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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:The great God reveals his sovereign power to Nebuchadnezzar
Text:Daniel 2:24-45 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2010
Added:2010-06-14
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 63
Psalm 143:1,4,5,6 (after the law)
Psalm 72:1-5
Augment Hymn 6 (Jesus Shall Reign)
Psalm 91

Reading: Daniel 2
Text: Daniel 2:24-45
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus,

 

“It is said that we have ten seconds when we wake of a morning, to remember what it was we dreamed the night before.  Notes in the dark, eyes closed, catch bits and shards and find what the dreamer is living, and what the dreaming self would say to the self awake.

 

I tried that for a while with a tape recorder, talking my dreams into a little battery-powered thing by the pillow, the moment I woke.  It didn’t work.  I remembered for a few seconds what had happened in the night, but I could never understand later what the sounds on the tape were saying.  There was only this odd croaking tomb voice, hollow and old as some crypt door, as though sleep were death itself. 

 

A pen with paper worked better, and when I learned not to write one line on top of another, I began to know about the travels of that part of me that never sleeps at all...”

 

Those prosaic words open Richard Bach’s book A Gift of Wings.  It captures a common human experience:  vivid dreams that you’re hard pressed to later remember and the strategies that people will use to try and remember them.

 

This is what happens in Daniel 2 with the Babylonian king.  Nebuchadnezzar had a powerful, vivid dream, but when he woke up, for the life of him he couldn’t remember anymore what the dream was.  But he knew it was an extraordinary dream and he knew that such dreams were never meaningless.  It troubled him greatly that he couldn’t know.  He lost sleep over it. 

 

Thankfully, the king had experts in his court who specialized in dreams and such things.  All they needed was for the king to remember the dream and then they could interpret it for him.  No problem.  But there was a problem:  Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t remember.  He didn’t have a tape recorder beside his pillow and hadn’t written it down either.  He thought that his experts should have been able to fill him in.  And when they couldn’t, he flew into a rage and called for their execution.  Their protests about the impossible task that they’d been given didn’t change anything.  Nebuchadnezzar was implacable. 

 

Among those to be executed were Daniel and his friends.  Daniel hadn’t heard about the king’s dream, but when he found out, he went to the king and asked for and received a bit of time.  Daniel explained what had happened to Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah and asked them to pray.  God heard their prayer and revealed the whole matter to Daniel in another vision or dream.  Daniel thanked and praised God and then made his way to the palace to reveal the dream and its interpretation. 

 

What’s happening here is that God is going after Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.  God brought the exiles to Babylon also for this reason: to reveal himself to these Gentiles as the great God of heaven, the only true God.  God wanted Nebuchadnezzar and indeed all people -- including his own who were in exile -- he wanted everyone to know that he is the God who has sovereign power over everything.  This morning I preach to you God’s Word and we’ll see that The great God reveals his sovereign power to Nebuchadnezzar.  We’ll see that this power is revealed in:

 

1.      The giving, telling, and interpreting of dreams

2.      The smashing, breaking and crushing of kingdoms

 

Arioch was the one who’d been given the task to execute all the wise men, including Daniel and his three friends.  Daniel goes to him and lets him know that he can put his sword away.  He asks him to take him to the king to let him interpret the dream.

 

Arioch did that.  He said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”  Some commentators say that Arioch was pridefully trying to take some credit here.  It’s possible, but it’s also equally possible that Arioch was simply saying that a solution had been found.  It would appear from the original text that Arioch was not placing the emphasis and attention on himself, but just stating a fact.  It’s best not to make too much out of the words, “I have found a man...” 

 

Nebuchadnezzar was intrigued by this and asked Daniel whether he would actually be able to do this.  In Daniel’s answer, he first drew attention to the fact that none of the Babylonian experts were able to make the secret known to the king.  They couldn’t tell what the dream was and so they weren’t able to explain it either.  They were hamstrung.  Human beings were hopeless against this challenge. 

 

But then Daniel drew the king’s attention upward.  He said that there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets and mysteries.  This God is the one who gave Nebuchadnezzar his dream in the first place.  God is the one who reveals what is to come.  God is the one who both knows the future and who has planned everything that happens in the future.  Then, if he wishes, he makes that known to whomever he wants to.  The giving of these sorts of dreams where the future is revealed is the sovereign God’s work.

 

Dreams and visions are found throughout the Bible.  Think of Abraham and Jacob.  In the New Testament think of Joseph and Paul.  There are many examples.  God used these things to reveal himself, his will, and his plans for the future.  Of course, that raises the question of whether or not God will still give dreams and visions for revelation today.  Loved ones, we have what Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and Paul never had:  the completed Word of God.  The Bible is God’s final and definitive revelation to us.  While we cannot bind God or say that it is a complete impossibility that God might still use a dream in certain contexts, the normal way that God reveals himself to us today is through the 66 books of the Old and New Testament.  He wants us today to listen to his Word, not to chase after dreams.  Dreams may tell you something about yourself and what’s on your mind and what’s in your heart, but the Word of God is where you should go to find the will of God and his normative truth.

