par T. Austin-Sparks
THE CHURCH, HIS BODY
"The Church, Which is His Body" is the vessel, the 'embodiment', of the Lord the Spirit, in which and by which He is to express Himself. If the Church, as we met it and moved amongst its members, accorded with the Divine idea, we should know what the Lord was like. Let us take this to heart: that our very existence as the Church is in order that people may know what Christ is like. Alas, we fail Him so much in this. It is often so difficult to detect the real character of the Lord Jesus in His people. But that is the very first meaning of the Body of Christ.
But further--and here we are on familiar ground--a physical body is an organic whole. It is not something put together from the outside. It is something that is marked by a oneness, by reason of a life within; it is related and inter-related in every part, dependent and inter-dependent; every remotest part is affected by what happens in any other part. That could be much enlarged upon. But we have much more yet to learn as to the actual spiritual application of this reality about the Church as the Body of Christ. We need to be brought right into that great 'sympathetic system' of the Body. And that demands a real work of grace in us. There are many ways in which that is expressed in the Word. We are to "remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; them that are evil entreated, as being yourselves also in the body" (Heb. 13:3); that is, we are to get into their situations by the Spirit. It is an organic whole. 'If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it' (I Cor. 12:26). It is probable that we suffer a good deal for things that we know nothing about. There is suffering going on, and we are involved in it: the Lord is seeking to involve us in the needs of others, to bring us into their conflict.
But, whether or not we apprehend this truth, whether or not we are alive to it and understand it, it is God's fact that it is so. Believers in one place are dependent upon believers in another place; they are affected. This is such a whole; there is one sympathetic nerve-system running through the whole body. If only you and I really became spiritually more alive, the expression of the Body would be much more perfect. Our deadness, our insensitiveness, our lack of real spiritual aliveness, results in there being more suffering, more loss, than there need be.
If only we could--not mechanically, and not by information, but on the principle of the Body--be moved into a universal sympathy and co-operation with the people of God! Our moving is so often mechanical; we have to read or hear letters, somehow receive information, in order to be stimulated to some measure of prayer. But I believe that, altogether apart from those means, if we were really in the Spirit, the Spirit would lay burdens for people on our hearts. Do you not think that it is a matter that we ought continually to bring before the Lord? 'Lord, there is someone praying to-day for something: is it possible that I might be the answer to their prayer? 1180, show me, lead me, lay it on me.' That is spiritual relatedness, aliveness. The oneness of the Body is a great vocation.
UNMOVED AND UNDISMAYED
"And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; (now his windows were open in his chamber toward Jerusalem;) and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." (Daniel 6:10).
There is something tremendously impressive about a man who is beset and attacked from every side, apparently overwhelmed, and who yet maintains a quiet, dignified persistence of faith and goes on with his God, unmoved and undismayed.
Daniel's troubles sprang from the fact that he had been marked out for advancement. "The king thought to set him over the whole realm" (v. 3). There were two presidents equal with him as well as many satraps under him. All these reacted violently to the decision about his promotion, so violently that they plotted to destroy him. At first they had a great deal of success. It seemed unlikely, or indeed impossible, that Daniel could ever obtain the supremacy planned for him. Yet he did! The evil scheme failed. The servant of God was delivered and placed over the kingdom. The means by which he was advanced must have seemed very strange. Yet they are in full harmony with all that the Word teaches us about spiritual progress. Especially is Daniel's experience in accord with what is shown in the case of the Lord Jesus, that the way to the throne is by death and resurrection.
"As He Did Aforetime"
The lions' den was a kind of grave. Daniel was not spared the grave; he had to go right down into it. Since, however, he was God's man and kept true to his God, he lost nothing and gained everything by that descent. His rivals went down into the same grave, and they stayed there. By the end of the chapter we find no more mention of presidents and satraps. They could not stand the test of the grave. Daniel, on the contrary, was given his place over the whole realm, not by any effort or planning of his but simply by his maintained position of faith in God. The lesson is for us. We, too, in His amazing grace, have been marked out for advancement, chosen for the throne. This explains for us, as well as for Daniel, the peculiar bitterness of the conflict in which we are often involved. There are great issues in view; we need to know how to behave in the midst of it all, and what is the secret which will enable the Lord to fulfil His purpose in our case as He did in Daniel's.
