Passage: Daniel 2:1-28
Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
The Church @ Hamilton
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Pastor Paul L. Davis
Key Goals: (Know) That God desires to answer our prayers. (Feel) A desire to pray. (Do) Pray.
Introduction: I love the book of Daniel! An incredible man with an incredible story who is courageous, faithful, wise, bold, intelligent, and honest. But the book of Daniel isn’t really about Daniel; it is about Daniel’s God. Last week we studied chapter one and saw that it was God who took Daniel to Babylon, it was God who gave Daniel favor, and it was God who gave amazing gifts to him and his three friends so that they were ten times better than all the other servants of Nebuchadnezzar. This book, like none other, gives us a glimpse of God’s sovereign hand at work in our lives.
We left Daniel last week in the middle of a three-year training course meant to teach him the ways of Babylon. Turn to Daniel 2. The year is 602 BC. The location is Babylon, the capital of what has become the most powerful nation of the world. Nebuchadnezzar has moved from conquering the Middle East to building walls, temples, and monuments to his greatness—one of which is the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.
1 In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams.
Babylon was famous for its wise men. Since 1800BC (so for over 1000 years) Babylonians had studied the stars for signs from the gods as to what would happen in the future. They were so good at watching the stars that by this time they had calculated the length of the year at 365 days, 6 hours, 15 minutes, 41 seconds. For 1200 years they had watched astrological events in the sky and compared them to what was happening on earth and then recorded the connection, so when the same type of astrological event occurred in the future they could predict what would happen on earth. Here is the thing, though. Babylonian astrologers were famous for telling kings what they wanted to hear. Nebuchadnezzar summoned them.
So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” 4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic…
Push pause for a second. We can’t see this in our English Bibles, but up until now, the original language of the book was Hebrew. From this point to the end of chapter seven (2:4 -7:28), the book is written in Imperial Aramaic, the language of the Babylonian elite. So, this next conversation is a direct quote. The magicians say to the king…
“O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: 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. 6 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.”
7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 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.” 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. 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.”
Did you catch that last sentence? This is a striking admission! Only the gods knew the dream, so whoever revealed the dream must be in touch with the gods. Nebuchadnezzar probably thought that since these astrologers claimed to be able to communicate with the spirit world, they should be able to discover the dream and its interpretation. This statement is a perfect set-up for YHWH God to reveal himself to Babylon.
12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. 14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard (the word ‘guard’ literally means “to slay or execute”—Arioch was the chief executioner), who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch… “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel.
16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king. 17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 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. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.
Prayer & Praise: There is something incredibly important in the passage that we must catch. When Daniel—a guy who was ten times wiser than anyone in the entire kingdom of Babylon—was in trouble, the very first thing he did was to pray. Did you see that in verse 18? He didn’t pull together a strategy session; he did not try and talk his way out of it; he did not run away or even worry. He gathered three friends to pray. He told his friends to specifically ask for “mercy.” Actually, it should read “mercies” as it is an “intensive plural,” meaning the word is pluralized to really emphasize it. It is an Aramaic word pronounced “ra-cha-min” and often translated mercy or compassion. But the word always carries two important ideas:
1. First, it describes the strong bond God has with his children (Ps 103:13). God looks upon his own as a father looks on his children; he has compassion and pity on them (cf. Mic 7:17). This word is the reason given throughout the OT for why God acts (see Is.49:15): because he had compassion. Our God is a compassionate and merciful God. When we pray for mercy, we are asking God to act in accordance with his character. I think this is important to understand. When you pray and ask God to be merciful to you, all you are saying is, “God, would you be you in my life?”
Jesus told a parable in Luke 18 about two men who prayed. One was a self-righteous Pharisee who prayed and told God about all his good deeds and thanked God that he was not like other people. The second man was a tax-collector (there was no one more evil than that). When he prayed, he stood far off, and would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, God, be merciful to me, a sinner! (Luke 18:13) Only one of those men had their prayers heard that day.
2. Second, it emphasizes God’s sovereign choice to be gracious. God tells Moses that he is gracious and merciful to whomever he chooses (Ex 33:19) and specifically to those who ask. (Ps. 86:5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, bounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.) At any given moment, God can choose to step mercifully into our difficulties and struggles and bring relief, comfort, and joy. It is within the character of God to be merciful and within his sovereign power to move and act to change our situation. Don’t be afraid to pray and ask God to deliver you. It is in both his character and strength to do so! He has the power to deliver!
We recently finished a study in James. Remember what he said about prayer in James 4:2? You do not have, because you do not ask. Then just a few verses later James asks, Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise (James 5:13). Daniel followed the first part of that verse. He was suffering and he was about to be killed, so he prayed for God’s mercy. He also obeyed the second part. When he was happy, he praised God. Look at verse 19.
19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 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; 22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 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.”
These five verses are different than almost any other verses in the Bible. They give us a glimpse into Daniel’s relationship with God. It is so personal and rich.
- Daniel is super wise, yet he praises God for his wisdom and power. (v.20)
- Daniel has been taken captive by a foreign king, yet he praises God for setting up and removing kings. (v.21)
- Daniel knows a deep and hidden dream of the king, yet he praises God for knowing all the deep and hidden things. (v. 22)
- Daniel ends his praise with a very personal thank you. God, I asked you to reveal this dream to me, and you did it! I give thanks and praise! (v. 23)
Let’s pick up the story again at verse 24.
24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
25 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.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar…
Daniel’s new name plays into this next conversation. Daniel’s name means “God is my judge.” The “god” in Daniel’s name is “EL” as in El Shaddai and Elohim. He is our God: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Daniel was taken, he was given the name Belteshazzar, which meant “Bel, protect his life!” Bel was Aramaic for “lord” and referred to Marduk, the god of Babylon. This will make Daniel’s next conversation more confrontational than you might first think. A man named “Bel protect his life” is coming to save all the wise men’s lives.
“Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 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, 28 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.”
No wise man of Bel could ever reveal mysteries, but there is a God in heaven. That sentence is one of the bravest you have ever read. Captives didn’t walk into the king’s chambers and insult the king’s god. Daniel makes it very clear that it is YHWH God who is in control, not Bel, and certainly not his magicians. This God YHWH loves even a pagan king enough to reveal himself to him. Next week we will explore the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, and you will be amazed.
God saved Daniel and his friends. In a miraculous act of mercy, God swooped, in revealed the king’s dream to Daniel, and saved all of the magicians. It is just like him. He is a compassionate and loving God. His mercies are new every morning. He is using Daniel to forge a relationship with a pagan king. How merciful is that?
God has also sent his son to forge a relationship with you. Have you been praying? You have felt far away from God, but have you asked him to come closer? What did the tax-collector say? God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Are you in trouble? Pray. Lonely? Pray. Afraid? Hurt? Addicted? Pray.
Community Group Questions
- Read Daniel 2:1-28 as a group. What parts of this jumped out at you?
- Do you think it was fair for Nebuchadnezzar to demand his magicians tell him his dream? Why? Why not?
- Daniel prayed for “mercies.” What specifically do you think Daniel was hoping for? (Look at v. 23)
- This part of the book is written in Aramaic, the language of Babylon, not Hebrew or Greek. Why do you think that is?
- Why do you think Daniel, who was very wise, prayed first before he thought up a solution to his problem? Do you pray first about issues or immediately try to solve them?
© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
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 All scripture quotations are from the ESV.