This time, we're coming into the exciting Book of Daniel. I've been waiting for this book and looking forward to the Lord ministering to us as we make our journey now through the Book of Daniel.
So Pastor Skip will come, and we will get going through Daniel.
Good evening. I am so glad that pastor Chuck did his jet tour of Ezekiel last week and covered chapters 40 through 48, which enables us to get right into Daniel tonight. This book is awesome. It's a great privilege.
I don't know if you caught the news article or not, but there is a doctor in Michigan, who is now retired, 71 years of age, who felt like those in Michigan have sort of made the automotive industry an idol and have trusted in Detroit and the making of automobiles far too much. And he took out an advertising billboard for two months. And so as you drive by and you look at the billboard it reads, thus, "Dear Gracious Heavenly Father, forgive us our sin of being dependent upon the automotive industry and not on you. Please restore invention, productivity, and prosperity in Jesus' name. Signed a Michigan citizen."
Now, some people have complained about this billboard. And his response is classic. He says they can just drive by.
And he said this if what you have looked to for so long has failed you, it's time to look to something else. And he suggests that we look to the Lord, not our own productivity or the automotive industry.
The prophets for so long had held up their signs, their billboards, saying don't trust in Egypt. Don't trust in yourselves. Don't trust in your military. Get back to the Lord and trust him and him alone.
But there was no pulse. There was no response. It was Jeremiah who oversaw the death of the nation of Judah. It was Ezekiel who preached to the captives while they were in Babylon. And now in Daniel, we get a cameo of one of the captives, Daniel, a young teenager who was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC.
Nebuchadnezzar was, for all means and purposes, the new kid on the block as far as world power was concerned. It was his father, Nabopolassar, who was in charge of Babylon, was the founder of the Babylonian Empire, and was successful in several military campaigns. His son Nebuchadnezzar, by the way it was Nabopolassar, that named his son, gave him the name Nebuchadnezzar, which is a name that means oh Nabu, that is the god that they served, protect my son.
Nebuchadnezzar went out, fought against Nineveh, and successfully overtook it as a young general. He then went out west to a town called Carchemish, between two very important rivers, the Euphrates Rivers and the Orantes River. There he overtook Pharaoh Necho of Egypt. And at that time, by those two decisive battles, he was now in charge of the world, the known world. The rest of the world was easy pickens.
So on the way home, he decided he would overtake Jerusalem, which he did in 605 BC. And took several of the people, royalty, young men, captive to Babylon. Daniel was among them. When Nebuchadnezzar came back home, he was crowned as the new ruler of the Babylonian Empire. And he was now the world leader as far as the ancient world was concerned.
Nebuchadnezzar, you'll discover, has a hot temper. He was the guy who took Zedekiah, the King of Judah, and before putting out his eyes, killed his sons in front of him so that his last visual memory would be the death of his own sons. He burned his officers over a slow roasting fire. And in Chapter 2, he will threaten to dismember those from his royal staff who couldn't interpret the dream and make their houses a pile of rubble. So this guy has a short, hot temper and a short fuse, you might say.
Into that scene comes young Daniel, a teenager of no compromise, who purposes in his heart that he's going to serve the Lord. It's a moving and a telling story.
I was thinking about Daniel all week and thinking what it would be like to be a teenager displaced from your home 650 miles away with the kind of pressure that Daniel faced. It would be so easy to give in to the temptations of the court that were lavished upon him. But he did not do that. He gave not in to the temptations, but he gave his heart up to the God that he stirred from his youth. And he was a great witness to two kingdoms.
We begin in Verse 1, obviously, with the captivity of Jerusalem. By the way, just a footnote. One of the problems with this book is it's so accurate. Let me tell you why that's a problem.
It is so problematic to the liberal scholars that they try to figure out other people who have penned the book other than Daniel. You see, the first six chapters deal with history. Then Chapter 7 through 12 deal with prophecy principally. There's prophecy in Chapter 2, as we'll see.
It is so accurate that it troubles some people. And they will say that Daniel did not write it. But that somebody in the Maccabean era when there was this new found Jewish for hope in the territories once again that somebody around 167 BC penned the Book of Daniel and wrote history as though it were prophecy.
The problem with that viewpoint is several fold. I won't get into all the problems. But the obvious one is that if you look at what was discovered in Qumran, the Dead Sea Scrolls, they were written 250 BC. That's what the date was set on them. And they include the Book of Daniel. So they predate the person who supposedly wrote it in 167 BC.
But all of those arguments are really moot. It was Jesus Christ, who three times referred to Daniel and called him Daniel the prophet. That ends all the arguments right there.
So now we get into the word of God by the Holy Spirit given to Daniel. In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, the King of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim, King of Judah, into his hand with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, probably the god Bel, B-E-L, or Marduk would be the chief god at that time. And he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.
