In this week’s message, we looked at Daniel Chapter 2, and the continuing story of King Nebuchadnezzar and his rather terrifying and heavy-handed leadership over God’s people, many of whom had been taken captive and made to serve the King in Babylon. In Chapter 2, we encounter the story of a very strange dream that King Nebuchadnezzar experienced. He was so distressed that he called upon his magicians and advisors to not only interpret his dream, but to tell him what he had actually dreamed! He threatened to destroy his advisors, including Daniel and his friends, if they couldn’t explain the content and meaning of his dream. In faith and humility, Daniel and his friends asked the Lord for mercy; and God gave Daniel the dream and the interpretation.
Daniel explained that the King had seen a giant statue with a head of gold, arms and shoulders of silver, middle made of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay. This statue was glorious but it was destroyed by a “stone not made by hands” which turned the statue into dust. Furthermore, Daniel interpreted the meaning of the dream for the King. His current Babylonian kingdom was represented by the head of gold, and it was soon to be destroyed by the Lord. Similarly, inferior kingdoms that inherited the might and power of Babylon would be destroyed as well, until all that remains is the glorious kingdom of the “Stone not made by hands”. While the King responded kindly to Daniel and appreciated his dream being revealed and interpreted, he certainly did NOT repent or cry out to God regarding the fate of himself and his kingdom.
Biblical accounts and historical narratives confirm that Babylon (kingdom of gold) gave way to the Persians (kingdom of silver), followed by the rise of the Greeks (kingdom of bronze) and Romans (kingdom of iron). The divided kingdoms represented by the feet and toes of the statue (iron mixed with clay) may specifically or generally represent a variety of earthly kingdoms of the past, present, or future. Regardless of the specifics represented by the feet and toes, this dream clearly shows that Jesus Christ will return and establish his kingdom forever – a kingdom that will never be overthrown.
We learn from this narrative several things about God’s character.
- He is merciful to the humble. Daniel consistently interacted with God with an attitude of humility, even as he cried out for mercy as a result of the King’s proclamation regarding his dream. The Lord not only granted Daniel mercy, he also granted Daniel the details and the meaning of the King’s dream. God truly gives grace and mercy to the humble.
- He is relentless with the wicked. Although Nebuchadnezzar didn’t respond in humility, it is clear that God was pursuing him and calling him to repentance. Subsequent chapters in Daniel show us that God waited until the King was “right” in his mind, and with God, before he fulfilled his promise to deliver Babylon to the Persians.
- He is true to his word. Precisely as shown in the prophetic dream, most of the kingdoms represented by the statue have already been destroyed, according to the book of Daniel and other biblical narratives. May we look forward with confidence to the return of Christ, without wavering regarding the truth of the Word of God.
- His kingdom is now, and not yet. Jesus Christ came to earth in the form of a human being, giving birth to his kingdom, and yet withholding the long-promised destruction and judgment of earthly kingdoms. Praise God for his patience with Nebuchadnezzar and with all of us, for he revealed the Stone (Jesus Christ) to us, and he called us to repentance by the Holy Spirit; all of this before the day of destruction.
There are also implications and challenges for each and every one of us.
- Hear his voice, and not just his words. Nebuchadnezzar understood that God had spoken to him through his dream and through Daniel. But he didn’t seek God in any way, and did not understand that the dream was a call to repentance. And sometimes we as his children hear the words God speaks without understanding the point of what He is saying. For example, we might spend all our time trying to untangle the meaning of ten toes on the statue and miss the fact that God is shouting and reminding us that his kingdom is at hand, that earthly kingdoms will be destroyed, and that Christ is returning!
- Look far beyond earthly kingdoms. We often focus too much on the events of today, and don’t remember that we all have eternal destinies to consider. God’s promises for his people include a joyful eternity free from sin, sickness, evil, and worry.
- Repent, for his kingdom is at hand! Like the prophetic “sermon” preached by Jonah to the Ninevites (“You are about to be destroyed”), the message of the King’s dream included an implied call to repent in light of the destruction to come. Our repentance needs to include responding to the gospel, and also may include changing how we live as God’s children. If the kingdom of heaven is indeed at hand, then each of our lives should reflect a sense of purpose and urgency regarding the gospel, and regarding our relationship with Christ. We ought to live as if our time is short!