A Mystery Revealed
The king woke up with that dream again. Despite all of his past successes, he wasn't feeling very confident. He was troubled and anxious to understand the dream because it kept coming back. He couldn't sleep and many of you know what it's like when you can't get to sleep. After a few days you start getting desperate.
In the dream he saw a terrifying, huge statue.
32 The head of the statue was pure gold, its chest and arms were silver, its stomach and thighs were bronze, 33 its legs were iron, and its feet were partly iron and partly fired clay.
As he watched, a stone fell off the statue and struck the feet of iron and fired clay, and obliterated them. Then the iron, the fired clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were pulverized into dust and disappeared into the the wind. But the stone that struck the statue keep growing and growing becoming a mountain and then filling the whole earth.
The king probably thought the gods were trying to tell him his rule wasn't going to last much longer, but he wasn't sure. He probably thought he was the huge statue and that someone out there was plotting to overtake his throne. But who? Maybe some of those sneaky wise men? But really he had no idea and he knew he needed some help.
So he called all of his astrologers, the Chaldeans, into his throne room for advice, that is, everyone except Daniel and his friends.
But the king doesn't fully trust them and thinks they might just make up some interpretation so when they ask for more time...
9 If you don’t tell me the dream, there is one decree for you. You have conspired to tell me something false or fraudulent until the situation changes. So tell me the dream and I will know you can give me its interpretation.”
And if they don't tell them the interpretation the king threatens to tear them limb from limb and squash their fine houses into garbage.
And it's no idle threat because in the next chapter this same king throws Daniel and his friends into the fiery furnace.
So the king's wise man are between a rock and a hard place. They're stuck with no way out. They don't know what the dream is and they can't just make something up to save their skin. They try to reason with the king...
10 The Chaldeans answered the king, “No one on earth can make known what the king requests. Consequently, no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked anything like this of any magician, medium, or Chaldean.
11 What the king is asking is so difficult that no one can make it known to him except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortals.”
But this so-called "logic" just gets the king more angry so he gives orders to round them all up to kill them, even Daniel and his friends. Guilt by association, I guess. The king's mad and he's just going to get rid of them all so Daniel has to think quick.
Instead of hiding, he seeks out the chief executioner, the very one who is ordered to kill them all.
14 Then Daniel responded with tact and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to execute the wise men of Babylon.
15 He asked Arioch, the king’s officer, “Why is the decree from the king so harsh?" Then Arioch explained the situation to Daniel.
16 So Daniel went and asked the king to give him some time, so that he could give the king the interpretation.
In God's providence the king lets Daniel have a little more time, and Daniel does what's most important. He prays.
17 Then Daniel went to his house and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah about the matter, 18 urging them to ask the God of the heavens for mercy concerning this mystery, so Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of Babylon’s wise men.
No doubt, they prayed urgently, fervently, long into the night. And God gave them mercy and the interpretation to the dream.
19 ...and Daniel praised the God of the heavens 20 and declared: May the name of God be praised forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to him. 21 He changes the times and seasons; he removes kings and establishes kings.
In other words, Daniel praises God because He is the one who is in charge of history. God is the one to be praised because He is the one who reigns over nature and all the world's governments. Verse 21 says...
He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. 22 He reveals the deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him.
For the Israelites, Babylon was a place of darkness. So what a comfort it must have been for them to be reminded that God knows all about the darkness and has the power to make his light shine.
God knows all about the darkness in our stage of history, too. He knows all about the estimated 100 million Christians that are persecuted worldwide. He still knows all about the sufferings of his people and we can still take comfort in knowing He has the power to do something about it. God is still in charge.
Daniel concludes his prayer of thanksgiving for God's sovereignty in verse 23...
23 I offer thanks and praise to you, God of my fathers, because you have given me wisdom and power. And now you have let me know what we asked of you, for you have let us know the king’s mystery.
With the mystery revealed, Daniel doesn't dely to save the lives of all the other wise men. He pleads with the executioner to take him to the king which it seems the executioner as all too happy to do...
25 Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king and said to him, “I have found a man among the Judean exiles who can let the king know the interpretation.”
Perhaps the reason for the executioner's eagerness is because he cares about the wise men, but more likely, he wants to take score some point with the King. Daniel doesn't want any credit, though, in fact, knows he doesn't deserve any.
28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has let King Nebuchadnezzar know what will happen in the last days.
God alone gets the glory.
29 Your Majesty, while you were in your bed, thoughts came to your mind about what will happen in the future. The revealer of mysteries has let you know what will happen.
30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but in order that the interpretation might be made known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.
So, Daniel tells the king what his dream is and the interpretation. He describes an amazing statue of a human. It's a statue not made of basic materials but of precious metals. It's frightening to look at but also beautiful in a way.
32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
What's implied is this is a statue made by humans of a human. It's manmade. It figuratively has made in Taiwan, or China, or the USA stamped on it. The statue isn't like the stone of verse 34…
34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.
The little stone is the the key to understanding this mystery which we'll get to in a minute. But first, remember that the king was terrified by it all and Daniel's next words surely brought some comfort.
37 Your Majesty, you are king of kings. The God of the heavens has given you sovereignty, power, strength, and glory. 38 Wherever people live—or wild animals, or birds of the sky—he has handed them over to you and made you ruler over them all. You are the head of gold.
