“Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” – Daniel xii, 10.
The prophecy of Daniel is clothed with peculiar power and solemnity. With holy reverence we trace his description of the rise and fall of earthly kingdoms as atoms in the hands of the Mighty God; and of the coming of the Eternal Kingdom, as a stone “cut out of the mountain without hands,” that should “not be left to other people,” but should “break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”
Through the shadowy path of ages had been seen the sign of the coming of the Son of man, but Daniel brings us to the dawn of the Gospel morning, ordained and foretold from of old, from everlasting; a morning undimmed by earthly clouds, untainted by mortal woe, marked by the rising of the Sun of righteousness “with healing in His wings.”
Daniel speaks of the passing away of the legal dispensation which had filled full its measure of wickedness and sin. Its mission had been accomplished, its work forever done; “Then said He, Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that He may establish the second.” – Hebrews x, 9.
In the chapter from which our text is taken the prophet gives us an awe-inspiring description of the closing of the legal night; “and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” – Chapter xii, 1. It is not difficult to trace this testimony with what is written in Matthew xxiv, 21: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Both of these declarations evidently refer to the destruction of the Jewish state following the close of the legal dispensation in a.d. 33, and in the connection of both of them abundant provision is made for the gathering of the “remnant according to the election of grace,” out from that Jewish economy before its final destruction.
Daniel gives us a vivid description, and of the happy condition of the children of light “when the morning stars sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy.” – Job xxxviii. 7. “They that be wise,” he says, “shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.” In the same view of Divine testimony Jesus says in Matthew xxiv, 30, 31, “And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” We have set in bold the similarity in the two quotations.
Daniel speaks of the signs that foretell the fall of that tottering legal house culminating in the setting up of “the abomination that maketh desolate.” Jesus tells of the fulfillment of this testimony; “For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” Matthew xxiv, 28. Around the carcass of that Jewish dispensation the Roman eagles (emblem upon their national ensign,) gathered in its final destruction forty years after the rising of the Gospel church.
Here was the darkness of a terrible night, the righteous wrath and indignation of a just and holy God; “the tempest was abroad in its anger,” and before it that dispensation should fall to rise no more, ever again. But our text points us to the dawn of a day when the night is past, to the Church “looking forth as the morning” through the storm and tempest of a terrible night. She comes forth as a thunderbolt of light, her morning star soars high in the Gospel heavens, sure harbinger of unending, wonderful day!
For this glorious day a people are prepared already; “many,” says the text, “shall be purified and made white.” “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” – Isaiah xxxiii, 14. Here are the purifying flames through which the saints are prepared for their glorious inheritance as children of the day. “I have refined thee,” saith the Lord, “but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” – Isaiah xlviii, 10. Again, “Behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” Malachi iv, 1. “Whither glorify ye the Lord in the fires.”- Isaiah xxiv, 15. “And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in the day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” – Malachi iii, 17.
Through this school of suffering and refining the saints are brought, “and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” – Revelation vii, 14. But to all this the prophet adds another clause full of significance to the inquiring child. “Many,” says he, “shall be purified, and made white, and tried.” Do sore trials await them still? Is the work to be still tested in the heated furnace? This is what he says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” – James I, 12. Again, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” – 1 Peter iv, 12. Then dear saints of God, companions “in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,” we should not think it strange when this testimony is fulfilled in our own personal experience.
“But the wicked shall do wickedly still.” How vain then to talk of converting the world to Christ! How impossible for them to know the things of Truth? “They shall do wickedly.” This is their manifest destiny. “I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.” – Isaiah liv, 16. Daniel adds; “And none of the wicked shall understand.” Jesus says, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent.” – Matthew x, 21. How then can we expect the worldly wise to understand the mysteries of the Gospel of free and sovereign grace? How absurd to undertake to teach them in Sunday Schools or other such ungodly places? Such knowledge must come by revelation alone.
But our text closes in the assuring testimony; “the wise shall understand.” Children of free grace whose understanding has been opened by the Lord Jesus Christ, who have been made “wise unto salvation;” children of the day, and of the light whose hearts the Lord has touched. When Christ came the wise men of Judea received Him not, but the babes and weaklings who had been taught to look for Him, and unto whom it had been reveal that He was “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” received Him.- Matthew xvi, 16.
And in all subsequent ages, in all generations, and among all nations the elect of God shall be purified in the flames of sore trial and affliction, the robes that adorn them shall be made white in the life-giving blood of the Son of God; they shall be prepared for each opening chapter of the unfolding mysteries of His will, as
“Each opening leaf, and every stroke,
Fulfills some deep design.”
They shall be found awaiting His coming in sunshine or in storm, as He has given them an understanding (1 John v, 20,) to know Him who “is the true God, and eternal life.” “And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on My name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is My people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.” – Zechariah, xiii, 8,9.
Elder William M. Smoot,