Sunday, May 28th, 2023
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Daniel 11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ daniel-11.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Daniel 11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
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Also I in the first year of Darius.
The Vision by the Hiddekel
The prophet here tells of a long and devout season of fasting and prayer to which ha had given himself. It lasted “three full weeks.” At the end of this time, he was by the side of the great river Hiddekel, now known as the Tigris, far away from the scenes of court life. Lifting up his eyes, he was greeted with an overpowering vision. Before him stood a being in man’s form, clothed in linen and girded with gold. His body was like the beryl--like the bluish-green, prismatic light, His face was as the appearance of lightning, insufferably bright. His ayes were as burning flame. His arms and his feet were like burnished brass, and the voice of his words had the volume and majesty of the shoutings of a multitude. Compare the vision in Revelation, ch. 1. Daniel was completely overwhelmed by the suddenness and transcendent glory of the vision. This shows how merciful it is in God to veil over the spiritual world from our fleshly sight. Were he to lift that veil, it would be impossible for flesh and blood to sustain itself under the “weight of glory.” The object of this vision was to reveal to Daniel a still fuller account of the fortunes of his people “in the latter days”; that is, in the mysterious future, extending down to the end of this present world. To this revelation the whole remaining portion of this book is devoted. It was in answer to Daniel’s anxieties concerning the Jewish people that this glorious apparition came. It is ever true that the histories of this world always have a background of spiritual agencies. Scripture everywhere represents the angels as largely participating in the divine government of the world, and in the whole ongoing of earthly affairs. Among the active unseen potencies there are both good and bad, often in conflict with each other. We are wont to speak in a spiritualizing way of a struggle between the good and evil principles in man, but Holy Scripture teaches us to regard the matter as a substantial reality. The glorious angel who appeared to Daniel had a struggle of three weeks with the evil angel at the head of the Persian monarchy, and only by Michael’s help overcame him, and gained superior influence over the Persian king. After that he was to encounter the prince-angel of Grecia, in which no great success, even with Michael’s help, was to be gained. The angel then proceeds (in Daniel 11:2-4) to state the course of things in its outward manifestations . . . But with all the tribulations thus to come upon the prophet’s people in those evil times, God was to be at the helm, neither suffering them to be overwhelmed, nor allowing their afflictions to be without profit. For their sins, apostasies, and infidelities the hand of judgment was to be lifted up against them. When God lets the wicked have their way, it is that he may destroy them utterly; but when he chastises his people, it is to purify and redeem them. Nor are God’s chosen ones alone in their conflicts with the ills and trials of time. The Eternal Father makes angels his ministers to the heirs of salvation. (Joseph A. Seiss, D. D.)
But he shall not be strengthened by it.
The Secret of Strength
There are five principal ways of coming to a clear perception of God.
1. We may know God by vision; that is, by the inner sense of the Spirit. This is the manner in which the Lord made known his mind and nature to the Old Testament saints. They saw the object which the divine being presented to their interior eye. Every sincerely spiritual man lays tacit claims to spiritual intercourse with God; to communications, directions, assurances, and inward voices and revelations from the Lord. It is a part of our spiritual nature, of our divine equipment, to enjoy immaterial contact with the heavenly world, and to hold personal fellowship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. This spiritual insight is the beginning of the knowledge of God. The people happy enough to know God in this sense will become strong, will have their feet upon the rock of ages.
2. God communicates Himself for our knowledge by His Word. The Word must be read, remembered, and searched out daily. The Bible needs digging, and patient, devout, sympathetic and determined digging.
3. God will reveal Himself for our knowledge in our experience. The history of the world is largely the account of the modes in which God has been making Himself known in it. Long, tedious, and interwoven has been the method of the revelation of the Father to us in our trial. But in the glass of our life we look back to see what God is. In that experimental commentary we find our best explanations of His darkest enigmas. Whatever we know of His providence has come from our own deliverances, guidances, and escapes from danger.
4. We may know God in history. The people that have learned to read history do therein know their God. They can see the tendency and destination of all things.
5. We may also know the Lord in nature. Can you know nature unless you know nature’s God? “The world in its sophistry knew not God! (T. R. H. Sturges.)
But the people that do know their God shall be strong.
