For more in this series and other series presented by Simon Manchester, visit the Christian Growth podcast page.
Good morning, All Saints Family. Good to be with you. Let’s bow our heads and pray, and ask God’s help. Loving father, as we turn to the word that you have caused to be written, we pray that you would help us to receive it, to benefit from it, and in your goodness to trust and obey. We ask it in Jesus name. Amen.
There is a story of Kerry Packer. You remember Kerry Packer, the media tycoon, the media tyrant, who was at home on one occasion, watching the races, the horse racing on television. And the commentator, who was one of his employees, was wearing an open neck shirt. And so Packer reached for the phone, rang direct to the studio and said, “Tell him to put on a tie.” Well, after the ad break, the guy still had an open neck shirt, so Packer reached for the phone again and rang and said, “Tell him to put on a tie or he will be calling the camel races in the desert.”
After the ad break, there he still was with the open neck tie. So Packer reached for the phone for the third time, but before he could produce a thousand expletives on the phone, the secretary said, “Mr. Packer, Mr. Packer, all of this has been prerecorded.” And that is a good example, I think, of being the very powerful person that Packer was, but still not having the control over everything that he would like. And it doesn’t matter how powerful you are, there are still things that are beyond your control. And learning that you do not have control over the future, your soul, is one of the great first lessons of eternal life. Well, we’re looking at the book of Daniel, we’re in chapter two in our little series. And we see that in this chapter that God, the King, brings an earthly king to his senses, and to the point of complete helplessness.
The earthly king was Nebuchadnezzar, he was the king of Babylon. This is the seventh century BC. Nebuchadnezzar had recently conquered Jerusalem and had taken a whole lot of the people into captivity in Babylon. He was a very powerful man. One writer says that he had begun to make Babylon a wonder of the world, a city of learning, wisdom, and beauty. He conquered far and wide, he dispensed justice, he housed the fugitive, and he made the whole land happy. This was Nebuchadnezzar, philanthropist, benefactor, architect, and builder. No one matched him, no one challenged him. He was secure, popular, respected, and feared. And he worshiped the gods Marduk and Nabu. Well, how is God possibly going to reach such a powerful figure? And the answer, of course, is that He will reach him any way He wants to. And He chooses to reach Nebuchadnezzar through a dream or a nightmare that frightens him.
And I wanted to think about these chapter under two headings this morning, the first is The Only God Who Speaks, and the second is The Only God Who Remains. First of all, The Only God Who Speaks chapter two, one to 28. We read in verse one that Nebuchadnezzar had dreams. He was troubled and he couldn’t sleep. We know, of course, that dreams can be very revealing. One man, who was a bit of an expert on dreams was the Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, and he says that people who have unrealistic ideas, or too high an opinion of themselves, or who make grandiose plans out of proportion to their real capacities, have dreams of flying or falling. The dream either compensates for the deficiencies of their personalities, or it warns them of the dangers in their present course. Well, there is an interesting insight on the psychology of dreams, but this of course is a supernatural event because God is reaching a pagan king to bring him to his senses, perhaps to bring him to faith. And He’s also seeking to reach the kingdom and bring it to its senses as well, and of course, He’s aiming to reveal that He is the King of all Kings.
Well, we know that the dreams that Nebuchadnezzar has been having petrify him because he calls all his wise men together. He will not settle for just an interpretation. This is very clever on Nebuchadnezzar’s part, because you could imagine that if he told the dream that the interpreters could then come in and they could say something very flattering, as a way of keeping the king happy and making sure that their jobs were secure. Just as if you listen to the psychics on talk back radio as you’re driving in the evening, you’ll discover that they always say things that are flattering, or pleasing, or pleasant. Well, Nebuchadnezzar is too frightened to fall for that. He insists that they tell the dream and the interpretation. Then he will know that they can be trusted, and he will know that they know what they’re talking about, and he will have some relief.
