August 23 – Daniel 2:1-47
This week we’ll continue looking at the tension of two kingdoms we introduced last week. In Daniel 2 God tasks Daniel with interpreting the bizarre dream of the ruthless Babylonian monarch, King Nebuchadnezzar. In this installment of Daniel’s saga the stakes get higher, with Daniel’s life and the lives of his friends hanging in the balance, but, as always, God comes through in remarkable ways, and even takes this opportunity to give us a sneak peak at what he’s really up to in Babylon.
Take the opportunity this week to read all of verses 1-47 together. I know we don’t typically read long passages together for one reason or another, but over the course of this whole story we’ll get the proper context for landmark verses like 2:21 and 2:44, and we’ll get a sense for how God is moving during these events.
The story opens with King Nebuchadnezzar losing sleep over his stressful dreams. From the start Nebuchadnezzar is curiously disturbed by these dreams—he desperately wants to know what they mean. So desperate was he to know this that he refused to recount the dream to any of his advisors, lest they produce some BS interpretation that would keep him from the truth. He demanded that his wise men both tell him his dream and interpret it for him, and if they couldn’t then he would have them and their families brutally slain. All of this betrays just how anxious he was to know what these dreams might portend.
But this was bad news for Daniel and his friends, who were counted among the ranks of Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men. Right when it seems like their fate is sealed, Daniel takes a chance and makes an appointment with the king. Notice, he doesn’t have anything to tell the king yet! He’s stalling for time, just like Nebuchadnezzar’s other counselors were doing in 2:8. But unlike them, Daniel has a God who can intervene, so he makes the appointment and enlists Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to pray that God would make a way out of this mess.
And, of course, God makes a way.
He honors the promises he made to Israel through Moses, found in Deuteronomy 4:25-31 “If you act corruptly … the LORD will scatter you among the peoples…[but] when you are in tribulation … you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.” We see in Daniel that God keeps his promises, even when his people have abandoned him. Prior to the exile Israel had made a repeated practice of choosing false gods over the one, true, living God. And yet God proves himself faithful in that he never leaves or forsakes his people. God reveals to Daniel what Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was and what it meant, and Daniel faithfully relates all this to the king. Note that all Daniel did in this story was hold fast to the hope he had in God, take a risk knowing that God could make a way, and then faithfully went along with God’s plan.
But God also took this opportunity to reveal deep truths, both to the exiled community and to Nebuchadnezzar himself. In the middle of this ordeal Daniel points out that God “removes kings and sets up kings.”(2:21) This is a crucial reminder for the exiles, that this brutal king who had conquered their people was a merely God’s employee. Nebuchadnezzar seems to understand some of this in verse 47, but he’ll get a re-education on the matter in just a couple chapters (Daniel 4:28-33, “Nebuchadnezzar’s Humiliation”). But through Daniel God also reveals that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream isn’t just about his kingdom eventually coming to an end, as all kingdoms and nations eventually do. God reveals that there’s a coming kingdom, one that will fill the whole earth and never end. While Nebuchadnezzar and his retinue were so concerned with the happenings of his earthly kingdom, God looks straight past those concerns towards a coming future when they’re entirely irrelevant.
And this is where Daniel 2 is incredibly relevant to our lives right now.
How many of us are filled with concern, and have been for months, about the current state of our city or nation, or filled with worry over the coming presidential election? On almost all levels the next few months will not be pretty. But I think, out of this passage, God would urge us to peak over this present darkness and see the coming light of his Kingdom, not to withdraw from our present location but to receive a greater hope than it can give. Just like Daniel stepped into the moment to be used by God, we can too, and without the anxiety and power struggles that define earthly nations.
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read Daniel 2:1-47 for us? (it’s long, but you need most of the story for it to make sense)
• What did you find interesting in this story?
• How was God at work in this story?
• What do you think these events meant to Daniel and the other exiles?
• How can this passage help us understand earthly kingdoms/nations?
• How could verse 44 influence the way we live right now?