 

Getting back to our text, Daniel has been given a revelation of what Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was about.  Daniel is able to tell what the Babylonian experts were not able to.  But he hastened to make it clear that this is not because of anything in him.  It’s not because he was smarter or wiser, but because God had made it known to him.  God had given the dream, and God also gave the knowledge of the dream to Daniel. 

 

But that knowledge would have been useless apart from an understanding of what the dream means.  God gave that to Daniel as well.  Again, this is not because of Daniel’s stature or innate abilities, but through God’s grace.  Daniel knows and understands because God has graciously revealed these things to him. 

 

Isn’t that the way it always is with believers?  Think of what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2.  He says that the unimaginable has been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit – we have a secret wisdom, the wisdom of the cross which is foolishness to the world.  Through the Spirit we understand the revelation that has been given.  Our eyes are opened to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And again, that’s not because we are so intelligent and so distinguished above the rest of the people in the world.  It’s all of grace, undeserved from first to last.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”  All our understanding of God’s revelation comes from the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in us, opening our hearts, minds, and wills to grasp God’s truth.  For this reason, we always pray for the help of the Holy Spirit.  We need him to be here with us in church as we read Scripture and hear it proclaimed.  We need him to be there with us in our homes when we read the Bible together in family worship.  We need him with us as we read the Bible by ourselves.  Without him we’re as blind as Nebuchadnezzar and all his Babylonian experts. 

 

God gave the dream, the telling of the dream, and the interpretation of the dream.  But then what was this dream?  Well, we read it together so you know that it involved this great and impressive image, a statue that Scripture says was dazzling and awesome.  As an aside here, this foreshadows the image that Nebuchadnezzar himself makes in chapter 3 – an image or statue that was ninety feet high and nine feet wide – although that statue was far more impressive in some ways, I mean, after all it was made entirely out of gold, whereas in his dream the statue only has a head of gold.  So, yes, a statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet partly of iron and partly of clay.  A rock was cut out by hands that were not human, the rock struck the statue and destroyed it – in fact, the whole thing was ground up into powder that blew away like chaff, like the leftover pieces of grass from a threshing floor.  A threshing floor was a place where the harvested grain would be brought, it was usually on a high exposed location where the wind would blow.  The grain stalks would be tossed up in the air and the wind would blow the useless parts and the heavier grain would fall back down.  Here the statue is ground up like those useless parts and the wind blows it away.  The rock however, grows bigger and bigger and becomes a big mountain and fills the entire earth. 

 

When he begins to explain the dream, Daniel takes a careful approach.  He butters Nebuchadnezzar up, he flatters him:  you are a king of kings and so on.  He knows that Nebuchadnezzar is a volatile person and you have to tread carefully around him.  He wants to soften the blow of what is about to come.  So, Daniel speaks highly of him and of his kingdom.  You know, it’s not totally insincere or false praise.  Babylon was a great and magnificent kingdom and Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest world ruler of his day.  Babylon had a long and distinguished history – we read about it already in Genesis 10, it was one of the centers of Nimrod’s kingdom.  Babylon was the location of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.  Its location between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers naturally made it prime real estate and a center of political and military power.

 

Babylon is the head of gold.  The silver chest and arms represent another kingdom to come, a kingdom that will be less magnificent in some respects.  The third kingdom of bronze represents another coming world power, and so does the one of iron with feet of a mixture of iron and clay. 

 

One of the key issues in Daniel is the identity of these kingdoms.  The head of gold is easy, because we’re explicitly told that it’s Babylon.  But the others have often been the subject of debate and disagreement.  Traditionally, they have been identified as Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.  Rome is then the iron legs with the feet of iron and clay.  I can’t see any reason why we shouldn’t follow the traditional identification.  God was revealing that there would be these four world empires before the coming of the Rock.  The Rock would appear during the last kingdom, the one of iron.  That kingdom would have feet of iron mixed with clay – which is to say that it has an achilles heel – the fact that it is a conglomerate, a mixture of all kinds of peoples from different ethnic backgrounds.  That would be the Roman empire’s great weakness. 

 

What would become of all these kingdoms?  They would come and go.  The value of the metals goes down as we moved from one kingdom to another, but their strength goes up, at least to a point.  They trade magnificence for strength, but in the end neither of these qualities can guarantee their durability, they all still fade away, and ultimately are crushed and destroyed.    

 

During the kingdom of iron, during the Roman empire, Daniel reveals that a stone will be cut out with hands that are not human.  In other words, this stone is cut out with God’s hands.  Many interpreters (especially in the early church) have seen this as a prophecy of the incarnation of Christ.  While the New Testament never directly explains it that way, it is true that Christ comes to the kingdoms of this world through the work of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.

