Daniel 2:24-49 Daniel Sermon #3 Feb. 28, 2016
Sermon Series: “The Lord is King”
Title: “A Statue, a Stone, and Presidential Candidates”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Many of us are dismayed at the some of the candidates who are right now leading in the race for the presidential primaries. Most of us are very concerned about where our country is heading, given the recent laws and rulings that have flaunted God’s standards and exalted man’s rebellion.
So what do we do? Get angrier? Move to Canada? Put our heads in the sand and ignore it all?
But God has a better way, a perspective that He wants us to cling to, as shown to us in Daniel 2.
We saw two Sundays ago that King Nebuchadnezzar, the head of the vast Babylonian Empire, had a very troubling dream, but none of his wise men could tell him the dream or interpret it for him. However, God brought glory to Himself by giving to his servant, Daniel, the ability to both know the king’s dream and to interpret it for him. Let’s think about the meaning of the king’s dream and its application of its principles, for us today, even for our presidential candidates!
We are told that the head of gold in the dream is Nebuchadnezzar and his empire. (2:36-38). Now look closely at how his power and glory are described, especially in v. 38. Does that ring a bell? It should. For Daniel is describing the king’s glory and power in terms that remind us of what God granted to Adam at the beginning, when He gave Adam dominion over the birds and the beasts, and when He clothed Adam with his own glorious image. (See Gen. 1:28) Do you see that?
Could it be that Nebuchadnezzar’s position is symbolic of the power and glory that God first gave to Adam in the garden, when He created him and appointed him as his vice-regent, to rule over creation, in power and glory?
If that is true, then this also has a bearing on how we look at the other kingdoms that follow Babylon, in vv. 39-43. For while we may be tempted to focus on a chart of the history of kingdoms, going so far as interpreting the ten toes on the feet of the kingdom of iron and clay as representing ten European nations, the truth is that this passage gives us very little information as to the identities of these kingdoms.
Could it be that God intended to give us a more of a philosophy of history or a perspective on history, rather than a precise foretelling of which kingdoms would occupy center stage for the next 500 or 1,000 years? (Yes, it’s true that later in Daniel 8:20-21 God will identify the second and third kingdoms as Medo-Persians and the Greek Kingdom. But I think that the main point here may very well be the rise and fall of all great earthly empires, as contrasted with the invincible and enduring kingdom of God, in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This dream and its interpretation are more concerned with encouraging Daniel and his fellow exiles about God’s sovereignty and control over all rulers and all empires, than with giving them a time-line chart of what to expect in every century to follow. [By the way, I think that is also true of all apocalyptic literature in the Bible, such as in the Book of Revelation.]
If that’s true, then God uses this dream and interpretation to drive home four important truths:
First, all earthly empires and glory come from God.
Look at 2:37-38: “The God of Heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory…He has made you ruler over them all.” The Lord is the One who “set up” Nebuchadnezzar as king (2:21) and He is the One who will take him down. If he is a world ruler, it is because God rules the world and has established him as such. As God gave Adam authority over the rest of creation, so too the Lord gives authority, power, and glory to kings, prime ministers, and presidents. (Romans 13). All those who run for president should be humbled by this truth, and those who are not WILL be broken and humbled.
Second, all earthly empires and glory are transitory.
Look at 2:39-40: “After you, another kingdom will rise… Next, a third kingdom… Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom.” No kingdom, no empire, and no nation will last forever. Babylon rose and it fell. Alexander the Great’s empire was divided and declines after he died. Edward Gibbons famously chronicled the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Hitler declared that the Third Reich would last 1,000 years, but as William Shirer wrote, it only lasted 12 years.
Do we think America will be any different? “All we are is dust in the wind.” (By the way, each kingdom ultimately falls because of its moral decay from within.) Once again, all the pomp and show of every political campaign will soon turn to dust.
Third, this dream is sadly symbolic of all human history.
It’s not just that one empire succeeds another; it’s not merely that the power in America seems to shift every 8-12 years from the Democrats to the Republicans and then back again. It’s more than that. As Iain Duguid writes in his commentary: “By linking these different kingdoms together as parts of a single statue in the form of a man, the dream says something profound about the whole human enterprise viewed as a unity, from beginning to end….The entire human endeavor, though gifted and blessed by God in the beginning with unparalleled glory and dominion, ends up in nothing but division and dissolution.”
Think about the pattern in Genesis: The glory of Adam in Gen. 1-2 gives way to the judgment of the flood in Gen. 6-9 and the chaos of life after the Tower of Babel in Gen. 11. Therefore we would be foolish to put our ultimate hope in any candidate, any party, or in any nation.
Fourth, this dream encourages us to trust only in God’s supernatural kingdom.
The climax and the centerpiece of the dream is the kingdom which God establishes as His own. (See 2:44) “The kingdom of God enters the chaos and hopelessness of human history and brings new and lasting hope to us. After the despair of Gen. 11 comes the new hope of God’s call to Abram in Gen. 12.” Again, to quote Iain Duguid, “The final word of history does not lie with a new and improved statue of man. Rather, it lies with something radical that God will do: a rock cut out supernaturally will both demolish the statue and then grow to fill the earth!”
