Scripture Text: Daniel 2:17-30
Last week, we read about an unusual dream and an impossible demand. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a strange dream that unsettled him. The ancient Babylonians believed that dreams were messages from their false gods; thus understanding a dream correctly was crucial for their future. Nebuchadnezzar was desperate to discover the meaning of his dream and he was concerned that his wisest advisors would not tell him what he needed to know. Thus, to be sure that they were hearing from divine sources, Nebuchadnezzar demanded an impossible task. He expected his interpreters to tell him what he had dreamt and to tell him what it meant. The king’s magicians, enchanters and sorcerers told Nebuchadnezzar the truth, that no human being could fulfill the king’s request. Therefore, the king, in a violent and unreasonable rage, commanded that all of his wise men, including Daniel and his three friends, be executed. This was not an idle threat. Nebuchadnezzar was true to his word and sent the captain of the king’s guard to execute all of the wise men of Babylon.
Therefore, Daniel got a knock on the door informing him that their time was up. With prudence, Daniel asked about the order to execute all of the wise men. With faith and trust in God to answer their prayer, Daniel led a fervent prayer meeting with his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. They asked God to reveal the king’s dream to him, and to spare them from the king’s cruel and unusual punishment. Last week, I intentionally stopped short of the answer to Daniel and his friends’ prayer and petition to God for help. Sometimes the answer to our prayer does not come when or how we expect it. Sometimes, the best we have is to just trust God and remember the hope that we have. Sometimes, terrible situations can either test our faith or force us to evaluate the reason for our hope. What gives you hope? This passage does not just reveal the reason for Daniel’s hope, but it reveals the reason for our hope. One pastor said this passage explains the whole book of Daniel. It puts the entire book into context.
Answer to Prayer in Time of Need
Daniel knew 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. Facing an impossible situation, Daniel led his three friends in fervent prayer. Prayer acknowledges that we do not have the answers, but there is One who does. We seek God for help in times of need.
Daniel 2:17–19 17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
Daniel gathered his companions to pray for the revelation of the mystery. God did answer and when He did and He revealed to Daniel the king’s dream, Daniel praised and thanked God before he went to see King Nebuchadnezzar. In praise, Daniel acknowledged many truths about God that we need to remember. The bulk of this passage is not about prayer. It is not about the prayer that Daniel and his three friends prayed. That was done in one verse (v. 18). The rest of the passage is Daniel’s praise to God for answering that prayer and Daniel’s testimony of God to King Nebuchadnezzar. This passage tells us at least three reasons why we have hope.
God is Sovereign in the Affairs of Man
How sovereign do you believe God really is? Is He sovereign as long as things go as you believe they should? Is God sovereign as long as His people are in control? Is He sovereign sometimes or all of the time? Daniel reminds us that God is sovereign over all of the affairs of man, not just the things we think are important or the things we wish for Him to be. Nebuchadnezzar needed to understand this. Though he had destroyed Judah and exiled her people and assimilated much of them into Babylonian culture, he was doing all of this with the permission of the God of heaven. Nebuchadnezzar was not acting alone or ruling a nation by his great power and intelligence. The true God of heaven orchestrates the affairs of men. Look at the following.
Daniel 2:20–21 20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings;
Daniel praised God for His might. God is sovereign. He is in control of history. There are two phrases in verse twenty-one that describe God’s sovereignty over history. The first clause refers to the fact that God governs the different eras and events of human history and is able to change them at will. In the second clause, Daniel explained that human history is changed by God as he “sets up kings and deposes them.” The fact that God raises up kings and removes kings, was the context of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, which we will look at next week. God raises up nations and He destroys nations. God raises up leaders and He removes leaders. Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful king on earth at that time, but he had been granted his authority by the sovereign God and was under His complete control. Perhaps another truth we can learn from this passage, and indeed from much of the book of Daniel, is that God speaks through unbelievers. If God can use a burning bush to speak to His chosen prophet, and if He can use a donkey to rebuke a money-loving prophet, He can speak through a heathen king with a strange dream. What else can God do through those we might think are unusable?
How might God’s sovereignty give you hope? Are you worried about the future? Are you concerned about what will happen, where our country is going, or who will be elected to office? The future may be uncertain from our perspective and the government and country may be in peril by the unwise and ungodly people who lead us. But, there is a God who holds the future in His hands. He raises up leaders and nations and He puts down leaders and nations. God is in control of human history, and for that, we need not worry about the future of this world. God is not surprised or caught off guard or even threatened by any worldly leader or power. God is not campaigning to be God. There will be no change of power in heaven during the election. God will still be God. That should give you hope when times seem dark or uncertain. God has a plan and you can be certain that He is working His plan according to His purposes. Trust in that!
