Series: Strangers In An Estranged Land - Part Two
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 21, 2020
Before we come to Daniel let’s be reminded of the big picture of what we’re looking at. How Daniel - and those that were with him - how what they went through and how they went through what they went through - how all that can speak to what it means for us to live for Jesus today.
At the end of last year I bought my 2020 planning calendar. Filled in my plan for the next 6 months or so. By mid March all that evaporated.
The only constant these days is change.
Picture a cruise ship. Remember those? Royal something or other. In the main dining area the party is in full swing. Speeches are being made by the captain, the crew, and the guests enjoying the week-long voyage. Sitting at the head table is a seventy-year-old man who, somewhat embarrassed, is doing his best to accept the praise being poured out on him.
Earlier that morning a young woman had apparently fallen overboard, and within seconds this elderly gentleman was in the cold, dark waters at her side. Screaming for help. What saved her life. The woman was rescued and the elderly man became an instant hero.
After all these accolades - speeches - when the time finally came for the brave passenger to speak the dining room fell into a hush as he rose from his chair. He went to the microphone and, in what was probably the shortest “hero’s” speech ever offered, spoke these stirring words: “I just want to know one thing… who pushed me?”
Thank you. The in person obligatory laugh is way better than remote.
Do you ever feel like that? Like you’ve been pushed into life - shoved into a situation that requires an ability or courage or something you just don’t have.
Welcome to the new normal. Whatever that is.
Living for Jesus in a semi-post COVID - hurting America - where things have changed a lot even though we’re still living in the same place.
Last Sunday we began talking about courage. Living courageously for Jesus in this place that is familiar to us but becoming less so and in a land that is increasingly antagonistic towards God and His people.
It takes courage to say, “I’m just not going there.” To not compromise or cave in when the pressure to conform is enormous. Courage to do what’s unpopular - misunderstood - ridiculed - even though it’s right before God. Courage to stand for Jesus - to share Him with others.
Sometimes we just need courage to get up and face a new day or to just keep going. Listening takes courage. Forgiveness takes courage. Change takes courage.
This morning we’re looking at the 49 verses of Daniel 2. Which is a lot of verses. So, we’re going to be unpacking as we go along and coming to one take away at the end. And we’re done in 2 hours tops. Courage.
Daniel 2 - starting at verse 1 - which is our introduction to Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream.
Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar - which is about 602 BC. Meaning that Daniel is now about 17 and probably just finished his 3rd year of court training.
Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams - plural - and his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans - the professional advisors to the king trained in the occult - think ungodly wisdom from the world.
Nebuchadnezzar commands them - to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. And the king said to them, “I had a dream - singular - and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.”
Verse 1 “dreams” - plural. Verse 3 - “dream” - singular.
Meaning that night after night Nebuchadnezzar's been dreaming the same dream over and over.
Verse 4: Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.”
They’re stalling. “Tell us what you dreamed and we’ll make up something that sounds really good… like we always do.”
The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm - meaning I’m not stupid
if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.”
They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.”
The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time
Meaning, “Quit stalling. Either you got what it takes or you’re the bunch of lying con artists that I always thought you were.”
because you see that the word from me is firm—if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.”
Verse 10: The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.
Let’s pause there.
First notice that Nebuchadnezzar remembers the dream.
Sometimes there are dreams we’d like to forget. But ever toss and turn all night and then not know why?
Nebuchadnezzar’s been dreaming the same dream over and over again. He’s probably got it memorized. He remembers enough of this dream - perhaps all of it - in such detail - that he’s not only bothered by it but he can easily test his advisors. If they try to snow him he’ll know.
That’s significant because that means that this isn’t any ordinary dream. Nebuchadnezzar is given this dream and he’s suppose to remember it. He’s suppose to understand it.
Second notice that the wisdom of the world strikes out.
All the magicians, conjurers, sorcerers, astrologers - the wisest of the wise - all the PhD's - the most learned of the learned all come up with one big fat zero. Nada.
No king has ever asked what Nebuchadnezzar is asking because it’s pointless. There isn’t anyone alive who could give an answer to the king.
Verse 11: The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
Difficult is an understatement.
The word here in Aramaic is “yaqar.” It has the idea of precious - like a priceless diamond. Unique. One of a kind. Highly valued. To be honored above anything else.
At night - when we dream - our minds are grinding away - processing - unfinished business from the day. But this isn’t just an ordinary dream. It’s a vision that no man is going to be able to process.
The wisdom of the world has no clue.
Then third we need to be aware that there are lives on the line.
If the professional wise guys don’t come up with an answer it’s just going to tear them apart. They’re going to be beside themselves.
