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Choosing Whom to Follow
Scripture: Daniel 2: 1-49
Track 3 of 11 in the Living Lives That Leave People Speechless series
Running time: 22 minutes, 44 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

"Kingdom Living: Choosing Whom To Follow"
January 20, 2008
Daniel 2

So what's next? Some of you have been asking that question, and we are going to try to answer that this afternoon at 1:15 in the choir room. If you've been wondering where you go next in your journey, if you are wanting to know more about Madison Park, trying to figure out who you are and what you have gotten yourself into, if you've got questions and you want to try to get answers, we want to try to answer those today, 1:15 over here in the choir room. If you've got children, we will have them taken care of. There will be folks back in the little kids area on this end, and there will be folks down in the annex/warehouse area for them to be supervised while you're here. Take a couple of hours, maybe just a little more, but we think we can try to answer some of those immediate questions that you have. We would like you to come and do that.

So what's next? Well, I think that's probably a question that's coming up in Daniel Chapter 2 because it raises lots and lots of questions about what's next. It's a whole series of events about what comes next, and in this case literally in the history of the world Daniel Chapter 2, like Daniel 7 and 8, are texts about what's happening historically. Only when Daniel wrote it it hadn't yet happened. He's anticipating about what it is that God is about to be up to. And lest we not get off to a good start, I want us to start right in the middle of the chapter, verse number 28. I want to highlight this particular verse because it strikes so soundly, this note that is what Daniel is about.

In the midst of all this discussion about interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream Daniel makes this statement in verse number 28. "But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." Right in the heart of the book of Daniel all of the way through it is this recurring emphasis there is a God in heaven, and he knows the future, and he knows what's coming. But it even goes beyond knowing what's coming. It's not just that he announces what's coming. Because he knows it, he is able to dictate what's coming, and that's one of the frightening things about the book. Because this God that we come to worship, that we have encountered in our own worship this morning, that we have encountered in our lives, is not only a God who knows something about us and about our future, but has absolute total sovereignty over the world, including the rise and fall of nations.

I want to come to Daniel Chapter 2. We are not going to try to read this whole thing because it is a 49 verse chapter, and it will take us a long time. We are going to hit some highlights on the way through. The chapter starts this way to set the stage for you. "In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams. His mind was troubled and he could not sleep." These are the kinds of dreams that wake you up. These are the kinds of dreams that trouble you. And it's interesting that he is having multiple dreams, and there are a variety of ways of trying to understand that.

It could be that he is forgetting those dreams, and if he is, that's a big problem because in that ancient day to forget your dreams was a curse from God. The gods, if you will. It meant that they were trying to tell you something, but they weren't letting you see it. They weren't letting you have it, and to forget it meant that you had somehow been abandoned by God. The fact that it's plural, multiple dreams means that he has been haunted night after night with something that is deeply troubling to him.

We know where we are because it's the second year of his reign. Probably the way this gets counted is that the first year is the year of ascension. This now comes after two years. So Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the boys we met last week, these young early teens are probably in their third year. They have probably just finished the king's training. They have now gotten through this program of enlightenment, if you will. And so they are a part of those that are going to be identified here as those who are diviners who can somehow help the king interpret the dreams.

The first major scene occurred in verses 2 through ?. He has this dream, and he is asking his soothsayers, there are four different terms here in the text for them, to interpret the dream. But he is at least a reasonably wise king, or, in fact, he can't remember the dream at all, because they want to know, well, you tell us the dream and we'll tell you what it means. Yeah. Like call this 900 number and I'll tell you your future. You tell me what you are thinking, and I'll make something up. He is not going to tell them the dream.

If you really want to know, he says, you tell me the dream and then interpret it. And their response once they get through a bit of discussion finally makes some sense. Verses 10 and 11, "There is nobody who can do that." Well, it's nice of them to admit that, because, as a matter of fact, they are correct. Verse number 10, verse 11, "The astrologers answered, 'There is not a man on the earth who can do what the king asks.'" Verse number 11, "No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men." Boy, now, that's an interesting idea in this text. That will come back later. Nobody can do this.

