Sermon: “Wisdom from Above” (Daniel 2:1-49)

by Nov 3, 2019Sermons0 comments

In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” 4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.” 7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.” 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. 14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.
17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “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.
31 “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. 32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 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. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 “This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”
46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. 47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” 48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.
Daniel 2:1-49, ESV

In the late 1990’s, as part of the continued exploration of the planet Mars, NASA launched an expensive one hundred and twenty-five million-dollar unmanned space probe to Mars. It was known as the Mars Climate Orbiter. It was basically a weather satellite that NASA wanted to send one hundred forty million miles away to the red planet. Where it ideally would have entered into orbit and captured important weather data on the planet of Mars that could aid in future missions and explorations.

Unfortunately, this elaborate and expensive mission that NASA undertook ended in complete and total disaster. When the Orbiter arrived, to everyone’s surprise it propelled right into Mars’s upper atmosphere and burned up. It was a total loss and the mission was a complete failure.

But very quickly on the ground, back on old planet Earth, they began to realize what the problem was. To NASA’s embarrassment, it wasn’t something highly complex and outside their control. Instead the problem boils down to a very simple and elementary math error. Someone in this highly skilled and intelligent group of engineers and scientists and mathematicians who were overseeing this mission forgot to convert English measurements feet into metric measurements meters.

If you don’t know anything about math, that’s a shocking oversight for a group of that caliber. It is something you can basically calculate on your phones. Worse than that is that it was an error that nobody caught in the planning process and nobody caught it in the more than nine-month journey to the planet Mars. This is intense complexity requiring the collective wisdom of some of the best and brightest minds that are out there and yet even with all of this wisdom available to the mission, all of this wisdom available to the contractors and to NASA, in the end it’s still crashed and burned.

When we open up this morning to Daniel two, we learn that apparently all of the resources of wisdom and knowledge in Babylon were also available to King Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar led a flourishing kingdom with armies and servants and counselors and whatever he might need at his disposal. Yet for everything that the king had access to, everything that was designed to secure his reign and prop up his empire, we meet a king in our text who is anything but secure in the wisdom of Babylon. Instead we meet a king who is deeply insecure. A king who is unsatisfied even with all of the collective wisdom that Babylon has to offer and who is petrified that his kingdom is going to crash and burn as well.

If you remember when we were in Daniel two weeks ago, we learned that Daniel is a book for God’s people in exile. The issue pressing on the exiles and Daniel was whether the wisdom and power of Babylon and their gods was superior to the wisdom and got power of God.

The wisdom and power of Babylon must have been quite impressive to any audience experiencing it in the sixth century BC. Babylon had just defeated Egypt, another superpower of the day, and then subjugated Judah along with a whole lot of other people under their authority. They were a cultural powerhouse in the region. Think about the meccas of culture today in our own day. Those places that are on the frontier of the advancement of civilization and culture and just how captivated we often are with those kind of places. That’s how it was with Babylon in the sixth century BC.

Things, we learn from our text, aren’t as they seem. In Daniel two, the prophet exposes the ultimate emptiness that the wisdom of Babylon. Ultimately the wisdom of Babylon, as impressive as it may seem from the outside, cannot offer a satisfactory response to the king’s dilemma.

Even when Daniel comes along as we will see a little bit later in this text, he offers a clear interpretation and a clear solution to the problem that has vexed to the king throughout this text. We learn that the wisdom of the kingdom of Babylon and the wisdom of every other kingdom has to offer is destined to be supplanted and outdone by the wisdom of the power of the kingdom of God.

The message to exiles in Daniel’s day and the exiles today, that’s you and me, is one and the same. The wisdom of God supplants the wisdom of the world. That’s our big idea from the text this morning.

As we work through this text, we are going to see how just how the wisdom of God, although it might seem unimpressive on the surface, is simply better than the wisdom of the world. We’re going to work through this text in three parts.

1. The Powerlessness of the Wisdom of Babylon
2. The Power of the Wisdom of God
3. The Power of the Kingdom of God

The Powerlessness of the Wisdom of Babylon

In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” 4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.” 7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.” 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.
Daniel 2:1-13, ESV

We learn from the text right at the beginning that we are now in the second year of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. Commentators and historians note that in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, at this point in his administration, the king had quite a bit on his plate. He already defeated Egypt, as I had mentioned, another cultural and military superpower of the day. At that same time, he subjugated a variety of other people, including Judah, under his reign.

