The Beloved Man Daniel
March 26th, 1972 @ 10:50 AM
THE BELOVED MAN DANIEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-26-72 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. The title of the sermon today is The Beloved Man Daniel. In our preaching through the Book of Daniel we have come to the tenth chapter; and thrice in the Scriptures is Daniel called “greatly beloved.”
In the tenth chapter, in the eleventh verse, the pre-incarnate theophanic, Christophanic Christ says to him, “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved” [Daniel 10:11]. And in the nineteenth verse, the same Lord repeats the address again, “O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong” [Daniel 10:19]. And in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel the angel Gabriel, speaking unto him, said, “For thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision” [Daniel 9:23]. Three times he is called “the man greatly beloved.”
There are many people who, studying the Scriptures, will compare Daniel and the apostle John. The apostle John was called “the beloved disciple” [John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:20], as Daniel is called “the man greatly beloved” [Daniel 10:11, 19]. They lived in such different times and under such different circumstances, but they were so largely alike: their close walk with God, their drawing nigh to the very heart of the Most High, and the giving to them from heaven these apocalyptic visions of the unfolding future. Sometimes John is called “the prophet Daniel of the apostles and evangelists”; and sometimes Daniel is called “the beloved apostle John among the prophets.” They were very much in spirit and in heavenly favor alike, the beloved man.
Now the sermon this morning concerns why it is that God loved Daniel so. And I have four reasons as I study the prophecy and study the book. There are four reasons why God loved Daniel; one: because of his steadfast loyalty from the days of his youth.
One of the incidents that happened in the life of our Lord, going down through Perea and across Jericho to Jerusalem, on the other side of the Jordan River there came running to Him a rich young ruler, who knelt at His feet and asked, “didaskalē agathē, Good Master, Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” [Mark 10:17]. And the Lord said, “Why callest thou Me, didaskalē agathē? There is none agathe, but God” [Mark 10:18].
The young man openly, not secretly as Nicodemus did in the dark of the night [John 3:1-2], but publicly where everyone could see him, the young man knelt down before the Prophet from Nazareth, and asked how it is that he might find eternal life [Mark 10:17]. And the reply of the Lord was, “You know the commandments. You are a ruler in the synagogue, though a young man. You know the commandments [Mark 10:19]. Keep the commandments and thou shalt live.” And the young man replied, “Sir, all these have I observed from my youth up” [Mark 10:20].
Evidently reared in a godly home, evidently taught faithfully by the rabbi in the synagogue, all of his life he had walked in the rectitude of the Mosaic legislation. “All these have I kept from my youth up” [Mark 10:20]. And the Scriptures say, the next sentence is, “And the Lord beholding him loved him” [Mark 10:21]. There was something so fine about the youth; all of his life he had followed in the way of the Lord. That is Daniel. From a youth in the days of his childhood and in the years as a teenager, he loved God and followed the way of the Lord.
The Book of Daniel begins with Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army besieging Jerusalem in 605 BC. And then it says, “And he took the holy vessels out of the temple and brought them and placed them in the house of his gods in Babylon” [Daniel 1:1-2]. Then it also says that he carried with them captive some of the royal seed of the family of Judah [Daniel 1:3-6].
And out of all of the marvelous vessels that the king carried captive, a prey, out of Jerusalem to Babylon, there was no vessel so prized as Daniel himself [Daniel 1:6]. In every respect the boy, the youth, was commendable to God and to men. Then when the lad was brought to Babylon, there introduced to an idolatrous court, the first assignment, of course, was to make a heathen out of him, to make a pagan out of him, to make an idolater out of him [Daniel 1:3-7].
They sought to do so in the meat that he ate and in the drink that he drank [Daniel 1:8]. They sought to do so by changing his name to that in honor of a heathen god [Daniel 1:7]. They sought to do that in enrolling him in the college of soothsayers, to be taught in the wisdom––I’ve called it the superstition––of the Chaldeans [Daniel 1:4].
