Daniel 005: God Reveals MysteriesDaniel 2:1-23 • Dr. Andy Woods • December 11, 2016 • Daniel
SUGAR LAND BIBLE CHURCH
Lesson 5, God Reveals Mysteries, Daniel 2:1-23
December 11, 2016,
Good morning everybody; if we could take our Bibles and open them to the book of Daniel, chapter 2. The title of our Message this morning is God Reveals Mysteries. We’ve just started the book of Daniel, I think this is our fifth sermon, we’re in chapter 2 so we’re moving a little bit anyway. The nation of Israel is in a place of confinement, unfamiliarity, when this book was written, having been exported 350 miles to the east in a place called Babylon; modern day Iraq is what we would call Babylon in the Bible.
And the nation of Israel had been in the land for 800 years prior to this time but their sin had become so great that God decided to, just like you put your kids in time out, He put the nation in “time out” for seventy years. And a new period of time has started which we’re going to start getting a greater explanation on in this chapter called the times of the Gentiles. What is the course of events that are to happen as the nation of Israel is being out of their land, no reigning king on David’s throne, being trampled down by various Gentile powers?
So God strategically raises up Daniel as a prophet to explain this new time period. But Daniel is much more than prophecy about this time period, it’s how to live for God in a pagan environment. So Daniel and his three friends serve as role models, if you will, role models that I think we should follow because we, in our country, are living in what many have called a post-Christian country. How do we live for God in a society that questions over and over again the biblical assumptions it used to hold to? How do we, as God’s people, shine brightly in that environment. The book of Daniel therefore becomes very important to us. And all of the material in this book is there to encourage the nation just like it’s there to encourage us, that God is still very much in control.
The book of Daniel basically has two parts, the historical section, chapters 1-7, then the prophetic section, chapters 8-12. We are still in the midst of that historical section, having finished last week chapter 1, which really sets the stage for the book. There in chapter 1 we learned of the crisis that the nation was in. And then we moved into chapter 2-7 where the language changes. The first chapter, like most of Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, the language of the Jews. You move into chapters 2-7 and the language changes to Aramaic; Aramaic, of course, being the common language of the Gentiles. So God is sending a message through that shift in language to these Gentile nations that think they have the upper hand. They don’t have any upper hand. God is very much in control, and this section is organized in what is called, chapters 2-7, a chiasm. The word “chiasm” comes from the Greek word chi, which sort of looks like an X. A chiasm is a literary pattern where the outer edges of the chiasm align with each other. Then part two of the chiasm aligns with the second to last part of the chiasm and so forth so you’re kind of moving inward.
So what I’m trying to say is simply this; chapter 2 aligns with chapter 7. You’ll read chapter 2 and you’ll say wait a minute, doesn’t it say the same thing in chapter 7? And the answer is yes, it’s repeating information but from a slightly different vantage point. Chapter 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace reads a lot like chapter 6, Daniel in the lion’s den. Some of you have asked me about civil disobedience, is it ever appropriate to say no to the government? Chapter 3 and chapter 6 answers that question. Chapter 4 aligns with chapter 5, in both cases God is revealing Himself to a Gentile king. He’s giving grace to Nebuchadnezzar, chapter 4, but He’s articulating judgment to the very last king of Babylon, a man named Belshazzar, chapter 5.
So I will make reference to this chiasm as we move into it and it seems sort of strange to the western mind, this literary pattern, because we like things to go chronologically but that’s not how it worked in biblical times. They used literary devices of literary patterns called chiasms. In fact, the whole book of Esther is set up chiastically. The whole Gospel of Mark is set up chiastically, and that’s what you have in chapters 2-7. And that’s a great way to explain this literary unit because one of the things that happens to us as Bible readers is we get caught off on details, it’s like studying the veins on the leaves of the tree so intently you forget what the forest looks like. This is the forest I’m giving you here; this is the big picture. So that’s what’s important to keep in mind as we move through this.
