Daniel 2:24-3:30; 1 Peter 4:7-5:14;
Psalm 119:81-96; Proverbs 28:15-16
But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets...
King Nebuchadnezzar was not always a world dictator. He started out as a local petty chieftain in Babylon. Over time he conquered local tribes and increased his influence. Eventually, he moved on to take over the Assyrian empire, the Syrians, and Egypt. For some reason, he did not attempt to take over the Greeks. His territory included the then-known world. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar is considered the first world dictator. You may remember that in Genesis we met a man named Nimrod, who headed up the construction of the Tower of Babel. He was a mighty warrior on the earth and attempted to unite the world under his rule. God put an end to his attempts through confusing the languages on earth. It is no mistake that Nebuchadnezzar is in the same geographical location as he attempts to unite the known world under his authority. Do you see the thread of history? Some of you may wonder why Egypt with all of its power was never a world empire. It is because the Egyptians were never willing to move beyond the Nile River region. They were powerful, but tied to their area.
As we read yesterday, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that had shaken him to his core. None of the wise men and magicians of Babylon were able to tell the king the nature of his dream. We see that he must have had doubts about the abilities of these men, because he is prepared to kill them all. Daniel has been granted time to respond to the king. Through and because of prayer, God reveals to Daniel the dream and the interpretation of the dream.
Now, Daniel begins to give the interpretation of the dream. The first thing that he tells Nebuchadnezzar is that it is God who has given the king his sovereignty, power, strength, and honor. Daniel is showing that it is God who makes kings who they are and gives them their power. We have some modern day politicians who need to realize this. Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that he is the head of gold on the statue. Next, another great kingdom will come upon the earth that is inferior to the Babylonian empire. After that, a third great kingdom will rise that is represented by the bronze belly and thighs. Following that kingdom will be a fourth kingdom that is made of iron and smashes everything it strikes. It will be mixed with clay to show that it is vulnerable. This kingdom will try to strengthen itself by forming alliances, but it will not succeed.
The rock cut from the mountain represents a kingdom that God, Himself, will form. His kingdom will destroy all the other kingdoms of the earth, and no one will ever conquer God's kingdom. God has shown King Nebuchadnezzar the future. At this news, Nebuchadnezzar falls to the ground in front of Daniel and worships him. We should note that Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan king, who was used to worshiping idols. To worship Daniel after this amazing interpretation would have been perfectly natural. He then appoints Daniel to be a judge and prime minister of Babylon.
Because Daniel's prophecy is a key prophecy in Scripture that acts as an anchor for all of God's story, I am going to make this blog longer than usual in order to discuss this prophecy. Please hang with me on this.
The prophecy given to Daniel shows us several things. First, here are the kingdoms that are represented in the statue and are the kingdoms that represent the "times of the Gentiles" on earth.
Gold head- Babylonian Empire
Silver chest and arms- Media-Persian Empire
Brass belly and thighs- Greek-Macedonian Empire
Iron legs- Roman Empire
Feet of Iron and Clay- Last Form of the Roman Empire
Note that the types of metal reflect that each subsequent kingdom is inferior to the previous kingdom. The position of the metals reflect decreasing importance. And the division of sovereignty within the kingdoms can be detected by the position on the statue's body. We can interpret that dictatorships are the purest form of power. Only Nebuchadnezzar is a pure dictator. When Christ comes to reign on earth, he will be a perfect and benevolent dictator. The subsequent kingdoms are divided and not truly dictatorships. Daniel is alive and serving during the Media-Persian empire. It is divided, which is represented on the statue by the arms. The Greek and Macedonian empire is formed by Alexander the Great. Finally, the Roman Empire is still in existence. It is represented by two iron legs, and then two feet with ten toes that are a mixture of iron and clay. The form of government was representative in nature. Power within was compromised. The ancient Roman empire fell from within from corruption and excess. The countries that were part of that empire are still in existence and still have power through alliances today. This is seen in the mixture of iron and clay in the feet. The final dictator on earth (the Antichrist and the false prophet) will come from the feet of iron and clay. Please note that the ten toes on the feet represent ten countries that will be in alliance to form this final kingdom.
