God's Plan for Human History - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Daniel 2

  • 2018-10-28 PM
  • Daniel
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One of our society's strongest beliefs, and at the same time one of its greatest lies, is the randomness of life. When the pundits of our time say that life is random they mean this, they mean that everything that exists, in the physical world, in human history, and in each person's life, is characterized by randomness. The Oxford English Dictionary defines random as, "Having no definite aim or purpose; not sent or guided in a particular direction. Made, done, occurring," etc., "without method or conscious choice; haphazard." That is the philosophy of our times.

The philosophical and intellectual giants of our age are actually teaching us that all of the events that occur, including the great events of human history, have no design, no plan. There is no aim, there is no purpose to what happens, because there is no Designer, there is no Creator, there is no Sustainer, there is no God. Instead, it is randomness. And if all the events that happen have no design, then it is necessarily true that they have no meaning.

This popular idea, and it is everywhere, is the result of the religion of our times. And that religion is Darwinian naturalism. James Sire, in his excellent book, The Universe Next Door, explains this about naturalism and its view of randomness. Listen to this. He writes that, "Naturalism holds that human history is a linear stream of events, linked by cause and effect, but without an overarching purpose." A linear string of events linked by cause and effect, but with no overarching purpose. There is no design. There is no meaning. There is no plan. Because there is no Creator, there is no Designer. There is therefore, no meaning.

Scripture utterly rejects that view, and specifically, the Book of Daniel completely and absolutely demolishes the idea of the randomness of human history. In fact, the theme of Daniel as we have discovered is this, Yahweh, the God of Israel, is sovereign over the lives of individuals, the affairs of nations, the span of empires, and all of human history. The foundation upon which this book is built is that God exists, that the God who exists is sovereign, and that the God who exists and is sovereign has a careful plan. And He is working out His plan in the details of human history and in our lives, relentlessly, irresistibly, powerfully, and certainly. That is our God.

Now, the six narratives that begin Daniel's book demonstrate God's sovereignty over human history. But these narratives do so in distinctively personal ways, as we sort of look over Daniel's shoulder and we watch him and his three friends as they watch the rise and fall of kings and empires. The theme of the first chapter, of the first narrative, we discovered is this, God is sovereign in the lives of His children and arranges the details of their lives for their good and for His own strategic and eternal purposes.

We saw that with Daniel and his three friends. That brings us to Daniel 2, again driving home this point of God's sovereignty over human history, and Daniel 2 has this essential message, the sovereign God has a plan for human history, a comprehensive plan. God revealed this point to both Nebuchadnezzar and to Daniel, and then ultimately to us in a way that none of us could ever forget.

These remarkable events that we are going to discover tonight unfolded shortly after Daniel arrived in Babylon. Let's look at it together. The story begins, and this is as far as we will get tonight, the very first point that summarizes this chapter, verses 1 to 13, reveal God's plan disclosed in a king's dream; God's plan disclosed in a king's dream. Let's read it together, Daniel 2:1-13. You follow along as I read.

"Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurors, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. The king said to them, "I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream."

Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: "O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants and we will declare the interpretation." The king replied to the Chaldeans, "The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap. But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great honor; therefore, declare to me the dream and its interpretation." They answered a second time and said, "Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation." The king replied, "I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, inasmuch as you have seen that the command from me is firm, that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you. For you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore, tell me the dream, that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation." The Chaldeans answered the king and said, "There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean. Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh."

Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them.

A remarkable story, this is the Word of God. And here God's plan for human history is disclosed in the dream of a king. Let's walk through it together. Notice verse 1, "Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar." Now, reading that immediately raises a question about how this narrative in chapter 2 fits with the rest of Daniel's history. If you look back at chapter 1 verse 1, it speaks of Daniel being taken captive and Nebuchadnezzar being crowned king, in what is called the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah. We discovered that was the year 605 B.C.

That is when Daniel was taken captive, that is when Nebuchadnezzar was crowned king after his father's death. If you look down in chapter 1 verse 5, we learned that Daniel and his friends were taken to Babylon and were to be educated there for three years. Now go to chapter 2 verse 1, "Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, he had dreams." So this immediately raises the question then, of when is this happening? At first glance, verse 1 of chapter 2 seems to imply that these events occurred while Daniel and his friends were still in their three year training period.

