Turn with me please to Daniel 2. Nebuchadnezzar’s reign lasted from 605-562 B.C., a 43 year reign. This takes place in his second year, 604 B.C. Daniel and his friends surpassed all others in training to serve in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Chapter 1 ends with great hope and promise for their future in Babylon, but that hope is jeopardized in chapter 2.
The Lord reveals his mysteries to Daniel and Daniel and is the Lord’s interpreter. What is the dominant thought of chapter 2? Or, what does Chapters 2 show us? Chapters 2 shows us that Daniel came to serve in Nebuchadnezzar’s royal court and was put in charge of all the wisemen because he was enabled to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
It seems that the Lord had more than one purpose for this mysterious dream. Consider …..
If the Lord simply wanted to humble Nebuchadnezzar and exalt himself, he could have given Nebuchadnezzar both the dream and its interpretation and left the wisemen and Daniel out of the loop entirely. But that is not what he did.
If he wanted to humble Nebuchadnezzar, exalt himself and exalt the wisemen, he could have revealed the mysterious dream with its interpretation to the wisemen. (We should not think that far fetched. Wisemen from the east would come to Jerusalem and inquire, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We have come to worship him.” But that’s not what he did.)
If the Lord simply wanted to encourage the exiles and give them a future hope, he could have done so in one or two ways. First, he could have put a prophetic word of encouragement in Daniel’s mouth and had him proclaim it among the exiles like he did Ezekiel, forget the dream and interpretation. Second, he could have given Daniel the dream with its interpretation and leave Nebuchadnezzar completely out of the loop. But that’s not what he did. What did the Lord do?
Nebuchadnezzar gets the dream without its interpretation. The wisemen’s wisdom is sought and found lacking. Daniel asks for time to pray and enlists his friends. The Lord reveals the mysterious dream with its interpretation to Daniel. Daniel goes to Nebuchadnezzar with his dream and interpretation. Nebuchadnezzar praises God and exalts Daniel and his friends.
By the Lord choosing to work in this way (involving these people in this revelation), we see at least six purposes of the dream, or maybe better, five results of the dream with its interpretation being given in this way.
- The wisemen’s inabilities were exposed. They decline in the king’s estimation. (minor)
- Daniel used his influence to promote his three friends to greater positions of power (minor) they become the key players of chapter 3.
- Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and made to acknowledge another Sovereign.
- God got a great name.
- The exiles were given hope.
Major Result #1 – Daniel was elevated to the King’s court. The Lord reveals his mysteries to Daniel and Daniel interprets dreams and visions.
The wisemen’s emphatic statement, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks!” arouses our anticipation for how Daniel would be that man. We see by repetition of key words in this text that one of its primary interests is to show God as the revealer of mysteries and Daniel as his instrument to interpret dreams and visions, reveals 8x, mysteries 8x, interpretations 11x, dreams 18x.
Tension builds and builds until the God of heaven reveals the dream with its interpretation to Daniel and after he does, it’s all denouement, all letting go and releasing of tension, all that is left is to inform the king. And that is how Daniel came to rise higher and higher in Nebuchadnezzar’s estimation and serve as the ruler of the entire province of Babylon and put in charge of all the wisemen.
All very reminiscent of another young handsome Hebrew rising to great prominence in a foreign court, all very Joseph-like. Pharoah had a dream and no one could interpret it. When Joseph was brought to Pharoah and was asked if he could interpret it he said, “I cannot do it…but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” Genesis 41:16 He then goes on to interpret the dream. When he is finished giving the interpretation Pharaoh said, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God? (the spirit of the holy gods is in him 5x in Daniel 4 and 5)
Then Pharoah said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you…you shall be in charge of my palace and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” Genesis 41:39, 40
Just as Joseph rose to power and influence in a foreign court and was the means of rescuing his people from famine in Egypt, so Daniel rose to power and influence in a foreign court and was the means of sustaining hope and comfort for the exiles in Babylon for decades to come.
This chapter shows us how Daniel is established as the Lord’s interpreter of dreams and visions. Not Shadrach, Meshach or Abednego, but Daniel. Daniel rises higher and all because of sovereign grace.
