Daniel 12
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
And they that be wise shall shine etc. (ver. 3). Here are two types of humanity and two destinies. There is a likeness both in the types and in the destinies, such as we might expect from the parallelism of the text; at the same time, there are differences. The one type is in advance of the other; so is the Divine recognition in the one case as against the preceding. In the one case we have an attribute of soul, in the other an activity. The first is followed by a radiance like that of the open sky; the second, by a brilliance like to that of the stars.

I. THE CLEAR. Turn to the Hebrew, and it will soon be seen that the essential idea in the word translated "wise" is that of a clear eye with a clear outlook. Cleave to this idea, and let it determine our description of the character here set before us. In such a character:

1. The soul is clear. Not absolutely here on earth, but relatively in contrast with the former state. Transparent. Pure (Matthew 5:8). No moral taint of such a kind as to destroy the vision of spiritual and eternal things (John 8:12).

2. The eye is clear.

3. The atmosphere is clear. (Ephesians 5:8.)

4. The objects of choice are clear. In time; in eternity.

5. The choice of means is clear. All the present is subjected to the future. Herein lies ever true wisdom.

II. THEIR SHINING. Perhaps the text refers mainly to the shining of immortality. We may bear in mind that the shining of the clear-seeing saint - of the saint who is indeed a seer - is not a question of time or place, of aeons or worlds, but one of character. The shining will then be here as well as there. How, then, does the saint shine? Of what sort is the radiance of the open day-sky? The light of the sky is:

1. Brilliant. No light in all the landscape can exceed the brilliance of the sky. No light in all the world of intelligence and morals can exceed that of saintliness.

2. Soft. No element of pain in it.

3. Diffused.

4. Victorious. Clouds may dim the face of the sky. So calumnies, misunderstandings, imperfections, failings, may obscure character. But the light shines through the cloud, and continues after the cloud has passed away.

5. Ministering. The sky is like an angel of God in the sweetness and beauty of its service. What relief to the sick and to the nursing, who out of their lattices watch for the morning! What cheer to the strong! What health! Sunlight is health. The sun arises with "healing in his wings." So the "Sun of Righteousness." So they that are like him. What power to work! The sky holds, as it were, the candle to every worker on earth. How we value dying daylight! So wistfully watch we the expiring radiance of the saints we love.

6. Borrowed. Not its own, but the sun's. So the light of the saints is not theirs, but God's.

III. THE CONVERTING. In order to preach truly and intelligently from this passage, the following points should be observed: "They that turn to righteousness" is the translation of a single word in Hebrew - a verb, of the hiphil conjugation, participial form, plural number, construct case. The verb means "to be right or righteous;" in the hiphil conjugation, "to make one right or righteous." Here, then, we have the activity of the saint, going forth in this form of instrumentally making men righteous, implying a turning away from wickedness, and doing this in the case of "many." Turning the sinner to God, so as to be "justified by his grace," would not exhaust the meaning; it goes beyond that, to the securing at least the elements of personal righteousness in him. How can we instrumentally convert?

1. By luminosity of life.

2. By word from the lip. Not necessarily a pulpit-word or a class-word, but a friendly word, and that of the simplest kind.

3. By unconscious co-operation with others. Henry Martyn never knew that he was the means of converting a single soul; but he translated the Bible into Persian, and prepared the way for others. "They that sow, and they that reap, shall rejoice together."

4. By prayer.

5. By gifts of money sustaining the labours of others. (Some suggestions and illustrations of a useful character may, perhaps, be found in a characteristic sermon by Dr. Talmage on the text, in the first series, published by Nicholson and Sons, Wakefield.)

IV. THEIR BRILLIANCE. "As the stars for ever and ever." Here we have some of the ideas we had before, but with variations, additions, and enlargements. Without becoming pedantic, we make use legitimately of the richer knowledge astronomical of our time. In the destiny of the active aggressive worker we have:

1. An intense brilliance. Strictly, daylight is more brilliant than the light of stars; for it obscures it by day, or rather outshines it. But this would not be the popular impression, and on that this Bible-text is based.

2. A diversity of splendour. "One star differeth," etc. Not only the most eminent workers are to shine, but others in their proportion and degree.

3. A distinguishing separateness. Think of the distinctive glory of each worker. Here it is not difference of degree, but of type and kind; e.g. Martin Luther, George Fox, Madame Guyon, Elizabeth Fry, etc.

4. Yet oft a clustered glory. In appearance the stars congregate in clusters; in actuality are marshalled into systems. The fellowships of earth, of heaven. A unity of power.

5. A growing radiance with nearness of view. "'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view" has no application here. The stars are suns whose magnificence dawns with our approach. So with the glorified and consecrated in the Church.

6. A ministration of light and heat and life.

7. A subservient splendour.

"For ever singing as they shine,
The hand that made us is Divine."

8. A brilliance unlike that of the stars. Their light does now oft go out. The light of all may fade and die. But these saintly workers shine on "for ever and ever." Many motives to Christian service may be urged; but here behold its supreme attractiveness! Contrast with this that other destiny (ver. 2), "Shame and everlasting contempt." - R.

