Message 2 | Daniel 2:1-28 | November 12, 2017
Preface: The year is around 603 BC. It’s “in the second year of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar” (Dan 2:1). Daniel is about 15 or 16 years old. It’s possible that he is done with his three years of training but we’re not certain. The following conversation is obviously fictional and takes some liberties to accomplish its’ task but is rooted in the text of Daniel 2. Nebuchadnezzar is distraught and decides to go to his counselor.
Counselor: Good morning Your Imminence.
Nebuchadnezzar: Good morning.
Counselor: What brought you in this morning?
Nebuchadnezzar: I haven’t been able to sleep for a while and I’m feeling a lot of anxiety.
Counselor: Tell me what’s going on.
Nebuchadnezzar: Well, I’ve got this recurring dream that I just can’t shake. It’s really bothering me, and I’m feeling a little regret about how I’m handling it. Have you seen all the dung heaps outside? Yea, that was my handiwork.
Counselor: Wow! Yea, I have, but let’s start at the beginning. What’s the deal with your dream. Tell me about it.
Nebuchadnezzar: Well, there is this rather magnificent statue. It’s head is made of gold. It’s spectacular. It’s chest and arms were made of silver. It’s middle and thighs looked like bronze, and its legs were probably iron. Oddly enough, its feet were both iron and something else mixed with them, maybe some sort of clay (Dan 2:31-33)
Counselor: That really is pretty amazing your imminence, but what is so distressing about that. It sounds pretty interesting.
Nebuchadnezzar: Well it was. And at first I figured it was me or something but then this stone flew out of the sky and “struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces” and just wait it gets even worse. “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found” (Dan 2:34-35).
Counselor: Wow. I could see how that could be distressing if you thought you were tied to the image.
Nebuchadnezzar: For sure, but it gets worse. “The stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Dan 2:35b). Here’s my struggle. I get it. It’s just a dream, but I kept having it. It kept waking me up. I wasn’t sleeping well, and what worried me the most was that I wasn’t sure which part of the dream I was connected to. Was I the image, or part of the image, or was I the stone?
Counselor: Let me ask you a question. What if you were the image? What would most distress you about that? I can understand not liking the idea of a stone destroying you, but what exactly brought on all the anxiety?
Nebuchadnezzar: I’ve got a pretty amazing kingdom. I’m a pretty amazing king. Everyone does what I tell them to do. I have everything I want. I’m the emperor of the greatest kingdom ever. I don’t like the idea of someone else coming in and taking that all away from me.
Counselor: That’s understandable. None of us really enjoy having our comforts, possessions, prestige, or power taken away from us. We can get pretty testy when that happens, can’t we?
Nebuchadnezzar: I sure did.
Counselor: Let’s back up for just a moment. You said that you weren’t sure which part of the dream was referring to you. Have you figured it out since then?
Nebuchadnezzar: I did, but not until after a bit of drama.
Counselor: Oh I see. What happened?
Nebuchadnezzar: Well. Of course I was wanting to understand what my dream meant, so like any other king I was thinking that I would go talk to the wise men about it. I had them all come in and I told them that I wanted them to tell me the dream and the interpretation to the dream (2:2-3).
Counselor: Well that’s unusual. You asked them to tell you the dream itself?
Nebuchadnezzar: Yea. That was where the rub came in.
Counselor: I would imagine so. Has any king ever expected his wise men to tell him the dream? I mean, I know they do a good job of interpreting their dream books and coming up with plausible interpretations, but I’ve never heard of any king demanding that they tell him the dream itself.
Nebuchadnezzar: You’re right. That was their complaint too. I don’t know of any king that has required that. But, to be honest, I don’t really want my father’s wise men around anymore. I’d prefer to bring in my own guys. I’m not very confident that they are quite as divine as they all act. I thought this would be a good test of their divine abilities. If they could tell me my dream, I would be pretty confident that their interpretation would be right.
Counselor: Well, what if they couldn’t?
Nebuchadnezzar: Well, that’s where the dung heaps come in.
Counselor: Oh please tell.