However, because of the way accession years were counted in Babylon and Judah the year that they ascended to the throne, Nebuchadnezzar's second year did not officially end until April 9th, 602 B.C. Daniel had been taken captive almost three full years earlier, in the summer of 605 B.C. So it is likely then that these events, what we are about to study together, occurred shortly after the events in chapter 1, and probably within the same year as the last part of chapter 1. In addition, Daniel may not have trained three complete years, because in Hebrew thinking, a portion of a year was often counted as a whole year.

So understand this then, the big point I want you to get is this, by the time of these events in chapter 2, Daniel and his friends had been trained for three years and had graduated with honors, summa cum laude, from their education in Babylon. And yet Daniel was probably at this point only 17 or 18 years of age. I want those of you who are younger, who are teenagers, to think about that. Think of what happens in the story, and think about the spirituality, the profound spirituality, of this man at his younger age.

Verse 1 says, "Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him." Early in his reign as king, Nebuchadnezzar is already having nightmares. Secular history explains why. It tells us that during the early years of his reign there was serious opposition, both at home and abroad, to his expansionist, colonist methods and policies. And so, all was not well in Babylon.

There was serious pushback to his new approach to ruling. We all have personally experienced the reality that the problems of the day are often revisited in the dreams of the night. Or as Sinclair Ferguson puts it, "The anxieties of daylight become the monsters of the darkness." Literally it says, "Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams." It could mean that he had the same dream more than once. More likely, it simply means that he was in a state of dreaming.

Now, as we will discover, this particular dream is not an ordinary dream. Not like the ones I had last night, or that you had last night. This is a hugely significant dream. It provides a history of the world through four successive great Gentile empires, and during the final phase of the fourth empire all earthly powers will be destroyed and God Himself will establish a kingdom that will endure forever. This is a most unusual dream. And as a result of his dream, notice verse 1 says, "his spirit was troubled." Literally, the Hebrew text says, "his spirit was struck." It is a word that is used of a hammer hitting an anvil. It is possible that this word, this expression, is intended to describe the rapid beat of his heart as he awakened in an extreme state of agitation, even terror, from this dream.

Now if you have read this chapter, and I trust you have, if you think about the dream itself, and when we later discover the nature of the dream, you might be tempted to ask, why in the world would this strike terror into Nebuchadnezzar's heart? I mean, after all, it is an image, he represents the head of gold, and it is an image that is eventually destroyed by a stone cut out of the mountain without hands and it blows away. What possibly could this have done to his frame of mind to produce this kind of terror?

Well, obviously, the ancients believed dreams had great significance, but also remember what happens next. What happens in Daniel 3? Nebuchadnezzar constructs an image that replicates this image in his dream. When he recreates the image that he saw in his dream, it will be an image of whom? Of Nebuchadnezzar, because he is the head of gold. Likely, when he saw it, before Daniel interprets it for him, he concluded that the image in the dream was him. And at the end of the dream, a stone, cut out of the mountain without hands, crushes the image to powder and the wind blows it away. He knew this dream was important and Nebuchadnezzar feared that it contained an ominous message about his future. Here he is, an image representing Nebuchadnezzar as king, a stone comes and crushes it to powder, and it is blown away. Undoubtedly, this message that seemed to have ominous overtones for him, left him with a huge sense of fear and foreboding. Perhaps his new kingdom was about to come crashing down.

By the way, there is really an amazing lesson here. Think about Nebuchadnezzar for a moment. He was a magnificent monarch. And he appeared to have everything in life that a man could want. But it all left him with dissatisfaction and insecurity. Ferguson writes, "His heart was set on goals that would in the long run prove to be mirages in the desert. He lived exclusively for this world. Thus, the horizons of his ambition always moved with the change and decay of this world." Or to put it in the words of Augustine, "God made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him." So here is this king who appears to have it all and he is troubled, deeply profoundly troubled by this dream. He is just a couple of short years into his reign and it is not working out as he had hoped.

Verse 1 finishes by telling us that "his sleep left him." This was one of those dreams. There was no chance of going back to sleep after that nightmare. And if he could not sleep, no one else was going to sleep either. Verse 2, "the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurors, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king." Once Nebuchadnezzar awoke, and it was likely still very early, he would find himself still in great distress, and so he called for those that he believed could interpret his dream.

