Fat and Flourishing in Old Age

Daniel, like Moses and Abraham did much of his greatest work in old age; but not only then were there marvels. HE lived long, being a youth in an early section of the captivity, lived beyond that and operated right into the reign of Cyrus, of whom Darius may have been a subordinate.

Strategically, the role was amazing, and nestling in the heart of the Jewish discipline imposed in exile for 70 years, enabled what could have been a woeful near extinction in infamy and degradation for Israel (and Lamentations showed that this is indeed how the finale started, when Jerusalem itself, well after Daniel's export for cadetship in Babylon, was laid waste), to become a testimonial trumpet.

To USE defeat because of sin, in the case of Judah, and exile of bright young men as cadets, subservient, to be occupied with a foreign culture and domain, where they would be thought of as potential recidivists, conditioned by gods and religions, if not directly, then by attrition; to show victory and triumph, power and glory and to have it RECOGNISED as such by THREE kings: this is a mastery of strategy so profound, and a procedure so deep as to bring delight to those who watch the ways, not of pollution, as if were the last word, or of greenhouse gases, as if they were, or al Qaeda, as if its lunacy (cf. Hosea 9:7) were the crushing nemesis based on destructive religion, for all: but the ways of God. The wisdom of God in His own ways is delightful beyond measure, and blessed are they who know Him. Three men, and especially one, He both could and did use to instruct two empires, three kings, and many who heard, so that the name of Daniel became almost a byword (Ez. 14:14ff.).

One of them, Daniel, lived like an oak through the storms, functional, felicitous in challenge, dire in his delight in duty to the Lord, faithful and available. If the empires past, and he remained, it was not least to continue to point to what their fourfold succession would be, to give to it all a spiritual perspective in the strategies of God, to focus the Messiah and His contradiction of the self-pampering and elevation of Imperial Persons, in devastating humility (cf. Daniel 2, 7, 9). Thus did He achieve, by abnegation, triumphing through desolation (Daniel 9:26), the uttermost for man, for all who so received Him: so that He might rule all peoples, being subject to no culture (Daniel 7:13ff.), but the very Wisdom of God, made flesh, the Lord of all.

The power of God, effective in desolation, was now shown; and how great was that result, the impact of this man of God, of these three, Daniel and his friends, dextrously placed for impact in the time of discipline for the nation. More, if the prophets seemed now to have no base, yet it was not so: for firstly, the word of Jeremiah before the exile arrived, showed how long it would last, 70 years, secondly, this word, pondered by Daniel when old, led to the revelation of the greatest arithmetically patterned pre-exposure of history that one could well imagine, through the Messiah to the very limits of this Age, and thirdly, through the faith in that same Lord who had led Israel OUT in the Exodus, and now led them IN to their land of exile for a time, Empires were announced before their day came, and the hand of God over all history was revealed. 


Multi-Prophetic Light

What an exploit, what a strategy, what love and patience on the part of the Lord, to engineer wonder and glory, the very grace and sight of the power and wisdom of God, into the lapse of the nation supposed to show it, when it failed! What a grandeur, to expose that the very Messiah Himself, the One to receive in its time, dominion never to end over all nations and peoples (Daniel 7:9-14), would Himself be given not mere exile, but NOTHING for His pains (Daniel 9:26). From Him, all honour would be evacuated, all dominion seemingly levelled, a sinless recipient, as Isaiah had elaborated in 49-55, of the doom deserved not only by one nation, but by each person in it and in all nations; for without Him, there is only everlasting rebellion for renegades (Daniel 7:9ff.).

So, as in a prelude, did the Lamentations of Jeremiah, itself the very picture of desolation, with Josiah "the breath of our nostrils", magnificently passionate and discerning about reform, if too late to deliver Jerusalem, show the deserts of sin. From the day of the slain, godly king, Josiah, to the defeat of the nation, was but a short time, a few decades; and then was posted the picture of sin which had coursed so freely for so long, throughout the nation. It was sin which Christ would take to Himself, as the godly Jerusalem, one hit vicariously, the godly Temple assaulted in substitution for man (Daniel 9:26-27), available for as many as entered into Him, into His ransom and His relief, His redemption and His rule.

