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God's Plan for Human History - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 2


Perhaps you saw the news story recently and was as fascinated by it as I was, there are hundreds of the world's scientists spending vast sums of money listening for meaningful contact with rational creatures living somewhere in deep space. On the one hand, that is a reach. We understand that God has created a stage, this stage on this little blue dot hurling through space on which to put Himself on display. But there is another sense in which we understand that, because as Christians we believe that we have already received a message from beyond space, a message from the eternal infinite creator God.

Francis Schaeffer writes about this, he said, "There has always been communication, before the creation of all else, in the Trinity. And God has made man in His own image and part of making man in His own image is that man is a verbalizer. Would it be unlikely that this personal God who is there and made man in His own image as a verbalizer in such a way that he can communicate horizontally to other men on the basis of propositions and language, is it unthinkable or even surprising that this personal God could or would communicate to man on the basis of propositions? The answer is no. I have never met an atheist who thought that this would be regarded as surprising within the Christian structure. If a personal God has made us to be language communicators, and that is obviously what man is, why then should it be surprising to think of Him speaking to Paul in Hebrew on the Damascus road? Do we think God doesn't know Hebrew?" He goes on to argue that, "God has revealed Himself to us. God has spoken." As Schaeffer said, "He is there and He is not silent." That is the message that Nebuchadnezzar received from God in Daniel 2.

Just to remind you, the theme of the book of Daniel, as we are studying it together we have discovered that its theme is that Yahweh, the God of Israel, the one true and living God, is sovereign over the lives of individuals, over the affairs of nations, over the span of empires, and over all of human history. The philosophical foundation upon which this book is built is that the sovereign God of history has a plan. And He is working out that plan relentlessly, irresistibly, powerfully, and certainly. As we look through the book then, every chapter, every account, every story, every prophecy feeds back in to compliment and to build, to develop that great theme. And so we're looking at Daniel 2; the theme of Daniel 2 is simply this, God has a sovereign plan for human history. And God revealed this plan to Nebuchadnezzar and to Daniel in a way that neither of them would ever forget.

Now let me just remind you of what we discovered last week. We really just looked at the first part of this chapter, verses 1 to 13, where God's plan for human history is disclosed in a king's dream. Let's read it again together so that you have the flow of the context. Chapter 2 verse 1, "Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him." Some three years after Daniel arrived in Babylon there was a night in which Nebuchadnezzar, we're told here in the Hebrew, "dreamed dreams." And as a result of this dream that he had, specifically he was in a dream state, received this dream, "his spirit was troubled," literally, "his spirit was struck." The idea is he woke up with his heart beating like a hammer through his chest because of what he had seen, "and his sleep left him." There was no sleep after that.

So, "the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king." He calls his cabinet, he calls the best and the brightest from the empire of Babylon to explain to him what has happened. The ancients believed that dreams communicated much from the gods and he now believes that he has heard from the gods and he wants to understand what this means. Verse 3,

The king said to them, "I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream." Then the Chaldeans [that is a general word for the wise men of Babylon] spoke to the king in Aramaic: [And you remember, that little expression "in Aramaic" is better put in parenthesis because it is a sort of parenthetical notation telling us that from this point to the end of chapter 7, Daniel leaves the language of Hebrew and begins writing in the language of Aramaic, the commerce, international language of that time, because the message of this section is for more than the Jewish people, it is for the people of the world.] "O king, [the Chaldeans said] live forever! Tell the dream to your servants and we will declare the interpretation."

They had an extensive set of manuals for interpreting the various elements that showed up in dreams and so they were confident that if he told them the dream, they could tell him what it meant.

The king replied to the Chaldeans [verse 5], "The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, then 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."

It is not that he had forgotten the dream, they, throughout this story, believe he knows, instead he wants to make sure that they are telling him the truth, that the interpretation is the right interpretation; and the only way he can ensure that is to know that they are in communion enough with the gods to even know what it was he dreamed. So he is putting them to the test; this is a hard test. 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 [literally] that you are buying 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."

What is it? Well it is, you are going to be torn limb from limb and your houses are going to be made a refuse latrine. He goes on to say, "'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.'"

