Colliding with Adversity
Daniel chapter two is where we are together. We’re exploring this new series on the “Cultural Collision” that takes place with our faith as it interacts in this world. How do we stand with God knowing that culture isn’t always going to align with him? How do we walk wisely in this world when faith and culture collides? And the Bible really speaks amply to that. And the reason it does is because, we study scripture, the Bible tells us, that the purpose for our existence is found in our relationship with God lived out in our relationship with others. And so because the Bible knows we’re going to do a lot of interaction with people, it encourages us in the way we interact with people and that’s what develops culture. People develop culture and so the Bible speaks amply in how we walk wisely in the world when faith in culture collide. But the reality that sometimes we’re blind to how our culture may create some idols. And I want to talk about just a few of those this morning.
One of the stories that I’ve really appreciated in a book called “Recapture the Wonder” is written by Ravi Zacharias. He talks about the degrading or the digression of our society and the way that we think and how that’s happened culturally over the decades. In his book “Recapture the Wonder”, he’s encouraging people to go back to a life of worship. One that you were more apt to do when you were a child then when you are an adult. When you’re a kid, this world is your playground and you are just mesmerized by it. And everything captivates your attention and you’re in wonder over it. And somethings happens when you get to the age of an adult where you just kind of get worn down, maybe not as much recognition towards the things around you that you might’ve put recognition towards as a child and appreciation of it.
And so he writes about that and he writes about the cultures, the continuation in our society and how it’s caused us to think certain ways. And this is what he says. He says, “In the 1950s kids lost their innocence. They were liberated from their parents by well paying jobs, cars and lyrics and music that gave rise to a new term, “the generation gap.” In the 1960s kids lost their authority. It was a decade of protest. Church, state and parents were called into question and found wanting. Their authority was rejected, yet nothing ever replaced it. In the 1970s kids lost their love. It was a decade of me-ism dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self. Self-image, self-esteem and self-assertion. It made for a lonely world. Kids learn everything there was to know about sex and forgot everything there was to know about love and no one had the nerve to tell them there was a difference. In the 1980s kids lost their hope. Stripped of innocence, authority in love and plagued by the horror of a nuclear nightmare. Large and growing numbers of this generation stopped believing in the future. In the 1990s kids lost their power to reason. Less and less they were taught the very basics of language, truth and logic, and they grew up with the irrationality of a postmodern world. In the new millennium, kids woke up and found out that somewhere in the midst of all this change, they had lost their imagination. Violence and perversion entertain them, till none could talk of killing innocence since none was innocent any more.” I think Ravi Zacharias does a beautiful job within the context of that, Illustrating the influence of culture.
The question we just want to ask as we go through this series of Daniels, how we let our faith impact the culture around us without becoming a detractor in the identity of who Christ is. We want to live our lives in such a way that God can work through us rather than despite us, or through us rather than around us. You know, we talk about God working through us. I think it’s important just to pause before we read any further and Daniel and just say, we’re not claiming that we have the solution to be perfect in life. There is a sinful battle that rages in our hearts between who’s going to be Lord of our lives, us or the Lord. And so we’re not perfect people. We’re not claiming to be perfect. And I think it’s also important to recognize that God still works despite our imperfections.
In fact, when you consider the story of Daniel, Daniel and his people were taken into captivity because of their disobedience to God. Yet God in their midst was not finished with them, yet God continued to work through them. I think even in our faults, even our sins, even in our failures, we can still give glory to God. And even in my relationship to my own children as a father figure, I can blow it before my kids. I have opportunity, even in my failures, to acknowledge before them the glory of the Lord, by pointing to them where I made my mistake and how I want to better follow Jesus with my life, and it still brings glory to God even in the midst of the adversity I presented to them.
Daniel is a perfect example of how we can live in faith when there’s this cultural collision that takes place in the tension that builds between faith in the world around us. As we looked at last week, Daniel was one who was carried off into a Babylonian captivity. Here he is with the people of God carried on the captivity in a pagan land, pagan place, given a pagan name to worship a pagan God. His name changed to Belteshazzar. And yet we see in verse nine of chapter one, Daniel resolved in his heart, before he is faced with any cultural temptation, that he will pursue God with his life. You get to the end of chapter one and you find out that Daniel in his faithfulness and pursuing God and influencing the culture around him, that he outlives the entire Babylonian Empire. God continues to work through him.