Thus all things attuned, we look further into this realm of the grace of God in its many intimations in Daniel, and in his day. What then of the Kings of his day ? Because of the works of God in deliverance, in solving riddles, in expressing demonstrable truth that no mere man could know, each one was humbled, saw his power overturned or surpassed, and made testimony.

Listen to the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, side by side, as below (Daniel 4 and 6).

"And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven,
and my understanding returned to me;
and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever:

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom is from generation to generation.

All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;
He does according to His will in the army of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, 'What have You done?' "

"At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me.

"Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down."

Remember that this praise of the Lord came after Nebuchadnezzar had been told of an incoming insanity and time of deep humiliation awaiting him. This dully came as shown first in terms of Daniel's  interpreting a dream, when so requested with so many others, which troubled the King. Daniel alone interpreted it, and his God alone was honoured and seen in the lab of history, as the Lord of life.

Now consider Darius’ declaration, made later when Daniel was once more delivered.

"Then King Darius wrote:  To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom
men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.

"For He is the living God, And steadfast forever;
His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed,
And His dominion shall endure to the end.

“He delivers and rescues, And He works signs and wonders In heaven and on earth,
Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions."

That came after Daniel, caught in a malevolent trap, was about to be exterminated like vermin, on the earth but escaped by the control that God has over all events. Further, there was impact on another King, one Belshazzar, who had dared to use for secular purposes the spiritually significant, Temple sacred objects of gold and silver, captured when Nebuchadnezzar had earlier looted Jerusalem.

Even in a drinking orgy, those who so abused sacred materials could not escape the hand of the God to whom they referred in His Temple. To them, in their cups, there came a marvel of horrendous feeling, and it was nothing other than a hand, seen to be writing words on the wall. The hand of eloquently driven destiny was no mere abutment of forces: it came from a mind with wisdom, as seen by the agency of His hand, active as His self-interpreting means!

On hearing from Daniel the translation of the handwriting on the wall, signifying his demise as ruler (in fact, he died that night), that King, Belshazzar, elevated Daniel for his resolution of this mystery of the meaning of the writing, its application, giving him the place of Third Ruler in the Kingdom (thus suggesting that he himself was a second ruler, perhaps in charge at a more local level where Daniel was, or temporarily). The impact on those who saw the hand writing, heard the interpretation and then found Belshazzar dead that night, with a new empire occupying the land, must have been vast.

The stone of truth, thrown into events, was sharp and pointed, and many were the mysteries of corrupt religion into which it slammed. Indeed, that is near to the imagery of Daniel 2, where the stone to smash the power of empires, at its end for the Age, turned into a mountain that filled the earth. This, of course, was the Lord of all nations as exposed in Daniel 7:11:ff., in its coverage of summit wisdom, concerning the progress of human rule to the advent of direct divine rule. That however was to be through the Son of man, sent for the purpose. There depicted was the ultimate gift of God, that the LORD should become man as in Isaiah 40:10ff., 7-9, 11, Psalm 72, 45, Hosea 13:14: the Redeemer (and only God is this - Isaiah 43:10-11), the LORD (Isaiah 53)!

So did Daniel, added to Isaiah and Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 16:19-20), with Micah 5:1-3, the whole like a string quartet, produce at the hand of God, indeed at His mouth, the Spiritual Symphony, carefully following the musical score; and ever since man has been readily able to know what the score is.

The Lord knows who serves Him, and can use in love, His own  wisdom of strategy even through the gift of ministry to His servants, appointed not by destiny, but to reveal it from the Lord. Even under duress, even in strange places, there is no limit to Him, to expand the testimony and reach more with more, and so starve what is least with less (cf. Jeremiah 10:11, Zephaniah 2:11). Just as there is only one  God in the earth (Psalm 96, Exodus 20, Ephesians 4:4, Isaiah 43-46), so there is only one Book which reveals with detailed testability, reliability and responsibility, a security for reason, a declaration of the God who made it, not only of what is but of what is to be, yes and where needed, what has been, and very often, why it has been so.