Notice that God assumes responsibility for this captivity. And what you will notice woven through this book, especially highlighted in Chapter 1, is the overriding sovereignty of God here in Verse 2, later on in Verse 9 and in Verse 17, where God is the one in charge orchestrating how things are moving.
If you were to have asked King Jehoiakim of Judah who's in charge here, he would say, well, I am in charge. I'm the king. If you were to ask Nebuchadnezzar, he would have said, well, I'm in charge.
The truth is Nebuchadnezzar was just a pawn on God's chessboard. God was moving this king wherever he wanted to, as it says in Proverbs, Chapter 21, "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, and like the courses of water, he turns it wherever he wishes."
Why is it stated this way in Verse 2? Why does it say the Lord gave Jehoiakim, the king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar?
There's a couple of reasons. Number one, so God's promised judgment would come. He promised that because of repetitive disobedience-- and one of the evidence of that disobedience to God was their refusal to keep the law of the Sabbath the year for 490 years, that is after six years you let the ground lay fallow for one year and you just take whatever grows of itself. You do that for seven sets of seven. Then you have the jubilee year. So God wanted to give the land to rest. They failed to keep that for 490 years. God said you all me 70 years rest on the land. He took them into captivity for 70 years. That's according to the Second Chronicles, Chapter 36. The end of that chapter explains that.
The second reason that this is occurring is because God wants to set Daniel up as a witness to one of the most cruel and fearsome pagan rulers to humble him and to give a witness, influencing two nations; the nation of Babylon and eventually Medo-Persia. So it's a divine setup.
And that's an important principle because so often when trouble comes our way, when the hand of God allows us to go through some period of pain or captivity, listen to us during those times. This the devil. The devil is against us. How could a God of love allow this to happen to me?
Well, certainly Satan wanted Israel to fall. But God wanted Israel to stand and moreover Daniel to stand as a witness. He was allowing this to demonstrate his power. So like Joseph, who said to his brothers at the end, you meant this for evil. God meant it for good. To save many people alive as it is this day. All of this is being orchestrated by God.
Then the king instructed Ashkinez, as the master of his eunuchs-- that is his officers. Remember Potiphar back in Genesis. He was a eunuch. So this is his officers of the court-- to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king's descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand who had ability to serve in the king's palace and whom they might teach the language and the literature of the Caledonians.
So there were certain qualifications that were to be in Nebuchadnezzar's court. There was the physical qualifications. You had to be good looking. Or they had to be good looking. That is they had to be pleasant to the public eye, for they would be representatives of the court. There was a mental acumen that they had to possess. Then they would be trained on top of that. As well as a social poise in the court.
And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. It was Babylonian custom to begin the training for these offices between the ages of 14 to 17 years of age. And it was like an accelerated post-graduate training, because Babylon was famous for mathematics and astronomy and astrology and agronomy and architecture. And all of these language skills and mathematic and science skills were given to them during that time.
And so this daily provision of food and wine, the finest caterers were brought in to serve up these teenagers the best meals they could imagine. They were pampered-- the best schooling and the best eating. Why?
It was done to cause a compromise of heart principally. All of the training they had growing up as Jews was now put to the test, as now they're being pampered. And they would be tempted. And this was Nebuchadnezzar's thought. They would be tempted to think, why should I hold on to the Lord God, to Yahweh. We trusted him. What good did it do? We were taken captive anyway. Hey, this is the life. These gods treat you right.
All of that was to break down into a compromising position. Now you got to imagine being a 14 to 17-year-old-- most think he was around 15 or 16 years of age-- away from home. All of the pressure of that kind of a lifestyle being brought to bear. You're lost as far as your parents are concerned, your homeland. You're just a face on a milk carton being in Babylon. The temptations would be great to surrender.
Now, from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names. He gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abednego. One of the most personal and private possessions that we have is our name. It's our identity.
Giving new names was customary to take away their old identity, especially their spiritual identity, renaming them after new gods. After all, the gods are taking care of you. They're feeding you. You're being pampered. You're being trained. Now it's time to change your identity.
The names were significant. The name Daniel, of course, means God is my judge. His new name Belteshazzar meant Bel protect the king. Hananiah means beloved or loved of God. Shadrach is the name change and means illumined by the sun god. Mishael in Hebrew means who is like God. Meshach means who is like Aku, the moon God. So you see all of these changes to change the identity. Azariah means the Lord is my help. His name was changed Abednego, which means a servant of Nebo, the shining one.
You and I live in enemy territory. OK, we're heaven bound. We're citizens of heaven. We know where we're going.