Now, we have already met the first two groups mentioned here, the magicians and the conjurors, back in chapter 1, but here we add two others. The sorcerers were those who were the reciters, literally, "reciters of incantations;" it comes from an Akkadian word. And this religious group, the sorcerers in ancient Babylon, used herbs, charms, and various potions to practice witchcraft, sorcery. Of course, a practice roundly condemned in the Old Testament in Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:10, and in other places. That is what they practiced, in order to advise the king. Babylon was prone to be controlled by superstition, by mysticism, and by sorcery and witchcraft.

The next group is called the Chaldeans. Now, that name can describe either all of the Babylonians ethnically, they are together called the Chaldeans, or the same word can be used of a special class of priests, astrologers, or you could call them wise men, in Babylon. And that is how it is used here in this context. The Chaldeans studied the movements of the heavenly bodies, but they did so not ultimately for scientific purposes, but for astrology. They believed the heavens gave them direction about how to live their lives. It was astrology; it was right out of our newspaper or websites.

But their pursuit of astrology caused them to observe the heavens and their observation of the heavens led to some fascinating scientific conclusions about astronomy. For example, think about this, one Babylonian astronomer, 500 B.C., it would have been just after Daniel's death, calculated the length of the year, and he calculated it at 365 days, six hours, 15 minutes, and 41 seconds. In other words, without any of our modern technology, he came within 26 minutes and 55 seconds of being exactly accurate.

Together, the leaders of these four groups, and by the way, don't rigidly express these four groups, the group names vary from list to list throughout Daniel, six different names are used of this sort of group of advisors, but together, these groups served as Nebuchadnezzar's personal advisers and his cabinet. But their approach was very evil and spiritual, not in a good sense but in an evil sense.

Verse 3, "The king said to them," once they gathered, I am sure bleary eyed and not eager to be there, "The king said to them, 'I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream.'" Now notice it does not say that the king had forgotten the dream, but rather that he wants to understand its meaning. Again, in that culture everyone understood the importance of dreams. How much more important were the dreams of the king? That is the idea here. Verse 4, "Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: 'O king, live forever.'" Now first of all, notice that this group of astrologers, they address the king in appropriate form for an ancient Asian court, "O king, live forever." And you can see that throughout Daniel and in other places in the Old Testament.

But what is remarkable about this statement is those two little words, "in Aramaic," because you see, a shocking change happens in the middle of verse 4, and it is not obvious to English readers, because beginning in the middle of verse 4, right after those words in Aramaic and running to the end of chapter 7, Daniel stops writing in Hebrew, his native tongue, and he begins writing in Aramaic. Although it is possible that what it is saying here is that the Chaldeans spoke to the king in the Aramaic language, they certainly would have spoken Aramaic, more likely the words "in Aramaic" are best taken as a sort of parenthetical notation, that Daniel placed in the text, to mark the change from the Hebrew language to the Aramaic language. By the way, there are other examples of Aramaic sections in the Old Testament. Ezra has a couple of them in Ezra 4:8-6:18, Ezra 7:12-26. And Jeremiah has an Aramaic verse, Jeremiah 10:11. But what we find here is by far the longest section in Aramaic in the Old Testament.

Now why Aramaic? What is the point? In Daniel's time, Aramaic was the international language of diplomacy and commerce, much as English is today. It would have been spoken by all of the intellectuals in the Babylonian court and across the empire. So if Daniel wanted the widest possible reading of this book that he is writing, it made sense to write it in Aramaic. But that still does not explain why only this one section. Well, I think we can discover the reason if we consider the contents of chapters 2 through 7, because these chapters focus on God's plan for human history.

In fact, they underscore the rise, the decline, and fall of all of the great empires of the ancient world. Because it is Daniel's intention, and ultimately the intention of the Holy Spirit, to focus on the cosmic plan of history, then think about it, it just makes sense to do so in the language that has the farthest reach, the greatest audience. The God of heaven, the God of the Israelites, is the true and living God who has a plan, and He wants the world to know. That is the point. In fact, E.J. Young, an excellent commentator on the book of Daniel writes this, "Aramaic, being the language of the world, is used in those portions of the book which outline the future history of worldly empires and their relation to the people of God. And Hebrew is used in those portions which interpret for the Hebrews the meaning of the visions of the world empires."

