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Daniel

Prophetic Dream

Daniel  2

{2:1} In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. {2} So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, {3} he said to them, "I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means. " {4} Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic, "O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it." {5} The king replied to the astrologers, "This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. {6} But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me." {7} Once more they replied, "Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it." {8} Then the king answered, "I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: {9} If you do not tell me the dream, there is just one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me." {10} The astrologers answered the king, "There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. {11} What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men."

{12} This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. {13} So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death. {14} When Arioch, the commander of the king's guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. {15} He asked the king's officer, "Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?" Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. {16} At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him. {17} Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. {18} He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. {19} During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven {20} and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. {21} He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. {22} He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. {23} I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king."

-- Daniel 2:1-23 (NIV)

One of the consistent facts of the Bible is that it portrays people as they are. Nebuchadnezzar is shown here to be a tyrant -- with a problem on his hands. In the ancient world, people took dreams seriously (as do Freudians today, for different reasons). What interests me most is Nebuchadnezzar’s demand that his wise men not only interpret the dream (for which they had many books of dream lore) but that they tell it to him first. Why would he do that?

·         First, because he does not trust these people. Have you ever noticed that people who are not trustworthy don’t trust others? Nebuchadnezzar is a man of intrigue and double cross; he therefore assumes they are also.

·         Next, because he knows the dream to be, in a sense, “generic.” A wide variety of interpretations could be placed on it. Which one would be correct? One way to know is to demand that the interpreter know something “only the gods could know.”

·         He is no doubt familiar with their methods, too. Consult your “Book of Dreams” (it almost sounds like a computer technician reading the manual) to find out. Was it that he knew what their answer would be, and knew it was wrong?

·         One last possibility: perhaps he was afraid of the truth. Perhaps he saw clearly that this dream meant no good to his kingdom, and wanted to hold the truth at bay.

So Nebuchadnezzar then uses the “carrot and stick” method. Tell me the dream and interpretation, and you will be greatly rewarded. If not, die a horrible death, you and all your household.

Note particularly the anger of the king. It makes a poor showing when compared to Daniel’s response to it. Daniel’s response to this challenge is a lesson for us:

·         First, he answers with tact and wisdom. He inquires as to the problem, and does so politely.

·         Next, he goes directly to the source of the trouble. He does not try to surround himself with an alliance of fellow sufferers, but rather goes right to the source.

·         As he goes through this, he asks his friends to pray for him. And what do they ask their God for? Mercy. Not power, not revelation, but mercy. They start with the fact that they are sinners and God is God.

So Daniel goes in before Nebuchadnezzar. What really interests me here is Daniel’s reaction to God sending him the vision and the meaning. Most of us would strut into the king’s chambers, but Daniel’s prayer in response gives us a clue to why he had such a relationship with God.

·         First, he praises God (something often left out of our prayers, hallowed be thy name).

·         Next, he thanks God (give us this day our daily bread).

·         Most important, he remains humble, knowing that his knowledge is from God. He therefore credits God with the answer, not himself.

On Prophecy

Prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As John 3:8 tells us, the Spirit goes where it will. It is convenient at this point to explain the various types of prophecy.

Accidental

It sounds almost silly, but God can use the words of the ungodly as prophecy. One well known instance is from the High Pries, Caiaphas, who condemned Jesus to the cross:

{49} Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! {50} You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." {51} He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he

prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, {52} and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. -- John 11:49-52 (NIV)

Literal

Literal prophecy is just that: plain, unadorned by symbolism, a statement of a fact to occur. When a prophet makes such a statement, he does so with his life, for God makes it clear (Deuteronomy 18:18-22) that such a prophet either is 100% accurate, or is a false prophet.

Diagnostic

Diagnostic prophecy is based upon God’s sovereign control of the universe. It is the most common form of prophecy, and it usually is phrased in an “if-then” fashion. “If you don’t stop beating your wife, you’ll soon be in jail.” Most of the work of the prophet is in “forth-telling”, not foretelling.

Symbolic

The prophecy in this section is symbolic. There is such a mass of this type of prophesy in the Bible that it is worth our time to put forward the methods by which these are generally interpreted:

·         Prophecy centers around the people of God. There is no attempt to create a future history of the world.

·         Symbols used have meaning in their own context. As we will see, the bronze part of the figure becomes a goat in Chapter 8.

·         Prophecy often takes a long view; a single prophetic passage may be partially fulfilled, leaving the rest to be fulfilled at the return of Christ.

·         No prophecy stands alone; it must be compared with other prophetic passages to be sure that interpretation is reasonable.

·         Revelation naturally gets clearer as the time for fulfillment draws nearer.

With that, we are ready to review the prophecy in this chapter.

The Statue and the Stone

{24} Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, "Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him." {25} Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, "I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means." {26} The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), "Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?" {27} Daniel replied, "No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, {28} but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you lay on your bed are these: {29} "As you were lying there, O king, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. {30} As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind. {31} "You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue--an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. {32} The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, {33} its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. {34} 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. {35} Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time 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 and filled the whole earth. {36} "This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. {37} You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; {38} in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. {39} "After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth.

{40} 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. {41} 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. {42} As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. {43} 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. {44} "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. {45} This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands--a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. "The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy." {46} Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. {47} The king said to Daniel, "Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery." {48} Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. {49} Moreover, at Daniel's request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court. -- Daniel 2:24-49 (NIV)

The interpretation of this passage is well known, and subject to some debate at the end. To write it out:

·      The head, as Daniel explains, is the Babylonian empire. The gold in it symbolizes the purity of that empire and its strength.

·         Silver is next; it is the mixed empire of Medes and Persians, Darius and Cyrus.

·         Bronze is equated to Greece (see chapter 8).

·         Finally, there comes the Roman empire. Two views of the smiting stone are advanced:

·         First, that the iron and iron-clay are the Roman empire. In this view, the iron and clay mixture pictures the fact that Rome built its empire by assimilating various peoples, allowing them to become citizens, and thus weakening it. The stone is Christ at his first advent.

·         Or, the stone strikes at the second advent, and the ten toes of the statue represent 10 nations or kingdoms who gather together in the end time. This view, for example, has often seen the Common Market countries (when there were ten of them) as these iron and clay toes. The nations would be in the territory of the old Roman empire

Whichever (and perhaps neither) is the case, the “Smiting Stone” is also testified to in the remainder of Scripture:

{22} The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; {23} the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. -- Psalms 118:22-23 (NIV)

{13} The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, {14} and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. {15} Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured." -- Isaiah 8:13-15 (NIV)

{16} So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. -- Isaiah 28:16 (NIV)

{10} then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. {11} He is "'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. ' -- Acts 4:10-11 (NIV)

Lessons to be Learned

The prime function of prophecy is to warn the Christian as well as give hope.

·         We need to remember his coming again - and know that He is God. God writes the history books; we know the ending.

·         This should carry over into our prayer life and worship life; our relationship to God must be based on the truth of Who He Is -- and knowing this, that He will do as he has said.

·         It should also carry over into our mundane lives -- for the actions of this world we will be called to account.

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