But until then, we live on this Earth. And Satan, the God of this world, the prince of the power of the year would love to do everything he can to change our identities, to barrage us with messages through media, politics, the popular philosophies of the day, universities to get us to change our alliances from the Lord and to become more like the world.
That's why Paul said to the Romans, don't be conformed to this world. Or don't let the world squeeze you into its own mold. What is so impressive about Daniel, this young teenager wasn't a thermometer going up and down with the temperature of the culture. He was a thermostat, as you'll see beginning in Verse 8. He makes a decision and he sticks with it through his whole life.
Verse 8, "But"-- it's a great word to begin that sentence with, in the midst of all that is around him with the pressures and temptation, there's a contrast-- "but Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with a portion of the king's delicacies nor with the wine which he drank. Therefore, he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself."
The foods that were being offered these young men were not only unkosher and against Levitical code, but to indulge in these foods, because they were sacrificed and poured out as libation offerings-- the wine was poured out before the idols and then the rest of the wine was taken into the court. The food was also sacrificed to these gods-- to eat of the food was tantamount to indulging in idol worship. Daniel knew that. It was both unkosher against the law of his god and it would be tantamount to worshipping the false gods of Babylon.
So he purposed in his heart. He made a decision right off the bat, not going to have anything of it.
Again, Solomon in Proverbs says, "Keep thy heart with all diligence. For out of it proceeds the very issues of life."
How easy it would be for Daniel to say, hey, I am in Babylon. Nobody will see me here. Oh, I have a few buddies, but I am surrounded by so many pagans who want me to be like them anyway, mom and dad aren't here. I'm sort of alone and pampered. Nobody's watching. I'm going to go for it. I'll indulge.
Daniel knew God sees. He lived under the constant awareness that the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the entire Earth. He lived in the awareness of what it says again in the book of Proverbs, "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." "All things," the writer of Hebrews says, "all things are naked and open before the eyes of him with whom we must give an account." Beautiful.
This young man, this teenager, peer pressure. Everybody's doing it.
By the way, there was a television special not too long ago that asked teenagers of all of the pressures in society, which is the greatest you find as a temptation? Almost uniformly they said peer pressure, the pressure to conform to what people my age are doing, those cultural norms. Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not to defile himself.
You see for Daniel, it didn't matter if he was living in Jerusalem with mom and dad, aunts and uncles, religious leaders and had that kind of accountability or whether he was in Babylon surrounded by a pagan culture. He was the same. That's integrity. That's character.
Reputation is what you are on the outside. It's what you portray to other people. Character is who you are when nobody's looking. And only God knows for sure. Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not file himself. Man of character.
Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, "I fear my lord, the king, who has appointed your food and drink, for why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king."
This officer's fears are warranted. Nebuchadnezzar had the reputation of being fierce, cruel, putting the eyes of Zedekiah out after having his sons killed, roasting his officers or the threat of that in Jeremiah 29 of roasting slowly over a fire his officers, and then you'll see in Chapter 2 the threat to dismember the astrologers and the Caledonians who couldn't interpret the dream and to make their houses a pile of ruins.
So Daniel said to the steward, whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, "Please test your servants for 10 days and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink." Now, please don't read into this a proof text for vegetarianism. If you want to be a vegetarian, great. But don't say the Bible says you have to.
I remember when I was living in Huntington Beach one time, I was out on the front porch reading my Bible. And it was the oddest sight as I looked up, because the sun was suddenly blocked by a figure standing before me in a white robe, long hair and a beard. My immediate thought is the Lord has come.
Boy was I mistaken. He said, I see you're reading a Bible. I said, yes, I am. I'm a Christian. Are you?
And then the question he asked me was, do you eat meat? Not do you love the Lord? What's God doing in your life? But do you eat meat?
I said, well, yeah, I had a hamburger for lunch. And he went on a diatribe about how because of this text in Daniel and a few others that he had taken out of context that we should always be vegetarians. If I read my Bible correctly, it's OK to be one. But it's for those who are weaker according to the New Testament. So-- [LAUGHTER] I figured God designed us just perfectly and he put those canine teeth to rip and to shred meat. So enough. Let's go on.
"Then let our appearance be examined before you and the appearance of the young man who ate the portion of the king's delicacies. And as you see fit so deal with your servants." So he consented with them in this matter and tested them 10 days. And at the end of 10 days, their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all of the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies.
Thus, the steward took away their portion of the delicacies and the wine, which they were to drink and gave them vegetables. I bet they were angry at Daniel and his three buddies after this. A feast was given to them. And now they're given pulse. They're given vegetables and water.
As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom. And Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
Now, at the end of the days when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them. And among them all, none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore, they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them 10 times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all the realm.
We would say they graduated at the top of their class. Straight As. Better in appearance, better and wisdom, God was giving them favor. Thus, Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.
