There is a God in Heaven
Topic: Default Passage: Daniel 2:19–23
We are in our second week of Daniel and our sixth week of OGC At Home. This is the longest my hair has been in quite some time. I feel like I should be hunting bears in Canada with Leonardo DiCaprio, but I promise you this is better than anything that would happen if I took a pair of scissors out:)
In Daniel chapter two we get to some of the fun stuff as Daniel interprets the dreams of
King Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar is the most powerful man in the world and
Daniel is one of the weakest, a teenage slave taken from the defeated kingdom of Judah. The struggle of the chapter is who is really in control? Nebuchadnezzar wants to be in control of everything, but Daniel wants Nebuchadnezzar and us to know that it is God in heaven.
I was thinking this week what it would be like to think I’m fundamentally the entity most in control of my life during a crazy time like this. If I didn’t believe that there is a God who controls everything and is bringing it all to a good and final destination, I would process all that is happening in a very different way.
I might obsessively try and control everything around me because there isn’t a God doing that for me. I would imagine that one day, as the false charade of control is ripped from me (as it always is), I might just want to check out, escape in some way from the fear of not being in control of anything.
Even as a believer, though, this chapter has ministered to me in a very deep way during these crazy times because it shows me in very dramatic fashion that there is a God in Heaven, He is the primary entity in control of everything.
So, I just want to walk through this story and look at the way this claim of God being in control and how this hits Nebuchadnezzar, how this hits Daniel, and how this hits us.
- How this hits Nebuchadnezzar 1-13
Nebuchadnezzar has been on the throne for about two years and he has a dream that totally unnerves him. Just the thought of this is sobering. The most powerful and even ruthless man in the world had a dream that has him shaking in his pajamas.
So, he calls his wisest and most spiritual men in to tell him not only what the dream meant, but he first wants them to tell him the dream. You start to feel like Joseph had it easy just having to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. Nebuchadnezzar wanted them to tell both the dream and the interpretation.
There is some debate on why that is. Some say that he forgot what the dream was. That’s happened to me before. I have a bad dream and I know it unsettled me, but I don’t remember the details. Some Hebrew scholars say the original language doesn’t allow that interpretation and that Nebuchadnezzar, already thinking they were phonies, wanted to make sure the answer was inspired. It doesn’t really matter though because a king can demand whatever a king wants.
And these people respond the way you would expect them to. They say, “Nebuchadnezzar, no one can do what you ask!” The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except wthe gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” - Daniel 2:11
Do you hear how they are setting the stage for a divine showdown? Only some sort of god can do what you ask. So, Nebuchadnezzar says he is going to kill them all. I have been in conversations that go down hill quickly, but never this bad. Even Daniel who had been promoted to this group last chapter, but wasn’t even important enough to be at this meeting.
In this moment, Nebuchadnezzar’s house of cards is falling down. He thought he had constructed a world where he was in control. He constructed a religion that told him what he wanted to hear. And that worked, until he realized he was not in control and that his religion couldn’t tell him what he needed to hear.
It’s ironic that the more we progress technologically, the more we realize how little control we have. Astronomy has shown us that we are sitting on a small rock that can be hit by another rock at any moment. Nuclear science has allowed us to develop weapons that can obliterate all of humanity at any second. Engineering has given us planes, trains, and cars that spread a virus, identified by microbiology, all over the globe. The more progress we make, the more we see the degree to which we are not in control.
Nebuchadnezzar sees he isn’t in control and is lashing out in anger against anyone he can. What Nebuchadnezzar does not realize is that this is where all his problems originated way back in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve, under the deception of Satan, decided that they would like more control over their lives and they decided to step out of the boundaries God created for them and create new rules for their lives.
They created a new worldview that we are born into and eagerly embrace that says we should be in control. But the more we try to control anything, the more it actually controls us. If we live under the illusion that we are the primary entity in control of our finances, the more it controls us. If we live under the illusion that we are the primary entity in control of our children, our children control us. And, in Nebuchadnezzar’s case, the more he thought he was the primary entity in control of his kingdom and power, the more his kingdom and power controlled him.
So, in our pursuit of control, we actually get chaos. Now, let’s see how this hits Daniel
- How this hits Daniel 14-24
Daniel, who wasn’t even in this terrible meeting gets word that he would be killed just by his association with this group. I mean, talk about not being in control! Daniel is a foreign slave and a power crazy king has decreed that he will die. Talk about feeling weak and powerless! But, Daniel understands that even in the midst of absolute craziness and uncontrollable chaos, there is a God on the throne who is in control and that shapes everything that transpires from this point on.
Daniel then goes to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard who had gone to kill these wise men and he asks what this is all about. Instead of running from his executioner, he approaches him with what verse 14 calls prudence and discretion, not panic. Arioch explains everything and what happens next is one of the boldest moves you could imagine. Daniel asks if he can go to the king and show him both the dream and its interpretation. Do you see how bold this is? Daniel has no idea what the dream was or the interpretation. But he trust God who is in control of everything.
And how do I know this? Because Daniel goes and prays. He gets his friends together and they pray. I bet Daniel prayed like never before. He prayed that his life would be spared and he prayed that this mystery would be revealed to him. Then, in the middle of the night, it was.
