The Beloved Man, Daniel
March 26th, 1972 @ 8:15 AM
THE BELOVED MAN DANIEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-26-72 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. Now in our preaching through the Book of Daniel we are in the tenth chapter, and the title of the sermon is The Beloved Man Daniel. Three times in the book is Daniel referred to as “greatly beloved.” In the tenth chapter and the eleventh verse: the Lord Christ in a theophany, said unto him, “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved” [Daniel 10:11]. Then in the nineteenth verse it is repeated again, “O man greatly beloved, fear not; peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong” [Daniel 10:19]. And in the ninth chapter of the book, the angel Gabriel said to him, “For thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision, for thou art greatly beloved” [Daniel 9:23], three times repeated, twice in the tenth chapter and one in the ninth chapter.
Often times, as you know, the prophet Daniel is compared with the beloved disciple John. They lived in different ages, under different circumstances, but both of them were near and dear to the heart of God, and both of them were given apocalyptic visions of the future that describe the story of mankind to the consummation of the age. Daniel is sometime called “the beloved disciple John among the prophets.” And John is sometimes called “the beloved prophet Daniel among the apostles and the evangelists.” Now the message this morning is why God so greatly loved him. “Daniel, thou art greatly beloved,” said the angel Gabriel [Daniel 9:23]. And then the Lord addressed him twice, “For thou art greatly beloved” [Daniel 10:11, 19]. Why did God love him so? I have four reasons.
One: because of his loyal, steadfast devotion in youth. In the story of the life of our Lord, there came to Him a rich, young ruler who bowed before Him and said, “Lord, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” [Mark 10:17]. And the Lord said to him, “Keep the commandments.” And the lad replied, “All these have I observed from my youth up” [Mark 10:19-20]. Then the next sentence says, “And Jesus beholding him, loved him” [Mark 10:21]. All the days of his life he had walked in the faith of the Lord. That was true of Daniel. As a young man, as a boy, as a youth he followed in the way of God.
When Nebuchadnezzar came in 605 BC and surrounded and took Jerusalem for the first time, he carried back to Babylon some of the sacred vessels of the temple [Daniel 1:1-2]. But of all of those sacred vessels there were none so sacred as those young Hebrew youngsters out of the royal family that he took captive back to the heathen idolatrous court of the king in Babylon. And there in that heathen court, everything was done to make the young men forget the God of their fathers; the meat and the drink that they were served, the life that they lived, their enrollment in the college of the Chaldeans to learn the wisdom or the superstition of the soothsaying of the Chaldeans. Their very names changed, that they might forget the God of their fathers [Daniel 1:3-7]. Everything was done to woo them away from the faith they knew as children and as teenagers. Did Daniel forget?
When the hour of trial and temptation came, and when he was accosted with the problem of either being true to the faith that he knew, taught him by his father and mother, or being once more answerable to the king concerning idolatrous practices—can you see the young man faced with such a dilemma? There in that great wondrous golden city of the Mesopotamian, those giant ziggurats looking down upon him, their summits crowned with victorious gods, and his Jehovah so despised, and the temple in which he had worshiped so destroyed, and the land in which he had grown up now a captive land under the iron fist of Nebuchadnezzar; can you imagine the dilemma the young man faced when it was either idolatry and its practices or being true to the faith?
But his father and mother had taught him as a child, and in a captive slavery position in the idolatrous court of Nebuchadnezzar, the young man made his choice. He was steadfast and faithful and loyal even in youth, and God loved him. Even as Paul wrote to Timothy, “Even as a child,” he said, “thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, from the days of thy youth” [2 Timothy 3:15]; all of his life he had been given to the work and the way of the Lord.
Now there’s something in that that I want to say. You know, there are many, many evangelists that I have known and heard who have lived lives of sordid sin, and then have been wonderfully converted; and their testimonies are marvelous indeed. When I listened to those men at the beginning of my own ministry, it threw me. What they said caused me to think that I had missed some great and unusual blessing because I had not been converted out of a life of debauchery and drunkenness and sordidness. And I used to lament before God that I had no marvelous testimony to exchange. There’s nothing unusual about my conversion. I was saved when I was a ten year old boy. Nor did I ever follow in the paths of debauchery, or drunkenness, or depravity. From the days of my youth I was brought up in the church, and in the faith, and in the Holy Word of God. And I used to lament when I’d hear those evangelists speak of their marvelous deliverance from drugs, or drink, or a thousand other debauched situations. As the days have passed I have learned nothing could be more mistaken than that, nothing.