I noted for you last week that the reason for this harsh response from Nebuchadnezzar is that he is aware of the fact, in his dream, he doesn't know yet what it means but he had his own face on that image in the dream. He doesn't understand that it is a successive series of empires. As far as he is concerned at this point, it is him and his empire, and cut out of the mountain without hands is this stone that comes and crushes the image, him and his kingdom, to powder. And so as far as he knows there is a coup coming. And so he is suspicious even of these counselors. 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. 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. [All the wise men of the city 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.

There is God's plan disclosed in a king's dream.

Now tonight we come to the second part of this incredible narrative and its God's plan known only through divine revelation. That is the message of verses 14 to 30. Although God had disclosed his plan in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, neither Nebuchadnezzar nor anyone else would have ever known its true significance or its meaning unless God had revealed it. And it was, first of all, revealed only to God's prophet. That is the message of verses 14 to 24. There is no indication, by the way, in the text that Daniel had ever acted as a prophet before this. This is the first time. He is at this point probably in his late teenage years, maybe around 18 years of age, and has never been a prophet.

Why do we call Daniel a prophet, by the way? Although his book is not among the prophets in the Hebrew scriptures, it is because Daniel is marked by the distinguishing characteristic of a prophet. What is that? It is not always that he predicts the future. In fact, many of the prophets spend the majority of the ministry simply preaching against the sins of the people, very little prediction of the future. The distinguishing characteristic of a prophet was that they received divine revelation. And until the completion of the canon this was God's primary means to communicate His truth to His people. Daniel is God's prophet and he receives this revelation.

Let's look at it together. First of all, I want you to see the prophets faith in verses 14 to 16. Verse 14 says, "Then Daniel," by the way, here for the first time in this story, we meet Daniel, "Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king's bodyguard, who had gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon." Here for the first time we meet another new character in the story, he is simply called here "Arioch, the captain of the king's bodyguard."

The word for bodyguard comes from the root of an Aramaic word which means to kill. So, as often happened in the courts of the ancient monarchs, the king's bodyguard also became his enforcers and his chief executioners. Sadly, we have seen that play out in the news, haven't we? That tragic event of the killing of that reporter.

In this case, Arioch had been sent by Nebuchadnezzar to kill all of the wise men in the city of Babylon. He is the captain of the bodyguards. Think about God's providence here. It is only by God's providence that Arioch, the captain, shows up at Daniel's door. Now don't miss the reality of this moment. An important powerful man from the court of Nebuchadnezzar has just shown up at this teenager's door. And that powerful man has just told Daniel that he is there to kill him and his friends along with the rest of the wise men of the city of Babylon. And it was something for which Daniel was in no way responsible. But I want you to notice how Daniel doesn't respond. There is no panic. There is no anger. There is no playing the victim. There is no despair. Instead, notice what we read, "Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch."

The word discretion comes from a word that means to counsel. It means to act like you've received good counsel. And discernment is an Aramaic word that literally means taste. It is a blend of those instincts such as wisdom and discernment that meant Daniel's response in this situation was in good taste. It was appropriate, it was suitable, it was in keeping with the situation and the importance of his guest. Verse 15, "he said to Arioch, the king's commander," here is a new word for Arioch, literally, "the king's mighty one, 'For what reason is the decree from the king so urgent?'"

Now the word urgent, I think, is probably not a good translation. It comes from an Aramaic word which means to show insolence. It is probably best translated here, and some do, as harsh or severe, or cruel. Why is the king's decree so harsh? Why is this happening? Verse 15, don't miss this, "Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter." That is a minor miracle in and of itself. I mean, here is the captain of the king's bodyguard on a mission to round up and kill all of the wise men, thinking they are enemies of the king, and he actually listens to a question from a Hebrew foreigner teenager and responds. This is all being arranged by a sovereign God. Verse 16, "So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him time, in order that he might declare the interpretation to the king."

Now, I think you understand that not everything that happened in this story is recorded here. This verse in truncated to include Arioch requesting of the king permission for Daniel to gain an audience with one of history's greatest kings, and the king granting that request, and all of this happening under God's gracious providential intervention. So then Daniel entered Nebuchadnezzar's presence.

By the way, again, you have to understand, when you read the Scripture, what is really going on. This was a huge risk on Daniel's part and it required great faith. He enters the greatest king of his time's chambers and he asks for time, and he promised Nebuchadnezzar that he would declare the interpretation to the king. Nebuchadnezzar obviously granted the request and the story moves on. I don't want you to miss that Daniel's faith here is in God. He is convinced that God can and he believes will, reveal this dream to him.

