The Book of Daniel is imploring a message found throughout the whole of Scripture: be a faithful witness and don’t fear death. In this episode, we encounter the enigmatic dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonian ruler seeks far and wide to have his dream interpreted. None of his men can do it, and the interpretation comes through the most unlikely of sources – a Hebrew exile named Daniel who asked God in prayer to help him interpret the dream.
They master the Chaldean culture
So the king interviewed these guys who have now had three years of training in Babylonian U, and they graduated from Babylonian U. And what they’re learning in Babylonian U is the language and the literature of the Chaldeans.
Now Chaldea, maybe you remember someone who’s from Chaldea. Does anybody remember somebody who’s famous who’s from Chaldea? Abraham! From Ur of the Chaldees.
Here we are and the Chaldeans and their culture has enveloped Babylon, and we’re come full circle here because Abraham left, and he’s exiled and pulled up from a corrupt culture, and now here we are with his nation coming back into it again.
The Bible is cyclical. We just keep going through these cycles. So here we are, and we’ve got the Chaldeans, and we’re learning their language and their literature now.
Our understanding as humans comes through two things. One is language. Language shapes everything we think. That’s how we think. We think mainly in language.
To the extent we don’t think in language, we think in stories, which is literature. And the stories that are common in a culture shape what that culture is because stories teach us what is honorable and what is dishonorable. And the consensus that a culture has about what is honorable and what is dishonorable is what culture is. That’s what culture consists of.
If you think of the Greeks, they had the Iliad and the Odyssey. And the characters in the Iliad and the Odyssey, and their willingness to sacrifice to gain accomplishment, and their constant seeking of glory. This totally shaped the Greek culture, which in turn shaped the Roman culture, which in turn shapes our culture.
I’ll bet you 80 percent of us today are going to be glued to a TV tonight to see who has glory and honor. Achilles or Hector. That’s what’s going to happen tonight. And somebody may die because it’s such a violent event. And we’ll say gosh, that’s too bad. When’s the next game? We’ve just made it where people don’t die too often. If they die too often, then we do something, right?
And we have all kinds of version of this. We have guys driving around a circle going 300 miles an hour because that’s what we are. We’re Romans. We’re going see that as we go through here.
They learned this language, and they understood this literature. They understood what the Babylonians said was glory and honor. But they had discernment. They knew how to pluck out the things that were true and hold on to them and reject the things that weren’t true. And as a result, they came out with ten times the knowledge of all the other students and still had their integrity and their belief in the scriptures.
Isn’t that cool?
Now this should be what we want for all of our kids. And we should be teaching them how to understand stories.
If you let your kids see movies, please help them understand what story is being perpetrated to them and what’s being advanced. And tell them what’s true and what’s not true.
No story will be interesting to anybody if it doesn’t have some truth in it. But the very best lie is the one that’s 99 percent true. And they just put a little bit of untruth in there. And if you buy that, you’re starting to take the poison. And you just go a little bit down the road at a time.
Well, here these amazing young men resist it.
I wish the Bible told us about their moms and their dads and the training they had at home. Or their rabbi who was in their community, and their mentors. I wish it did. I think we can infer that these young men had incredible influences.
But notwithstanding, the source of their wisdom and understanding is something God gave them. We don’t know how God gave it to them. Perhaps it was supernatural. Usually they way God gives us blessings, it’s through other people. Have you noticed? I’ll bet you that this is just as much a testament to their mentors as it is to them.
Now we get to chapter 2. It’s one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Let’s just blitz through it here.
Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him.
Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.
And the king said to them, “I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream.”
Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.”
The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap—actually, it’s dung heap.
However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.”
So once again here we see that Nebuchadnezzar is really, really good at reward systems. Do you see how clear this is? Anybody confused about what the choice is? They don’t have a whole list of choices. Tell me the dream, get glory and honor. Don’t tell me the dream, die and have your house turned into a dung heap. It’s really simple. Now which would you prefer?
It’s interesting that the Chaldeans are the ones speaking here, because we really don’t know that much about these Chaldeans but they’re one of the groups of people. Magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans.
We’ve seen magicians elsewhere in the scripture. Like Pharaoh’s magicians knew how to throw their rod down, it would turn into a snake. So they had occultic powers, it seems.
We don’t know much about astrologers. Daniel’s the only place that that word shows up. But from history we know that the stars have been things that were studied for a long time, and people have gained things from that. We see that in the New Testament when they see the stars and say, ah, a king is born, right? So there’s a lot of knowledge about the heavens.
These Chaldeans appear to me to be like the chief diplomats, the guys who really understand how to get things done because they’re the ones who speak up. And look at how wise their words are: “O king, live forever.” I think that’s what you say to the king every time you address him. Wouldn’t that get cumbersome?
I think I’m going to try that at our company though, just to see how it feels. “O Tim, live forever.” I think it would just be kind of fun to see.
So, anyway, they start with that, and they say tell your servants the dream, and we’ll give the interpretation. And he says, now I know you’re stalling because you don’t understand what I’m saying. But they’re trying to get a diplomatic solution here.
