Sunday, January 15, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel. Day 8, Daniel Interprets The Dream

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 8
Daniel Interprets The Dream

Daniel described Nebuchadnezzar's dream to him in yesterday's study. The dream involved a huge statue with a head of gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, and its feet partly iron and partly baked clay. A large rock was cut out that smashed the statue from its feet to its head, with the rock becoming a mountain so big it filled the world. Now Daniel interprets the dream for the king. 

"This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king." (Daniel 2:36) Up til now we had not been told that Daniel's friends went with him to see the king. Later in Chapter 2 when Daniel is rewarded for his service to the king, he also requests promotions for his three friends, whom he evidently took with him. His three friends are heavily invested in the outcome of this meeting: all their lives are at stake. They labored through the night in prayer with Daniel and witnessed him receiving the answer from God. Daniel cannot risk leaving them at the house because he does not yet know if the king will spare any life but his own for revealing the interpretation. By saying "we will it interpret it to the king" he includes his friends in any reprieve or reward that's going to be given. These men, praying in agreement with Daniel, helped him to receive the answer from God. Although the Bible only tells us the interpretation was revealed to Daniel, he could not have remained strong through the night without his friends, and without their help he might not have prevailed.

"Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands He has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold." (Daniel 2:36-38) In his day King Nebuchadnezzar was the head of the most powerful kingdom in the known world. Daniel, having been trained in Babylonian court etiquette, addresses the king with very exalted titles and lofty words, as was the custom. Though Nebuchadnezzar did not truly have dominion over all the beasts of the field or the birds of the sky, he had taken dominion over many territories and everyone and everything contained in them. But we want to take note that Daniel ascribes Nebuchadnezzar's amazing rise to power not to the king's own brilliance or talent in military strategy, but to the will and the power of Almighty God. The God of heaven gave all this to the king. If it had not been the Lord's will for Nebuchadnezzar to rise to such heights of power, he could not have done so.

"After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours." (Daniel 2:39a) This kingdom, the alliance of the Medo-Persian Empire, is represented on the statue by the chest and arms of silver. This kingdom will conquer Babylon during the days of Nebuchadnezzar's successors.

"Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth." (Daniel 2:39b) This kingdom is that of Greece under Alexander the Great, represented on the statue as the belly and thighs of bronze. When Daniel says this kingdom will rule over the whole earth, he means the world as it was known in his time. He did not know of the existence of such continents as Australia, North America, South America, or Antarctica. In his vision from God a ruler would come who would conquer vast swaths of the world as Daniel knew it.

"Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron---for iron breaks and smashes everything---and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others." (Daniel 2:40) The fourth kingdom is the Roman Empire, which ruled for over five hundred years in comparison to the Babylonian Empire which stood for only sixty-six years, the Medo-Persian Empire which stood for two hundred and eight years, and the Grecian Empire which lasted for about one hundred and eighty-five years. The expression "the iron boot of Rome" does not exist for nothing. This empire, represented on the statue by the legs of iron, stomped and crushed everything in its path. But this kingdom, like all the others before it, would eventually crumble, as evidenced by the feet of the statue that are a mixture of iron and baked clay. "Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay." (Daniel 2:41-43)

The Roman Empire fell both from within and without. They were attacked repeatedly by Germanic tribes, sustaining heavy losses and being prevented from further expansion. The years spent expanding their empire, and the years spent defending it, caused a financial crisis. There was a constant need for revenue to fund the war-machine of Rome and the people were taxed so heavily that many wealthy citizens rebelled and set up independent fiefdoms, thereby "seceding" from the Roman Empire. The inability to carry out continual expansion, along with piracy taking place on the Mediterranean which interrupted Rome's trading enterprises, caused both labor and economic crises. 

Rome may have thought she was too big to fail but her size led to her downfall. There was too much territory to defend. The empire became so great that nearly all the resources had to be funneled into the military, causing the infrastructure to crumble. Civil wars broke out within the nation. Rome could not keep an emperor on the throne for long, for what amounted to the "secret service", such as we have for our presidents, began to depose and set up kings according to their own purposes, assassinating a number of them. The Emperor Diocletian later divided the Roman Empire in two in an attempt to save it, with the capital of the Western Empire in Milan and the capital of the Easter Empire in Constantinople. This physical division led to national division, reminding us of the feet of the statue which were partly iron and partly clay. Culturally and economically, the two halves of the empire grew further and further apart. 

Time and again Rome was attacked by the Goths, with whom they attempted to make an alliance, but the Goths were so cruelly treated by Rome that they rose up and overcame a detachment of the army and killed the Eastern Emperor Valens. A temporary truce was made with the Goths, but the Goth King Alaric invaded the western territory. Rome was on the downswing and she hired mercenaries for the army from other cultures. These soldiers were in it for the money and had no allegiance for Rome, with many of their officers actually turning against Roman officials. When Western Rome finally fell, many of the men fighting against her were these hired mercenaries who earned all their military training originally fighting on the side of Rome. 

As the Lord Jesus said, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." (Matthew 12:25) Rome eventually became a divided nation, with feet of iron and clay, partly strong and partly brittle. But the ten toes of this statue also represent another kingdom, a kingdom of the end times. These toes symbolize a coalition of nations that will seek to rule the world and who will fight against the people of God and even against the King of kings. The rock that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, the one the smashed first the feet and worked its way up, represents an eternal kingdom which will be set up "in the time of those kings" (the kings represented by the ten toes) and this portion of Nebuchadnezzar's dream is yet to be fulfilled. Daniel told the king his vision was for "the latter days" and in tomorrow's session we will take an in-depth look at some end times prophecy.

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