Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on December 19, 1976
But Daniel purposed in his heart
that he would not defile himself…
Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God…
IN HEBREWS 11 THERE IS THE LIST OF THE “HEROES OF FAITH,” men and women God described in a unique way: it says these are those whom “God is not ashamed to be called their God.” That is a marvelous designation. All of the Old Testament prophets are included in this list, and one of the leading prophets is Daniel. I took that phrase in Hebrews 11, “their God,” and went to the book of Daniel and found the same expression. (Daniel 6) Many people can refer to God as “their God.” It is a privilege available to every one of you today; it individualizes God to you. Your right to make such a designation is not the issue; the issue is whether or not God could say that He is not ashamed to be called your God.
These heroes of faith always seem to have something leap out of their lives that minsters to us at some point in our journey toward our eternal home. Joseph was one of those whom God was not ashamed to be called his God. God showed Joseph his ultimate destination: that his brethren and his father would bow down to him. It took 22 years before that happened, but he saw the last step without seeing the steps in-between. If he had seen the steps in-between they might have scared him to death, and he would never have made it to the last step. He had to take the steps as they came.
In the case of Elijah, God didn’t show him past the first step. All of his life he was given only one step at a time. Another Old Testament prophet was sent on an assignment to rebuild the things of God; and he would not ask a heathen king for help lest by asking he would suggest that God needed help. (Ezra 8:22) Yet on another occasion, God sent one of His servants back to do a similar work; and in that case, He let the servant ask the heathen king for help. (Nehemiah 2:5) As J.B. Phillips has said, “Your God is too small.” We put Him in a box that relates only to our particularity of the moment. As we read the lives of these men of God and see God’s treatment of them in the “stuff of life,” they speak to us of how to relate to God at different points in our journey of faith. I’m glad God shows us this diversity and does not treat them all alike. If He treated them all alike, He might miss some of our experiences.
I would like the life of Daniel to focus in with precision on your life. We are not here to tell Bible stories; we are not here to preach sermons per se. This message will not achieve God’s purpose unless His Word meets you at the point of life. That is what incarnation is: God’s Word coming into the stuff of everyday life. Through the experience of this man who is so well known, my prayer is that you will go out today understanding what to do in your circumstance so that God might not be ashamed to be called your God, and that you will also go out glad that He is your God.
Anyone who has gone to church for very long knows the story of Daniel. He is known as a prophet who both spoke forth the Word of God and who also foretold future events. You can never really understand the book of Daniel without the book of Revelation; and you can never really understand the book of Revelation without the book of Daniel, which shows that the Master’s touch was on the writing of this entire book. But it is Daniel the man more than Daniel the foreteller of great and wonderful things of God that I want to look at today. I pray that you will grab hold of your mind, go back in time and put yourself into the flesh and blood of Daniel.
Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel and he had heard Jeremiah preach. He lived in the year when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came with his armies unto Jerusalem, and the city fell. Jerusalem was the city of God, the capital of Judah, which was the southern portion of the tribes of God’s people. The city had not fallen overnight. Jeremiah had preached the Word of God in the streets and prophesied the downfall of Jerusalem.
When Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem, he spake unto the master of his servants and asked him to bring “certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s descendants, and of the princes.” The Scripture says that Nebuchadnezzar called for “children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” Daniel was a young man. Along with Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, and other young people, he was selected and taken to the king’s house in Babylon. (Daniel 1:3-6)
Other prisoners were taken to a prison city by the river Chebar; that is where Ezekiel received his prophecies. But Daniel was one of those selected to be trained in king Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. The Scripture says, concerning Daniel and the other three, whose names were changed to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that “in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.” That’s pretty smart!
I want to weave one thread today. I want you to come to grips with the purity, the perfection, the dedication and the integrity of this man Daniel. Imagine being snatched from your home as a teenager, perhaps even younger, and carried from Jerusalem to the distant plains of Mesopotamia. Try to put yourself into these kids, separated from everything that gave them security, and try to feel the impact as they approach this magnificent city of Babylon, so far from their home. Go with these kids: they are prisoners. It doesn’t matter that they were going to the king’s court; that’s even more frightening, because they were being singled out. The other captives who went by the river Chebar were a large group who at least had the horizontal strength of being able to lean on one another.