So Daniel's ministry spans two kingdoms; the kingdom of Babylon and the kingdom of Medo-Persia under Cyrus he is mentioned. God takes this young teenage captive, puts him in such a position so as to influence great kingdoms, great leaders.
You may remember back in 2 Samuel around the second chapter that years before God had told Eli, "Them that honor me, I will honor." them that honor me, I will honor. God put a love for Daniel in the heart of his supervisor. Check out once again Verse 9, "God brought Daniel into favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs."
When a man's ways please the Lord, the Bible says, God makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. So God is positioning him. This is a divine setup, putting him in a place where he can be an influence to these two nations.
Now before we get into the next chapter, if you find yourself in a position-- a job you hate, a hard boring laborious position, or you're suffering, you're in some arena of life you don't like, you'd love to get out of. You wonder why God has allowed you to be in it for so long. How about saying, Lord, what are you up to? Perhaps you're just setting everything up just right and you're going to unfold some grand plan that you want me to do. How could you use me in this situation? Not how can I get out of this? But what can I get out of this?
There's an interesting town down in Arkansas. The name of the town is Enterprise. Excuse me, not Arkansas. Alabama. Enterprise, Alabama.
And in the center of that little Alabama town is one of the strangest monuments ever. It's a monument honoring the boll weevil, an insect, a destructive insect. Years ago when cotton was the primary crop in that part of the country, this infestation of boll weevils came into the area. And the insect bores its way into the boll of the plant. And it retards maturity. It won't come to full fruition. It destroyed the crops.
So scientists gave it a look and were trying to figure out what other crops could they grow and recoup their losses. And they discovered you could grow peanuts. It wouldn't take much. And the harvest was much greater than that of cotton. So they became much more prosperous, and so they have this monument to the boll weevil, that even though it's a destructive insect, that it was that destructive insect coming into their region that caused the research and through suffering, the ingenuity to come up with another crop to grow.
So what hardship has God allowed you to go through that he might bring more fruit out of your life? Daniel had every reason to say why would God, how could God allow this to happen? But God is putting him into an interesting position.
Now, in Chapter 2 the camera pans from the captives' classroom, you might say, to the king's bedroom. The King is having difficulty of late. He's been troubled, as we'll discover, by his dreams. God has creative ways of getting our attention.
The writer of Hebrews says, God who at different ways and in different times spoke in times past, God has all sorts of interesting ways to speak and get people's attention. And he uses a dream in the night with Nebuchadnezzar.
In the second year, Verse 1, of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams. And his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him.
In Chapter 1, he's a triumphant man. In Chapter 2, he's a troubled man. He's troubled. The word in Hebrew, palah, means to beat or to tap. He's agitated. That's the idea.
Some thoughts-- and we'll discover what those thoughts are as we get down-- he's wondering about the future of his kingdom. He's wondering how long it's going to last.
This is so often the case, by the way, with those who are rich or famous or powerful. They've reached the pinnacle. They're at the top. And now they're worried. How long will it last? How long will I stay on top? What if something bad happens and the market crashes? Or I lose my power, I lose my position?
Uneasy is the head that wears the crown. That's the price tag you. Very isolating kind of a feeling.
So the cares of the day become the worries of the night. I heard about a minister who asked a little kid, he asked the boy, do you say your prayers every night? The boy said, yes, I do every night. The minister said, do you say your prayers every day? The little boy said, of course not, I ain't scared in the daytime.
Nebuchadnezzar was scared at night because of a dream that he had that troubled him. And the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, the Chaldeans to tell him his dream. It sounds like a list from a new age bookstore.
So they came out and they stood before the king. Here's the cream of the occultic crop, the intellectuals of the day. First of all magicians, these are sacred scribes. Magicians, our word magician comes from the root word mag, which means priests. And the Greek historian Herodotus tells us that these magicians were called magi. They were one of the six classifications of the priests of the Medes.
They were astute in legal matters. They influenced governments. In fact, their legal rulings was called the law of the Medes and the Persians. They influenced governments. They were kingmakers.
Isn't it interesting that the magi who came and found Jesus when he was born were probably influenced by a godly teenager who became in charge of them named Daniel? And no doubt told them about all the prophecies of the coming of this Messiah, tipping them off, so that they were aware of it at the time of Jesus.
So magicians then astrologers those that work with potions and sorcerers Chaldeans and the like. The king said to them, I've had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream. The Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, oh, king, live forever, tell your servants the dream and we will give the interpretation.
Dream experts tell us that we dream every night. You say, oh, I don't dream. Yes, you do. You may not remember your dream. But in an average lifetime, the average person will dream 136,000 times, an average of about five per night.