One commentator, Young, writes this, "Daniel asks for a specified time in the conviction that the sovereign God who previously had been with him in a special way would not desert him now." Daniel had already seen God intervene in his life, hadn't he? You remember the trial of the water and the vegetables in which God prospered his health beyond that of those who were eating the king's food. He knew God had a plan. His faith was growing in God, that God was doing something for him, and that God would not desert him now.

His faith was further demonstrated in what is called the prophet's prayer. Verse 17, "Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, about the matter." So Daniel hurries home from this encounter with the king. Apparently they all lived in the same quarters, likely in a room in one of the residence halls for young foreigners being trained for government service. And as Daniel walked back to his quarters, you can only imagine the thoughts that were coursing through his mind. He is thinking, will God really honor my request and tell me the dream and its interpretation? There is no evidence that Daniel had ever experienced that kind of miraculous revelation before. But once he arrived home he explained to his three friends what had happened and he called them to prayer. Verse 18, he told them about the matter, "so that," for this purpose, "they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon."

Now folks, you understand, it is not surprising we find Daniel praying. It is clear that his life was marked by prayer. Turn over to chapter 6, Daniel 6:10, "Now when Daniel knew that the document," the law against praying to any other god, "was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, don't miss this, as he had been doing previously." This was the pattern of Daniel's life, he was committed to prayer. Don't miss the fact that what was his custom when he grew older was his practice when he was young. That is the way it always works.

Prayer, notice the focus of their prayer, verse 18, "so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon." Their prayer, don't miss the importance of this, was based on nothing less than the person and character of God. Notice, first of all, they acknowledged their God to be "the God of heaven." This became a familiar way to refer to God during the period of the Babylonian exile. And it was intentional. It was an intentional way to say that the true and living God, the God of Israel, was exalted above the gods of the nations, including the gods of the Babylonians. Why did this communicate that? Well, the Babylonians worshipped the sun, the moon, and the stars. But Israel's God is the God of heaven in which those things appear. The God of heaven.

They also asked God to show them, notice, "compassion." They are appealing to the character of God. This is how we ought to pray. Is this how you pray? When you pray, do you appeal to the character of God, to who He is, and to what He is like? It is how people in Scripture pray. They ask God to take notice of their difficult condition and circumstance and to act on their behalf in light of who He is. God, You are "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."

Psalm 103:13 says, "Just as a father has compassion on his children." If you are a father you understand this. If you are a parent you understand this. When your children are little your heart reaches out to them with compassion. "So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust." And Daniel and his friends appeal to God on this basis, God look at our circumstance, look at what is going on in our lives. You are compassionate O God, be compassionate toward us. Their specific request, notice, concerns verse 18, "this mystery." That is a Persian lone word that basically means something that is unknown. Why did they want this? Well, notice the rationale for their prayer, again in verse 18, "so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon." Listen, folks, it is okay to be honest with God. They said, God we really do not want to die with the rest of the wise men in Babylon, please have compassion on us.

Undoubtedly they prayed earnestly. In fact, Young again writes, "No doubt a major reason for little answer to prayer among Christians generally, is a lack of true earnestness in it, doing so only as a matter of routine, using repeated, often empty phrases." You can bet there were none of those going on that night.

In answer to their prayer of faith comes the prophet's vision in verse 19, "Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision." Now we are not told exactly how all this unfolded. One commentator suggests that Daniel and his friends may have prayed and then after praying they went to bed. And while they were asleep God revealed it to them, maybe. More likely, in light of the fact that their lives were at risk, they probably continued to pray until God gives Daniel this vision. By the way, a vision differs from a dream in that it was at times received even when the prophet was awake. Daniel and his friends prayed, and in answer to that prayer God gave him this vision. God does not give us visions, but Daniel's prayer and its answer reminds us to pray.

I love Psalm 34:17, "The righteous cry, and the Lord hears." Do you believe that? We are righteous not because of who we are, but of who Christ is. "The righteous cry, and the Lord hears." Or recently, I have spent a lot of time, turn back to Psalm 107, through some circumstances of my own life, I have been brought back to this passage often, Psalm 107:23. The whole psalm talks about people getting into trouble and calling out to God, and God hearing. Much of the trouble described in this psalm is self-imposed, self-induced, self-generated, but not this one. Notice verse 23,

Those who go down to the sea in ships,
Who do business on great waters;
They have seen the works of the Lord,
And His wonders in the deep.