We find that he came through wholly and solely on spiritual grounds. His own wisdom, his earthly authority, his influence among men, his experience, his friends--all these counted for nothing. As he was hurried away and thrown into the den, he must have been a picture of complete helplessness. There was nothing he could say, and nothing he could do. He did not try to wrestle with the lions; it would have been useless if he had. In a spiritual conflict--and ours is that--nothing but spiritual strength is of any use. For all his apparent helplessness, Daniel had a standing with God. The key to his emergence from the conflict in such complete triumph is found in our verse about his praying, and particularly in the last words, "as he did aforetime" He was steadfast in his faith. Yet it would not be enough to think of his having faith in a merely general way, or being a man who habitually prayed for all sorts of things. We can only understand the nature of his steadfastness if we realize that he was keeping true to a definite and God-given vision. He had understood the purpose of God with regard to His people. Moreover, he had adjusted his whole life to that vision, as the open window and the "three times a day" prayer-watch show. He knew what God wished and intended, and had 2iven himself wholeheartedly for its fulfillment. Day in and day out, fair days and foul, he kept himself in God's direction and stood for God's will. No wonder that human jealously and spite were used by Satan in a determined effort to silence him! But he could not be silenced. He could not be made to close his windows. "Aforetime" he had persisted in his faith vigil; now that trouble was pending he refused to be turned aside from his set course with God. He had a spiritual 'routine', a holy habit, a steady heart purpose. When this brought him into the cross-currents of conflict, and the writing was signed against him, he seemed to take no notice at all, but calmly continued in his watch with the Lord--"as he did aforetime.
We may be tempted to wish that we were that kind of man, calm, steady, unmoved--wrongly imagining that this was a matter of Daniel's temperament. If so, it is good for us to remember the kind of man he could be. "I was affrighted, and fell on my face.. ." (8:17); "I Daniel fainted"" (8:27); 'Then said he unto me, 'Fear not, Daniel . .(10:12). This was no man of steel, but one very like most of us, with all our inward quakings, our timidity and our tendency to faint. Yet he was undismayed. In the midst of plots for his destruction, in spite of tremendous pressure to panic or compromise, without any show of strain and in quiet dignity of faith he went straight on with the Lord. And so must we. Perhaps it will help us if we try to discover some of Daniel's secrets.
The Largeness of His Vision
The first reason why Daniel was able to proceed so calmly, as though nothing had happened, was found in the largeness of his vision. If we have a vision that is chiefly concerned with ourselves, our circumstances or our ministry, we shall be puzzled or offended when things begin to go wrong with us. We need, indeed we have, a vision of God's universal and eternal purpose in His Son, and this alone will save us from being overwhelmed in the hour of spiritual conflict.
Daniel looked back, far beyond his own time. The open windows looked out on an original purpose for the people of God, who had had their origin long before his own generation. The Jerusalem which he remembered was a poor affair compared with the true glory of Zion. Most of us are apt to dwell with regret on things as we once knew them, and to sigh for the days of the past. But it is vain, and altogether inadequate so to limit our vision. We have been called for something much bigger than that. We have a part in the Divine purpose which was conceived in eternity and~rea1ized in Christ by His Cross. If we set our hearts only on what we have known or experienced, on the limited sphere of our own past, we shall get into confusion when for the time being everything seems to be going wrong. Our natural vision is limited to the immediate, to the present experiences or to the tiny span of our own lives. We need to be saved from ourselves, and this will be by receiving spiritual vision as to the vast range of the Divine purpose in Christ. Like Daniel, if we look back far enough we shall be kept steady by the reminder of God's original intentions.
Daniel also looked forward. We are told that he not only prayed, but also 'give thanks before his God". Of course there was much cause for thanksgiving in Israel's past history, but to the man of faith, the man of vision, the real motive for praise lies in the future. He had received assurance that there was to be a future for Jerusalem, a future even more glorious than the past. He knew that God would realize His end. It mattered little to him, therefore, if all the fury of hell raged around him for the present; it was of very small importance if he, Daniel, were swept off the face of the earth. Nothing could prevent the fulfilment of the purposes of God. Whatever else happened, the Lord would go marching triumphantly on to His goal. With this conviction, and his windows opened in this direction, Daniel could afford to ignore his enemies, and to treat all the decrees of men with dignified contempt. "And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he... prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
The little calamities of the present time are contemptible in the light of the certain glories that are to be. We are meant to be people of eternity; we are called to view all present problems and difficulties in their larger setting. It may be true that we, like Daniel, seem to be involved in disaster, that for us the writing is signed which makes our own future quite hopeless. Our vision is not a personal one, nor is our ~ allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by what is only personal. In Christ we have become closely associated with God's eternal purpose for the greatness of His Son. This is the largeness that will lift us out of our own natural pettiness.
Daniel saw far beyond his own surroundings. He had gone to his house and entered his own chamber. It may well have been a large room, as rooms go, but in any case it was bounded by the four walls of what was essentially his. He did not look at the things around him, but away through the open windows towards the city of his God. How important it was at that critical moment that he should not Look around to what was merely local, to the unpromising circumstances in which he himself was found, but should keep well in view the Divine prospect of the God-filled glory of Jerusalem. Only the eye of faith could see that city then, but Daniel had the eye of faith. Surely it was this vision that kept him steadfast.
There is a sense in which men who are under great pressure to capitulate or compromise can only resist the temptation by remembering that their 'causes is much greater than themselves. They are kept true by the realization that, provided they do not despair, the cause with which they are associated will ultimately triumph in spite of anything which may happen to them. How much more is this the case with those whose 'cause' is spiritual! Had Daniel's main preoccupation been about his own survival he could not have behaved as he did. If he had been thinking chiefly of how he himself could be preserved, he would probably have made terms with his enemies or in some way capitulated. To him, however, the vision was so great that his biggest concern was, not as to whether be could survive, but as to whether he could remain faithful. He felt that he had to be faithful because of the very importance and vastness of the issue.
