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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Thy Kingdom Come # 8

The Kingdom and Spiritual Warfare (continued)

Having said this, we may now turn to the four great battles which are described as actually happening in the personal experience of Daniel and his companions in Babylon. The other battles of the book do not concern us at the moment. There are kings and princes and rams and he-goats and horns, but their histories do not help much for our present purpose. In any case, they were fighting among themselves, so we can leave them to it. We want to fight for the Lord and to bear our testimony to His Kingdom.

1. A Battle Over the Lord's Sufficiency

The first episode is described in chapter 1, and circles around the matter of the Lord's sufficiency. In some senses it was a simple issue; but it was also fundamental - it affected and governed the whole of Daniel's life. It he had failed then, there would have been nothing more to write. True, the fiery furnace might have been avoided, and the lion's den; life might have seemed easier, with no costly visions and no sacrificial prayers. satan sought to make a quick end to this whole conflict by introducing defilement. There seems to be a real connection between the first test of Daniel and the first temptation of Christ in the wilderness.

If this were just a message to young Christians, it would be right to point out how important it is to avoid the contaminating influence of this world even in small and apparently harmless things. But for our purpose this must be included in the larger issue represented by the Babylonian king's table. Babylon fed on pride. Self-sufficiency and self-glory, these were the meat of the king of Babylon and these the wine which he drank. Daniel would have none of it.He was not bring wrongly independent: the pulse and water were not of his own providing, but received gratefully from Babylon. Yet what a difference there was between being nourished by that which spoke of pride and human glory, and feeding on the humble, despised pulse and water.

Even Daniel's spirit reveals how truly humble he was; for, while "he purposed in his heart that he would not ...", we are told that "therefore he requested ... that he might not ...", (1:8). His request must have seemed foolish and even weak. It brought no cause for boasting, but only a real experience of humbling. Nevertheless the humbling kept him pure with God. There is nothing so defiling as pride in spiritual things, and no battle so fiercely fought as the battle for humility. Indeed, humility is a fundamental necessity in the spiritual conflict. This chapter really sets the tone for the whole book. At the end of it we are told that "Daniel continued even unto the first year of Cyrus", and this is clear from the rest of the book: indeed he lived longer than that. Perhaps the reason for mentioning it at this point is to emphasize that he continued because he maintained this pure and humble spirit. No doubt there is also the hint that this same conflict continued with him all through the years. It was his first battle, and may well have been his last. It certainly is with us, and temptations to pride grow fiercer as we press on with the Lord.

His action revealed great faith as well as humility. He not only made a request; he issued a challenge; "Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days ..." For the steward it was an experiment, and rather a dangerous one at that, whereas to Daniel it was a foregone conclusion. Faith cannot afford to have questions about the Lord's sufficiency. Daniel was not in a position to make a private test to see if it worked. No, he had to commit himself, to utter the challenge of faith, to invite others to prove how right was his complete confidence in the Lord. What a battleground faith is! We are here in this world not to apologize for our abstentions, but to manifest the superiority and sufficiency of Christ to meet every need. "Prove it," Daniel urged; and when they did so, it was made very clear that faith's way is better - ten times better - than the world's way. Even those who never tried it themselves could see that.

It seems that Daniel was more than the spokesman for the other three- he was a pioneer and leader. But for him, they might have been nonentities or failures like so many more of their fellow-countrymen in Babylon. Daniel seems to have given the lead, and then they gladly followed, which only goes to show how much our triumphs of faith may help inspire others. Our victories are not to be kept to ourselves but to be shared with others.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 9 - (2. A Battle for Revelation)

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