Nebuchadnezzar

Courageous Faith: Redemptive Distress

Redemptive Distress sermon notes

Redemptive Distress

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand God’s grace. (Feel) Feel love for God in difficulty. (Do) Stand firm in faith.

 

Introduction: 32 years is a lifetime. Lebron James is 32 years old. Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world, died when he was 32. This morning we are in Daniel 4. It is critical for us to realize that the action that takes place today in chapter 4 happened 32 years after Daniel first met Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel is now around 50 years old and has served the king for the majority of his life. If you have been with us for the last several weeks, you have heard me say that, for reasons we may never know, God was uniquely gracious in revealing himself to Nebuchadnezzar.

 

In Daniel 1: Daniel and his friends decided to honor God by not eating the king’s food. Because of their decision, God blessed them with great wisdom and King Nebuchadnezzar found the Israelites ten times wiser than all his other wise men. God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar that there is a difference in those who worship God.

 

In Daniel 2: While he was thinking about the future, the Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream that only Daniel could interpret. Daniel made it abundantly clear that the dream and the interpretation came from the “God of heaven.” In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar learned that only God’s kingdom will last forever—all others are temporary. As the chapter ended, Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed Daniel’s God as the “highest” of all the “gods.”

 

In Daniel 3: Nebuchadnezzar saw the faith of those who followed the Most High, the God of heaven. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had an objective and exclusive faith that led them to reject idol worship. Thinking no god could deliver these men from his wrath, Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into a fiery furnace. He watched as the God of heaven did what no other god could—rescue his people. Nebuchadnezzar watched the Lord step into a blazing furnace to be with those who followed him. Nebuchadnezzar blessed the Lord and made it a crime to speak against the God of heaven.

 

Nebuchadnezzar seems to have a growing understanding of the Lord, but was he a believer? He was close, but this morning we will find that he had one more very important lesson to learn. Chapter 4 is unique because it is either written or dictated as a proclamation by Nebuchadnezzar himself. Proclamations like this were common and were usually written on a “stele.”  

Daniel 4[1]

1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Nebuchadnezzar learned well what God had revealed to him at this point. You can almost hear the stories of chapters 1-3 behind this introduction.

4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. 8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying…

 

I want you to catch something. At this point in his narrative, Nebuchadnezzar talks of “his” god being the god that Daniel was named after. “His” god was Marduk. But Daniel had the spirit of the “holy gods.” It is interesting that Nebuchadnezzar uses the Aramaic word “holy.” Daniel’s God is different from the other gods by being unique in his moral purity.[2]

 

The Dream:

9“O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it. 13 I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven.

 “Watcher” is the Aramaic word for angel. Biblically it is used only in Daniel, but there were entire books written about the good and evil watchers.[3]

 14 He (the watcher) proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. (The Babylonians believed that “dew from heaven” is what brought sickness and disease, so Nebuchadnezzar would have viewed this as an ominous warning.)[4] Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’”

 

While Nebuchadnezzar does not understand what the dream means, the watcher is very clear as to its purpose. The dream represents events that will happen so that the “living” may know that Most High rules the kingdom of men, gives it to whom he will, and sets over it the lowliest of men.

The Interpretation: Daniel is dismayed. He immediately understands that the dream is about Nebuchadnezzar and that it is not good.

25 “…you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

 

Nebuchadnezzar is going to go through a significant period of hardship, hardship that will teach him a powerful lesson about who is in charge and who isn’t.

 

Redemptive Distress: There are times in my life when I feel like I am in charge. I make decisions, my plans work out, and I feel good and powerful. If I am honest, there have been times in my life, especially when I was young, that I felt almost invincible. But I don’t feel like that today because of “redemptive distress.” What is it? Redemptive distress is the hard or painful circumstances in our lives that God uses to get our attention and draw us to him. Don’t waste your difficult times. Depression, anger, bitterness, lashing out—these are inappropriate and unbiblical ways to face hardship, but they often show up first. Instead, use your difficulty to soul-search: is there something I need repent of or change? Use your difficulty to pray. Use your difficulty to intensify your faith. Use your difficulty to strengthen your bond with those suffering around you. Use your difficulty to deepen your relationship with God. This was the advice Daniel gave the king.

27 “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

 

We don’t know whether the king listened or not. But we do know that twelve months later, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream became a reality. Nebuchadnezzar 29… was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”

 

You can just hear the arrogance dripping from his words. In his pride, Nebuchadnezzar took for himself the glory that rightly belonged to the Lord, inviting upon himself God’s judgment.