This constraint to be faithful was noticeable in every part of Daniel's life. It was true, not only in the prayer chamber when he was on his knees, but also in every feature of his ordinary daily life, that "he was faithful" (v. 4). There can be nothing mean or insignificant in the life of a man who finds himself associated with a great Divine purpose: he realizes that this association demands a very ~ Few of us can be placed in such difficult circumstances as Daniel was in Babylon. And very few indeed have kept as faithful as he did in the many tests and temptations which came his way. Perhaps it was because he had so learned faithfulness in the smaller matters that he triumphed so completely in this supreme testing.
If Daniel had considered it most important that he himself should survive, it would have been very simple for him to have refrained either from praying, or from kneeling to do so, or from leaving the windows open for all to see. After all, he was no slave in Babylon, but a man of great importance. He was no enemy of Darius, but his good friend. Had he wished he could have kept his personal safety, and no doubt he could think of many very good reasons why he should try to do so. But then what would happen to Jerusalem? What would happen to the purposes of God for His people? To Daniel it was the vision that mattered, not his own personal good. And in this very way he found his own deliverance. The man who remains true to the God-given vision can afford to leave the question of his own fate in the hands of the Giver of that vision.
This, then, is the challenge which comes to so many of us, the call to be faithful to the vision. Daniel reminds us of how important it is that one man should remain steadfast to the Lord. None of us knows how much of great Divine purposes may be served by our simple faithfulness.
In a sense we do not matter at all. It is not important for us to avoid the den of lions, to be saved from difficulties, to justify ourselves or fight for our own position. But in another sense it matters supremely that we should be true to the Lord. In order that we may do so, we need to keep in view the largeness of the vision.
The Greatness of His God
To Daniel God was greater than all. It was as simple as that. He had many visions, concerned with all sorts of people, places and events, but he had one transcendent vision, and that was the vision of his Lord. None of the historical or prophetic allusions can be without significance, for the Word of God is never without meaning; but we shall have missed the essence of Daniel's story if we become occupied with thin s or people rather than with the Lord Himself. This is the second of Daniel's secrets of a steadfast life: to him the Person of the Lord towered high above all others. Prophetic truths may interest or enlighten us, but they will never save us in the hour of testing. Daniel's chamber was not a study--at least it was not then being used as such; it was his prayer--room, his audience-chamber with his God. As we tend to hurry to our best friend when trouble comes, so Daniel, when he knew the writing was signed, went straight home to his prayer chamber to commune with his Lord. He knelt on his knees not as a matter of routine or ritual, not to list a number of items for prayer, but to wors~jna~ttni&niLupi2n his God. As we have said, he was associated with a very great vision, but the central and supreme feature of this vision was the Person of the Lord.
This is as important to us as it was to him. When we come to the New Testament, we must be careful to give due weight to every detail of its teaching. It is very wrong for us to ignore or disobey the injunctions, the admonitions and the explicit statements of the Word of God. Yet our supreme concern must be with the Lord Jesus Himself. To follow all the teachings and methods associated with the House of God and yet lack the overwhelming Presence of the Son and Owner of the House is to substitute an empty shell for the living reality.
Daniel's vision of the Lord was so great that it involved the eclipse of all his enemies. No doubt they were very imposing, 'the presidents, the deputies, the satraps, the counsellors and the governors' (v. 7). Whatever Daniel thought as he considered this long and formidable list, he gave no indication of being greatly concerned by it. He went off home to meet with his Lord... "as he did aforetime". To have his eyes on the Lord did not mean that he ignored his enemies or pretended that they did not exist. It only meant that because of their hatred he drew nearer to his Lord, realizing that at all costs he must not be drawn away from that committal and that communion which represented the very heart of the Divine purpose. He was determined to keep on positive ground. It can be merely negative to get preoccupied with our enemies, or with the things that menace God's purpose. We shall never reach God's end by chasing negatives.
Daniel refused to be diverted from the main issue. He would not even turn aside to pray about his own perilous position. He had but one answer for his foes, and that was to continue straight on in his devotion to the will of God. We need to follow his example. Satan will always try to divert us from the positive end of God. If we can be drawn out into side issues, he will always provide such for us. They may be things that provoke us, some matter that never fails to arouse our irritation or anger. If we turn aside to pray too much about them, we shall have missed the real call to positive prayer. It is true that Ephesians 6 stresses the call to prayer conflict, but it comes at the end of a letter that is devote . God's purpose in His Son. It is for this, and not for lesser or personal matters, that we are called into the spiritual battle. Or the devil may even keep us busy with some side issue, which we like, good things in themselves, perhaps, but diversions from the principle one. The man of the Spirit refuses to be diverted. Like Daniel, he goes determinedly on
Daniel's vision was so great that it also eclipsed his friends. There is no mention here of Shadrach and his two companions. We do not know where they were. Perhaps they were praying for him in secret. We do know, though, that there are times when we must go through alone with the Lord. This is no contradiction of spiritual fellowship. Such fellowship can only be healthy and vital if in all things the Lord Himself is the One we keep in view. Darius was also Daniel's friend. As a matter of fact he did his sincere best to help him. But it is not recorded that when Daniel knew that the writing was signed he sought out Darius, to talk the matter over with him or to seek his help. No, he went straight away to the Lord. With all his apparent power, Darius proved helpless in this matter. Daniel knew the Lord as 'high over all'. He could not have held quietly on his way as he did if he had not known a constant walk with his Almighty Lord.