God addresses the geo-political aspect of history in this vision. He addresses the fact that Jesus Christ will be an earthly ruler (the rock that is hewn from the mountain) one day, and will crush the inferior world political system that mankind has set up. It is important to note that once God took King David's line off the throne of Israel (beginning with their captivities by Assyria and Babylon) and replaced Israel's world influence with Babylon as the world empire, we see the times of the Gentiles begin. God's intention is for the influence of the Gentiles to usher in the end times. You and I are living in the times of the Gentiles. Many wannabe world dictators have attempted to unite the Roman Empire again, including Charlemagne, Napoleon, and Hitler. None will accomplish this until God appoints that final dictator. When the time is right, the Antichrist will rise on the world political scene and unite a fragile coalition of countries.
Rather than creating the utopia that man has always dreamed about on earth, this final world dictator will bring the earth to the brink of destruction (See Revelation 16-18). Jesus Christ will return at the last moment, defeat this dictator, and usher in a righteous kingdom on earth. He will reign for one thousand years to show himself strong on the earth that he created. He will also fulfill his promises to the children of Israel. Please see the following Scriptures as references to Christ's second coming: Zechariah 14:1-3; Joel 3:2, 9-16; Isaiah 34:1-8; Psalm 2. Please note that multiple Scriptures describe Jesus as a rock including Matt. 21:44; I Cor. 3:11, and Deut. 32:15. This Rock will crush his enemies and be the foundation of an eternal kingdom.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego continue to be stellar examples of faith when they declare to Nebuchadnezzar that the God they worship is able to deliver them, even from the fire. But, if their God chooses not to deliver them, they will never worship his gods or the statue. Nebuchadnezzar is distortedly furious at this statement. He has the furnace heated to four times its normal temperature. This actually kills the unfortunate soldiers who threw the men into the furnace.
As Nebuchadnezzar watches the furnace, he sees four men, rather than three men, walking around in the furnace. He notes that one of the men looks like a son of the gods. You and I know that Jesus Christ (pre-incarnate) came in the midst of this fiery trial and saved the three men. Please remember that Christ shares the fiery trials in our lives. He is present with us in our suffering. Acknowledging that they are servants of the most High God, Nebuchadnezzar commands the men to come out of the furnace. He admits that there is no other god who can rescue like this and he promotes the men to higher positions in the kingdom.
Do you think God is pursuing Nebuchadnezzar? He is persistently presenting Himself to this man. How is God pursuing you? How has He revealed mysteries in your life?
1 Peter 4:7-5:14
I guess we should not think it a coincidence that Peter begins today's passage with the statement, "The end of the world is coming." The Bible is a book that tells us these things. It is map for the future of mankind. Peter uses this fact to encourage right living in the face of suffering. Here is what he suggests today:
- Be earnest and disciplined in prayer. Vs. 7
- Show deep love for one another. Vs. 8
- Share your home with others in need. Vs. 9
- Use the spiritual gifts that God has given you to help others. Vs. 10
- Accept fiery trials in your life (wow! how appropriate!) Vs. 12
- Consider trials an opportunity to share in Christ's suffering. Vs. 13
- Be happy when insulted. This is another opportunity to identify with Christ Vs. 14
- Don't be glad if your suffering is resulting from your own sins of murder, stealing, trouble making, or prying into other's business. Vs. 15
Satan is real and acts as a roaring lion on earth. He seeks to devour people. Stand firm against him and his temptations. Christians all over the world will suffer for Christ. We are not alone in our suffering. This should comfort us.
Has your suffering produced obedience, humility, concern for others, a stronger prayer life, and deep love for others? Peter shows us that suffering has a purpose. Do you see this?
You can trust in God's Word like the psalmists. His Word does not fail.
This proverb mirrors what Christ will be like in His earthly kingdom.
What are you learning? Please share.