God is the Source of All Knowledge and Wisdom
God made known to Daniel the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar dream so that he would know this great God controlled future events, and so that he would be aware of what was coming. God was giving Nebuchadnezzar a preview of the future. There was no call to action or charge to the king to do anything. This was God telling the king that he knew the future. Daniel referred to the dream as a “mystery”, a secret that can only be known by divine revelation. It is something that only God can reveal. The second reason Daniel gives for which we can have hope is that God is the source of all knowledge and wisdom. To be accurate, God is the source of all things, but in context of this passage and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, God is the source of all knowledge and wisdom. Look at the following verses.
Daniel 2:21-23 21 he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
Knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing. A person can have a lot of knowledge, have numerous degrees, and have read many, many books, and still not be very wise. It is even possible to be “wise” in human terms, like Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men who he called to interpret his dream, but not have true knowledge to believe and worship the God of heaven. Daniel, however, was careful to praise God and give Him credit for revealing the mystery of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Daniel was able to know the king’s dream and to interpret it not because of his own knowledge and wisdom, but only because there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. This contrasts God’s ability with the inability of the pagan wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers to know what the king dreamed and what it meant. Therefore, Daniel testified to the most powerful man in the land about the One who was truly Sovereign and the Source of all knowledge and wisdom. Look at the following verses.
Daniel 2:26-28 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these:
Unlike the gods of the Babylonian wise men, Daniel’s God was able and willing to reveal the mystery of the king’s dream to his servants. God gives wisdom and knowledge to those who are “wise” and who have “understanding”, perhaps alluding to those who are spiritually “wise”, that is, believers. This wisdom and knowledge are not things we can achieve, but they are things we receive from God by revelation, through a personal relationship with Him. In a respectful manner, Daniel was actually telling the king that the pagan Babylonian gods and all of their pagan religions, and all of their reliance upon human knowledge and wisdom, was worthless. Only the God of heaven exists and is able to help. That there is a God in heaven, as against man-made gods or men who think they are gods, is the supreme theme of this book. This is a message of hope for us. There is a God in heaven, and this God may be called upon to supply wisdom far beyond what is available from human resources. Although circumstances sometimes may look impossible from an earthly standpoint, there is a God in heaven who can do all things. He is a God who is there, who knows, who is wise, and who is able.
God’s Revelation to Man is an Act of Mercy
One truth we should not overlook from Daniel’s prayer is that God answers prayer. Daniel was praising the God of Heaven because He had answered their request in their time of need. This demonstrates the principle that believers should not grow weary in prayer, for God hears and answers their cries for help. There is a God who listens to prayer. The answer may not always be what you want, but God does listen. Perhaps God has not answered your prayer. Perhaps God has not answered your prayer in the way you would like. Perhaps you are praying for some medical condition in your life. Perhaps you are praying for some financial trouble. Perhaps you are praying for the future of our country. Know this, God may not answer your prayer according to the way you want, but He does answer prayer. In this passage, Daniel and his three friends specifically asked for God’s mercy. Look at verses seventeen and eighteen.
Daniel 2:17–18 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.
They prayed for God’s mercy and in response to their prayer for mercy, God answered them. He extended mercy not only to Daniel and his friends, but to all of the wise men of Babylon. God’s revelation to Daniel was an act of mercy. Look at the following verse.
Daniel 2:24 24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
Daniel and his friends prayed for mercy and God gave mercy to them and the other “wise men” of Babylon. Even unbelievers are recipients of God’s mercy. Through God’s special revelation to Daniel of the king’s dream, the death sentence was lifted on all of the wise men. The greatest mercy, however, is God’s pardon of our sin through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ. This revelation is through God’s Holy Word, which reveals to us the plan of salvation through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For whosoever will confess Jesus Christ as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10 ), will receive mercy from God and have his or her death sentence pardoned. Have you received the mercy of God?
In conclusion, I have heard it said that God will not give you more than you can handle. Do you believe that? On the surface, it sounds good and correct. What loving Father would give us situations and things in our lives that we could not handle? What loving Father would allow things to come into our lives that overwhelm us and that we could not possibly control? God! Our Father in heaven 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. This passage encourages us to seek God in those impossible situations. This passage tells us to place our hope in the God of heaven and to trust Him! Consider the following:
- When you suffer from some medical condition, remember there is a God!
- When you do not know how to make ends meet, remember there is a God!
- When the future seems uncertain and you worry about it, remember there is a God!
- When our government and our leaders are corrupt, remember there is a God!
- When there is injustice, remember there is a God!
Our hope is not in our country, our jobs or anything in this world. Our hope must be in Almighty God, who alone can turn hearts back to Him. Our hope is in Jesus Christ! This is good news. Thanks be to God. Amen!
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.