Daniel Chapter 2:1-23 Daniel Sermon #2 Feb. 14, 2016
Sermon Series: “The Lord is King”
Title/ Main Point: “Nothing is too hard for the Lord”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
How do you respond to challenges, to tasks that seem impossible?
“There is nothing impossible to him who will try.” – Alexander the Great
“The word impossible is not in my dictionary.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
And then there was the Man of La Mancha, who dreamed the impossible dream.
Indeed, some people love to try to do very difficult things, like finishing an ironman triathlon or memorizing the whole New Testament. Other people enjoy doing any task that they are good at, such as playing an instrument, doing a spread sheet, or solving puzzles. And then there’s a small group of people who see challenges in a very different perspective. They view hard and impossible things from God’s point of view, and they say, “Nothing is too hard for my God!” Which group of people do you identify with?
We see in Daniel chapter two that these three groups of people are represented:
King Nebuchadnezzar thinks: “Nothing is too hard for me! I can do anything!”
The Men who advise the King say: “We’re good at our job, but we can’t do the impossible!”
And then there’s Daniel, who believes that “Nothing is too hard for my God!”
Let’s see what happened when each was faced with an impossible challenge.
1. King Nebuchadnezzar (Outwardly Impressive, but Inwardly Insecure)
What comes to mind when you think about a King like this? You think of his absolute power over other people (life and death power- see 2:5)
You imagine his incredible wealth and impressive accomplishments. It is thought that this king was responsible for the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The walls he built around Babylon were 56 miles long, encompassing 200 square miles of land, and were so thick that they had chariot races on top of the walls.
You think of people waiting on him, always buttering him up (“O King, live forever!”), serving him (in fear), and also hoping to gain rewards for themselves if they please him (2:6)
Here’s a question: would you like to have some of what King Nebuchadnezzar had?
While few of us would want to be the king of a nation (too much responsibility), most of us would jump at a chance to be king over our circumstances, king over our choices, over our life, so it plays out the way WE want it to. Right? We’d like power over other drivers on the road; we’d love to be financially secure for the rest of our lives; and we’d love having a sense of accomplishment that would outlast our lives, such as this King had.
But all is not what it appears for royalty! All it takes is one recurring dream, and the king’s life starts to unravel. “His mind was troubled and he could not sleep.” (v. 1) Okay, most of us have had a dream like that. But this dream really rattled the king’s cage. Why? It appears that the king could not remember this dream, though he kept having it. Eastern superstition said that it was a bad omen not to be able to recall your dreams; it meant that your personal god was angry with you! Furthermore, there was an Akkadian proverb which said “Woe and anxiety create only bad dreams.” So while the king looks impressive and secure outwardly, yet inwardly he is trembling with fears and insecurities. This king is representative of all of our basic insecurities.
And we know that insecurity leads to blaming others and getting angry with others. So it is no surprise that in v. 12 the king becomes so angry and furious with his advisors, who can’t do what he wants, that he orders them to be put to death! What does that tell you about him? I think it reveals that underneath his royal robes and golden crown he has a heart of fear and a mind of insecurity. He fears what this dream might say about his position and his power, so he takes out his fears on his advisors, blaming them for his unanswered questions to life. He uses intimidation, like a tyrant in the home or in the office, who doesn’t know how to relate to others in love. He’s not the great Wizard of Oz; rather he’s the man behind the green curtain who is desperately trying to project himself as something he’s not. He’s afraid of being found out, of being exposed for the fraud he really is.
Does that describe you at all? Are you hiding behind a façade, afraid of being found out?
Read Psalm 139. The Lord knows everything about you: past, present, and future. You can’t hide from Him. But He will pursue you and expose you, so that He can re-make you in Christ.
2. The King’s Advisors (“Don’t expect the impossible from us!”)
These men fulfilled the modern role of secular counselors/ therapists and/or perhaps royal guidance counselors/ economists to the king. The king would tell them his dreams, visions, or plans, and they would advise him as to the best course of action. [They even wrote a dream manual, which told you what things in a dream stood for.]
Now these men were assured of a nice job and good benefits, as long as the counselee (the king) would give them the dream that needed interpreting or the problem that needed counsel.
If you were to look at these men, you might say they had good jobs, a sense of power through their influence over the king’s decisions, and a high measure of status in the community.
But early one morning, their lives get turned upside down, when the king summons them to not only give the meaning of the dramatic dream he’s just had, but also to tell him what the dream was in the first place! They think they must have misunderstood what the king was asking them to do, so they repeat their request, that he first tell them the dream, and then they will interpret it. (v. 7). But the king is adamant: the only way the king can know for certain that they have the insight to correctly interpret his dream is if they can first tell him what the dream was! (Besides, he himself can’t recall his own dream.)
So they complain: “This isn’t fair! Someone has moved our cheese. The king has changed the rules! He’s asking us to do the impossible! No one can know what someone else has dreamed!”
[Note how the gods of Babylon were exposed as a sham, as a lie, and as powerless.]
The standard request for their job was this: “If you tell us your dream, we’ll give you the interpretation of your dream.” Or more generally: “Give us X and we’ll give you Y.” Or even:
“You give me what I need, and I’ll give you what you need.” This was how things were supposed to work.
Where do we see that attitude today? Where do we see people depending on the formula, “You give me what I need and I’ll give you what you need?”
In education and politics: “If you give us more money, then we’ll fix your problem.”
In our marriages and friendships: “If you give me my freedom/ don’t demand too much from me, I’ll give you what you need from me.”
Perhaps in our relationship with God? “Lord, if you give me what I want, I’ll go to church, put money in the offering plate, and read my Bible.”