Here are men just doing their job, just trying to do the best they can at the job that is theirs. They do their work on the sea, merchant marines. They have seen God's works, His wonders in the deep, verse 25,

For He spoke [and don't miss this] He raised up a stormy wind,
Which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths;
Their soul melted away in their misery.
[Some of you are getting seasick just reading that.]
They reeled and staggered like a drunken man,

"And," literally the Hebrew text says, they "were at their wisdom's end." Or their wisdom, another word for wisdom in this context is skill, "their skill as sailors was swallowed up." They are at their absolute wits' end, the end of their skill; there is nothing else for them to do. It is that bad. They are in the storm of a lifetime. What do they do? Verse 28,

they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
And He brought them out of their distresses.
He caused

And I love the comparison, remember back in verse 25, "He spoke and brought the storm" and in answer to their prayer in verse 28,

He brought them out of their distresses.
He caused the storm to be still,
So that the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they were quiet,
So He guided them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His steadfast love,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!
Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people,
And praise Him at the seat of the elders.
[The leaders of the nation, the leaders of their city.]

Now that last passage ends with a call to give thanks to the Lord when we have cried out to the Lord and He has responded, He has answered our prayers. And that is exactly what Daniel does next in Daniel 2.

I want you to notice the prophet's praise beginning in the middle of verse 19, "Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven." The word blessed and its Hebrew counterpart mean to praise. Now, if we had been in Daniel's shoes, think about this for a moment, if we had been in Daniel's shoes, this may not have been our first response. We have prayed, God gave us the answer, we know what the dream is, we know what the interpretation is, we may have immediately gotten up and run to tell Nebuchadnezzar the content and meaning of his dream in order to save our own lives. But that wasn't Daniel's immediate response. His immediate response was to extend his genuine worship and praise and thanksgiving to God. Sinclair Ferguson writes, "The test of our spirituality does not lie only in the fervency of our prayers in times of crisis, but in the wholeheartedness of our worship when God acts in grace." It is a great quote.

Daniel goes on to record the content of his blessing on God, verse 20, "Daniel said, 'Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever.'" Daniel begins by calling for constant praise, that is the force of the Aramaic grammar here. Constant praise of God forever and ever. And specifically, he calls for the name of God to be praised. The name of God, as you know, stands for the person of God Himself and everything that is gloriously true about Him. But here Daniel focuses on two aspects of God's character that he especially worships and praises God for. Notice first of all, he praises and blesses God for His eternal wisdom. Verse 20, "Daniel said, 'Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom belongs to Him.'" The Aramaic word wisdom speaks of the knowledge and the ability to make right decisions. He praises God that He has the knowledge and capacity to make right decisions.

He also praises God for His eternal power. Verse 20 says, "'Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him.'" If wisdom is the knowledge and ability to make right decisions, power is the ability to carry out those decisions. God, You know what to do and You have the power to do it. That is what he is praising God for.

But in the next three verses, Daniel further explains what he means by his praise of God's power and His wisdom. Notice, first of all, how the eternal power of God operates. Verse 21, here is God's eternal power, "'It is He who changes,'" and again the grammar underscores the continual nature of this, "'It is He who is continually changing the times and the epochs.'"

God sovereignly governs both the different eras of human history and the individual events that make up those eras. All of human history, the sweep of human history with all of its individual events, is in His hands. And He is able to change, in fact is regularly changing the events and the epochs, at His will. That is power.

It goes on to say, verse 21, "'He removes kings and establishes kings.'" Here is one of the main ways that God changes the eras and the epochs of human history. Yahweh sets up kings at His choice and He deposes them at His choice. And of course, as we get into the interpretation of the image we're going to see that. God raises up whom He will, He puts down whom He will.

You know, we have this little thing coming up this week called the mid-term elections. There are so many Christians who live in fear and worry. Listen, if God can raise up empires and put them down, do you not think that God is in control of penny ante rulers? Of course He is. This is our God.

God Himself, let me say it as bluntly as I can, this is what Daniel is saying, when he is praising God's eternal power, he is saying God Himself sovereignly determines all political change. As you have heard me say many times, sometimes He does that for our blessing and sometimes He does that for our judgment, but He always does it. Do not fear. Go to bed and enjoy a good night's rest.

