Windows Open Toward Heaven
May 9th, 1971 @ 10:50 AM
WINDOWS OPEN TOWARD HEAVEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-9-1971 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 With Windows Open Toward Heaven. In Daniel 6, chapter 6 and verse 10:
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem (toward the west), he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
What had happened? The conspirators, who moved with envy and personal ambition, sought the destruction of this holy man of God, searched every area of his life to find some fault whereby they could accuse him; but his life was impeccable. His political administration of government as minister of state was faultless. He was noble, steadfast, faithful [Daniel 6:4]. And in despair, they said to one another, “There is no fault in this man. We can find nothing whereby to accuse him to the king.”
But the devil is full of subtlety, and he has an endless series of devious devices. And he whispered in the ears of those presidents, and governors, and princes, and satraps, and conspirators. He said, “How stupid can you be? Have you looked at this Daniel? Have you noticed his eccentric faith? He passes by in silent scorn your idol temples. He has no veneration for your divinities. He does not share in those genuflections, and worshipping, and adorations of gods and goddesses. Haven’t you noticed that?”
And the conspirators said to Satan, “Yes, it’s very obvious. But how can we find fault with him to accuse him in that?”And Satan whispered back and said, “Are you so artless as not to notice that the man is very religious? That he prays to an unseen God? I know him. I’ve enticed him with every reward and social preferment. And he would rather die than fail his God. You trap that man, you’re sure to do it because he is sure to pray.” And the conspirators whispered back to Satan and said, “But how would we find fault to accuse a man because he prays?”
And Satan whispered back in their hearts, “You are looking at the wrong one. You’re looking at the strength of Daniel; look at the king! Every man has a chink in his armor, every man has a weakness in his life; look at the king! I know him; he is subject to vanity and to flattery. Make him [god] for a month. Pass a law honoring him, that there is no one to pray to any god except to the king, and you will trap that Daniel like an eagle pulled down out of the sky.”
That’s Satan! He knows our strength. And he works day and night to cut, to sever, that cord that binds us to the unseen and eternal God. And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, what did he do? [Daniel 6:10]. What he could have done—he could have sat down in the chair in his house, and he could have thought within himself, “How shall I circumvent those devils? I know. I will fight cunning with cunning; and I will fight craft with craft. I will concoct me a scheme that will frustrate their evil designs. I know what I shall do. I shall go before the king myself, and I will uncover before his eyes that murderous plot. And I will call an assembly of all the statesmen and all the leaders of the Babylonian government, and I will accuse these designers and deceivers to their face! That’s what I will do!”
He could have. What could Daniel have done? “And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house . . .” [Daniel 6:10]. He could have temporized, that is, argued with his conscience. “Thirty days, well, we will just postpone the prayer meeting for thirty days. The brief time will soon be over and we will just let prayer go for thirty days.” Or he could have said, “My life is worth more to my people than my death. I ought to stay alive for the sake of my countrymen who are in captivity. Therefore, I will keep the king from doing a murderous deed, and I will foil the schemes of my enemies, and I will be astute in this and give not occasion or fault against me.”
And he could have said, “You know, the end justifies the means. I will just shut the window when I pray. And they won’t know that I pray, for I can pray in my heart. And God searches the heart. He knows that I’m praying. I don’t have to pray in that oratory, that little chapel, with an open window. I can pray in some other room in my house. I can pray in the cellar, and they won’t know it. I can live like a heathen though I am really a Christian. And I can look like a worldly, even though I am a born-again believer. So I’ll just hide my face out of sight. And for thirty days, they won’t know but that I am as godless and as idolatrous as any circumspect Babylonian that ever walked through the king’s court.”
Isn’t that a strange thing about the Lord God—part of His character? There is something in God that asks us to be open, and public, and unashamed in our devotion, and in our religious practice, and in our commitment. In the night of the Passover, the blood had to be displayed openly on the front of the house in the sign of a cross, on the lintel and on the doorpost on either side [Exodus 12:7, 13]. Why could not the blood have been sprinkled on the back door or in a closet? Because God said, “My people are to be openly and unashamedly committed!” There’s no exception to that in the whole Word of the Lord. “Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come and stand by me” [Exodus 32:26], cried Moses. And the Lord Himself said, “If, if thou shalt deny Me before men, I will deny you before My Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 10:33]. And the great plan of salvation, in Paul’s Roman, tenth chapter, is, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth, Jesus is Lord…” [Romans 10:9-10].
