The Scripture is clear that from the beginning God has made Israel the centre of government in the earth. These great kingdoms, in number four, were raised up -- through the unfaithfulness of Israel -- to be their oppressors till the time when God shall put them all down. On the one hand God showed to the great Assyrian Monarch there were to be four kingdoms destined to be smashed by the falling of a stone -- by the second coming of the Messiah. In a different scene, when Joseph was called upon to interpret Pharaoh's dream, he said "And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice, it is because the thing is established by God." He has given the subject in two different forms; one for Nebuchadnezzar -- so suitable to his ideas of greatness, and the other to grieve and instruct the heart of His servant Daniel. It is well to consider how he -- Daniel -- got into that place of honour. He kept himself pure when they wished to fatten him for the king's court. When Nebuchadnezzar was excessively troubled that none of the magicians or astrologers could interpret his dreams, Daniel took it all easy and was undisturbed. He said "there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and He maketh known to thee what shall come to pass." He had asked mercies of the God of heaven and favour for his companions, and found favour with the prince of the eunuchs. Profitable as it is, I have not time to go into that part of the subject now. The colossal image stood firm with its magnificent gold head, its silver breast, and brazen belly and legs, feet of iron and toes of iron and clay; then the stone rolled upon it and smashed it to pieces, swelled out and took the place of the image as a kingdom in the earth. Why was Nebuchadnezzar the tail? Upon the last Gentile kingdom the stone (spoken of in the blessing upon Joseph, Genesis 49: 24,) will fall and grind it to powder. This vision of power had a bad effect upon the king Nebuchadnezzar -- he fell down to worship Daniel. Why am I justified in saying the effect was injurious? His mind laid much upon the mighty wondrous image he had seen. It so worked on his mind that he made a decree that all should worship the image of it, or be killed. He took the whole glory of the kingdom to himself regardless of the true God. All must bow down to worship the image he had set up. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refusing to do so, were cast into the furnace. Daniel -- whose name signified "judgment of God" -- as one approved of God, is out of the scene. As the king Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace he was horrified to see them in the flames unhurt, and one walking about (he said) like unto the Son of God. In the 4th Chapter we read of another dream he had on account of his pride, and is warned to humble himself, to break off his sins by righteousness. This he neglected to do, and lost his reason.
In Daniel 5 we have an account of the grandson; "Ben" signifies grandson as well as son, as can be made out from the plastic tiles that have been discovered. Belshazzar wished to have the vessels as drinking cups, regardless of the house of God. In the midst of all a hand-writing is seen on the wall, which no one can read. The queen, his mother, tells him of Daniel. He interprets the writing, but refuses the gifts and honours, not having respect for him as for his grandfather. He had not humbled himself as he had done.
"Mene, Meneh, Tekel, Upharsin;" the second "Meneh" spelt with an "h" in the Chaldee, and having a different meaning -- the kingdom to be divided -- which came to pass as the next chapter tells us.
Darius was one whom Daniel could respect; he recognized God. A plot was laid to entrap Daniel, but he goes on quietly, prays to his God and gives thanks as aforetime. He is cast into the den of lions, but is unhurt, trusting in his God. Darius could not sleep, is broken to pieces, is early in the morning at the mouth of the den; his heart throbbing within him, asks "Is the God whom thou servest continually able to deliver thee?" Darius, after this, makes a decree that all should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. He -- Daniel -- gets confirmed in his place of honour in the kingdom.
I would remark as to the order, Daniel 7 was before Daniel 5 as to the time. The statue representing imperial power was gratifying to the heart of the monarch, there was food for his pride, forgetting God's judgment. To Daniel the vision was a grief and vexation to his spirit; he loved God and was deeply interested in His people. Four unnatural beasts rise up from the sea, -- a very unnatural thing to rise from the sea! The Babylonian kingdom represented by a lion with eagle's wings -- the bear raising up itself on one side representing the Medo-Persian. Darius first and Cyrus afterwards. Then the Grecian kingdom, afterwards the Roman. The last word important, under it the Messiah suffered. Turn to Revelation 13 -- there the imperial power is first, then the false prophet; the first losing, then regaining power. There is some test raised -- a prohibition to men to trade. There was a test raised in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, another in the days of Darius through seven wicked compeers. The two grand points come out: the denial of God as a ruler and object of worship; both can be seen also in 2 Thessalonians 2.