There’s no mistake made in scripture when you read in the New Testament that the theme of what happens in the life of Daniel continues into New Testament literature. The Bible calls us “aliens in a foreign land” or “citizens of Heaven,” and sometimes illustrates that we still live in Babylon today. And so what the new testament is alluding to within the context of that story is that Daniel’s story is really our story and that he becomes an example for us on how to interact with a culture that may conflict with our faith.
How do we respond? Chapter two continues on that theme for us. And I want you to know this morning chapter two is 49 verses. And I want to think through the idea that’s created within chapter two, but I’m not going to read all 49 verses. I’m going to summarize some sections for us that we don’t necessarily have to read. You can go back and read all the chapter two, because, while we are acknowledging that it’s important to look at every verse in the Bible and the what’s the painting in this verse, it’s also significant to recognize chapter two is a narrative story. We looked at chapter one last week. It was less verses, but an entire narrative is told in the context of chapter one to grab one main theme. When a narrative is often told it can lead to one particular point that they want to make. In the context of chapter two this morning, looking at 49 verses, again the author’s telling a narrative, but he’s got one main theme that he wants for us to grab ahold of within the context of this chapter. And so rather than break it down into two sections, or more, and losing focus on what the main idea is, I’m going to summarize some passages for us. For us to hold to the thought that God wants us to grab hold of, as he works in the life of Daniel to teach us what to do when faith and culture collide.
And so as he starts to unfold the story, it begins really with the tension dealing with the king who is Nebuchadnezzar at the time. And so it says, “Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams.” So this is multiple dreams that the king is having. “And his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. Then the king gave orders to call all the magicians, the conjurers and the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king.”
Now I don’t know if you like to have some visuals while you read, so for me, when I read this story, I just pictured all of the Disney cartoon characters that were all the bad people within the stories. Like of Aladdin and Little Mermaid and Cinderella. Yes, all those bad sorcerers, that’s here. That’s what’s happening in this story. So all that Disney characters are gathered around the king trying to give him this information about his dream. And so one of the things that I think is important to recognize that you start the context of the story, the king is certainly troubled. But to look at the authority of the King really sets up the context of this narrative. Babylon is the world empire at this time. There is no one more powerful than the king. So if there is someone with the capabilities of solving every problem in life, surely it’s the most interesting man in the world, right? Not the Dos Equis guy. Nebuchadnezzar.
Babylon became such a prominent empire that even in our culture today, we continue to write and sing lyrics about it. In fact, just for a nerd moment I Google’d how many lyrics in American music exists with the word Babylon. And there are over 1,400 published songs in America today that have this word Babylon in it. So this empire was one of authority, one that resonated throughout history. And this king is the most powerful individual in the world. And yet, even in his power, the king still wrestles with his soul. I think this sort of levels the playing field for us to relate to the story. It doesn’t matter who you are. All of us have struggles. All of us have certain things that might leave us awake at night. Challenges that we may not find the power within ourselves to overcome. And here within the context of this dream, the king calls all the wise people in the world around him to help him in this moment.
And then the king does something interesting in verse five. It says this, “The king replied to the Chaldeans. The command from me is firm. If you do not make known to me the dream and it’s interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap.” I think the king’s probably part British, he says rubbish in this passage. But this king is like, “I want you to wear this weight with me. So much so, I am gonna rip you to pieces if you don’t solve this for me.” You see the weight of the circumstance.
And here’s the crazy part with these individuals that are supposed to interpret the dream: the king’s not even going to tell them what the dream is. The king’s practicing some wisdom in this, because he knows what it means to be king. Everyone else that’s under him is going going to play kiss up, to try to be next to him. They want to just name drop to their friends. “I’m second command with the king now, because I told them everything that he wanted to hear at the time he wanted to hear it. And so now he considers me his best friend, making me the most second powerful individual in the world.” And so the king knows this. He says to the wise men, I’m not going to tell you the dream. And I want you to interpret the dream so that when you give me the interpretation of the dream, I know that your interpretation is correct because I haven’t shared what the dream is with anybody.