He was also facing mounting resistance as he sought to expand the borders of his kingdom further and further in the ancient near East. There’s a lot happening for good old Nebuchadnezzar in the second year of his reign as he focuses on building and expanding his kingdom.

All of this is going on in his life and then we learned that one evening Nebuchadnezzar falls asleep and has dreams. Disturbing dreams. So disturbing that he can’t sleep. When he wakes from these dreams, he is compelled to summon all of the experts in his kingdom to help make sense of what he just experienced.

There were about this dream, at this point in the narrative we don’t know what it was it’s still a mystery to us it’s the reader, but whatever it was Nebuchadnezzar senses at this point that there’s something so significant about it that he has to enlist some serious muscle to help him out.

He summons a group of people who collectively represent the best that Babylon has to offer; the Chaldeans, the enchanters, and the sorcerers. These are the people in the Kingdom of Babylon who specialize in wisdom. This is the council that a king would call to himself in order to make sense of things of significant such as this dream.

When they come before the king, they are confident in their abilities to appease him and whatever he might ask. But Nebuchadnezzar makes an absolutely impossible demand. He demands that they interpret the dream, but also makes it known to them that they have to recall the dream to him. In other words, because Nebuchadnezzar senses that this dream, whatever it is, is of such significance that he has to know that these wisdom people aren’t ultimately charlatans and the only way that he’ll be able to trust any interpretation that they give of his dream is if they can also call the dream to him.

The council knows that this is impossible. Yet despite politely informing the king, sir we can’t quite do that for you, Nebuchadnezzar grows more and more agitated and irrational. The council that he’s surrounded by grows more and more helpless as they try to maneuver around the king’s demand.

Finally, the Chaldeans tell the king that there’s not a man on earth who can meet the kings demand and that no one can show it to the king except the gods whose dwelling is not with the flesh. What the king is asking for is theologically impossible for the gods of Babylon. But for a man bent on conquering the world, a man who may even consider himself such a god, a man who is even named after the Babylonian god for wisdom, those answers don’t suffice. Nebuchadnezzar has enough and calls for all of the wise men of Babylon to be destroyed.

He doesn’t trust them and he’s not going to take no for an answer. We see that for all of the resources of wisdom that good old Nebuchadnezzar has at his disposal, in the end the wisdom of Babylon can only produce insecurity, anxiety, and anger when it’s relied upon to address the big theological questions of the future that are weighing heavy upon the king. It cannot peer into the is the present, it cannot give him assurance about the future of his kingdom, and it cannot give him assurance about the days ahead.

Nebuchadnezzar might be the leader of a powerful kingdom with resources of wisdom aplenty, but the kind wisdom that he’s calling upon to build his kingdom is in the words of James is not, “the kind of wisdom that comes from above.” It’s earthly wisdom, wisdom that results in jealousy and selfish ambition and disorder.

In that way Nebuchadnezzar isn’t just some lone example of a Babylonian king who lives in some point in history who we can write off this ancient histor. Because what we learned about his heart it is symptomatic of any heart bent on building the kingdom for self, while at the same time resting upon the wisdom of the world to address questions and offer meaning that only the wisdom of God is equipped to do.

One of the questions this passage leads us to ask out of ourselves, is when we get angry, when we are overcome with anxiety, and when we are deeply insecure, why is that? I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re often much more focused on building kingdoms for ourselves than. We realize we see what the wisdom of the world has to offer and we feed upon that wisdom to give us security, to give us comfort, to prop up our own little kingdoms and to make us feel like we’re in control of things that are really far outside of our control.

When we do that, in the end we’re often led to the same place as Nebuchadnezzar. Ultimately the wisdom of the world, just like the wisdom of Babylon, cannot alleviate us from the crippling anxiety of life. It cannot offer satisfactory answers to the big theological questions brewing in our hearts. It cannot comfort us during the dark nights of the soul. In the end it exposes the ultimate folly of the little kingdom we set up for ourselves.

This is the kind of wisdom that Nebuchadnezzar pursues and it’s kind of wisdom that, in the words of Paul, is ultimately folly with God. So, as captivating as the wisdom of Babylon was for Nebuchadnezzar, and for anyone in the sixth century BC. As enchanting as the wisdom of the world so often is for us today, we are called to remember in this text that its ultimate weakness. Instead we need a better kind of wisdom, we need a better kind of kingdom and we need a better kind of king.