The Power of Prayer
In the third place Daniel had learned complete confidence in God's ability to answer prayer. Nothing could deter him from waiting on God, for he knew the power of prayer. Daniel was well acquainted with power; he had lived at the seat of it for many years. As a lad, he had seen in his own land the amazing things that could be done by this world-power. Together with his fellow Jews he had been taken captive by the mighty emperor, the "head of gold" surmounting all the Gentile kingdoms; and now for a very long time he had had his place at the heart of that terrifying world authority. He knew all about the decrees of an absolute despot and about the "law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not" (vs. 8, 12). And when he had considered it all, he was more than ever convinced that one man on his knees was more than a match for it all, that there is more power in the simple prayer of faith than in the greatest empire that this world can ever produce. He had learned his lesson. To him it was no mere theory, as, alas, it often is to us. He had proved it in the past and he was content to go on proving it. It was a special occasion, but he sought for no special remedy. He just went on praying "as he did aforetime".
When a man is up against something of satanic origin, he is forced back to prayer, for only God can deal with the great enemy. It is significant that the signed decree was based on a lie. Darius put his signature to it because of deliberate untruth. Those who brought it to him insisted that it had been agreed among "all the presidents of the kingdom.. ." (v. 7). Daniel was at least equal to his fellow presidents, and he had had no part in it. Had Darius known the truth it is certain that he would never have agreed to pass the law. Wherever there is a lie, Satan is not far away. And when we get involved in his activities we do well to stand back for a moment, to consider the whole thing, and to decide--as apparently Daniel did--that only God can deal with this situation. Of course we may need to state the truth or point out the lie, but how often God's servants have only got themselves into greater difficulties by trying to grapple with something that was too much for them, too strong or too subtle, when the very presence of a lie in the situation could have warned them that this is not a matter of opinion or judgment--we all make mistakes--but of an untruth in the realm of facts. What do we tend to do when we meet such a lie? Usually we want to fight it, to argue about it, to try to deal with it by our own actions. What did Daniel do? He went straight back to God, got on his knees and found a place of spiritual authority over it. He dealt with it all in the place of prayer.
That is where it was all done. The rest was simply the outworking. A painful outworking if you like, for it did not relieve him from the necessity of going down into the lions' den, to the great distress of his friend, Darius, who spent a wakeful night worrying about him. He need not have worried. His own power had failed to deliver Daniel--human power always does fail in the face of spiritual opposition--but the man on his knees is the man in touch with the Throne. We are not told what sort of a night Daniel had, but it may well have been one of great inward rest. And this not because he had prayed about himself, but because he had devoted himself to the Lord's interests and could therefore afford to leave his own needs in the Lord's hands. He did not pray because he was faced with an emergency; he prayed because he was a praying man. He believed in the supreme power of prayer, and he practiced what he believed. If only we would do the same!
Daniel had had to pray in order to obtain his vision. A man is no prophet unless he is first a man of prayer-- ... he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee.. ." (Genesis 20:7). But that was only the beginning. We must not think that revelation as to the will of God is an end in itself; it is but the first phase of a prayer ministry. When Daniel had prayed through to an understanding of the ways of the Lord, he then set himself three times a day to persevere in prayer for their fulfillment. His prayer ministry took him into the lions' den, but it also brought him out again, and he was able to see the thing right through to its glorious end. "So this Daniel prospered." (v. 28). So-by praying through, unmoved and undismayed by plots and threats-- this Daniel prospered. This Daniel--not the Daniel of the presidential office, but the Daniel of the lions' den--this Daniel prospered, not only in the reign of Darius but also in the reign of Cyrus the Persian, who was the liberator and restorer of Jerusalem.
This all happened in the last years of his life. That may be because the time of Jerusalem's liberation was at hand, and Satan the more fiercely attacked the man who was standing for it in prayer. If so, there is a special message for us, who surely have our testimony to give in the closing days of the dispensation. The kingdom for which we labour in prayer is not earthly, but heavenly: it concerns "the Jerusalem that is above" (Gal. 4:26). Let us therefore encourage one another not to be moved by the things which threaten to quench or divert our prayer life. And let us remember that this very experience was the way by which Daniel was brought to his appointed advancement. He went to the Throne by way of the lions' den. Our saviour ascended to the Throne by way of the Cross. We can only reign with Him if we suffer with Him.