It is the finest thing that a youth could ever know or ever follow, to be a Christian all the days of his life, to give himself to God from his youth. Even as the Lord loved the rich, young ruler, “Beholding him, He loved him” [Mark 10:21]; and even as God loved Daniel [Daniel 9:23, 10:11, 19], even in the days of his teenage years and of his childhood he was given to the worship of the Lord.
Why did God love Daniel? In the second place: because of his humility in exaltation; the life of Daniel reads like a romance. Step by step he becomes a man of tremendous national stature and influence until finally in the kingdom of the Medo-Persians, when the emperor divided the kingdom into one hundred twenty satraps; he put three men over it. And Daniel was one of the triumvirates [Daniel 6:1-3]. He came to a place of great exaltation through the years and the years of his life. From the days of his youth until over ninety years of age, Daniel was a man of tremendous national stature. Not only that, but his name became a legend in his own days.
Ezekiel the prophet was a contemporary of Daniel, and three times does Ezekiel speak of Daniel, naming him with the greats of Noah and Job [Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3]. It is almost fantastic and unbelievable the heights of fame and national stature to which the young man attained. Did that turn his head? Did that lift him up? Was he proud and conceited and self-interested?
All the days of his life, whether famous, whether nationally exalted, or whether cast down in the lions’ den, he was ever the same; humbly walking and bowing before God. The blandishments of the world had no effect upon him whatsoever. When Belshazzar offered to him the chain of gold and the garments of scarlet and to be third in line as king of the empire, Daniel replied, “Thy gifts be to thyself, and thy rewards to another” [Daniel 5:16-17]. His mind and his heart were fixed upon some other goal and some other devotion [Daniel 9:2-19].
How would you classify the pristine, marvelous gifts and excellencies of this prophet statesman? If you were picking out one above all others, what would you say in that did he truly excel? There are so many excellencies in his life and in his character until you hardly know which one would be above the other. In them all he seems to be flawless and faultless. Yet before God he bows so deeply.
Here in the tenth chapter of the Book of Daniel, when he saw the glorious vision, the theophany, the Christophany, the pre-incarnate Christ, he says that he “fell at His feet,” and his “comeliness was turned into corruption” [Daniel 10:5-8]. And in his bowing before the Great High God, the Lord touched him and said, “O man, greatly beloved, fear not, fear not” [Daniel 10:9-12].
This is one of the great characters of all time. And in humility and obeisance he cast himself down in fear and in reverential awe. Reading that, I thought of Job in the forty-second chapter, the last chapter of Job. Job said, “O God, I have heard of Thee by the hearing of my ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:5-6].
In the presence of the Great High God, he was so bowed. And the Lord said, “O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong” [Daniel 10:19]; for the visions that Daniel saw bowed his heart to the ground [Daniel 10:15]. They were visions of the destruction of the sanctuary, of the destruction of the house of God, of the destruction of the temple, of the destruction of the city, of the destruction of the nation. They were visions of war, and abominations, and desolations [Daniel 9:26]. And as Daniel looked upon them his heart quailed within him. But the Angel said, “Peace be unto thee, be strong, be strong” [Daniel 10:19]. God reigns and is sovereign. And Daniel, bowed before God, is lifted up [Daniel 10:19]. That’s the strength that comes from heaven. Before Him we bow, but God raises us up in assurance, in the hope and the promise of a more glorious tomorrow.
Third: why did God greatly love him? Because of his faithfulness in trial. In the delivery of his message the courage of the young man and of the old man is almost unbelievable. As a young man he stood in the presence of Nebuchadnezzar to interpret a dream; and it was a frightful one! It had in it the depiction of a monarch as being mad and insane; and Daniel had to deliver that message to him. And then in delivering it, Daniel pled with him––though a young man––Daniel pled with him to repent and to turn from his sins, to see if God would not be gracious and good [Daniel 4:24-27]. Why, in delivering a message like that, that the king himself would be insane and mad, with a spoken word he could have removed his head. But Daniel delivered God’s message faithfully.