Verse 21 is an intentional challenge. And this doesn't immediately jump off the page at you, but verse 21 is an intentional challenge to the nameless, faceless fatalism of Babylonian religion. They practiced a kind of fatalism. And Daniel says, God, it is not like that, You personally, sovereignly are in control of all things.

Now that is how the eternal power of God operates, but notice how the eternal wisdom of God operates. Verse 21, "'He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.'" Here is the argument, since all wisdom and knowledge resides in God, all human wisdom and knowledge come from God as gifts to the spiritually wise and discerning. Who is that? His own. His own. Again Young writes, "Those who possess understanding of any matter receive this knowledge as a gift of God all is of His grace."

Verse 22, "'It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.'" The profound and hidden things here refers to, the profound is those things that are humanly inaccessible, and hidden things, those things beyond human knowledge. In this case he is talking about Nebuchadnezzar's dream and its interpretation. What lies in the darkness refers to the darkness of our ignorance. We don't know, but God does, "'the light dwells with Him.'" What Daniel means is that God alone continually possesses the wisdom to shine the light on everything. He knows. He understands. There is not one thing that the light of His wisdom does not shine upon. He knows all. One commentator writes this, "Without divine revelation there is only conjecture and subjective opinion. Only in Yahweh, the God of Scripture is ultimate truth to be found." That is what we are learning here.

But then Daniel gets very specific and personal with his praise in light of his own unique circumstances, verse 23, he says, "'To You, O God of my fathers.'" By the way, he says that because he is rehearsing the fact that God has been faithful to His people before and He is even faithful to His people in the midst of their worst trial. He is in Babylon. He is captive. He is 900 miles from his home. His nation has been destroyed, decimated by Nebuchadnezzar, and yet he is reminding himself of the faithfulness of God, "'O God of my fathers, to You I give thanks and praise, for You have given me wisdom and power;'" that is, to know and to understand Nebuchadnezzar's dream, "'even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, for You have made known to us the king's matter.'"

Can you imagine being Daniel? You prayed and God supernaturally revealed this to you. That is what happened with Daniel. So that is the reason for his praise. But I want you to notice also the prophet's announcement in verse 24, "Therefore," in light of all of this that went on, "Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and spoke to him as follows: 'Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon!'" I love that, you just see the heart of a righteous man here. What is his chief concern? It is for, even for the safety of pagans. He says I don't want them killed. Verse 24, "'Take me into the king's presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king.'" By the way, file it away for the future chapters of Daniel, these wise men, they owe a lot to Daniel.

So God's plan then was revealed to His prophet. But even more importantly, as we see God's plan known only through divine revelation, I want you to notice, secondly, that it is revealed only by God. That is the message of verses 25 to 30. And you see the tension here because not everybody acknowledges that. In fact, we begin really by seeing fallen man's relentless efforts to steal God's glory. You see man attempts to steal God's glory for himself, verse 25, "Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king's presence and spoke to him as follows: [notice] 'I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!'"

Brown-noser. Give me a break. This formal introduction, by the way, was customary and it was also customary for such important and powerful people like Nebuchadnezzar to quickly forget the plebes. And so he is introduced again to Daniel. But notice what Arioch says, "'I have found a man.'"

Now listen, Arioch deserves some credit. I mean after all, he had listened to Daniel's request, he had explained to Daniel why he was going to be killed and he had brought Daniel's request to the king. But it is also clear that Arioch here is trying to steal glory that is not his. He did not find Daniel and he certainly did not find Daniel as the interpreter of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. But this is always man's relentless effort, to steal God's glory for himself. Man attempts, secondly, to steal God's glory for false gods. Notice verse 26, "The king said to Daniel," and notice this next phrase, "whose name was Belteshazzar."

You remember back in chapter 1, Nebuchadnezzar had renamed Daniel from his Hebrew name to a Babylonian name specifically after the name of his god, remember? Daniel brings in the name of Israel's God and Belteshazzar brings in the name of Babylon's god. Nebuchadnezzar had renamed him and undoubtedly here he refers to him by that name, that is why it is mentioned. Here is another attempt, in this case on the part of Nebuchadnezzar, to steal some of the glory from this dream from Yahweh to Bel, one of the Babylonian gods.

But you also see man's attempts to steal God's glory even for others. "The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, 'Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?'" "'Are you able?'" You see, man does this all the time, tries to steal God's glory.

