God Rules the World
Topic: English Passage: Daniel 2:1-49
From the reports I heard, it seems like the most well-attended church Sunday in the United States during my lifetime was Sunday, September 16, 2001. That was the Sunday immediately following the 9/11 attacks which took place on Tuesday and destroyed the towers of the World Trade Center. People had fears, people had questions, and people wanted answers. So, they went to church.
The Sunday surge didn’t last too long, however, and church attendance eventually went back to its normal declining numbers.
But no matter how interested the culture may be in coming to church, the church needs to be ready with answers. We have been given the truth, and we are called to proclaim it. First Timothy 3:15 says the church is the household of God, and it is the pillar and buttress of the truth. We hold up the truth to the world.
Think about what’s going on in our world right now. What is happening?
The COVID-19 hysteria doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. We’ve got the most prominent voices in politics and the media bombarding our families with atheism, evolutionism, and the LGBTQQIAAP agenda. The co-founder of Twitter says hyperinflation is happening, and it’s going to change everything. And the president’s job approval ratings have dropped about 15% in the past 6 months.
The Taliban are in control of Afghanistan. China is flying hypersonic missiles around the world. Iran appears to be on its way to nuclear weapons. And the United Nations says humanity is on its way to extinction because of climate change. This is what’s happening in the world, and it’s led many people to wonder and to speculate how this is all going to end. Where is all this heading?
God’s desire is not to leave the world alone. He has placed us here to give them the truth. We proclaim the truth corporately in our worship and in our preaching, and we proclaim it individually as we interact with the people God places in our path throughout the week.
God wants the world to know something, and He has placed us here to proclaim it. What is that truth? What does God want the world to know? To help us answer that question, we are going to continue our study of Daniel today and look at Daniel, chapter 2. Turn with me to Daniel chapter 2.
The nation of Israel has fallen into disobedience and rebellion. So, in accordance with His promise, God brought judgment. The northern kingdom, known as Israel, was destroyed by the Assyrians. About 150 years later, the southern kingdom, known as Judah, was attacked by the Babylonians.
Babylon was an idolatrous, pagan nation ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar stole the best and the brightest from the land of Israel, and he took them as exiles to serve in his own kingdom. Daniel 1 introduced us to four of those young men, who were named Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These guys were probably about 13-16 years old, and they were placed into a focused reeducation program, in order to prepare them to be servants of the Babylonian king.
As we saw in Daniel 1, God graciously gave them favor with their leaders, and they stood out because of their integrity and their wisdom. That training program lasted anywhere from 2-3 years, so now, they’re about 15-18 years old.
Let’s pick up the story in Daniel, chapter 2. Daniel chapter 2. In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him.
When a king came to power in that culture, they wouldn’t start counting officially until a new calendar year started. So, for that first portion, no matter how long or short it was, maybe we could call it a zero year. But once a new calendar year started, you would start counting his first official year. I only say that because in terms of Daniel’s education, it’s very possible that it’s over by now.
The main issue here, though, isn’t the chronology; it’s the king’s trouble. I assume most, if not all of us, have had dreams and nightmares. And so, you have experienced what it’s like to wake up feeling unsettled.
Well, for the Babylonians, it’s even worse because they assumed that a nightmare was likely an omen. In their mind, it was probably a sign of some coming difficulty or tragedy. And this king, in all his power and glory, was troubled. He could no longer enjoy his sleep.
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.
These are the people responsible to communicate with the king on behalf of the gods. They were scribes and priests and astronomers and astrologers. They were the king’s advisers.
Daniel was not a part of this group. He had barely finished his training, and, like the other young men, would have been closer to the bottom of the ladder for the king’s servants.
But no matter how high or low a servant was on the totem pole, getting called to see the king might ordinarily, have been something special, but not this time.
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.” 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.”
This is not what these guys were expecting to happen. It’s all or nothing now. The king has only given them two option: honor and prestige, or shame and death. And their challenge, now, is not merely to interpret a dream for the king, but to tell him what the dream was.
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.”
Nebuchadnezzar isn’t messing around. He doesn’t want speculation. He doesn’t want a best effort. He wants the truth. And he wants to know it’s the truth. And all his magical advisers are terrified.
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.” 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.
Nebuchadnezzar, just so you know, was a former general before his father died. He’s the one who led Babylon to defeat Egypt. He has no problem taking life. He’s in charge. He’s the king of the largest empire in the world.
Yet, despite all his power and all his prestige, he finds himself helpless, unable to sleep without any assurance that his problem is going to be fixed.
It’s a big deal when the man in charge gets angry and frustrated. As a result, all the useless (in the king’s mind) wise men of Babylon will be put to death. And that includes Daniel.
Well, before we continue with the story, let’s pause for a moment. I told you at the beginning that God wants the world to know something. And the opening section of this story, we find one example. God wants the people of this world to know that they are helpless without Him. God wants the people of this world to know that they are helpless without Him.
This is the greatest empire in the world at the time, and the king is surrounded by the most brilliant scholars and advisers. And they are all absolutely helpless. They don’t have any real answers.
And what we see happening in Babylon, you need to be assured, is exactly what’s happening today. Some people turn to superstition and astrology. Some people turn to science. Some people turn to psychology. Some people place their hope in a political party. But none of those are capable of giving you definitive, final answers.
If you’re looking for answers to life’s most important questions, nothing in this world can give them to you. You will get nowhere.