Now, the king is prepared to punish all the diviners. He's just simply going to have them all put to death, and that would include our four men. And the word gets out that that's what's going to happen. This particular decree of the king makes it out into the arena of the public that he is about to kill all of the diviners, the soothsayers, the interpreters of dreams. And so Daniel comes and asks the king for more time, and somehow he has access into the king in order to allow that to happen.

So in verses 13 down through 23 we see this transition in the text from the king having the dream, demanding the interpretation, Daniel saying, give me more time, and then he does this remarkable thing. Daniel goes and finds his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and says, hey, guys, let's pray. There is nobody on earth among the gods who can do what the king has asked. So what does Daniel say down here in verse number 17 and 18. Let's pray. So verse 18, he urges them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men. And at that moment God reveals to Daniel the dream. There is no god who can do this, except God, and that comes through this text very clearly. So look at Daniel's response. Because immediately after God makes the dream known, he now bursts into a song. It sounds a great deal like the Psalms. "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever. Wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons. He sets up kings and disposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise, knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things. He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, oh God of my fathers. You have given me wisdom and power. You have made known to me what we ask of you. You have made known to us the dream of the king."

Do you hear all those attributes about God? This God who reveals mysteries, the God who enlightens the darkness, the God who knows the future, the God who determines the future, the God who gives enlightenment to his followers?

So now we come to verses 24 through 43 where Daniel walks into the king and he reveals the dream, which you don't want to miss, particularly verses 27 and following. "Daniel says, 'No wise man, no enchanter, no magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that pass through your mind as you lay on your bed are these: As you were lying there, oh king, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, oh king, may know the interpretation, that you may understand what went through your mind.'"

You notice how Daniel turns all the attention back on God? This isn't about me. This about God who reveals the future, who reveals the mysteries. And the dream, which you probably are familiar with, is that he saw a large statue. Don't have any idea how large it might have been, but knowing King Nebuchadnezzar and his penchant for building things large like one of the seven wonders of the world, the hanging gardens of Babylon, it was probably big. And at the top of it the head and the shoulders were made of gleaming gold. The chest, the torso were silver. The waist, the thighs, you notice we are going downhill, bronze. Then you get to the legs and the feet, and they are made of iron, but that iron is filled with clay.

Now, you've heard the dream before probably. If you've been around church at all, you're probably at least familiar with this, and so you have an idea of what is about to happen. He's about to say, these are the four kingdoms and these are the things that are about to happen to those kingdoms. And if that's what you are thinking, that's correct. You don't find that out until you get to Chapter 7 and Chapter 8. The only thing Chapter 2 tell us is that, Nebuchadnezzar, you are the head of gold.

Now, that's important to the king. He likes being king. He likes being important. He likes being gold. He is not going to like the results, because what Daniel is going to ultimately reveal is that this particular series of nations is going to be shattered. That set of iron legs is going to come along, and it's going to crush -- there is lots of very strong language here. Is going to crush those previous nations. So Babylon is going to fall to the Persians, the Persians are going to fall to Alexander the Great and the Greeks, and the Greeks are going to fall to Rome, these feet of iron.

But in the midst of that something really significant occurs, because part of this incredible story, this God of heaven story, is that that's not the end. So when you come down a little further into this text, you come down here to verses 44 and following, and here is what you discover in verse . "In the times of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all of those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of the mountain."

Oh, back up in verse 34 when Daniel is explaining the vision, when he is describing what's going on, notice verse 34. "While you were watching, our rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them, and then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on the threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace, but the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth." Wow. Powerful rock. And a powerful God.

And so you come down to the end of this chapter when you get to the explanation, and you note particularly verse 45. "This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of the mountain, not by human hands, a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true, and the interpretation is trustworthy." And at that point Nebuchadnezzar falls down to worship.

So what is this rock. I'm very strong, by the way. What is it? There is a rock that crushes all the previous nations. There is a rock that is indestructible, that grows to the place that it inhabits the entire world, the whole earth. There is a rock that develops into a kingdom that can never be destroyed. It's interesting how scripture treats that rock imagery. Sometimes that rock is one over which human people, folks like us, stumble.