Nature is full of types. The leaf is type of the tree. The dawn is a type of the resurrection. The same law that moulds the dew-drop moulded the earth. History likewise is full of types. The banishment from Eden is a type of exclusion from heaven. The redemption of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage is a type of the redemption of the race by Jesus Christ. Both prosperous and adverse events in human history serve as types. This is the key to the present paragraph in Daniel.

I. RIGOROUS TRIALS FOR ISRAEL APPEAR IN THE VISTA OF THE FUTURE. Not only are great deliverances pre-announced, but great disasters also. It is thought by some persons that it is of no advantage to discern the approach of trial. But to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Every earthly battle is a symbol of the decisive battle between good and evil - between Christ and Satan. The time of trouble which the angel predicted was a fitting type of the time of trouble which Jesus Christ predicted, viz. the overthrow of Jerusalem. Of each it might truly be said, as each arose to view, "it was a time of trouble," such as had not hitherto been known.

II. SEVERE TRIALS BRING TO LIGHT SUPERIOR SOURCES OF HELP. Had it not been for the captivity and oppression of Israel, Daniel would not have fasted and prayed, and if he had not made his tearful appeal to God, he would not have known of the distinguished beings who were enlisted in Israel's defence. When raised to the eternal home, we shall learn that trials had served on earth our highest good. They drove us near to God. They brought the revelation of his available help. Greater are our champions (if we are friends of truth) than all our foes. "The great Prince standeth for us." Here is type again. Even the Fail shall result in greater elevation. Recovered holiness is a richer acquisition than unmolested innocence.

III. EVERY ACT OF DIVINE DELIVERANCE POINTS ONWARD TO OUR RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION. There is no room for question that the awakening and reappearance of the dead, referred to by the angel, was a resurrection of social and national life under Judas Maccabaeus. A new wave of life was to pass over the people. Those who had been long repressed, trodden in the dust, who had hidden in holes and dens for very life, then reappeared. In very similar language Ezekiel predicted that God would "bring his people out of their graves, and would lead them to their own land." Yet this revival of life under the Maccabaean princes was type of a better resurrection. The language spoken to Daniel had both a near and a remote application. In its fullest signification it will be verified only in the great resurrection at the last day.

IV. RESURRECTION WILL SERVE TO MANIFEST CONTRASTS OF CHARACTER. A sudden accession of prosperity to a man is a good test of his worth or his worthlessness. With our present grossly material natures, it is comparatively easy to dissemble motives, feelings, and intentions before our fellow-men. But it is possible that the resurrection-body will be refined and transparent, so that angels and men may be able to see us through and through. What an incentive have we here to acquire sterling excellence of character! By-and-by no secrets will be permitted: will this be to us a joy or a grief? All varieties of character will be reduced to two. Minor distractions will be obliterated in view of the great distinction. Honour will be life; shame will be death.

V. DISTINCTIONS OF CHARACTER WILL MEET WITH DISTINCTIVE DESTINIES. For the present the coming destinies of men are, in part, concealed. But we may be quite sure that eventually every man will, like Judas, "go to his own place." In all God's arrangements there is admirable and exquisite fitness, and it shall be seen at last that character will gravitate to its proper destination. Those among the sons of men who are truly wise - who love and pursue wisdom - shall gradually gain a clearness and brightness of soul. The hidden excellence shall be at length fully manifested; "they shall shine" as the clear lustre of the eastern sky. Wisdom, that has matured and ripened into benevolence, shall shine as the "stars," and that perpetually.

VI. LARGER UNFOLDINGS OF THE TRUTH ARE RESERVED FOE THE FUTURE, In each succeeding age men have still to say, "We know in part." It is, without question, best for us here that revelation should be gradual, and that attainments of knowledge should be secured by successive steps. It would be lavish waste (such as we see nowhere in God's universe) if God should reveal at once to men all that he intends to make known on earth. The thing would be impossible. There must be an eye to perceive, as well as objects to be presented. We should be blinded with the excess of light. God reveals himself and his redemption through human as well as through angelic agencies. Though every prophet must be in advance of his contemporaries, in order to be a prophet; still he must not be greatly in advance. The stream of revelation must be stayed for a time; "the book must be closed and sealed." Time is allowed to reduce known truth to practical advantage. In later times, teachers shall be multiplied, and truth, unfettered, shall spread through wider and wider circles. "Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability" and the glory of future ages. - D.

But go thou thy way, etc. (ver. 13). From Daniel 12:4 to the end we have the epilogue to the last vision of the book. In the epilogue are many interesting matters, which will no doubt be developed in the Exposition. We here lay hold of the closing words of all, suggest them for homiletical treatment, and indicate their meaning. No more than this.

I. A PRECEPT. "Go thou thy way till the end be." Here the old man of near ninety years is bidden to continue in the path of well-doing until death; for that is "the end" referred to.