Lesson: The Lord apportions his gifts as he sees fit. We are not all given the same gifts.
Major Result #2 – Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and made to acknowledge another sovereign. His view of Daniel’s God was radically altered!
By giving the dream to Nebuchadnezzar, obviously the Lord intended him to be affected by it all. Nebuchadnezzar is a proud king and humanly speaking he had his reasons, we’ll see more of his pride in chapter 4. But this is the beginning of the Lord’s humbling Nebuchadnezzar before the real KING.
In verse 37 we see Daniel address Nebuchadnezzar in this way, “You, O King, are the king of kings.” When we read that we might react, “No Daniel, don’t call him the king of king, let’s reserve that title for the second person of the holy trinity, not him. Don’t call Nebuchadnezzar the king of kings, that arrogant, pompous, self-important, unbelieving enemy of God.”
Interestingly we see God referring to Nebuchadnezzar as the king of kings in Ezekiel 26:7. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: From the north I am going to bring against Tyre, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, king of kings…” But this is what Daniel goes on to say, “The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory…”
Nebuchadnezzar naturally assumed that his gods were more powerful than the gods of all the people he defeated and subdued. “If we defeat your people in battle, it is only proof that our gods are mightier than yours.” What Nebuchadnezzar failed to understand was that Israel’s God was giving his people into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand as punishment and discipline for national apostasy and intended to purify them in the fiery furnace of Babylon.
The message, “The God of heaven (the god you thought you defeated) has given you dominion and power and might and glory…” is a pretty tough pill to swallow for someone as proud as Nebuchadnezzar.
But he seems to have no choice except to believe the message. After all – “Here stands a man who bested all my wisemen, who has done the impossible, he told me exactly detail for detail what I dreamt and I’ve told no one!” And so he prostrates himself before Daniel, the Lord’s instrument, and praises Daniel’s God.
Lesson: The Lord detests arrogance and humbles those who exalt themselves. Are you a self-made man/woman? You, too, have your dominion, power, might and glory from the Sovereign God. Forsake your pride and fall on your knees next to Nebuchadnezzar before the throne of God. The real hero here is not Daniel; he would have been killed if God had not intervened.
Major Result #3 – The God of heaven got a great name for himself among other things. He is praised for knowing, controlling and revealing the future.
Exiles – live in hope because our God knows the future of all nations, of the church, of each individual. The future is hidden from our eyes. It lies in complete utter darkness. But, “He knows what lies in darkness and light dwells with him.” V. 22b
Can you imagine God calling in a Seraphim and saying, “There’s a galaxy out there so many billion light years away that (kind of) got out of my range. I’d like to have you visit it and bring back information so I’ll know how to run my universe.” I couldn’t worship a god like that; I’d pity him. I’d say, “What a wonderful big universe, but such a small god!” No, God never sends anybody out after information (he doesn’t already have). God has it instantly, perfectly and effortlessly. God knows all that there is. He never discovers anything. [Tozer]
That goes for the future. He sees it with perfect vision, from beginning to end. Nothing, large or small and no one, seemingly significant or insignificant, it hid from his eyes. He knows the succession of kings and empires. He knows who the world power will be in 25, 50, 100, and if he tarries, 1000 years from now. He knows who is building weapons of mass destruction in secret and where they are hiding and he is neither alarmed nor worried.
He knows the future of his church. He knows where the church will be most alive and vibrant, when and where the next great awakening will take place, which nation will be most thoroughly Christian and send out the most missionaries. He knows when that particular hidden people group will get the gospel of John or the book of Romans in their own language. He knows from which sector of the world the blood of his martyrs will flow. And, he is not even beginning to panic.