Then the crisis came in his life: whether he would acquiesce in such idolatrous practices or whether he would be true to the faith of his fathers. Can you imagine the dilemma the young man faced, when there in the golden city of Babylon, underneath those towering ziggurats, each one of which was crowned by a victorious god from whose lofty summit the god must seemingly have looked down upon that Judean lad, his Jehovah so despised, his sanctuary in ruins, and the very holy city destroyed? Can you imagine the dilemma the lad faced whether he would follow the dictates and commandments of the king or whether he would deny the faith of his fathers? Somehow the lad never forgot the training of his home. And when the decision was made as a youth, he made it for God and trusted God for the reward and the results.
You know, when I think of a boy who all of his life has loved God and been taught in the way of the Lord, I also sometimes compare it with the evangelists that I hear and the testimonies that they make. I rejoice in them. Some of them have lived lives of sordid sin. They have been drunk and debauched in drug abuse, in a thousand ways have they lived on the dark, seamy side of life. Then they were marvelously converted and stand up and say such glorious words of testimony. When I was a young minister beginning, I would hear those evangelists, and it had a frightful effect upon me. I felt what I had lost in not being debauched, in never having been a party to drug abuse; what a loss in my life that I had never followed in the ways that led downward, so that I also might have some marvelous ringing testimony to bear to the world. Oh, what a colossal mistake, what a blunder in my thought.
It is infinitely better for a boy to be like Timothy, to whom Paul wrote, “Remember that from a child thou hast known the Scriptures that are able to make thee wise unto salvation” [2 Timothy 3:15]. It is never any strength to a man to give himself to debauchery, or to drunkenness, or to drug abuse, or in anywise to compromise his life in sin, and iniquity, and degradation, and darkness, never! And the young man who from childhood has given himself to God is a young man like Daniel; and God loved him, loyal and steadfast even in his youth [Daniel 9:23, 10:11, 19].
Second: why did God so love Daniel? Because he was humble in exaltation. The story of Daniel reads like a romance. He was comely. He had intellectual promise, and when he was taken a Judean captive to the court of Babylon, he was prepared there to stand before the king. And he rose step by step to positions of highest honor and achievement in the Babylonian Empire, in the Medo-Persian Empire.
For the forty-three years that Nebuchadnezzar reigned, through the reign of Belshazzar, through the reign of Darius, and up into the first beginning years of the rulership of Cyrus, in all of those years the story of Daniel reads like an epic. Up and up and up, always upward, this prophet statesman raised his face and God honored his life. When the Medo-Persian Empire was divided into a hundred-twenty satraps, the king placed over it three men to rule; and one of the triumvirate was Daniel himself [Daniel 6:1-2]. So famous was this prophet statesman that even in his lifetime his name became a legend.
Three times does Ezekiel name him; and Ezekiel is a contemporary prophet. He lived at the same time that Daniel did. And Ezekiel names Daniel with Noah and with Job; a legend of devotion, and godliness, and wisdom even in the contemporary age in which he lived [Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3]. Daniel was a great, and a noble, and a mighty, and a famous man. Yet in all of his demeanor, in personal appearance, in gesture, in life, in word, in deed, always there is that air about him of deepest humility and obeisance before God. The blandishments of the world had no effect upon Daniel at all.
You remember when Belshazzar offered him a golden chain, and scarlet garments, and the third rulership in the kingdom [Daniel 5:16], the man unmoved said to Belshazzar, “Thy gifts be to thyself, and thy rewards to another” [Daniel 5:17]. His heart, his mind, his vision was on some other goal [Daniel 9:2-19]. The things of this world, the materialisms of life, most of the properties that most of us long after and seek after, to be rich, to be known, to be famous, to achieve, to be successful, all of these things were unmoved in Daniel’s heart. He was humble all the days of his life.
When you look through the life of Daniel, you’d be hard put to pick out one excellency above another. He excels, seemingly, in every area of life. He was splendid. He was magnificent. He was almost faultless and flawless. And if you were to pick out one characteristic that stood out above all others, you’d have difficulty choosing it. He seemed to be a combination of excellencies. And yet, with all of the nobility of his life, before God he is so humble and bowed. For example, in this tenth chapter of the book of the prophecy, when this Christophanic appearance, when Christ pre-incarnate appears before him, he falls at His feet and says, “My comeliness was turned in me into corruption” [Daniel 10:5-8].