So, you in essence, in Daniel, have two separate audiences. We are beginning a section that has as its audience the peoples of the world. In fact, that is made very clear by one key phrase that occurs seven times in this Aramaic section, and it makes the international message of this section crystal clear. It is this, "peoples, nations and men of every language" occurs seven times in this Aramaic section. This is God's message to the world.

So look back at verse 4, "Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king," parenthesis, "in Aramaic," and now we change from Hebrew to Aramaic, "'O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.'" Now the wise men of Babylon were within their experience here. They were skilled in interpreting dreams. In fact, they actually, and history tells us this, they actually had manuals. They had manuals on the interpretation of dreams that explained the various symbols that could appear in dreams. And so if they knew the content of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, all they had to do is go pull the manual off the shelf and open it up, and look at the different elements that were in his dream, and they could tell him its meaning.

This is how it worked. Nebuchadnezzar knew that, they knew that; this was the world they lived in. Of course, they would not have been right, but they would not have known that and Nebuchadnezzar would have been happy, as he had before, living in his blissful ignorance. So it did not matter. But Nebuchadnezzar's own fear and insecurity led him to distrust his advisers, and actually to be hostile toward them. Look at verse 5. "The king replied to the Chaldeans, 'The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap.'"

Wow. That is called not having job security. Nebuchadnezzar demands that they tell him both the dream and its interpretation. And he adds, using a Persian loan word, that his command is "firm," it is certain, it is not going to change. In fact, if they fail to tell him both the dream and its interpretation, there would be two horrific consequences. Notice first of all, they would be killed and dismembered. Literally, the Aramaic says, "they will be made into limbs." This terrible practice was widespread throughout the ancient world. So this was not him just sort of making idle threats.

Secondly he says, their houses would be made rubbish heaps. Again, literally the Aramaic says "their houses would be made into ruins, reduced to rubble." And in the ancient world, this usually involved not only the complete destruction of the building that was their house, but then turning their property into a dump for garbage and for human refuse; it became a latrine. That is his threat.

Now if you have read how Nebuchadnezzar treated Zedekiah in 2 Kings 25:7, where he killed all of his sons in front of his eyes and then put out his eyes, and then bound him in bronze fetters, or if you have read the next chapter where he throws three that he saw as bright and shining lights in his kingdom into a fiery furnace heated hotter than even his soldiers could tolerate, then you know that these are not idle threats. He means it. And the kings of the ancient east meant it as well. In fact, Herodotus, the historian, tells us that about 100 years after Daniel, Darius I almost completely exterminated his corps of wise men. Nebuchadnezzar was given to anger, he was given to violence, and he would stop at absolutely nothing to get what he wanted.

But why this hostile response to his advisers, whom he has awakened and brought to his chambers in the middle of the night, or early morning? Some have wrongly concluded that Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten his dream. It comes from a sort of vague expression in the Hebrew that the Authorized Version, the King James, translated as the idea that it had gone from his mind; that he had forgotten it. That is not what the text says. The text never says that he had forgotten this dream. In fact, read it again and you will find that throughout the story, the wise men always assume that Nebuchadnezzar knows and just is refusing to tell them. And so they keep asking him to tell them.

Now, why this hostile response? Again, remember the dream. A stone destroys Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom. He has just been king for two full years; more, if you count the ascension year and all of those things. So, understand, it is a very short reign so far. But in a monarchy, what is the most common way that a king loses his throne? By a coup and assassination. Nebuchadnezzar would have been right to have feared this. In fact, two of the three Babylonian kings that came after Nebuchadnezzar were assassinated. And who are those, when there is a coup, when there is an assassination, who are those that are most often involved in that coup? Those closest to the king, those who are his most trusted advisers.

Nebuchadnezzar, in not yet knowing the real interpretation of the dream, but having seen this image that represented him, that had his head, crushed by a stone and reduced to powder, and blown away by the wind, he could easily and probably did assume, that this was his own destruction pictured in this dream. That it was a prophecy of an impending coup and assassination, and he may very well have feared that some of his wise men were involved in the plot, and so he is happy to say, tell me the dream, tell me the interpretation, or you guys are toast.