"WINDOWS OPEN TOWARD JERUSALEM"
"And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; (now his windows were open in his chamber toward Jerusalem;) and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before His God, as he did aforetime." (Daniel 6:10; A.S.V.).
The key to this verse, and indeed to the whole chapter, is that, little parenthesis--"his windows were open in his chamber toward Jerusalem."
These chapters of Daniel are not in chronological order. Chapters 7 and 8 both come before chapter 5, and then after chapter 5 comes chapter 9 which occurred in the first year of Darius. Chapter 6, although it does not say so, clearly occurred after the first year of Darius: there was an order of things already in the realm, there was a relationship between Darius and Daniel, there were enmities which must have taken time to mature: so that chapter 6 follows chapter 9, and chapter 9 explains the open windows.
A Revelation of God's Purpose
Daniel had a revelation from God. Chapter 9 tells us how he humbled himself before God over the state of God's people and of God's city, and how from heaven there came illumination, and Daniel, with the eyes of the spirit, saw the Divine purpose in its immediate effect (for Jerusalem was to be rebuilt) and in its larger, fuller and final out-working--the day when the people of God and the city of God should indeed be a praise to Him, all transgression forever finished, everlasting righteousness brought in, all the prophecies fulfilled, and God's dwelling-place with men. Daniel saw that; he was able to enter into God's purpose concerning His people; and, whether his windows had been open before that or not, from that day onward they were open--the windows that looked toward Jerusalem--and Daniel made it the persistent, continual, purposeful exercise of his heart to get down before those open windows and pray for God's purposes.
Daniel's Committal to God's Purpose
The opening of the windows was a symbolic act. It meant that he was committed to God and to that to which God was committed; he was with God for that which God intended to do; and the open windows were, humanly speaking, his undoing. Other people saw him at the open windows and realized that here was a trap, a way by which they could ensnare him. And that is, as I understand it, the setting for this chapter 6--not a young man, but the old servant of the Lord, being faced with two alternatives, either to close his windows and leave off pursuing this utter attitude of co-operation with God, or else to go into the lions' den.
The Enemy's Antagonism
Of course, as far as the story goes, it was just the hatred of men and a convenient way of getting rid of him. But we know that there are spiritual lessons in it, and that it always happens like this--that heavenly revelation, and the committal of the heart utterly to the Lord for its fulfillment, provoke an assault which is meant either to make us desist or to destroy us.
Earlier on, Daniel's companions had been in a similar position with regard to the fiery furnace; but for them it was a matter of whether they were on the Lord's side or not. If they were on the Lord's side, well then, the fiery furnace; if they wanted to avoid the fiery furnace, they must break with the Lord. And we know, and Daniel knew, how the Lord delivered. We all know something of that as Christians. So soon as we are truly on the Lord's side we meet, as they met, an antagonism which calls upon us either to desist or to know the fiery furnace.
I think this experience of Daniel's marks a step in advance of that. This was not for him a question of whether he was the Lord's or not. He could have closed his windows, he could have desisted from this which was the cause of his being thrown into the lions' den, without breaking with the Lord; in the quietness of his own heart, in the seclusion of his own room, he could have prayed. It was not how the question of whether he was the Lord's or not, but the question of an utter position in the light of heavenly revelation, or of desisting from that. It is always so. That is the treatment that we may expect if we too have seen something of what God is desiring and intending to do, and have given Him our hearts and our hands that we are with Him for it.
The Delivering Power of the Heavenly Vision
But the message of this verse to my own heart lies here-in such conditions, in the midst of that bitter assault and antagonism, how did Daniel behave? What a lesson for us all! When he knew, he just went on praying toward Jerusalem. It did not make the slightest difference to him. It was not that he suddenly opened the windows-the windows were open; not that he suddenly began to pray- he had been praying and giving thanks three times a day toward Jerusalem. the threats and fury of the adversary made not the slightest difference to him.
Without any sense of strain, without any twisting of himself up and suddenly getting into a tense condition over it all; in quiet, noble dignity, he went on with the Lord. How important for us to be ready for the assault when it comes! I think one of the reasons why Daniel was so steady and calm under it all was that his revelation was something so much bigger than himself that it carried him through. What I mean is that if Daniel had seen Jerusalem being rebuilt and himself a kind of Nehemiah or Zerubbabel taking the lead: if his vision, while being of Divine things, had brought himself into prominence: well, the lions' den would have, been a first-class problem. How could the vision be realized if he went into the lions' den? And that is the disturbing feature in our spiritual lives-that so often, when God reveals Divine things to us, we somehow manage to introduce ourselves into the picture. A certain thing is going to happen, and we are going to have a part! and all too subtly we begin to see ourselves having a prominent place in the realization of it. Then, when the assault comes upon the revelation, and upon us because of it, we are disturbed, we are worried. But Daniel was not going back to Jerusalem, though, as we find, he was told that he should have his place in the end (Dan. 12:13); so far as he was concerned, he forgot himself, he was nothing. The people of God and the city of God, and the purpose of God in that people and city-they were what he saw when he opened the windows. Excuse me putting it this way-it was not a mirror he want to pray in front of, it was an open window. He not see himself as the chief feature; he saw-though no human eye could see it at that distance-the city of God, he saw the Divine purposes. What did the lions' den matter to them? What did it matter what men did to Daniel so long as that end was realized? In the light of what God had shown him, he could not stop praying for Jerusalem, and, what is more important, he could not stop giving thanks for Jerusalem.