But in contrast to unbelievers we often observe the saints' relentless efforts to exalt God's glory, and that is what you have in verses 27 to 30. The scene in these verses is one of the common scenes in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, as God's man stands before one of the kings of the earth to bear witness on God's behalf to His truth. In the Old Testament you see it in Joseph and Moses and the prophets of the monarchy like Elijah, you see it in Isaiah and Jeremiah. In the New Testament you see it in John the Baptist, you see it in Peter and John and Paul and, of course, our Lord Himself. And when God's man stands before the kings of this earth it is always so that they might exalt God's glory. God arranges it for that reason. And Daniel is no exception, and he gets it.

This had to have been an absolutely thrilling moment for Daniel. God had supernaturally revealed the truth to him and in so doing had saved his and his friends' lives. But Daniel doesn't start with himself and he doesn't even start with the information. He doesn't start with the dream, he doesn't start with the meaning of the dream. He first wants to make sure that Nebuchadnezzar knows who truly deserves the credit. Walvoord writes, "Daniel's answer is a masterpiece of setting the matter in its proper light and giving God the glory."

Notice in verse 27, Daniel first agrees with what the wise men have said, "Daniel answered before the king and said, 'As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king.'" He says, yes, I agree with them, they can't do it. Verse 28, you have to love this, "'However there is a God in heaven.'" That is a deliberate contrast with the false gods of Babylon, man-made gods that cannot hear and cannot speak and have to be carried around on men's shoulders and propped up.

In fact, don't miss the fact that Daniel's comments here are incredibly courageous. I mean he says it in a respectful manner, but do you really get what he is saying to Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest king on the face of the earth at this point? He is in reality saying, listen Nebuchadnezzar, the paganism in which you are involved and all the gods of Babylon, they are completely worthless. "'There is a God in heaven.'" Only my God, only the God of Israel, only Yahweh truly exists and is able to help His people.

The truth of monotheism and that that one God is Yahweh the God of the Jews, becomes increasing clear in the book of Daniel and specifically to Nebuchadnezzar. In fact, I'm about to, spoiler alert here, but I believe in chapter 4 Nebuchadnezzar comes to a saving knowledge of the true God. So God is making Himself known through Daniel and this is where it begins.

Can you imagine? Can you imagine being Nebuchadnezzar? You're the most powerful king in the Middle East. Your empire stretches over vast territories. And here is this 18 year old or so Hebrew captive and he comes in before you and before he tells you your dream and its interpretation, he gives you a sermon and he says to you, listen, your gods are nothing, there is a God in heaven and He is the One acting here.

Again, for Daniel to make this sharp distinction an implied superiority for the God of Israel over those that Nebuchadnezzar believed in, took remarkable courage. But this was his opportunity, this was Daniel's opportunity to witness to the truth before even this great monarch, and as one writer says, he dared to use it. I have got one shot and I'm going to say what needs to be said. Verse 28, "'However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed.'"

The true God reveals mysteries and specifically in Nebuchadnezzar's case, notice Daniel says, "'He has made known to him what will take place in the latter days,'" literally, in the latter part of the days. This Aramaic phrase and its Hebrew equivalent occur some 14 times in the Old Testament and they obviously point to the future. But the exact time in the future can only be determined by looking at the context. Sometimes this phrase speaks of the final days of human history, other times, events that are in the nearer future.

So what about Nebuchadnezzar's dream? Well you have four great world empires which serve as a prelude to the climax of history when Messiah rules in the millennium over the kingdom of God. So he is talking about a vast sweep of history from before Christ to when Christ comes and establishes His kingdom. Verse 28,

"This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place."

Do you see what Daniel is doing here? He is actually delivering more than he promised. He is going to get to the dream and he is going to get to the meaning of the dream. But before he gets there he tells Nebuchadnezzar what the circumstances were. He says, let me tell you what happened. On the night of that dream Nebuchadnezzar, before you fell asleep, you were there lying on your bed and your waking thoughts turned to what would happen in the future. Possibly to the destiny of the entire world, but more likely his mind specifically was wondering what would happen to his vast empire in the future. He was a new king over a huge world empire and before he fell asleep he was wondering about the future.

He wondered what would be the outcome of all of his work and Daniel tells him that the God of heaven, the One who reveals mysteries has answered that waking question in his dream. The supreme God of heaven had answered, and answered Nebuchadnezzar's questions that night in the form of this all important dream.

