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Daniel 2

September 27, 2020

As I shared with you all a couple weeks ago, Callie and I are expecting and during these first few months of being pregnant, Callie often has weird dreams that she can’t fully piece together or make sense of. And so there have been a few dreams - like how she walked over and knocked on our neighbor’s front door asking if she could borrow some paprika or how she went to her old job as a middle school counselor but forgot to wear shoes. What the deeper meaning of these dreams are, Lord only knows, and personally, for my sake and my marriage’s sake, I’m probably better off not speculating.

All this said, dreams are weird, strange, mysterious things and given that the Book of Daniel is a weird, strange and mysterious book, it’s should be no surprise that a dream and the search for the deeper meaning behind it is what the next part of the book is all about.

We’re currently in Week 3 of a sermon series on the Old Testament Book of Daniel, where Daniel and his friends, find themselves in exile, strangers in the foreign land of Babylon, under the reign and rule of King Nebuchadnezzar, and so far we’ve seen Daniel and his friends engage the culture in all the right ways, challenging and blessing and serving the greater culture, living boldly, courageously and faithfully, all while staying true to their values, while living out of a devotion to and dependence on God himself.

And today, as we take a deeper look at Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the deeper meaning behind it and the truths it points to, we’ll get a better understanding as to how they were able to live such courageous and faithful lives.

So let’s quickly set up the scene of Daniel 2. Turns out we have quite a bit of recapping to do, because believe it or not, the scripture that was just read was only a quarter or so of the chapter itself. So hang in there with me for the next 5 minutes or so, we’ve got to do a pretty intense deep dive, but I promise we’ll come up for air in not too long.

The chapter begins by telling us that -

In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed such dreams that his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. 

Now as for why Nebuchadnezzar was so troubled by his dreams was in part because of what the Babylonians believed about dreams themselves. And that is, rather than dreams being the stuff of psychoanalytics and helping uncover our deepest, unconscious desires, the Babylonians saw dreams as a way in which their gods would communicate with them, particularly when it came to truths concerning the future. (Now, to be clear, we as Christians today don’t understand dreams in this same way.) Nevertheless, Nebuchadnezzar is desperate to figure out the deeper meaning and interpretation of this dream – he needs to know what his god is trying to tell him, what he might be trying to communicate to him about the future.

And so first he goes to his magicians, enchanters and sorcerers – these were his dream specialists if you will – to see if they’ll give him the interpretation. And so King Nebuchadnezzar asks for both the dream and interpretation, which is an impossible request – (after all, if I can’t even begin to interpret Callie’s crazy dreams, then I certainly can’t tell her what she dreamed in the first place)

And so, it’s an impossible request and the after the king’s dream specialists tell him so, King Nebuchadnezzar, in a wild fit of rage, calls for their execution, and not just them but all of the wise men in the king’s court, Daniel and his friends included.

And this is where Daniel steps in, he asks one of the king’s officials for some time to figure out the dream and its interpretation. And so Daniel and his friends go home, where they pray and call out to God, asking for mercy. And later that night the text says, the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. And so Daniel, after praising God, goes to King Nebuchadnezzar and tells him the dream and its interpretation.

First he shares the dream, there was a statue – a brilliant, extraordinary statue, made of gold and silver and bronze and iron and clay. And then comes a stone, a simple, ordinary stone not made of human hands that struck the statue, broke it into pieces and destroyed it completely. And then, over time, that stone would go on to fill the whole earth.

And Daniel says, you Nebuchadnezzar and your kingdom in Babylon are the gold part of the statue, majestic and powerful. The other parts of the statue are future kingdoms that will come after you, and in the end all of them will be destroyed and crushed by the stone, which is the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that will reign and stand forever.

So there you have it. That’s Daniel Chapter 2, the story, the dream, and the interpretation. And if your brain right now feels about as foggy and confused as it does after waking up from a strange dream, well that’s okay and I’m sure you’re not alone. Let’s come up for air and in doing so I want you to see three things, three truths that this dream is meant to teach not just King Nebuchadnezzar, but you and me too.

All our power and authority is temporary and borrowed, so use it accordingly.

In many ways, King Nebuchadnezzar seems to have had it all. At the time of this dream, he’s the king of the greatest power and nation on earth, he has wealth and power, authority and influence and yet in this dream, he’s told that not only will his kingdom end some day as another kingdom takes over, but even more, he’s told that his power and authority has been given to him by the God of heaven, and that just as God gives, God takes away.

All this to say, all our power and authority is temporary and borrowed, so use it accordingly.

So therefore, whatever power and authority may have, whether it be as a parent within the home, as a boss or manager within the workplace, as a volunteer position within the community, or as an elder within the church, hold it with an open hand, after all it is temporary, and don’t let it go to your head, it’s been given to you by God himself and you and I are called to steward it well on God’s behalf.