And here is an outline of chapter 2; don’t hit the panic button, we won’t get through all of this today, some of it though. And it begins with a dream that King Nebuchadnezzar had. The antagonist in chapters 1-4 is this man named Nebuchadnezzar. He is the Babylonian King that God has used as an instrument of His discipline to take the nation into the seventy year captivity. And what we discover is that God is reaching out to this man, Nebuchadnezzar, because God wants all men saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, even those entities that He’s using as enemies of the nation God loves. And so you’ll start to see this, particularly as we move in chapters 2, 3 and 4, and I believe by the time you get to the end of chapter 4 I believe Nebuchadnezzar is a believer in Yahweh. I’ll show you evidence of that. I believe that we will see Nebuchadnezzar in heaven.
So it is very exciting to me and interesting to me that God does not rule people out. Sometimes we give up on people; we think the grace of God will never reach a person and yet the most unlikely person can be reached in God and we’ll see evidence of that as we move through.
But notice, if you will, Daniel chapter 2 and verse 1, it says, “Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar,” using a standard chronology we can date this time period as 603 B.C. The events of chapter 2 take place about two years after the events of chapter 1. Daniel has had to make a stand for God in chapter 1 as a 15 year old, and now he is being called to make a similar stand, in fact a more aggressive stand two years later as a 17 year old.
But notice what it says here, “Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar,” now immediately you look at this and you say I see a contradiction here in the Bible because Daniel 1:5 explains that the indoctrination that these Hebrew youths went through lasted three years. [Daniel 1:5, “The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service.”] In other words, Nebuchadnezzar took them under his authority, he began to brainwash them in the educational system of the Babylonians, they were under that indoctrination for three years, and then the events of chapter 2 unfold. So this would indicate, chapter 1, that three years have passed following Nebuchadnezzar’s rise to power.
But this gets tricky because it says in chapter 2, verse 1, “Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar,” so which is it? Is it the third year or is it the second year. And people like to… and the reason I bring these things up is they like to find what W. C. Fields called loopholes in the Bible. They are always looking for a problem. In fact, W. C. Fields, who was not known for his godliness, (to say the least), at the end of his life everybody was shocked that he, as he was getting ready to die was looking through his Bible and people said what are you reading that for? And his famous line is “I’m looking for loopholes,” because you see, the Bible makes moral claims on human beings. Humanity, in and of itself, does not like to be under the authority of God so they try to attack the authority of God by trying to discredit the Bible. One of the ways they do this is they try to say the Bible has contradictions in it.
Isn’t it interesting that Dan Rather and Peter Jennings and all of these people in the media, they don’t run Easter specials, or Christmas specials against Shakespeare; they run them against the Bible. Why don’t they attack Shakespeare the way they attack the Bible? Because Shakespeare doesn’t make any moral claim on a person. The Bible does! So you’ll watch A & E or Mysteries of the Bible and they allow some very liberal theologian with their PhD from Harvard to go on and on attacking the Bible. They won’t let any conservative on there to answer the objections; if they bring a conservative on he gets like five seconds to say something. And they like to plant doubts in the minds of people. And so your children and your grandchildren are watching these things on television or You Tube and they believe the Bible has contradictions in it. And unless your pastor equips you on how to answer the contradictions your children and your grandchildren will go through their entire lives thinking that the Bible is not God’s Word.
So is there an answer to this? In fact, there’s a very easy answer to it; in fact all Bible contradictions have a very simple answer to them if we would just take the time to do a little bit of research. The Babylonians did not count the ascension year, the year a king comes to power, as the first year of a king’s reign. That’s the answer.
John Walvoord in his commentary on Daniel writes this: “The events of chapter 2 occurred at the end of a three year course of study, mentioned in chapter 1 and verse 5, shortly after Daniel entered the king’s service, but it was officially the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.” So when you look at Babylonian chronology and you understand that they didn’t count the first year of his reign as an official year suddenly you can harmonize the three years in chapter 1 verse 5, with this expression “the second year of his reign.” I bring these things up not to bore you with details but I’m trying to equip you.