And I love how the author pauses here. If I were writing this, so close to the climax of the story, I would never have inserted what feels like an aside or a parenthetical. And that’s why it’s good that I’m not writing books of the Bible. The author of this book pauses to let us see the prayer of praise that flows from Daniel after God revealed the dream to him. This is the passage Skyler read just a big ago.
I could do a whole message just on this prayer, but the main thing we need to see is that Daniel praises God because God is in control even in the worst of situations! Nebuchadnezzar can’t praise because he is the most important being in his world.
The natural result of a proper understanding of who God is is always going to result in praise and worship. This is how Daniel responds to his utter lack of control. He prays and he praises the One who is in control. What a contrast to Nebuchadnezzar!
So, how should this hit us?
III. How this should hit us 25-47
We see how it should hit us as Daniel reveals the dream to Nebuchadnezzar. What was this dream? Here is where we get to that important verse I mentioned in the beginning. Daniel looks at the king and says, ““No wise men, aenchanters, amagicians, or bastrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but cthere is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzardwhat will be in the latter days. - Daniel 2:27-28.
Daniel humbly says that this revealing to him wasn’t because of any wisdom that Daniel possessed, but because of the grace and power of the One True God. Daniel is making his allegiance clear before he ever says anything about the dream. Then Daniel describes the dream. It was of a great image. The head was made of gold, the chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, and its feet made of some kind of mixture of iron and clay.
As the king looked at this great image in his dream, a stone was cut out, but not cut out by any human hand, and it struck the image on its feet made of iron and clay and the whole image crumbled to dust and the wind carried it away. Then, the stone that struck the feet grew and became a huge mountain filling the whole earth.
That was the dream and before we get to Daniel’s interpretation, we need to see why that dream even without interpretation unsettled Nebuchadnezzar so. In chapter three, you see that Nebuchadnezzar was building an image just like this. A huge tall gold statue of him to represent his glory and might. Of course this would be unnerving to see the main physical manifestation of his glory crumble and blow away. But, what does it mean specifically?
Now for Daniel’s interpretation. He says that the head of gold was Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. He says that the silver portion represented an inferior, but stronger kingdom that will replace him, then a third kingdom would take over and that was the bronze portion. Then, a fourth kingdom as strong as iron (the strongest of the metals in the dream) would crush the kingdom before it. And then that kingdom will be divided as the feet are both iron and clay. Then those two would splinter into many just like the toes of the image.
But, in this day, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed. This kingdom shall last forever. Just as saw this stone not made by the hands of men take over the world, so shall it be.
That’s the interpretation. But before I say anything about it, we have to be clear on one thing. The main point of this dream is to communicate that it is God who is control of everything. God controls our dreams, God gives kings their kingdoms, and God, not man, will establish a kingdom one day that will never fall. The main point isn’t for us to try and predict the future, the main point is to know who is in control.
That is certainly clear to Nebuchadnezzar, which is why he fell on his face before Daniel and commanded that offerings be given to Daniel, had him promoted, and
Nebuchadnezzar pledged himself to Daniel’s God! The king didn’t give his life to figuring out who these other kingdoms were, he gave his life to the True King who is in control of every kingdom.
Incidentally, the main critique of Daniel, why so many people have struggled to see it as authentic is because this is exactly what happened. The Babylonians were replaced by the Medes/Persian empire. The Medes/Persians were replaced by the Greeks. The Greeks were replaced by the Romans. And the Romans split into two and then splintered.
And it was during the Roman reign that a Rock came forth to establish a new kingdom that would spread throughout all the earth and never fall. That rock is Jesus Christ and that kingdom is the kingdom of God. I love that the main critique isn’t that there are holes in the book of Daniel, but that it’s too perfect!! It had to be written later.
But in God’s providence, there is something that works against that argument. At the beginning of this chapter, the language switches from Hebrew to Aramaic, the language of the Babylonians. This supports a date of 600ish BC! If you wanted to make a fake much later on, you would have written it in all Aramaic, but Daniel is the story of a Jew in Babylon and the languages represent that.
So, what do we learn from this? We learn that if we believe that we are truly not in control, but there is a God in heaven who is, when trials come we will look a lot less like Nebuchadnezzar and a lot more like Daniel. First, like Daniel we will be able to learn a pagan culture without giving our hearts to it. We don’t need to try and build as many walls between us and the outside culture as we can. We need to learn that culture, live in that culture, and engage that culture without ever compromising our hearts.
Second, we need to see that one of the ways God uses us is by taking power from us. I continue to say this because I think we need to continue to hear it, but I think a big part of the next 30 years of my ministry will be walking white, male Christians through the loss of power in our culture. The example of Daniel should give us hope and purpose and even celebration in this cultural transition.
Third, we will be able to see that even though Nebuchadnezzar had every material blessing, his foundation was flawed. But, Daniel’s foundation was the God of Israel who would provide a rock, not made by the hands of men, not seen as precious by many, the rock of Jesus Christ. The cornerstone the builders rejected. And when the rock of Jesus Christ is our firm foundation, we become more beautiful than the golden image Nebuchadnezzar wanted to create because God sees us as His perfect, Christ-like children.
What we truly need isn’t more control over our lives, but to see that Jesus, by giving up control and taking the chaos we deserve on the cross, opened the door for us to be brought back into the order God created us to enjoy in a relationship with Him. Then, we are freed up to praise no matter the circumstances because we know God is in complete control.