God of All Nations
Good Morning Bangor! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn on them to Daniel chapter 2. As you are turning there, let me say that it does seem like we are moving closer and closer to being able to meet together physically and in person once again. I do not yet have an idea, or a guess as to when exactly that will be, but I do know that the first week we are back together will be a celebration. We will have communion, we will sing together and we will have a potluck following the service. Please plan and pray accordingly.
So, last week, as we looked at the first half of Daniel Chapter 2, Hope pointed out that we kind of left off on a cliffhanger. So, in that vein, we will start with, Previously…In Daniel…
Last week we saw that King Nebby had a dream that disturbed him greatly. He brought together all his wise men and his sorcerers and magicians and what not, got them all together and told them to both tell him his dream and then to tell him the interpretation of said dream. If they could do that, great rewards were awaiting them. If they could not, well, death is the nicest and the least painful for them, way to put it.
OF course, they couldn’t do this. As they said, no man on earth could do what the King was asking. Only the gods could do that and the gods don’t dwell with man. So, the order was sent out to kill all the wise men in the kingdom and this included Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael. Daniel asked for some time to receive the interpretation from God. His request was granted and he and his three friends prayed to God. God answered their prayers, Daniel received the information he was seeking and he and his friends gave thanks to God.
That’s where we left off. We spent all that time leading up to it and we never even shared what the dream was! Thus the cliffhanger. So now, this week, we will look at the second half of chapter 2. And this will include an important discussion between Daniel and King Nebby, this will include his dream and what it meant. We will look at the big picture, what God was trying to tell Nebuchadnezzar specifically and the Babylonian kingdom and what that means for today, as opposed to getting bogged down in every minute possible detail or possible interpretation of every single aspect of his dream.
Details are important and every word of the Bible, every word of these dreams and prophecies are important and inspired By God, making them the very Word of God. However, we sometimes get so distracted by the cloudy, the unclear, the unanswered, that we loose view of what God is clearly telling us and wanting us to see.
So, with that in mind, lets goa head and read the first section of our scripture this morning. Over all, we will be reading Daniel chapter 2, verses 24-49. But we are going to break that into a few sections at a time. So, first, We will read verses 24-30. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to read along and follow along in your preferred translation at home. Lets go ahead and read, Daniel 2:24-30. Daniel records:
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.”
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, “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. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To 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.
May God bless the Reading of his Word.
So, after Daniel had his vision or dream from God, which gave him the dream and the interpretation of the Kings dream, he went to Arioch, remember, he is likely the executioner, Daniel went to him and said, “Good News, you don’t have to kill us all! I can interpret his dream!”
Interesting, isn’t it? That Daniels response is not, “Don’t kill me,” but instead, “Don’t kill all these wise men!” Daniels life is one mark with humility. His life is one where he is looking at god first and foremost, but then he is look at others even before himself. We see that humility not only later on in this story, but again in the next two verses.
The next thing we see is Arioch having the exact opposite attitude. “King, I found someone who can tell your dream!” Completely contrasting the humility of Daniel, Arioch was trying to take credit for something that wasn’t his. Daniel was the one who approached him, both beforehand, and after God revealed the truth to him. But, Daniel was not worried about who was getting the credit.
Let me just saw, I have been in Daniels position here. I’m sure many of us have. You did something good, but someone else is trying to get either some or all of the credit. Trust me when I tell you, its almost never worth the time or the energy to fight and make this right. IN the grand scheme of things, does it matter. Yes, the Truth matters. But does it matter if its you that gets the credit? God knows and as Jesus tells us in Matthews Gospel, their reward is here and now and our reward is in heaven, which will never perish or go away.
So King Nebby asks Daniel, “can you really interpret you my dream?” The expected and mostly true response would be Yes. But that’s not what Daniel said. He surprised the King by saying, “NO, I cant. Not only cant I do it, but your wisemen were right, no person on earth can do it.”
That must have stopped the King short. What is this guy doing in front of me? Why am I wasting my time? Also, can you imagine Arioch’s face at this point? “He lied to me! I stuck my neck out and took credit for finding him!” He must have been scared for his life right then.
But out of the dark comes the light. The motto of the reformation in the 1500s was Post Tenebras Lux, meaning, Out of Darkness, Light. We have to know the bad and see the dark in order for the us to be able to know the Good and see the light.
Daniels says, No man on earth can do what you are asking, BUT…
One of the greatest phrases in the Bible is But God. We see it often, things are bad, they are at their worse, we are dead in our sins, But God. Ephesians 2:4-5 are one of my favorite examples. Paul tells us we are dead in our sins, unable to do anything that might save ourselves. And he writes:
But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
We have no hope, no anything, no salvation, no wisdom, no nothing, But God.