I think of Job in the forty-second, the last chapter of Job. Job says to God, he who had been so proud in his self-righteousness and so ready to defend his integrity, argue about his own goodness and worth and merit, Job says in that concluding chapter, “O God, I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eyes seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:5-6]. That is the spirit of this beloved prophet Daniel.
However excellent he might have appeared before men, however faultless and flawless his excellencies as men looked at him and judged him, yet before God he says, “My comeliness has turned in me into corruption” [Daniel 10:8], humbly bowing before the Great High Lord in heaven. And the Lord said to him, “O man greatly beloved, fear not,” down on his face in reverential awe before the High God, “Fear not, peace be unto thee, be strong” [Daniel 10:19].
For the visions that God vouchsafed to His prophet statesman were terrors! The sanctuary to be destroyed, the city to be destroyed, the people to be enslaved, wars and desolations to the end; the burdens to the heart of Daniel was almost insufferable [Daniel 9:26]. But the Lord says, “Fear not, peace be to thee; be strong, be strong” [Daniel 11:19]. For however the vicissitudes and fortunes of time and life and national history, however they are, God still reigns [Psalm 93:1].
Oh, how easy it is for us––and I am guilty of it myself––how easy it is for us to feel that the battle ultimately is lost. The whole testimony of Christ is being subdued in the world. The church is anemic and compromised, eaten through by liberalism and blasphemous infidelity and unbelief. It’s lost its great missionary vision and passion. And the nation seems to be disintegrating. There is not strength in us and foundation upon which to renew and to restore our former glory. And the whole earth seems to be plunged into the very hands of those who deny God, whose very stated religion is atheism and denial. Oh, how easy to foresee the war and the desolation that was vouchsafed to Daniel, but God says to him as he lies on his face, “Fear not, peace be unto thee; be strong” [Daniel 10:19].
And Daniel in humility before God was bidden to trust in the great sovereign purposes, unchanging, of the Lord [Daniel 12:13]. And that’s what we are to be also: strong, not in ourselves, but in God, not in our purposes or plans or political maneuvering, not in our navies or armies or national constitutional assemblies, but to be strong in the hope of God [Daniel 10:9]. Such was Daniel, and the Lord looking on him loved him [Daniel 9:23, 10:11, 19].
Third: he was a man greatly beloved because of his faithfulness in trial. He was courageous as a young man, and no less courageous as an old man, in delivering the message God had placed upon his heart. Look, when he was a young man, he stood before Nebuchadnezzar and with a word Nebuchadnezzar could take off his head. But the young man stood in the presence of the king and said, “The vision is this, that you will be mad, you will be insane, and driven from the face of men for seven years” [Daniel 4:25].
And then the young man made appeal: “O king, repent of your sins and give your heart in trust to God that you might be delivered from so great a curse” [Daniel 4:27]. Can you imagine the courage it took for the youth to stand in the presence of the king and say, “You shall be insane and mad, and eat grass like an ox”? [Daniel 4:25]. But he delivered his message courageously and faithfully.
And then in old age he stood before Belshazzar. And there once again his life in the hands of a monarch, a despot, a tyrant, that could take his life away with a simple word, just command the soldier to run him through, Daniel stood there and reminded Belshazzar of the sin, and iniquity, and debauchery, and dissipation of his life and of his reign; and then pronounced his doom, that the kingdom was taken from him and placed in the hands of the Medes and the Persians [Daniel 5:17-31]. Ah, the courage of the man; and God looked at him and loved him but not only in the delivery of his message, but in his willingness to accept the penalty of his devotion.
You see, Daniel was elevated. He was promoted above his compeers [Daniel 6:1-2]. And rivals always hate the excellence they cannot achieve. And when Daniel, a despised slave, a captive from Judah, when Daniel was elevated and elevated and made one of the three rulers of the kingdom, they envied him and despised him and thought to compass his downfall. You know, that’s always true. There’s no one who is elevated, there’s no one who rises but that all around him there are those who are filled with envy and hatred toward him. Do you remember in Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King,” Merlin, King Arthur’s advisor? Merlin says:
Sweet were the days when I was all unknown,
But when my name was lifted up, the storm
Brake on the mountain, and I didn’t want it.
