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Five Words on Daniel (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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June 8, 2024 4:00 am

Five Words on Daniel (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 8, 2024 4:00 am

If you’ve been singled out simply because you love Jesus or avoided because of your Christian morals, then be encouraged by a story about how evil schemes backfired when a godly man was targeted. That’s our focus on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!


If you've ever felt singled out simply because you love Jesus, or felt like you're being avoided because of your Christian beliefs, then you'll be encouraged by today's message.

You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend with Alistair Begg. Alistair is sharing a story about how evil schemes backfired when a godly man was targeted. Most of us know the story of Daniel, I assume.

We certainly know the early days of how he was gathered up and taken away into captivity, how he was part of a select group of outstanding young men, how he purposed in his heart that he would not engage in defilement, how his name was changed, his education was changed, and so many things were changed in his life. And yet through it all, distanced by many miles from familiarity and from family, Daniel stands out as a man of integrity in the midst of the declension of his day. By the time we arrive at the sixth chapter of Daniel, many years have passed. Daniel's accent would no longer be distinguishable, probably, from the people around him. He would have watched his family all grow up and mature in what was an alien context. His loyalty within the framework and structure of this environment had been unquestionable over many years now, and he was a man of consistency—a consistency which he had displayed through a succession of kingdoms coming and going.

He had served under Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, and now he was serving under the rule of Darius. We can probably safely estimate that by this time Daniel was seventy or eighty years old. Seems so far away, does it not? Now, quote Paul Simon just one more time for you. Old friends, old friends, sit on their park bench like bookends.

Newspaper blown through the grass falls on the round toes of the high shoes of the old friends. Can you imagine us, years from today, sharing a park bench quietly? How terribly strange to be seventy, old friends.

And as strange as it seemed in the sixties, when I used to pick the song out on the guitar, it doesn't seem so strange tonight. But it'll seem bizarre to most of you. You'll say, Yes, he is losing it a little bit. He's obviously moving in that direction himself. After all, he should know that we are a long way from that.

Listen, you're a lot closer than you realize, let me tell you. And the consistency of Daniel in the ages of seventy and eighty in those decades was directly related to the choices that he made when he was your age tonight. We might have expected that Daniel by this stage was living somewhere in a gatehouse of the royal palace. When people came on tours, you know, the sort of sixth-century BC coach party trips, they would come down the road and expect to see Daniel pottering around in the garden somewhere. And they would crane their necks out of the charioteer's coach, and they would look and try and see him.

No such picture is accurate. He was like Caleb, here I am, still alive today, eighty-five years old. Give me this mountain. I'm ready for more.

I'm ready for action. Still going strong, still marked by these elements of commitment. And tonight, those of us who are a little younger, who were born a little later, have discovered that God is able to save and keep through these early days. Some of us in our middle years are able to give testimony to God's goodness and his faithfulness, but we're looking now for those who've run a little further round the track.

We're looking for those who are closer to breasting the tape, and we're looking for men and for women who will finish well. It is said that few individuals finish well. Eric Little, who ran to Olympic gold in the 1924 Olympics but was better known for his unwillingness to run in the heats because they fell on the Lord's Day, was once asked, what was the secret to his success in running the 400 meters? And he replied, The secret of my success in the 400 meters is that I run the first 200 as hard as I can. Then for the second 200, with God's help, I run harder. And when the Edinburgh Evening Post—Evening News, I beg your pardon—wrote concerning his victory in Paris, they said it was the last 50 meters that meant the making or the breaking of little. The last 50 meters. How many sorry tales are there in the course of church history of people who, in the last 50 meters, somehow or another, capitulated, fell apart, gave up, keeled over, disintegrated?

But not Daniel. True to the end. Now, I have five words for you to try and summarize this.

I'll go through them as quickly as I can. Number one, Daniel is introduced to as someone who was distinguished. If you have an NIV in front of you, you'll find the word in the third verse. Now, Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps. The structure of government is there for you as you scan the opening verses—120 satraps whose responsibility extended to various parts of the kingdom. They in turn were under the jurisdiction of three men.