The king was no doubt relieved he wasn't the entire statue, just the head, and a head of gold no less, with power over people and even animals. But it's a power the God of the heavens gave him. And there's more...
39 “After you, there will arise another kingdom, inferior to yours, and then another, a third kingdom, of bronze, which will rule the whole earth.
40 A fourth kingdom will be as strong as iron; for iron crushes and shatters everything, and like iron that smashes, it will crush and smash all the others.
Now, it's widely accepted that these four kingdoms represent the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Ancient Greece, and Rome. But more important than identifying them is identifying the main point of the interpretation. The interpretation of the mystery is both more general and more wonderful than just identifying the parts of the statue.
The mystery of the dream is not the details of history but that God is sovereignly working out his plan throughout history. The amazing thing is that God has a purpose and His purpose is being worked out. Very few details of history are given here, yet Daniel claims to understand the mystery. The mystery is that God is in charge despite who things appear. This becomes clear in verse 44...
44 “In the days of those kings, the God of the heavens will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever.
See, all of man's best efforts to self-govern will fail. Even The Great American Experiment, just like all other great kingdoms, will fail someday. Only God's kingdom will endure forever.
The Kingdom of God will crush all other kingdoms because it refuses to rule side by side with them. God's kingdom will grow, and keep growing, until the whole earth is filled. Verse 45 says...
45 "...The great God has told the king what will happen in the future. The dream is certain, and its interpretation reliable.”
And Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful human being on the planet at the time, bows down to Daniel. What else could he do? Daniel was the one who was present representing God so it seemed appropriate for the king to humble himself in God's presence. And Daniel doesn't say his worship is misplaced. Perhaps it's because Daniel knew other prophecies were being fulfilled like Isaiah 49:23…
23 Kings will be your guardians and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down to you with their faces to the ground and lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who put their hope in me will not be put to shame.
Daniel knew who deserved the credit, and it seems the king also knew in some sense...
47 The king said to Daniel, “Your God is indeed God of gods, Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, since you were able to reveal this mystery.”
God is indeed a revealer of mysteries but it's important to re-emphasize what the mystery is.
The mystery revealed isn't that we should turn to God in prayer like Daniel did, although we should.
It isn't be encouraged and thank God for hearing our prayer, like Daniel did, although we should.
It isn't even give the glory to God, like Daniel did, although we should.
In addition, the mystery revealed isn't the identity of the kingdoms of gold, silver, bronze, iron, or the 10 toes of clay mixed with iron. Discussions have been going on for thousands of years about that. Understanding their identity isn't the mystery revealed.
Instead, the heart of the passage is that...
The God of heaven, who gets rid of and sets up kings, reveals that in the end he will replace all human kingdoms with his own everlasting kingdom.
Understanding this mystery gives us real hope. Hope is what we need and hope is what the Israelites needed in captivity. They needed to have hope in a kingdom that was greater than their own or than any other kingdom.
Since the very beginning, mankind has been trying to create its own kingdoms. In Genesis 4:17 we read that Cain became the builder of a city and named it after his son Enoch. Later, in defiance of God, their descendents settled in the land of Shinar and built the Tower of Babel, located in what would later be called Babylon.
God, in his sovereignty, called Abram out of that land to the promised land. But Abram's descendents failed to be a holy nation so God sent them back to Babylon in exile, but not without hope.
God revealed this hope by giving King Nebuchadnezzar a dream and enabling Daniel to interpret it. Israel's hope, as is ours, is that the kingdom of God will replace all human kingdoms and will stand forever.
In Luke 1:33 the angel Gabriel announced of Christ...
"33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And when Jesus began his public ministry he said...
“...The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand...”
With Christ's first coming, Jesus began his kingdom reign but the Romans were still seemingly in charge. When they crucified Jesus it looked like they had won but God turned defeat into victory. Jesus ascended into heaven where He presently rules all things awaiting the time when He will return to fully establish his kingdom on earth.
The stone that Daniel said "was cut, not of human hands" (2:34) is a type of Christ. In a clear reference to Daniel 2 Jesus said in Matthew 21..
42 ...“Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is what the Lord has done and it is wonderful in our eyes?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruit.
44 Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will shatter him.”
As it says here and in Daniel 2, only Christ's kingdom will crush all other kingdoms. And only Christ's kingdom will grow and fill the whole earth. Jesus said in Matthew 13 his kingdom...
"...is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
What does this mean for us today? It means that when we watch the news and hear Press Secretary Sarah Sanders say she believes God wanted trump to be president, she is absolutely right...but it also means God wanted Barack Obama to be President, or pick any past leader in history. This is indeed a mystery revealed, but true nonetheless.
So, it means we continue to trust God when things go our way and when they don't, because history always goes God's way.
It means we trust God in sickness and in health because perhaps God sovereignly allows cancer in Christians and non-Christians so the world may see a visible difference in how we deal with it. Perhaps the peace beyond understanding we display in our trials is meant to force the world to sit up and take notice.
Perhaps God has given you a difficulty at work or with a family relationship so that you may faithfully display your hope in God's kingdom and not the kingdoms of this world.
In whatever circumstances we find ourselves in we know God is on His throne ruling all things. This is indeed the greatest mystery of all and our greatest hope.