Nebuchadnezzar: I told them that if they couldn’t provide both my dream and the interpretation that I would kill all of them . . . by tearing them limb from limb . . . okay, I know that’s pretty dramatic . . . but it gets worse . . . I would destroy their families and make their homes a dung heap (2:5) . . .
Counselor: Yikes! That seems a little over the top.
Nebuchadnezzar: Before you get all judgmental and psychoanalyze me, I also told them that if they did show me the dream and its interpretation that I would give them great gifts, rewards, and honor (2:6).
Counselor: How gracious of you . I’m guessing that the reward idea got a little lost in the idea of being torn limb from limb along with their families and having their homes destroyed.
Nebuchadnezzar: Yea, at first they tried to finagle their way out of it. I knew they were just trying to get some time to think up some creative and imaginary story (2:9). I reminded them that my decision was firm (2:5a). Of course they pushed back and reminded me that no man on earth could do what I was demanding . . . and that no king had ever asked his wise men to do such an outrageous thing . . . and that only the gods could do what I was asking (2:10-11) . . . that was kind of the point. I wanted to know that the gods were interpreting my dream and not just some creative and well experienced wise men.
Counselor: So were any of them able to tell you anything.
Nebuchadnezzar: Not at first, but eventually . . . yes.
Counselor: Oh, I’d love to hear more about that, but before we do let me back up just a moment . . . again. Is it fair to say that you had an unreasonable demand and when you didn’t get what you wanted you found people to blame and then judged and condemned them for not giving you what you wanted?
Nebuchadnezzar: I suppose, but doesn’t everyone do that.
Counselor: Yes. In fact most people do that exact same thing. I don’t know too many people that have torn people from limb to limb when they didn’t get their way, but it is true that everyone struggles blaming and punishing people when they don’t get their way. We tend to get upset when others either take away something from us that we already have or keep something from us that we want. We can be very demanding and when our demands are not met we become upset with those that we think are to blame and we punish them in some way. . . . but let’s go back to what happened. You mentioned that someone was able to eventually tell you both your dream and the interpretation.
Nebuchadnezzar: Right, but not until after I had already sent out Arioch to kill everyone (2:12-13). You know how when we conquer a group of people, we often take some of their best youth and train them here in Babylon. . . . well, there’s this young group of Israelites that we took a couple of years ago. They weren’t at my initial “meeting” with the wise men, but they are part of the wise men group. Anyway, Arioch went to their home to get them and kill them . . . Belteshazzar, who had been Daniel, responded with “prudence and discretion.” This young man and his friends have been pretty impressive. From what Arioch tells me, Belteshazzar was really calm and asked if he could talk with me. . . . Of course, at this point, I was all ears. I would love for someone to do what no man has ever done and what only the gods can do. Yea, he came in and talked with me . . . and he simply asked for some time and that he would tell me both the dream and the interpretation.
Counselor: Wow! That’s amazing. And, did he?
Nebuchadnezzar: He did and that’s one of the things that got me so distressed.
Counselor: One of the things? Are there a couple of things?
Nebuchadnezzar: Yea. First, the way this kid responded to all this made me see how overly dramatic I had been and also the meaning of the dream ended up not really going in my favor.
Counselor: Tell me about how he responded.
Nebuchadnezzar: I already told you how calm he was when Arioch came to kill him and how he came in and respectfully asked me for a little time. Like I said, I granted him a little time . . . and then apparently he went back to his house and got his three friends and all four of them prayed to their God together. I asked him the next day how he had acquired the dream and the interpretation, and he told me that he had gotten it in a vision at night. That means he went back and prayed to his God and then went to sleep . . . that really irritates me . . . I can’t get any sleep because I’ve got this crazy dream going on in my head . . . Belteshazzar’s about to be killed and he trusts that his God is going to take care of him to such a degree that he can go to sleep (2:17-19).
The next day, Arioch brought Belteshazzar back to me. Arioch is so irritating. He comes in as if he’s done all the work and says, “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation” (2:25). Anyway what was most irritating was while Arioch takes all the credit, and I’m killing people who don’t do what I want . . . this kid who can actually know the mind of his God doesn’t take any of the credit, but instead redirects all the applause to his God . . . he said something like . . .