We need a little imagination to put ourselves in his place. When he knew that the writing was signed, what did he do? Begin to pray for Daniel? No, that is what Darius did. Daniel gave thanks that Jerusalem was going to be rebuilt. Oh, the delivering power of a vision big enough, heavenly enough, Divine enough to swallow up all our little petty and personal interests! That is the secret-the open windows. Dear brother, dear sister, look out to God's purpose! Of course, if you do, it will involve the lions' den. What did Daniel care for the lions' den? When he had heard all about it, he just went home, went on praying, went on thanking God.
The Futility of Earthly Endeavour
I like to compare Darius with Daniel. Darius was supposed to be the king, but Daniel was the man reigning in spirit. What a bad time Darius had! and that does not express to us the bad time that evil people have, but the bad time that the well-intentioned man has, who is concerned for the interests of the Lord without really knowing the Lord. It was to Darius' credit that he was so moved and terribly anxious. You notice what it says: this shows the difference of attitude: Darius, when he had been tricked into this experience, "was sore displeased, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him." That is a good enough, reasonable enough, sincere enough exercise. "He set his heart on Daniel to deliver him." And what happened? "He labored till the going down of the sun to rescue him," but all his labour did not make the slightest difference to the lions' den; nor did it make the slightest difference to the Divine deliverance when it came. You can imagine those men who were the means of bringing Daniel into the lions' den. How they enjoyed the problem, the dilemma in which Darius was! He laboured, but they outwitted him; he tried in vain to think how he could outwit them and express his power, and they laughed at him. And the devil laughs at us when we are in the position that Darius was in. And, while the Lord did not laugh at him-I am sure the Lord appreciated the good that lay behind it all-He would have said to Darius, Don't trouble, you are wasting your time, I can manage without you.
Then the night came and the matter seemed irrevocable. What a night the king had, the restlessness, the bitterness, the disappointment! Bring him food-he doesn't want food; music?-he cannot listen to music; sleep?-he cannot sleep. What a night! While Daniel, down among the lions, was having a nice, peaceful, quiet night! Which things are a parable. Daniel or Darius? I am afraid I am often Darius. Darius was a man of the earth, Daniel was a man of heaven. When you are a man of the earth and when you face Divine things as here on earth, that is the kind of condition you work yourself into. Darius was frantic, strained to breaking point. He wanted to deliver the Lord's interests and he laboured and he fought and then he broke his heart because he felt all the Lord's interests were in the lions' den. He tried to meet the enemies of the Lord's interests on their own level. They plotted-he tried to counter-plot; they had exercised their power-he sought the means for overruling with his power; he was wrestling with flesh and blood, and he was losing and he was suffering. "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood" (Eph. 6:12). When Daniel knew that the decree was signed, he did not set his heart to deliver Daniel. He did not labour till the going down of the sun to try and find a way out. Daniel went on looking to Jerusalem, and the peace of God which passeth all understanding kept his heart and mind. But Darius, with the best of intentions, was struggling and striving and trying to do something to help the Lord, and he only succeeded in working himself into a state of restlessness and strain that are beyond description.
What is the secret? Surely it is as I have said-Darius was concerned for Daniel, for the human side, for the servant of the Lord-a very good concern in his case, because quite unselfish-but it did not help. Daniel was not concerned for the servant of the Lord. he was concerned for the interests of the Lord, for the heavenly revelation, and the result was that he was kept in perfect peace while Darius was worked up into a fever and a fret.
Well now, let the Lord apply the message and the lesson to each of our hearts. How does it work out with us? Are we on earthly ground or on heavenly?
The Devil's Seeming Triumph
The devil seems rather to be limited in his ability to foresee the deliverances of God. He thinks-and indeed it looks as if he is right-that he can engineer situations in which there are only two alternatives; it was so with the three young men, it was so with Daniel, and in His time it was so with our blessed Lord. Two alternatives face the servant of God. Either he must relinquish the vision or he must be destroyed; and having, like some diabolical chess-player, engineered a situation from which there are only two possible moves, Satan stands back. In either case he is triumphant. If those three young men will avoid the fiery furnace at the expense of denying the Lord, the devil does not mind their going free-they have denied the Lord, the spiritual interest is marred. Daniel can, if he will, save himself from the lions' den, he can close his windows, he can relinquish that utter position of abandonment to the heavenly revelation; he can-and alas many do-avoid the lions' den. It can he done, and Satan has triumphed either way; and that is the diabolical ingenuity of it. It is a cleft-stick. Either we must relinquish that utter position concerning that which the Lord has shown us, or Satan will break us, he will finish our usefulness, he will mar our lives. So we have to sit down with the two alternatives.