The city of Babylon was 14 miles square. Imagine how it would look as they approach it, sitting right in the midst of the plains. The walls were as high as the pyramids in Egypt. On top of the walls, multiple chariots could drive side by side. There were over 100 towers, over 100 bronze gates. Inside the city were palaces and temples that also stood higher than the pyramids in Egypt. Because king Nebuchadnezzar’s wife was from the hill country, he built for her one of the great wonders of the world: the “Hanging Gardens,” with waterfalls and trees hanging like artificial mountains above the walls of the city.
As these kids enter into this overwhelming city, every circumstance would make one think that the tender plant would bend. There are all kinds of excuses for failures to perform in today’s world: environment, pressure, change, uprootings – everything except blaming one’s own self. Jeremiah must have had an impact on these kids. I know that not the least of the reasons why I serve God today is that while growing up, I encountered some high-tower personalities who stood out from the crowd. Even in our youth, we have an intrinsic ability to tune in on the rightness of what certain men said and did, and we remember those things.
The servant of king Nebuchadnezzar is told to feed these kids the food from the king’s table: the wine that he drank and the daily provision of the king’s meat. Nebuchadnezzar wanted them fattened up and prime to serve in his court; he wanted the best for them. You will find in Daniel 1:8 that quality of Daniel which is the thread I want to weave: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself. . .”
You don’t have to be very old to make that decision. I was 16 years old when I heard a chaplain tell the story of being with Patton’s army in the Second World War. He said he used to read newspapers forwarded to him from home. It used to agitate him because he would read, “Patton’s army moved ahead so many miles,” and one would get the impression that some force just picked them up and moved them, en masse. He said, “That isn’t the way it happened.” One man in a tank or one man in some other spot got the order, “Move!” If he paused to count the cost and to consider what impact he as a single person could have on that land right in front of him, or whether the shells would be on target or the planes would be on time after he made his move, he would never get moving. He made the decision as though the whole battle depended on him.
Something about this chaplain cut through a lot of the stuff I had heard, and what he said riveted me. There was a moment of truth and destiny in my life. I decided that afternoon that for the rest of my life, if I felt something was right, I would give my life to it as though the whole battle depended on me. Though I went through a loss of faith later, to the best of my ability I have stuck to that. I believe young people have an ability to commit.
The particular laws of that day are not what is relevant. In that case, Daniel was under the law of the Old Testament, and the king wanted Daniel to consume meat that had been sacrificed to idols and that was forbidden under God’s law. Paul deals with that issue in the New Testament: he says that you are neither the better nor the worse for abstaining, but if your heart condemns you in something, you had better give God the benefit of the doubt. The issue is not the particular act; for you to go ahead and do something that is against your conscience is to offend God, and that would be sin in your case.” (Romans 14)
In Daniel’s day, eating unclean food was against the law of God and he had better not do it. “Therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” He had found such favor with the captain who was taking care of them that he began to plead with Daniel, saying, “I will lose my head if you all show up in the king’s presence wasted away and you do not look as rosy-cheeked and healthy as he intended with this food.” Daniel’s faith then starts coming out. He says, “Give us what I am asking you,” ceremonially legitimate food, vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee and see if we don’t look better than those who are eating the king’s portion. “At the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.”
Daniel’s faith was rewarded. Ten times smarter than all the magicians and astrologers, Daniel rose to prominence. He was front and center through the reign of three kings, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius, and he touched the reign of the fourth king, Cyrus. He saw the fall of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire under his son Belshazzar. He saw Darius’ reign passed to Cyrus, and he remained prominent through it all.
He is one of those rare Old Testament saints who does not have a scar on him. Many times, as we study the lives of Old Testament saints, we get impressed with their perfection, until they really make a mess of it. That encourages me to know the kind of crocks of clay God deals with. But Daniel is one of the rare ones, like Joseph, who doesn’t fall.