In verse 9, he even accuses them of a conspiracy and of lying to him. Again, I like what Sinclair Ferguson writes in his commentary. He says, "The strife and conflict in Nebuchadnezzar's heart which show him how little he can trust his own integrity, teach him enough to induce a fear that others similarly live for themselves and therefore cannot be fully trusted." In other words, it is Titus 3, sinners are "hateful and hating one another," and are only pursuing their own advantage. And that is exactly how he is thinking about these advisors who stand in front of him. Here is a man who had plenty of power, but absolutely no peace.

Just as he could be extremely harsh, he could also be extremely generous. Notice verse 6, here is the other side of it, "'But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts.'" The Aramaic word is singular, "'you shall receive from me a gift and a reward and great honor.'" The implication here is that there was some understanding of what this gift and this reward would be. Perhaps it was promotion. Perhaps it was some sort of financial gift. Perhaps it was marriage to one of his daughters. Whatever it was, it is understood to be significant and a "'great honor; and therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation.'" The first two words, "'gifts and a reward,'" offer material prosperity. The third offers public recognition and personal glory.

Verse 7, "They answered a second time." Now again, read this with some sort of a sanctified imagination and imagine you are these guys. You realize your king now thinks that you are in some sort of a cabal against him, that you are somehow his enemies, and you have been awakened in the middle of the night, and what he is asking for you to do is tell him not only the interpretation of his dream, which you are more than prepared to do, pull out your manuals, your trusty dusty manuals and you are ready to go, he wants to know the dream itself.

So verse 7,

They answered a second time and said, "Let the king tell the dream to his servants and we will declare the interpretation." The king replied, "I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, inasmuch as you have seen that the command from me is firm, that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you."

Now this is interesting, in fact, my kids always accuse me of being a bit of a geek and a nerd here, but I love this. Here we learn that one of our common English expressions actually dates to 2500 years ago and Aramaic, because "bargaining for time" here is literally "buying time," as in, "you are just trying to buy time." That is exactly what he says. He says to them, listen, you are trying to postpone the fatal moment when your inability to tell me the dream and its interpretation becomes clear. You are trying to postpone it and I am not going to stand for it. He says, if you do not tell me the dream and its interpretation, "there is only one decree for you." What is he talking about? Dismemberment of your body and destruction of your house. Your body becomes limbs and your house becomes a latrine.

Verse 9, here is why, "'For you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore tell me the dream, that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation.'" Nebuchadnezzar accuses them of forming a cabal, a conspiracy, and using wicked lies to stall for time until somehow the circumstances have changed. He was absolutely confident that somehow this group would find a way to maneuver out of their difficult situation, but notice the key, he says, "'tell me the dream.'" In other words, tell me the content of my dream. Why? In order "'that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation.'" The only way Nebuchadnezzar could know that their interpretation of the dream was right was if they could tell him the dream. Because that would mean the gods had revealed his dream to them and that means they would also be in a position to truly interpret its meaning.

Verse 10, "The Chaldeans answered the king and said, 'There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean.'" Notice how they respond here. First of all they said, listen, there is no human being who can do this. Secondly, no truly great king or ruler has ever asked this of his wise men. What they are really saying is, Nebuchadnezzar, you are being completely unreasonable. They are remarkably critical of Nebuchadnezzar, for a man who has just threatened to dismember their bodies and make their houses latrines.

Verse 11, "'Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult,'" the Aramaic word is heavy or weighty, "'and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods. whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.'" Now, that is a remarkable admission. What they say to him is, listen, the gods know what you have dreamed, and they know what it means, but they don't live here with us, and they aren't telling us. Now what is remarkable about that is, what was their job? To be in touch with the gods. They are saying, listen, gods aren't telling us.

There is also another possibility with verse 11. You see the word gods? Both Aramaic and Hebrew use a plural form for the word god, whether they are talking about polytheism, many gods, or whether they are talking about the highest, or the greatest of the gods. You see, even polytheists, even those who believe in multiple gods, believe in a supreme god who reigns alone above the others. I think it is very possible that that the wise men of Babylon are admitting that only the supreme god, in their system Bel, can make this known.

