So from Genesis to Revelation Jehovah has been describing himself to anyone who is interested in listening. Sometimes He has uses His saints to make that explanation, and sometimes He uses His enemies. Whether Darius’ is a saint or an enemy, is something about which we can’t really be sure. But like Nebuchadnezzar – also in this book – Darius’ makes some significant comments about the Lord.
I realize that you have heard these things before. So why are we looking at them again? First, because God in the context of this revelation has laid them out before us once again. He is almost demanding that we spend another thirty minutes looking in His direction. “Forget about the future, forget about yourselves, forget about Daniel for a moment and look at Me.” And second, the very fact that some hearts are saying, “not this again,” proves the depravity of us all. We need to refresh ourselves in basic Biblical theology on a regular basis. Just as some people don’t like to eat their vegetables, they need those vitamins and minerals. And the children of God need the spiritual vitamins which can only be found in meditation on the Person of Jehovah.
“I make a decree….” We have been reading about Persian decrees throughout this chapter. The whole problem with Daniel and the lions was due to the decree of Darius – one of those decrees which could not be altered once it was signed by the king. Now, was Darius ordering all the people throughout his Empire to worship Jehovah with the same kind of unalterable law of the Medes and the Persians? No, he was not, and for this I rejoice. This gives me hope that the man was indeed a child of God, not the leader of a new lunatic cult. There is a different Aramaic word used in verses 7, 8, 9, 12, 13 and 15, compared to the word in verse 26. This is not one of those ex cathedra declarations where the Pope claims divine omniscience. Yes, it is a royal decree, but it is different in its depth and degree. For example, this word is found several times in the Book of Ezra in regards to royal authority for the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple. What this means is that Darius was exhorting, encouraging, and, yes, in a sense even commanding people to respect the God of Daniel, but he could no more compel people’s faith than he could demand of the rocks along the banks of the Euphrates to believe on the Lord. As I said a week ago, he was more like David in the Psalms than he was like himself earlier in this chapter. Just as the preacher commands and exhorts faith in Christ, Darius was exhorting meditation upon the Lord.
As to his words – “Peace be multiplied unto you” – I’ll come back to these. But let it be said at this point that it sounds like Darius had been hanging around Daniel quite a bit. This sounds very Hebrew, very Biblical, very Old Testament. Darius’ decree didn’t carry threats of fiery furnaces or dens of lions. If the people of Babylon or those in the outlaying regions of the Persian Empire would learn what he was learning about Jehovah, it would be the best thing that they could ever do for themselves. This was a royal decree which if willingly obeyed would have produced the greatest blessing that any king had ever given his idolatrous, wicked nation.
The point is, Dagon was nothing more than a lump of some earthly substance – it had no “life.” Darius had come to see that Daniel’s God was different from all the idols – He was alive – a “living” God. But did he believe that Jehovah was THE living God – the only living God? It appears so, just as the Thessalonians learned the same lesson half a century later. Paul testified, “in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” Daniel’s God is alive, in contrast to every other supposed god in all the world – He is the only living God.
Was Darius also thinking, at this point, that Jehovah is the eternal God – alive for evermore? As we shall see he recognizes God’s eternal kingdom and dominion. But does he make the logical connection with God’s eternal existence – His eternal life? Had Daniel time enough to teach the king what God revealed about Himself in Deuteronomy? Moses blessed us by saying – “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
Besides this there is scripture after scripture which declares that – in Daniel’s God is the source of all life. Among other things, Jehovah is the Creator of life in the first place. Paul was once dealing with a group of highly educated, highly cultured idolaters, and to them he made this point: He “stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all thing.” Jehovah is the living God in contrast to dead idols, because every living thing received its life from the Lord, and because God is life – He cannot die – He is eternal.
It might be said that the Psalmist stated his theology backwards, but it was true nevertheless. “The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved. Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting.” “The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.” “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” As John Gill comments, “The Lord is steadfast in His purposes and promises, in His conduct in the government of the world, and in the course of His providence.”
And as Darius says, Jehovah’s is an eternal kingdom and an eternal dominion. Remember that this is the same conclusion that Nebuchadnezzar had reached. But the lesson was difficult for that powerful, egotistical man to learn.
The Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream, and he gave Daniel gave the interpretation. “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.”
On another occasion another dream was given to Nebuchadnezzar, and Daniel explained that one as well. “They shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.”
After a very difficult lesson Nebuchadnezzar had to confess – “And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” Both Nebuchadnezzar’s and Darius’ references to the eternal dominion of Jehovah are statements about His absolutely sovereignty over His creation.
The wonders on earth are a little more understandable. Darius has undoubtedly heard about Belshazzar’s feast and the writing on the wall on the night that the city fell. He has been told about the miracle in the furnace, and now there is this business of the lions. It is the God of Daniel alone, who can do such things. The Lord has been teaching that lesson for thousands of years, and modern man still refuses to learn the truth.
Not only can the Lord deliver from fire and lions, but perhaps Darius knew about the same kind of deliverance that the Thessalonians knew. Had he been delivered from idolatry? Had he been delivered from the penalty for his sins? Whatever it was that he had experienced, Darius has some worthy instruction for his people.
Should Jehovah be feared? Absolutely. Even the Apostle Paul says that “our God is a consuming fire.” The poet brings several of Darius’ thoughts together in Psalm 99 – “The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved. The LORD is great in Zion; and he is high above all the people. Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy.” Jeremiah echoed these words – “The LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.” The saint of God must “serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”
But for the idolater, the wicked sinner, the unbeliever, this warning takes on a different kind of tone. In Luke 12 the Lord Jesus was in the midst of His year of popularity. That chapter begins with the words – “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
Here is where Darius’ words become so very important – The eternal living God is also the eternally HOLY God. He has established a law to reveal, not only his holiness, but also our sinfulness in the sight of that holiness. And the final stroke of that law says that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” That death is not the death of the grave, but the death to which Jesus referred in Luke 12. “Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
It is my hope that the King of the Medes had come to recognize that he was an idolatrous sinner. It is my hope that he had been taught to fear Daniel’s God – to fear His judgment against him. I hope that in his fear the king humbled himself before God, and learned to cling to Him for deliverance – for salvation. I would like to believe that this is the ultimate end of this decree that he was making. He knew that he couldn’t command anyone to believe on the God of Israel. But if he could get them to consider the Lord, and to consider themselves in God’s sight, there was hope for thousands of them.
And there is hope for you as well. As more clearly expressed in the New Testament – repent before God the Father, believe on God the Son, who gave His life on the cross. Jesus died at Calvary in order to deliver His people from their sins. Are you among that number? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”