Verse 30, "'But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, [Don't you love the humility? Look, this isn't me.] but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.'" Daniel humbly refused to take any credit for knowing the dream and being able to interpret it, God alone deserved the credit. Because God is the one who disclosed it to Nebuchadnezzar in the dream, God is the one who revealed the contents of the dream to Daniel, and God is the one who revealed to Daniel what it all meant.

Now look at verse 29 again, do you see the name for God? "'He who reveals mysteries.'" Literally, the revealer of mysteries. This is the point. True divine knowledge concerning all spiritual issues, and the future, can only come to us, from God, through divine revelation; He is the revealer, the only revealer of mysteries.

I want you to think for just a moment about how lost we would be if our God were not a communicator, if He were not a revealer of mysteries. Robert Raymond writes this, "Christians should be overwhelmed," listen to that, "Christians should be overwhelmed by the magnitude of this simple truth that they take so much for granted, that the eternal God has chosen to share with us some of the truths that are on His mind. He condescends to elevate us poor undeserving sinners by actually sharing with us a portion of what He knows."

That book that you hold in your hand? That is a greater miracle than the revelation to Daniel of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. God is there and He is not silent. He is a communicator who has revealed Himself to us in a book. In the written Word He is the revealer of mysteries to us. And in the Incarnate Word He has made Himself even profoundly known. Go back to Hebrews chapter 1. This is how the writer of Hebrews begins, Hebrews 1:1, "God, after He spoke," God speaks, "He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways." There is the written Word. "God is there and He is not silent." He has revealed Himself. He is the revealer of mysteries. In fact, you know what Paul calls that book you hold in your hand? He says we have right here in this book "the mind of Jesus Christ." What a gift. The revealer of mysteries. The God who speaks.

Verse 2 says,

"in these last days [that same God] has spoken to us in or by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and He upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."

Do you understand that God has revealed Himself in the written Word? And in the Incarnate Word He has made Himself powerfully known. He is there and He is not silent. He has told us, as Raymond put it, "Poor undeserving sinners, He has shared with us a portion of what He knows." Let's pray together.

Father, we thank You for the fact that You are there and that You are a communicator, that before there was anything but You there was communication within the Trinity, within the three persons of the One God that we worship; between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We thank You that You also then, in amazing grace and condescension, have continued that communication with us.

Father forgive us, forgive us for having Your mind, for having Your revelation, and treasuring it so lightly. Give us a passion to know Your mind. Lord help us to see that You have given us something much greater than You gave Daniel in revealing Nebuchadnezzar's dream and its meaning. You have given us the written Word and You have given us the Incarnate Word to make Yourself known to us. Father we love You and it is our desire to understand Your mind, to understand Your communication and to live in the light of it. We pray that You enable us to do so. In Jesus' name, amen.


God's Plan for Human History - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

God's Plan for Human History - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

God's Plan for Human History - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

More from this Series



An Introduction to Daniel

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures

First Lessons in Sovereignty

Tom Pennington Daniel 1

God's Plan for Human History - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

God's Plan for Human History - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

God's Plan for Human History - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

Through the Fire - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 3

Through the Fire - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 3

Through the Fire - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 3

Heaven Rules - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 4

Heaven Rules - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 4

When Empires Fall - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 5

When Empires Fall - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 5

In the Lions' Den - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 6

In the Lions' Den - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 6

The King of Beasts - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 7

The King of Beasts - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 7

The King of Beasts - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 7:1-28

The Ram, the Goat, and the Little Horn - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 8

The Ram, the Goat, and the Little Horn - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 8

The Ram, the Goat, and the Little Horn - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 8

Seventy Years & Seventy Weeks - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 9

Seventy Years & Seventy Weeks - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 9

Seventy Years & Seventy Weeks - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 9

Seventy Years & Seventy Weeks - Part 4

Tom Pennington Daniel 9

The Spiritual War Behind World History - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 10

The Spiritual War Behind World History - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 10

Wars, Rumors of Wars & the Last War - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 11

Wars, Rumors of Wars & the Last War - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 11

Wars, Rumors of Wars & the Last War - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 11

The End of Time - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 12:1-13

The End of Time - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 12:1-13

The Book of Daniel

Tom Pennington Daniel 1-12