 

What is explicit in the New Testament is that this rock is in fact Christ.  The Lord Jesus himself said it in Matthew 21:44 and Luke 20:18.   He quotes there from Daniel 2.  He is the rock that destroys earthly empires and kingdoms and grinds them up into dust.

 

Daniel prophesies of this king and his kingdom.  The kingdoms of this earth have a human origin.  The kingdom of the Rock has a divine origin – God cut it out.  The kingdoms of this earth have a temporary duration – they’re here and then they’re gone.  The kingdom of the Rock is eternal – Christ is an eternal king who cannot be without subjects.  The kingdoms of this earth have a power that is overcome by each succeeding kingdom – in a few years, Nebuchadnezzar’s own kingdom would fall to the Medes and Persians.  The kingdom of the Rock has a power that is unconquerable.  It will endure forever.  It expands and fills the earth as an enormous holy mountain.

 

The holy mountain of God figures prominently throughout the Bible.  The Bible begins with a garden on a mountain-top.  According to Ezekiel 28:14, the Garden of Eden was on top of a mountain.  The Bible ends with a city on a mountain-top that fills the new heaven and new earth.  There are several places in Scripture that fill in the development of this picture, for example in the last chapters of Ezekiel.  The point is that the kingdom of Christ is unstoppable and heaven and earth and everything in them will some day acknowledge his reign. 

 

The message of the dream is really the same message found in Psalm 2.  Psalm 2 is the only place in the Bible where we read about God laughing.  And then it’s not a good-humored, mirthful laugh, but a laugh of derision at the nations and kingdoms that exalt themselves against him and against his Anointed One, his Messiah, his Christ.  The kingdoms of this world need to listen up and be warned:  “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way.” 

 

A bunch of years ago, there was a piece of religious kitsch, a picture that had an image of a person who was supposed to be Jesus, larger than life, standing next to the United Nations building in New York City, knocking.  The message seemed to be, “Won’t you please let me in?”  That’s not the message of Psalm 2 and that’s not the message of Daniel 2.  Jesus is not asking you to make room for him, to please be so kind as to let him in.  He is warning, “You empires and nations:  your days are numbered.  My kingdom will be all in all and I will be exalted over you.  You think you’re mighty and powerful, that nothing can stop you.  You haven’t understood the sovereign power of the great God of heaven.  Your empires and nations are dust.”  The present-day kingdoms may appear strong in some ways, but they too will not last forever.

 

This dream was a revelation to Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians first of all.  God was calling out to them to submit to him and to recognize his sovereign power.  But there was also a message here for the first readers of Daniel – the covenant children of God.  They were in exile because they hadn’t submitted to God and his power.  They had refused to trust him, to believe in him, to love him and follow his ways.  The revelation to Nebuchadnezzar was also a message for them:  “You’re in exile because I put you here.  Kings do what I determine and ordain.  Kings rise and kings fall and it’s all in my plan.  Don’t put your trust in men no matter how high and mighty, don’t put your trust in false gods.  Trust me and my sovereign power and when that rock appears, it will not crush and break you.”

 

Loved ones, our God also revealed this dream for our sakes.  He calls out to us too to trust him and in his Son whom he sent to be the Rock.  Through God’s sovereign power, his kingdom is growing now.  It grows in ways that human beings don’t understand apart from the Holy Spirit.  Human beings expect earthly glory and majesty and magnificence.  That’s not the way of our Saviour.  His kingdom grows through suffering and humility, through the foolishness of the gospel of the cross.  So, he says, don’t trust in earthly power and might, in politics and so on.  Instead, look to me and to my Son.  Look to my sovereign power revealed in him and his reign.  Believe that I have all things in my hand because I love you.  Rather than being destroyed by the Rock, let yourselves be built on the Rock through faith in him.  Indeed, “the dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”  AMEN.      

 

Prayer:

 

O great God of heaven,

 

Praise be to your name for ever and ever.  Wisdom and power belong to you.  You change times and seasons, you set up kings and you depose them.  You give wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.  You reveal deep and hidden things.  You know what lies in the darkness and light dwells with you.  We thank and praise you, O God of our fathers.  You have given wisdom and power to Daniel and to your servants in times past and present.  You have made known what was asked of you – you have made know the dream of the king.  We pray that you would help us with your Holy Spirit to embrace the revelation found in your Word.  Please lead us to always look to the Rock, to be built on him.  Father, we also pray for the kingdoms of this world, and especially for our own governments.  We pray for Prime Minister Harper and for his cabinet.  We pray that they would recognize the rule of your Son and govern accordingly.  We pray for our premier and our provincial government.  We ask that you would turn his heart also towards King Jesus, so that our province would be governed in a way that pleases you and is truly good for its citizens.  We pray for our local authorities for our mayor and our city council.  We ask that they too would submit to the true King on high and his eternal reign. 

 

Father, please also hear our prayer for those in our congregation who have concerns...     

 

                                               




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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