II. PROMISE. Threefold. Of:

1. Rest. In the grave. After that long, toilsome, noble life.

2. Resurrection. תָּקוּםאּתַּעֲטוד: To rise up from the rest of the grave.

3. Inheritance; i.e. with the saints in light. "Lot" has primary reference to the inheritance of Israel in Canaan; and so secondarily to the antitype, Heaven. - R.

Among many shifting factors in the great problem of human life, one factor at least is fixed, viz. that the interests of the righteous are secure. Their fate is linked to God's. All events shall have but one effect on them. This is the granite rock that retains its stable glory amid the restless, seething sea.

I. IT IS A CONSOLATION TO KNOW THAT THE ANGELIC RACES ARE INTERESTED IN HUMAN WELFARE. As Daniel looked with a more intent gaze, he perceived other angelic forms in close proximity. So when God opened the eyes of Elisha's servant, he saw a host of heavenly cavalry encircling his master. Devout research is ever well rewarded. The angels have not attained one common level of knowledge. They inquire one of another; become each other's teachers and each other's helpers. The same topics that interest good men interest angels also. The same impatience to penetrate future events, which men feel, angels also in some measure cherish. They especially take an interest in the Church of God. They sympathize with us in trial, persecution, and suffering. They desire to see God, in the progressive revelations of himself.

II. FORMS OF SOLEMN ASSEVERATION ARE EMPLOYED BY THE ANGELS TO GIVE US STRONG ASSURANCE. This illustrious angel raised himself to a particular posture, employed special gesticulation, and uttered a special form of words, with this one view, viz. to persuade his auditors of the authority with which he spake, and of the certainty that his words should be performed. Thus God commands his highest servants to accommodate themselves to human infirmities. Nothing on his part shall be wanting to enlighten and ennoble men. The eternity of God is pledged for the fulfilment of prophecy. As the eternal God lives, it shall be done.

III. OBEDIENCE ENLARGES THE CAPACITY TO RECEIVE, To hear and to understand are not identical. Perhaps we really understand nothing. We see not things as they are, but only as they are related to us. Feeling, affection, inclination, assist greatly the understanding. It is possible that God might tell us fully and lucidly the future course of this world, and still we might be only bewildered. It is the voice of fatherly kindness that says to his child, "Go thy way." Perform all thy common duties. The future is "closed and sealed." "A good understanding have all they that keep his commandments." There is solid happiness for every man who can calmly wait the larger unfoldings of God's will. Food for real hunger there always shall be; but provision for imaginary wants will not be forthcoming.

IV. TRIALS HAVE THE MOST OPPOSITE EFFECTS ON THE RIGHTEOUS AND ON THE WICKED. No amount or severity of outward trial is, in itself, competent to improve or soften men. "Though a fool be bruised in a mortar, yet will not his folly depart;" "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" The hottest fire of suffering cannot. Hence God saith, "Why should ye he stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more." Notwithstanding exile, bondage, defeat in war, desolations of every kind," the wicked will still do wickedly." The voice Divine at last will speak. "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still." But the effect upon the righteous is the very reverse of this. The fire, that hardens clay, melts the wax. Not a few shall discover that the fire only removes the dross - separates vile elements from the sterling - and produces lustre and renown. Under this severe and searching discipline, true Israelites shall be purified and made whiter than snow. Purity of character shall bring with it greater clearness of vision; while, on the other hand, persistence in sin will tend to darken intellect more and more, until it shall be submerged "in the blackness of darkness for ever."

V. LOSS OF RELIGIOUS ORDINANCES IS THE GREATEST OF EXTERNAL CALAMITIES. This is, in reality, a greater calamity than the desolations of a war or the ravages of a plague. God's calculations of human epochs date from his withdrawal flora his temple. The suspension of the daily sacrifice - this marks the commencement of an era. Men are wont to reckon epochs from the rise or fall of human dynasties. Not so God. His interest in human affairs centres in the temple. The profanation of the temple by setting up idol-worship there - this marks the opening of a dark and tempestuous day. This chastisement is a fitting type for a yet greater woe. The number seven has long time been a signature and symbol for perfection and rest; therefore the broken period of three times and a half betokens the very opposite - disquietude, turmoil, woe.

VI. ASSURANCE TO THE RIGHTEOUS OF PERSONAL AND PERFECT SECURITY. Whatever disasters shall befall the wicked, or whatever tempests may roll over the heads of the righteous man, this is certain - "Thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." This is a fixed and definite end, which the Divine Being has set before him, and every arrangement of Providence is adjusted with a view to this end. This is the inheritance which God himself has chosen for us, and secured by promise, oath, and blood. If Israel, in possession of the earthly Canaan, could sing, "We have a goodly heritage," much more can the redeemed in heaven chant that joyous strain. The lot is already apportioned unto us. The Divine attributes are pledged to us for its enjoyment. No event, nor force, nor personal being, in the broad universe, can prevent the grand consummation, "Thou shalt stand in thy lot." The kingdom has been prepared for us "before the foundation of the world." "If children then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ." - D.

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