That’s all he had to say, "I will not preach the gospel anymore." But when John Bunyan was accosted with that decision he said, "I’d rather stay here in prison until the moss grows on my eyelids rather than promise not to preach the gospel of the grace of the Son of God;" the temptation of the flesh; the trial of the flesh; and we all have it, all of us.
Second: the trial of the mind, of the intellect; this is the second chapter of the Book of Daniel. The dilemma of the dream is very succinctly stated. Nobody questioned which way that decision turns. It was very simply, lucidly, plainly stated. "You tell me what that dream was and its meaning, or you are dead" [Daniel 2:4-5]. That’s simple. Anybody could understand that. Couldn’t you? "You either give me the answer, or you’re liquidated. You either tell me or you die. You either answer – – and I know whether the answer will be correct or not because I had the dream – – you either answer or you’re executed. One or the other." That’s very plain, isn’t it? Very plain; the temptation, the trial of the mind, and of the intellect, "You tell me or you die" [Daniel 2:5-9].
Well, the magi, the astrologers, the magicians, the sorcerers, all of that motley throng in the court of the king were there to give answers [Daniel 2:1-2]. That’s what they were chosen for, that’s what they were trained for, to give the answers. "We know," they said, "we know. We are the knowing ones. We are the magi. We’re the wise men. We know." That’s what they said, announced to the world, and that’s what they were there for, to answer. But when the king laid before them this simple dilemma, "You tell me this dream, or you are dead" [Daniel 2:5, 9], when they met the king they said,
O king, the God in heaven hath given thee a kingdom, but thou hast asked an hard thing; there is no man in the earth that can answer a question like that, none; he does not live, for that answer lies with the gods alone. We are forced to face it, we do not know!
The trial of the mind, and of the intellect.
Our world is overwhelmed and thronged by these modern magi, these all-wise knowing ones. They have all of the answers. "We are the students and the scholars of the day. We teach in the university and in the college. We write books. We have all of the answers. And we tell you certainly the Bible is not true. We tell you with assurance, there is no God. We write it down in great polysyllabic nomenclature in our learned books. There is no such thing as the Spirit of Jesus guiding the destiny of this world. We know."
So we bring to them the simplest questions: "Where did I come from? Where am I going to? What is the purpose and the meaning of life? And where did everything find its origin and what is its meaning? That’s what I want to know." And these magi, these knowing ones, look at you in blank stupidity and say, "We have no idea." And that’s why modern existentialist philosophy is one of abject despair, it is one of blackness and darkness. "We don’t know. We don’t know. There is not any purpose. There is not any reason. There is not any will. All of this whole universe and we in it are nothing but adventitiously placed in some kind of a swirling atomic universe that has no meaning. Came from nowhere, going to nowhere, and has no purpose behind it." No wonder they are despairing. Yet that is the answer of the magi today: "We don’t know."
Well, why don’t they know? The answer is very, very, plain; the trial of the mind, the trial of the intellect. There is nobody that can reveal the secret of the meaning of the universe and of life but Almighty God, nobody. All that a man can do is just to observe. He just looks. There is the sun that apparently rises in the east and sets in the west. He just looks at it. Here is the flower that blooms and fruits. He just looks at it. Here is life that grows and multiplies; and he just looks at it. Here’s mitosis; he just looks at it. Here’s osmosis. He just looks at it. Here’s gravity. He just looks at it. Here are all of these great laws of the universe; he just looks at them. He doesn’t explain any of it. He doesn’t know because the revelation lies in God. And the only way we ever know is in the self-revelation and the self disclosure of Almighty God.
A man can study, and study, and study, and study, and study forever and forever, and never know! We never know until God discloses the truth and the facts. It is God that revealeth secrets [Daniel 2:28]. And what did Daniel do when he was faced with that dilemma of the dream? He took it to God. And then, having an answer, he came before the king and said, "There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets" [Daniel 2:28-45]. He discloses. Then at the end the king answered until Daniel and said, "Of the truth it is, that your God is a God of gods. He is a Lord of kings. He revealeth secrets" [Daniel 2:47]. The only answer you’ll ever find to the simplest questions you want to know about you and the world and the universe and the future and the past in which you are inextricably bound lies in the Lord God.