31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

 

The king who thought himself a god became subhuman. The key to redemptive distress is the redemption part. Nebuchadnezzar was graciously broken so he would look to the God who made him. Difficulty will draw us to the Lord if we think biblically. For example:

 

1. God designs our distress specifically for us. Paul had a “thorn in the flesh,” David had Goliath, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. God did not give Nebuchadnezzar cancer; his distress was uniquely tailored to his pride that had to be broken. If you are going through difficulty, it is yours. It may not be to break you; it may be to mold you or to strengthen your faith. Whatever God is doing, he is doing for you not to you! God’s goal was to lovingly turn Nebuchadnezzar away from self-love and to him!

 2. Our distress opens our eyes to God’s closeness. God knew Nebuchadnezzar intimately. He knew exactly what it would take to get his attention—not because he is mean and capricious, but because he is loving and close! Remember Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

3. Our goal in distress must be intimacy with God, not relief. Watch what happens to Nebuchadnezzar’s heart.

34At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

 

What a powerful testimony! Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven.” It is hard for you and me to understand the significance of this statement. This is as clear a statement of faith as was ever given in scripture. To put it in New Testament language, Nebuchadnezzar “got saved.” Redemptive distress through the power of the Holy Spirit is what drew him to the Lord.

 

Jeremiah’s letter: Let me end with this thought. Before any of the stories of Daniel took place, the prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to all the people of Israel taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, every one of them ripped from home and family, every one of them in distress. In the letter, God specifically says that he was the one who caused their pain,[5] but then he says these famous words in Jeremiah 29:11–13 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

[2] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Aramaic (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[3] See the first three books of Enoch (there are 8) which discuss the fall and activities of the watchers.

[4] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Da 4:15.

[5] Jer 29:4

Courageous Faith: Faithful in the Face of Death

Faithful in the Face of Death sermon notes

Faithful in the Face of Death

Passage: Daniel 3

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the exclusivity of God. (Feel) Feel the power to remain faithful. (Do) Stand firm in faith.

 

Introduction: In May of 1940, 365,000 Allied soldiers were trapped on the coast of Dunkirk, France. German Panzer divisions were on their way, and they had the capacity to wipe out the Allied force. When it seemed certain that the forces at Dunkirk were about to be massacred, a British naval officer cabled just three words back to London: But if not. These words were instantly recognized by the cable officer as a reference to the book of Daniel. The message in those three little words was: the situation is desperate. The Allied forces were trapped. It would take a miracle to save them, but if not they would remain faithful and not give in. One simple three-word phrase communicated all that. The British leapt into action and assembled 850 boats—some large ships, some small fishing boats. The plan was to rescue 45,000 of the men before the Germans crushed the entire force. For some unknown reason, Hitler ordered his divisions to hold. The German generals were furious, but as they backed off, what’s known as the Miracle of Dunkirk took place. What was to be a one-day rescue of 45,000 turned into a nine-day rescue of more than 365,000 soldiers. “But if not.” My prayer this morning is that when we leave here, we will clearly understand that phrase.

 

When I was a child, I picked up an understanding of faith that caused me to seriously question God when I was a senior in high school. What I had picked up was this thought: if I trust God with a sufficient quality and quantity of faith, everything will work out well for me. The kicker is, I think I accidentally learned this in Sunday School. Let me tell you the story of Daniel chapter 3 the way I had always heard it.

 

My understanding: King Nebuchadnezzar created a large image (90’x9’) and he required everyone in the kingdom to bow down to it when music began to play. When the music played, several evil jealous satraps (whatever they were…governors or something) told Nebuchadnezzar that three Jewish guys refused to bow. (Now where Daniel went in this story, I was never told.) So, the king called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in front of him and demanded that they bow down to the idol or they would be thrown into the “fiery furnace.” But because of the young men’s incredible faith (giant faith…it was even mentioned in Hebrews 11), they refused to bow and instead were thrown into a furnace heated seven times hotter than normal. Then to the surprise of the king, the three Jewish guys not only survived the fire (the soldiers that threw them in didn’t), but the Son of God walked around in the fire with them. They came out of the furnace unscathed and they did not even smell of smoke.