Then as an old man, toward ninety years of age, he stood before the dissipated ruler Belshazzar; and once again delivered to him God’s message in faithfulness. He spoke of the dissipation and the sins of Belshazzar, and then he spoke of the destruction of his kingdom and the delivery of his empire into the hands of a coming general [Daniel 5:17-31]. How do you do that? Belshazzar could have taken his life at a word, but Daniel was faithful. And not only that, but he was no less so in his acceptance of the reward of his dedication to God [Daniel 5:29]. He was prepared for any eventuality, and he never wavered in that devotion, accepting any circumstance that might accompany it.
You know, rivals always hate excellence that they cannot attain. And Daniel was hated by his compeers. He was elevated above them [Daniel 6:1-2]. And in their seeking a destruction of that statesman, they were hard put in order to find some cause of accusation against him. His public life was flawless and his public trust was without fault. They found him vulnerable in one thing, just in one thing. Isn’t that a remarkable thing that when a man rises, the higher he rises the more will they find something to say against him, and the more will he be envied? For example, in Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King”, Merlin says, the great counselor of King Arthur––remember Merlin?––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 cared nothing for it.
Right well know I that Fame is half-disfame.
[from “Idylls of the King,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson]
And that’s what happened to Daniel. When he was exalted and elevated in the kingdom, he was despised, envied, and hated [Daniel 6:1-5]. Finding no fault, they found cause for accusation against him in his religion; for he was a non-conformist, he was a Jew. He was Judean captive. And there in that idolatrous court it was plain to see that he worshiped the God of his fathers in a way different from what all the king, and the court, and the people did worship their gods. They set a trap, and the king fell in it [Daniel 6:6-9].
Daniel had a choice. The Bible expressly says Daniel knew all about it [Daniel 6:10]. The trap could have been so easily avoided by Daniel. All he had to do was to close his window. That was all, close his window. Just close his window [Daniel 6:10]. He was a great statesman and a noble man; and in his seclusion, no one would dare have entered. He could have made any of his petitions to God in secret. By no word or gesture was he commanded to pay obedience to the king who was infatuated that they would for thirty days honor him as a god. He had no reason to be obdurate in his disobedience. All he had to do was to close the window and keep his religious devotions to himself, which most of us think is right and correct anyway. You’re not to talk about Jesus, nor are you to be open in your fanatical and zealous expressions of your worship of God. And that’s all it would have taken for Daniel; just to hide himself, and close the window, pray to God in secret.
You know, there is something absolutely sublime in the choice that that Judean captive made. Calmly, deliberately, without ostentation or pride, as he did aforetimes, he opened that window toward Jerusalem, a spot on the western horizon, and there knelt down and prayed three times every day [Daniel 6:10].
I think of Martin Luther; when he faced the trial by the prelate and the council and they demanded that he recount his faith, Luther replied that the soul must be free, and he 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.” Look at that word, “I dare not retract.” However there might have been commandment of men, there was a greater commandment from God. And Luther said, “I dare not.” And that same sublimity of purpose we find in Daniel. And God loved him for it [Daniel 9:23, 10:11, 19].
As usual, as he always had, he opened his windows toward the west, toward Jerusalem, and bowed down and prayed where anybody could see or hear. There’s a nobility about him that God loved. Daniel was worthy to be cast among the lions [Daniel 6:15-23]. Alley cats would have been more suitable for most men, or even mice; but it took a lion and a den of them to be worthy of the commitment of this Judean, captive Daniel. And God loved him.
Fourth: why did God love Daniel? Because he was importunate in prayer. You know, when I read these passages I, like you, am overwhelmed at the importunity and steadfastness of his intercessory life before God. The ninth chapter opens, “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].
Then when I turn to the tenth chapter:
In the third year of Cyrus the king of Persia,
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 in the fourth and twentieth day . . . while I was praying in the willows by the river Hiddekel . . .
You can just see the agony of his intercession. Our prayers, ours are so easily said and so quickly done and over with. In sackcloth and in ashes, in strong crying and tears, in mourning and in fasting, thus Daniel prayed [Daniel 9:3-4].
