The 20th century has taken a decisive lead in the manifestation of signs and wonders before a watching world as preachers proclaim that God is alive through miraculous healing and words of prophecy. However, societies continue to grow worse in the face of world-wide revival. God certainly poured out His Spirit during times of divinely authored revival, such as the Reformation when He restored the Gospel to the Church. During the Great Awakening tens of thousands of sinners came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Even the 2nd Great Awakening, which was smaller in scope, saw many come to Christ. Many other revivals could be mentioned that have gone down in history as the hand of God moving on masses of people brought them to Christ. In each case true revivals have the same thing in common, they have moved societies clearly in a direction toward God. During the last few decades multitudes have come to Christ within the borders of China and the effect has been felt even in the halls of government. It has been with persecution, it is a poorly taught Church, it has been underground, but it is emerging as of late. Even the Roman Empire eventually fell and Christianity arose out of the ashes, even thought the true Church remained in a small minority.
During the time of Israel’s exile revival was non-existent but it was not without a witness; there is always a remnant. There was queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai who God used to rescue Israel from the destructive hand of Haman a hater of the Jews. The story before us in chapter 6 recounts the faith of Daniel, who time and again became a witness to all who knew him, including the kings that held Israel in bondage. Daniel was always a witness to the glory of the God that made his faith possible.
What was the witness that Daniel proclaimed to the heathen nations concerning the God of Israel? In chapter 1 Daniel prospered better physically than those who ate the choicest of the king’s food, while he only ate vegetables. At the core of Daniel’s witness he denied himself the better food in order to be obedient to God’s law. In chapter 2 Daniel was permitted to see the future by interpreting the king’s dream; he was quick to state that this ability was not his own but was a gift given him by the God of heaven. In chapter 3 Daniel’s friends were saved from a fiery furnace because they would not bow the knee to an idol made of gold but only to the God of Israel. In each case the overwhelming testimony was to the holiness of the God of Israel, who is worthy of worship, and even to the point of death.
In chapter 6 of Daniel’s story he experienced deliverance from the lion’s mouth. Once again Daniel would not bend the knee to an idol of gold out of fear of what men might do to him. The extraordinary spirit within Daniel is witnessed to by God’s holy word. “Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom” It is always extraordinary to find honesty in a fallen world, particularly among the powerful.
“It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss.” (6:1, 2)
“…that the king might not suffer loss.” was the sticking point for the guardians of the kingdom and why they wanted to destroy Daniel. The king must have loved the fact that Daniel was so honest; thereby he could curtail all the thieving that must have gone on by those in positions of authority.
These governors thought they were being shrewd when they enticed the king to sign a bill that would prohibit all the people in the land from petitioning any God but the king. They counted on the king’s pride but overlooked his ability to see the true reason for their treachery, which was Daniel’s death. They should have understood how much he trusted Daniel and thereby cared for him. However, the treacherous are always stupid. They may have gotten a glimpse into the king’s heart at his response, if they were clear headed enough. “Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him” (Daniel 6:14). At this point the animosity that the king felt for his disloyal leaders must have gone through the roof. It is amazing how foolish people can be when they think they are going to obtain what their lusts drive them to, much like an alcoholic on a binge. These leaders sought for Daniel’s death even though they knew that the king favored him; such a move was not wise on their part. Even if they got their way and Daniel was put to death, did they really think that the king would overlook their jealousy and treachery?
For thousands of years kings have sent their people to war out of a lust for power knowing full well that in just a few years hence all their acquired wealth would be lost through their own death. Sinful man never considers carefully his own end; the redeemed, however, live not for the here and now but for the rewards of Him who will judge all the earth. True wisdom is never short-sighted but is always eternal in scope.
The king of Daniel’s day was no different than many king’s of today; they were ruthless and could murder on a whim. They were absolute monarchs, and with absolute power come absolute pride and vanity. So it is no small matter when the scriptures proclaims Darius’ concern for Daniel.
“Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him. Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den” (Daniel 6:18, 9).
Darius wondered if Daniel’s God was able to deliver him from the lion (6:20). But Daniel spoke and told the king that God sent an angel to protect him. It was not even God but one of His servants that shut the mouth of the lion, and it was not a lack of appetite or anything else that preserved Daniel but the will of His God. After throwing the leaders that conspired against Daniel to the lions, Darius made a statement to go throughout his land, “I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:26). It was clearly not Daniel that received the glory through his deliverance but his God. A true prophet always ensures that God gets the glory.
The evidence of true revival that originates with God is that His name is praised among unbelievers, the witness of His people so permeates the land that it gives a sweet fragrance of God through the proclamation of truth. The Great Awakening is almost all but forgotten in America but it has left its stamp of blessing upon an undeserving people. Our laws, constitution, and even culture is evidence that God brought a revival upon the people of this land from 1740 to 1770. Those of us who can remember the 1950’s and before remember a much different America; it was filled with unbelievers but it retained something of the fragrance of revival from 200 years earlier. The 20th century may have the appearance of signs and wonders but the condition of the people speaks of selfishness, pride, and greed at a magnitude that does not smell of the sweet fragrance of revival but the terrible odor of false prophets. The 1960’s brought great change to the black man’s condition and I would not forget that, but as a general culture we have witnessed great decline in general understanding of morality, and in the family. Even as I write this, I am aware of the defense that many will mount against what will sound like the limiting of personal freedoms, however, the founders of our country were aware of the freedom that Christianity brings and alternately the slavery of sin. For thirty years pulpit and field were ablaze with righteous preaching and so they doubted man’s ability to do right and constructed a government to help safeguard sinful lusts. At the same time they tried to give man personal freedoms, alas over time sinful tendencies have and continue to erode them as selfishness and immorality give way to sinful pride and blindness.
George Whitefield and Benjamin Franklin were lifelong friends. Franklin admired Whitefield and he published his works, but according to Whitefield Franklin remained an unbeliever until the day of his death. If that be true, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, Franklin bore the effects of his relationship with Whitefield by helping the cause of the Gospel just as Darius did, but also remained unchanged in his soul with regards to his relationship to God. Such was the case with many of the founders of America. The words of David have come to pass many times and for many people, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” (Psalm 23:5) The Darius’ of the world have admired the testimony of godly men and women, just as many today proclaim themselves to be Christian, but it is not self that makes one a Christian but God. Sometimes there is persecution and sometimes respect and admiration, but be assured God will get the glory.