Dominion: A Contrast of Testimonies • Daniel Chapter 2
- Daniel 2 reveals four contrasting testimonies as God unveils His plan for humans.
Last week Jonathan Pugh got us started in our study of the book of Daniel by preaching chapter 1. Today we are going to cover chapter 2. Now, if you missed last week be sure to go online and watch it! There is a ton of great background information in that sermon that will help you understand the context of the book of Daniel and thus understand the book itself.
I’m not going to revisit all that but for those of you that are new to this series, I do want to point out the most important thing that you can’t forget. Daniel and his three friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) are Jews living in Babylon because the King of the Babylonians, Nebuchadnezzar, conquered Jerusalem and took a bunch of them back to the city of Babylon to serve him!
Prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah told everybody this was going to happen because of the people’s insistence to worship other gods, and sure enough, it happened just like they said it would. The people of Judah refused to repent of idolatry!
When you read the Old Testament story of the Jewish people, every time you see revival breaking out and the people getting rid of their idols, it’s not long afterward you find them right back where they started – faithfully worshiping pagan gods and trying to include God in that practice; something He will have nothing to do with.
That’s a super short and important quick overview of the testimony of the Jewish people that led to their 70 years of captivity in Babylon, as well as the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. It’s a story that is going to have some surprisingly significant similarities with a confidently proclaimed testimony in Daniel chapter 2. However, before we get into that, let me walk you through Daniel chapter 2 and the 4 very different testimonies we find in it.
The pagan spiritual leaders of Babylon testified it was impossible to know their gods. – (2:1-13)
Here’s how it all went down,
1 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."
Now, the Chaldeans, who were likely the astronomers of the bunch, didn’t quite understand what the King was asking. So the King made it real clear!
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."
Talk about blunt! Nebuchadnezzar just made it real clear that his instructions were for them to tell him both the dream he dreamed and its meaning. He said if you don’t do both and I’m going to brutally kill you and destroy your entire household! That’s about as blunt as it gets!
But here’s the problem. These leaders knew they had no way of finding out what the dream was! They could fake an interpretation, but they couldn’t fake knowing the dream! So, they tried a second time to get the King to drop that part of his expectation.
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."
Understand, Nebuchadnezzar believed this dream had divine origins and as such, he was so concerned about the purpose of this dream that he wanted to make sure that whatever interpretation was given to him came from the gods. His test of genuineness was much bigger than the one my family laughs at every Christmas when we watch the movie Elf.
Buddy, attempting to expose an imposter of Santa Clause asks, “If your Santa, what song did I sing for you on your birthday.” With a kid already on his lap ready to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas, the imposter replies with the obvious, “Happy Birthday, of course!” Nebuchadnezzar was much wiser than Buddy the Elf!
In addition, apparently, he already had some level of mistrust for his “spiritual advisors,” therefore, he put a test before them to see if they were legitimate! If they can’t hear from the gods to know what the dream is then they also can’t hear from the gods to know what the dream means!
Now, this presented a huge problem for these spiritual leaders, mainly being the fact that they have never heard a thing from these gods because unbeknown to them, these gods don’t even exist! But that’s another sermon for another day.
Therefore, the Chaldeans, realizing their predicament, make one last appeal, and in so doing expose a serious deficiency in their gods,
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."
The Chaldeans practically insult the King by stating no King has ever asked such a thing because every King, as well as every other man on earth (ouch!), has understood the gods don’t have that kind of relationship with us! We don’t personally know them and as such, we can’t get that kind of information from them.
The key is that their understanding of their gods was that they do not DWELL with us and thus don’t communicate with us! They don’t relate to us in any personal way at all!
They read the stars, the weather, and other signs; they interact with demons and the dead, and they do all kinds of things to manipulate people and events, but in all of that they were very certain the gods they believed in had no intention of ever interacting with or communicating with them because gods don’t do that! God’s don’t DWELL with, much less interact with humans!