Nebuchadnezzar has a dream, but he can’t remember what his dream is: “The king said, I have dreamed a dream; my spirit was troubled to know the dream.” He calls all his magicians in, and those clever manipulators say, “Tell us what you dreamed. We will show you the interpretation.” Nebuchadnezzar says, “The thing is gone from me: if you don’t make it known to me, and the interpretation, you will be cut in pieces, and your houses will be made. . .” a pretty bad place! “But if you shew the dream, there will be rewards.” (Daniel 2:1-6)
Well, they couldn’t do it, and Nebuchadnezzar was furious. He commanded all the wise men in Babylon to be destroyed. When the captain of the king’s guard came to Daniel, Daniel asked what was happening: “Why is the decree so hasty from the king to slay all the wise men?” Nebuchadnezzar’s wish was made known to Daniel, and he said, “Give me a chance.”
Daniel went to his three companions and they began to pray. “Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision.” He went to the king and told him his dream. The king had seen a great image with a head of gold, breasts and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet that were part of iron and part of clay.
Daniel interpreted that the head of gold was Nebuchadnezzar’s empire, which would disintegrate and flow into another empire, represented by the silver. Next would come an empire that was symbolized by brass, which in turn would be replaced by an empire symbolized by iron. Then would come an empire represented by a mixture of iron and clay. The vision relates to those empires that would follow Nebuchadnezzar’s empire: the Medo-Persian empire, the Grecian and then the Roman empire. Nebuchadnezzar praised the God of Daniel and gave Daniel a great place in his kingdom.
Daniel is not much a part of this next chapter. Nebuchadnezzar got carried away again, became lifted up in pride, built a golden image and demanded that everybody bow to it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego wouldn’t do it. Nebuchadnezzar caused them to be cast into the furnace and had the temperature made seven times hotter than normal. After they had been thrown into the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar was astonished: there weren’t three figures walking around in the furnace, there were four! And the children of Judah didn’t even get their eyelashes singed. Everybody who has gone to Sunday school knows that story. Nebuchadnezzar says, “We put three in the fire, and I see four and the fourth is like unto the Son of God.” When they came out, delivered by God’s power, Nebuchadnezzar again renewed his faith in God.
Then Nebuchadnezzar had another dream, and Daniel comes back on the scene again. In this dream, the king sees a tree that reached to the heavens and to the ends of the Earth, and the birds nested in it. Then it is hewn down and just the trunk remains, and the dew falls on it. Again I’m weaving one thread: unchanging integrity, unchanging faith, unchanging life of prayer. “Daniel purposed in his heart he wouldn’t defile himself.” Though his life might be at stake and he could have reasoned and compromised, he said “No” to the food from the king’s table. When the wise men were being killed, he called Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego together and he had the faith to pray. Although everyone else had failed, Daniel prayed to his God and received the interpretation. He told it straight to the king, even though it was a description of his own kingdom disintegrating.
Put yourself in Daniel’s shoes. Read the book of Esther, where the wife of the king was fearful to go into the presence of one of those mid-eastern monarchs. (Esther 4:16, 5:2) Here comes Daniel into the presence of this king, and the reason most of the magicians were scared to death to interpret was because they wanted somehow to tell him what he wanted to hear. How would you like to stand in his court and say, “You are going to be crazy and wander around in the fields, your fingernails are going to grow long and your hair is going to grow long, the dew of the morning is going to rest on you and you are going to eat grass like an animal?” Tell that to the greatest monarch in the world!
Daniel told the truth. It happened. We know because Nebuchadnezzar confesses to the story himself; we read his own account of his madness in chapter 4. Nebuchadnezzar says that 12 months after Daniel’s prophecy, the king goes out walking, and he is lifted up in pride. He sees his great city, and he is smitten. Nebuchadnezzar goes crazy. He wanders in the fields like a wild animal. His fingernails grow until they are great claws, and his hair grows long. After the appointed season, he is restored again.