Oh, and by the way, we’ll tear you limb from limb if you don’t. The story goes on that day began to delay with the king. They start to talk back and forth to the king. King’s like, “I know you’re just delaying. Giving me the answer.” And eventually he gets frustrated with them, and he says this in verse 11, “Moreover ,” the wise men talking here, it says, “the thing which the kingdom demands is difficult and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods who’s dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.” So they’re saying, king, you’re asking the wrong people here. We’re just people. The only one that could possibly do what you’re saying is God. And so verse 12, “Because of this, the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went forth that the wise man should be slain. And they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them.”
You remember the context of the story last week that Daniel became a vegetarian and all of a sudden he became the most popular man in the kingdom, right? Not to say that being a vegetarian will do that. But to say that God’s favor was on Daniel, and he used that as a means to leverage Daniel and his position in Babylon. And so when Daniel was placed in this position in Babylon with his friend, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they immediately became wise man. So chapter one, the king said, I’m going to train you in my schools for three years. You’re gonna have all the servants, all the great food, all the clothing, whatever you want in life. Three years, you’re going to be trained, then you’re going to become wise men in my court. Daniel sort of got to fast track, all of that. And he instantly becomes this wise man with his friends. And so now that means Daniel gets to get killed with the rest of them. And then verse 14, “Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment, Arioch, the kings bodyguards are going forth to slay the wise men of Babylon.”
So what it’s saying, Arioch is the executioner. And Daniel, in meeting the execution face to face, he gives two words in the way that he reacts. Now I want to kind of position the king’s response to Daniel’s response. This isn’t the only adjectives they use in verse 12 for the King’s response. There’s several things to describe it, but it’s still paints the picture here. That the king in verse 12 became indignant and very furious. And yet Daniel and his reaction has discretion and discernment. This discretion and discernment in Aramaic language, which it’s written in literally means wise and tasteful. So Daniel not only knows what to say, but he has an approach that impacts the heart in which he’s communicating it to. It’s like Daniel is doing something that probably Nathaniel could not do. Because it would read like this, if this story was about me. It would say, “Arioch came to the door and Nathaniel roundhouse kicked him to the face. And he ran away and everyone else was killed but Nathaniel andeveryone’s still looking for him”. That would have been my not godly response. The executioner’s at your door, honey. After I got done peeing my pants, I would have fought for my life and ran away. Right?
There’s something about Daniel in this story. Something I think that’s significant for all of us to recognize. And the context of this gives way to something magnificent that God is producing within his people, even in the midst of captivity. And the positioning of these two individuals can leaves us with a question. When a challenge arises in your life, who or what do you honor? When adversity comes, what do you choose to recognize? In the context of this story, you see this king’s character playing out and the king kind of shoots off at the mouth, because honestly the king really cares just simply about the king.
I mean, in our lives, if we’ve ever reacted to a circumstance where we attacked other people, typically in those types of situations, the individual that we’re looking out for is not for the person that we’re coming against, but rather just for self. Right? Like if somebody irritates you and upset you, it’s because they haven’t honored you the way that you feel like you deserve because you’re king. And so because the king in this story is the most powerful man in the world, he’s learned that he is the source of all things in life. And so if anyone maligns against the king, they need to be placed in their proper position because life is all about him. In fact, in chapter three, you’re going to see where this king builds a statue and calls all the people of his empire to bow before him as if he’s Lord. And so you see in this situation where the king, desires people to align themselves with him. And so the question then comes for us when, when challenges arise, who do you honor? Do you react as the king reacts or do you act as Daniel acts?
And so the encouragement with this passage of scripture, as you look at the Daniel’s actions, wise, tasteful. You look at the king’s reactions of being indignant and very furious. The encouragement becomes for us to consider the circumstances and say, don’t allow your circumstances to dictate who you are. Adversity will rise. One of the questions that we can ask ourselves in looking at this passage: even today as Christians we can say, you know, I follow God and I honor God. And then maybe in the backdrop of that, we could ask the question, but do I really? Do I really? How do I know? I can verbally say it. It’s easy to do when life’s going easy. But about how do I really know, in my life, I honor God?. And I would say this, one of the greatest lessons in life, to teach us what we truly honor, that’s done in adversity. Where does your heart go? What do you choose to honor in life?