Now, this is a huge contrast from the God of the Bible, that is THE God, the one and only God who calls Himself Yahweh. The God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! The God of the Bible is very knowable because He wants us to know Him. Listen to what the Bible says,
9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
“4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel"(which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:23)
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5-6)
So how did the King react to their inability to tell him what he dreamed? Well! Not too good! Nebuchadnezzar commanded exactly what he said he would do.
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.
Those of you who were here last week found out Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego were forced into being a part of this group! They hadn’t risen to a level high enough to be one of the leaders who would serve in the King's Court, but they were very much a part of the team and therefore were about to be wiped out by Nebuchadnezzar with the rest of them!
Daniel testified of his total confidence that God leads His people! (2:14-23)
In total contrast with his pagan peers, Daniel didn’t confess to knowing their gods, but he totally believed in, trusted, and knew Yahweh, and as such he did this.
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.
Even though Daniel wasn’t a part of the upper-level leadership, because Daniel and his friends were now a part of the official group of priests that served the King, he was able to get a hearing with the King to try and save their lives!
Now certainly Daniel has nothing to lose in setting this up. If they don’t’ try they are going to be killed in a gruesome way (torn apart!), so even if they try and get it wrong, they haven’t caused anything that wasn’t already going to happen.
But, the key here is this; Daniel doesn’t go to the King out of faith in his ability or position. Nor does he even know that God will give him the answer. Daniel knows he can’t order God around and get God to do what he wants. But, Daniel totally believes if God wants to answer Daniel, He will indeed do it! So this is what Daniel does.
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.
And after praying and seeking God, God, who dwells with His people answered! Listen to the contrast between the God of Daniel and the gods of the pagans!
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."
But most relevantly to the context of this story, He is praising God that He dwells with, speaks to, and leads His people. God proved it by revealing to Daniel exactly what Nebuchadnezzar dreamed and exactly what God intended to say through the dream!
What a difference between the response of the pagan spiritual advisors and their gods, and the response of Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, and God! Specifically,
God testified of His dominion and love by revealing His will in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. (2:24-45)
Before we even get to the interpretation of the dream and its interpretation, Daniel makes it really clear where and why this has happened. The “gods” of the spiritual leaders of Babylon can’t do this, but The God in heaven can and did reveal it, and He did so not for Daniels’s sake, but for King Nebuchadnezzar’s sake! Watch,
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 doesn’t use this as an opportunity to proclaim any talent, spiritual authority, or privilege; he says God mercifully gave him the answer and as such should get all the credit. He wants Nebuchadnezzar to see the contrast with what the pagan gods offered – which was nothing! This is a testimony about God, not Daniel!
What a contrast with the gods of the pagan priests who could care less about them or Nebuchadnezzar. The God of Daniel cares not only for Daniel but even for Nebuchadnezzar who at this point could care less about Yahweh!
God was demonstrating his love for a sinful pagan King! This is a constant testimony of God throughout the entire Bible. God seeks sinners to save them! Jesus said it as straightforward as you can say it,
“10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
Daniel now tells us what King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed,
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.
Daniel then told him what the dream was about.
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.