Strength in God
The follies and vices which disfigure human life, do not always proceed from a principle of depravity. The indiscretions and vices into which men fall, proceed often from weakness of mind rather than from a badness of heart. There is a certain feebleness in the springs of actions, a facility of disposition, a silliness of soul which marks the characters, and runs through the life of many men, as pernicious to them in the conduct of life, as the principle of actual depravity could be. This weakness of mind is not only pernicious but criminal. There are mental defects that are inconsistent with a state of virtue. In the Scriptures a sound mind, as well as a good heart, is mentioned as an ingredient in the character of a saint. Religion and virtue go under the name of wisdom; vice and wickedness under the name of folly. In opposition to the feeble-minded, it it said in the text, that they who know their God, or are truly religious, are strong. Religion, when rightly understood, and virtue, when properly practised, give nerves and vigour to the mind, and infuse into the soul a secret strength. This strength
1. Makes us superior to the opinion and fashion of the world. In certain companies, men are ashamed of their religion. They lend a pleased ear to arguments that shake the foundations of their faith. The truly religions man performs his duty through evil report and through good report. The applause of such fools as make a mock of sin he despises. His standard of moral conduct is his own conscience well informed by the word of God.
2. Makes us superior to the difficulties and dangers we meet with in the world. The feeble-minded man is intimidated on the slightest occasion. Happy to catch at any subterfuge, he finds or makes a thousand obstacles to the discharge of his duty. What infinite mischief has this pusillanimity done in the world! Very different is the character of him who is strong in the Lord. When he is assured he is in the right path, he sees no obstacles in the way. Nothing is difficult to a determined mind. Through Christ strengthening him, the man of God can do all things. Through the divine aid, resolution is omnipotent. See St. Paul’s words to the elders of Ephesus. This was not the vain boast of men who are brave when the day of battle is distant, and who, in the midst of tranquility, talk of despising danger. It was the speech of one who acted what he spoke. (J. Logan, F.R.S.E.)
Aspect of the Times
The universal consciousness of humanity acquiesces in the admission of the divine existence. God is as much a necessity of the intellect in these advanced days of enlightenment as in the world’s early childhood. The great thought forms, as Mr. Morell calls them, have as much necessity for God as for space and time. Sometimes men assume the air of dictatorship, and venture to say if there be a God, he should have revealed himself thus and thus, assuming that they know the best methods of divine manifestation, and can calculate how much light the human mind can bear. We cannot find out the Almighty to perfection. It takes lifetime after lifetime to find out the history of the rocks; it takes weary years to know enough of astronomy to trace the very footprints of Creatorship; and yet men expect to know him who is from everlasting to everlasting, in the space of a few brief years. He, then, who aspires to know God, must begin with humility. The main faculties for apprehending God are not intellectual, but moral. When it pleases God to reveal himself to men, it is mainly to the conscience and the heart. Such a revelation, Paul tells us, has been made in the universal conscience; in the great moral laws of Hebrew revelation, but mainly in the Son who came forth from the Father to give life to the world. See the revelations between this knowledge and the well-being of man.
1. This was the strength of the early Church. In the days of the Church’s strong faith and martyr-like devotion, what was it that made the Christians the men they were? I boldly answer:--“The knowledge of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
2. This was the strength of the Reformation age. It was giving back to the world the truth concerning God. The people that do not know God, their god shall be weak, puerile, enslaved. True knowledge of God makes men strong, makes nations strong.
3. This is our strength in the present era of time. We cannot reach large enough generalisations of facts to know exactly what is our state compared with past eras. We may exalt political economy into a science; and when relations between man and man are out of order we may shrug our shoulders, and talk of the philosophy of things, and the inevitableness of injustice in the present day. We may point to great empires, and say success is with the mightiest armies; but who that troubles to think but must know that if nations are to be great and honourable, it must be, as Mr. Pressense says, by a return to the uninviting virtues of simpler times; yes to a purer and more practical faith in the living God who is the Saviour of all men. (W. M. Statham.)
