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Daniel 9:5-7

5. We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:

5. Peccavimus, et inique egimus et imprope nos gessimus, et rebellavimus, et recessimus a praeceptis tuis, et judicii tuis. 8484     Or, we have revolted from thy precepts and thy judgments. — Calvin.

6. Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, and to our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

6. Et non auscultavimus servis tuis prophetis, qui loquuti sunt in nomine tuo ad reges nostros, principes nostros, et partres nostros, et ad populum terrae.

7. O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.

7. Tibi domine justitia, et nobis pudor vultus, 8585     Verbally, of faces. — Calvin. scuti hodie viro Jehudah, 8686     That is, to all the Jews. — Calvin. et incolis Jerusalem, et toti Israeli, propinquis, et longinquis, in omnibus terris, quo expulsisti eos, ob transgressiones, 8787     Or, on account of transgressions. — Calvin. quibus transgressi sunt contra te.

 

Daniel here continues his confession of sin. As we have already stated, he ought to begin here, because we must remark in general the impossibility of our pleasing God by our prayers, unless we approach him as criminals, and repose all our hopes on his mercy. But there was a special reason for the extraordinary nature of the Prophet’s prayers, and his use of fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. This was the usual method of confession by which Daniel united himself with the rest of the people, for rite purpose of testifying throughout all ages the justice of the judgment which God had exercised in expelling the Israelites from the promised land, and totally disinheriting them. Daniel, therefore, insists upon this point. Here we may notice, in the first place, how prayers are not rightly conceived, unless founded on faith and repentance, and thus not being according to law, they cannot find either grace or favor before God. But great weight is to be attached to the phrases where Daniel uses more than a single word in saying the people acted impiously. He puts חטאנו, chetanu, we have sinned, in the first place, as the word does not imply any kind of fault, but rather a serious crime or offense. We, therefore, have sinned; then we have done wickedly; afterwards we have acted impiously; for רשע, reshegn, is stronger than חטא, cheta. We have done wickedly, we have been rebellious, says he, in transgressing thy statutes and commandments Whence this copiousness of expression, unless Daniel wished to stimulate himself and the whole people to penitence? For although we are easily induced to confess ourselves guilty before God, yet scarcely one in a hundred is affected with serious remorse; and those who excel others, and purely and reverently fear God, are still very dull and cold in recounting their sins. First of all, they acknowledge scarcely one in a hundred; next, of those which do come into their minds, they do not fully estimate their tremendous guilt, but rather extenuate their magnitude; and, although they perceive themselves worthy of a hundred deaths, yet they are not touched with their bitterness, and fear to humble themselves as they ought, nay, they are scarcely displeased with themselves, and do not loathe their own iniquities. Daniel, therefore, does not accumulate so many words in vain, when he wishes to confess his own sins and those of the people. Let us learn then how far we are from penitence, while we only verbally acknowledge our guilt; then let us perceive the need we have of many incentives to rouse us up from our sloth; for although any one may feel great terrors and tremble before God’s judgments, yet all those feelings of dread vanish away too soon. It therefore becomes necessary to fix God’s fear in our hearts with some degree of violence. Daniel shews us this when using the phrase, The people have sinned; they have acted unjustly; they have conducted themselves wickedly and become rebellious, and declined from the statutes and commandments of God This doctrine, therefore, must be diligently noticed, because, as I have said, all men think they have discharged their duty to God, if they mildly profess themselves guilty before him, and acknowledge their fault in a single word. But as real repentance is a sacred thing, it is a matter of far greater moment than a fiction of this kind. Although the multitude do not perceive how they are only deceiving themselves when they confess a fault, yet in the meantime they are only trifling with God like children, while some say they are but men, and others shelter themselves in the crowd of offenders. “What could I do? I am but a man; I have only followed the example of the many.” Lastly, if we examine carefully the confessions of men in general, we shall always find some latent hypocrisy, and that there are very few who prostrate themselves before God as they ought. We must understand, therefore, this confession of Daniel’s as stimulating himself and others to the fear of God, and as laying great stress upon the sins of the people, that every one may feel for himself real and serious alarms.