But what happens when someone moves the cheese? What happens when the other party doesn’t give me what I need? What happens when you can’t give the other person what he or she wants from you? How do you respond when “impossible demands” or “impossible situations” are placed upon you: at work, in your marriage, on your health or finances, or upon your faith in the Lord?
Does your faith in God work only when God is giving you what you think you need?
Does your trust in God extend only as far His meeting your needs?
Does your marriage function only when your spouse gives you what you want?
Perhaps we respond with the astrologers’ attitude: “That’s too hard for God… at least in my experience.” “That’s too difficult to deal with, Lord.”
How do you respond when faced with the impossible?
3. Daniel (and his prayer group) [“Nothing is too hard for my God!”]
The lives of Daniel and his friends were also in danger, because they, too, were considered “wise men” or astrologers, by the king. [Unlike the situations in Dan. 3 and Dan. 6, where these men faced death because they took a courageous stand for their faith in God, here they were endangered simply because of their occupation.] But Daniel and his comrades responded differently, because they entrusted their lives to the God who could do the impossible. Daniel does not panic when faced with this impossible task, because he believes that God is sovereign over this crisis.
Notice the wisdom that God gave to Daniel in this life and death circumstance: First he speaks to the commander of the guard with wisdom and tact (2:14-15). Daniel seeks to better understand the situation, by asking questions. Next, he asks the king for time, (2:16) for an extension on this deadline, so that he can interpret the king’s dream (and of course, tell him what it was, in the first place.) Finally, Daniel urges his small group to “plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery” so that they are not executed. (2:17-18)
Daniel knows his own weakness/ inabilities, so he readily goes to the Lord for grace and help.
But beyond just saving their own skins, Daniel and company are both concerned for the lives of the other wise men, AND it is possible that Daniel realizes that the Lord God is actually revealing His plans for the future (including for Israel and the Messiah) in the dreams of this gentile king, and that God wants Daniel to be the interpreter of this wondrous dream! Daniel sees this crisis as an opportunity to minister the “gospel” among the gentiles, to bring the blessings of the covenant which God made with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3) to all the nations!
And the God of heaven hears their cries for help and reveals the mystery [Persian word: “raz”; can mean solution] of the king’s dream, during the night, in a vision (2:19), and Daniel responds by praising the God of heaven:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. 21 He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. 22 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. 23 I thank and praise you, God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”
In this model prayer of thanksgiving and praise, we see that not only does our Lord know everything; he also reveals these things to His servants! Daniel would be a witness to God’s omniscience and to His wondrous revelation.
Daniel and his faithful friends have pleaded with God for mercy, so that their lives would be spared, and God has clearly answered their cries, and revealed the dream to Daniel.
God brought glory to Himself by doing what no wise man could do. In the words of the wise men, who spoke more prophetically than they realized: 11 “What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.” (ESV: “the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”)
Nothing but the direct intervention of the Lord could save Daniel and the others, and that is what it took. [By the way, God dwelling among us, in the person of God’s Son, Jesus, IS the great mystery revealed! Christ Himself is the Wisdom of God incarnate! See Col. 2:2-3]
Is anything too difficult for the Lord? Perhaps all of us would say “of course not! He is God, and He can do anything.” But do we still believe that when our lives are on the line, like Daniel’s was? Do we really pray this way, believing that God can do the impossible IN ANSWER TO OUR SPECIFC PRAYERS?
Yes, I realize that God doesn’t always act in such dramatic fashion. If He did, we would treat him as a supernatural vending machine, and our faith would actually become anemic.
But since our God has dwelt among us (John 1:14); since nothing is too difficult for the Lord; Since He enabled 90 year old barren Sarah to have a son, (Gen, 18:14 “Is anything too hard/ difficult/ wonderful for the Lord?”), since He caused the virgin Mary to conceive, so that she would give birth to the God-Man, the Savior of the world (Luke 1:37 “Nothing is impossible with God”), and since Jesus Himself told us in Mark 9:23 that “Everything is possible for him who believes” (The healing of a son who had been demon-bound since childhood)… therefore:
We ought to trust God for difficult things
We should devote ourselves to prayer, along with other believers
We must believe His Word, His promises.
There will be times when it is God’s will not to deliver us; there will be situations when He is most glorified through the suffering and death of His servants (as He was with His own Son on the cross). At those times we take the attitude of the three men about to be thrown into the fiery furnace, in Dan. 3:17-18, as they believed that the God they served was able to rescue them, but even if He chooses not to, they still refused to worship and serve the king’s idols.
Also see Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith, where some of those who had faith were rescued dramatically, while others who equally trusted God were tortured, stoned, and put to death by the sword.
Matthew 19:25-26: The disciples ask Jesus “Who then can be saved?” and the Lord answers “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.
I have seen God do the impossible in the area of fertility, in providing work, in releasing prisoners, in handling microscopes and luggage needs halfway around the world, and in selling homes at the 11th hour. But the most amazing impossible miracle I have seen is in the area of salvation! My own… yours… and to the ends of the earth, for His praise! Therefore, keep praying… and trusting.
Nebuchadnezzar took his frustrations and fears out on those under him.
The astrologers complained about how difficult/ impossible the demands upon them were.
But Daniel and his companions went to God in prayer, trusting that He could do the impossible. And the Lord used this crisis to display His glory and strengthen the faith of his men.
Indeed, God glorifies Himself by doing the impossible. God specializes in the impossible. His wisdom and power triumphed over the wisdom and power of the mighty Babylonians, and His wisdom and power in the cross of Jesus Christ triumphed over the wisdom and power of the world!