As this section in Daniel two draws to a close in verse thirteen, we are faced with another problem and that is, will the wisdom of God even be given a day in the king’s court? Nebuchadnezzar just commanded that wise men of Babylon be destroyed and when that decree went out, we learned verse thirteen that Daniel and his companions were sought too. They were included in this decree of destruction.

Now remember from chapter one, Daniel and his companions they faced one challenge and God gave, God preserved them through it by giving Daniel wisdom. Now the question stands before us, will God give again? Will Daniel and his companions survive this ordeal? So, will now be the moment for the wisdom of God that God gave Daniel shine? This leads to our second point where we see the power of the wisdom of God on display. Look with me now with in Daniel 2:13-30 and follow along with me as I read.

Power of the Wisdom of God

13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. 14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.
17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.” 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “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 2:13-30, ESV

Now we learn how Daniel responds to Nebuchadnezzar’s decree. Once again, just like we saw back in chapter one, we see how Daniel’s character and approach he takes to his future is a complete contrast to that of Nebuchadnezzar. Where is Nebuchadnezzar is demanding and impulsive at every point, Daniel isn’t, even when he’s in jeopardy of losing his life. Whereas, Nebuchadnezzar hastily demands the council of wise men give him an answer now and he’s not going to wait upon them; Daniel knows how to wait upon the Lord. He enlists his friends in prayer and then having entrusted the matter to God, that it’s all in God’s hands, he’s even able to fall asleep, something that evaded Nebuchadnezzar since his dream.

Then the most startling thing, in my humble opinion, happens. When Daniel wakes from his sleep, where we learned that he has been given the wisdom to peer into things hidden from Nebuchadnezzar and the wise men, he doesn’t run in haste to Arioch in fear of his life. Instead he does what might seem absolutely foolish to us in light of the dire situation that he is in. He pauses and he worships. He gives thanks to the God who gives gift of wisdom to his servants. Then Daniel pauses and the narrative slows down almost to a screeching halt and Daniel reflects and invites us to reflect and praise and worship upon the character and work of the God who gives.

In verse twenty through twenty-three Daniel begins here by praising the Lord for his character, simply for who he is. To God we learned belongs wisdom. He is, in the words of Paul, the only wise God. That means that in everything that God does, he is always acting for the right end. We can trust that as God moves the wheels of history and Daniel’s day and in our own day, perplexing as things might seem to us at times, God’s ways are the definition of wisdom.

We also learned from Daniel’s worship that to God belongs might. God is in omnipotent, he all powerful. He has the power and the ability to bring to pass whatever he wills. As we continue through this block of worship, Daniel moves to praise God for his deeds, for what God does for his people.

We learn that the Lord is the one who changes times and seasons in the Lord is the one who removes kings and sets up kings. Remember we saw back in verse nine of this chapter that Nebuchadnezzar was terrified about the times possibly changing. About the sun possibly setting on his rule and reign, but according to Daniel that’s is in God’s hands, not Nebuchadnezzar’s.

Finally, we learn that the Lord, in contrast to all of the Babylonian gods who are not with flesh, gives to his servants wisdom and knowledge. He condescends to reveal to his people hidden things. The Lord speaks to the prophets throughout redemptive history. He speaks revelation to Daniel in this specific situation in a vision and the Lord even today speaks to his church through his word. In other words, the Lord is the kind of God who covenants with his people.

So, Daniel praises God for his being. He praises God for his works of providence. He praises God for his work in this specific situation. You see, even in the midst of exile amongst a cultural and military superpower, Daniel isn’t enamored with what Babylon has to offer. He’s not enamored with the threats, he’s not enamored with the glories, he’s captivated through and through by the Lord. His gaze turns immediately to the Lord who gives.

The notice what happens right after he lifts up his voice in praise and worship to the Lord. A few verses later he comes before the king and Daniel declares in the courts of the greatest king of the day, Nebuchadnezzar, the supremacy of the one true God who gives

Now if you are anything like me, I know how often I let this so-called tyranny of the urgent dictate things in my own life. Rarely do I find time throughout the day and pause, if it’s not already part of my schedule, to reflect and meditate on the God who gives spontaneously. When I was thinking about this during the week, I was reminded of something that Martin Luther reportedly once said about prayer. Apparently, Luther once said something to the effect of, “I have so much to do today, so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

If we are honest with ourselves, doesn’t that sound counter-intuitive? For Luther the urgent and the pressing matters of life drove him to deeper communion and fellowship with God. And that’s what happens here with Daniel too. Daniel prays and then Daniel praises God in private and then he declares him in public. And noticed that even all throughout all of this, the matter hasn’t been resolved. The matter hasn’t been dealt with. Daniel’s life is still hanging in the balance. The narrative tension is still there.