Then he shews how impiously, and wickedly, and perfidiously the Israelites had rebelled, and how they had declined from God’s statutes and commandments. Daniel enlarges upon the people’s fault, as they had no pretext for their ignorance after they had been instructed in God’s law. They were like a man who stumbles in broad daylight. He surely is without excuse who raises his eyes to heaven or closes them while he walks, or casts himself forward with blind impulse, for if he fall he will find no one to pity him. So Daniel here enlarges upon the people’s crime, for the law of God was like a lamp pointing out the path so clearly that they were willfully and even maliciously blind. (Psalm 119:105.) Unless they had closed their eyes, they could not err while God faithfully pointed out the way in which they ought to follow and persevere. This is the first point. But we ought to gather another doctrine from this passage, namely, there is no reason why men should turn away entirely from God, even if they have transgressed his commands, because, although they please both themselves and others, and think they have obtained the good opinion of the whole world, yet this will avail men nothing if they decline from God’s commandments and statutes. Whoever, therefore, has the law in his hands, and turns aside in any direction, although he may use the eloquence of all the rhetoricians, yet no defense will be available. This perfidy is surely without excuse — to disobey the Almighty as soon as he shews us what he approves and what he requires. Then, when he forbids anything, if we turn aside ever so little from his teaching, we are perfidious and wicked, rebellious and apostate. Lastly, this passage proves that there is no rule of holy, pious, and sober living except a complete performance of God’s commandments. For this reason he puts statutes and judgments to shew that the people did not sin in ignorance. He might have concluded the sentence in one word: we have departed from thy commandments; but he joins judgment to commands. And why so? To point out how easy and clear and sufficiently familiar was God’s institution, if the Israelites had only been teachable. Here we may notice the frequent recurrence of this repetition. The unskillful think these synonyms are heaped together without an object, when statutes, judgments, laws, and precepts are used, but the Holy Spirit uses them to assure us that nothing shall be wanting to us if we inquire at the mouth of God. He instructs us perfectly in regulating the whole course of our lives, and thus our errors become knowing and willful, when God’s law has been clearly set before us, which contains in itself a perfect rule of doctrine for our guidance.

He afterward, adds, We have not obeyed thy servants the Prophets who have spoken in, thy name We ought also diligently to notice this, because the impious often wickedly fail to discern the presence of God, whenever he does not openly descend from heaven and speak to them by angels; and so their impiety is increased throughout all ages. Thus, in these days, many think themselves to have escaped by boasting in the absence of any revelation from heaven: the whole subject, they say, is full of controversy; the whole world is in a state of confusion; and what do the teachers of the Church mean by promoting such strife among each other? Then they boast and think as they please, and are blind of their own accord. But Daniel here shews how no turning to God is of the slightest avail, unless he is attended to when he sends his prophets, because all who despise those prophets who speak it the name of the Lord are perfidious and apostate, wicked and rebellious. We see, then, the suitability of this language of Daniel, and the necessity of this explanation: The people were wicked, unjust, rebellious, and impious, because they did not obey the prophets He does not assert that this wicked, impious, contumacious, and perfidious character of the people arises from their not listening to God thundering from heaven, or to his angels when sent to them, but because they did not obey his prophets. Besides this, he calls the prophets servants of God who speak in his name He distinguishes between true and false prophets; for we know how many impostors formerly abused this title in the ancient Church; as in these days the disturbers of our churches falsely pretend to the name of God, and by this audacity many of the simple are deceived. Daniel, therefore, distinguishes here between the true and false prophets, who everywhere boast in their divine election to the office of teachers. He speaks here of the effect, treating all these boastings as vain and foolish, for we are not ignorant of the manner in which all Satan’s ministers transform themselves into angels of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14.) Thus the evil as well as the good speak in God’s name; that is, the impious no less than the righteous teachers put forth the name of God; but here, as we have said, Daniel refers to the effect and the matter itself, as the phrase is. Thus when Christ says, When two or three are gathered together in my name, (Matthew 18:20,) this is not to be applied to such deceptions as are observable in the Papacy, when they proudly use God’s name as approving certain assemblies of theirs. It is no new thing, then, for a deceiving Church to hide its baseness under this mask. But when Christ says, Where two or three are assembled in my name, this refers to true and sincere affection. So also Daniel in this passage says, True prophets speak in God’s name; not only because they shelter themselves under this name for the sake of its authority, but because they have solid proofs of the exercise of God’s authority, and are really conscious of their true vocation.