 

That’s the story. I was hearing this story for the first time in junior high, but to me the message was very clear: put your faith in God and he will save you. Right? Now, I was a pretty sophisticated junior higher, so I put together that you probably had to have a lot of faith, and it had to be the “super high quality” type of faith. But that was perfectly fine because, as a junior higher, I had both in spades. But when I hit 16, 17, 18…I discovered the hard reality that many people with tremendous faith suffer terribly. Here is where I landed as a 17-year-old: while faith worked in the Bible, it did not always work in real life.

 

Let’s take a closer look at the story and see if I missed anything about faith. First of all, this section is a continuation of the story from chapter 2, where Nebuchadnezzar was introduced to the “God of heaven” by Daniel. Daniel’s incredible God-given ability to reveal and interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream astounded him, and Nebuchadnezzar’s response was to praise God. We did not find a “believing” Nebuchadnezzar, but he had certainly added the God of Heaven to his “list” of gods (See Dan 2:47). Last week I mentioned that God had a surprisingly unique relationship with Nebuchadnezzar. He was not the “hated pagan king” (the bad guy of the story as he is so often portrayed). In fact, the action and drama surrounding Daniel and the three children of Israel seems to revolve around God graciously revealing himself to the king. Turn to Daniel 3:2–7[1].

Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps (local governor), the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (Notice how the governmental offices are mentioned.) 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (They are all listed again. The idea is that EVERYONE is worshipping!) And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

 

This passage paints a picture of the whole world bowing down to the image—all peoples, all nations, all languages. All the magistrates, governors, treasurers, justices, everyone everywhere obeyed, except three men. The story moves from the Plain of Dura where the image was, to the throne room of Nebuchadnezzar where certain Babylonians informed the king of the three men who refused to worship.

12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

 

These accusers insinuated that government officials who refused to worship the idol were dangerous, disobedient, and unqualified to serve. They were unwilling to follow the “party leadership,” therefore they must be removed. These men had a dangerous faith that was objective and exclusive. What do I mean by that? The faith that the three children of Israel had was not just “believing,” their faith had an “Object” and that was YHWH God. They were not into the “power of positive thinking.” They trusted in and obeyed the powerful, sovereign God of the universe as revealed in the Ten Commandments and the law of Moses—the number one command being, You shall have no other gods before me (Ex. 20:3).

 

For our guests: Can I just encourage you? You do not have to bow to idols to be good leaders and civil servants. Idols today may not look like 90 ft images, but the idols of money, power, and party politics often stand just as tall.

 

Nebuchadnezzar was furious. He called in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 15 “Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

 

That last phrase is why I think this story is really more about God revealing himself to Nebuchadnezzar than it is about the faith of these three Jewish men. “Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” What a perfect set up! It is like God is playing a sovereign game of tee-ball with Nebuchadnezzar and the ball is teed up for a home run!

 

Verse 16 is the most powerful verse in the entire section. 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

 

There is so much here to talk about, but let me draw out three key components of these three men’s faith.

 

1. Their faith was exclusive. These men knew the God of the Bible and, unlike the Babylonians who were willing to worship new gods as they were set up, these three men knew that the God of heaven had clearly established how he was to be worshipped: exclusively. Exodus 20:3–6 says,

You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

 

2. Their faith assumed God’s wisdom and sovereignty. Notice that these men’s faith did not assume God was going to make “everything better.” They worded their statement carefully. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.” They did not say he would, just that he was able. Their faith was that God in his wisdom and sovereignty would do what was right as they did what was right. Many believers have been in similar situations and died for their faith. Based on how this is worded, I think it is clear these men were ready to die. They were not “positive thinkers;” they had a deep faith based on God’s very nature as he had revealed himself throughout biblical history, through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Elijah. The bravery behind these men’s actions flowed from their knowledge that God was in control and that he always does what is right.

 

3. Their faith anticipated God’s provision to be sufficient, loving, and good. Verse 18 is amazing. “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Those who want to stay alive don’t talk to kings this way. But they had not put their lives in the hands of the king; they had placed their lives in the hands of their God, because he is sufficient and his hands are loving and good. I want to remind us what Nebuchadnezzar should be picking up on. He knows that there is a God in Heaven. God graciously revealed himself. Now God is graciously revealing to Nebuchadnezzar that he is the ONLY God in heaven.  But no king likes defiance.

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face (the word is “image,” the same word used for the idol) was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind [them], and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace…  22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

 

God does not save the men from the furnace; they are thrown in. Verse 24 is where it gets miraculous.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

 

The fourth person was Immanuel, God with us (Is. 7:14). Our God is the God who blesses faith with his presence. God met with Abraham, Isaac, and Moses by faith. Today we are told that salvation and God’s presence in our lives comes by “grace through faith” in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). Nebuchadnezzar was amazed at the presence of God.

