Scripture Text: Daniel 2:1-18
God of the Impossible (Sermon Text)
The book of Daniel teaches us how to live faithfully for Christ in a world that is not our home. The book also shows us that God is sovereign and in control, even when our world is falling apart. God is never surprised when things do not go according to our plans. He is still in control in this turbulent and unpredictable world. God used the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Judah and to exile many of His people to Babylon. Daniel’s world was turned upside down. He was a long way from his family and friends and everything they knew. Even in the midst of exile, though, God was with His people. God gave each of the four Hebrew men knowledge and wisdom. He also sovereignly and miraculously gave Daniel the ability to understand visions and dreams. This was an important part of Babylonian culture, as Babylonians believed their “gods” spoke through dreams. God’s gift to Daniel of interpreting dreams soon became extremely important as he soon faced an impossible situation.
We Create Impossible Situations
An impossible situation started with a sleepless night. We have all probably had those kinds of nights. Something keeps us up, we are restless, or our minds cannot rest. Like Nebuchadnezzar, we may have a really bad dream or nightmare. Nebuchadnezzar had a bad dream that was so bad, it unsettled him. We will soon see that God was at work in the darkness of his mind. When Nebuchadnezzar awoke, his dream bothered him so much that he wanted to find out the dream’s meaning. He was desperate to find the truth. Therefore, he called for help. Look at the following verses.
Daniel 2:1–4 1 In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” 4 Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.”
Nebuchadnezzar probably recognized that his dream was important. The ancient Babylonians believed that dreams were messages from their gods; thus, understanding a dream correctly was crucial for their future. In this case Nebuchadnezzar apparently feared that his strange dream contained an ominous message for him and he needed to find out what that message was. However, Nebuchadnezzar made a critical mistake. It is a mistake we all have or probably will make. We ask the wrong people for help. When you have a sleepless night, who are you going to call? Dreambusters! Unfortunately, Nebuchadnezzar did not ask for the best help he had. If you recall, he had just found in the previous chapter that Daniel and his three friends were the brightest of all his wise men. Look at the following verses.
Daniel 1:19–20 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.
If Daniel and his friends were the wisest and most competent of all his wise men, why did Nebuchadnezzar not consult them? Why did he call on others? Perhaps, this dream occurred before the end of their three year education. The Bible does not always record events in exact chronological order. It could also be that the Babylonians counted the years of a king’s reign, such that the young men began their training in what is called the king’s accession year, and could have had their second and third years of training during the first and second years of the Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. If that is true, the dream could have occurred just after he found Daniel and his three friends to be the wisest men in the nation. Whichever is the case, we know that Nebuchadnezzar did not seek Daniel or his friends for help. Like him, we sometimes create an impossible situation. We seek help from the wrong people or we do the wrong things thinking these things will resolve the situation we are facing. Have you created an impossible, or at least difficult, situation because you refused to seek wise, godly counsel?
We Expect Impossible Things
Not only did Nebuchadnezzar seek the wrong help, he also demanded an impossible task. How do you feel when someone asks you to do something that is impossible to do? You may think that person is unrealistic or crazy. You may think that person is trying to set you up for failure. You may feel helpless in such a situation. In the case of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, his wise men were in an impossible situation. Look below.
Daniel 2:5–6 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.”
Nebuchadnezzar expected his interpreters to tell him what he had dreamt. This was not the normal procedure. Ordinarily, when a king had a dream that he wanted to know its interpretation, he would recount the dream to his wise men, they would then consult some books they had about common dream symbols, and then they would give the king an interpretation. This was not good enough for Nebuchadnezzar. Some have suggested that Nebuchadnezzar did not remember his dream and he wanted the wise men to tell him what it was. However, it seems he wanted to test his wise men to make sure they were truly in tune with the supernatural. Thus, he made the extraordinary demand that his interpreters tell him what he dreamt as well as its interpretation. If his wise men succeeded, he would give them great rewards. If they failed, however, they would be executed in a horrific way and their houses would be destroyed. Therefore, they asked Nebuchadnezzar again to tell them his dream.
Daniel 2:7–9 7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” 8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— 9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.”
Nebuchadnezzar felt that the wise men were stalling for time (which they probably were) because they saw that he was serious about executing them if they did not interpret the dream immediately. If they could not reveal his dream to him, then he felt that he could not trust their interpretation. Either way, this was an impossible demand. Are there things you expect that are impossible? Perhaps you expect your spouse to just know what you are thinking? Perhaps you expect your spouse to change into the person you want. Do you think you will find joy or security in your job, your health, or the future of the nation? Do you expect things to go a certain way in your personal life or in the life of the church that only God can do? Perhaps you expect to earn God’s favor. Do you expect that you can do enough good things to earn God’s favor? Do you believe you can do enough bad things to lose what God has given you? That, too, is impossible because He has said that your salvation is based on His grace and not your works.
We Experience Impossible Circumstances
The situation for Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men was serious and it was getting worse. Have you experienced something that was unfair? Have you experienced trouble that you had not caused? Daniel had. Remember, Daniel and his friends were already caught up in a difficult situation. They had been taken from their homes, their family and everything they knew. Now, they faced an impossible situation where the king was going to punish them for an impossible demand. Look at the following verses.