“No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind. (Daniel 2:27–30 ESV).
Counselor: So then, let me draw a quick comparison. You want stuff, right? You want to keep your power, prestige . . . all your stuff . . . right? You also want the wise men to do something that even you’ve admitted is unprecedented and can only be accomplished by the gods. When you don’t get your way, you begin to kill a bunch of people and destroy their families and homes.
On the other hand, this young Belteshazzar is about to have his very life taken from him and instead of reacting out of anger he calmly responds to those threatening his life and then has such trust in his God that he prays, goes to sleep, and gets the dream and interpretation in his sleep. And then instead of taking all the glory, he proclaims how amazing his God is. That really is commendable.
Nebuchadnezzar: Yea, and really annoying as well.
Counselor: Well, your imminence. Our time is up for today. Next week I would like you to come in and tell me more about the interpretation to your vision and why it was so distressing to you.
The contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel in this passage couldn’t be more clear. In the midst of adversity Nebuchadnezzar felt the emotion of great anxiety. He was anxious because he feared something was going to be taken away from him. As a result of this demanding and anxious heart, he couldn’t sleep and he went to those who had the best shot at helping him. They failed him. He then lashed out in anger at them and demanded all of their gruesome deaths.
On the other hand, Daniel is thrown into great adversity as well but to no fault of his own. Instead of anxiety and fear over losing his own life, he has a sense of calm and peace that is founded in his trust in God. Instead of being demanding he calmly requests time. Instead of his fear keeping him from sleep, he prays to God and goes to bed. Instead of lashing out at those who are threatening him, he respectfully approaches them.
This is not because Daniel is so much less of a sinner than Nebuchadnezzar – although there most certainly were notable differences. The primary difference is that Daniel trusted in the sovereign control of his God, and Nebuchadnezzar was entirely self-reliant. Which brings us to our purpose statement this morning.
Purpose Statement. Peace and contentment amidst adversity only comes on the heels of complete trust in God’s sovereignty.
We are often like Nebuchadnezzar. We become anxious when we fear losing something we presently possess or fear not getting something we desire to have. Take a moment to consider an example for each of those in your life. What do you presently possess that you fear losing?
Kids: forms of entertainment, screen time, friendships, sports or a hobby.
Teens: relationships, popularity or particular people’s favor, a spot on a team.
Adults: job, spouse, friendships, other’s favorable opinion, comfort, retirement.
We can as well fear not getting something we are looking forward to getting – a child looking forward to a phone at a particular age, a teenager looking forward to a vehicle, an adult looking forward to a job they think they’ve secured.
When you don’t get something you want or lose something you have, how do you respond? Do you lash out at those you’ve deemed responsible. This is why James writes in chapter 4
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. . . . 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:1–3 ESV).
In contrast, do you believe that God’s sovereign plan for you is what is best? God has promised that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). If everything happens for God’s glory and our good, then there is no reason for us to be anxious about anything. It’s only when we take our view off of God’s sovereign and loving plan and focus on what we want that we become anxious and demanding.
But what if God’s sovereignty results in my difficulty or hardship? God’s sovereignty involved Daniel’s difficulty and hardship. We often struggle thinking or wondering whether or not God forgot about us when we go through difficult times. It is not natural for us to look at really difficult challenges as an opportunity to be molded by God or be used by God to bring glory to Himself. And yet, that is exactly what happens in this story with Daniel. It is because of events like this and Daniel’s appropriate response in the midst of them that God raised him up to a significant position in the government. More importantly, God was magnificently glorified through it all.
It is true that Nebuchadnezzar is the polar opposite of Daniel in this particular chapter, but wonderfully this does not always remain the case. A few chapters and a few more years pass and we see a very different Nebuchadnezzar.
King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation. (Daniel 4:1–3 ESV).
Nebuchadnezzar then unfolds for the reader a vision he had, Daniel’s interpretation of the vision, and his following 7 years of humiliating boanthropy where he lived in the fields like an animal and grew out nails like bird claws and grew hair like eagle’s feathers. At the end of these seven years, he writes.
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34–35 ESV).
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (Daniel 4:37 ESV).