The Sources of Courage
What is called courage is sometimes a blind folly that cannot see danger, or a lack of sense to see it as it is. Or it is a mere love of encounter, of distinction, or of destroying. You have the picture of it in Job (Job 39:19-25), where the war-horse is described. That is courage, but a thing to be checked as much as to be cheered, as much a mischief as a virtue, and it is perhaps hard to say to which it most inclines. The sublimest courage, the loftiest heroism is an inspiration. How can you measure the courage? By the measure of the love. The highest courage is sacred to love. A definition of courage may be this the life held for another s good. And this is Christianity. Its source, its strength, its life, its all, is love. Everything that can create and sustain the truest love is found in the religion of Jesus Christ, and there only. Why then have we so many so-called Christians who do not exhibit much love or courage either, but are just as selfish and fearful as other people? Because we have come to make religion an appeal to selfishness, instead of appealing to the generous appreciation of that which is love-worthy. They that do “know their God” shall do exploits. This is the source of courage as it is the source of love; and more--this is life eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. Think of the different motives that prompt men to endurance and valour, and see how they meet in Jesus Christ.
1. I can think that soldiers find some courage in the greatness of their nation, they have a pride in the vastness of the dominion. But what king can vie with our King? Well may the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Does the antiquity of the kingdom add to the stateliness and renown? The ancient kings are all in the dust, but our King--“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” Think, too, of the blessedness of His way; and of the victories He hath won. Lift up your head, walk with firm step. Better not be His at all than be His without a courage worthy of His greatness and renown.
2. Do men find courage in Him whom they serve? Is the Spirit of the Leader able to kindle enthusiastic devotion, and daring unto death? Then how shall we speak of Our glorious Lord and Saviour? I wonder with shame and grief at myself that I can know Him at all, and yet be halfhearted in His service; that we can call Him Lord without finding an enthusiasm that fills and fires the whole heart. For such a King and Captain shall we have a timid, faltering service? It cannot be. (Mark Guy Pearse.)
The Influence of Religion on Military Courage
These words are part of a prophecy which relates, as some think, to a very important period of the history of the Jews, when the Maccabees, at the head of handfuls of men, destroyed great armies of aliens, and were the happy instruments, in the hands of Divine Providence, of saving their church and nation from destruction, and of raising it to a degree of consideration and renown, equal to what they had enjoyed under the administration of some of those good kings that sprung from David. Concerning this glorious period the prophet Zechariah speaks, when the Lord says by his mouth, “I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion! against thy sons, O Greece! and made thee as the sword of a mighty man. The Lord of hosts shall defend them, and they shall devour and subdue with sling-stones, and they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, and as the corners of the altar; and the Lord their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people; for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon His land.” Others refer this prophecy to the Christian church, and to the courage displayed by the followers of Christ in holding fast his name, and spreading the favour of it all around, in defiance of those Roman tyrants who endeavoured to extirpate Christianity out of the world.
I. WHO THEY ARE THAT KNOW THEIR GOD. In the language of scripture, no wicked man knows the Lord.. “The sons of Eli,” it is said, were “sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord.” But the Lord is known by all the upright; for “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do his commandments.” Those who know the Lord know something concerning the perfections of his nature. It is but a “little portion that they hear of him, and the thunder of his power who can understand?--But they know at least, that he is the Most High over all the earth,glorious in holiness, invariable in justice, irresistible in power. They know him to be excellent and amiable in all his perfections, and would abhor themselves if they felt a latent wish that he were anything else than he is. They who know their God know that, although there is but one God, yet there are three persons to whom the glory of deity equally belongs. This knowledge of God is attended with suitable dispositions of heart. All who know God to salvation, trust in him as their God. They rejoice in his kindness, and count it their glory and joy to call him their God. They that know their God keep his commandment. Disobedience to his voice they count the worst of all evils.
II. HOW THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD FITS MEN FOR DOING EXPLOITS, IS NOW TO BE CONSIDERED. The word exploits is a supplement of our translation. But the words plainly signify, that those who know their God “shall be strong,” and do such things as could not be expected from persons not under the influence of a religious principle. The exploits done by those that know their God must be undoubtedly consistent with justice. Heroical actions have been performed for the gratification of ambition, or other corrupt dispositions of the human heart. But those who know their God would not, for the world, do an unjust action, or to risk the loss of their souls, by disobeying God. The noble army of martyrs laid down their lives, not only for their heavenly Father, but for their brethren, when they sealed the truth with their blood. But how does the knowledge of our God prepare us for doing what we may be called to do, in the defence of our country, and of ourselves?