I suppose there are very few times in our lives when any one of us really prays. We just say our prayers. For prayer, real prayer has in it agony, importunity, tears, crying, soul-searching. O great God!
Are not all of the arts like that? How do you excel as a painter without giving yourself to it? How do you excel as a musician without giving yourself to it? How do you excel in intercession without giving yourself to it?
Do you remember when Euclid was teaching young Ptolemy geometry? The young prince, seeing the harshness of the outline and the difficulty of the learning task, the young Ptolemy said to Euclid, “Sir, is there no royal way that a young prince can learn geometry?” And the famous reply of the geometrician was this: “Young Ptolemy, there is no royal road to learning.” And the greatest of the arts is the art of intercession and communion with God; and it is an agony, in sackcloth, in ashes, in tears, in strong crying and supplication [Daniel 9:3]. And God looked upon Daniel and loved him [Daniel 9:23, 10:11, 19].
Could I point out one thing in his praying? And this is typical of the whole religion to which he belonged and which he so nobly and gloriously represents. Do you notice that his window is open toward the west, toward the west? His window is open toward the west. There’s a speck on the western horizon; the holy sanctuary and the holy city. And his window is open toward the west [Daniel 6:10].
Did you ever notice that the worship in the tabernacle was toward the west? [Exodus 26:22; Numbers 2:17]. Did you notice that the worship in the temple was toward the west? [Ezekiel 8:16, 11:1]. The worshipers always faced the west. Do you notice today that the Jewish people gather in their devotions at the Western Wall, the wall closest to the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary? They worship with their faces to the west in the temple and in the tabernacle. Why, why? Because the whole idolatrous heathen world worshiped with its face to the east, they worshiped the rising sun. And to them, the dawn and the sunlight with the rising of the sun represented religion to them. And contrariwise, corollary wise, the setting of the sun, the west represented to them death and darkness, defeat, disaster, gloom, and night. And the people of God turned it exactly around. They worship with their faces toward the west!
Let me show you something in the Book of Ezekiel. To the horror stricken eyes of the prophet, “The Lord God brought me,” Ezekiel writing,
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, were men with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshiped the sun toward the east.
It was an abomination to the Jew to worship the sun and to face toward the east. And they worship with their backs to the east and their faces toward the west. For toward the west, the sinking sun, that represented the trials of the nation, the tribulations of the people, the sufferings of the Messiah, and the agony of the cross [Matthew 27:26-50]. But out of the death and the darkness and the sinking sun came our salvation, our forgiveness of sins, our deliverance from the darkness of death and the grave into the glorious liberty of the light and promise and immortality of God [Romans 8:21].
Daniel, with his windows open toward the west [Daniel 6:10], toward darkness and toward the grave, and toward death, and toward the night; but out of it, the sufferings of the nation and the sufferings of the Messiah [Isaiah 53:1-11]—out of it the atonement of our sins, the forgiveness of our iniquities [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], and the salvation and deliverance of our souls [Isaiah 53:12].
Now I must close. “O Daniel, greatly beloved” [Daniel 10:11]; is he alone beloved? Does God not love anyone else? Does God not also love us? [Romans 5:8]. In the same Book in which his name is written our names are written [Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23]. The same blood that made atonement for his sins makes atonement for ours [Romans 5:11]. The same holy gospel that drew him to Jehovah God is the same gospel that brings us to the blessed Jesus [Romans 1:16]. And the same divine power that delivered and enabled him is the same divine power that enables and delivers us [John 10:27-28]. “O Daniel, greatly beloved” [Daniel 10:11]. God can call you by your name [John 10:3], “O greatly beloved,” all of us dear and precious in His sight and in His name [1 John 3:1].
And that’s our appeal to you this morning, to respond to God’s love and God’s invitation, answering with your life. In a moment when we stand up to sing, a family, a couple, or just you, today will you come? On the first note of that first stanza, “Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I make it now. I make it today.” Do it now. Come now. In the balcony round, a somebody you, on the lower floor you, as the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart, as the Spirit shall woo, as God shall say the word of invitation that I cannot say, will you answer this morning? Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up, into that aisle and down to the front. “Here I am, pastor, and here I come.” Do it now. Make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.