There is public prayer as well as private prayer. There is public reading of the Word of God as well as private reading. There is public worship of the Lord God as there is private worship of the Lord God. Daniel could have temporized, “I’ll just hide my faith out of sight until the storm be passed.” No! And when “Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks to God, as he had aforetime” [Daniel 6:10]. As he had done all of the years previous; whether the men said yea or nay; whether they noticed it or didn’t notice it; whether they approved or disapproved, Daniel went on his way serving God as he had aforetime. Just like the sun rises and shines, whether men notice it or not; just like the sea rolls in majestic tranquility, whether men observe it or not; just like these mighty mountain peaks rear their heads in snowy grandeur up to the azure sky, whether anybody sees it or not; just like the stars in their orbits swing around these suns in their universes, whether a man charts their course or not—so a man of a great, majestic, mighty spirit serves God, whether anybody approves or disapproves! Whether anybody notices or doesn’t notice, he goes right on his way. I think it would have been the same had Darius made public proclamation that he was abdicating his throne and that he was bestowing his crown upon Daniel; it would have made no difference in the man. He would have continued on just the same; whether in honor or in reproach, serving God, not for the approbation or the approval or sight of men, but because of the Lord God.
You know, I’d like to pause right here and say something to myself. “Lord, I’d like to learn that. I’d like to learn that. When men make attack against the Bible, let’s just go right on; let’s publish another and a new edition of two million copies—let’s do it!” And when they storm through our schools in liberalism, and modernism, and unbelief, let’s just organize us a Bible institute—teach the Word of the living God. And when the blasphemers and the scorners seek to make us look ridiculous as though we were half insane or certainly mediaeval, let’s just believe God all the more and preach that Book more fervently and earnestly. Let’s just go right on. Let’s us just go right on!
And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, went into his house; his windows being open…
toward Jerusalem, he kneeled down upon his knees three times a day, and prayed,
and gave thanks to his God, as he did aforetime.
I think of Nehemiah in the sixth chapter, when Sanballat and Tobiah sought to intimidate him. Nehemiah sent word to them and said: “Should such a man as I flee?” [Nehemiah 6:11]. Is a man who serves God to be a craven coward? The whole empire may go wrong, but Daniel doesn’t go wrong. The king may go wrong, but Daniel doesn’t go wrong. The people may go wrong, but Daniel doesn’t go wrong. I can imagine as he went to his house, as it says there in the Book, and climbed the steps of his house, it was, I suppose, like ascending the steps of a gallows. But that’s in the hands of the Lord. Whether to live, whether to die, whether to be fed to the lions, whether to be exalted as prime minister, to Daniel the reproach or the honor were alike before God.
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house;
and his windows being open in his chambers toward Jerusalem,
he kneeled upon his knees three times a day,
and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
So the strength of the man, the refuge, the comfort, is found in prayer. No man has been greatly used of God who is not a man of prayer. A prayerless man is a graceless man. The disciples, as they watched the Lord, came to the conclusion that there was some vital inter-relatedness, inter-connectedness between His outward life of power and miracle, and His inward, private life of prayer and intercession. They came to the Lord and said: “Lord, teach us to pray” [Luke 11:1].
Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, “What a man is down on his knees and alone before God, that he is and nothing more.” The outward life of Daniel was beautiful and noble in the court before the Babylonians because his inward life was holy, devout, and pure. So he has a place of prayer in the Jewish house [Daniel 6:10]. It had a flat roof and apparently on the flat roof of the home of this prime minister, he had a little oratory, a little chapel, and the windows open toward Jerusalem—had a place of prayer as the women at Philippi, they had a place of prayer down on the riverside [Acts 16:13].
