Daniel 2:17-23: Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him. 23 To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
How would the king who conquered Judah and exiled its people know that the God of the Jews was the Creator and Ruler of heaven and earth? Long before Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Sennacherib king of Assyria threatened Judah with destruction (Isa. 36:1). Sennacherib sent his Rabshakeh (a high-ranking military official) to Jerusalem with a large army (v. 2). Hezekiah sent an envoy of representatives out to meet them, and the Rabshakeh called on the people of Jerusalem to surrender. He even went so far as to warn the people not to trust in their God:
Isaiah 36:18-21: Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad?
Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods ofthese countries have delivered their countries out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my
To the king of Assyria, the God of Israel was just like the gods of the other nations he had conquered – powerless to do anything against the great Assyrian army.
If Sennacherib thought like this, and he failed to conquer Judah, how much more would Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon – who succeeded in conquering Judah – arrogantly dismiss the God of Israel as being just as powerless as the gods of the other nations? Nebuchadnezzar was in fact full of pride over his great empire. He imagined that it was all because of his own glory and majesty (Dn. 4:28-33). So, in order to humble Nebuchadnezzar and teach him the truth, God revealed himself to the Babylonian king through dreams and visions.
Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a great image of exceeding brightness and frightening appearance. Its head was made of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. In the dream a stone was cut out, but not by human hands, and it struck the feet of iron and clay and broke them in pieces. The result was that the entire image was shattered and destroyed. Its broken pieces became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors which the wind blew away until there was no trace of the image left. But the rock which struck and destroyed the statue became a large mountain that filled the whole earth (Dn. 2:31-35).
Nebuchadnezzar was so troubled by this dream that he could not sleep (Dn. 2:1). He wanted his magicians, sorcerers, and enchanters to tell him the meaning of the dream, but he refused to tell them what he saw in the dream. He would only trust an interpretation of the dream if one of his servants could actually tell him the content of the dream as well. Of course, none of these men could do this. They said, “The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Dn. 2:11). This made Nebuchadnezzar furious and he ordered that all the wise men in Babylon be destroyed (Dn. 2:12-13). When the captain of the king’s guard came to kill Daniel and his friends because they were among the “wise men” Daniel requested an audience with the king that he might tell him the interpretation of the dream (Dn. 2:16). Then Daniel and his friends came together and sought “mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery.”
In response to their prayers God revealed the mystery – both the dream and its interpretation – to Daniel (v. 19, 23). Daniel then immediately went to Nebuchadnezzar and told him all that he wanted to know. But, Daniel made sure that the king understood who had revealed the mystery and who was really in charge of this entire situation.
Daniel 2:27-30: Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.”
In this way Nebuchadnezzar began to learn that the God of the Jews was in fact the God of heaven who possessed all wisdom and knowledge; nothing was hidden from him. Further, the interpretation of the dream revealed that the course of world history and the rise and fall of empires was in the hands of the God of heaven, and not in the hands of any human emperor. Third, the interpretation of the dream told Nebuchadnezzar that the day was coming when the God of heaven would establish his own kingdom on earth (the rock not cut out by hands which destroyed the statue and grew to become a huge mountain), and that this “kingdom of heaven” would “stand forever” (v. 44-45). God was revealing his plan for world and salvation history to Nebuchadnezzar.
As disciples of Jesus we must constantly remember that the God we worship is the sovereign ruler of history. Times and seasons, kings and kingdoms, wisdom and knowledge – all are subject to God’s reign, power, and purposes. When we look at the forces of world history and the leaders of the nations, we can feel small and powerless. With so much evil, uncertainty, pride, greed, and danger in the world we may be tempted to lose hope for ourselves or for the cause of the gospel. The book of Daniel pulls back the curtain on the way things seem. It seems that the power of history rests in the hands of the great men and women of politics, business, industry, and warfare. It seems like the church cannot stand up to such powers. But the reality is far different than the way things seem: the reality is that “the great men and women” are but minor players in the grand drama of the Creator’s work of redemption and new creation. God “removes kings and sets up kings” – He already knows their beginning and end, and He is already at work to take history in the direction He wants it to go so that the purposes of His Kingdom will be accomplished. So, let us remember that we serve the God who reveals mysteries! We serve the “God of gods and Lord of kings” (v. 47)! Let us go to him in prayer when we are facing things which are beyond us (and at all other times)! Let us obey him even when it is difficult and costly. Let us trust that he is in control even when we cannot see what he is doing in our lives and in our world. Let us keep our eyes on him and serve his eternal kingdom.
Take time now to seek God. This brief prayer can help you get started: “O God, you are Lord of heaven and earth. You rule all kings and kingdoms. You are the revealer of mysteries. Help us to trust you when we are afraid. Help us to remember that you are in control. And Lord, reveal your power and your kingdom to the nations, that they would remember that they are but men. In the name Jesus, Amen.”