“2:39. The second portion of the statue, the chest and arms of silver, represented the rise of the Medes and Persians (cf. 5:28; 6:8; also cf. 5:31). The Medo-Persians conquered the Babylonians in 539 b.c. The arms of silver evidently represent the two nations of Media and Persia that together defeated Babylon. Though that kingdom lasted over 200 years (539–330 b.c.), longer than the Neo-Babylonian Empire of 87 years (626–539), the Medo-Persian Empire was inferior to it, as silver compared with gold. The belly and thighs of bronze represented the third kingdom to arise. This was the Grecian Empire (cf. 8:20–21). Alexander the Great conquered the Medo-Persians between 334 and 330 b.c. and assumed authority over its peoples and territory. By Alexander’s conquests he extended the Greek Empire as far east as the northwestern portion of India—an extensive empire that seemingly was over the whole earth. 2:40. The legs of iron represent the Roman Empire. This fourth kingdom conquered the Greek Empire in 63 b.c. Though the Roman Empire was divided into two legs and culminated in a mixture of iron and clay, it was one empire. This empire was characterized by its strength, as iron is stronger than bronze, silver, and gold. The Roman Empire was stronger than any of the previous empires. It crushed all the empires that had preceded it. Rome in its cruel conquest swallowed up the lands and peoples that had been parts of the three previous empires and assimilated those lands and peoples into itself. 2:41–43. The empire that began as iron regressed to a state of clay mixed with iron. This mixture speaks of progressive weakness and deterioration. Two metals together form an alloy which may be stronger than either of the metals individually. But iron and clay cannot be mixed. If iron and clay are put into a crucible, heated to the melting point, and poured into a mold, when the pour has cooled the iron and clay remain separate. The clay can be broken out which leaves a weak casting. The Roman Empire was characterized by division (it was a divided kingdom) and deterioration (it was partly strong and partly brittle). Though Rome succeeded in conquering the territories that came under its influence, it never could unite the peoples to form a united empire. In that sense the people were a mixture and were not united. (Other views of this mixture of strength and weakness are suggested: [a] the empire was strong organizationally but weak morally; [b] imperialism and democracy were united unsuccessfully; [c] government was intruded by the masses, i.e., mob rule; [d] the empire was a mixture of numerous races and cultures.)”[note]Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, pp. 1335–1336). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books. [/note]
There are various speculations over which actual specific future kingdoms were being prophesied about, however, the most common and I believe most likely are as follows
The head is obviously Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon.
The chest and arms are the Medes and Persians that came together and defeated Babylon in 539BC.
The belly and thighs of bronze, the 3rd Kingdom to arise, likely points to Alexander the Great and the Greeks.
The 4th empire, the legs of iron and feet of iron and clay likely represented the Roman Empire.
However, the point of the dream was not the human figure, nor the four different elements of the figure, but rather what crushed it! The point of the dream was in verses 34 and 35!
The point of the dream is the stone that appears during the reign of the fourth Kingdom, that is, during the rule of the Roman empire! Listen to what else Daniel said about that stone that crushed the entire image!
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."
This stone that God gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream about is Jesus! Listen to what the Bible says,
22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (Psalm 118:22)
6 For it stands in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." (1 Peter 2:6)
24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:24-26)
There is a ton we could talk about here, but what I want you to see for now is that God had just revealed the truth about Jesus to a totally pagan King of a society that was so sexually immoral that even the ancient Greeks spoke of their abnormal obsession with sex!
You would think God would have given this dream to Daniel, or some other faithful Jew, and let him proclaim it. But instead, God gives this special dream of the coming Kingdom of Christ to a total heathen King in a total heathen society!
Think about that for a minute. God supernatural tells a pagan King about his power, authority and dominion and does so in a way that makes His love for Nebuchadnezzar clear. He didn’t have to reveal himself to Nebuchadnezzar, but He did.
In doing so reveals part of the greatest truth in all the world – The Gospel! God literally chose to give one of the most profound and clear prophecies of Jesus in the entire Bible to a very pagan King!
Now, you should imagine that this would result in Nebuchadnezzar falling down to worship God; that we would see him repent and believe in Yahweh, but, unfortunately, that’s not the final testimony we are going to see in this chapter.
Nebuchadnezzar testified that his faith was in Daniel instead of God! (2:46-49)
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.
Nebuchadnezzar still believed in the existence of all the other gods, but he did acknowledge that Daniel’s God was better than all of them and even must oversee all of them. There are a lot of issues with his response, one being that there actually aren’t any other gods other than Yahweh, but to me, the most worrisome part of Nebuchadnezzar’s response is that the high view of Yahweh expressed by Nebuchadnezzar still doesn’t lead Nebuchadnezzar to worship and believe in God, but rather to worship and believe in Daniel!
He literally, “fell upon his face and paid homage” and commanded that “an offering and incense be offered up to” Daniel!