Right well know I that Fame is half-disfame.
[from “Idylls of the King,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson]
It was so with Daniel. Elevated, he was despised, and envied, and hated by those of his compeers, above whom he was raised. They encompassed his downfall [Daniel 6:1-5]. They did it in a trap. His public life was spotless. His every act was one of justice and fairness. He walked like a noble man from heaven itself. They could find no fault in him. But, he was vulnerable in his religion. He was a despised and hated and captive Jew. He was a non-conformist.
And they laid the trap. The king fell in it. “What an honor, what an honor. For thirty days I am to be god! And no petition is to be made except in me and in my name.” The king fell in it [Daniel 6:6-9]. Daniel knew all about it [Daniel 6:10]. How easy it would have been for Daniel to obviate those skulking enemies in the ambush they placed for his feet. All he had to do was to shut the window where he prayed, nothing else, nothing else [Daniel 6:10]. And why did he not do it? Could he not have offered every petition in his heart to God, and done it in secret where nobody would see, nobody would know? By no gesture or word was he compelled to do obeisance to the idolatrous king.
Why does he obtrude his disobedience? Why does he not keep his religion personally to himself? Why be fanatical and zealous about the name of Jesus? Don’t say anything. Don’t mean anything. Don’t be anything. Just keep it to yourself. Why didn’t Daniel do that? All he needed to do was to shut that window, yea, that window. He was a great man, one of the rulers of the empire, and no one would dare intrude into his personal presence when he was secluded in his own home. Just shut the window, yea, just shut the window [Daniel 6:10]. Can’t God see in secret? Why a public display? Why not utter your petitions alone? Why where men could see and hear, why? Shut the window.
There is something gloriously sublime in the choice of Daniel. Calmly and deliberately, without ostentation or vain pride, the Scriptures say, “As aforetime, as aforetime, he knelt down three times with that window open” [Daniel 6:10], toward a little speck on the western horizon, toward the city of God and the sanctuary of the Lord, and prayed.
You know, I think in the life of Martin Luther, as he faced the trial by prelate and council. Pleading for soul liberty, Luther said, “Unless I be convicted of error by the Scriptures or by powerful reasons, neither can nor will I dare to retract anything. Here stand I. I can do no otherwise. God help me!” That’s the stuff that God’s heroes are made of!
I think it was a compliment to Daniel that they put him in the lions’ den. Most of us would be more suitable with alley cats and still others of us maybe more suitable with mice. But Daniel deserved lions! He was put with the lions [Daniel 6:15-23], the great-hearted man of God who refused to bow or to hide his face. Just those windows as they had been in days passed, open toward the city of God, and he kneeling there in calm deliberation [Daniel 6:10]. And God looked at him, and God loved him [Daniel 9:23, 10:11, 19].
Why did God love Daniel? Fourth: because of his importunity in prayer. You look how the ninth chapter of Daniel begins. In the third verse, “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the Lord my God and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God” [Daniel 9:3-4]. Now turn to the tenth chapter and see how it begins. After the introduction in the third year of Cyrus [Daniel 10:1], then he begins:
In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks.
I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. And the four and twentieth day of the first month, praying by the river Hiddekel, Tigris.
Then he saw the vision of Christ [Daniel 10:5-6]. Look at that. His prayers were not flippant and light, flippantly said, indifferently uttered as ours are, whether we said them or not would make relatively little difference. They mean nothing to us. They mean nothing to God. But the prayers of Daniel were in tears, and in agony, and in sackcloth, and in ashes, and in fasting [Daniel 9:3]. And God looked at him and loved him [Daniel 9:23].