The job of each one was to ensure that the king didn't suffer loss—presumably not suffering the loss of revenue, not suffering the loss of little pieces of territory out on the fringe of the empire—they were to be men of integrity guarding the king's interest. And what we're told is that although these fellows were possessed of certain characteristics, Daniel stood head and shoulders above them. He was a man of exceptional capabilities. And so much so that the king had decided that of the three, he was the man to become his prime minister.

And that's what it says in verse 3. The king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. He had distinguished himself by two things, largely—by the quality of his life, the quality factor.

Actually, the quality factors. He was exceptional. When you read the early chapters of Daniel, you know that he had an extraordinary capacity for facing and overcoming difficulties. He had come up trumps on numerous occasions by his ability to explain dreams. He had uncanny wisdom which he brought to bear upon particular circumstances and which had enabled him to give practical judgments which had actually altered the course of human history.

His colleagues around him were jealous of him. They knew this to be true of him, and they knew that they couldn't catch him out, as they wanted to do, on the basis of the responsibilities of his job. In the second half of verse 4, we're told, they could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. And verses 6–9 provide us with the record of these colleagues of his going to persuade the king to issue an edict that would be short enough for them to be able to cope with and long enough to give them time to trap Daniel.

And the reason they wanted to trap him was simply so that he didn't get the top job. They go into the king, verse 6 tells us, en masse. There's always safety in numbers in a show of solidarity. They are less than truthful.

They run through the ranks of the people who think this is a great idea. If Darius had had his thinking cap on, he would have said, Is Daniel involved in this? But he wasn't thinking. He perhaps was considering other elements, or he was overwhelmed by the people that came in numbers, and so they were able to manipulate the king. They appealed to his ego, and they told him, Listen, I want you to issue this edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days… Now, notice the next little phrase, except to you, O king. Now, if you're a king, that probably feels really good.

That makes you feel really kingly, you know. We want to make sure that nobody's doing anything towards any god or any other man except to you, Darius. These individuals are cool, they're calculated, their spite and their hatred is deep-seated. And they are responding to the quality factor in Daniel's life.

Also, they are responding to the integrity factor. The kind of positions that Daniel had enjoyed to this point in his life were all susceptible to corruption and to graft. If he had been a rascal and he had been a bad character, then by this time he could have stashed a ton of money. But he had distinguished himself by saying no to all kinds of dishonesty, and he was blameless. He was neither negligent nor was he corrupt. In other words, there was no gap between his public activities and his private life. He didn't cheat at work, and he didn't cheat at home. He didn't cheat on his wife, he didn't cheat on his tests, and he just flat-out didn't cheat. I don't know what contemporary politics would have done with Daniel, do you?

Goodness gracious, they would have said, Who is this individual? You mean to tell me that every stone we overturn, every investigative journalistic venture we engage upon, reveals the quality and integrity of his life? That this man, somehow or another, has a crystal-clear approach to living? That he is a man consumed with a passion for purity in terms of his morality and in terms of his integrity and in terms of the quality of his existence? Yes!

Yes! Daniel realized that God was interested and is interested, first of all with the worker and then with the work he is doing. Daniel is the embodiment of Micah 6.8.

He has showed you, O man, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. And people would have said, I wonder who's doing that? And the answer would have been, There is one fellow, and his name is Daniel. He was a man of stability in a shaky world, a man of purity in a dirty world, a man of integrity in a shady world.

Therefore, it is no surprise to see why such a man would be the king's choice for such a key position. And we might assume that Daniel would be loved and admired by all. But not so.

Hence the plot. Second word is despised. He was not simply distinguished, but he was despised. The quality of Daniel's life was more than matched by the jealousy of his colleagues. Because he was in line for the top job, they tried to discredit him in the conduct of government affairs. But as you will see in verse 5, they drew a blank.

Why? Because in his day-to-day affairs, Daniel was displaying the characteristics of godliness. Like what? Like punctuality. Respect. Attention to detail. Kindliness. Honesty.