One of the most memorable things that ever happened to me when I was a youth, as a teenager, holding a meeting in central West Texas, a rancher there invited me to noon meal. And after the meal he invited me to go out with him. The ranch house was built at the bottom of a mesa. And on top of the mesa we ascended and came to a clump of small trees; their heads bent inward and inside made a little open area. And in the center of that open area there was a root that came up, and over, and back down into the ground. When we stood there, he said, “This is my place of prayer. I come here every day. And I kneel and I put both of my hands on that root, and I talk to God.” And he said, “Today, I wanted you to kneel here by my side and let me pray for you.” So he knelt down with both of his hands on that root, had me kneel down by his side, and he prayed for me, some things I have never forgotten; and at the time, I had no idea why he should ask God for me in those areas of life.
A place to pray; I have a prayer rug by the side of my bed. It’s a beautiful prayer rug that I got in Tehran. Every day on that prayer rug by the side of my bed, I pray. A place to pray and a time to pray; “And he kneeled down and prayed three times a day” [Daniel 6:10]; at the blush, the freshness of the dawn in the morning, at the splendid noonday strength, at high noon, in at the shadows and twilight of the night; as the psalmist wrote: “As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud; and God shall hear my voice” [Psalm 55:16-17].
Three times a day: in the morning, at noon, and in the evening did Daniel pray. And there was a posture in his praying, “and he kneeled down upon his knees and prayed,” in submission, in humility, in yielded surrenderedness, “he bowed before the Lord, and prayed” [Daniel 6:10]. I do not deny that you can pray lying prostrate in bed, go to sleep while you pray; nor praying when you walk or drive the car or in the work, sitting down, standing up. But there is something about kneeling in prayer that does something psychologically to the soul. If I knew how to do it, we would pray in this sanctuary down on our knees, as our staff and as our deacons do.
All through the Word of the Lord they knelt and prayed. When Solomon dedicated the temple, he kneeled down upon his knees, before all the congregation of Israel and spread forth his hands toward heaven, and said: “O Lord God of Israel,” and prayed down on his knees [1 Kings 8:54]. When Ezra, in confession rent his garments, he fell upon his knees and spread out his hands to the Lord in heaven [Ezra 9:5]. When the blessed Jesus was in Gethsemane, He kneeled down, and prayed [Luke 22:41]. When Stephen, God’s first martyr, was beat to the earth by stones, he kneeled down and cried with a loud voice: “Lord in Thy hands I commit my spirit” [Acts 7:59-60]. And when the apostle Paul spoke to those men from Ephesus, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all [Acts 20:36]. And in the next chapter, when the wives and the children and the families came down to the seashore: “We,” Luke writing now, “kneeled down on the shore, and prayed” [Acts 21:5].
To kneel in prayer! And he prayed with thanksgiving, “He kneeled down three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks to God, as aforetime” [Daniel 6:10]. What did this man have to be thankful for? Hunted, and hounded, and badgered, and lied about, and persecuted, yet he kneeled down and gave thanks to God as aforetime! That’s when the Christian shines. I suppose anybody could be thankful for blessings whether he believed in God or not. I listened to Khrushchev one time speak, he referred to being thankful to God for so and so—an atheist and a communist! I suppose anybody could be buoyant and joyous, and buoyant and happy, and grateful when everything is shining and going his way; but to thank God for adversity? And to believe that “all things work together for good to them that love the Lord” [Romans 8:28], to give thanks as Paul said; be full of care and “be anxious for nothing, but in everything with thanksgiving” [Philippians 4:6], tell God all about it—a grateful heart; “Lord, Lord, You have been good to me.”
“And with his windows open toward Jerusalem” [Daniel 6:10], open those lattices and there, facing the Holy City and the holy sanctuary, praying for Jerusalem—dear to his heart, even though it lay in ruins. And for seventy years silence had descended upon God’s holy house and Holy City, but precious to him, for in that place the glory of God had been seen, and in that place the voice of God’s love had been heard. And he opened his windows toward the sanctuary of the Lord; he believed the promises of God that the people would return, that the city would be rebuilt, and that the temple should rise again [Jeremiah 31:1-40]. He could have opened his windows upon the marketplace. He could have opened his windows upon the throng passing by. He could have opened his windows and looked upon those glittering domes of the politicians who were then contriving his destruction in Babylon. Don’t worry about the throngs or any concern about the marketplace; nor burdened about the political situation in Babylon; when the time came to pray, he opened his windows toward Jerusalem and the sanctuary of God.