As a result, Daniel is made the ruler of the province of Babylon under the King, thus placing him in one of the most favored positions possible to the King. Daniel, not forgetting his friends got Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego a big promotion as well. So Daniel has his team in place to lead the province.
In doing so, God is showing favor to Daniel and his friends as well as the Jewish people, but, the point I want us to see here today is how Nebuchadnezzar totally misapplied one of the most profound prophetic testimonies of God’s power and love in the Old Testament.
Nebuchadnezzar misapplied the revelation of God’s power and grace as a reason to honor Daniel instead of God. He assumed that if he would show Daniel and his friends favor then their God would show him favor. It was a quid pro quo type of relationship!
He had no intention of worshiping God, he just wanted to get the God of Daniel on his side so he figured he better be good to Daniel! At the end of Daniel chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar’s faith wasn’t in God at all, it was actually in Daniel! He believed in Daniels standing before Yahweh and thus he was committed to blessing Daniel!
This has huge relevance to us on this side of the resurrection of Jesus. So let me get straight to it.
Challenge: Is your testimony one of faith in Christ or faith in Christianity?
Just like Nebuchadnezzar did with Daniel, there are self-proclaimed Christians in America, and around the world for that matter, whose faith is in Christianity, but not in Christ! Whether its huge, massive churches, or tiny unheard-of churches; far too many Christians find their sense of spiritual confidence, value, and purpose in a preacher, a local church, church traditions, or even their service or ministry in the church, rather than in an actual personal faith relationship with Jesus Christ!
Our first Core Value as a church is that we love being loved by Jesus more than anything. It’s not just that we love Jesus more than anything, but that we love being loved by Jesus. Did you catch the nuance?
For too many people their love for Jesus becomes the object of their faith rather than Jesus. The object of their faith is their holiness, their commitment to study theology, and their commitment to traditions about Jesus or their church.
The object of their faith is not the person of Jesus and His love for them but rather their faith in Jesus. It’s subtle idolatry that we can all find ourselves. Satan and our flesh are insanely deceptive. But it’s the greatest trick ever. Make your faith in Jesus, not Jesus, the object of your faith, and that way you are still worshiping yourself and depending on yourself rather than Jesus!
Jesus rebuked people over and over again for this very thing. He rebuked them for loving and worshiping the practice of the faith and as such making the practice of faith and the community of faith the object of their faith! For instance, on one such occasion, he rebuked a presumably high-ranking group of Pharisees and the Scribes who came from Jerusalem to confront Jesus. Instead, they got blasted, Jesus! Jesus said,
7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Matthew 15:7-9)
These men practiced religion at its best. They knew the Scriptures inside and out. They defended the name of God more than anybody! They evangelized more than anybody. Yet, they did it not out of a love for God but love for religion!
So listen, it's not Daniel’s fault that Nebuchadnezzar put his faith in him; there is nothing wrong with Daniel, but rather, there is something wrong with Nebuchadnezzar!
Likewise, because people place their faith in Christianity doesn’t mean there’s something inherently wrong with the Christian faith, preachers, local churches, a denomination, or serving/ministering in the church. What I’m saying is that far too many Christians, like Nebuchadnezzar, misapply the Good News and as such, they are functionally living in idolatry all while claiming to be living for Jesus.
Christianity, and all that is from God in it, is supposed to point you to Christ, not to the “ianity”. It's why Jesus didn’t come to point you to Venture, Venture is here to point you to Jesus! Jesus didn’t bless you with me, he’s using me to point you to Him, so you can get blessed by Him!
To the many people who serve in this church. God didn’t give you or me a ministry in this church, He gave the church a ministry through you to help them know Him! You and I are not the point, nor is what we are doing the point. The point is Jesus! Period!
So, Venture, please get this. Your relationship with God cannot be about me or Venture, or anything else other than Jesus!
19 Now set your mind and heart to seek the LORD your God. (1 Chronicles 22:19)
4 For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: "Seek me and live (Amos 5:4)