 

 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!”  Notice the phrase he uses to describe God. In the last chapter, he was the “God of heaven,” now he is “the Most High God.”

 

Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. The miracle is amazing, but not as amazing to me as what Nebuchadnezzar says next.

28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

 

There is no other God who is able to rescue at all. Trust and follow him—exclusively—assuming that his ways are best and anticipating that, as you live for him, God’s provision for you will be sufficient, loving, and good.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

Courageous Faith: The Rock

The Rock sermon notes

The Rock

Passage: Daniel 2:29-47

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Know that Jesus Christ is the “Rock”. (Feel) Feel a desire to join or recommit to God’s eternal kingdom. (Do) Pray for faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Introduction: Last time we left Daniel, he was in Babylon—the dominant world power in the year 602 BC. Nebuchadnezzar had conquered almost all the Middle East and had returned to his capital city to build and rule his vast empire. But he had a dream that bothered him terribly, so much so that he called on all the wise men, astrologers, magicians, and sorcerers of Babylon to tell him the dream and its interpretation. This was an impossible task for sure, but Babylonian astrologers were famous for telling kings what they wanted to hear. Nebuchadnezzar had to be sure that the interpretation was accurate. The God of heaven revealed the dream to Daniel, and this morning we are going to look at his dream. Caution: Many people have speculated on what this dream meant. We are not going to do that this morning. We are going to take a slightly different approach and try to grasp what Nebuchadnezzar would have heard. Let’s turn to Daniel 2:26.[1]

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?” 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.

 

Before Daniel interprets anything, he exposes the God who reveals mysteries. “There is a God in heaven,” he says. This statement sums up the entire book of Daniel. There are many great stories in this book, but you can summarize all of them with the phrase. Last week I was working with Karl on his sermon, and I told him that he should be able to sum it up in one sentence. The book of Daniel’s “sermon in a sentence” is: There is a God in heaven.

  • There is a God in heaven that gave Babylon the victory over Israel (1:2)
  • There is a God in heaven that brought Daniel to Babylon (1:4)
  • There is a God in heaven who showed favor to Daniel (1:9)
  • There is a God in heaven that gave Daniel the gift of wisdom (1:17)
  • There is a God in heaven that reveals mysteries (2:28)

Later we will find that:

  • There is a God in heaven who will walk with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. (3:8 ff)
  • There is a God in heaven who will protect Daniel in the lions’ den. (6)

 

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of the book of Daniel is to whom God is revealing himself. We are going to find over the next few chapters that the God of heaven has a unique relationship with Nebuchadnezzar. It is tempting to read the Old Testament (stories like Sodom & Gomorrah or David & Goliath) and think that God loved Israel and hated all the other nations, when in fact it was God’s desire for Israel to be a light and reveal him to the nations. Listen to what God said to his people in Isaiah 49:6. “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  God does not hate the nations. In fact, as we walk through this passage, I want you to look for how gracious God is to this pagan king. He goes to extraordinary lengths to reveal himself and his future plans. Look again at verse 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.

 

The phrase “what will be in the latter days” is used here by Daniel, but it also shows up in Hosea, Ezekiel, Micah, and Isaiah.[2] Almost every time this phrase is used in Scripture, it describes the actions of, or the times surrounding, Messiah. Daniel did not accidentally use this phrase. This dream and its interpretation are about Jesus the Messiah and the kingdom he will set up.

29To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 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.

 

God reveals the dream to Daniel for one reason: so that the interpretation would be known and clear to the king. This is part of that special relationship I discussed earlier. God is reaching out through time and space to reveal his Messiah to a pagan, idol-worshipping king, for no other reason than that he is gracious.

 

The Dream (video)

Daniel 2:31–35

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. (or awesome)

 32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 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. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the 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.

 

Ok, so that’s the dream. Now, what does it mean? What is the “Revealer of Mysteries” trying to reveal to Nebuchadnezzar? 37You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they 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.

 

God has given Nebuchadnezzar an image that represents kings and kingdoms. The golden and most glorious part of the image represented Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom. This is certainly historically accurate. Nebuchadnezzar created a city which was not only wondrous to behold, but it was also the center of the world for the arts and intellectual pursuits. Women enjoyed equal rights with men under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule; there was indoor plumbing; schools and temples were plentiful; and literacy, mathematics, and craftsmanship flourished along with a tolerance of, and interest in, other gods of other faiths.[3] Fifty-six miles of walls surrounded the city, all of it enameled in blue proclaiming Nebuchadnezzar as the “lion of Babylon.” If I’m Nebuchadnezzar, I’m thinking, “So far, so good.”