1. They that know their God, know his will, and are disposed to do it. And this is one article of the revealed will of God, that we should be ready, when we are called by providence, to defend our king and country, our liberties, and our religion. “Honour the king.” “Be subject to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake.” The difference between those who know their God and other men, is, that most other men will do some things that God requires, but they are not ready for every good work. Where their life, their interest, their credit, may suffer by obeying the will of God, they must be excused; but the lovers of God delight to show their obedience, where self-denial must be practised.
2. They that know their God are strengthened to do exploits, by their confidence in God as their God. “They that know his name will put their trust in him”; and “through him they will do valiantly.” Our confidence in God is founded on the mediation of our Lord Jesus Christ. “He is the way: no man cometh to the Father but by him.” Now, when we believe in Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and life everlasting, what have we to fear? God. We may die, but we cannot be hurt. It is a consciousness of guilt that disqualifies us for dangerous duties.
3. The people that do know God, have learned patiently to do his will. None can hope to do exploits that is unqualified to bear those things that are unpleasant to the flesh. Hardness must be endured by every good soldier of Jesus Christ. “If we faint in the day of adversity, our strength is but small.”
4. The people that do know their God, are prepared for extraordinary services, by the ordinary course of their service to God. When men are daily adding sin to sin by obstinate impenitence, they prepare thorns and briars to tear their consciences, when an evil day comes. How can such men be unappalled, when they find themselves placed in a situation that exposes them to a premature death? All that know their God, have learned to keep up an intercourse with him by prayer; and in the time of distress and danger, they pray more earnestly. Great are the victories which prayer hath obtained.
5. That the people who do know their God are strong to do exploits, because God is their helper. The Lord is good unto all, but he loves all that walk in his ways. “He is their arm every morning, their salvation in the day of trouble.” How were all the heroes of Israel, in ancient times, enabled to do those mighty works for which they are held in everlasting remembrance? The Lord was with them. They were strong in his strength.
He protected them by the shield of his salvation. What shall we say at the conclusion of the whole matter?
1. Seek the knowledge of God. Let those who yet know not God seek the knowledge of his excellency, of his grace, of his will. Use the means of knowledge with which God hath furnished you in great plenty. Pray for the spirit of wisdom and revelation.
2. If any of you say that you know God, consider by what course of actions you ought to verify their pretentions; for if you say that you know God, and keep not his commandments, you are liars. Great exploits were done by the heroes of God’s people. You must cut off right hands and right feet, when they make you to offend. You must crucify the flesh, with the afflictions and lusts.
3. To animate us to such exploits as we may be called to perform, let us call to remembrance the exploits performed by believers in ancient times. Paul put us in mind of the many mighty works done through faith, that we may be ready, when we are called by divine providence, to follow their example. Are you called to practise virtue and holiness, admit the opposition to be expected from a crooked and perverse generation? Are you called to risk your lives in battle? Remember Abraham, who, with a little army, fought bravely and successfully against four victorious kings, to rescue his beloved nephew.
4. Those who are barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of God ought to consider their ways. Yon cannot go as missionaries to spread the light of the gospel amongst the heathen; but you may be fellow-helpers to them by your contributions and prayers. You are not called to the field of battle; but you may assist the defenders of your country by your cheerful payment of those taxes that are necessary for their support, and by your prayers to God that he may cover their heads in the day of battle. All that know the Lord love him. All that love him will desire to approve their love by those works that are pleasing in his sight. Exploits in the service of Satan indicate not only ignorance of God, but enmity against him. You must not imagine that the best means will give you the saving and sanctifying knowledge of God, without divine illumination. “There are some,” says Paul, “that have not the knowledge of God; I speak this to your shame.” There are some of the military order, as well as men of other descriptions that have not the knowledge of God. None know God who dare to profane his name by needless oaths and execrations. (G. Lawson.)
And do exploits.
An exploit I would define to be a heroic act, a brave feat, a great achievement. There are three opportunities open to us that are grand, thrilling, far-reaching, stupendous and overwhelming. In these you may do exploits. The three greatest things on earth to do are to save a man, or save a woman, or save a child. During the course of his life, almost every man gets into an exigency, is caught between two fires, is ground between two millstones, sits on the edge of some precipice, or in some other way comes near demolition. There are exigencies in the life of a woman. The embarrassed and humiliated woman seems to cheer up in Christian confidence. And there is another exploit you may do. You may not only save a man, and a woman, you may save a child. (T. De Witt Talmage, D.D.)