Verse 12, "Because of this the king became indignant and very furious." Those words "indignant," "very furious," are almost synonyms. But you get the idea, Daniel wants us to know, he is red hot with anger, "and he gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon." Probably referring not to the entire empire, but rather to the city of Babylon itself. Now notice the key words, "Because of this." When his advisors told him that neither he nor they were God, and could do what God does, "Because of this the king became very indignant and furious."

Why? What is the connection? What is the link? Why would that especially make him angry? It is because his real problem, and all sinners real problem, is a deep seated hostility toward God Himself. You see, it was only when his advisors, the greatest intellectuals of his age, reminded him that they were all human, none of them were God, that he became furious. As we will learn, Nebuchadnezzar does have many virtues, but self-control is not one of them. His was the response of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who famously said, "If there is a God, how can I bear not to be that God?" That is the real issue with Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar, and we are going to see this unfold in chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar could not bear the thought of his own personal mortality, and the temporary and fading nature of his own kingdom. Remember, in the image he is just the head of gold, a fainting, fleeting figure on the pages of human history, whose kingdom is absorbed in another. He cannot handle that. He has replaced, as Romans 1 says, he has replaced his knowledge of the true God for gods made in the image of the things God created. And as a result, you go down to the end of Romans 1, he is proud and violent.

Verse 13, "So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them." Nebuchadnezzar demanded imminent action. Those who received the king's orders, they began to assemble all of the wise men in the city of Babylon for what appears to be here, a formal execution of all of them at one time. So they began to collect them for execution.

That is where we will leave off the story tonight, but I want to conclude with the points of these first 13 verses. You see, the events described in the first 13 verses are not merely there to lengthen the story or to provide a little color commentary. God intentionally shaped these circumstances to teach both His people Israel and the Babylonian captors three powerful lessons. I want you to capture these lessons from the first 13 verses.

Lesson number one, the identity and power of the one true God. You see, God has chosen to reveal that He exists and that He has a plan for human history. And more than that, we are going to learn through this dream that He has chosen to tell us exactly what that plan is. Why? Well there are a number of biblical reasons we could consider, but let me just give you one strategic reason God reveals what is going to happen before it happens. It is a divine apologetic. Prophecy about the future proves that Yahweh, the God of Israel, the God of Scripture, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the one true and living God, who not only knows the future, but who directs and shapes it to His ends.

I want you to turn to Isaiah, Isaiah 46. Now let me give you some context so you can capture what is going on here. Isaiah wrote about 120 years before the events we are studying in Daniel 2. But Isaiah, by the work of the Holy Spirit, looked beyond Daniel's time to when the kingdom of Babylon would be destroyed. Daniel lived through those times, and Isaiah here describes how it would happen.

Look at Isaiah 46, here are the gods of Babylon. "Bel has bowed down." Now again, remember, he is looking past the events of Daniel 2 to when Babylon is destroyed in Daniel 5.

Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over; their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle. The things that you carry are burdensome, a load for the weary beast. They stooped over, they have bowed down together; they could not rescue the burden, but have themselves [the gods of Babylon have] gone into captivity. "Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnants of the house of Israel, you who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb."

Now notice the contrast. He says, listen, Babylonians, you have to carry your gods, but I have carried my people.

"Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you. To whom then would you liken Me and make Me equal and compare Me, that we would be alike?"

He says, what God is like Me? The gods of the nations, the gods of Babylon, they have to be carried. I carry My people.

"Those who lavish, [verse 6,] lavish gold from the purse and weigh silver on the scale hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; they bow down, indeed they worship it. They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it; they set it in its place and it just stands there. It does not move from its place. Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer; it cannot deliver him from his distress. Remember this, and be assured; recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me."

So what distinguishes the true and living God from all the false gods of the nations, from the gods of Babylon? Here it is, verse 10, "'there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning.'" In other words, at the very beginning I am telling you what is coming, "'and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, "My purpose will be established."'" He says, not only do I see what is going to happen, not only am I telling you what is going to happen, it is my purpose for it to happen. "'And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.'" And then He speaks of the man through who it will become accomplished, we will look at this later, at Cyrus, "'Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.'"

You see what God is saying? He is saying, look at the fact that I tell you what is coming and recognize that that is completely unlike the false gods of the nations. You just, you have them made, you pay to have them made, you stand them up there, they do nothing, you carry them, whereas I have carried you. And more than carry you, I have told you what is coming long before it came, because I am going to do it. Understand, when you read the book of Daniel, we are going to see prophecy, after prophecy, after prophecy. Understand what is happening, God is giving a divine apologetic that He is the one true and living God.