He afterwards adds, To our kings, our nobles, our fathers, and all the people of the land Here Daniel lays prostrate every high thing in this world with the view of exalting God only, and to prevent any pride rising in the world to obscure his glory, as it otherwise would do. Here, then, he implicates kings, princes, and fathers in the same guilt; as if he had said, all are to be condemned without exception before God. This, again, must be diligently noticed. For we see how the common people think everything permitted to them which is approved by their kings and counselors. For in the common opinion of men, on what does the whole foundation of right and wrong rest, except on the arbitrary will and lust of kings? Whatever pleases kings and their counselors is esteemed lawful, sacred, and beyond all controversy; and thus God is excluded from his supreme dominion. As, therefore, men thus envelop themselves in clouds, and willingly involve themselves in darkness, and prevent their approach to God, Daniel here expresses how inexcusable all men are who do not obey the Prophets, even if a thousand kings should obstruct them, and the splendor of the whole world should dazzle them. By such clouds as these God’s majesty can never be obscured; nay more, this cannot offer the slightest impediment to God’s dominion or hinder the course of his doctrine. These points might be treated more copiously: I am only briefly explaining the Prophet’s meaning, and the kind of fruit which ought to be gathered from his words. Finally, it is a remarkable testimony in favor of the Prophet’s doctrine, when kings and their counselors are compelled to submit, and all the loftiness of the world is brought under subjection to the prophets, as God says in Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 1:10) Behold! I have set thee above kingdoms, and above the empires of this world, to destroy and to build up, to plant and to root out. There God asserts the authority of his teaching, and shews its superiority to everything in the world; so that all who wish to be free from it, as if endowed with some peculiar privilege, are both foolish and ridiculous. This, then, must be noticed in the Prophet’s words, when he says, God spoke by his prophets to kings, princes, and fathers Respecting the “fathers,” we see how frivolous is the excuse of those who use their fathers as a shield in opposing God. For here Daniel unites both fathers and children in the same guilt, and shews how all equally deserve condemnation, when they do not listen to God’s prophets, or rather to God speaking by means of his prophets.

He next subjoins, To thee, O Lord, belongs righteousness, and to us confusion of face, as it is at this day The meaning is, God’s wrath, which he manifests towards his people, is just, and nothing else remains but for the whole people to fall down in confusion, and candidly acknowledge itself deservedly condemned. But this contrast which unites opposite clauses, ought also to be noticed, because we gather from the Prophet’s words that God can neither be esteemed just nor his equity be sufficiently illustrious, unless when the mouths of men are closed, and all are covered and buried in disgrace, and confess themselves subject to just accusation, as Paul also says, Let God be just, and let all men’s mouths be stopped, (Romans 3:4, 26;) that is, let men cease to cavil and to seek any alleviation of their guilty their subterfuges. While, therefore, men are thus cast down and prostrate, God’s true glory is illustrated. The Prophet now utters the same instruction by joining these two clauses, of opposite meaning’s. Righteousness is to thee, but shame to us. Thus we cannot praise God, and especially while he chastises us and punishes us for our sins, unless we become ashamed of our sins, and feel ourselves destitute of all righteousness. Lastly, when we both feel and confess the equity of our condemnation, and when this shame seizes upon our minds, then we begin to confess God’s justice; for whoever cannot bear this self-condemnation, displays his willingness to contend against God. Although hypocrites apparently bear witness to God’s justice, yet whenever they claim anything as due to their own worthiness, they at the same time derogate from their judge, because it is clear that God’s righteousness cannot shine forth unless we bury ourselves in shame and confusion. According as at this day, says Daniel. He adds this to confirm his teaching; as if he had said, the impiety of the people is sufficiently conspicuous from their punishment. Meanwhile, he holds the principle that the people were justly chastised; for hypocrites, when compelled to acknowledge God’s power, still cry out against his equity. Daniel joins both points together: thus, God has afflicted his people, and this very fact proves them to be wicked and perfidious, impious and rebellious. As it is at this day, meaning, I will not complain of any immoderate rigor, I will not say thou hast treated my people cruelly; for even if the punishments which thou hast inflicted on us are severe, yet thy righteousness shines forth in them: I therefore confess how fully we deserve them all. To a man of Judah, says he. Here Daniel seems to wish purposely to strip the mask off the Israelites, under which they thought to hide themselves. For it was an honorable title to be called a Jew, an inhabitant of Jerusalem, an Israelite. It was a sacred race, and Jerusalem was a kind of sanctuary and kingdom of God. But now, says he, though we have hitherto been elevated aloft so as to surpass the whole world, and though God has deigned to bestow upon us so many favors and benefits, yet confusion of face is upon us: let our God be just. Meanwhile, let all these empty boastings cease, such as our deriving our origin from holy fathers and dwelling in a sacred land; let us no longer cling to these things, says he, because they will profit us nothing before God. But I see that I am already too prolix.


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