Daniel says that no man on earth can do what the king wants, But there is a God in heaven who can and did. There is a God who dwells with us. Jesus is prophesied to be Immanuel, God with us. That’s who he was and what he did. He came down from heaven and was born a man here on Earth. God became man to save sinners.
The wise men were right back in verse 11, when they said, 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.” But God did show it to Daniel. He showed the dream and the interpretation both. And he tells the King, he did so and he gave Ol’ Nebby this dream to tell him what coming.
One commentator says, “That there is a God in Heaven, as against man-made gods and defiled men, is the supreme theme of the book, even as it is the cardinal principle of the Bible.”
Daniel here is very politely telling the King that all of those other religions, all the other so called gods are, quite literally, worthless. And he tells the King that God told me your dream, not because of anything about me. Just like he saves each of us, not because of anything about us, but for his glory and his purposes. Here, that purpose is so that Nebuchadnezzar would know what his dream meant and he gave him the dream so that he would know what would be to come.
So, now to satisfy the first part of the cliffhanger, Daniel tells the King what his dream was. Daniel 2:31-35:
“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. 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.
This dream is incredible. Stephan Miller calls this dream “one of the most amazing prophecies in the Bible.”
Imagine in your head, if you can, a statue, great and tall. Many presume that is must have been 60 cubits tall, which I think is 90 feet, based on the statue that Ol Nebby builds of himself in the next chapter. So, a statue 90 feet tall, that’s 9 stories tall. The head was gold. The arms and the chest was silver. The midsection and the thighs were bronze. The legs were iron. And the feet were a mixture of iron and clay.
This is obviously symbolizing something, but Daniel doesn’t get into that just yet, he simply tells the King what his dream was. He continues, a stone cut out of a mountain, but cut by no man, was hurled and hits the weakest point of the statue, the feet, made by the iron/clay mixture/
It hits that spot and the statue crumbles and disintegrates. The dust blows away and it cannot be found. The stone would grow and grow until it became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
That’s the dream. Just in and of itself, sounds like a dream. Dreams are known for their interesting symbolism and imagery. And just like most dreams, the actual, full meaning of it is not readily apparent on the surface. Let us not forget that even if Daniel stopped talking here, he would have amazed Nebuchadnezzar and done the impossible. The King didn’t tell any one his dream. That was the test to make sure that ones interpretation was correct, that they could also tell him the dream itself. So Daniel would have already amazed Ol Nebby and we are only getting started.
Daniel will now share the interpretation that God gave him as we read Daniel 2: 36-45:
“This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37 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, 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. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule 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,[c] but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 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. 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. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”
That’s quite something, isn’t it? All right, brief rundown. The statue stands for 4 kingdoms, the first of which is the golden head, which is Babylon. There is much speculation, much time spent on figuring out who the other three are and we will touch on that in a moment.
Starting with the head made of Gold, down through to the feet made with a mixture of iron and clay, the kingdoms deteriorate, or are progressively inferior. Each Kingdom shall rise to power and each kingdom shall fall. But there is a kingdom which will rise that will never fall. That Kingdom will crush every other kingdom and will the only and the last kingdom left standing, forever and ever.
Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom is powerful, mighty and full of prestige. Among earthly kingdoms and by earthly standards, It is the pinnacle and it is the Gold Standard, pardon the pun. And yet, When Gods Kingdom is established, not even the strongest of earthly Kingdoms will be able to stand.
The most common view, and the one that I think sounds the closest to right is that these four kingdoms are, in order, The Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian empire, the Greek empire and then the Roman empire. But the text does not give us the answer to this line of questioning. Again, like many things we look at, and especially many things we think we know and we take for granted, its all speculation.
Iain DuGuid cautions us:
It doesn’t take long before we find our heads spinning with the variety of interpretations offered, all of which go far beyond the interpretation and application that Daniel himself gives here. It is important to notice however, that the passage itself gives us virtually no data about the specifics of any of these three kingdoms because it intends to give a philosophy of history rather than a precise analysis of history ahead of its time. As John Goldingay puts it, “In the drama of the story the description has to be allowed to remain allusive. People miss the point when they spend time arguing who the empires were. The focus of the dream itself and its interpretation are more concerned with what the future holds than when it will come to pass.
And I think that DuGuid makes a great point there. When Jesus gives his Olivet discourse, where he addresses the disciples with what to look for in the future, he is more concerned that they focus on the fact that He will be coming back rather than when He will be coming back.
In Daniels time, Jesus hadn’t even yet come the first time. And as Miller points out, the Old Testament prophecies that point towards Christ do not distinguish between his first and his second coming.