For Daniel he has to give praise and glory to God, and only after he does that and after that he turns and explains to Nebuchadnezzar what he saw along with his interpretation, only after those things will he give the dream and it’s interpretation.

This then leads to our final point, where we see the vision. We now finally get to see what this was and ultimately see we in this vision the power of the kingdom of God.

The Power of the Kingdom of God

31 “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. 32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 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. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 “This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”
46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. 47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” 48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.
Daniel 2:31-49, ESV

So now at last Daniel communicates the actual content of the dream, along with its interpretation. But before he launches into the interpretation of this puzzling vision, he reminds the king yet again of something that we’ve heard over and over again in Daniel and that is God gives. In verse thirty-seven, before Daniel expounds on the interpretation, he reminds the king that everything he has; the kingdom, and the power, and the might the glory, the subjects, everything that resides in his kingdom, is given by the God of Heaven.

Daniel once again gives Nebuchadnezzar a gracious lesson in humility and only after that does he interpret the dream, in which as we will see is yet one more lesson in humility to this great King Nebuchadnezzar.

Now as we work through the details of this colossal image that Nebuchadnezzar has seen and that Daniel interprets. One of the big questions that often ask today is what did these kingdoms correspond to in history? We know that the head of gold corresponds to Nebuchadnezzar, because we’re told that is the kingdom of Babylon but what about the other ones?

That question has been debated and continues to be debated, but the best answer seems to follow very simply upon what happened in Judah’s history after Babylon. After Babylon fell and the sun set on Nebuchadnezzar and the kings that followed in succession in Babylon, another empire, Medo-Persia came on the scene.

It was under the reign of this Persian King Cyrus, whom we learned about in Daniel one, that the people of God in exile were released and allowed to journey back to the land of promise. But then after the sunset on Medo-Persia another empire was raised up and that was Greece. The people of God had to deal with that kingdom for a time. And finally, after Greece, the Roman Empire came through and occupied the land of promise and subjugated the people of God under their reign and rule. So, this picture where we moved from Babylon to Meto-Persia to Greece to Rome seems to fit the four kingdoms described here in Daniel chapter two and in light of some other texts that will encounter later in Daniel.

But more important than identifying who all of these various kingdoms are is that in the end Daniel reports that none of these kingdoms will have the final word. In the days of the kings of the fourth kingdom, which is presumably Rome, God is going to set up his own kingdom, a kingdom that will never be destroyed. We learn, in fact, it will break in pieces all of the other kingdoms that stand in the way and this kingdom will endure and stand forever.

Commentators note in Luke 20:17-18 Jesus alludes to this very passage in Daniel.

17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
Luke 20:17-18, ESV

It’s almost paradoxical about what Jesus says there in Luke chapter twenty is that this stone is both rejected and yet at the same time powerful. On the one hand it’s an unimpressive stone, it’s a powerless stone, it’s scorned. On the other hand it’s indeed revealed to be powerful, quite impressive, and honored, but this is the gospel.

After all, this is what Paul calls the power and the wisdom of God. That our Lord Jesus Christ, the rejected cornerstone, the one who was humiliated, beaten, bruised, and crucified for us and for our salvation is this stone. At the same time as his humiliation, he’s also the stone who’s exalted, and who crushes all other human kingdoms.

So, what Daniel sees now in the fullness of time is nothing more than the kingdom that God will set up when the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, our Lord Jesus Christ, comes on the scene some 600 years later. This whole vision points to Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God.

How then does Nebuchadnezzar respond to all this? In verse forty-six, maybe to our surprise, we learned that this news doesn’t wreck him in the way we thought it might have. Instead he falls on his face and he confesses that Daniel’s God is the God of Gods and the Lord of Kings. And the he promotes Daniel and his friends to positions of honor and the kingdom and he doesn’t shoot the messenger, as some might say.

Some note in this text here that Nebuchadnezzar’s response is really just a response of relief. Because he although he knows that his kingdom is bound to come to an end one day, it’s not going to last forever, at least he knows, it is suggested that all of this is going to happen after him. We read that phrase a couple times here, it’s going to happen after, not while he’s still on the throne. So even though his kingdom is going to fall one day, he can at least deal with it.