Verse 7. This is the appeal now. They understand appeal. Maybe Daniel is wise like the Chaldeans.
“Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will give its interpretation.” So they’re going to try again.
The king answered and said, “I know for certain that you would gain time—you’re stalling!—because you see that my decision is firm:
“If you do not make known the dream to me, there is only one decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.”
This is not a happy time for the Chaldeans and the magicians and the astrologers.
The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, “There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean.
You’re being unreasonable, king. We’ve given you a chance to be reasonable; now you’re being unreasonable.
“It’s a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” We can’t do this! You’re asking us something that’s impossible.
Death to the wise men
For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.
So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men—So they start killing them. I’m sure they’re going about it kind of slowly thinking, the king gets like this sometimes. Maybe we just kill a few. Who do you not like? Lee. Oh, well, get him first. And we’ll just see if we can kind of slice a few at a time and see if this will kind of wear off.
And they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. So I guess they went to them and said, sorry, you’re going to have to be killed. Give us a day that’s convenient for you.
Then with counsel and wisdom Daniel answered Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard—Arioch, obviously, doesn’t like this command either. —who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon;
He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, “Why is the decree from the king so urgent?” And I looked at this word, and it’s kind of like the idea of hasty or rash. So why is the king saying something so rash? I mean, killing all his wise men! He went to a lot of trouble to get all these wise men. I mean, look, I’ve got a Ph.D. at Babylonian U. And I’ve gone through this, and he interviewed me himself. Now he wants to kill me? What’s up with the king? What is happening here?
So Arioch made the decision known to Daniel. Here’s what happened. So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation.
I get the impression here that he asked some of the top guys to stall a little bit. I don’t think he actually went in front of the king here because of the way the king reacts when he actually gets in front of him.
So talking to the king, and talking to the top people appear to be the same thing.
So Daniel went to his house, and made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,
That they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
Let’s ask God for help. This is usually the last thing we do, right? But it’s the first thing Daniel did. Maybe in this case there were not many options available. But Daniel goes straight to God and says, man, we need some big help here.
So they did, and then verse 19, Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Daniel then, because he got this vision says this. He blessed the God of heaven.
Daniel answered and said. When God tells him, this is what he says back.
“Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever,
For wisdom and might are His.
Daniel’s got this amazing wisdom, and his reaction is, “You gave this to me.” See what a cool guy this is?
He changes the times and the seasons; I’m in Babylon. That’s not what I would have chosen, but God chooses that, so it’s okay with me. This must be in my best interest.
He removes kings and raises up kings; Nebuchadnezzar, I don’t want to be under Nebuchadnezzar. He’s a pagan! I want to be under a Jewish king. But that’s who God raised up. He put him there. So I’m going to do what I can. God wants him there. How do I react to that?
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding. See this wisdom and knowledge I have? It’s just a stewardship. My decision is not to say, “Oh look how wonderful I am.” My decision is to say, “How do I steward this gift in service to God?”
He reveals deep and secret things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And light dwells with Him.
“I thank You and praise You,
O God of my fathers;
You have given me wisdom and might,
And have no made known to me what we asked of You,
For you have made known to us the king’s demand.”
Therefore Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; take me before the king, and I will tell the king the interpretation.”
Once again, do you think all the other wise men of Babylon were Jewish guys who wanted the best for Daniel? If this would have been flipped to somebody else, would they have tried to save Daniel? Probably not.
He had an opportunity here to say don’t execute us because we have the answer. Just go ahead and nix all the rest of the guys, and it will all be left to us.
That’s the normal thing a wise politician will do is eliminate his competition while he’s at it.
But Daniel comes in and intercedes on behalf of the whole crew.
We’re called to be kings and priests. That’s what God has actually made us to do. That’s our assigned position.
And if we overcome, the reward we get is to actually be installed in that physically in the new earth. That’s the main reward that God sets out for us.
But in this life, by faith, we are to be kings and priests, and the priestly function is to intervene for other people, to stand in the gap for them whether they would repay us or not.
Daniel before the king
He comes, and he says, “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon—He saves them all. —take me before the king, and I will tell the king the interpretation.”
Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king, and said thus to him, “I have found a man of the captives of Judah, who will make known to the king the interpretation.”
This is why, I think, when Daniel sent the message up, he didn’t actually go in front of the king because there’s no particular familiarity here. The king probably interviewed lots and lots of people and doesn’t remember that many of them, right?
The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, that’s his Babylonian name, “are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation?”
Daniel has just one of the best speeches ever. He’s in front of the king. This is probably only the second time he’s been in front of the king. The first time is his oral exam.
Let’s just think about that for a minute. You get out of college, and your oral exam is in front of a guy who beheads you if he doesn’t like your answers. Is that pressure? That’s some pressure. If you fail your oral exams in other places, you can just take the class again.
But Daniel’s in the presence of the king, and here’s what he says.