Untold possibilities of a man of faith
During one of Mr. Moody’s early visits to England, as he was about to return, a friend said to him: “The world has yet to see what God could do with a man who would let Him use him.” This made such a deep impression upon Mr. Moody that he was led to put himself in the hands of the Lord for service as never before, and the blessing which attended the great evangelist’s teaching, in some measure, let the world see how much God could use a man who is willing to be used. A life given to Jesus Christ as Saviour, and that life consecrated to him for service, with a realisation of the mighty power of prayer, will certainly accomplish great things for God. The Christian Hero:
I. SOME ACCOUNT OF THAT KNOWLEDGE WHICH CHRISTIANS POSSESS OF THEIR GOD.
1. By his word and spirit they know him as a God of infinite perfection. The idols of the heathen are far inferior to their makers. The Christian knows, that the God whose he is, and whom he worships and serves, is possessed of every perfection, and that in its highest degree.
2. As a reconciled God in Christ. Christ gave himself for his people. God devised the plan of our reconciliation and peace with him.
3. They know him as their own God in Christ. He hath made himself over to them, and they have accepted him, and they live in the sure possession, and in the sweet enjoyment of him.
4. They know him as their God, with whom they live in the closest correspondence. He commands, and they obey.
II. SOME OF THOSE EXPLOITS WHICH CHRISTIANS SHALL PERFORM IN CONSEQUENCE OF THEM KNOWING GOD.
1. They shall be strong, and perform the most difficult pieces of duty.
2. They shall subdue strong corruptions.
3. They shall be strong in resisting strong temptations.
4. In patiently bearing heavy burdens.
5. In suspending the divine judgments, and holding back the arm of omnipotence itself.
III. THE INFLUENCE WHICH THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THEY HAVE OF THEIR GOD HATH UPON THEIR BEING STRONG, AND DOING EXPLOITS.
1. By their knowledge, that the command of God is their warrant for doing these exploits.
2. That they have Jehovah Jesus for their commander.
3. They have the whole armour of God, as their military accoutrements, in the day of battle.
4. They know that they have the fulness of God, and of Christ, for their supplies.
5. They know that they are assured of complete victory over their enemies.
6. They know they shall receive a glorious reward. Admonish such
(1) To make no peace with their spiritual enemies.
(2) Abhor their ways.
(3) Defy their force. (John Jardine)
The Heroism and Achievements of those who know and confide in God
These words are found in a prophecy respecting Antiochus Epiphanes, the bitter enemy and persecutor of the Jews. I am not going to harrow up your feelings by a recital of his cruelties. Persecution has always served to enable us to “discern the righteous from the wicked, and him who serveth God from him who serveth him not.” And so we find it here. The faithless Jews, by the promise of place and wealth and power, would be led to sacrifice their consciences; “ And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall be corrupt by flatteries.” Not so those who are “upright in heart.” Their principles shall be unyielding and triumphant, “but the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.” Consider three things with regard to the persons here spoken of.
I. THEIR KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge is the prerogative--the distinction--of humanity. The principal object of this knowledge must be God himself, whether we consider the perfections of his nature, or the various relations in which he stands to us. God in nature is God above us; God in providence is God beyond us; God in law is God against us; but God in Christ is God for us, and God with us, and God in us. We must know him in the person of his dear Son. This knowledge is not merely speculative, it is experimental. There is a great difference between knowing a thing only in theory, and knowing it in experienced by the confidence of the heart, the bias of the will, and the glowing of the affections. “Lasting” is very distinguishable from reading, and hearing, and talking about a thing. The true knowledge is ever accompanied with three things, confidence, affection and obedience. This knowledge is also appropriating. Where this appropriation is not actually realised, it is always desired.
