The Man who purposed in His Heart
A. C. Hinton, Uxbridge
HE WAS A YOUNG MAN and in a foreign land, far from home. Everything around him was strange - the customs observed, the language spoken, the dress worn, the food eaten. Even his name had been changed. There were many others of his countrymen in a similar position but that did not bring to him the help and comfort that might have been expected for most of them did not seem to find the difficulty he found. Evidently in his own land God had been real to him and he had learned to love His word and determined to obey it. That was the cause of his difficulty because, although everything else had changed, the Word of his God had not changed at all and he had no doubt that it applied to him now that he was in heathen Babylon just as it had done in those happier days in his own loved land. So the question was - How far was he prepared to go, in being faithful to God in his present circumstances? It soon became evident that his determination to obey Him had not changed either, as he purposed in his heart and then carried the purpose into practice that he would not defile himself by eating what God had forbidden His people to cat, even if it was the king's meat and put before him at the king's bidding. His first allegiance must be to the One referred to in this book, time and again, as the God of heaven, the Most High, a God of gods and a Lord of kings, whose Word was unalterable and final at every time, in every place, on every subject and under all circumstances.
There were many excuses which he might have sheltered behind in order to avoid this situation. He ran the risk of death; his attitude might have brought others into serious trouble; no doubt, he had to endure the taunts and reproaches of his fellow-Israelites that he was setting himself up as wiser and holier than they; that he thought himself the sole judge of what was appropriate in those changed circumstances, and so on. But, like another stalwart of a later day, none of these things moved him: he was a young man who set his heart to be loyal to his God and so faithful to His Word and will.
He was an old man
Many years had passed since the event we have been considering and the once unknown youth is a man of standing and reputation, famous for his wisdom, honoured by kings, occupying high office in the Babylonian empire. He had not been unfaithful to God during the intervening years, he was still known as 'of the children of the captivity of Judah'; his well-known faithfulness to the law of God gave the very opportunity his enemies wanted to use against him; God was known as 'his' God. Suddenly he was called upon to face another critical test, hingeing, just as in the earlier experience, upon the question - How far was he prepared to go now in being faithful to God and His Word? 'Why, Daniel, do you really need to go through all this again? You have so much more to lose now. Besides, everybody knows what you stand for: surely you are entitled to a little peace now.' So it might have been put to him. But his loyalty persists, the old heart is set as the young heart had been set and, believing in his God, he 'stands by his purpose firm'. The results were remarkable. God acquired a new name, 'the God of Daniel', and His glory was celebrated amongst die heathen in the terms of 6. 26-27. That had been His intention throughout; for its accomplishment a Daniel was needed, who could triumph in such experiences.
It was early in the witness of the Church
when tidings reached Jerusalem of blessing at Antioch and Barnabas was sent to see things for himself. Faced with die unmistakable evidence of a work of God his heart was filled with joy and he exhorted the converts, choosing for his theme that with purpose of heart they should cleave to the Lord. That was the matter of first importance that must be impressed upon them. The steadfast purpose of Daniel must also be theirs; their hearts must be set, as his had been set, upon the Lord; to cleave unto Him, i.e. to continue with Him, a term indicating persistent loyalty (W. E. Vine). The Lord Jesus had been preached to them, the hand of the Lord had been with the preachers, those that believed had turned to the Lord. Now persistent loyalty to the Lord must characterize them and upon it their hearts must be firmly set. The disciples were first called 'Christians', i.e., adherents of Christ, at Antioch. Was that the result of their wholehearted response to this exhortation?
It is near the close of the witness of the Church
that these words are being written. God has not changed during the intervening centuries: His character, purpose and attitude, His will and His standards remain unaltered. His Word is as applicable as it was in those early days; all the changes in human circumstances and experience that the passage of time has brought were foreseen by its Author. Persistent loyalty to the Lord is still the essential thing. It is undivided loyalty that He requires: He will not share it. Busyness in His service is not acceptable as a substitute. Loyalty to Him involves loyalty to all His Word and revealed will, including that concerning the gathering and witness of His people. It will keep them from co-operation with the religious systems of men, which are marked by so much God-dishonouring departure from the scriptural pattern. 'Love that is of God can never consent to the setting aside of the truth at any price' (J. R. Caldwell).
It needs purpose of heart to stand for this and considerations similar to those which Daniel had to take into account must be faced by young and old. The latter may feel wistfully as we have suggested Daniel may have felt at his second great testing. As in his case, the personal responsibility rests upon each, whatever others may do or say, and 'the man of God' (the complement of 'the God of Daniel') is required to keep that which is committed to his trust, i.e. to guard the deposit, 1 Tim. 6. 20.
(To be followed by 'THE MAN WHO COUNTED UPON HIS GOD').