23. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.
23. Principio precationum tuarum exivit verbum, et ego veni ut annuntiarem, quia tu desideriorum vir, itaque intellige in sermone, et intellige in visione.
Here the angel not only exacts docility from the Prophet, but also exhorts him to greater attention. We shall afterwards perceive that this singular and extraordinary prophecy needed no common study. This is the reason why the angel not only commands Daniel to receive his message with the obedience of faith, but also to pay greater attention than usual, because this was an important and singular mystery. He states first of all -- the word went forth from the time when the Prophet began to pray I will not delay by reciting the opinions of others, because I think I understand the genuine sense of the passage; namely, God heard the prayers of his servant, and then promulgated what he had already decreed. For by the word |went forth| he expresses the publication of a decree which had formerly been made; it was then issued just as the decrees of princes are said to go forth when they are publicly spread abroad. God had determined what he would do, directly Daniel had ceased, for God's counsel would never fail of its accomplishment; but he here points out the impossibility of the prayers of his saints being in vain, because he grants them the very thing which he would have bestowed had they not prayed for them, as if he were obedient to their desires, and approved of their conduct. It is clear enough, that we can obtain nothing by our prayer, without God's previous determination to grant it; yet these points are not contrary to each other; for God attends to our prayers, as it is said in the Psalms, -- -He performs our wishes, and yet executes what he had determined before the creation of the world. (Psalm 145:19.) He had predicted by Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 25:11,) as we have remarked before, the close of the people's exile in seventy years; Daniel already knew this, as he related at the beginning of the chapter, yet he did not relax in his prayers, for he knew that God's promises afford us no ground or occasion for sloth or listlessness. The Prophet, therefore, prayed, and God shews how his desires were by no means vain as they concerned the welfare of the whole Church. He next states -- the word went forth as soon as Daniel began to pray; that is, as soon as he opened his lips he was divinely answered. He afterwards adds, he came to make this known, because, says he, thou art a desirable man Some take the word |desirable| actively, as if Daniel glowed with intense zeal; but this is forced and contrary to the usage of the language. Without doubt, the Prophet uses the word in the sense of acceptance with God, and the majority of interpreters fully agree with me. The angel therefore announces his arrival on behalf of Daniel, because he was in the enjoyment of God's favor. And this is worthy of notice, for we gather from the passage the impossibility of our vows and prayers acquiring favor for us before God, unless we are already embraced by his regards; for in no other way do we find God propitious, than when we flee by faith to his loving-kindness. Then, in reliance upon Christ as our Mediator and Advocate, we dare to approach him as sons to a parent. For these reasons our prayers are of no avail before God, unless they are in some degree founded in faith, which alone reconciles us to God, since we can never be pleasing to him without pardon and remission of sins. We observe also, the sense in which the saints are said to please God by their sometimes failing to obtain their requests. For Daniel was subject to continual groaning for many years, and was afflicted by much grief; and yet he never perceived himself to have accomplished anything worthy of his labors. He might really conclude all his labor to be utterly lost, after praying so often and so perseveringly without effect. But the angel meets him finally and testifies to his acceptance with God, and enables him to acknowledge that he had not suffered any repulse, although he had failed to obtain the object of his earnest desires. Hence, when we become anxious in our thoughts, and are induced to despair through the absence of all profit or fruit from our prayers, and through the want of an open and immediate answer, we must derive this instruction from the angel's teaching, Daniel, who was most acceptable to God, was heard at length, without being permitted to see the object of his wishes with his bodily eyes. He died in exile, and never beheld the performance of the Prophet's prophecies concerning the happy state of the Church, as if immediately preparing to celebrate its triumphs. At the end of the verse, as I have already mentioned, the angel stimulates Daniel to greater zeal, and urges him to apply his mind and all his senses attentively to understand the prophecy which the angel was commanded to bring before him. It now follows, --