They say that it takes about 90 minutes before the cycle to begin. And then about every 90 minutes in intervals, the large brain cells in the base of the skull and the spinal cord fire stimuli into the cerebral cortex. And the brain interprets them as images, dreams. It's usually the way we wrestle with issues that we're dealing with.
What's beautiful is how God is controlling the stimuli to the cerebral cortex of King Nebuchadnezzar, so that he gets this wild dream of the future kingdoms. He's troubled about something, and God reveals it to him. God is directing it.
Verse 4, the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic. Now, beginning here in chapter 4, the second part of Chapter 2, the fourth verse, the second part of Verse 4, all the way down to the end of Chapter 7 is all written in the language Aramaic. Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 up to this point is all Hebrew. And then 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 is also in Hebrew. There's an area right in the middle of Daniel that's written in Aramaic. Why?
Pretty simple actually, because the focus becomes the Gentile world powers, the times of the Gentiles from the rule of Nebuchadnezzar through successive empires, through the tribulation, the reign of the anti-Christ, until Jesus Christ comes. And then the rest of the book is in Hebrew because the focus is again on Jewish subject matter.
The King answered and said to the Chaldeans, my decision is firm. If you do not make known that dream to me and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces and your homes shall be made an ash heap.
Now these were the wise guys of Babylon. It was their forte to be able to tell dreams and predict the future. There's only one catch. They had to hear the dream first. And you see, that can lead to all sorts of abuse, because you can make something up. You can attribute something that somebody sees in a dream to mean almost anything you want.
And I have a hunch that maybe Nebuchadnezzar felt that these guys had been on the payroll a long time and weren't producing much and it's all a hoax. Let's see how good they are. They have to tell me what I dreamed and what it means. And if you don't, you're all dead, dismembered, and I'll ruin your houses.
However, if you tell me the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. I'll take curtain number two. Therefore, tell me the dream and its interpretation.
They answered again and said let the king tell his servants to dream and we will give its interpretation. The King answered and said, I know for certain that you would gain time, because you see that my decision is firm. If you do not make known that dream to me, there is only one decree for you, for you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore, tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me the interpretation.
He's calling their bluff. Their number's up. Their time's up. They probably had given him, in the past, interpretations. And they were probably about as generic as a fortune cookie. Oh, king, live forever, you will find happiness in the future, something like that.
He was tired of that. He had a troubling dream. He wanted it all.
Now what makes this so contemporary is that we are living at an interesting time in history. Those who research culture and sociology have discovered that Americans are becoming more spiritual than ever before. We're tired of materialism. It hasn't panned out. It hasn't worked.
So there is this awareness that more and more Americans are seizing on a desire for the spiritual side of life, but it's not Jesus Christ, him crucified and raised from the dead. It's some Oprah generic spirituality. And as long as it's nondescript and non-offensive, great, that's your spiritual side. With that is also an accompanying interest in all things occultic; fortunetelling, astrology, et cetera.
According to USA Today, 95% of all Americans believe in at least one supernatural phenomenon. 74% say they believe in angels. 50% believe in extrasensory perception. 29% adhere to witchcraft. They say or believe in it. 22% say they believe in ghosts. 16% believe in the Loch Ness monster. That's our culture.
A perfect-- a perfect time, a perfect dilemma for Daniel to come in to this scene. The Chaldeans answered the King and said, there is not a man on Earth who can tell the king's matter. Therefore, no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. If it's a difficult thing that the king requests, and it is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods whose dwelling is not with flesh.
Now they're right in a sense. Just take the "s" off of gods and capitalize it, and they'd be accurate. They're polytheistic. They believe in a pantheon of deities. And they believe, hey, nobody can pull off what you're asking them to pull off. Only the gods who don't dwell with man, only they know these things.
Actually, there's only one God. And God is about to show his colors through Daniel. He's about to shame the Chaldeans and the astrologers and the magicians and shame the gods of Babylon and show himself strong.
There's a beautiful promise you remember back in Isaiah 41 where the Lord calls the false gods into account and says, OK, step forward. Let's see what you can produce. In Isaiah 41:22 and 23, "Let them bring forth and show what will happen. Let them show the former things what they were, that we may consider them and know the latter end of them or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter that we may know that you are gods."
What God is doing through this dream and then subsequent visions that come to King Nebuchadnezzar is to show the failure of the magicians, the astrologers, and the Chaldeans. They're bankrupt. They have failed. They are inept. They are incapable.
Spiritual? Sure. Just wrong.
Before I was saved and I was dabbling in anything that might give me a sense of reality in terms of spiritual things, I experimented with what is called spirit writing. And I discovered that by asking the spirits, whoever they were, to reveal themselves that they were more than willing to reveal themselves. In fact, they were willing to take over a person's life if you'd let them. And I discovered as a teenager quite a bit of power on what you might call these days the dark side. Lots of power.