Daniel 2:10–11 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
The king’s magicians, enchanters and sorcerers at least told Nebuchadnezzar the truth. No one could fulfill the king’s request. The inability of Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men to tell him his dream and its interpretation reminds us that there are limitations to even the wisest person. Even the smartest people have limits. To be fair, even the wisest person could not reveal the dreams of another person and give its interpretation without at least hearing it. We should pity these “wise men”. They did get something wrong, as to whom could meet the king’s demand (their false gods), but they at least knew it was not them or any other human being. Therefore, the king, in a violent and unreasonable rage, and being a man true to his word, commanded that all of his wise men be executed. Look at the following verses.
Daniel 2:12–13 12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.
I do not know what Nebuchadnezzar expected to accomplish by killing all of his wise men. That would have left him with no wise counsel. This included Daniel and his friends, which was quiet unfair for them as they were not summoned to the king and they were not a part of the discussions with the king. They were innocent bystanders who were going to be killed because others could not fulfill the king’s impossible demand. Keep in mind that Daniel was most likely a teenager at this time. He was not the old prophet with a long white beard that many imagine him to be. Nebuchadnezzar’s cruelty was much like the cruelty of the pharaoh who ordered the murder of Israelite babies. Fast forward a few hundred years from Nebuchadnezzar’s time and we see another evil king give a wicked degree to kill all the male children in Bethlehem. Bad things happen and they oftentimes happen at the hands of evil leaders. We continue to see this type of evil today. Wicked men and evil governments still persecute and murder the innocent, all the way from those in the womb to those in the wheelchair. How shall we respond to such evil, ungodly actions of people in power? Daniel shows us a way.
Seek the God of the Impossible
In a way, we really ought to feel sorry for Daniel and his friends. Daniel was trying to live faithfully in an ungodly world. He was trying to make the best of a bad circumstance. He had already proven his resolve by not compromising his faith and convictions with the king’s meal plan. And now, after he competed the king’s training and was preparing to serve in the highest court of the land, he was dealt a crushing blow of which he had no control. This could have been Satan’s attempt to get rid of Daniel, which is what the enemy tries to do to God’s people. So, what was Daniel and his friends supposed to do? Daniel did several things. Look at the verses below.
Daniel 2:14–18 14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king. 17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
Daniel knew what the wise men had already told Nebuchadnezzar, that there was not a single person in the world who could reveal the king’s dream and give him the interpretation. Daniel knew that the king’s request was impossible. Fortunately for Daniel, he also knew to whom he should go when he faced an impossible situation. Daniel knew to whom he should go when he was unable to do the impossible. With remarkable faith, again, Daniel requested an appointment with the king to reveal the dream and its interpretation even before God had revealed the dream to him. Daniel had already stepped out on faith before by suggesting the 10-day test with a diet of water and vegetables. Now, he was stepping out on faith again by requesting an audience with the king before he even knew what the dream was or its interpretation. Daniel shows us three marks of a faithful follower of God facing an impossible situation.
- Daniel was tactful. He responded with prudence and discretion. This goes a long way to smoothing over angry people.
- Daniel was practical. He asked the king to give him some time. When we face an impossible situation, we should seek help from other godly people.
- Daniel was prayerful. He led his friends in praying to the true God for insight. Daniel might not have known the dream or its interpretation, but he knew who did.
This is a beautiful picture of four young men united in prayer. This was literally a life-and-death situation, therefore, they pleaded with God to have mercy on them. This is what we need to do. When you face an impossible situation, have the faith and resolve of Daniel to go to the source of all answers. Robert E. Lee once faced a situation, not exactly like Daniel, but one in which he responded with a Daniel-like faith. During a dark chapter in our nation’s history, Lee expressed a trust in God as he led a vastly outnumbered Army of Northern Virginia in America’s Civil War. While his soldiers had great confidence in his ability to lead them, Lee remained humble, and once wrote, “I tremble for my country when I hear of confidence expressed in me. I know too well my weakness, that our only hope is in God.” I know too well my weakness, therefore, my only hope is in God! Will God give you more than you can handle? Absolutely! God will most certainly give you more than you can handle so that you will have to rely upon Him completely, who handles everything, even the impossible. There is nothing impossible to Him. God is still on the throne and the future is still in His hands.
In conclusion, this passage encourages us to remain faithful to God in difficult circumstances. This passage encourages us to seek God in those impossible situations. When we face those situations, we should turn to the one who has all the answers and is an ever present help. This passage encourages us to place our hope in Jesus Christ and not in a nation, an earthly king, or in anyone else. Our hope cannot be our political parties or our political process. Our hope must be in Almighty God, who alone can turn hearts back to Him. Our hope is not dependent on whether the world order stabilizes or disintegrates, or whether America falls or recovers, or who leads the country, or who is appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Our hope rises above the trouble and chaos of this present world, enabling us to stay focused on our future reward and to endure whatever situation we face in this world, however impossible it is. Our hope is in Jesus Christ! Be a Daniel in Babylon!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.