II. THEIR STRENGTH. “Shall be strong.” Their strength is not natural. The fall has left us as much without strength as without righteousness. It is much easier to convince men of their guilt than of their weakness. Even Christians themselves acquire the knowledge of this weakness slowly and gradually. At first, they are found to rely much upon their convictions, purposes, and resolutions, and, perhaps, vows too; but their iniquities, like the wind, after all, carry them away. By their failings and falls, they are taught that they only are safe, “Who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.” Christians, by experience, learn more and more where alone their strength lies, and they are led to trust in the Lord only. Two things with regard to this strength you must remember. The supplies of it are communicated seasonably. And it is obtained by the use of means. Some have a stupid notion that we should not engage in the exercises of religion, unless we feel in a suitable and lively frame for them. If we are in a bad frame, we need to come to God by prayer, and in the use of the means he has appointed, that we may get into a good and lively frame.
III. THEIR EXPLOITS. Exploits are rare, difficult, curious, marvellous, illustrious acts anal achievements. There are many important things belonging to real religion, which are not deemed worthy of the name by the men of the world. A man who “walks by faith, not by sight,” will be led to the conclusion that there is nothing really great but what relates to the soul, or eternity, or God. We are not to confine these exploits to particular ranks and conditions of men. View Christians under six characteristics,
(1) as scholars.
(2) As merchants.
(3) As helpers.
(4) As travellers.
(5) As sufferers.
(6) As Soldiers.
Christians are no ordinary characters. They are a “peculiar people,” they are men “wondered at.” They profess, and they do, more than others, and you should glory in their characters. (Willam Jay.)
And they that understand among the people shall instruct many.
The uninspired book of the Maccabees is perhaps the best interpreter of this passage in Daniel. The prophet, we think, refers to the great persecution under Antiochus, when the followers of Judas Maccabaeus, knowing their God and keeping close to Him amidst general defection, refused to bow before the idols of Syria; these were strong by God’s grace, and did great exploits; wonders of valour we road of in the history of Judas and his brethren, and wonders of heroic Buffering never surpassed are recounted of the mother and sons and those other martyrs who, under tortures of the most amazing character, held fast their faith even to the end. In that age there were some who were stoned, who were sawn asunder, who felt the violence of fire, and yet were not separated from their God by all that the foe could do. Those by whom the exploits were performed were not ignorant, but a people who did know their God; and those who helped to keep up the light of Israel in the midst of the thick darkness were not uninstructed themselves, but they were a people who did understand. Our subject this morning is knowledge, especially knowledge of the things of God. The question is very often put to us in a very general and vague manner, “Is knowledge a good thing or not?” We are expected to give an answer promptly and without reserve; and if we do we shall very likely be caught in a trap. “Knowledge: is it a good thing in itself or not?” That depends upon several things. You might as well ask me whether air is a good thing. Why, of course, speaking loosely, it is; but then there is much bad air in old wells and cellars, and so on, which will destroy life, and therefore you cannot expect me to say at once, if I know you are on the catch, either “Yes,” or “No.” Air is a good thing, as a general rule; the lungs require it, man must have it; it is a good thing. So is knowledge. Knowledge heaves the intellectual lungs: it is a good thing; but then there is noxious knowledge, which it were infinitely better for us never to receive, just as there is pestilential air. Is water a good thing? Again I answer, “Yes,” in the abstract. So many watery particles are absolutely necessary to the building up and sustenance of the human frame, that every thirsty man knows that water is good. Yet there is bad water; there have been poisoned wells; water stagnates and becomes putrid and injurious to life; water is good take it abstractedly. But yet there is a knowledge which, like stagnant or poisoned water, may destroy the soul. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil stood in Paradise, mark that--but it ruined Paradise, mark that, too! A man may know much, and he may still stand in his integrity; but the chances are, that while men are what they are, there will be a serpent in the tree of knowledge, seeking the ruin of souls. If you want to judge concerning the good or evil of knowledge, you must ask yourself, What is its source? To have one’s lips touched with a live coal is a choice blessing if the seraph bring that coal from off the altar; but there are tongues which are set on fire of hell--and who desires to feel such accursed flame? You must know whence cometh the coal before you may consent that it shall touch your lips. Knowledge may be tested by considering its character. Some knowledge is like the light of the moon--clear, cold, barren, if not deleterious to health; but heavenly knowledge is fructifying, healthful, and genial, chasing away disease like the warm rays of the sun. You may make knowledge good or evil, by the way in which you use it. If it be a torch, you may carry it with you to kindle the flame of Tophet’s fire; or, on the other hand, by that heaven-lit torch you may, through grace, find your way to the gates of Paradise. Judge of knowledge, therefore, ever with discretion, and while you seek it as in the abstract an eminently good thing, yet be not in haste to plunge yourself into every abyss to find its bottom, nor into every burning crater to fathom its depth. I know enough of poison without drinking it, and enough of sin without running into it.