In Daniel 7 the scene is transferred to heaven. One like the Son of man is seen coming to receive a kingdom. The beast was slain, his body destroyed and given to the flames. When the Lord Jesus was upon earth He did not destroy men's lives, but healed; it was a time of peace, all who drew near to Him were welcome, without distinction. Paul and others were not like the monarchs, but like their Master, regarded as the offscouring of all things. The word is "If we suffer with him we shall also reign with him." The kingdom in Daniel is not one of grace and suffering, but characterized by almighty power. As in 1 Corinthians 15, God puts down all enemies under his feet. "I saw in the night vision the Ancient of Days, and a kingdom given unto him, that all nations should serve him." The Israelite in the present day and the Jew (I don't use it in the obnoxious sense, but as one of the tribe of Judah) cannot face this Scripture. A Son of Man in heaven! How came He there? Who is this Son of Man? If in heaven He must have been on earth before. "They shall not see me henceforth till they shall say, Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Christendom in its present state does not recognise His coming. The false prophet goes on with the people, and denies Christ to be the object of worship. What is it that has now bewitched the people that they do not see what is to happen? The worldly kingdom has become bestial until it comes up for judgment. When Daniel comes to explain it, it is exceedingly dreadful. I cannot read Revelation 13 without seeing what a stamping down of everything by this Beast; there is denying God as a Governor, "a mouth speaking great things" (Rev. 12), "whose look was more stout than his fellows" (Dan. 7), "He shall speak against the most High and wear out the saints of the most High," "An everlasting kingdom." How can that be? no difficulty, when there is "a new heaven and a new earth." There is so much in the New Testament to remind me of the people of Israel. There is to be a heavenly glory and an earthly glory. He will put all to rights for heaven, and then in the earth. The Jews on earth will go out to the Gentiles. Jesus gains much through His death in the morning of the resurrection of His people. If Jesus was Messiah, why did Israel reject him?
God was justified in seating Him at His right hand and reserving everything for His people. No loss to Israel. Whether God means to be in heaven and reign there over the earth, all His moral glory will be brought forth in brightest splendour. "The heaven shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil" (Hosea 2: 22). Everything shall be brought forth in plenty and beauty. because God has brought back His redeemed Israel. If that vision given to Daniel be fulfilled, and all had to yield to the power and purposes of God, how can the sinner escape the judgment? How important, too, for the christian to know the things down here! Everything down here will surely come into judgment. Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, and Cyrus, and the rest will have passed away: the Son of Man, when He comes, will take the power; He will cast down the "accuser of the brethren," and deliver the oppressed. There will be on earth a company endued with another power. Now there is nothing remarkable to be seen in God's people. I can show that my heart is happy, that I have no fear of death, that I am satisfied with God, and have done with the world. Missionaries in that day will call them up to Jerusalem to see the glory of Messiah, and the light of the heavenly shining upon them. They will be invited to come and see for themselves the glory of Christ and His happy people.
Secondly, we may learn how the person who reads Scripture should keep himself from dabbling with politics. Scripture requires people to bow to the powers that be as ordained of God. My model as a ruler is One to come. If you were in a place in a time of anarchy, you would feel the necessity of a governing responsible power. Our place is to walk down here quietly recognising the powers that be as of God, and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. People will say, "Daniel, you can interpret your own prophecy." Nay: read the first and read the last chapters. "One of the royal seed of Israel taken captive." In the last chapter you will find what my hope was. He said, "I heard, but I understood not." But the Lord said unto him: "Go thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of days." "There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered." "From the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and. the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days." If there be any doubt on a subject is it not right to get the writer up and get evidence of what his mind is?
I do not think any one reading with an unbiassed mind, could help seeing that there must be tribulation, and deliverance; and Daniel standing in his lot at the end of days, could have a doubt as to its being future. In Daniel we read of the book being "sealed till the time of the end," but in the Revelation it is "seal not," many times repeated, and, "for the time is at hand." There is another singular connection of this subject, the coming of the kingdom, in Daniel 9, Ezekiel 9, Ezra 9, and Nehemiah 11, all scenes describing a desperate state of sorrow. They remind God of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Delivered in Georgetown, Demarara, March, 1873. Publishers: George Cooper, George Morrish.