In this time period it says, “Now in the second year of” his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams;” you’ll notice that the word “dreams” there is plural. He had several dreams. Or perhaps that can be interpreted as a state of dreaming. We’re not given the details of this dream quite yet, those won’t come until verse 31, but he is in a state of receiving dreams to the point where his sleep is unsettled. It says in chapter 2:1, “Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams and his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him.” The reason Nebuchadnezzar is troubled is these dreams, as we’re going to learn, are being induced by God. God has ways of getting the attention of people. Amen! And one of the things that God does, particularly to those that don’t know Him, and this happens many, many times in the Bible, is He gives them some kind of dream that disturbs them; it makes them uneasy. In fact, when you study this in the Bible you start to discover that God does this all of the time. Genesis 20:3 says, “But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night….” Genesis 41:1 says, “Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream….” These are dreams that are not ordinary dreams but things that got the attention, agitated if you will, pagan Gentile kings that had no knowledge of God or relationship with God. That is the kind of thing that is happening here.
So what happens, as we move into verses 2-13, is Nebuchadnezzar demands, not just the interpretation of the dream but the very revelation of the dream itself. I want to know, number 1, what was the dream; and number 2, what does it mean? And it’s a standard that’s so high that only God can pass it.
Notice, if you will, verses 2-3 as we continue to move through this dialogue that happens in about three cycles. Verses 2 and 3 reads as follows; it says, “Then 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.  The king said to them, ‘I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream.’” So he brings in all of these so-called wise men of Babylon. We see four groups here, the magicians. The way that Aramaic word reads it’s not referring to a magician that we think of, it refers to a stylist or a pen and so it’s probably some kind of reference to a scholar of some sort in Babylonian history and law.
Then you have the “conjurers,” these are people that traffic in what we would call necromancy where people claim they can… kind of like Sylvia Brown used to do, claim that they could contact the dead, something (by the way) the Bible condemns; conjurers could also mean a astrologers or star gazers. And then he mentions here “sorcerers,” those involved in sorcery or incantations. And then he mentions a fourth group, the Chaldeans. Most understand that as astrologers or people that believe that you could map your history and future by gazing and looking at the patterns of the stars.
Now it’s Christmas time and we have on all of our Christmas cards the wise men coming from the east, following a star. We call them the magi. This group that’s mentioned here is the magi and they are following a star and they are seeking God at a particular time in history because what we’re going to learn in this chapter is Daniel, when he is given by God both the revelation of the dream and the interpretation of the dream is promoted into their ranks. That occurs at the very end of the chapter.
So 600 years later the magi had access to Daniel’s prophecies, many of them are very specific, as I’ll be sharing with you, pinpointing the exact day Jesus would proclaim His kingship to the nation of Israel. And it’s sort of a rebuke to the Jewish people that here these pagans have prophecy figured out but my own chosen people who have the full canon of Scripture don’t understand what time it is Messianically.
It’s interesting how dominant these groups were in Babylon. The first people Nebuchadnezzar turns to are these soothsayers. And it’s not quite too different from the United States of America when you look at the number of people that consult Jeanne Dixon, the horoscope, even fortune cookies, I don’t pay any attention to fortune cookies other than the one that says help, I’m stuck in a cookie factory. But you know, every once in a while I look at it just to see what it says and honestly, this is what happened to me just a couple of days ago. I ate the cookie and I opened it up and I said to my wife, you’re really going to like this one; it says “you need to take your exercise program seriously.” [Laughter] There’s some truth to that….
But you know, interesting, if people don’t know Jesus they give a lot of credibility and weight to these things and what is being revealed here is the bankruptcy of these entities; they cannot reveal the mind of God because God is going to reveal something in this chapter that could not be revealed from these other sources. And if you don’t understand anything about Jesus I hope you understand this much: Revelation 19:16, He is the “KING OF KINGS,” He is the “LORD OF LORDS.” [Revelation 19:16, “And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”] He does not claim to be one of many spiritual members of some kind of pantheon. He claims to sand above and beyond a spiritual polytheistic pantheon because He is the Creator and the Redeemer.
And that’s why Daniel, as we’re going to see, is only able to get this correct understanding from God Himself. God is going to come through where all of these other soothsayers failed. And Nebuchadnezzar makes this request; now watch the response of the Chaldeans, watch the sweat start to pour from the top of their foreheads, it says: “Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic” [Daniel 2:4] now that word “Aramaic” is very important because now we begin the Aramaic section which is going to go from chapter 2, verse 4, all the way through the end of chapter 7. As I mentioned before, the language switches because God is not just communicating something to the Hebrews; He is communicating something to the Gentile world.