And it dawned on me one day, hey-- since I was raised in a Christian home-- if there's that much power on the wrong side, how much power there must be when you're on God's side. If the devil is that active with all of these wranglings and lies, how wonderful it could be to let the Lord be in charge of my life. And indeed, it was.
So God is doing that, showing that they're bankrupt and also, again, setting up Daniel to show them that, hey, separate the men from the boys. This guy can produce, because the spirit of God is in him and on him.
For this reason, the king was angry and very furious and gave command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went out. They began telling the wise men. And they sought Daniel and his companions to kill them.
Then with counsel and wisdom Daniel answered Arioch, the captain of the king's guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. He answered and said to Arioch, the king's captain, why is the decree from the king so urgent?
I find that humorous. He's out killing everybody. And Daniel so unperturbed, so relaxed, so confident. What's the big rush? What's the big deal? Why so urgent?
Then Arioch made the decision known to Daniel. So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time that he might tell the king the interpretation. What a contrast, a sleepless worried monarch and a confident, trusting teenager.
King's worried. Daniel's, ah, go tell the king, chill. Tell him to take a chill pill. I'll be in.
Now, Daniel doesn't have the interpretation yet, but he is so confident that God's up to something that he's willing to take what Pastor Chuck loves the call a venture of faith. What has he got to lose? They're going to kill everybody anyway? Life's on the line. Might as well put my faith on the line.
Somebody once said faith is putting all of your eggs in God's basket and counting your blessings before they hatch. That's what Daniel was doing. Go tell the King, I'll be back with the interpretation. I'll tell him what he wants.
Trusting, beautiful story. And I read this and I fall so short. So often I don't trust the Lord, and I'm not even in this kind of a situation.
It reminds me of that old poem, said the sparrow to the robin, friend, I'd surely like to know why these anxious human beings rush about and worry so. Said the robin to the sparrow, friend, I think that it must be they have no Heavenly Father, such as cares for you and me.
Daniel knew his Heavenly Father, knew that God was able and capable. And so he trusted.
Daniel went to his house, made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven and Daniel answered and said, "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His, and He changes the times and the seasons. He removes kings and raises up kings"-- you'll see in a minute why he said that-- "He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things. He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank you and praise you, O, God of my fathers. You have given me wisdom and might and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king's demand."
What a picture. Four teenagers, having a prayer meeting in Babylon, and they're praising God. It would be so easy for them to leave God's presence having the dream, going, OK, let's go. But they said, no, we've got to thank the Lord for this one. We need to just praise Him and stop and acknowledge Him for His goodness to us.
I want you to notice that Daniel and his companions made prayer their first recourse, not the last resort. You know, if we would make prayer our first recourse, it would never have to become our last resort. Listen to people how they talk about prayer. There's nothing left to do but pray. Examine that statement-- nothing left to do but pray.
Hey, prayer is the big gun. It's the smart bomb. It's the Star Wars stuff. Nothing left to do? What? You've exhausted all your armament. Now you've got to trust God.
It's the fervent, effective prayer of a righteous man, James says, that avails much.
The autobiography of George Mueller is worth a read. In fact, it's worth a read several times in your life just to refresh yourself on a man who lived by faith. Talk about ventures of faith. Here's a guy who ran an orphanage in Bristol, England, didn't have enough food to feed the orphans, and would sit down with the kids for breakfast without a stitch of food. And they'd say, boys, let's thank God for the meal. No food.
And so many times he testifies of knocks at the door. Milk truck broke down. Food truck broke down. The food is going to spoil. Milk's going to spoil. Can you use it? And just how God was faithful to provide.
Therefore Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon, he went in and said to him, do not destroy the wise men of Babylon, take me before the King and I will tell the king the interpretation.
Now, we're going to get a peek into the future, as you heard today, Pastor Chuck's message on this chapter, a peek into the future-- from that point on future, for us past for the most part-- a peek into the future Gentile world powers, the times of the Gentiles. Many of them are already fulfilled. Some of them are being fulfilled. And some are yet to be fulfilled.
Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king and said to him, I have found a man-- he's taking the credit-- of the captives of Judah-- see, Daniel came to him-- who will make known to the king the interpretation. The king answered and said to Daniel whose name was Belteshazzar, are you able to make known to be the dream which I have seen in its interpretation? And Daniel answered in the presence of the king and said-- listen to this wise teenager-- the secret which the king has demanded the wise man, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king, but there is a God in Heaven who reveals secrets. And He is made known to the King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.
Mark that phrase. It recurs 14 times in the Old Testament. And it's a technical phrase, you might say, that refers to the time of the end. Or it might be translated, the closing period of the future, the last days.
Your dream and the vision of your head upon your bed were these. As for you, oh, king, thoughts came into your mind while on your bed about what would come to pass after this. And He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be.
