The Fourth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Daniel
The mood in the Babylonian court has completely changed between the time Nebuchadnezzar claimed the throne in 605 BC, and the scene which unfolds in Daniel chapter 2. In the opening chapter of his prophecy, Daniel describes Nebuchadnezzar as an all-powerful king, bestowing favors on those servants who have successfully completed their transformation from captured youths into humble and efficient servants in the Babylonian court, young men who come from the various peoples defeated by the Babylonians, now dedicated to serve the king and worship his Babylonian “gods.” But in chapter 2 (which takes place two years later in 603 BC), the king is troubled and frightened because he has had a dream–the meaning of which escapes him. The royal court which seemed so dominant over its humiliated subjects is now depicted as a place of fear, helplessness, and brutality. Whatever it was that the king had dreamed, coupled with the failure of Nebuchadnezzer’s magicians and astrologers to interpret the dream for him for him, at first leads to great peril for Daniel and his friends, but then becomes an opportunity for Daniel to ascend in rank and importance in the court. This is because YHWH is Daniel’s shield and defender, and the source of both Nebuchadnezzaer’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation.
We resume our series on the Book of Daniel, and we now take up Daniel’s second chapter. Chapter 2 contains a 49 verse story dominated by Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a bizarre statue composed of four different metals (which represent four different earthly kingdoms), which is then destroyed by a giant rock (which represents an eternal kingdom established by the God of Heaven). The revelation given by the Lord to Daniel regarding the meaning of the king’s dream tempts us to focus entirely upon the sequence of future events revealed, for as we will see, the dream contains a remarkably accurate prediction of the rise of future empires and events. Yet, we must not overlook the big picture purpose of the story of the king’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation of that dream. Although the details of the vision which follows are interesting and important because the dream predicts the histories of the great world empires, this is not as important to Daniel’s message as the fact that only YHWH knows the future, because he is the author of the future. It is YHWH’s kingdom, not any of the four which Nebuchadnezzar sees in his dream, which triumphs over all other kingdoms of the world in the end.
For the next several weeks we must deal with the tyranny of time. The account in Daniel 2 of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation of it, is a single unit which is best covered in one sitting. But this requires far more time than the half-hour or so we can spend on Sunday sermons. So rather than skimming through the entire chapter and then just hitting the highlights (there are too many and the dream is too important for that), we will break the chapter in four parts and spend several Sundays going through the various parts. The first part is the king’s dream and his challenge to his court magicians to recall and explain it to him (vv. 1-13). The second part is God’s revelation of the dream to Daniel (vv. 14-23). We will cover both of these sections this time. The third part of the chapter is Daniel’s God-given explanation of the dream to the king (vv. 24-45), and then finally, we have the king’s very favorable response after Daniel interprets the dream for Nebuchadnezzar (vv. 46-49).
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