There is a second lesson here, in Daniel 2, and that is, the weakness and worthlessness of false religion, the weakness and worthlessness of false religion. More than a hundred years before, God challenged the wise men of Babylon and their gods to deliver their nation from His power when he came. In Daniel 5 He says, go ahead, deliver yourselves from Me by your power and your witchcraft.

Look at Isaiah 47. Isaiah 47, and I won't walk through the entire chapter, but let me just take you to where he gets to the point here. Verse 10, this is to Babylon, again, this is Isaiah 100 years before Daniel 2, looking past Daniel 2 to when Daniel 5 comes, and Babylon falls. He says, "'You felt secure in your wickedness and you said, "No one sees me," your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; for you have said in your heart, "I am,"'" you get the connotation there, "'"and there is no one besides me."'" They are thumbing their nose at the true God. "'But evil will come on you which you will not know how to charm away.'" He is talking now to the Chaldeans, and the conjurers, and the sorcerers. He says,

"you will not know how to charm away; the disaster will fall on you for which you cannot atone; and destruction about which you do not know will come on you suddenly. Stand fast now in your spells and in your many sorceries with which you have labored from your youth; perhaps you will be able to profit, perhaps you may cause trembling. You are wearied with your many counsels; let now the astrologers, those who prophesied by the stars, those who predict by the new moons, stand up and save you from what will come upon you. Behold, they [that is, the Chaldeans, the conjurors] they have become like stubble, fire burns them; they cannot deliver themselves from the fire that I am going to bring."

What is Isaiah doing? What is God doing? He is saying, look at the foolishness, the weakness, the worthlessness of false religion. When the time comes, they can't even save themselves.

There is a third lesson buried in these verses and that is, the lostness and the emptiness of the fallen human heart; the lostness and the emptiness of the fallen human heart. You see it in Nebuchadnezzar, you see it in a man who is at the very top, and yet you see his heart, you see his soul. Isaiah said, "'There is no peace for the wicked,'" and you see it in the life of this man.

You see, if you are here tonight and you do not know your Creator through His Son Jesus Christ, let me tell you, your life is no different than that of Nebuchadnezzar. In fact, understand this, you can spend your entire life fighting and clawing your way to the top of the ladder only to discover that it is leaning against the wrong wall. All of those seductive and fascinating things that you thought would bring you happiness and satisfaction, I promise you, you will find won't. In fact, you will learn the truth of a song we often sing, "the sin that promised joy and life had led me to the grave."

Nebuchadnezzar will eventually learn that real joy is only found in humbling oneself before God your Creator and acknowledging His right to rule, and His right to rule you. In New Testament terms, we saw it this morning in Romans 10, it is confessing Jesus as Lord. That is the only place it is found. But in Nebuchadnezzar we see the lostness and the emptiness of the fallen human heart. He is completely captured by his own tendencies to anger and violence. He has no self-control. He is like a city without walls. Such is the human heart without God, its Creator, through Christ. If you are not in Christ tonight, let me tell you, you are Nebuchadnezzar, but you can find peace in the God of Daniel, our Lord Jesus Christ. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for these opening verses of chapter 2. There is so much here yet to discover as you reveal Your plan for human history. And yet Father, we thank You for what we have learned already. We thank You for the powerful lessons that we have discovered here. Thank You that You have revealed the future before it comes, because there is no one like You. There is no one able to declare the end before it even begins. And that is because You are accomplishing Your purpose in the world.

Lord we acknowledge you to be the one true and living God, the only God. The gods of the nations are idols, worthless. Father, I pray that You would tune our hearts to sing Your praise, to worship You, to love You, to serve You, to humble ourselves before You and Your Word and Your Son.

Father, I pray for those who may be here tonight who have bought into the lies of joy and satisfaction in sin, or just in the stuff of this world. Father, help them to see that they are living a life of Nebuchadnezzar and they will find no permanent joy or satisfaction until their souls find rest in You, through Jesus Christ our Lord. And may, tonight before their head hits the pillow, they humble themselves before You and cry out for Your mercy, we pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Daniel