If you’re a parent, you’ve got 936 weeks from birth to graduation to raise your child. 936 weeks, which may feel like forever or like nothing at all depending on how you look at it. Nevertheless, you’ve got 936 weeks to raise your kid, so steward it well, as if God has placed you in that role on purpose, because he has! You’ve only got a few hundred weeks, and if I understand parenting teenagers correctly, by then you’ll already begin to feel that power and authority slipping away J

If you’re a boss or leader in the place you work (or really any position for that matter), work and lead as if someone will one day take your place. Rather than creating an environment where everything depends on you, create something that can thrive without you. Raise up leaders and people who can take your place.

Whatever power and authority you may have, ask this question – “What would Jesus do if he were you?” If he were you the parent, or you the mid level manager or you the coach, how would he parent, how would he lead, how would he teach if he were you?

All our power and authority is temporary and borrowed, so use it accordingly.

Our kingdoms, though impressive will not last, so be humble.

In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he and his kingdom are represented by a statue. And consider for a moment the role and purpose of a statue – they’re often meant to honor or celebrate the thing being memorialized. And because of their size and stature, statues are meant to stand out, to draw people’s attention, and through their glitz and glamor, they are often hard to miss.

And in many ways, when it came to the kingdom that Nebuchadnezzar was building and the little kingdoms that we set up for ourselves, we often try and create something impressive, maybe even glitzy and glamorous, but yet, if we do so for purely for our own glory and praise, though it may be impressive, it will not last.

Therefore, be humble. View all that you have as a gift from God. See all the skills and talents he has given us as a blessing from God. When people shower you with praise and approval, give it praise to whomever it truly belongs to, whether it’s another person or God himself.

Daniel chapter 2 is an interesting character study of sorts, a compare and contrast with Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar.

When Daniel is asked by Nebuchadnezzar if he is able to tell him his dream and its interpretation, Daniel says this,

“No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or diviners can show to the king the mystery that the king is asking, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries

What a beautiful, humble and godly response. Daniel, though he had been given the dream and interpretation, didn’t seek his own praise and approval, rather he rightly and humbly gave credit to the God in heaven who revealed the mystery to him.

This is in contrast to Nebuchadnezzar, who after being told the dream and interpretation, though he initially fell on his face and worshipped Daniel’s God, quickly reverted back to his old ways. For by the beginning of chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar had of all things, a statue of gold made for him in his honor. Apparently, he either forgot or didn’t realize the meaning of the dream itself.

Our kingdoms, though impressive will not last, so be humble.

God’s kingdom, though unimpressive will last forever, so take heart.

The dream ends with a stone that crushes all these earthly kingdoms, bringing each one to its end. A simple stone of all things, not from human hands but the things of God, will be what brings down and humbles the statues and kingdoms of this earth. In the end, God’s kingdom, His rule and reign is what will truly last forever.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the election lately and what it all means for the future of our country. I’ll be honest and say that often times when I watch the news I’m often pretty discouraged by what I see and hear. And maybe I’m being a prisoner of the moment, and somewhat naïve to what many in our congregation have experienced in decades past, but in my lifetime, I’ve never seen our country more divided and political climate more toxic.

I’ve been trying to pay attention to the arguments of each political party and I think when you strip away all of the policies and rhetoric, the argument of each party is on one hand pretty simple yet also pretty grim.

Where the left says to the right, “If you vote for the other guy, it’s the end of the world as we know it.” And similarly, the right says to the left, “If you vote for the other guy, it’s the end of the world as we know it.”

And friends, here’s my plea, regardless of what side of the aisle you find yourself on, don’t drink the Kool-aid. Don’t buy into the fear mongering. And don’t let this political moment drive you to despair.

That’s not to say that elections don’t matter or that there aren’t consequences to whomever is in office. Of course there are.

Rather, consider where Daniel and his friends were at this moment. They were under the reign and power of the evil king Nebuchadnezzar, yes the guy who just threatened to kill all the wise men for not being able to interpret his dream. Whatever you believe about the political opposition and the state of our country today, remember this, it’s been worse. Far worse. And yet kingdom of God will stand forever. The book of Daniel reminds us so. Friends, let’s have that kind of perspective, that kind of humility, that kind of hope over the next six weeks.

I’ll finish with this.

Just about every scholar believes that the stone that appeared in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream refers to Jesus, in part because Jesus himself quoted this part of Daniel towards the end of life.

And in doing so, Jesus was reminding all those around him that he in fact was the stone that would crush and ultimately claim victory over the kingdoms of this world.

Because for Jesus, as he said those words, as he quoted Daniel, he was currently sitting under the power and authority of the Roman empire, in many ways, not that different from Babylon some 500 years prior. Both were kingdoms that acquired their status in the world through power and strength, glory and conquest. And here’s Jesus, saying that all kingdoms like them will be defeated in a radically different way – not through power or the sword, but rather through suffering and death, Jesus’s death on the cross.

Friends, whether you were Daniel and his friends in Babylon, Jesus and his disciples under Roman rule, or you and me living in America today, we need to commit ourselves to serving in and longing for a better and different kingdom. Where if we want to be a part of the kingdom that will last forever, we must align ourselves with the King who ushered in a new kingdom, Jesus himself.

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