It says there at the end of verse 4, as these soothsayers are responding, “O king, live forever; tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare to you the interpretation.” A reasonable request, just tell us what the dream was and we’ll interpret it. Nebuchadnezzar, of course, is not buying into this. Notice, if you will, verses 5-6 of chapter 2, “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.” Verse 6, “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.”
I’m not going to tell you the dream if you tell me the dream, and then after you tell me what the dream is give me the proper interpretation of the dream. Now notice the shift from “dreams” verse 1, plural, to “dream” singular, verse 5. Nebuchadnezzar had dreams but there was a specific dream of the many dreams that he had that really got under his skin. And that’s what he is inquiring about. So I’m standing firm, I want the revelation of the dream and its interpretation.
Now people comment on why Nebuchadnezzar is doing this; the answer is we don’t know because the Bible doesn’t say. But there are some theories; some have suggested Nebuchadnezzar forgot the dream, I can understand that, there’s a lot of really weird things I dream, I’m glad I forget because they’re so bizarre. But a better understanding of this is perhaps Nebuchadnezzar, for whatever reason, is putting his own people to the test. We know in chapter 1 that he was training younger men, no doubt with the goal of promoting them within the spiritual Babylonian religious system, and perhaps he wanted to clean out the old guard; perhaps he expected that these people were frauds and really couldn’t do what they were claiming to do. It’s like calling the psychic hotline and then they say well what is your credit card number? Well, if you’re really the psychic hotline you have to know what my credit card number is, and beyond that, I shouldn’t have to contact you to express my concern, you should know what it is.
So Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps, is thinking along these lines. He gives a very harsh ultimatum, he says if you don’t do what I tell you to do you’re going to be torn limb from limb and your house is going to be turned into ruin. Now that is consistent with everything we know in the Ancient Near East; the Ancient Near East was known for its barbarity. In fact, some of the names in the Ancient Near East that preceded Babylon were the… well, for example, the Assyrians. The Assyrians were the ones who invented the grizzly form of death that we call the crucifixion. Rome never invented the crucifixion, they just popularized the crucifixion. They reached back into history and they said this looks like a great way to kill people and they popularized it but it was actually the Assyrians that came up with that horrible device of death that crucified even our Lord.
When you understand this you begin to understand why Jonah really didn’t want to go preach to the Assyrians. I mean, there’s a history as to why he wouldn’t want to go and he was very afraid… God, I know what You’re going to do, You’re going to tell these people You love them, I don’t want You to do that… burn baby burn! That’s what I want to see. Because of their known barbarity God says go to Nineveh. Jonah went to Spain; if you look on the map Tarshish is in the exact opposite direction.
And then the Persians would follow the Babylonians, they were known for their barbarity, and even today is it not true that we’re seeing things happening in the Middle East that look like something out of medieval times, where people are thrown off buildings. That’s what Saddam Hussein was doing to people, just toss them off a two or five story, ten story building, where people are actually put in cages and either drowned or burned to death. This is common of that culture. And Nebuchadnezzar, being an emperor was acting like a despot, he could do whatever he wanted, all power was centralized in him. So he issues this ultimatum and then he says but if you give me the revelation and interpretation of the dream the opposite is true you’ll be greatly rewarded.
Notice, if you will, verse 7 as the spiritual leaders respond yet again, “They answered a second time and said,’ Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will declare to you the interpretation.’” They repeat what they said earlier, give us the dream and we’ll interpret it. Nebuchadnezzar, who would probably do well taking some anger management classes, is not happy at all with that response. You see his response in verses 8 and 9, “The king replied, I know for certain that you are bargaining for, 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.”
He’s standing firm, which is the same word used back in verse 5; the ultimatum is the same. In fact, Nebuchadnezzar is growing progressively impatient. It’s always scary to be around a dictator that loses his cool and his patience.
The Chaldeans again respond there in verses 10-11, “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,” plural, “whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.’”