The king’s self preservation, his identity. He was maligned against. Justice for him. But Daniel’s actions are a little different. Daniel, in the midst of the circumstance still walks with wisdom because his pursuit isn’t necessarily his honor, but rather his pursuit in life is God’s honor. And so the encouragement then through Daniel becomes don’t allow circumstances to dictate who you are. Then it begs the question, who am I? Who in the world am I?
When we ask that question sometimes I fear that the cultural inundation of our society has taught us to approach it a little bit backwards or beginning from the wrong source of origin. And I think in our culture we often influenced this idea of self esteem and looking within yourself and going on this journey of self discovery. But I just want to encourage us to think not so much in the context of what culture teaches, but maybe more of a biblical basis and answering the question, who are you? Because if you allow circumstances, or you recognize that circumstances will arise in your life and you don’t have an answer to that question, then you allow circumstances to dictate your response. But when you have shaped your identity, regardless of the circumstance, you will act in that moment to honor the identity of who you believe you are. So who are you? Ask that question. Begin by saying that the thought of answering doesn’t necessitate an invitation to begin that quest within yourself.
We don’t look in ourselves to discover who we are because the purpose of our existence isn’t found in ourselves. The reason is because you aren’t the source for your existence. God is. Therefore the purpose of your existence isn’t found in you. But outside of you.
So we’ve been taught culturally to look within self, because as culture we have been taught that we are the autonomous authority for our existence. What do you feel? What do you think? The idea of opinion becomes very important in that sort of environment because you’ve been taught the solution to everything is within you. And so the pursuit of life becomes all about you. And so in that what happens is adversity then tends to reveal where we find our value and identity. And as people we aren’t secure in ourselves. We’ll look for it in other people who might shape that identity for us. Or if you’re in the position of a king, when someone comes against you because you see yourself as the ultimate of authority and identity, you defend yourself. But the life of Daniel, his pursue was bigger than self. So rather than live in that moment for himself, he turned to God.
Now, let me talk about this idea of self esteem for a moment. I’m not saying, in a counter to this thought of self esteem. I’m not saying to think less of yourself. Rather, what I am saying is to think of self less. Because the source of our existence does not begin with us. Rather we point to the sign of the meaning of life because we have been intimately and intentionally woven. So it’s an unpopular thought, and a neglect thought today in our culture to say, I don’t think most of our problems in life are because we don’t think enough of ourselves. I realize that’s popular in culture. “We need to build your self-esteem.”
I don’t think the source of our problem is that we don’t think enough of ourselves. Rather, I tend to think the source of our problems that we think too much of ourselves. If we actually believe the foundation for life is within us, even though it wasn’t created by us. So I don’t think the solution is to dig deeper in me because the answer for life isn’t found with in me. And so when we think too much of ourselves, we tend to look within ourselves for the answer. In sharing these thoughts, I think it’s significant to say you are made beautifully. You are made wonderfully. You are made purposefully. God has a plan for your life. That’s why you exist. God knew before the foundations of the world that you would exist. But the answer to that existence isn’t found in digging deeper in you. But outside of you.
So the danger becomes, within our society, when we see ourselves as the autonomous moral value for discovering the reason for our existence. The first thing that we start to do is to develop our worth that way. And so we’ll start to try to identify our value in life by the talents that you have, the beauty that you carry, the wealth you possess and the power that you possess in your arms. Like that becomes our basis. And then the problem that arises in that as in life, as you think that your worth is found within you and then you develop your worth off of those images, at some point in your life, you’re going to find that those things fade. That you’re not always promised them. Or that you might encounter someone who has more of them.
So what does that mean? You’re not worth as much as them? On a culture that looks within itself, yeah, that’s what that means. Because that’s where you’ve been taught to find your worth. But when you don’t have and you can’t perform, does that mean you have no worth? In addition to that, when we try to look within ourselves as the autonomous authority to life, it becomes important for society for everyone to give their opinion. That’s why today when you turn on the news, like they’ll give you a news report and they’ll have 17 panelists to give their opinion on what they think about the news report. And they’ll spend the rest of the day talking about their opinion and probably the rest of the week if it’s significant enough. And then we get everyone’s opinion in the world about something that most of us don’t care about, right? And the reason is because we see ourselves as autonomous authorities. And then what happens in a society like that is might begins to make right.