So he’s completely out of his depth, and the gurus are also completely out of their depth. They say to the king in chapter two, verse 10, “Nobody can do this, and nobody’s ever asked for this, this is humanly impossible. Only the gods,” they say, “could solve this.” Well, here was a beautiful example of God, easily humbling a palace. Daniel himself knows that it’s humanly impossible. He’s part of the wise men who are about to die if they cannot come up with the dream and the interpretation, and so he asks the king for some time in verse 16. He gathers his friends to pray in verse 18, and God gave him the secret information, the dream and the interpretation. When Daniel eventually fronts the king, he takes great care to say to the king, “Nobody but the God of Heaven could provide this information.” In other words, “I’m telling you king, what He told to me.”
This great book of Daniel is about God the King ruling the kingdoms of the earth. And here in chapter two, there is a clash between reason, which is very limited, and revelation, which comes from God. Our reason, our ability to think and to reason, is capable of many great things. But unless God gives us revelation, we cannot know what sort of a God he is. We cannot know His character without the scriptures. We cannot know that He’s a Father without the coming of the Lord Jesus. We cannot know the way of salvation. We cannot know what the cross is all about. We cannot know what the future looks like, unless God gives us this information. That’s why the scriptures fill in what we cannot reason. And of course the scriptures therefore are not only merciful, but they’re also miraculous. I hope that you will never forget, and never fall into the trap of thinking that it’s our cleverness that makes us into believers, or that it’s our goodness that makes us into believers. No, without God, we are completely in the dark, intellectually and spiritually.
I noticed that one of the Australian swimmers who actually won a gold medal and sadly, whose father died last year, he hoping of course to have seen her swim a race. And she said that she just knew that her father was watching over her, and that her father was with her all the way. And we wouldn’t want to deny any of the grief of losing a father, but we do have to say that such talk is wishful thinking. We need more than wishful thinking. We need God telling us what is true, and it doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter whether you are the greatest king or the smallest child. The only answer to the question, “How can I be sure?” is that God speaks. And the only answer to the question, “How could I be safe?” is that Christ dies. So Nebuchadnezzar, you see, is learning that only God, only Yahweh, speaks the information that we need.
The second point this morning is The Only God Who Remains, that he’s the only God who stays, or endures, or continues. And this is chapter two, verses 29 to 49. The famous journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, who was a communist before he became a Christian, wrote this interesting sentence. He wrote, “The ultimate disaster that can befall us is …” I wonder how you would finish that sentence, the ultimate disaster that can befall us. And Muggeridge says it’s to feel ourselves to be at home here on earth. And it is so true, isn’t it? God has given us enough awareness, enough information, to make us a very humble people. We’re here on this earth very briefly. We are tiny little specks in the cosmos. It is a form of insanity for us to be proud, whether we’re humans or kings.
Well, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was of a huge statue. If you read the rest of the chapter, you’ll see that the dream involves a statue with a head of gold, a chest of silver, a belly of bronze, legs made of iron, and feet iron and clay. Somebody has pointed out that these metals are of decreasing value, but they are of increasing hardness. And we also discover that at the time when the iron kingdom is in place, there will be a rock that will suddenly appear, a rock not made with human hands, which will strike the statue and bring the whole thing to chuff. The statue will be reduced to nothing. The rock, the little rock, will turn into a mountain. And you don’t need much imagination to realize that if you had that dream impressed upon you, very forcefully, it would be quite a disturbing, frightening dream.
Well Daniel has been told not only the dream, but the interpretation. He could have interpreted very flatteringly. He could have said to the king, “Well, this is the dream.” And the king would have said, “You’re right.” And then Daniel could have said something like this. “You know, king, you’re the head of gold, and this rock is going to come and destroy all your enemies. You’re a wonderful king, and you will rule forever,” but he doesn’t. He tells the truth. He says, “Nebuchadnezzar, you’re the head of gold, but there is going to come another kingdom after you, and then there’ll come another kingdom after that, but soon they will become a kingdom, which will be forever.”