That’s why the apostle Paul wrote, in the first Corinthian letter:
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men,
God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound those that are mighty;
And these things of the world, and things which are despised, God chose it here, and things that do not even exist, to bring to naught things that are:
That no flesh should glory in His presence.
[1 Corinthians 1:25-29]
And as the apostle adds in the second chapter of the first Corinthian letter, "For these things are spiritually discerned" [1 Corinthians 2:14]. A man has another faculty on the inside of him. He has his mind that can reason, and he has his eyes that can observe and see, but a man has another faculty, an intuitive faculty, a spiritual faculty [1 Corinthians 2:16]. And it is with the eyes of that intuitive spiritual faculty that a man sees God. He endures as seeing Him, who is invisible [Hebrews 11:27]; understands the things of the universe, where they come from, what life means, and the great consummation and goal toward which it is reaching. And without God, you will never ever understand; the trial of the mind.
Third: the trial of the soul, of the spirit, a religious trial; this is in the sixth chapter of the Book of Daniel. Three times, once in the ninth chapter and twice in the tenth chapter, Daniel is called the "beloved." "O Daniel, thou art greatly beloved" [Daniel 9:23, 10:11, 10:19]. He is called the "beloved"; beloved in heaven by the Lord and by the angels and by the saints, greatly beloved.
Why was he not greatly beloved in earth, on earth? Would not you have supposed that a man who had the genius of statesmanship to guide the destinies of an empire, who was impeccable in his judgments and administration, would not you have thought that a man against whom they could impute no error or mistake or wrong, would you not have thought that a man who was a benevolent, kind, gracious leader of his people would have commanded universal approbation? Would you not have thought so? Would you not have thought that he would have been as loved in earth as he was in heaven? Would you not? Yet he was as detested, this Daniel, he was as detested for his goodness as he was full of righteousness in his soul [Daniel 6:4-5]. How do you explain that? The trial of the spirit; the first man who laid down his life was a martyr to his religious faith, Abel [Genesis 4:8]. And in the Revelation, the last who shall lay down their lives are martyrs to their religious faith [Revelation 6:9-11], slain for loving God.
Did you ever hear of a decree such as the king signed in the sixth chapter of the Book of Daniel? "There shall be no supplication made to any god for thirty days" [Daniel 6:7], what an enormous extravagance. Who could afford it? If the sun sears the land, There is no supplication for rain. If pestilence decimates the people, There is no prayer for the staying of the plague. If fire or an enemy comes to destroy the kingdom, There is no appeal for heavenly help. Just as one might make a decree, "If you’re sick, you must not call for the physician; if you’re drowning, don’t appeal on the shore for one to throw out a life rope. If you are wrong, you’re not to make appeal for forgiveness." Where did that come from?
Why, it is very simple, and you see it every day in your own life. Where that came from is very patent and very simple. They manipulated their own gods. Why, all of us are made in the image of our gods, we are continually made so. And their gods were gods who could be manipulated. They made the decisions. They set the time, and their gods were to wait upon them. And if they chose for that decree to last thirty days, or ninety days, or a hundred-twenty days, or ten years, or a lifetime, it was up to them to decide. They set the day, they made the decision. They set out and signed the decree [Daniel 6:7-9]. And their gods waited upon them.
Hmm, can you imagine the response of Daniel to that kind of a god and that kind of a manipulation? A god who could be bribed, a god who could be bought, a god who could be cajoled, a god who could be made to wait upon our hands and upon our wishes and upon our desires, a god we manipulate; can you imagine the response of the great prophet to the sovereign Jehovah who reigns over all of the earth, the great God who has all of the world in His hands? [Isaiah 40:12]. As though we manipulated Him, as though He waited upon our decrees, as though He were our servant and slave, can you imagine how Daniel felt? Oh, the great sovereign Jehovah Lord God in whose sight the nations are like a drop in the bucket, in whose presence the peoples of the earth are just like the fine inconsequential dust in a balance [Isaiah 40:15], worms, dust, telling the Almighty what, when, where, how long. Oh, the great Lord God in whose hands my life is bound, our lives are bound, our world exists, the Guide and the Sovereign of all time and tide and history, oh! That’s why I cannot understand how a man could come before Him and not bow, and not seek His face, and His favor, and His will, and His purpose, and His divine pleasure, learning at His gracious feet [Matthew 11:28-29].