Without this communication, man is like a small vessel in the high seas, tossed by the billows, gripped by vast octopus arms, creaking in its turmoil, creeping in its travail, boasting to the winds in its anguish, knowing neither direction nor protection in the fog.  Not so was the direction availing for Daniel.  


Triumph through the Midst of Suffering

Strategy, nevertheless, as with Job, can involve intense suffering on the part of those who are honoured to be so used in the kingdom of heaven (cf. Acts 5:41). Consider Peter, condemned almost certainly to death, after James' murder by Herod (Acts 12:1ff.); but in this crisis, with which one can readily emphasise, we see him extracted from being chained to soldiers, guarded by 16 of them, in the night. Thus his SUFFERING was occasion for a divine strategy.

WHY so many guards ? Earlier, imprisoned also, following profound testimonials in healing and voice (Acts 3:11ff., 5:15), Peter had been rescued by supernatural action and then told to stand in the very place associated with the Temple, where people would be, and declare the ways of this life in Jesus Christ. This he did. Being freed by God from prison, he spoke for God out of it. Fear was nothing to the point; nor yet danger. He had the message (as in Acts 2 and 3), and so he spoke it where it was needed, bonds no obstacle, imprisonment in close confinement no deterrent, indeed overcome. The nation needed to hear the way of life in Christ Jesus, and so Peter told it, even as an escapee, right in the midst of the lair of his oppressors!

Next time, then, he was WELL secured, chained indeed in the presence of 16. Yet it did not suffice. He was evacuated again, not executed, in order to execute the will of God in many things, before the time when through death, he was permitted to show his devotion, and complete his career; and even in this, as with Moses, he was very aware when the time for it was coming (cf. II Peter 1:12-15). It was indeed, in that very known last period of his life that he not only told the people that he was writing to ensure that they were given a reminder of spiritual realities before he left, but included with this a fearful, Jude-like account of the fraud and falsity which many in the Church would accomplish. Treacherous traitors would come when the Age drew near its own end! (II Peter 2-3), and the cultural occlusion, the blindness which would accompany it (also shown by Paul in I Timothy 4, II Timothy 3-4) would act as if to suffocate, but in vain, the testimony of truth itself  (cf. II Peter 3, Isaiah 59).  

Right from Eden, God got in first, even there proclaiming (Genesis 3:15) in the protevangelion, that through man, the cursed estate of man would be redeemed. Whether in Isaiah, in Zechariah, in Daniel in his overview of imperial domains and the Celestial Kingdom,  the Lord thus proclaimed what the strategy of the devil would be, and exposed it before it could well be established, to the end (Daniel 9-12). But let us return to the earlier segment of His power and protection - for His word is not only a light but a rock - in the day of Daniel. The strategy the Lord used with and by His servants, and His word through them, thus showed firstly, character and power, secondly, courage and endurance, thirdly, as with Daniel, the multiple delivering power of God, fourthly, that this is (as with the slain James), not a matter of stopping murder, for His saints could die for Him, but of stopping what needed stopping in its tracks, in the interplay of suffering, salvation and its testimony.

As with Daniel, so was it with Peter. As with the scholar, so with the fisherman, divine strategy was translated into action. Nor was there any lack of desire; for both Peter and Daniel were quite prepared to die if necessary. Thus Daniel had not in the least covered up his prayer times when it became ILLEGAL to pray to any 'god' except to the image provided by Nebuchadnezzar in his vanity and blasphemy (Daniel 6). In similar strength, Daniel's three friends, close colleagues, had refused in full open and public view, to bow to an idol, or to be subjected in their own spirits as attested by the actions of their bodies, to ANY OTHER GOD, or CULTURE or ultimate OBEDIENCE! They would rather die in the midst of flames, than quench the flame which in their spirits (Psalm 104:4), made life meaningful, and shone through from heaven to earth as their mandate. Such is the spirit which His people show, as enlightened by the Spirit of God, and to which we are called. It is not to inflict evil, but to bear it; yet not to bear with it, rather showing the grace and the truth of Jesus Christ, fearless in faith, cordial in heart.