He knows our future, yours and mine, as families and individuals. “He knows when we sit and when we rise; he perceives our thoughts from afar. He discerns our going out and our lying down; he is familiar with all our ways. Before a word is on our tongue he knows it completely. He hems us in, behind and before. He has laid his hand upon us.” Psalm 139:2-5
He knows how long my company will exist, where I will get my next pay check, when and where I will be moved, under what circumstances I will raise my family and what will be the means that I am translated from this world to the next – will it seem tragic, cancer or an accident of sorts – or peaceful, go to sleep at the end of the day and wake up in eternity. There are a great many things that blindside us. We just never saw them coming. They just never entered our minds and have left us bewildered and apprehensive about the future.
Our God wants us to take comfort and live with a greater measure of hope because he knows the future of all nations. He knows the glorious future of his church and he knows everything coming our way and he is not afraid for us and doesn’t want us to be either.
Exiles: Live in hope, because our God controls the future.
The reason why he sees all future events and potentates that will affect his church and us as individuals is because he controls them, every one of them, great or small. When Nebuchadnezzar confesses that our God is the Lord of kings, he is only restating what Daniel confessed earlier. Our God “sets up kings and deposes them” v. 21b
The message of Daniel chapter 2, and for that matter chapters 4 and 5) to all past, present and future kings, presidents, prime ministers and dictators is the same as it was to Nebuchadnezzar. “However vast your domain, however enduring your reign, however fearsome your power and might, however blinding your glory, you would have none of it, if I did not give it to you. I raised you up and I will set you aside when you have served all my good and holy and wise purpose.”
If this book is about anything, it is about the absolute sovereignty of God over all nations and all peoples and all events. He controls the world he has made. In our catechism’s language, “He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” And he has foreordained it with infinite wisdom.
Dr. Packer says wisdom is “The power to see and the inclination to choose the best and highest goal together with the surest means of attaining it.” Tozer elaborates a bit more. “Wisdom…is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means. It sees the end from the beginning, so there can be no need to guess or conjecture. Wisdom sees everything in focus, each in proper relation to all and is thus able to work toward pre-determined goals with flawless precision.”
When world affairs are unsettling, when the direction the nation is heading is disturbing, when the church seems like it is limping along and when you and I are anxious about things to come, remember our Sovereign God has devised perfect ends and is achieving those ends by the most perfect means. He does not need a contingency plan, a plan “B”.
When unexpected and unsettling things happen to us …
“Perhaps he means to strengthen us in patience, compassion or humility, by giving us some extra practice in exercising these graces under especially difficult conditions. Perhaps he has new lessons in self-denial to teach us. Perhaps he wishes to break us of complacency or unreality or undetected forms of pride… Or perhaps he is preparing us for forms of service of which at present we have no inkling.” J.I. Packer
Whatever the Lord is doing, globally, nationally, church wide or personally, the book of Daniel wants us to know our God is working toward his pre-determined goals with flawless precision and great poise. The book wants us to be able to say and believe with great conviction – everything is working together for my good. My heavenly Father is constantly spreading around me providential circumstances that conspire to work together for my eternal good and highest happiness, day after day after day after day …. He wants his people to live in hope.
Exiles: Your God not only knows the future and controls it, he also reveals it. Live in hope, that is why our God reveals the future.
This is the only place in scripture where our God is given the title “the Revealer of Mysteries”. “The revealer of mysteries showed you Nebuchadnezzar, what will happen in days to come.” v 29
At the end of Daniel’s interpretation of the dream, Nebuchadnezzar praises God for being a revealer of mysteries among other things. Daniel also praises God for making the future known. There is a decided emphasis on God being the revealer of mysteries in this chapter.
Can you imagine having a Bible that was completely devoid of the final destiny of all nations and the church’s inevitable triumph! None of the apocalyptic literature found in the Bible anywhere, none of it in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah and Revelation, no knowledge of how it all ends. The future locked up in mystery, hidden in darkness. We would be perfectly justified in our apprehension, worry, panic and fear of things to come.
But it pleased God to make known, in broad strokes, where history is going and how it will all end, with representatives from every nation bowing before him as a part of his glorious triumphant Church and why!? For our present hope and comfort! “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
If anybody is able to stand with the virtuous wife of Proverbs 31 and “laugh at the days to come” it is those who’s God is the god of gods and Lord of Kings and Revealer of Mysteries!