Prayer is an art, and like all arts there is achievement in it only in a full measure of dedication. If one is to be a painter, oh, the discipline of learning. If one is to be a musician, oh, the discipline of learning. If one is to be a mathematician, the discipline of learning. When Ptolemy, the young prince Ptolemy, was being taught geometry by Euclid, it was hard for the young prince. And he finally burst out to his teacher and said, “But Euclid, is there no royal way that a prince can learn geometry?” And Euclid the great geometrician replied, “Sir, there is no royal road to learning.” It is thus in our praying. Daniel agonized in sackcloth, in strong crying and tears, in ashes, in agony [Daniel 9:3]. He cried unto God, and the Lord bowed down to hear him. And God, looking upon him, loved him [Daniel 9:23, 10:11, 19].
May I pause here to point out something about Daniel and about the Hebrew faith? Daniel’s windows opened toward the west, toward the west, toward the west. The worshippers in the tabernacle worshipped with their faces toward the west. And the worshippers in the temple called upon the name of God with their faces toward the west. And today in Jerusalem the most sacred place hallowed for Jewish worship is the Western Wall, the closest place to the sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, which was on the western side. Why the west? Because the entire idolatrous, heathen, pagan world worshipped with its face to the east; they worshipped the sun. To them the west was the setting of the sun and represented death, and the grave, and the darkness, and suffering. But the east to them represented the dawn and the light; and the whole idolatrous world turned in worship to the east.
But the people of God turned their backs and worshiped in the opposite direction. They worshipped toward the west, toward the sinking sun, toward the grave, toward the darkness, toward the tribulation, toward the sufferings of the Messiah! [Matthew 27:26-50]. For out of the night, and out of the grave, and out of the darkness, and out of the suffering, God brought atonement for our sins [Romans 5:11], and resurrection for our bodies, and restoration and regeneration for our souls [Isaiah 53:1-12]. The Jew worshipped with his face toward the west.
Let me point out something to you here in the Book of Ezekiel. To the horror stricken eyes of the prophet, God took him, now I quote from, read from Ezekiel 8:16, “And God brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, there were men with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east.” And they worshipped the sun toward the east, which was an abomination to God and an abomination to the Jew, worshipping with his face toward the sunset, which to the heathen and the idolatrous, was the night, the setting of the light, the grave, death and darkness. But to the people of God the setting of the sun, and the agony of death, and the sorrows of the Messiah are but to us the grace and the mercy and the goodness of God that brought to us in tears, and in suffering, and in the cross [Isaiah 53:1-12; Matthew 27:26-50], and in the pouring out of the life of Messiah Christ the forgiveness of our sins [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], and our hope of salvation [1 Corinthians 15:13-53].
I must close. Daniel, so greatly beloved, is it he alone? No. The same Holy Spirit that led Daniel to that devotion leads us into ours [Romans 8:26-27]. The same blood atoning that washed away his sins washes away our sins [Romans 5:11]. The same divine power that kept him keeps us [Ephesians 3:20]. The same pen that wrote his name in the Lamb’s Book of Life writes ours [Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23]. And the same mercy of God that was so wondrously extended to him is extended to us [Titus 2:5].
Greatly beloved Daniel; put your name there: greatly beloved you. Christ loved us, and gave Himself for us [Ephesians 5:25]. God loves us, woos us, pleads with us, speaks to us, invites us [John 6:44, 12:32]. And this is our high, holy, heavenly open door to walk in it, into the blessedness and the goodness of Christ our Lord.
And will you do that today? In a moment we shall stand to sing our hymn of appeal and from the balcony round, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you; the throng of people on this lower floor, into that aisle and down to the front. “Here I come, pastor, and here I am.” Make the decision now in your heart, and on the first note of the first stanza, come. You, you, when you stand up in a moment, stand up, down one of these stairwells to come, into one of these aisles to come. “Pastor, this is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming,” or just you, as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. And on the first note of that first stanza, come now. Do it now. Make it now while we stand and while we sing.
THE BELOVED MAN DANIEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Loyal, steadfast for youth
II. Humble in exaltation
III. Faithful in trial
A. In the delivery of his message
B. Accepting penalty accompanying his devotion
IV. Importunate in prayer
A. Assiduously practiced
B. Open window to the west
V. Every true follower of Christ greatly beloved