Since we know how this comes out we might loose the intensity of that.
But imagine Daniel - these teenage boys hearing this for the first time. This is intense. A grave situation. Literally. Even for Daniel and team Daniel.
Verse 14 brings us to Daniel’s Response.
Verse 14: Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. He [Daniel] declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?”
Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.
First - Daniel asks for more time.
“Requested” translates an Aramaic word that has the idea of asking for a favor. Not demanding. But respectfully seeking the king’s permission.
Daniel is stalling with purpose - with prudence and discretion - not fear and panic. Daniel is stalling because Daniel knows he needs time to seek out God in all this.
Verse 17: Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
Second - Daniel’s response is to seek God.
He calls a prayer meeting. 4 teenage boys gathering at Daniel’s house to pray. To seek mercy - compassion - from the God of heaven. The word in Aramaic for “mercy” has the idea of the depth of passion that a mother would feel for her child.
“God have mercy on us.”
They know that the answer to the mystery isn’t in the wisdom of men. It’s not an answer they’re going to come up with. The dream is a vision from God. Daniel needs to go to God.
Faced with death - backs up against a wall - in a no win - all ready spun out of control - scenario Daniel and team Daniel pray to the only God who has the answer to the mystery. Leaving their circumstances and the situation in God’s hands where it needs to be.
And God answers.
Ever said to yourself: “I could have avoided a whole lot of hurt if I’d just gone to God first.”
No one here relates to that. Right?
It’s good for us to be reminded that in the drama of what requires courage in our lives that God is merciful and God does answer prayer… in His way and in His time according to His promises, purposes, and for His glory.
We need to stop our stressing and seek Him.
Verses 20 to 23 open up Daniel’s Heart. God answers Daniel. Daniel responds to God. Hear the heart of Daniel as he’s praying.
Verse 20: Daniel answered and said, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to Whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him. To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
As Daniel is praying we’re seeing Daniel’s heart. What about God - at the heart level where Daniel’s courage is coming from.
Daniel emphasizes God’s power - God’s authority - God’s strength.
God has complete control over all of history - all the strange twists and turns and phases and seemingly random events. The constant changes of our days.
God is in control of all of it. Only by God’s choice do kings have their temporal authority.
Nebuchadnezzar is Nebuchadnezzar because of God. God holds Nebuchadnezzar’s leash. God’s authority and power is not diminished because of who’s in power in Washington or Beijing or Sacramento. God has power and authority over all that comes against us. Pandemics… whatever.
Second - Daniel emphasizes God’s wisdom.
Whatever great achievements humankind has produced - whatever we may pride ourselves in - we don’t know nothin’. Whatever we do know is because God created our brains with the ability to know stuff.
God - our creator - the creator - sees from beyond the extremities of what exists. He sees all of this from a perspective that we can’t even begin to go there.
All the deeper - existential questions of life and death that we don’t even have a clue about, God knows the answers to. Only in God is ultimate absolute truth found. Only in Him is there true understanding and wisdom.
Third - God’s mercy.
God reveals to Daniel what God alone knows. The meaning of this priceless unique vision with purpose. God bringing His Divine authority and wisdom into the lives of Daniel and His people.
And Daniel gets it. This isn’t about Daniel and about how special Daniel is. But about God who is merciful to us. Even using us according to His divine purposes and for His glory.
To God alone be the glory and praise.
Pulling all that together.
Courage at the heart level is about... God. Life is about… God. Trusting the God who alone is worthy of trust. God who gives true wisdom and understanding.
God who promises to come through for His people. Who alone is able to come through for His people. And who really does come through for His people - us. Even in the no win drama of our lives.
Going on - verses 24 to 49 bring us face to face with God’s Sovereignty.
Therefore - because God revealed to Daniel the meaning of the dream - Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him, “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him, “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.”
The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”
Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.
Who reveals mysteries? God in heaven.
Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and He who reveals mysteries [God in heaven] made known to you what is to be.
But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.
When Scripture repeats something it does it for emphasis. In other words, “This is important. Don’t miss it.” Same thing here. Over and over we’re told, “It’s not Daniel. It’s... God. God in heaven is revealing this to you.” God. In all His Divine sovereignty.
Coming to verse 31 - you’ll see on the Message Notes a diagram of the dream. Hopefully that will help to visualize what God reveals here - the dream and it’s interpretation. Who reveals this? God.
Verse 31: “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”
Imagine the professional wise men of Babylon listening to this. “I was just about to say that.” Never in a million years could they have come up with any of this. They’re probably holding their breath that Daniel is getting this right.
Who reveals mysteries? God.
Verse 36: “This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand He has given, wherever they may dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.
