FEELING ANXIOUS ABOUT THE FUTURE

 

Week of September 9, 2007

 

Bible Verses:  Daniel 2:1-3,27-29,36-44.

 

Biblical Truth: God’s people do not need to be anxious or troubled about the future for He is sovereign and is in control of the kingdoms of this world.

 

Anxious About the Future:  Daniel 2:1-3, 27-29.

 

[1]  Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. [2]  Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. [3]  The king said to them, “I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream.” [27]  Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. [28]  However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. [29]  As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.”   [NASU]

 

[1]  Dreams were regarded in the ancient world as having significance and as portents of events yet to come. This dream, because of its content and vividness, greatly upset the spirit of the king. Perhaps, because it was no ordinary dream, but one which the Spirit of God caused the king to see, its vividness was particularly intense. So that the king’s spirit was constantly smitten with terror and was unable to sleep.

 

[2]  Because of the agitation of his spirit, Nebuchadnezzar awoke from sleep. Perhaps the troubled spirit remained with him while awake, so he immediately summoned those whom he believed could tell the dream and its interpretation. Throughout the Old Testament the profession of magicians, conjurers and sorcerers is condemned. Chaldeans is used here in a restricted and not in an ethnic sense. The listing of the classes of wise men in Daniel is not intended to be given in a technical or exact sense, since the lists vary in order of statement. The fourfold mention here is evidently designed to include all the classes. All four classes were intended to work together, supplementing one another, in order to state to the king what his dream had been and what was its meaning. Nebuchadnezzar, in his ignorance, sought to do what was impossible. He sought for the explanation of a supernatural revelation by means of an appeal to those who had no real knowledge of the supernatural. Those who, like the magicians of Babylon, have no room in their thinking for the one true God, can never rightly interpret any revelation which He has given.

 

[3]  The king remembered the dream, at least in its essentials. This seems to be established by his desire to test the wise men [9] to see whether their words were true. How could the king know whether the statement of the dream was true unless he remembered the dream? It is not surprising that the king should not give complete trust to his servants. In his heart he must have known, as must the magicians themselves, that the religion of Babylonia was mere superstition and not the truth.

 

[27]  We may reconstruct the events from 4-26 as follows: In verse 16 Daniel, in the properly formal way required by court etiquette, seeks audience with the king and requests time in order that he may ask mercy from God. Daniel then prays and receives an answer to his prayer. He now again seeks access to the king. But in the carrying out of proper court procedure the second time [25] Daniel finds that Arioch takes matters into his own hand and hastily brings Daniel in before the king. Apparently Arioch desires credit for himself. “I have found,” he says, as though it were through his own effort that Daniel had been found. It should also be noted that Arioch focuses the king’s attention upon the man Daniel, rather than upon God. Daniel speedily deflects attention from himself, and points the eyes of the king to God. Perhaps in the words of verse 27, Daniel is indicating the unreasonableness of the king’s request and also showing sympathy for the Chaldeans, since the king has asked of them what they could not do. Man cannot perform that which is the prerogative of God alone. An excellent opportunity is presented to vindicate the superior claims of the God of Israel, which Daniel nobly uses to the best advantage.

 

[28] Although man cannot reveal such secrets, God can do so. He dwells in heaven, in opposition to the visible idols of Babylon, who cannot reveal secrets. God does reveal secrets and has revealed the explanation of this particular dream of the king, which had to do with what should take place in the latter days. This phrase has primary reference to that period which would begin to run its course with the appearance of God upon earth, i.e., the days of the Messiah. While it is true that the entire contents of the dream do not fall within the Messianic age, nevertheless, the principal point, the establishment of the Messiah’s Kingdom, does fall therein.

 

[29]  The thoughts mentioned here are to be distinguished from those mentioned in verse 30. They are not the dream itself. More likely the words refer to the king’s thoughts before sleep came upon him. Probably as the king lay upon his bed, he was moved by thoughts concerning the future of his kingdom.

 

[30]  Daniel gives the entire glory to God, to whom it rightly belongs. The secret is not revealed to Daniel because of any wisdom that he possesses beyond others, but solely that the interpretation may be made known. In other words, unless there is specific supernatural revelation, the interpretation cannot be made known.

 

Look at Daniel’s prayer in verses 20-23. The prayer has three parts. First, there is praise to God for two of his most important attributes: wisdom and power. This means that the prayer begins with adoration, as all good prayers do. How appropriate is the ascription of wisdom to God in these circumstances! The Babylon of this day was the seat of earthly wisdom, and Daniel and his friends had been brought to Babylon to be trained in that wisdom. However, in the story that leads up to this, the wisdom of the wisest of the Babylonians, the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers, had been shown to be inadequate. They had confessed, There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king … there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh [10-11]. That was true. But there is a God in whom is hidden all wisdom, and this is disclosed in the story. The second attribute for which Daniel praised God is power, that is, his sovereignty, the theme of the book. The second part of Daniel’s prayer is the acknowledgment that, although all wisdom and power are God’s, God nevertheless imparts both wisdom and power to mankind. He imparts power, for he removes kings and establishes kings [21]. He imparts wisdom, for he gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding [21]. No doubt the greatest portion of this wisdom, wisdom of spiritual things, is reserved for God’s people alone [1 Cor. 2:14]. But there is a general wisdom given to nonbelievers too, just as political power is given to nonbelieving as well as believing rulers. The important thing is the recognition that this comes from God, which Daniel did recognize but which Nebuchadnezzar, at least at this stage in his life, did not. It makes all the difference in the way we live our lives when we know that God and not man is ultimately in charge of these circumstances. Finally, in the third part of his prayer Daniel praises God for the wisdom and power he had imparted to him personally [23]. Wise as Daniel was, we have a wisdom greater even than his since it has been given to us to know and believe on Jesus Christ personally. The Bible says that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge [Col. 2:3]. So to know Jesus as Savior and Lord is to be wise. If you have that knowledge, do you thank God for it, as Daniel did? Do you praise Him for the wisdom that has made you wise unto salvation?