Nebuchadnezzar is concerned about what's going to happen after his own kingdom. How long will I maintain this position of world power? God is going to reveal to him more, all the way to the second coming of Jesus Christ.
But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than any one living, but for our sakes who made known the interpretation to the king that you may know the thoughts of your heart. You, oh, king, were watching, and behold a great image. This great image whose splendor was excellent stood before you. And its form was awesome. The image's head was a fine gold. Its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze. Its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron, partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay and broke them in pieces.
Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors. The wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole Earth.
The first part of the dream is stationary. It's just a singular, polymetallic image. Then suddenly, forcefully, out of heaven like a missile careening from the sky, the stone comes and destroys it. And that stone becomes a mountain that fills the entire Earth.
It's interesting that the dream came to Nebuchadnezzar in the form of an image. Keep that in mind because when we get to Chapter 7, it's essentially the same revelation with more details added, but it's visions of beasts ravenous beasts that tear and destroy.
But why an image? Well, Babylon is the center of idolatry, images. Interesting that the language that Nebuchadnezzar, idol worshiper par excellence, would understand would be that of an image, especially if he's the head of gold, which we discover in the vision he is. So God is speaking his language. And it's a picture of man's rule from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to the day of the Lord.
Now the metals that are described in this vision describe as we said successive world governing empires. And they have been fulfilled for the most part. The ones that are seen, history vindicates this prophecy.
Now if you look at the gold, all the way down to the iron and then the iron and the clay, the preciousness of the metal decreases as you go from head to foot. And the specific gravity decreases from gold down to iron. The specific gravity of gold is around 19, 19.5. Silver is around 11. Brass, bronze about 11.5. Iron 5. And then clay 1.9. So the specific gravity and preciousness of the metal decreases in value. However, the strength increases.
Not only that, but the image if it really were an actual image, statue, would be top heavy. Gold being the heaviest.
And by the way, all of the kingdoms of man on Earth are top heavy. They're unstable. It's a very accurate image. If man were to have drawn or constructed this image, we'd a done it the opposite. We'd have begun with clay and worked our way up to gold and given ourselves the credit. Man would have said, yes, we started in the dark ages and with clay and fortitude, we have advanced. And we've conquered diseases. And we've made the world a better place. Now we're in the golden age of technology, making the world a better place to live.
Now you're really dreaming. If you think we've made this world a better place, this world will only be a better place when the God who created it takes over and rules it forever and ever. Amen. All of the ages of man have been dark.
Well, he tells them what he dreams. And then Verse 36, this is the dream, now we will tell you the interpretation before the king.
No hesitation. He didn't say, did I get it right, King Nebuchadnezzar? I sort of feel like the Lord is saying-- no, because this is the dream. So confident.
You, oh, king, are the king of kings. That is you're the supreme monarch. You've taken over the world. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory.
I can see Nebuchadnezzar puffing up with pride. Yeah, I am the head of gold. I am important.
And wherever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the birds of heaven, He has given them into your hand and has made you ruler over them all. You are this head of gold.
But-- to answer the troubling thoughts in his head-- but after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours. It's not mentioned by name though it will be later on in the book. It refers to the Medo-Persian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar's successor, Belshazzar, in Chapter 5 will have the end of the Babylonian Empire when the Medes and the Persians take it over under Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian.
And the kingdom of Medo-Persia, like the head going into the silver chest and arms, the area of Medo-Persia was larger geographically, but it was an inferior kingdom. It lacked a stable central government that Nebuchadnezzar was great at managing. He was a tyrant, but he was a brilliant manager. And so though the Medo-Persian Empire covered more, it was inferior in quality.
Same verse, then another third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over the whole Earth. As we'll see, that's Alexander the Great and the Grecian empire. Alexander the Great, we'll discover, was an interesting young man with lots of ambition and took over so much of the world that he was even surprised, all the way to the coasts of India. In fact, he died at around 30 years of age, 31 years of age in Babylon, drunk, weeping that there were no other worlds for him to conquer. And though he was speedy in his takeover, again, there was weakness in administration and didn't last all that long, as we'll see.
Then the legs of iron, Verse 40, the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron in as much as the iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything. And like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.
It is interesting-- by the way, it's a perfect description of the Roman Empire, which history shows this was. The Roman Empire, the legions of Rome were given the title the Iron Legions of Rome, because though their military progress was slower, they were like a steam roller. They wiped out and completely took under their conquest everyone and everything and ruled with the iron hand of the Caesar's, with the Iron Legions of Rome.
Now, notice that these are the legs of iron. So the kingdom is divided. And in 395 AD, it's perfectly attested there was a division of east and west in the Roman Empire.