In fact, that's the way it appears in Isaiah Chapter 8. There is a rock over which the nations will trip and fall. And if you are familiar with Isaiah Chapter 7, 8, and 9, you know that in Isaiah Chapter 7 it is the prophecy that says, there will be a child born of a virgin, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. And in Chapter 9 we know about a child who is born whose name is called wonderful, counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace. And Jesus is predicted in Chapter 7 and predicted in Chapter 9, and Chapter 8 says, people will fall over him. They will trip. They will stumble over the rock.

But that rock image gets carried out through the entire scripture as a picture of Christ and the kingdom that he sets up. It's anticipated in the old testament in the songs and in the prophets. It comes to pass in Luke Chapter 1 when Jesus is introduced to the world through the writing of the gospel writers. There is a rock. It shows up again in Luke Chapter 20. It shows up again in Acts Chapter 4. It shows up again in First Peter Chapter 2 when we talk about a kingdom established on Christ.

And there is this utterly fascinating thing that happens when you think about this rock that is not cut out of human hands. There is this rock that comes from God, divine in nature, unexplained, not quarried, just appears, and that rock sets up a kingdom that invades every kingdom, overpowers every kingdom, can never be destroyed, and ultimately will be the only kingdom left standing at the end of time. That kingdom, my friends, is called the church, and in Acts Chapter 2 we see the beginning of this kingdom coming full force as Jesus is preached for the first time. And fascinatingly in Chapter 1 is a list of nations represented in Jerusalem that day.

Oh, the church never did conquer nations militarily. It never had to come along as some kind of great military power or political statement. It simply came and overcame. It's interesting, isn't it, that the church arose during the Roman era, the era of the feet of iron and clay, that it rises without human intervention, that it conquers within every nation, that it covers the entire earth. It's a powerful statement about God's sovereignty, this second chapter of Daniel, that God comes and invades human history and sets up his sovereign kingship so that men and women might know whom to follow.

What's absolutely fascinating is that if you think about trying to interpret this text outside, outside of scripture, outside of God's revealing of mysteries, it would have been really easy to have followed Nebuchadnezzar. I mean, it would have looked like the sensible thing to do. After all, in a matter of just a few years he conquered the entire known world and then reigned for 43 years, built the most fabulous city that had been ever built at that period, had one of the seven wonders of the world, the hanging gardens, built for his wife. It would have made sense to follow him until Xerxes came along and bribed a guard to get into the city of Babylon and took over.

And then it would have probably made sense to follow Xerxes because, I mean, after all, Xerxes was now king, and that would have been a pretty good thing to do until some young buck came along named Alexander who in a matter of nine years conquered the entire known world. So if you would have climbed on board with Alexander, you would have said, now I'm riding the right horse. Except in his 10th year he ran out of things to conquer and died. Rome came along and had the longest reign of anybody in what we would consider even remotely modern history, 500 years of reign, but they don't reign anymore.

But during that period there was one worth all of them who came. And the interesting thing is when you look at this text -- and it's going to happen three times in the book of Daniel. It's going to happen again in Chapter 3, and it's going to happen again later in the book. Nebuchadnezzar can be confronted by the power of God and he is going to see God and he is going to respond to God in some way. In this text he says very flattering things. Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords and the revealer of mysteries. The only trouble is Nebuchadnezzar never really followed. He just made God one more of his pantheonic gods.

The real question is, who in the world are you going to follow? The latest figure of power, the latest trend, or are you willing to stake your life on the one God who it has said there is a God in heaven who reveals the future, who sent his son to give you somebody worthy of following. This kingdom of which we have the privilege of being a part is going to conquer every nation in every age, and it is going to be the only one that lasts, the only one. And, see, it's the only part of the world with the kingdom of God. And what it means is following Jesus and placing your allegiance in Jesus and trusting him to those who asks.

So we invite you to join, to get on board, to place your confidence and your trust in him, and to join us in seeking the rest of the nations to follow him. We want to live lives that matter by following the only one who really matters. If you are willing to commit yourself to that, will you join us in singing this song.