Let me read to you. And at the dedication of the temple Solomon kneeled down and spread his hands out toward God and heaven, and said, “If they have sinned,” if my people sin:
Against Thee: (for there is no man which sinneth not,) and Thou be angry
and deliver them in the hands of their enemies, so that they are carried away captives into the land of the enemy;
If Lord, when they return to Thee… and they pray toward this land… and this city… and this house which I have built for Thee:
Lord, hear from heaven… and forgive their sin—
and heal their land—
[1 Kings 8:46-50]
That’s what Daniel was doing—opening his windows toward Jerusalem and the sanctuary and praying to the Lord who answers prayer.
You know I can just imagine the light that streamed back from those windows out of heaven to the great statesman. I am not talking about just judgment, or discernment, or discrimination in political life; for he was a mighty and wise leader and statesman. I’m not talking about just political life and judgment, but I am talking about the vision beatific! I’m talking about this: do you remember when the Lord said to the Jewish people of His day, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad”? [John 8:56]. I think Daniel did the same and identical thing: he turned his face toward Jerusalem and toward the sanctuary, which was the only type of Christ he had in that dispensation. But when the Lord streamed back visions to his heart—we’ll come to this in time; in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel [Daniel 9:23-27]—he uses language that is identical with that of the apostle Paul! [2 Thessalonians 2:3-12]. Daniel, as he prayed and as God opened his heart and showed him things of Christ, it was as though he were standing by the cross himself [Matthew 27:32-50]; it was as though he was there at the empty tomb himself [Matthew 28:1-6]. It was as though he saw the ascension and the coming in glory [Acts 1:9-11]; God answered with light streaming from the portals of heaven.
And for us, our windows are open not by type, as Daniel. The only type of Christ he had—the temple, the seven-branched lampstand, the golden altar of incense, the mercy seat and the ark of the covenant—the type of the dispensation when he prayed. Today, we have the reality! Our hearts are open toward the heavenly Jerusalem, and we have the reality of the light, and the forgiveness, and our great Mediator in Jesus Christ [1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 9:11-15]. “For we are not come to Mount Sinai, with its thunder and its lightning and its great earthquake, whereby even Moses said, I do exceedingly fear and quake, but we are come unto Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the New Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven; and to the spirits of just men made perfect; and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant; and to the sprinkling of the blood that speaketh better things to us than that of Abel” [Hebrews 12:18-24]. Our windows are open now to the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:1-7], and to the Savior, who is typified by the lampstand and the altar and the mercy seat [Hebrews 9:1-5].
And now, may I say one other word? “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” [Daniel 6:10]. Now where did that come from? I will tell you precisely and exactly where that came from! He’s an old man now, ninety years of age, and he was taken captive out of Judah when he was a boy [Daniel 1:1, 3-4, 7]. But back yonder in that land where his fathers were buried, back yonder in that land from whence he was wrested as a captive and a slave, there was a mother, and there was a father, and there was a godly home. And they taught that little boy the name of God and the worship of the true Jehovah. And all of the dazzling glitter of Babylon could not blot that memory out of his heart. And now, an old man, ninety years of age, facing the greatest trial of his life—death by tearing apart—the old man turns his face toward the memory of mother, and father, and home [Daniel 6:10]. He never forgot it. Nor do we; nor do you. Nor will they, our children, being brought up in the love and nurture of the Lord [Ephesians 6:4].
And that is our appeal today. In a moment when we sing, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you; today, Mother’s Day, family’s day, God’s day, you, out of your seat, down one of these stairways, into the aisle and here to the front. “Here I come, pastor, and here I stand!” The Lord invites you. The Spirit of Jesus invites you. The angels invite you. God our Father invites you. God’s people invite you. While we sing this song, come. The whole family of you, the two of you, just one you, make the decision now in your heart, and when we stand in a moment to sing, stand up coming. “Here I am, pastor, I make it today. I’m coming now.” Do it. Do it. When you stand up, stand up coming. We’ll trust God for the rest. “Here I am, Lord. I cast myself upon Thee, and I’m coming,” while we stand and while we sing.