Because, as autonomous authorities, what we believe matters most, because I’m the source of all things taught to look within myself to the answers of life. I don’t appeal to any higher authority, but it rests within me. And the actions that you get then from individuals that feel maligned against in their behavior, because they are the ultimate authority, they act indignant and very furious. Just like the king. Now here comes the scary part. When a society moves in that trajectory, the tendency is that might makes right. And it doesn’t have to be the majority, it just has to be the group that screams the loudest, the longest. That’s the one who wins. And so we never looked to the ultimate authority outside of ourselves. We continue to look within the people who scream the loudest to dictate where the rest of us should go. I want to tell you that’s exactly how Nazi Germany began. In fact, historians, when they study Nazi Germany, they’ll tell you that only about 20% of the people agree with the philosophy of the teaching. That the majority remained silent. And in the opinion of the minority, might made right, because their voice shouted the loudest.
Influencing your culture. We see here, within the context of this story, rather than appeal within himself for the solution, Daniel goes outside of himself. Because he understands the reason for his existence, isn’t about him. And that God has given him a platform, in recognizing life is about the Lord, that influenced the world around him in the way that he carried himself. He had every opportunity in the midst of this moment to react exactly how I told you how I might react. I don’t know that I would, but there’s always that opportunity. Roundhouse kick to the face, pee your pants and run, right? But Daniel chooses to honor his Lord because we’ve already seen the resolution of Daniel 1:9. Resolve to honor God, and so his action then is about serving and to honor his king for the benefit of people.
So he carries this wisdom and this tastefulness in the way that he approaches the world. And then he goes back. It tells us in the story they give Daniel time, perhaps because he built rapport with the king in chapter one, but they give Daniel time to go before his God. And Daniel prays and he tells his four friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to join him in praying. Praying for mercy from God. And then it tells us in verse 19, “Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of Heaven.” See Daniel again, is acknowledging, in his behavior, what his life is ultimately about. Important for us to recognize, do I really honor God? I can say honor God all day. But the place of testing, it comes in challenge. When I’m challenged, where do I go? Me? Indignant and furious. Or wise and tasteful? The response of the heart dictates what you choose to honor. Where are you?
Daniel in these moments goes back and he prays before his God. And he prays, and in this dream and God reveals in this vision at night what the dream is and the interpretation, which we’ll get to in just a moment. And I just want to temper this verse for a minute. I want to remind us that this is a narrative story. And narratives in scripture does not necessitate this is what everyone should be doing, right? I just want to say this, because we’re talking about dreams. And I’ve seen, just like we talked last week with Daniel chapter one, it talks about Daniel being a vegetarian. I’ve told you, I’ve seen people take those vegetarian passages to tell everyone else they need to be vegetarian. And that’s not what Daniel Chapter one is teaching. If you want to be a vegetarian, great.
If you want to be a vegetarian, that’s good too. Whatever. Just do everything in moderation like God encourages you to do in life. That’s not what that passage is teaching. Same thing with Daniel chapter two. It’s not telling you now, everyone let’s go away this week, have dreams come back and we’ll tell each other dreams and give interpretations. That’s not what this is teaching in scripture. When you study dreams in the old New Testament, dreams aren’t necessarily the norm, but the Bible records a few of them that happened in the Bible that share with us what God’s pursued is in dreams. And so when you study the Old and New Testament and you look at the dreams that take place in scripture, it’s interesting that the dreams tend to align with the furtherance of the Gospel.
For example, when you study Isaac who Jacob and Esau. And Jacob had Joseph. And Jacob’s son, Joseph is known as this dream interpreter. And he shares these dreams and the dreams he’s sharing is how God’s going to continue to work through Joseph to bring about the promise that was to come through the Messiah, the furtherance of the Gospel. In the life of Daniel, you’re going to see, at the end of this chapter, it’s talking about the furtherance of the Gospel. Daniel even pinpoints the exact coming of Jesus in a dream or through a vision. When you get to the New Testament, you see, Joseph, Mary’s husband, who realizes he was not the one that got Mary pregnant and Mary’s pregnant and he’s freaking out about it. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do, and then God comes to him in a dream to tell him, hey, Jesus is coming for the furtherance of the Gospel.