Then along comes his son, Belshazzar. Belshazzar is having a drunken feast “to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.” (Daniel 5:1) When Nebuchadnezzar had carried God’s people into bondage, he took the instruments out of the temple where God had been worshipped. In drunken idiocy, Belshazzar brings these sacred vessels from out of the storehouse of the treasurer to the table of his feast, and there they desecrate these instruments from the temple of God.
Again, put yourself there. Don’t let a familiar story be robbed of its impact. Suddenly a hand appears on the wall and begins to write, “ME-NE, ME-NE, TE-KEL, U-PHAR-SIN.” (Daniel 5:25) Belshazzar’s “knees smote one against the other.” If you want the literal translation of it, his knees started knocking. Belshazzar calls his magicians and says, “Interpret it.” They could not.
Belshazzar’s wife says, “There is a man from Judah that could always interpret your father’s dreams; bring him in.” They bring Daniel in. He is old now. Daniel says, “This is the interpretation of the thing: ME-NE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TE-KEL; Thou are weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” How easily we can read this today, yet imagine the courage of Daniel. He is an old man in the midst of a thousand princes. “PE-RES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” At that very moment, the army of the Medes and Persians was coming underneath the gates where the river Euphrates entered the city. The Persians had diverted the river leaving a dry canal vulnerable to invasion. That night Belshazzar lost his kingdom.
I am weaving one thread. You cannot find a flaw in Daniel: faithful performance in prayer, honesty and integrity. Thoughtless of himself, he would proclaim God’s Word without deviation from boyhood to old age.
Now the new king, Darius, “set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes. . . And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first.” I have learned it is a lot easier to serve God in pressure than it is in prosperity. Daniel is number one. Jealousy and envy from all the other princes began to flow upward, and they tried to figure out how they could get at number one under Darius. They could not find a fault in Daniel. As they considered every way to get at him, they found there was only one way: that was to put his God and Darius in conflict.
So these princes went to Darius, and said, “All the princes have decided to come up with a decree and get you to sign it, so that if anyone prays or gives petitions to any god save Darius for the next 30 days, he will be cast into the lions’ den.”
Parenthetically, for years archaeologists said there were no dens of lions and no spaces under that city that would hold lions. Recent archaeological excavations have found lions’ dens. This old Bible keeps surviving!
Daniel prayed morning, noon and night; he opened his window. There are phrases in the Scripture which say, “if you look toward Jerusalem and pray, God will answer.” (1 kings 8:30) Here is this man uprooted from his home as boy, faithful to God of his youth, never deviating, now in old age praying morning, noon and night. On one occasion an angel came to him; he said he heard Daniel praying three weeks earlier, but he had been resisted getting to Daniel. (Daniel 10:13) Add another ingredient to Daniel: he was continually praying. Have you been faithful to a revelation of a God who gave His Son and the Son who died for you and a Spirit that comes to abide?
After the decree was signed, the princes watched and, sure enough, Daniel comes to pray. He opens the windows and prays. They went to the king, and the king brought him and he “was sore displeased.” The king had been trapped by his own pride and error. He did not want Daniel to die, and all day long “till the going down of the sun” he worked to try to find a way to get around it. But under the law of the Medes and the Persians, even the king could not change what had been decreed, so he commanded that Daniel be brought, and they brought him in and cast him into the den of lions.
“Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.” They put a stone on the mouth of the lions’ den and sealed it, so there would be no question about him being there. “Then the king went to his palace and passed the night fasting.” He would not let any entertainment come and he did not sleep: a miserable night. “The king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.” (Daniel 6:16-19)
Have you ever seen lions in their native habitat, or have you seen them running loose in a wild animal park? They are scary. Put them hungry down in a den and they get worse. Compare where Daniel was with what you have faced all week. I want the point to come home. He had done nothing to deserve this. When I look at what I have been facing, it is sure a peanut alongside this lions’ den. God give me the words today to hurl you psychologically into that den and hear the rock “thunk!” and the lions roar.