I. First, then, there is is A SPECIAL KNOWLEDGE REFERRED TO, “the people who do know their God.” To know God is the highest and best form of knowledge. But what can we know of God? Nothing but what He has been pleased to reveal to us. He hath revealed something of Himself in the Book of Nature, and much more in the Book of Revelation; and He hath been pleased to cast a vivid light upon the Book of Revelation by manifesting Himself unto His people as He doth not unto the world. Those who know the Lord should believe in the unity of His essence and subsistence, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord.” We should know the Lord in the plurality of His persons. God said, “Let us make man in our own image.” Let not man be content until he knows something of the “us” from whom his being was derived. Endeavour to know the Father. Seek to know much of the Son of God who is the brightness of His Father’s glory and the express image of His person, and yet in unspeakable condescension of grace became man for our sakes. Forget not the Holy Spirit: endeavour to get as clear a view as you can of His nature and character, His attributes, and His works. Let us study to be well instructed in the divine attributes, and ask for grace to know them all. Be not like those who dream of a God who is all love, and nothing else. Do not be content with a maimed and distorted view of God’s attributes; feel Him to be omnipresent: let it be your delight to know that you have not to call upon Him as one who is afar off, but ever near at hand. Recognise Him as omnipotent; know that there is nothing which He cannot do, and therefore doubt Him not. Whatever else you do not know do know the character of your God. “They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee.” Then labour to know God in His actions; study well the past. Do not be ignorant of the great work of creation; if you have the skill, look at that creation in the light of modern science so far as that light is really derived from facts and not from conjectures. Pry into God’s great works in providence; begin your pilgrimage of study at the gates of Eden and travel onward to the present time; float safely in your meditations with Noah in the ark; study the wonderful justice of God in thus sweeping away the race of men. If you have mastered all this, seek to know something of the teaching of the Spirit of God concerning the plan of salvation. Do not be content to be saved in the dark; try to find out how it is that you are saved. I have thus brought out what I think is the idea of the text about the people knowing their God; but we must not overlook that little word their--“They that know their God.” It is not “they that know God,” but “their God.’” To know anything of Him aright, you must get a firm hold of God; He must be your God. “There is no praying,” said one old man who used to be much in prayer, “till you come to a close grip.”
II. THE HAPPY INFLUENCE OF THIS KIND OF KNOWLEDGE: next requires our notice. The text shows that it strengthens, gives courage, energy, vigour, resolution daring, success. They who know their God are strong, and do exploits. Knowledge strengthens the spiritual man, because, in the first place, it is that on which faith has to feed. Where there is faith, knowledge is a great gain. This will be clear to all of you who read attentively your Bible, because the words “to know” and “to believe” are frequently used in Scripture almost synonymously. If you turn to the tenth chapter of St. John’s gospel, you will find there at the thirty-eighth verse, that the Saviour said, “But if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works; that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” And then in the first epistle of St. John, in the second chapter, at the third verse, we have an expression which is tantamount to the one I have already referred to. “And hereby we do know that we know Him if we keep His commandments.” We are sure of our faith and of our knowledge by walking in obedience to Him. The source from which Christian faith comes proves the importance of knowledge. How does faith come to the Christian? “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” There is the whole history of faith--the Word of God gives the teaching which blesses us with knowledge, and then comes faith. You see, then, that if knowledge be under God the Holy Ghost truly the food of faith, then, in order to be strong, since faith is the very sinew of human strength, we must get much knowledge of the things of God. The people who do know their God shall be strong in faith, and shall do great exploits. Think again, of the influence of faith upon all the other graces. Love is the sweetest of all; but how can I love till knowledge gives me a view of Christ? Knowledge opens the door, and then through that door I see my Saviour. Look at hope again. How can I hope for a thing if I do not know of its existence? Hope may be the telescope, but then till I get knowledge there is something in front of the glass, I can see nothing whatever; but knowledge takes away the impediment, and then when 1 look through the optic glass I can see the glory to be revealed; but I cannot hope for that of which I know nothing whatever. I must know there is a heaven, or I cannot hope for it. Then, take patience. How shall I have patience unless I have heard, as James says, of the patience of Job; unless I know something of the sympathy of Christ, and understand the good which is to come out of the correction which my heavenly Father gives me? Knowledge gives me reasons for patience. Again, from the connection of the text, it appears that many were led astray in the days of Antiochus. “Such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries; but the people that do know their God shall be strong,” and so on. It seems, then, that to know God is a means of steadfastness. Who are the people that are greatly troubled by new systems of philosophy and infidelity which are constantly springing up? Why, the people who do not know their God. Knowledge will clearly be seen by you to be a great means for enabling you to do great exploits, if you think of its bearing upon usefulness. A Christian without knowledge, for instance, is an admirable man in the holiness of his life; but to what other end, to what other purpose can you put him? He must not enter the pulpit--if he be already there, he had better retire. Do not be content to be always children--you will never be men unless you are children first; do not be content to be stunted in your understanding, but ask to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for the sake of your own usefulness.