Nobody, on their own, knows where this is all heading. None of them know what’s going to happen next. It’s all speculation. It’s all just a guess. And it’s all wrong. The things of this world cannot give you definitive answers.
The irony here is that God makes that point, He emphasizes the helplessness of this world, through the very words of the most elite. Look again at verse 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.”
Their response, in other words, is, “No man can know that. That’s outside our ability.” The greatest knowledge and wisdom this world can have will not come from the world. It has to come from outside. God wants everyone to know that the people of this world are helpless without Him.
Let’s continue with the story. All the magicians and wise men, including Daniel, are going to be sentenced to death. What happens next?
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.
This is another example of the favor God had granted Daniel with the leadership.
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. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 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.” 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.”
God tells Daniel what the dream was and what it means, but before we, as the readers, get to hear it, we are struck with praise. And that’s helpful for us, because many times we can be so captivated by a story, even by a true story, that we forget to pause and praise God.
And this gives us another message that God wants the world to know. Not only does God want the people of this world to know they’re helpless without Him; He wants them to know that He alone is worthy of praise. He alone is worthy of praise. As verse 20 says, to Him belong wisdom and might.
So, in other words, the message of the story so far is: Stop giving your life to the things of this world and give your attention and your devotion to the God who made you. Why should you do that? Daniel’s psalm answers that question for us, and it’s a third message for us this morning.
God wants the people of this world to know that He is in charge and in control of the world. God is in charge and in control of this world. The theological term for this is sovereignty. A king is the sovereign over his kingdom, but God is sovereign over everything.
The pagans believed their gods and their rituals governed the world. But Daniel knows the truth. Like verse 21 says, God is the one who changes times and seasons. He removes kings and sets up kings.
When the Babylonians conquered Judah, their assumption was that it was because their god was greater than Israel’s God. But we know that’s not what was happening. God allowed Babylon to destroy Judas as a form of judgment. God is the one in charge and in control of this world.
Acts 17:26 says God made from one man every nation, and He determined their time and their boundaries. You need to keep that in mind when you look around at the world. Nothing is outside His power or His perfect plan—not Joe Biden or the United States, not the Taliban or Afghanistan, not Xi Jinping or China, not Kim Jong-un or North Korea, not Vladimir Putin or Russia. No one and no nation is outside God’s power or God’s plan. And now, God is going to make sure Babylon knows it as well.
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.
Look back again at verse 28, because there we find another message for the world. Verse 28 says: There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known ... what will be in the latter days.
The fourth message from God to the world is this: God wants the people of this world to know that He has ordained and revealed how this is all going to end. This world is helpless without God. God alone is worthy of praise. God is in charge and in control of the world. And God has ordained and revealed how this is all going to end.
This is the whole point of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and now, we finally get to fid out what it is.
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.
So, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is that there’s a giant statue made up of different layers of materials. But then, a rock hits the statue’s feet, and it all crumbles into dust and the wind blows it all away. And that little stone turns into an enormous mountain. What does that mean?
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. 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.” 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.
The statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream symbolizes great empires of the world, and each layer represents a new empire. As time progresses, the empires get less glorious, but they also get stronger. The head of gold represents the Babylonians Empire. But as glorious as it is, it won’t last forever. It’s going to be replaced. The Babylonians Empire gave way to the Medo-Persian Empire. The Medo-Persian Empire was conquered by the Greeks, and the Greek were conquered by the Romans. And the Roman Empire eventually collapsed. No worldly empire lasts forever.
But one day, God is going to bring His own kingdom upon the earth. That’s what the stone represented. Every human kingdom is going to crumble and vanish, and only the kingdom of God will remain.
This is the final truth God wants the world to know. God wants the people of this world to know that He will bring this world an everlasting kingdom. God will bring this world an everlasting kingdom.
For Daniel, revealing and interpreting the dream meant being rewarded. Nebuchadnezzar gives some credit to Daniel’s God, but he basically worships Daniel, the man. Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t get the point. And chapter 3 makes that even more clear.
What’s the point of this dream? The point is that the kingdoms of this world are eternally insignificant. God has a temporary purpose for them in this world, but in the end, God’s eternal kingdom will come. Every earthly kingdom will fade away and be forgotten. But the kingdom of God will last forever.
Shouldn’t that change the way you look at this world? I hope so. It needs to change our outlook on this world and on current events. This world isn’t going to end because the sun runs out of energy, or because climate change or some meteor kills us all. And no earthly power, no matter how powerful or intimidating will rule forever. Jesus Christ will return, and He will assume His rightful place as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
For those of you us who have surrendered our lives to Jesus Christ, we are citizens of that coming kingdom. Christ will return to the earth, and we will reign with Him forever. And every enemy will be crushed forever. Christ and His people will have the victory.
What a joy and what a hope that would have been to the Israelites who were exiled in Babylon, and it should be the same for us today who have been exiled in this world.
The biggest question, however, is this: Do you belong to the kingdom of God? Are you going to be in it? Are you a part of God’s kingdom, or are you part of this world?
Jesus Christ came so that any one of us could become a citizen of God’s kingdom. Left alone, we’re not worthy. But Jesus died to pay the price of our sin. And He was raised from the dead as a guarantee and a preview of His final victory over death, and over Satan, and over earthly system. No matter how far this world turns from Christ, He will win. His kingdom will last forever.
So, stop living life for yourself, and trust in Jesus Christ. Then, God will forgive you, and you will be an eternal citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Instead of being cast into eternal judgment in hell, you will be reign forever with Jesus Christ.