Now the triumph: and when that den was opened, and Daniel came out, "The king wrote unto the peoples, and nations, and languages, that dwell in the earth, I make another decree: the whole world is to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel" [Daniel 6:25-26]. How do you like that? Not these polysyllabic descriptions of God, "God the omnipotent", or "God the omniscient," or "God the immutable"; but, "the God of Daniel" incarnate in that man, a demonstration of God in his faith and in his life. And that’s the only witness that the world ever knows or observes.
And what a testimony when Daniel came out of that dungeon [Daniel 6:20-23]; I can just see the awe with which the king and his cabinet, and with the people looked upon him. And think of the encouragement to his people. And think of the blessing to the name of God in the earth; the triumph of Daniel, God’s prophet statesman.
O Lord, that we could shine and glow in our witness and testimony before Jesus, when the world looks at us, that they might praise the name of the great Lord God who reigns in glory.
Now, I’m halfway through my sermon. I will summarize the second half. Daniel is a book of prophecy. The Revelation is a book of prophecy. Three times does it say in the Revelation, "The words of this prophecy" [Revelation 1:3, 22:18, 22:19]; it is a book of prophecy. Daniel is called by Jesus, "the prophet" [Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14]. So the book is a prophecy. Daniel therefore is a type of things yet to come.
First: he is a type of Christ. Daniel was placed in a tomb. He was as though he were dead. And over the door of that dungeon den, there was rolled a stone and it was sealed with the king’s seal [Daniel 6:16-17]. And down there, fed to the lions, he was as one dead, delivered to death [Daniel 6:16], a type of Christ, crucified [Matthew 27:32-50], placed in a sepulcher [Matthew 27:59-60], a great stone rolled over it, and sealed by the seal of the empire [Matthew 27:66]. And out of it, the Christ arose [Matthew 28:5-7]. Out of it did Daniel come [Daniel; 6:21-22]. He is a type of Christ.
Second, he is a type of the remnant that shall be saved in the great burning tribulation at the consummation of the age [Revelation 20:11-15]. He is a type of the salvation of the Jewish remnant, in the seventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation. "These who are sealed, and who are saved of the tribes of Israel" [Revelation 7:2-4], who go through that fiery, furious, ordeal of the great tribulation; and the remnant is saved. And he is a type of those Gentiles who go through that burning furnace, that lions den, and who are saved; the remnant saved in the great tribulation [Revelation 7:9-14].
And the story is last a type of what shall happen to the enemies of God. "And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, they and their household; and the lions brake them in pieces, ere they came even to the bottom of the den" [Daniel 6:24]. There shall come a time of judgment upon the wicked. Wickedness and iniquity shall not prevail in the earth forever. There is a day when God shall purge it out. And there shall be established the kingdom of righteousness, and holiness, and godliness, and saintliness. And when sin goes, There is no more death, and There is no more sorrow, and There is no more crying, and There is no more pain [Revelation 21:4]. For when sin is cast out, and when Satan is cast out [Revelation 20:10], there is also cast out death and suffering and sorrow. And in the new heaven, and in the new earth [Revelation 21:1-3], we shall shine in God’s goodness as Daniel testified in his own inimitable, incomparable witness when he was raised out of the den of lions to stand as God’s man in the earth [Daniel 6:21-23].
Our time is gone, and we must sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it you, a family you, a couple you, or just you to give your heart to the Lord, to come into the fellowship of the church, to put your life with us in this precious ministry, while we sing this hymn on the first note of the first stanza, come. Make the decision now in your heart, wherever you are seated. And when we sing, down one of these stairways, into the aisle and down to the front, "Here I am, and here I come." Do it now. Nobody will leave until we’re dismissed. I’ll dismiss you in time to go to your Sunday School. But now we are waiting on the Spirit of the Lord. He has somebody to come today. They’ll be right down here in answer to the Spirit of God. Let us wait on the Spirit of the Lord. And if the Lord’s Spirit speaks to you, come. On the first note of that first stanza come, and angels will be attending you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.