The next morning, the king came to the den, and “he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?” If you were taking bets, what do you think Daniel’s odds of survival would have been? The king had “a lamentable voice.” That tells me he didn’t expect to hear much. The king must have jumped three feet when he heard Daniel’s voice!
“Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den,” and this is the line I like: “no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God”. Please underline these words. That is God’s Word saying why he made it in that lions’ den. (Daniel 6:20-23)
After Paul was beaten up in Philippi, they wanted to shuttle him out of town, but he said, “No, sir. They put me in here unjustly. They are going to have to watch me walk around the streets for a day.” I like these little details that come out of God’s Word, because the king commanded “and they brought all those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions,” and the lions had a feast.
There are three points to be made. First, Daniel proves that being as good as Daniel is no guarantee against being thrown in the lions’ den. What den have you been in? You have been complaining and half-mad at God because He didn’t let you avoid it, or the devil is on your shoulder telling you that you’re there because of something you did. Daniel’s very perfection tells me you can be that good, and it is no guarantee you won’t go in a lions’ den; so if you are there, quit worrying about why you are there.
Second, Daniel proves that God doesn’t always take you out of your lions’ den, but He will keep you safe in it. How? That is the third thing. “Because he believed in his God.” The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek uses that same word we find in the New Testament that we have defined so many times: it is hanging your body in action that believes that God’s promise is more real than what you see, including lions’ teeth! Why don’t you believe Him right where you are, and quit complaining about it? When the morning comes, you will be safe.
This is one of those messages that is supposed to turn on lights and suddenly the room gets rearranged a bit differently, and what was an oppressive, growling, frightful, dark lions’ den becomes a place of peace and trust and the knowledge that you serve Someone about whom you can say, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
I don’t want to leave this with flesh and blood lions in the Old Testament. The New Testament says, “Satan is like a roaring lion, going about, seeking whom he can destroy.” (1 Peter 5:8) If your eyes are on Satan, even if he doesn’t get you, you may have heart failure just worrying about it. But if you’ll stay focused on God, in the morning you can say to the King of kings and Lord of lords, “O King, live for ever,” because nothing can touch you that brings you harm when you are in His hands. It may look like it. This outward man may perish, but the inner man will live forever. It wouldn’t have mattered, really, if he had died in that lions’ den: he still would have been the victor; but, in his case, he didn’t die. His trust was in the Lord, and at the end of the days, as God unraveled prophecies that showed this world in storm, the promise comes to that old saint unto Cyrus, “You shall rest, and stand in your lot at the end of your days.” Isn’t that our promise? Read the last words of the book of Daniel. (Daniel 12:13)
Jesus never said you won’t have lions’ dens; He said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) He is bigger than your lions’ den, so will you look from that to Him?
Father, take the Word, apply it in Jesus’ name. I pray today across this congregation that there will be young people who will purpose in their hearts to serve God as Daniel did, not because of what they may get out of it; and that they will purpose in their hearts not to defile themselves, and to stay faithful to You. No matter what the pressure, probably none of us will ever face anything as fearful and devastating as a lions’ den, but it may look like that to us. God, turn our eyes on Jesus in the knowledge that You are greater than all the lions that are roaring at us today.
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
- From The TOZER PULPIT, VOLUME 2
Will There Be Any Lazy Folks in Heaven?
Are you among those who hold the mistaken idea that there will be nothing to challenge you in the life to come? Are you among those who have read the account of the New Jerusalem, the City of God, and have wondered if it will be just a haven for the lazy and an endless gathering of bored and listless beings?
Let me refer you to the biblical doctrine of the image of God in man. I say this to you, sir, that apart from God Himself, the nearest thing to God is a human soul. And I promise you that in that Great Day you will not be without something to do, for God Himself is the great Worker. He is the Creator – He is creative. All that He does is creative.
God did not create the heaven and the earth and all of the universe and then put a period after it, and write, “It is done – finale!” He is always creating. He has made us in His image. God is the great Worker without limit, and we are the little workers with limit, or up to our limits, which we haven’t found yet. But our creative powers will be in use.
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