Do you and I show such attention to detail in our everyday activities? And when they overturned the details of Daniel's everyday activity, they found that it went right to the heart of the man, and consequently, they despised him. What was the basis for their spite and for their hatred? Daniel hadn't done anything to them. Daniel hadn't trampled on them on his way to the top. Daniel was just doing a good job. Indeed, if he had trampled on them on the way to the top, there would have been no reason for most of them to be concerned, because that was the modus operandi of so many of them at that time.

And it remains so in public and political life. So why did they despise him? Why didn't they like Daniel? Why couldn't they say, Daniel, you're a good guy for this?

Let me tell you why. What they couldn't handle in Daniel was his unswerving commitment to this God of his. They couldn't handle the fact that he lived in such a way as to display an unshakable conviction as to the power and the might and the purity of his God. It was not that these friends and colleagues were irreligious. It was not that they had no interest in God. Indeed, they had a lot of interest in gods. But they didn't like this fanaticism on Daniel's part. They would have been very happy if Daniel was prepared to succumb to the notion that what he was worshipping was simply one among many, but he wouldn't. And as we'll see in just a moment, when he got down with his knees on the ground and his face towards Jerusalem, he wasn't simply going through a program of religious exercises. He was declaring his conviction that the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob was the final and ultimate truth and therefore left no room for the other religions of the world.

Did you catch that? And all these generations later, to maintain such a posture remains equally and totally unacceptable. That in a culture that has embraced pluralism, relativism, and syncretism, where tolerance has been exalted above truth, to put truth on the agenda at the expense of apparent tolerance is to create the only crime that is now punishable. Let me say to you young people, if you're prepared to walk out from the walls of this institution and proclaim that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and all who ever came before him are thieves and robbers, if you're prepared to declare that Jesus Christ is alone, the way, the truth, and the life, if you're prepared to affirm, in short, with the apostles in Acts 4, that there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven among men, whereby we must be saved, if you're prepared to give your life unstintingly with a passion for the purity of the gospel, then keep your armor on and be prepared.

For to live with that kind of distinction will be to bring that kind of despite. Surely Jesus meant something when he said, Blessed are you when men will persecute you and hate you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. That's not in the Bible for us to imagine.

That's in the Bible for us to experience. Not to go out with a persecution complex and seek to have people not like us, but to be prepared to be unequivocal in our commitment to the issues of the gospel. Daniel, you see, was framed. They hated him. They plotted against him, not because he was a bad fellow but because he stood for truth. He loved what God loved and he lived it out. The hatred that is revealed against him is surely what Paul refers to in 2 Thessalonians when he talks about the mystery of lawlessness. The third word, disciplined. He was distinguished.

He was despised. He was disciplined. Actually, this characteristic of Daniel's life was the foundation of their plot. They knew that they could count on one thing in Daniel, and that is that he would be absolutely consistent. I can imagine, Daniel, if we had seen him, you know, if he had a dog, I bet he walked it at the exact same time every day. I think he was that kind of guy, you know. You would be able to set your watch by Daniel coming around the block. Oh, there's Daniel. I saw him walking the dog. It must be eight-thirty, you know.

He'd be that kind of man. You say, where'd you get that from? I just made it up. I mean, we can check in heaven. It's just conjecture. It's an observation.

The fact of the matter is, if his commitment had been spasmodic, if Daniel had been more like me, maybe more like you, if his life had been marked by bursts of enthusiasm followed by chronic inertia, they could never have been sure of catching him. How many times have you started an exercise program? Be honest.

How many times have you started a program where you're gonna memorize, you know, every book in the Bible, every verse in the Bible? Be honest. Right? Okay, fine. So we know the difference between absolute consistency and bursts of enthusiasm followed by chronic inertia. Some of our Christian lives are like human cannonballs, you know, a great surge of energy. We come flying out the end of the thing and fall in a net and lie there for days on end, somehow rejoicing in the fact that we got propelled out the mouth of a cannon. You know, it was a good feeling for a while.

We must do that again sometime. Well, that wasn't Daniel. He was like a Rolls-Royce engine on a 747.

