I recently was reading a commentary on the book of Daniel by H. A. Ironside. I was quite astonished to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit as I read just a few pages. I found rich application from Ironside’s words and discovered a forgotten secret to divine mysteries. Following are some excerpts from the first chapter of Ironside’s expository commentary on Daniel chapter one.
If you want enlightenment in divine things, see to it that you walk in the power of an ungrieved Spirit, for “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him” (Ps. 25:14).
The test came. They were to eat of the king’s meat, and all that meat was dedicated to idols, making it abhorrent and defiling to a godly Jew. But as the king has given his orders, it might have seemed as though these Hebrews has no choice in the matter. . . But not thus did Daniel or his young companions view it.
Now all this might have seemed to many of the Jews a very trivial matter, and some who read the account in our day may also consider it all a mere quibble on the part of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. But it brings out a principle of great force and beauty that should appeal to every Christian’s heart and conscience. Mark you, the only way to go with God is by being faithful in little things. . . we should seek to imitate Daniel, who had “purposed in his heart” that he would not defile himself.
It was because of their carefulness in maintaining a good conscience that these Hebrew young men were given spiritual enlightenment above all the men of their times. They had an understanding in divine mysteries that others failed to enter into, . . . God does not commonly impart His secrets to careless men.
What a lesson for us – that purity of heart and faithfulness to God come before enlightenment in divine mysteries! . . . If you try to put knowledge before heart purity, if you try to put a grasp of Scripture truth before conscientious living in the presence of God, you are almost certain to have a fearful fall awaiting you.
Thus this first chapter of Daniel comes to us as a serious reminder of the necessity of holiness.
I found this chapter in Ironside’s book both convicting and necessary. It reminded me of the necessity of holiness in the life of the Christian. There aren’t too many pastors (much less Christians) using words like holiness anymore. It scares people too much. After all, it seems to be an unobtainable goal, so it ceases to be a goal at all. Yet we are called to live holy lives. Not in a self-righteous, puritanical way, but as imperfect Christians pursuing a holy God. The reason I was so struck by what Ironside had to say is that he states very plainly that these young Hebrews attained spiritual heights because of purity in heart and faithfulness. They maintained their faith and purposed in their heart to not defile themselves. Yet, we do not even think this way. When do we purpose not to defile ourselves? Think about the challenge they faced. The young men had food put before them that was a defilement. It was not like a movie or TV show you can turn off. It was food, a necessity. But they would not budge. They refused to defile themselves even when put in a corner. So I ask, what is being put before us today. What do we partake of without a second thought that really is defiling our soul. Each and every day, we find magazines, TV, movies, the Internet, the “talk” in the office, and on it goes. These things are before us every day. If you do not purpose in your heart how to deal with them, you will just float along in sin. When we purpose in our hearts and carefully follow God in obedience and faithfulness, there is a reward – a spiritual reward with spiritual benefits. Ironside says that these faithful men understood divine mysteries others failed to enter into; and that God does not impart his secrets to careless men. We live in a very careless culture. Have we become subject to this culture? Are we careless men and women? While none is perfect, we must attend to the little things in our lives. We must clean out the defilements.
I challenge you to identify what is being put before you each day. Then evaluate if it defiles Christ. Purpose in your heart not to defile yourself, and see what happens!
1) Identify and evaluate what is being put before you.
2) Purpose in your heart not to defile yourself.
3) Focus on purity of heart and faithfulness toward God.
4) As God chooses, he will reveal spiritual secrets and mysteries.
“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him” (Ps. 25:14).