I like what the Chaldeans say here, “There is not a man on earth” who could solve this and you’re right about that. This is beyond human intellect. This is beyond human ingenuity. This is beyond human intelligence. And isn’t it interesting that God puts us in situations that our flesh can’t weasel their way out of? Do you notice that? God puts us in situations where we’re asked to do something that’s impossible. And we say to the Lord, you know Lord, I’ve got no one to trust in, I guess I’m going to have to trust You with this circumstance. And God says thumbs up, that’s what I wanted the whole time; that’s why I put you in this circumstance where the arm of the flesh is limited. That’s the circumstance these Chaldeans are in as we’ll see in a minute. It’s the circumstance that Daniel is in. They say the gods can’t even answer this question. That’s the gods, little “g” can’t, but THE God, singular, capital G, who is not in the heavens but created the heavens is able to provide the answer.
And this repetition keeps happening over and over again to show the bankruptcy of this Babylonian system, how it just cannot deliver. Nebuchadnezzar now, as you go down to verses 12-13, has had just about enough of this so the ultimatum, or the order, comes down. “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.” Nebuchadnezzar says I’m finished, all of you are dead, which would also include Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego because they were trained, chapter 1, to take their place amongst the wise men, spiritual leaders, of Babylon.
Daniel’s neck is on the line for a second time in this book because you might remember that his head was on the line back in Daniel 1:10 concerning the decisions that he made not to eat of the king’s diet. Daniel 1:10 says “Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.” This is not the first time Daniel’s life has been in jeopardy; this is the second time his life has been in jeopardy and here is how God is at work in Daniel’s life—God prepared Daniel, in chapter 1, for the events that God knew (Daniel didn’t) God knew were coming in chapter 2. The trial that Daniel was in in chapter 1 was preparing him for something that was around the corner (and only known to an omniscient) God two years later.
The trial that you’re in right now, whatever it is, is a trial that God has already prepared you for. If you become sensitive to this and look back in your past what you’ll discover is God put me in a similar circumstance sometime in the past. He doesn’t just push us into realms before we have the ability to withstand what it is we’re pushed into. The trial that you’re in now you have been prepared for. That’s why the apostle Paul says no temptation has come upon you which is beyond that of a man to handle. [1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”]
And here’s the other angle of this; the trial you’re in now not only has it prepared you but it is preparing you for something coming. You can’t see the future, I can’t see the future, but God, who is outside of time and knows the end from the beginning knows what’s coming around the corner; knows what’s going to happen two, three, five, ten years down the road and He is shaping and molding your character in such a way that when life’s circumstances unload on you down the road you’re prepared.
That’s why the book of James tell us to “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter” what? “various trials.” The word “various” there, when you study it in Greek it’s the same Greek word used to describe Joseph’s multicolored coat. Remember that, in the book of Genesis? That multicolored coat that his father gave him and his brothers hated it. When James says, “Consider it all joy when you encounter a variety of trials” it’s that same word for multicolored, rainbow colored, different trials and circumstances that achieve different results, and we should consider it all joy when we encounter these because God is working something in our lives. May times we don’t understand, we’ve already been prepared for the trial, and if we’re sensitive to His leading He is preparing us for the next trial.
And then we move into verses 14-23 where the dream itself actually gets revealed to Daniel. There are four movements here, first of all we have Daniel’s request for time. Notice if you will verses 14-16, “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;  he said to Arioch, the king’s commander, ‘For what reason is the decree from the king so urgent?’ Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter.  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.”
Verse 14 is illustrative of how we are to react when the pressure hits; how did Daniel react? When the pressure hits your life is this how you react? “Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment.” It has been said that going through a trial in a believer’s life or any person’s life is just like knocking over a cup and whatever is in that cup spills out. When you get knocked in life or you go through difficulties the true you, your true character, whatever it is, good or bad, naturally just comes right out. You don’t evaluate your level of growth spiritually when times are good; you evaluate your level of growth spiritually when all hell is breaking loose.
And you know, we can see how imperfect we are in comparison, how fast we would doubt God, how fast we would hit the panic button, but Daniel is calm, cool and collected. This is a 17 year old, and he replies “with discretion and discernment.” Is that how you reply to people, “with discretion and discernment”? James 1:19 says, “…be quick to hear and slow to speak, and slow to be angry.” I hate that verse, “quick to hear…slow to speak, and slow to anger” I’m the opposite. That’s one of the reasons I know that the Bible is God’s Word, it sits in judgment on my heart. As my mom used to tell me, God gave you two ears and one mouth, you ought to use them in proportion. Fast to hear, slow to speak!