You may know, incidentally, the traditional view of these sections of this statue, gold, silver, bronze, iron. The traditional view is that these are the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. And it makes good sense when you consider that it’s in the time of Rome that this rock not made with human hands appears. You also may also know that some say these predictions are too clever for the sixth century BC when Daniel lived, and they say they must’ve been written in the second century BC, specially to comfort God’s people, who were going through a very hard time. But you will need to work out, dear friends, whether you believe the God of the Bible is clever enough to predict with accuracy, especially as we’re told in Isaiah 46, that it is the distinctive mark of God to tell us the future in the present.
It’s not too difficult for God to tell what is coming. You’ll notice also that in chapter two, verses 44 and following there is a prediction of a powerful kingdom, which is coming, which will be permanent, not made with human hands. So even if you did insist that these predictions were all second century BC, there is predictive accuracy here, and I can’t work out why you would dismiss the former predictions and hold onto the later prediction. I’ve never been able to understand the view of some people, which is that all these stories in Daniel are legends, as if people of God going through a tough time in the sixth century BC would be comforted by somebody coming and saying to them, “We want to tell you some legends that took place a few hundred years ago. Of course they didn’t come true, but we hope that you really are helped by them.” I don’t understand that view of all at all.
Well, there were two details in the dream and the interpretation that Nebuchadnezzar should really have listened to. The first is that he’s part of the crowd that will soon be chaff, and Babylon today, of course, is a ruin. The other thing, of course, is that there’s a foreign kingdom coming, which is permanent, and Nebuchadnezzar should take seriously the permanent kingdom, of course, the permanent Kingdom of God. But Nebuchadnezzar sadly shows no interest in either. He’s only hearing that he is the head of gold. That’s all he wants to listen to. He knows that Daniel speaks the truth. He rewards him for getting the dream rights and telling the interpretation, but he only listens to what he wants to listen to. How very relevant that is.
How we as Christian people today meant to read Daniel two properly? Well, we remind ourselves that pride is a killer. God must bring down every kingdom and every person who sets themselves up as a rival to Him. He will bring them down. He will bring people to their senses in order that they might come to the Saviour. We also realize, as we read this chapter, that it is Jesus who supplies the crucial information that we need. He comes as the Bible says with grace and truth. He is the only one who can tell us the critical information that we need. Of ourselves, of the Father, of the plan of salvation, and of the future hope.
We realize also that Jesus is not like the kings who exalt themselves and set themselves up, impervious, disinterested in everybody else. No, we understand from the New Testament that although Jesus had all the authority, yet he did not grasp at this, Philippians two, but he humbled himself, even to the point of becoming a man, and then to the point of the cross in order that there might be an answer to our sin, and our fears, and our mortality, and our judgment. There was only one King who can save us. There’s only one King who loves us. And it’s also Jesus whose resurrection proves that there is a Kingdom that lasts forever. There’s a King of Kings on the throne forever. His name is Jesus Christ. There’s only one King who lasts. We do need to be brought to our senses. We do need to be brought to the position of humility. We do need, as the Bible says, recognizing that God has exalted Jesus to the highest place, that every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
In the commentary by Dale Ralph Davis, he tells the story, during the fourth century, when the emperor was a man called Julian, and quite a hostile anti-Christian emperor, and Julian was dying. And a non-Christian said to a Christian while the emperor was dying, “Where is your carpenter’s son now?” And the Christian replied to the non-Christian with these words, “The maker of the world who you call the carpenter’s son is right now making a coffin for the emperor.” The great and lasting King Jesus Christ. Without Him, we are finished, but with Him, we are secure forever.
Let’s bow our heads and pray. Thank you, our gracious God, for reminding us in this portion of Your Word, that all kingdoms will pass. But we know that there is a King, a Kingdom, which will last forever, and we pray that You would help us not only to enter, but to rejoice in what You have given to us. We ask it in Jesus’s name. Amen.