Peter, when he goes to Joppa, he’s on top of roof and he’s praying. God comes to him in a vision to say, go to the Gentiles to share the Gospel. And so when a dream happens, it seems to be, in scripture, it’s about the furtherance of the Gospel. And so when we talk in context of dreams, I would just warn you, if anyone says anything about a dream and it has nothing to do with Jesus and the furtherance of the Gospel, it really doesn’t align with what scripture talks about in the Gospel. Now I say all of that to say, I can’t turn to a verse in the Bible that says, don’t look at dreams, okay? But at the same time, I can’t turn to the New Testament where the Apostle Paul writes a letter and says, “dreams are really important. Everyone interpret your dreams.” Which says to me, if Paul’s not teaching us how to it, it must not be significant for the Christian life, all right?
I’m not saying God can’t use it. I’m just saying it’s not the norm. In fact, when you study Islamic countries, predominant Islamic countries, today that have no gospel presence, they tell you today the number one reason a Muslim comes to the Jesus are visions and dreams of Jesus. I have a friend named Yesuh who grew up in a foreign country in a predominantly Islamic area that shares his story of coming to Jesus, which was in a vision and dream of Jesus. I’m not saying God can’t work this way. I’m just saying it’s not the norm. And so to look at a narrative to explore it as if it’s the norm isn’t normal to what God calls Christians to do. In fact, in Colossians 1:18 he does warn us here. He says this, “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement,” which is false humility,” and the worship of angels taking his stand on visions he has seen.”
So he’s saying, individuals are going to come to you and they’re going to tell you these things that God told them to believe and they’re going to claim that God told them in a dream. There’s no way to really test that. But then he goes on to say this, “Inflated without cause by his fleshly mind and not holding fast to the head.” There’s no way to really test someone saying they had this dream or vision and whether or not it’s accurate other than this: it’s not pointing to Jesus. He’s saying it’s not holding fast to the head. The head is Christ. And so the warning in this passage is if someone comes to you and says they had this dream and it contradicts what God’s Word says, it’s not from God. Make sure all things align with God’s Word. That’s the encouragement in this passage of scripture. And look at the continuation of dreams within the Old and New Testament, it was aligning and pointing to the Gospel. Which is why when I look at Muslims that say, “I came to know Jesus from vision and dream,” I’m like, great, whatever it takes man! If that’s how it happened, just come to Jesus, right? But we want the biblical picture of Jesus.
And so Daniel in the story comes before the Lord. Praise God reveals it. And then it tells us, Daniel Praises God. It continues to show where Daniel’s heart is. When adversity comes, what comes out? And so he says in verse 20, “Daniel said, ‘Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever. For wisdom and power belonged to him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs. He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men. And knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him. To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power; Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, For You have made known to us the king’s matter.’” So Daniel’s saying in the context of the story, verse 22, I love this phrase here. He knows what’s in the darkness.
I can imagine how incredibly revealing this dream was for Daniel. We’ll get to what the context of it was in just a minute. Here in Daniel’s shoes, you just saw your people devastated. People killed in front of you, carried away from home, and having no idea where your family is. Now you’re with this king and wonder if God is finished with you. God, we’ve come against you enough. We’ve maligned your name, we’ve sinned, we’ve only cared about ourselves. Do you care? Maybe our own heart wrestles with the same thoughts. God, I’ve messed up. Do you still love me? God, here I am fumbling through the darkness. I just need to know, do you love me? And Daniel says in verse 22 for all the Jews, maybe even for us today, God knows what’s in the darkness. God sang to his people. He still cares.
I think even across the world right now on average, 100 million Christians are persecuted every year. God knows what’s in the darkness. God, here we are struggling in our battle on as your people to follow you by faith. And God knows what’s in the darkness. And then the story in these moments it slows down. Daniel, the last half of this, the story starts to slow down and just give us a little more detailed on what takes place. In verse 26 it says, “The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar,” or the name that the king gave him to honor a false god. “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation? And 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.” None of Disney’s characters are going to do this for you.