You’ll notice that Daniel had a bit of a reputation, I believe it was a favorable reputation. It was a good reputation because Arioch actually takes the time to explain to a condemned man what is happening. John Walvoord, in his commentary on Daniel say this: that an official would take time to explain this to one already condemned to death speaks well of both Daniel’s approach and Daniel’s regard for him.” How did the commander know about Daniel? How did Daniel grow in the heart of this commander in terms of the commander appreciating Daniel? The answer is chapter 1, Daniel already stood for God successfully in chapter 1 which gave him the reputation necessary to stand for God successfully in chapter 2. Because Daniel would not compromise as a 15 year old the stage was set for him to succeed as a 17 year old.
But what if Daniel had just compromised with those vegetables back in chapter 1 as a 15 year old? There’d be no chapter 2, would there, with his success as a 17 year old. John Walvoord writes this, “Thus Daniel, the obscure Jewish captive, would have been lost to history like many others if he had compromised in chapter 1.” But now, as we’ll learn at the end of chapter 2, Daniel was going to be exalted to a place of great honor and power, like Joseph in Egypt he was destined to play an important part in the subsequent history of his generation because he stood for God when he was 15. That’s a different way of looking at compromise, isn’t it? Compromise has a way of disqualifying us from future opportunities.
So Daniel, verse 16, is granted an audience with Nebuchadnezzar, and then notice his request to Nebuchadnezzar,  “Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter,” 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.” Isn’t interesting verse 17, that Daniel “went to his house informed his friends and then went right to God.
You know, when I have a problem sometimes the last thing I do is go to God. I almost use God as a last resort; I try to work it out this way in the flesh, it doesn’t work. I try to work it out this way in the flesh, it doesn’t work. I try to work it out this way in the flesh and it doesn’t work. Finally I just say well, I guess I’m going to have to go to God with this, as if God is some kind of last option when in reality God wants us to go to Him right away. Is that what you do with your child? Do you immediately… are you in the type of spiritual habit where you immediately take it to the Lord? I like what Luke 18:1 says in the King James Version, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Isn’t that great. Men ought not to faint under the load that they’re under; they ought to pray. And how we so typically underestimate the power of prayer.
James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” I love it; sometimes we give up the greatest piece of weaponry in our arsenal in life’s struggles—the power and the privilege of prayer. Why did Daniel go to the Lord in prayer with his three friends? Notice the word “compassion,” “so that they might request compassion from God,” a compassion that they weren’t receiving from Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar had no grace or compassion.
You get grace and you get compassion from the Lord. Are people not treating you with grace? Go to the Lord. Are people not treating you with compassion? Go to the Lord because the book of Hebrews, chapter 4 and verse 16 says, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of” what? “grace….” What do we expect from God? We should expect grace; it’s not a throne of judgment for the child of God. It’s not a throne of retribution for the child of God. It’s not a throne of justice for the child of God. It is a throne of grace, “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” God designed us in such a way that He knew we would have needs, at all different levels, and God wants us to seek Him for those unmet needs in our life just the way Daniel did.
He goes to, notice verse 18, to “the God of heaven.” The Babylonians were worshiping the heavens, worshiping the stars; Daniel goes to the God that created the heavens and created the stars. [Daniel 2:18, “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.”]
And what happens? God delivers. God gives to Daniel an indispensable piece of the prophetic jigsaw puzzle, a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that would enlighten his entire generation and generations to come. You see that there in verse 19, “Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven;” God gave to Daniel a mystery. Now this word “mystery” needs to be unpacked a little bit; it’s the Aramaic word Araz, it kind of reads like r-a-z, and when the Septuagint… now what is the Septuagint? The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was created by 70 scholars according to legend in 70 days. In other words, 250 years before Jesus walked the face of this earth there was not just Hebrew Bible in existence, but a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.
Why did they translate Hebrew Bible into Greek? Because of a guy named Alexander the Great who actually is going to be the focus of Daniel’s prophecies in chapter 8 and in chapter 11. Alexander the Great believed in something called Hellenization, he wanted the entire world to have the same culture and have the same language and he spread the Greek language all over the known world. People spoke Greek in that era and thus they needed a Bible in their own language, Hebrew Bible, to understand. And beloved, that was the hand of God because the Greek language is one of the fullest dialects known to man. We, in English, have one word for love; the Greeks had four. And the fullest, richest dialect was worldwide to record the revelation of who? God’s Son—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; they had every linguistic tool in the arsenal to record the coming of Jesus Christ.
