Saturday, January 14, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel. Day 7, Daniel Describes Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 7
Daniel Describes Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

We concluded yesterday with Daniel standing before the king and declaring that he has been given the dream and its interpretation by the God of heaven who reveals mysteries. None of the gods of Babylon were able to reveal to the wise men what the king dreamed, but the one true God has chosen to interact personally with Nebuchadnezzar by giving him the dream and by giving Daniel the answer. Daniel says, "He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come." (Daniel 2:28a) In the original text the "days to come" are literally "the latter days". So right away we know we are going to be looking at some end-times prophecy when we learn the interpretation. 

"Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed were these: 'As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. As for me, the mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.'" (Daniel 2:28b-30) King Nebuchadnezzar spent a lot of time thinking about his kingdom. Bible scholar John F. Walvoord, whose books on Daniel and Revelation are highly respected in the Christian world, says, "Nebuchadnezzar had had a meteoric rise to power as one of the great conquerors and monarchs of the ancient world. He had begun his brilliant career even while his father was still alive, but after his father's death, he quickly consolidated his gains and established himself as absolute ruler over the Babylonian empire. All of Southwest Asia was in his power, and there was no rival worthy of consideration at the time. Under these circumstances, it was only natural that Nebuchadnezzar should wonder what was going to come next." (from Daniel: The Key To Prophetic Revelation, pg 62)

Nebuchadnezzar was a young man when he received the crown. He was a brilliant military strategist and a highly educated and intelligent person. Like many people who have attained glory and adulation and an obscene amount of wealth and success, he suffered inwardly from insecurity. He constantly worried whether he could hold onto his enormous power over the region and also about what kind of legacy he would leave behind, whether Babylon would continue to be the world power it was in his day. King Solomon, in whose time the kingdom of Israel was at its most powerful, worried about the same things. In speaking about all his hard work, his accomplishments, his building projects, and the wealth he brought into Israel, Solomon despaired at the thought that things might fall apart after his death. "I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless." (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19) Solomon was a troubled man who struggled with depression and the lusts of the flesh, yet Israel in his day was at the height of her glory. Naturally he worried whether those who came after him would be wise stewards of all he had accomplished. (He was correct to worry, for the kingdom split in half when his son Rehoboam became king after him.) Nebuchadnezzar is in the same frame of mind as Solomon was when he wrote Ecclesiastes. He is worried about holding onto power in his lifetime and he fears his successors will somehow manage to lose everything he has gained.

God is so gracious and merciful to this pagan king and I don't want us to miss that fact. Nebuchadnezzar does not know or acknowledge the God of Israel but the God of Israel knows and acknowledges him. He personally interacts with this troubled young king and intends to bring into his life a young Hebrew man who will witness to him about the one true God. What an awesome opportunity this is for Nebuchadnezzar. I think, based on his earlier suspicion of the wise men of Babylon, that Nebuchadnezzar has come to the conclusion that the "gods" of his people are not gods at all. He has renounced all the wise men as frauds and it's possible at this point in his life he's questioning whether any gods exist. Tossing and turning in his bed at night, burdened down with the heavy responsibility of such an enormous kingdom, worried about keeping control over it and all the territories he has annexed, I wonder if maybe his heart cried out for someone to help him. Perhaps in the long watches of the night he whispered, "Is anybody there? Is there a god who created life and who can hear me and help me?"

Daniel now relates the details of the dream that has been troubling the king. "Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue---an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain that filled the whole earth." (Daniel 2:31-35)

No wonder this repetitive and bizarre dream upset the king! He was falling asleep at night with all the worries of his kingdom on his mind and he knows that the dream involves his kingdom somehow, but he can't understand what it means. He suspects it might be bad news, considering the rock that smashes the statue from foot to head, but he can't be certain. He doesn't know what he should be doing to prevent calamity; he doesn't even know whether he can prevent calamity. But from the very beginning of his speech to the king, Daniel sets his mind at ease a bit by telling him this vision was for "the latter days". Babylon is not in immediate danger and these things will not be fulfilled in Nebuchadnezzar's lifetime. Having this assurance right off the bat, the king is in a frame of mind to take in the explanation of the dream, which we will study tomorrow. It's far too lengthy to look at along with today's session, but you won't want to miss it, for the interpretation of the dream includes the eternal kingdom of Christ.

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