But in verse 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.” I love what Daniel does here. He’s going to start this interpretation now and he’s going to start and begin in this interpretation the same way: he gives glory to God. That’s going to become important in just a moment, but when Daniel comes into this, he’s recognizing no one else can do this, but God. He doesn’t want to take the credit, but he wants to give it to the Lord, which is contrary to the normal tendency here. Because you see in verse 25, you see Arioch who is the executioner. He comes before the king. He’s like, “I got Daniel. He can interpret the dream. Hey, I’m the one that found Daniel. Would you write that down somewhere? Everyone know I found Daniel!” That’s what Arioch is trying to do before the king. And Daniel comes in. He’s like, no one else can do this, but God.
Then Daniel interprets the dream. He shares the dream, interprets the dream. I’m going to read this entire section, scripture to you. This is probably one of the more lengthy sections I’ve ever read, but I want you to follow along. I’m just going to share with you what it means, but I want you to see the totality of what this dream is. And so it says in verse 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. But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.
You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king. 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; 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.
After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth.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. 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. 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. 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.
I’ll share the rest of it in just a moment. The last two verses get the summation, but let me tell you about this dream. You got all that right? That was amazing. Just absorbed it? The king sees a statue, gold, silver, bronze, iron mixed with clay. And he sees the statue destroyed by this rock. Daniel tells us it represents kingdoms. You see in the beginning of this story that the king is upset by this. And the reason the king’s upset by this is when, you lived during the time of Babylon, even beyond this, when a statue was built, a statue was really built for one of two reasons. Either to honor a king or to honor a god. And when it honored to king, it really represented the kingdom was as well, the glory of the kingdom. And here you see in the story of this statue that would be built either honor a king or a god, and in some cases they were both. You see in chapter three, this king has built a statue to honor him and tells everyone to bow down because he sees himself as an authority of life. As Lord or God. And so when this king see the statue crumpling, he sees the destruction of himself. And so because of that, he gets concerned. So much so he starts to act indignantly towards people around him. Threatening to rip them limb from limb.
Who do you trust? And as you see this story unfold, you’ll find it in not only this story, but in chapter seven, chapter eight of Daniel, that this statue doesn’t represent just one king in the kingdom. And it represents multiple kings and kingdoms. The gold represents Nebuchadnezzar. After Nebuchadnezzar there are other kingdoms that arise. Right after Nebuchadnezzar there are the Persians, represented in the story as well by the silver. And then there are the Greeks represented by the bronze. The Romans represented by the iron. Then there’s the clay that leads to its destruction by a rock, which represents Jesus. When you read the story of Daniel unfolding, you start to see that God is using Daniel to declare the coming of the Messiah. That he’s not finished with his people, and God’s still working out his plan. Even to the point that Daniel shares with us the exact time in which the Messiah would exist. But here in the story, he’s recognizing that these kingdoms will crumble. And there is one king that will remain.
And his arrival comes when he sets up his kingdom during the reign of the Roman Empire. The king sees all of these crushed before Jesus. He goes on to tell us in verse 44 to identify that, “In those days 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 will crush and put an end to all of these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. And as much as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future. So the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.” So Daniel’s saying, “King, you’ve revealed this dream to no one. And so I’m able to share this dream with you because it’s only an indication that God himself has revealed it, of which I am giving glory to this God.”
He ends the story the same way. And when Jesus shows up, I love the way the story unfolds because Jesus takes these thoughts of Daniel and he continues into the Gospel. In fact, Gabriel, when he announced the coming of Jesus to Mary, he said this, “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will be no end,” Luke 1:33. When Jesus began his ministry, Jesus said this, in proclaiming the good news of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near,” Mark 1:14. Jesus clearly stated this, “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:36. And Jesus said in Matthew 12:28, “If it is by the spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come to you.”
Maybe one of the most relative passages to Daniel chapter two and Isaiah chapter eight Jesus says this, and in Matthew 21:42-44 he said, “Did you never read in the scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected. This became the chief cornerstone. Therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you given to people producing the fruit of it.” Verse 44, “On whom ever this stone falls it will scatter him like dust. Daniel’s context of the story. There’s a lot of different results that you could lean into because of the story that Jesus is sharing in this passage, but the theme of chapter two: God is not finished working in this world. I think as the New Testament continues to relate to the church as being a people in Babylon. Recognizing in our lives, God is not finished working in this world.