The legs are the longest part of the anatomy of this statue, which bears testimony to Rome being the longest to rule. They ruled almost 1,000 years as a world governing empire. They were not conquered. They disintegrated. They fragmented as time went on.
Whereas you saw the feet in the toes, partly of potter's clay, partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided, yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men, but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with the clay.
This seems to be another time period. Not one for following Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome, but a whole other time. And its the time of the end, because in Verse 44, this assembly of 10 nations will be there at the end when any external kingdom is set up. The stone not made with hands that comes from heaven will set up the kingdom at the time of those kings.
As we said, nobody conquered Rome. It fragmented. And each fragment tried to become something and to take over the world. By the way, it was Mussolini who said, I believe in the resurrection of the Roman Empire. He tried to be the one to resurrect. He was unsuccessful. Hitler tried it, was unsuccessful. England tried it, unsuccessful. Several others took a stab at it, but they never took it over.
As we see in Daniel, Chapter 7, these kingdoms will be elaborated on, but they'll be spoken of as beasts that come. And 10 final nations, we'll tie that into Revelation, Chapter 17, where there's 10 horns, which are the 10 kings during that time of Jesus Christ's return.
Now, the best part. "And in the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed and the kingdom shall not be left to other people that shall break in pieces and consume all of these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. In as much as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands that are broken pieces, the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain. The interpretation is sure."
Isaiah the prophet predicted the coming of Jesus Christ when he wrote behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone. Jesus Christ himself, in his own words, in Luke, Chapter 20, said, "Whoever falls on this stone will be broken, but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."
Here's the good news. All of man's kingdoms will come to a screeching halt when Jesus Christ comes the second time. That's a good thing.
We have failed. With every form of human government, we have failed. Even the best form of a democracy isn't the best form of government. A theocratic kingdom is the best, where God rules in righteousness. That's the one he'll set up. It's the only one that will work forever. So the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ when this stone, Jesus Christ returns.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering of incense to him. The king answered Daniel and said, truly-- now listen to his confession-- truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.
Think he's impressed? Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many gifts and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, the chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. Also Daniel petitioned the king and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel sat in the gate of the king.
It was successful. Nebuchadnezzar, the earthly king, recognizes Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the God of the Hebrews, the God of the covenant, the God of promise, as the God. The earthly king bows before the Heavenly King.
Now, he'll defy that in the next chapter and be taught a lesson in the subsequent chapter. But this is a good start. And Daniel is off to a good start. Daniel gets promoted now. And he'll influence even more people.
I remember growing up seeing the commercial for the Marine Corps. The Marines looking for a few good men. You know what? God is looking for a few good men, a few good women, who will be like Daniel. It begins with that purpose of heart not to defile ourselves with the things of this world, the mold that the world is trying to squeeze you and I into daily, perpetually, incessantly. But to say, no, I belong to the Lord, and Lord, what do you want to do with my life?
You want the greatest adventure possible? Surrender to his will. You'll be on the ride of your life.
Lord, we see that it all begins with an internal commitment that is followed through with an external action, where this young man's life was willingly put on the line as his faith was tested. He knew Lord that you would never fail, that your promises were sure. He saw that even in the midst of suffering in captivity and hardship that there is a God in Heaven who has a monumental plan that would include him.
And it's awesome to think that Daniel along with the Lord Jesus Christ and Joseph of the Old Testament were the only ones who never had evil spoken of them in the Bible. What an example that Daniel sets for us. And I pray, Lord, for the teenagers that are in this church, that are being raised up in the youth group here, that many would dare to be like Daniel and would go out trusting you, doing great exploits, as we have seen so many already from this fellowship around the world. We can't wait to see what you're going to do and what you're going to unfold as we surrender our lives to your purpose in Jesus' name.
Let's all stand. Whenever I read that portion, at the time of these kings shall the Lord of heaven establish his kingdom, and as we watch the development of the European Union, surely it fits the picture of the iron and clay feet with 10 toes. And exciting to realize that we are getting to the final kingdom of man that will precede the eternal kingdom of God that will be set up upon the Earth.
Wonderful to realize that God's word is coming to pass before our very eyes. We read about it daily in the newspapers. So many other things that point to the end of this age of man and the glorious beginning of the Kingdom of God.
And so, as Jesus when he was talking about his return to set up the Kingdom of God, warned us the importance of being ready, the importance of watching, and so we would encourage you to watch and be ready, because His kingdom is coming. The day is not far off when God's will will be done here on Earth even as it is in heaven. And we will see God's ultimate intention for the Earth, which we do not see now with the suffering, with the wars, with the diseases, and the many plagues by which our Earth is being smitten. But we will see it, that glorious day of the Lord. I want to be ready, and I surely want to be a part of His kingdom.