This reality of the brevity of human kingdoms and the eternality of God’s Kingdom should put things into perspective for us.
First, it reminds us that no earthly ruler (king or president) can deliver what is ultimately needed, and no political party or candidate can bring in the kingdom of God on earth.
This world and its constantly changing kingdoms and rulers is not what life is ultimately about. Yet at the same time, this dream and its interpretation comes to us courtesy of Daniel, who served as a high ranking government worker for six decades, under a number of administrations, so we can’t blow off politics and government as futile and worthless! These men did not withdraw from the kingdom of the world as they waited for God to establish His kingdom. No. They sought the welfare of the nation where God had placed them. (Jer. 29:5-7)
Second, it shows us that God does work in decades and centuries. The fall of the mighty Babylonian empire would occur decades later (see Daniel chapter 5). The revealing and growth of God’s kingdom was going to happen centuries later, and Daniel would see that only by faith. That means that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge failures or successes in life or in the church. For while the final chapter of history has already been written by God, none of us has received an advanced copy of that book.
Third, it should point us to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, who is the Rock made without human hands (2:34, 45). Christ is the stone which the builders rejected, but now has become the cornerstone of all. (Ps. 118; Luke 20:17-18). Jesus Christ is the stone who was rejected and put on the cross to die, but He has become the Cornerstone of the Church. He is the One who breaks the nations to pieces and crushes those He falls on. [Can you imagine throwing a rock at the Statue of Liberty or at the Washington Monument…and having it crumble to dust! That’s what’s happening here!]
So who is this Jesus to you? Are you rejecting him, or is he your cornerstone of salvation?
Perhaps in this description of God’s kingdom, you might have noticed some allusions to Psalms one and two. In Dan. 2:35 we read that the other four kingdoms were broken to pieces by the supernatural stone, and “Became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace.” That is an echo of Ps. 1 in which we read that the ungodly, in contrast to the righteous, are like the chaff which the wind drives away, and that they will not stand in the day of judgment. This tells us that these empires fall not primarily because of military or financial reasons, but because of moral and spiritual causes. Sinclair Ferguson comments, “The destruction of these kingdoms is not an accident of history, but instead the outworking of God’s judgment on kingdoms that have turned from His laws and His Word.”
Later on in Daniel 2:45 we read that the stone shall break into pieces all the other kingdoms, and this is an allusion to one of the promises given to the Messiah in Psalm 2:8-12, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” This is followed by an exhortation to the kings: “Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.”
There is no doubt, therefore, that the kingdom represented by this supernatural stone is the Messianic Kingdom of God. And what does God’s Word tell us about this kingdom?
The Kingdom of God is God’s design, God’s plan, and His creation (v. 44: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom.”) It is not the clever plan of men; it is not a shrewd political campaign devise by savvy political veterans.
The Kingdom of God is an indestructible and infallible kingdom (v. 44: “Which shall never be destroyed; it not will it be left to another people.”)
The Kingdom of God is an all-victorious kingdom, eternal in duration (v. 44: “It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.”)
The Kingdom of God will be a universal kingdom (v. 35: “Filled the whole earth.”).
All of this will happen despite beginning in obscurity, represented by a mere stone. (v. 34)
The stone represents Jesus Christ. He is the Stone that crushes the kingdoms of this world (Think of the British Empire, the Soviet Union, the United States, and the Republic of China), because He is the one into whose hands the Father has committed all judgement (John 5:22).
As Nebuchadnezzar did, God calls us to respond to the truth of His Word by bowing down and confessing that the God of the Bible is “the God of gods and the Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries.” (vv. 46-47).
Furthermore, God wants us to believe and cling to the ultimate triumph of God’s Kingdom, over all the kingdoms of men, over Satan’s kingdom of darkness, and over the petty kingdom of self-worship that we have set up in our hearts.
The Lord calls us to hear the message that John the Baptist proclaimed and that Jesus proclaimed: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Mt. 3:2; 4:17)
And can you imagine what an encouragement this dream and its interpretation would have been to Daniel and his fellow exiles, in Babylon? There they were, captives in a foreign land; Jerusalem the Holy City of God was is ruins, and the Holy Temple of the Lord was destroyed!
They were pilgrims living in a very ungodly society, and few, if any, of the potential candidates for king of Babylon gave them much hope!
But here God uses this ungodly king, Nebuchadnezzar, to proclaim that their God, the God of Israel, is indeed “the God of gods and the Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries.”
So once more, I come back to this truth: “The final word of history does not lie with a new and improved statue of man. Rather, it lies with something radical that God has done: the rock he cut out supernaturally is demolishing the kingdoms of men, and it is filling the earth as God’s eternal and victorious Kingdom!”
Rev. 11:15 “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”