This dream is pointing towards the coming of the Kingdom of God. Its not actually worried about the earthly kingdoms. We are not going to spend time arguing about who they are or what they mean, but instead we are going to look at the coming of the kingdom of God.
See, the one thing that we see with the kingdoms of this earth is that they get progressively inferior to the ones before it. We know that many have been more powerful or more expansive than the ones before it. But one pattern we have seen over and over again in history, specifically in the BC era, and Ill explain why that is in a minute, is that the various kingdoms of the earth have gotten more and more morally inferior.
From Genesis 3 with the fall in the Garden, to Genesis 6 with Noah and the complete degeneracy of man, then God starting over and almost immediately back to Genesis 11 with the tower of Babel. We see this pattern over and over in the Old Testament. And we see it with Babylon and then on through Meda-Persia which conquered Babylon, and then the Greeks which conquered Meda-Persia and the Rome which conquered everybody. And we all know about the moral degradation within Rome.
But the Kingdom of God changed all that. And the Kingdom of God will change that. Its interesting. See, a little over 2000 years ago, the Kingdom of God was inaugurated with the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Came down from heaven, as we said, born not by man, and was thrown at the base of the statue of this world. He came down and utterly destroyed the kingdoms of this world, defeating death and sin utterly and completely. He has and will destroy every kingdom in this world. Gods Kingdom will stand forever and Christ is sitting right now on his throne in heaven, reigning over all of creation.
Jesus first coming demolished the kingdom of the worlds in sort of a behind the scene way. When Jesus walked this earth, he said, The Kingdom of God is at hand. Its not a future Kingdom, its here and now. Now the battle is over.
But we look around in this world and we don’t see it yet. We see the world continuing to descend more and more into the moral degradation we see in the Old testament pattern. And that can make us misunderstand. That can makes us think only in the future tense when thinking about the coming kingdom of God. And then we get into all sorts of trouble, adding years to prophecies, especially in Daniel where the text doesn’t justify it. We start getting to focused in trying to identify the specific who’s and when’s and the details that God never told us the answers to.
There is a term, especially when referring the kingdom of God, and it’s the already and the not yet. The Kingdom of God is here and now. Its is already. Jesus Christ first coming brought it into this world. The Kingdoms of this earth have no eternal power or authority.
But, right now, they continue to have earthly power and authority. We are to be in submission to those authorities above us. And we are right now, struggling to find out what that really looks like today in a way that we haven’t had to yet, at least here in the United States. They will continue to try to grab more and more power. They will try to exert more and more authority. Moral Fabric of society will continue to deteriorate.
And then, at some undetermined point in the future, that the Bible tells us we cannot know, that not even the angels in heaven now, Jesus will, in language convenient to the analogy if not 100 percent accurate, be hurled out of the sky and will hit the base of the kingdoms of this world, destroying and disintegrating the powers and principalities that we are struggling against. All sin and evil and all kingdoms outside of the kingdom of God will cease to exist and we will move from the not yet, to the already.
Daniel tells the King, God is trying to get your attention. As powerful and as wonderful as you are, as much power as you wield, your greatness pales in comparison to what God wields in his pinky fingernail. Babylon cant save you. Your power, greatness and authority cant save you. Only God can save you. Repent and turn to him. Bow to him and worship him as King.
The King had said back in verse 6 that whoever could tell him his dream and the interpretation would be showered in gifts and praise and given great honor. And that’s what Ol Nebby now showered on Daniel. Again, those parallels to Joseph in Genesis that you are supposed to be reading about, Daniel was now given a very high ranking government position, essentially the governor f the most important and powerful state within the Babylonian kingdom. Daniel did decline this to serve as the Kings right hand man, but was able to secure that position for his three friends, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, now referred to with their Babylonian names.
The last thing I want to point out this morning is the Kings response to the dream, Nebuchadnezzar declared that Daniels God was the God of Gods and the LORD of kings. He affirmed the power and greatness of God. But, what he did not do was to affirm the exclusivity of God. He was not the only God. This is not showing that he converted to Christianity. HE simply sees God as the strongest of all the gods around. He recognizes that God is sovereign over the nations, but it does not go further than that.
Don’t acknowledge God as powerful and important but fail to recognize the exclusivity of God. As we continue to point out, Jesus does not say in Johns Gospel that he is a way, a truth and a life. But he is instead, THE way, The truth and THE life. Don’t settle for almost Christian or partially Christianity, which does not actually exist. There is not shade of salvation. There is eternal life in Christ or eternal torment without. Recognize that God is sovereign and in control of everything, that he raises up and tears down Kings. That he is reigning as king now. His kingdom is already inaugurated, and we are just waiting for the final culmination.
Bow to Him, worship him and only him. Repent and trust in him. Trust and obey. For there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.