“The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. And that includes him. He says, no, I can’t tell you the answer to the dream.
But there’s a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. He’s already telling him the headline of what the dream’s about. Your dream’s about what’s going to happen in the latter days, and God is telling you this, not me. No man can answer. The other guys were right. Men can’t answer this. But God can.
—Your dream, and the vision of your head upon your bed, were these:
“As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be.
“But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, that you may know the thoughts of your heart.
What a speech. So, no, actually, I don’t know. And, once again, yes! I do know! Give me something big.
Daniel in contrast to Balaam
Think about Balaam which would be the opposite of Daniel. Balaam was a true prophet. He would not speak false words. But what was he trying to do when he was offered a great reward to say something to curse the Israelites?
He was like, I can’t violate my prophet office, but I really want that money. How can I have it both ways?
And we saw in Revelation that the spirit of Balaam worked its way into one of the churches, and God said, “Get that Spirit out of there!” Because you can’t be a double-minded believer and please me. You can’t be saying, well, how can I have all this and Jesus too? How can I have what the world offers, and still have what God offers?
It doesn’t work that way.
Well, Daniel’s not confused like that. Daniel understands. I’m just stewarding my gift, and I’m here to bless you, pagan king, who stole me out of my home, and castrated me, and made me a prisoner, and made me go to a university I didn’t want to go to, and a job I didn’t want to go to. And I’m here to bless you.
This guy’s incredible, isn’t he?
Next thing is going to be the dream, the vision. And I’m going to save that for next time.
Overview of the rest of the book
But I’m going to give you a little overview of what the whole rest of the book’s going to be doing. And we’ll probably go over this multiple times.
What we’re going to be doing is seeing the rest of human history multiple times. And we’re going to see this dream about this statue. It’s going to have a head of gold, which is Babylon. It’s going to have a breast of silver, which is the Persian empire. And then the bronze torso, which is the Greek empire. And then the iron and clay legs and toes, which is the Roman Empire, an eastern and a western empire.
And then that statue is going to be blasted by a rock that comes out of a mountain that’s not made by hands, and that’s the new kingdom that’s going to fill all the earth, the millennial kingdom.
So that’s the whole rest of human history.
Daniel is a book that the liberal scholars always want to date as written very late because it’s so plain that these prophecies are accurate that they conclude this couldn’t have been written before they happened because there is no actual God, and God doesn’t give prophecies; so it must have been written late.
And when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, that kind of blew up their argument; and so now they just don’t talk about it. That’s what you do when you have an argument that’s not good for you. You just don’t talk about it.
These periods here, the Babylonian period is going to be for about 66 more years, and the fact that it’s the sixth century and sixty six years could be something that tells us something about the number of man that’s in Revelation. It’s going to be somebody like a Nebuchadnezzar. The antichrist is very Nebuchadnezzar-like even though he’s in the Roman era.
And we talked about this in Revelation, that this antichrist kingdom has characteristics of all four of these kingdoms that we’re going to see.
And then in 539, Babylon falls. The Persians come in. They block up the river and go underneath. And that’s going to be the handwriting-on-the-wall night that that happens. We’ll see later in Daniel.
And then the Persians go for about 200 years. And then they fall to Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great, 330 B.C. is when Alexander is said to have conquered the world. And, you know, he’s 26 when he conquers the world and 32 when he dies. So he had six glorious years where he drank himself into oblivion and died with malaria.
Then it’s divided into his four generals, and that’s kind of the Greek period.
And by 30 B.C. or so, Rome has swallowed up Greece. And it’s been Rome ever since.
And then, we’re told what happens at the end of the Roman era, which is now over 2000 years and counting, the Roman era.
And at the end of the Roman era, then you have the great tribulation, the end of this Roman era, and the millennial kingdom, the rock made without hands that fills the whole earth. And that was Revelation.
And so that’s what the rest of this book is going to be telling us about. We’re going to have the statue dream, and then we’re going to have beast dreams. We’re going to have the furious goat that goes around butting everything. That’s Alexander the Great.
We’re going to have different ways to show us the same thing. And again, what it really comes back to is what Daniel already knew. God changes times and seasons. He removes kings and raises up kings. He gives wisdom to the wise. Because God’s in control.
No matter what you see happening, and no matter how out of control things may look to us, God’s still on his throne. We got that from Revelation. It’s the same story here.
And why would that be relevant to a group of people who had been taught the temple, the temple, the temple, that will protect you; and now all of a sudden they’re ripped out of their home, thousands and thousands have died, probably hundreds of thousands die. And then they’re taken to Babylon. Everything they’ve been told falls away. Why would it be relevant for them to get a message that says God’s in control, and he appoints times and seasons? It’s very relevant, isn’t it?
Really Daniel and Revelation are doing the same thing. They’re telling the people that are there, including us, look, bad times will come. There are seasons, and you’re going to have bad times; and when they come, I let it happen. And I am not letting things spin out of control. What I want you to do is be a Daniel. Don’t fear death, and be a great witness.