 

Empires Come and Empires Go: Daniel 2:36-43.

 

[36]  “This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king. [37]  You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; [38]  and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold. [39]  After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. [40]  Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces. [41]  In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. [42]  As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. [43]  And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery.   [NASU]

 

Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed about a large statue or image. The head of the statue was of gold. The chest and arms were of silver. The middle portions of the statue were of bronze. The legs were of iron, and the feet were of iron mixed with baked clay. While the king was watching, a rock that was not cut out by human hands struck the statue on its feet, and the whole thing toppled over and broke in pieces, the pieces then being swept away by the wind like chaff at threshing time. The rock that stuck the statue grew into a huge mountain that filled the whole earth. The gold head stood for Nebuchadnezzar and emphasized the importance of the empire of Babylon in world history. In the biblical perspective Babylon is the first and prototype of all world empires. The Bible introduces Babylon in the early chapters of Genesis as the center of Nimrod’s empire [Gen. 10:8-12], the place where men first banded together against God, who scattered them by the confusion of their language [Gen. 11:1-9]. But the rise of Nebuchadnezzar to his place of power was God’s doing. Notice the dominant position given to God in these verses: the God of heaven has given [37], … He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all [38]. Nebuchadnezzar will dispute this, which is what the third and fourth chapters of Daniel are about. But he is to learn that it is God nevertheless who has set him up and that it is God who will also take him down. As Nebuchadnezzar later acknowledges, He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand [4:35]. The second part of the statue was the silver part, representing a kingdom that would succeed but would be inferior to that of Nebuchadnezzar. In the unfolding of history this became the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, brought to its zenith of power by King Darius, who is introduced to us at the end of Daniel 5. The third part of the statue was made of brass. It represented the kingdom of the Greeks established by Alexander the Great. Alexander was a remarkable man and a military genius. The fourth part of the statue, the part made of iron and the feet made of iron mixed with baked clay, represented the Roman Empire. Although this kingdom was still hundreds of years in the future as Daniel spoke, Daniel nevertheless described it accurately [2:40-43]. This prophecy is proof of God’s sovereignty, which is the dominant theme in Daniel. Because the only way in which God can foretell what is going to come about in history is if God is in control of history. He is able to foretell what will happen because He has determined what will happen and because He has the power to make it happen. What is more, this shows God to be the true God [cf. Isaiah 41:21-24].

 

God’s Kingdom is Forever:  Daniel 2:44.

 

[44]  “In the day of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.   [NASU]

 

Verses 44-45 is the climax of the king’s dream: the rock that struck the feet of the statue, destroyed it, and then grew to be a mountain that filled the whole earth. Daniel interpreted this part of the dream, saying: the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed [44]. Understanding this is both easy and hard. The easy part is the identification of the rock with Jesus Christ. The mention of the rock unveils a rich lode of biblical imagery. The difficult part has to do with the place in human history where that great kingdom is to be located. Is it in the present, here and now? Does it refer to the church and its expansion throughout the world? The church’s destruction of the world’s kingdoms? That is one explanation. Or does it refer to the kingdom of Christ still to come? That is the second explanation. As is often the case with interpretation like this, there are pros and cons on both sides. The great strength of the view that the church is the rock that grows up to be a mountain that fills the whole earth is the historical sequence. If the parts of the statue represent the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, it is hard to escape noticing that Jesus came to earth in the days of the Roman Empire and that His church has gradually expanded into all corners of the world from that time to this. Unfortunately, the matter is not so simple as this argument suggests. The dream given to Nebuchadnezzar suggests that the fourth empire, Rome, would be divided into two parts (the legs) and then into ten affiliated but separate kingdoms (the toes). This happened. The empire divided into two parts, its eastern and western halves, and later it disintegrated even further. But this happened after the birth of Christ, not before, which is what the dream requires. Again, although it is true that the church of Christ has expanded to fill the whole world in some sense, it has not destroyed the world’s kingdoms, which is what the dream demands. The empires of the world have not fallen; they have not broken into pieces and been scattered like chaff. In other words, there has been no great catastrophe from the world’s perspective. On the other side of the argument, the view that sees the rock that fills the earth as a future (“millennial”) reign of Christ can insist on the catastrophic aspect. If Christ is actually to rule on earth, establishing an earthly and not merely a spiritual kingdom, then other kingdoms obviously must be overthrown. The weakness of this view is that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream fails to account for the intervening years of church expansion. Adherents must speak of some sort of “gap” in the prophecy which allows for the time between the end of the Roman empire and the actual setting up of the eternal kingdom. And there is nothing in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to indicate this “gap”. Perhaps the answer lies in a mixture of these two positions; where we see the beginning of the Eternal Kingdom starting at the time of Christ but not being fulfilled in its entirety until some future period [cf. e.g. Matthew 4:17;6:33; 13:37-43].

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.      Note how God has designed history so that Daniel would be present at the time that He gave this dream to the king. Why would God give such a dream to a heathen king like Nebuchadnezzar? What does this tell you about how the Sovereign Lord uses human means to bring about His will?

 

2.      What are the three parts of Daniel’s prayer in verses 20-23? Where is the focus of his prayer? Why do you think Daniel prayed for these three things at this particular time? What can we learn from Daniel’s prayer for our own prayers?

 

 

References:

Daniel, James Montgomery Boice, Baker Books.

The Prophecy of Daniel , Edward J. Young, Eerdmans.