There might be something to that interpretation, but as Sinclair Ferguson notes, what else could he have done? You see he now understands in some sense that there is a God who directs all of the events of human history for his glory. He now knows that, historically, his kingdom is just a flash in the pan. He now knows in more ways than one that the wisdom of Babylon is nothing compared to the wisdom of God. So, in the face of these realities, what else could he do except worship?

Friends, as these realities become more and more real in our own lives, as we encounter the surpassing greatness of the wisdom and power of God in comparison with the wisdom of the world. As we consider all of the little kingdoms that were so bent on setting up for ourselves, and as we learned that they’re nothing compared to the wisdom and power of God, may that be our response too, worship.

So, let’s look at a few brief applications for this text.

Application

1. Pray for wisdom.

Now it’s important to note that the wisdom that Daniel is endowed with in this passage is a unique revelatory wisdom. That is the wisdom that Daniel prays for and the wisdom that he receives is unique and prophetic in nature. It is a wisdom, in other words, that is no longer normative in the church now that we have the final enclosed authority of God’s word.

None the less, the scriptures still call us to pray for wisdom. God says in James 1:5,

“if you lacks wisdom let him ask God who gives generously to all approach and it will be given to you him.”James 1:5, ESV

You see, we need wisdom given by the spirit of God to understand and apply the scriptures to our own lives as we learned to navigate our own exiles. We need the wisdom to work through the difficult relationships that all of us have. We need wisdom to see the wisdom of the world exposed for what it is and to hunger and thirst for the better wisdom and the better kingdom of God. We need wisdom, again in the words of James, in order to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds. So, pray for wisdom. We all need it, just like Daniel did.

2. Know that the kingdom of God is a present reality.

What Daniel declares to Nebuchadnezzar in this text, namely that there’s a day when God is going to establish his kingdom, has already happened in Jesus Christ. Through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, we friends, belong to this kingdom. We are citizens of this kingdom. And the kingdom that might not seem like it possesses power and wisdom that supplants the rest of the world. It may seem like it’s a kingdom rather than expanding, it’s being pressed in on all sides. But this kingdom is a kingdom ruled over by our Lord and this kingdom is a kingdom in which the subjects of this king are really and truly nourish and fed by better food than what Nebuchadnezzar serves in his courts because we are nourished by word and sacrament by the Spirit of God.

Now then that the kingdom of God is a present reality. Also pray, as we’re called to pray regularly in the Lord’s Prayer; thy kingdom come. In the Heidelberg Catechism, another reformed confession, one of the questions that the Heidelberg Catechism asked is explicitly on that, “What do we mean when we say “thy kingdom come”?” It answers this, “that is so govern us by your word and Spirit so that we submit ourselves to you always more and more. Preserve and increase your church. Destroy the works of the devil, every power that exalts itself against you, and all wicked devices formed against your holy word until the full coming of your kingdom wherein you shall be all and all.”

Pray that the kingdom of God would come. Know that the kingdom of God has come in one sense and pray that it would come. Trust that one day in the words of Revelation, the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever.

3. Know who God is.

As I was reading and studying this passage this week, I was surprised by just how many attributes of God and works with God are identified by Daniel throughout this passage. Especially in that four verse block of worship that we looked at earlier and verses twenty through twenty-three.

In that text Daniel praises God for his wisdom, he praises God for his power, and his omnipotence, he praises God for his providence and for his goodness. Daniel is a servant who knows the God that he worships.

So, one of the questions for us to ask as we engage in God’s word regularly throughout the week, and as we rest in the promises of God as we should, do we also pause to ask the question, not just how does this text apply to my life but what is this text say about the God who gives? One of the things that we’re doing it our men’s small group right now is that we’re working through a devotional on the attributes of God. We are trying to be trained what it looks like to pause regularly and meditate upon who God is.

In the words of Anselm, we believe God is a being in which nothing greater can be conceived. So like Daniel, as you look to God’s word and as you are fed by God’s word, I would encourage you to also be enriched simply by seeing what the word of God has to say about the God we worship. The God who gives. After all, that is our hope in our exile.

Let me pray.
Lord we thank you for who you are, we thank you that you are the God who gives richly. We thank you that you are the God who supplies wisdom and power to your servants. Not like the wisdom of the world, but a better kind of wisdom. We pray Lord that we will remember that even as we know that your kingdom is a present reality and that we are subjects of your kingdom, that we would continue to pray thy kingdom come. That we would look forward to a day when the kingdom of the world becomes the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ who will, as the scripture say, reign forever and ever. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.

X