Where does Nebuchadnezzar’s authority come from? God. Who’s sovereign? God.
Verse 39: Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.
Cutting through a lot history - the silver empire was Medio-Persia which began with Cyrus The Great conquering Babylon in 539 BC. The Bronze was the Greeks under Alexander the Great who invaded Persia in 334 BC.
Verse 40: And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks into pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these.
Which describes the Roman Empire that came on the scene and destroyed all the previous empires - and Trajan who in 98 to 117 AD occupied Assyria - Babylon.
Verse 41: And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay.
And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle.
As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage - in other words their going to try to form alliances in order to strengthen each other - but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.
Meaning what I’m about to say next is speculation. People that have looked at this prophecy have come up with various interpretations.
What I’m about to share is what I believe is the best of these. Take this with a huge grain of salt and do your own thinking and research.
What verses 41 to 43 may be describing is the division of the Roman Empire into two parts - two legs - east and west. Ultimately which were further divided into smaller kingdoms.
While we have a number of kingdoms - or countries today - countries which combine together - through alliances and treaties - but don’t stick together - are not one country - while we have a number of kingdoms and countries today - it is very interesting - behind the scenes - how much of Rome has survived - in law - in architecture - in language - in religion - in culture.
So that there is a very real possibility that we are living today is what might be the toes of the feet.
Verse 44: “And in the days of those kings - what kings? Maybe the kings of today.
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold.
A great God - meaning THE sovereign God who is greatest in power and influence and authority over all of His creation - the great God has made known to the king [Nebuchadnezzar] what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”
Verse 46: Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered to him. The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.
When God repeats himself it’s because God wants us to get it. Maybe Nebuchadnezzar is starting to understand who really is sovereign. God in heaven.
Verse 48: Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.
Which is a pattern that we see repeated over and over again in this book.
Repetition is the key to… learning.
Who reveals mysteries? God. Who’s sovereign? God. Who’s total control over everything that we see going on here. God. Who mercifully blesses His people? God.
Processing how all that relates to us and our having courage to face the constant ever changing drama of our lives - one take away is for us to hang on to is The Purpose of the dream - this vision.
Verse 45 tells us that what’s coming through Daniel is coming from God. And that since the revealing of the dream is certain, so is the truth of it’s interpretation.
In other words, if Daniel got the dream right - and we assume he did because he got rewarded instead of torn in two - if Daniel got the dream right then we need to trust that the interpretation is also right. Also coming from God.
What we know from history - the Medes the Persians the Greeks the Romans - subsequent history proves the accuracy of the interpretation of what was to come and the certainty of what’s yet to come.
Which should raise the question of why God gives this vision and interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar.
Nebuchadnezzar is going to be dead, buried, and dust before any of this takes place. So, what’s God’s purpose in revealing to Nebuchadnezzar what’s going to take place down the line of future history. Why the vision?
Let’s be clear. The interpretation isn’t just for Nebuchadnezzar’s ego. It’s for God’s people - living in exile in Babylon - who wondered as to their future - their world having spun out of control. The interpretation is for the people living in the times of the silver and bronze and iron - and even the clay toes - us.
The purpose of God’s revelation isn’t so we can come up with some chronological out line of future history based on our arrogance and ignorance. God giving us His from heaven perspective of human history - the where and when of our lives - so that generations of God’s people - us - we will be drawn closer to Him - to seek out His mercy and be challenged to greater faith and to gain courage in difficult times.
People today are hurting and they’re living in fear and despair and uncertainty. The times - the epochs - the movements of history - they’re as uncertain today as ever - maybe more so.
It’s like facing the no win scenario every day. The bright spots of our lives are like speed bumps slowing us down before we drive over the cliff.
And the wisdom of the world - the wise prognosticators of humanity have no certain answers. Just more confusion.
But, who’s in control? God.
God uses the Apostle Peter to identify the stone that strikes the statue: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame… The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone...a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (1 Peter 2:6-8)
The stone is Jesus. Mankind has rejected Him - stumbled over Him. But one day He will return. He will crush the kingdoms of this world and the foolishness of man. God will set up His eternal kingdom.
The interpretation - here in Daniel - points to that ending. The certainty that God - who is in control - according to His power and wisdom will do as He has purposed to do.
When we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ - knowing God’s control over what seems uncontrollable - what is spinning out of control - as He reveals the end point of what we struggle with - that truth should - heart level - empower us with courage.
Like Daniel - we can always go to God with confidence. Like Daniel we can turn to God trusting in His power and wisdom over and in all things. Like Daniel - as we move amongst people living in fear - we can point them to THE One who has the answers.
Who’s in control? God.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.