God's Counter by Resurrection
But the devil is limited, happily. There are not really only two ways, there is a third way. The young men proved it, Daniel proved it. In the case of our Lord, and in New Testament language, it is Resurrection. The word used in Daniel is "deliverance." There is a third way; the young men may not have known about that, Darius did not know about it. Did Daniel know? I wonder. Neither he nor the three young men stopped to think when the alternatives were placed before them. . They did not take an time to decide, they were committed to the Lord what happened to them was a secondary thing. Yet I think Daniel did know. He knew in the way in which we may all know. He could not foresee the way in which God would deliver him. That is what we want to know-we want the Lord to explain, we want that somebody else should have gone the same way, and nobody has gone that way before: it always is to us as a new experience, we cannot see the way out. Nor could Daniel in that sense; but spiritually he could see that his association with the Lord was the safe way, and though with his mind he could not understand, with his spirit he knew that to be on the Lord's side was the safe way, and that is why there is this air of quiet calm about hit11. He did not see the way out, but he did know the Lord; so he would open his windows and pray and praise.
"Is thy God, Whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?" Well, let the next morning and the light of day show, and the king shall see there are not the two alternatives. That is what the devil thinks- maybe even persuades himself. That is what man thinks as he looks at it from a human level. That is what we shall think unless we have the windows open toward Jerusalem. Two alternatives-either we must compromise in this matter of utter abandonment to what the Lord has shown His will or we shall be broken-one or the other. If we say, in any case I cannot abandon what the Lord has shown, my heart is set upon Him: we shall find that there is a third way. There is the vision, and there is deliverance. Thank God, that is true for us, He is the God of resurrection. tion, the God of deliverances. So let us keep the windows open.
A Great Victory
See what happened as the result of this. There is always spiritual gain when we are faithful to the Lord. Daniel heard all their threats, knew what was going to happen, foresaw it all, and quietly went on with the Lord. That is all Daniel did, but you see the extraordinary results. This experience of his was a great victory. Without feeling revengeful about men, we must feel there is a certain spiritual satisfaction at the end of the story in the fact that the ones who had plotted Daniel's overthrow were cast into the den themselves; and the spiritual lesson is a true one. Daniel's quiet faithfulness and his deliverance were not just things in themselves, they were the overthrow of the enemies of the Lord. It was a great victory. And it is always like that. Daniel did not wrestle and strive. He did nothing concerning his enemies; he kept his windows open to Jerusalem. But so long as he did that, God was quite capable of dealing with his enemies. Let the rest, the quiet, the calm dignity of that assurance flood our hearts. Darius was trying to deal with the enemies and could not; Daniel was holding fast to the Lord and his steadfastness was the undoing of all his enemies.
"The God of Daniel"
And the second feature which emerges from this story is the great testimony to the Lord which was set up because of Daniel. The Book of Daniel has a number of titles of God which are very striking, and some of them very wonderful. He is the "Living God"; He is the "God of heaven"; He is the "Ancient of days"; and so on. But come to chapter 6:26, and He is "the God of Daniel." In all that list of glorious titles, here is one more-"the God of Daniel." What a testimony! It is not that Daniel stands for anything, but what makes the King and all others to marvel is, 'What a God Daniel has!' Would that that might be added to the many titles of the Lord, with my name and yours in the place of Daniel's! We are not important, but nor was Daniel in his own eyes.
Our windows open toward Jerusalem, our going on with the Lord, mean the lions' den; but we go on with the Lord, and after all we come out of the lions' den and there is a great victory, something established in the earth that never was before of a testimony to the greatness of the glory of God. "The God of Daniel." The Lord grant that this may be true in our case
While it is true that a very large place is given in the Bible to individual and personal prayer, it is also true that a very great value is put upon corporate prayer. Indeed, a value is given to corporate prayer which cannot be known in individual prayer. In the New Testament the prayer-meeting has a very vital place in relation to the people and the work of God. It can be rightly said that the prayer-gathering is the index and register of the church's life. Show us your prayer-gathering and let us hear how the believers pray, and we will tell you what kind of church that is.
But what is church-prayer? In other words,'What Should The Prayer-Meeting Be?' It may seem a truism to say that it should be :
1. The Church
That is, the church as an entity, a corporate entity. Such a gathering together should be the solid expression of the organic oneness and spiritual unity of the local company of believers. The mere congregating of a number of individuals without an organic integration, and with so many personal interests to express or have expressed, may have values and would be better than nothing at all, but it would not be the solid and effectual prayer of the church as an entity.
There is a history behind the prayer of the church, as such. It is the history of a work of the Cross in which each member has been brought on to the ground of identification with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection, and by that common history has identical life and fellowship. Such a church has gone through something in experience and that something has become subjective.