III. We come, in the third place, TO NOTICE HOW THIS KNOWLEDGE MAY BE OBTAINED. Time has fled, and therefore we will not enlarge, but just give the outline. Search the Scriptures. Do not merely read them--search them; look out the parallel passages; collate them; try to get the meaning of the Spirit upon any one truth by looking to all the texts which refer to it. Read the Bible consecutively; do not merely read a verse here and there--that is not fair. Pray after you have read it as much as you like, but do not make a penance of what ought to be a pleasure. Next, use good helps to your Bible. Next, be sure to attend a teaching ministry. Do not be always after sweets. Then I should say, if you want to understand much, be much in prayer.
IV. And now I want to say ONE WORD BY WAY OF CAUTION. Remember that knowledge of itself with all its excellencies and virtues when God blesses it--has a danger in it to you. “Knowledge,” says the apostle, “puffeth up.” So it does. You may get proud of what you know, and then God forgive you, and deliver you from it! And, moreover, you may get so positive about what you know, that you may have made up your mind never to know any more. Do not get into that state. Your knowledge may even make you supercilious to the people of God. You may look down with contempt on some who do not know so much as you, and yet they nay have twice your holiness and be doing more service to God.
V. THE DUTY OF SPREADING THIS KNOWLEDGE WHEN WE HAVE IT. “They that understand among the people shall instruct many.” It is a prophecy which is fulfilled, but it is also a suggestion of a duty which we have to carry out. Are we instructing many, those of us who know the Lord? If God has lighted your candle, try to shine and let other candles be lit by you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
And the King shall do according to his will.
The Reign of the Antichrist
We Christians look for an Antichrist yet to come. Apart from revelation, it is, in itself, in conformity with human nature, and the laws of things, that, as good intensifies to a grand consummation of good, so will evil also intensify the grand consummation of evil. The world is made up of light and shadow, the one always accompanying the other; and as the light increases the shadows deepen; till, when the king of glory comes to crown and establish the good, he will be confronted with the King and head of all wickedness, wrought up to the summit of lawlessness and blasphemy at which its doom shall come. In the Old Testament, wherever we look we find some image and fore-intimation of this great evil power, running parallel with the predictions and promises concerning the seed of the Woman, and the Messiah of the chosen people. It was the firm belief of all the Christian Fathers that there is yet to come a development and impersonation of Antichristianism more dreadful than has ever yet been seen on Earth, and which shall be destroyed only in the great day of God Almighty. This Antichrist is described in the passage of Daniel now before us. Whoever this King may be, or from whatever quarter he may come, he is the last representative of the bestial world power that ever bears rule upon earth. Whoever he is, he is some individual person.
Antichrist indeed exists at all times, but only as a working spirit which has not yet come to its final development and concentrated embodiment. Wilfulness will be his characteristic; and magnifying himself, and irreligion. We everywhere and in all circles and teachings, hear about the “Coming Man.” He is the man of sin, the lawless one, the Antichrist. (Joseph A. Seiss, D.D.)