Once they cranked him up, he just kept going and going and going and going. And so his friend said, we'll get him on the basis of his consistency. So they show up at his house. If your Bible is open, you'll see it there in verse 11. They went as a group.

They went as a group to his house. See this safety in numbers thing? You can all imagine them going, No, you go in first. You go in first. No, no, you go first. It was your idea.

You go first. Bunch of creeps. These men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. They weren't surprised. They knew they would. So they shoot off back to the king.

Okay, saw him, been there, done that. Back to the king. And they spoke to him about his royal decree. Presumably, he was issuing decrees all over the place. And so they said, you know, we want to remind you of your royal decree. Which one?

The one, you know, that we thought up for you a few days ago, where you were going to shut everything down for thirty days. And eventually he said, Oh, yeah, yeah, I'm with you. I've got that. And having caught Daniel, now they catch the king. They get his verbal concurrence with his written edict, and then they inform him.

They drop the bomb. They say, By the way, you know, you said that anybody who wasn't doing this would be thrown in the lion's den. The king says, Yeah, you're dead right.

The decree stands. You can imagine him just kind of waking up to it in accordance with the laws of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be repealed. Then they said to the king, Hey, Daniel. Daniel, who's one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the decree. In fact, he still prays three times a day.

He's not paying attention to you. That wasn't true. I wonder if any of us have the impression that Daniel's activity in prayer was some kind of reactionism to the king's edict. In other words, he became a sort of political insurrectionist as a result of what had suddenly come down from the equivalent of Washington, D.C. Somebody had said something that he didn't like, and he said, I'll soon sort that out. What I'm going to do is I'll go to my house, I've got a great big bay window, and I'll sit at my bay window, and I'll show them I'll pray three times a day. Was it a display of defiance? After all, it would be one thing for him to pray briefly, to pray quietly, but with the windows open three times a day?

That's something special, don't you think? Well, actually, that perception is absolutely false. And most of the little Bible books with the picture of Daniel praying are completely bogus, if you'll pardon me. The history and architecture of the time points to the fact that Daniel's house would have been as other houses. And the windows were not at ground level. The windows were up high. And not only were they up high, but they were small.

And the reason they were small and up high was to protect from the heat and from the robbers. Therefore, the picture is not so much of Daniel posturing in public as it is of the evil hearts of these characters who invade his legitimate privacy and prise him out of his routine activity. You notice very carefully that for Daniel, when the crisis hit, it did not create his disciplined lifestyle. It revealed it. When crisis hits a marriage, it reveals the strength of the marriage, or otherwise.

When crisis hits a school, it reveals the character and caliber of the leadership of the school or the student body, whatever it might be. It reveals what is there. Oh yes, it has an impact. Yes, it does create certain things.

But the first thing it does is it shows up what's there. And when the crisis hit, it showed up where Daniel was. We're listening to Truth for Life Weekend. That is Alistair Begg with the message he's titled Five Words on Daniel.

We'll hear the conclusion next weekend. Daniel's godly character was clearly established long before he was taken captive by the Babylonians. That's why we so often encourage you to share the truth of the Bible with the children in your circle of influence, whether you're a parent or a grandparent, a Sunday school teacher. Catechisms can be a great help.

Catechisms have been used to teach the essential truths of the Bible since the days of the early church. And the book we're encouraging you to add to your family library today is a fun version of a catechism. It's titled Faith Builder Catechism Devotions to Level Up Your Family Discipleship. This is a book that's written and colorfully designed to engage young teens. It uses a video game theme to explore 52 questions, one for each week of the year, which is perfect for your youth group or your family devotion. The questions relate to God's nature, his kingdom, his redemptive plan, and the work of the Lord Jesus. For more information about Faith Builder Catechism, visit our website at I'm Bob Lapine, so glad you have joined us this weekend. Today we learned that Daniel's disciplined, prayerful lifestyle was the foundation of his enemy's plot. Next weekend, we'll see how it was also the instrument of his deliverance. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-08 04:31:49 / 2024-06-08 04:40:41 / 9

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