People refer to the Alexander the Great years as the silent years; let me tell you something, maybe God was silent but He was moving. He was moving the pieces around on a chessboard just before a game; that’s what God was doing. That movement of God is going to be the subject of Daniel’s prophecies a little bit later. God is not silent! And if God set the stage for the first coming of Christ how hard is it for God to set the stage for what? For the second coming of Christ! As God is my witness, I’m not a date-setter, nor the son of a date-setter, but the fact of the matter is God is moving the chess pieces around if we just knew what the end time scenario looks like. I mean, there’s a reason why the nation of Israel is back in their homeland. That’s not coincidental! There’s a reason why the political rulers of today keep crying out for a one-world government. If you know something about the Bible you start to see the hand of God in all of these things.
And so when the Septuagint translators translated this word, roz, they translated it as musterion which means mystery. What is a mystery? A mystery is something before hidden but now revealed. It’s the opposite of our English word “mystery.” When we use the word mystery, I’m reading a mystery novel, let’s say, I don’t know who the bad guy is until the end. A mystery is something that has to be searched out with great diligence. But that’s not the Greek word mystery. The Greek word mystery is a full disclosure. God is taking something that has been hidden that the human mind could not even comprehend or contemplate and He’s pulling it right out into the open where we can see it. The times of the Gentiles was a terrible time that the nation had no knowledge of and God says I’m about to unfold that time period for you prophetically.
By the way, the Apostle Paul revealed a mystery, called the church. In Ephesians 3:3-4, you’ll see Paul use the word mystery, the Greek word musterion, two times. [Ephesians 3:3-4, “that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.  By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,  which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;”]
What would we know about the life of the church had it not been for the disclosures God gave to Paul, who wrote 13 New Testament books? What does those 13 New Testament books reveal? They reveal the time period that we’re living in today, called the age of the church. You can’t find out about that time period from the Old Testament. You hardly get any hints of this time period even in the Gospels. Jesus, I believe, made some veiled hints at it, like when He said “I’ll build My church,” but the explanation of the church would have to wait until the life of the Apostle Paul.
What is the church? Who are the leaders of the church? What is the church’s function? What are the church’s ordinances? We would have virtually no knowledge of that had God not given Paul a mystery…this is why I think Paul was in jail so frequently. What do you have to do in a first century jail? There’s no cable, there’s no weight room, I don’t know if there’s a tattoo place where you can get a tattoo, you’ve got nothing to do but sit there and hear from God. And so God gave Paul a mystery called the age of the church. God gave Daniel a mystery that we call the times of the Gentiles. Why did God give this to Daniel? Do you know why? Because Daniel asked for it. James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not” what? “ask.” So many times God wants to give us so much and yet we’re so busy and we don’t take time to ask. It’s interesting to me that Daniel went to prayer and then God answered.
Do you know what else we learn about Daniel, as you look at verse 19, Daniel expected an answer. Again, verse 19, “Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision.” He didn’t just sit there and it was a shock that God delivered. James 1:5-8 says, “If any man lacks wisdom,” anybody fit in that category, I do regularly, “If any man lacks wisdom, let him” what, “ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,  being a double-minded man unstable in all his ways.” It’s not saying here that these people in the book of James aren’t believers; they’re believers with a divided mind. They’re believers that are trying to walk with the Lord but there’s a virtual civil war taking place in the arena of the mind. They’re not believing God or trusting Him. It shows up in their prayer life and James says they’re unstable in all they do.
Daniel gets the answer, verse 19, look at the end of verse 19, “Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” Daniel got the answer, which is going to be developed later on in the chapter but he took the time to turn around and bless God, through prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. I find that in my personal life, this is like the last thing I do. I get my answer, thank you (if I even say that) now I’m on to my next problem, I need another answer, when God wants us to take time to praise Him and thank Him for what we’ve just received.
Philippians 4:6 talks about a heart of thanksgiving to the Lord. [Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”] We should thank the Lord for His answers; we should bless the Lord, we should praise the Lord for what He’s just done rather than move on to crisis B, C, D and E.