Even as Daniel looked at himself, his people as having fallen away from God, being carried into captivity because of that and wondering if God’s still loved them. God shows up in the midst of this story and declaring that his kingdom is coming and he continues to deliver this message through his people as if to say, God’s not finished working through you either. That his kingdom ultimately wins. Maybe there’s a way of looking at ourselves. In the midst of the mess that we make, wondering if God still loves us. Though we may sin, God not, finished working with you ye.t if he were, you would not be here.
One of the the neat things about this story, you consider the influence Daniel, in his culture, faith and culture collide. Hebrews 11 I think it’s in verse 36 I believe, tells us, it starts to tell us within that story about the faith of individuals. One of the things that says about Daniel, he wasn’t impressive. Daniel wasn’t powerful. Considered the story: he was carried into the Babylon as a teenager. He was dragged into Babylon against his will as a slave. He was brought into a king’s court, asked to do things that he felt compromise his faith, of which he had to stand up for it and maybe even lose his life over. Daniel wasn’t powerful. But one of the things that he was, he was faithful. When adversity arose in his life, his heart revealed what he stood for. When challenges arise in your life, where does your heart lean? Look to others for value and worth? Defending self or looking to God? Daniel was one that God worked through rather than around because Daniel was one simple word: he was faithful. And you consider the totality of how this story then plays out. Because when you get to the gospels, you start to read about the birth of Jesus. The birth of Jesus, in Matthew chapter two, it tells a story of wise men from the east come to visit Jesus. Where do those wise men come from? A lot of scholars will use that passage of scripture to then refer back to Daniel chapter two. The wise men before this King Nebuchadnezzar.
Now I realize this is speculative to suggest this to you this morning because after the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians and then the Greeks and then Romans. And when you study the conquering of those, it’s not the same wise men under Babylon anymore. But I believe the way that those empires operated, they still use the cultural context of the people that live there. Meaning, when Greece went around conquering, when they would conquer people groups, one of the things they allowed people groups to have is their own cultural influence. That was still existed within the people. So I think the Babylonian influence of wise men that still exist in the area of Babylon continued on through these cultures that came in and conquered. Or through these, these empires that came in and conquered. Which led to the arrival of this wise men group, coming to the birth of Jesus, which says the effects of Daniel’s faithfulness carried on for centuries after Daniel.
Well, it’s a speculative to say, but I can imagine being Mary and Joseph, very young themselves. All of a sudden these wealthy, well-to-do individuals come, by camel or whatever they are riding in this mass of people group. It was more than three. You didn’t travel in groups of three back then. You would’ve been killed. Especially with gold, frankincense and myrrh. It would have been a large group of individuals. The only reason they say three wise men is because they said gold, frankincense, and myrrh so think three gifts, therefore three people. But more than likely it would’ve been a group. They journeyed such a far distance. They come before Mary and Joseph and you look at this thinking, how in the world, why are you here? Babylon? I start to tell her story. Centuries ago there was this young boy, who showed all this incredible wisdom in the world and he always acknowledged that it never came from him, but from his God. And that young man, no matter what culture brought, he was faithful.
And there was this time hundreds of years ago where our people group, the wise men were before the king and the king was going to tear us limb from limb. And this young man stood before the executioner and he gave glory to his God. And then he went before the king and he interpreted this dream that all of us found impossible. And this dream pointed to the coming of a king who would rule all kingdoms. And he gave us the exact moment in which this king would be born. And because Daniel preserved our people, the wise men, hundreds of years ago, we told ourselves at that very moment when that king comes, no matter how far the distance may be, we are going to arrive to worship him.
We have no way of knowing what God can do through your influence. We do know that what God calls you to is faithfulness. When you look at the life of Daniel, it puts us in the place to recognize not only the glory of God working in the midst of adversity, but to recognize God is still working in adversity right now. But to then use his story to ask, how does that interact with my story? Do I truly honor God? Are those words that just echo off my lips? That become lost when challenged? How do you know? When adversity arises, what comes out? What do you defend? Where does the glory go?
Colossians four says this, “Conduct yourself with wisdom toward outsiders making the most of every opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Indignant and furious or wisdom that’s tasteful. Where does your heart go?