 

39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you…(represented by the silver part of the image)…and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. We have three kingdoms, each one inferior to the preceding one. But we also have new information here. We are told each of the kingdoms being represented is a kingdom that rules “over all the earth.”

40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 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. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.

 

It is interesting that Daniel shares almost no information about the “silver” kingdom, but there is a lot of detail about this fourth kingdom. It is iron and it will “break and crush.” But it will not be a unified kingdom; it will be strong but divided and brittle. That is the image. Now let’s get to the action.

44 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. God is revealing to Nebuchadnezzar something amazing here. He is going to “set up” a kingdom that will never be destroyed and will never be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 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.

 

The stone that smashed the image into little pieces is the future kingdom that God will establish through Jesus Christ. Notice the stone is specifically described as being cut by no human hand. This kingdom is not an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly one. It is interesting that Jesus referred to himself as a stone in Matthew 21—specifically a stone that had been “rejected” but would become “the chief cornerstone” (v.42). In the context of the Kingdom of God (v. 43), Jesus added (v.44) “And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

 

There are two intended audiences for this story and the dream.

Audience #1: Nebuchadnezzar

This dream was an introduction and a call for Nebuchadnezzar to put his faith in the God of heaven. God introduced himself through Daniel and his ability to tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream. Then he clearly showed him that while his kingdom is marvelous, it will be handed over to another who will hand it over to another who will hand it over to another until the Lord’s Messiah appears and sets up an eternal kingdom that will last forever. That is the message to Nebuchadnezzar: turn to God through his Messiah.

Nebuchadnezzar’s response to this dream is surprisingly appropriate. 47The 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.” He rightly describes God. But, like so many, just because he understood who God was does not mean he put his faith in him. In fact, as a polytheist, Nebuchadnezzar probably just added Jesus to his list of gods to pray to; he was not committed to the God of Heaven.

 

Audience #2: You and Me

This vision is an incredibly accurate picture of the next 600 years of world history. The Babylonian Empire ruled from 625 to 539 BC, as predicted by God through Daniel (both in this vision and Daniel 7). The next great kingdom was the Medo-Persian Empire. We know from history that this empire began in 538 BC and lasted until 330 BC. The Medo-Persians were overthrown by the Greek Empire, led by Alexander the Great. The Greeks conquered the Persian Empire in a matter of three years (333-330 BC). A short time later, Alexander died, and his empire was split among his four generals. (This is predicted in Daniel 8:8 & 11:4.) The fourth kingdom was the Roman Empire (31 BC to AD 476). The armies of Rome crushed any opposition they encountered and defeated the four generals one after another. The Roman Empire—the kingdom of iron—was the greatest war-making machine the world had ever known. As predicted by Daniel, it was incredibly strong, cunning, and cruel.

 

During the time of Rome, the “rock” would come. Small at first, it would grow into a “large mountain” and all the kingdoms before it would be dust. If you have eyes to see, see this. Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God everywhere he went:

  • In Mark 1:15, Jesus begins his ministry by stating, “the Kingdom of God is at hand!”
  • In Luke 10:9, standing close to his disciples, Jesus declared that “the Kingdom of God is close to you.”
  • In John 18:36, Jesus declared that his Kingdom is “not of this world.”
  • In Luke 17:21, he told his followers that the Kingdom of God was in the midst of them!
  • Revelation 19:16 tells us that Jesus is high and lifted up and on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Jesus Christ, God’s son, is the Rock. He is building an eternal kingdom that will never end. He will not pass it to another; it will stand forever. He wrote this book for you to see it clearly. 600 years before Christ, he gave a pagan king a dream so that 2000 years after Christ, you might believe in him. You can be part of God’s kingdom, but Jesus himself said in John 3:3 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Being born again is trusting and believing that Jesus is the Messiah—that he is the “rock”—and that his death, burial, and resurrection have paid for your sins. It is his Kingdom, and he is the Lord of lords and King of kings. Come to him. Trust him.

 

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

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[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

[2] Is 2:2, Mic 2:1-4, Hos 3:5, Ezek 38:16

[3] Mark, Joshua Nebuchadnezzar II Ancient History Encyclopedia July 20, 2010.