You say well, what did Daniel actually say to praise God? I’m so glad you asked that question because it’s in verses 20-23 which we’re going to close with today. What did Daniel say to God exactly, after he received this answer to prayer. Verse 20, then “Daniel said, ‘Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him.” Daniel acknowledges here the eternal existence of God. Psalm 90:2 says “from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” Even in the famous Micah 5:2 passage related to Christmas, of Jesus 700 years in advance it says, “…His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”
I hope you don’t look at God as some kind of created being, like an animal or a star or even another person. God is the uncaused cause! He has always been and He will always be! Daniel praises God here, verse 20, for His wisdom and His power and then look at verse 21; you have an example of His power. “It is He who changes the times and the epochs;” what do these Babylonians do? They supposedly set the times and the seasons by watching the movements of the stars. In contrast to them Daniel acknowledges that God is the One that actually changes the times and the seasons. I’m not interested in establishing patterns for worship by watching the times and the seasons, I’m interested in the God who has ordained the times and the seasons.
And look at verse 21, “He removes kings and establishes kings….” Didn’t we just see something like that back in November in the United States? One person, everybody says is going to win, God’s people start to pray, God moves His little finger, you have a different result. And all of the pundits and the pollsters can’t understand what happened. I know what happened; God’s people prayed, that’s what happened, and God changed the direction of a nation. And we shouldn’t just sit there and say okay, we’re done, right? You keep praying. You say well, I don’t like that person. Well, who asked your opinion. We don’t pray for people based on whether we like them. I mean, I wouldn’t pray for anybody if that’s true. Laughter] We pray for people because God commanded us to do that. “He removes and establishes kings, He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to men of understanding.”
Now this is very strange, why would wise men need wisdom? Why would people of understanding need knowledge? Because you’re not as wise as you think you are, that’s why. 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.” This is God’s specialty. He reaches into the darkness and pulls something out into the light, which is what Daniel received in this dream, not obscure things but profound things. And why wouldn’t God do that? After all, He is clothed, is He not, in unapproachable what? Light! In fact, in the last two chapters of the Bible the eternal state, do you know there’s not going to be any luminaries, sun, moon and stars? Why won’t you need sun, moon and stars? Because God is there and He illuminates all things, Revelation 22:5. [Revelation 22:5, “And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.”]
One more verse and with this we’re finished. Verse 23, “To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,” notice the reference to the “God of my fathers.” A common Jewish expression with one difference, the word “Elohim” is used, not Yahweh. Generally when the Jews refer to the God of their fathers they use the expression Yahweh, the covenant keeping God. This is a different expression, it’s the same word used of God in Genesis 1:1, the all-powerful Creator, because it took power to reveal to Daniel what he received. [Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”]
He mentions here “thanks and praise” taking time as we said before to thank God for His answers. Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with” what? “thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” He talks about praise to God. What is praise? What is worship? You know we’ve got churches at war with each other over worship style; most of them don’t even know what worship is. Worship is a response to truth. You hear truth and you’re just so blown away by it that you just can’t wait to praise God. You don’t sit there and bicker about what music style it’s going to be in, you just want to praise God. And I think sometimes our worship wars, and we do the traditional songs here primarily, but sometimes our worship words to me are very man-centered; we want it our way; my way or the highway. And most of the time we’ve lost sight of what worship even is; it is a response to truth. In fact, I have a pet heresy, I think we ought to sing praises to God after the sermon, not before because in the sermon you hear truth and in worship you respond to that truth. I guess Bruce is going to give you a chance to do that that in a second.
“To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power; Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, For You have made known to us the king’s matter.’” [Daniel 2:23] You revealed to us what Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t understand and what the whole Babylonian pantheon could not understand; it came from You because that’s who you are, You’re the God who reveals mysteries.
Shall we pray. Father, we’re grateful for the fact that You do reveal mysteries. We’re grateful for the fact that You reveal the end from the beginning. Help us as a flock to grow as we next week study this mystery, develop a more pointed view concerning Your plan for the end and walk with You very close this holiday season, remembering that Jesus is the reason for the season. We ask that You’ll do this great work in our midst. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We lift these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.