If two people have gone through a similar experience which has deeply affected their inward life, they have a mutuality of understanding, and they can speak with one voice. So it was in the prayer-life of the New Testament churches. They shared and expressed locally what was fundamentally true of the Church universal. It was a crucified and resurrected Church, having been baptized into the sufferings and victory of its Head. That victory should be inherited by the local church, and be manifested in the effective working and issues of its corporate prayer.
There, in the gatherings-or coming together-for prayer, the very nature and vocation of the Church universal should be in expression. Its nature is that of a spiritual organism because it has been born "not of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God," "born of the Spirit." Its vocation is to express the greatness, the rights, and the authority of Christ. Prayer is essentially vocational, and this is pre-eminently so in corporate prayer.
Vital relatedness, both of the persons and of the prayer, is indispensable to effectual prayer. How easy it is for someone to come in with something quite discordant or irrelevant, and so swing the prayer away from its strength of purpose and positiveness.
While many particular matters may occupy the foreground of required prayer, there should always be a looking beyond the thing itself to how it really relates to and touches those three factors just mentioned-the greatness, the rights, and the authority of Christ. We must have an adequate case in our prayer, and that is the Lord's glory.
2. Corporate Prayer Must
The church at prayer must be on the ground of absolute authority. It must not be in doubt, uncertainty, or weakness, but in assurance and confidence. There must be the ground of authoritative appeal to God. There must be the ground of authority over the evil forces at work in any given situation. The church must have the assured right in its position and in its intercession.
That right and authority is respectively the infinite virtue and efficacy of the Blood of Christ and its testimony, and the Name of Christ as above every other name.
The church-at all times, but-especially when at prayer must be consistent with all that the Blood of Christ means as a testimony against sin, condemnation, and death. These things mean a closed door to Heaven and God. The Blood of Christ has for ever been the ground, and the only ground, of "the new and living way" to the Throne of Grace. The Name of Christ is the very synonym for supreme authority. But even so, it is not just a title, but the embodiment of a nature wholly satisfying to God; of a work perfectly accomplished; and of a position fully accorded Him. These are the elements of authority, and the ground of authoritative prayer. On this ground the church has a right to pray and expect. It can do more than ask upward; it can challenge outward-"in the Name."
3. Corporate Prayer Should
When we use the word 'executive' we mean decisive. If you were a member of an executive body in any business concern, you would be a person marked by certain features, that is, if the concern with which you were connected was of a really vital character.
(a) You would be recognized as a person with a real business mind. That concern would give a seriousness to your demeanor and attitude. It would rule out diffusiveness and irrelevance, and knit you together with your colleagues as one with an integrating objective.
(b) You would be a person who would be marked by a will for decisions. Wasting of time; indecision; tentativeness; carelessness; and all such things would greatly disturb and trouble you. Your soul would be saying, 'Don't let us be always and only talking about things; waiting for something to happen, and hoping that it will, some day. Let us be executive, and have issues settled, and conclusions reached. Let there be an element of decisiveness and conclusiveness about our transactions. Let us reach for and be set upon a verdict.' Surely, such features are traceable in the prayers in the Bible, with Abraham, Moses, Daniel Nehemiah, etc., and in the New Testament Church and churches!
Our praying in meetings is all too tentative and indecisive. We do not really go out for a verdict. We stop before we have the assurance that we are through on that issue. There is such a thing as taking as well as asking. We ought to go away, not wondering, to say nothing of forgetting, but rather expecting and looking for Heaven's answer. That answer ought to be already in our hearts. If what we have said is true of any Executive worthy of the name, who has a serious Concern to serve, should it be less or otherwise with the church which has the greatest of all interests to serve, responsibilities to carry, and Name to honour? We should not go to the place and time of prayer just because it is 'prayer-meeting night'; or to do our duty to our 'church,' or for conscience sake; certainly not to give certain others the occasion to pray while we listen and-more or less-agree. We are the church. We are in the greatest of all business! We should go thus-minded and with 'purpose of heart' determined to co-operate and-so help us God-to have outstanding, urgent issues settled for 'the sake of the Name.' On arriving our instant action should be to take the right ground and ask fervently that all should be taken into the hands of the Holy Spirit. One word remains for this present.
4. Corporate Prayer Must
It is impressive that in that part of the greatest Church letter in the New Testament where its militant character is emphasized and its armor portrayed, the Apostle gives such a definite place to prayer (Eph. 6).
There is nothing which draws out the "wiles" of the evil powers so much as corporate prayer. Everything is done to smother, blanket, confuse, divert, pre-occupy, disturb, distract, annoy, hinder, weary, waste time, and many other things, all with the object to see that there is no real impact of Christ's authority upon their kingdom.
If we realize this we shall 'gird up the loins of our minds,' we shall 'stand and withstand.' Being alive to what is involved and what is happening, we can be no more passive than a soldier could be if he saw his country's interests and his comrades' lives involved in his attitude and action.
There is a real combativeness in corporate prayer, and we shall not get anywhere if our fighting spirit-not in the flesh, but in the Holy Spirit-has been let go or taken from us.
These chapters have been taken from: Discipline Unto Prayer by T. Austin-Sparks
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