Live trustingly - Daniel 2

This is a sermon by Peter Birnie from 25th October 2020.

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Daniel 2 “Live Trustingly”

Intro: Calling your bluff

Do you know any “bluffers”? People who seem to get by quite well in life without really deserving to. We like (and hate) watching “The Apprentice” on TV where Alan Sugar offers a group of hopeful business people a chance to compete for a big investment in their company. On week 1 many of them profess to be very proficient, hugely skilled, vastly experienced despite their young age. But as the weeks go on you begin to realise that not just you but probably some of the primary school aged children in our church could do at least as successful a job as some of the contestants.

There are still a few though, who march on and manage to inspire some confidence. But in each series there comes a day when all bluffs are called; the final 5 contestants hand in their business plans and in a series of rigorous, uncompromising and gruelling interviews false claims are brought to light and most of the time there is nothing left of the candidate that impresses; they are bluffers, they are quite wrong to place so much trust in themselves.

In Daniel 2 some pretty big bluffs are called. Many impressive looking people are shown up to be bluffers whose trust in themselves puts them on the verge of absolute disaster. And even impressive and formidable Kingdoms are revealed to be temporary and fleeting. Daniel, however, this stranger amongst the people of Babylon, is found not to be a bluffer. And the reason for that is once more rooted in who Daniel knows God to be.   

Who is Yahweh, who is the one true God? He is all powerful and completely sovereign, he cares deeply what happens to the people who bear his name, and he intends for His glory to be demonstrated to the universe. Daniel lives trustingly in this God, the true God, and this trust means that Daniel can stand in the presence of Kings where others without this trust will only fall.  

 

In verses 1-12 and then 31-45 putting trust in humanity is revealed to be short-term foolishness.

King Nebuchadnezzar has some dreams which trouble him so much he can’t sleep. There are some people you just don’t want to get on the wrong side of when they are tired (my younger brother would only communicate via a series of grunts in the morning) and King Nebuchadnezzar was definitely one of those type of people. He calls in the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers (that list alone shows you how far away Babylon was from God), and he demands that these men who claim to know so much not only explain his dream to him but firstly tell him what the dream actually was. Gifts and rewards and great honour are promised if they can do this but if not, and I have to say I am glad I don’t work for a boss like this, they will be cut into pieces and their houses will be turned into rubble. Imagine the reaction.

Bear in mind that in Babylon, this group of people were the movers and shakers, the people that others looked up to and listened to. They would have looked very impressive and I suppose they probably felt very impressive as well (if they believed their own hype). Although numerically they were a small group compared to the size of the Babylonian empire, they were the ones setting the direction of the culture, they had huge influence on the beliefs and practices of the regular people. For years they have convinced themselves and maybe the Kings before Nebuchadnezzar that they have got what is needed for life – they should be listened to because they know the answers. But in one instant, their bluff has been called.

“Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” But it doesn’t move the King at all – he sees right through them. All the bluster that might have impressed in the past is gone – it is like that moment in the story of the emperor’s new clothes where a child simply shouts out what he sees – these magicians suddenly feel naked in front of the King. Verse 10 and 11 are sobering and wonderful verses because they describe the reality of the situation so very well, they humble humanity, they remind us that we are simply little creatures with concrete limits on our abilities; “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks… What the king asks is too difficult.” Even the gods that these men claim to believe in can’t help them out because “they do not live among humans.” In short; in the face of the demands of this earthly king, the most impressive people on the planet have got nothing to offer. They are bluffers.  

But when the dream is brought to light and interpreted in v31-45, the magicians aren’t the only bluffers called out in Daniel chapter 2. Nebuchadnezzar himself is confronted by an uncomfortable reality. If you are going to buy a house then one of the key pieces of information that you should look for on the estate agent’s brochure is whether the property is freehold or leasehold. You would never commit to spending your life savings on a leasehold house with only 6 months left on the lease because when the lease is up, that property belongs to someone else. Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a huge statue made up of different sections that ends by being crushed to dust by a divinely cut rock. The specifics of his dream probably relate to the Babylonian Kingdom (gold) being overtaken by the Medo-Persians (silver), in turn taken over by Alexander the great and the Greeks (bronze) followed by the seemingly all-conquering Romans (iron and clay), but all the time anticipating a greater, eternal Kingdom not built by man but rather by God.

The summary message of his dream is this – “Nebuchadnezzar, your kingdom is leasehold and soon will belong to someone else. But their kingdom will be leasehold as well. In fact, all of the kingdoms set up in this world by people are on short leases until the day comes when God, the maker, owner, ruler, sustainer and director of everything will set up His Kingdom that will last forever. God owns the freehold on the earth because He is the one who made it, and he is the only one with ultimate power and authority over it.”     

Both Nebuchadnezzar and us in Christ Church Riverside need to hear this truth and believe it, we need to listen carefully to the details of verse 37 and 38; Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.” The statue is dazzling, the head of gold especially so, and we will see next week that Nebuchadnezzar gets a bit dazzled by an idea of his own greatness. But that dazzle is only there because there is a God in heaven.

All that anyone has, God has given them. Your very life is most accurately viewed as a loan from God which one day He will demand an account for. Nebuchadnezzar may dazzle, but one day it won’t matter how many impressive feats he has achieved or how many cities and people were under his rule; he may look indestructible now but one day his bluff too will be called and he is going to be dust. On that day what will matter is how he has related to the everlasting King to whom he will have to answer. This is a truth that should humble every single one of us, a truth that puts school children and Heads of state on the same level. How are you relating to God? Are you simply taking the good things He graciously gives and then living like everyone around you in this “do whatever you want” culture? If so you are spending your precious life on a leasehold property and your bluff will one day be called. Or does God instead have your trust and your life? Because if so that will mean you are secure forever.   

         2. Trust in God is long-term wisdom (v13-30&46-49)

What a wonderful freedom this security gives Daniel and his friends as they face up to extreme danger. Trusting in God, as we see from verses 13-30 and 46-49, is long-term wisdom. When Nebuchadnezzar commands the killing of all the wise men of Babylon, Daniel and his friends face death row. But Daniel stands in the face of such severe circumstances and, v14, rather than panic, he speaks with wisdom and tact because he knows that God is on the throne that matters.  The actions of these men show us what trust in God in a threatening world looks like.

 

Trusting God as a stranger in Babylon means PRAYER (v17-19). Daniel doesn’t want to die, of course not, and so he goes to his friends and v 18 “urged 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 of Babylon.” Prayer is so very simple and so very humbling. Every time we bow before God we are acknowledging that we don’t have what is needed, but God does and he can give it. He sits on THE throne of the universe and it is the throne of grace. Please can I ask you to partner with us as a church family as we seek to take the wondrous gift of prayer seriously? We do not have what is needed to live for God’s glory in this threatening and sceptical culture and it is only going to get worse in the years to come. And so we need to urge our brothers and sisters in Christ to run to the throne of grace and plead for mercy from God.

At the moment, the ways we are seeking to pray together is using the monthly prayer video on Youtube with our households and in our Home groups, praying through the monthly prayer diary that Kay produces, and allowing the intercessions on a Sunday morning to lead us in our own personal prayer times. We just finished a Zoom series working through AB’s “Pray Big” so you could watch those talks on Youtube and even better you could take a free copy home today which have been bought for us by one of our members. We trust in God by committing to prayer.

 

Trusting God as a stranger in Babylon means PRAISE (v20-23). God constantly provides for His people and Daniel and friends are no exception. God miraculously reveals the dream to Daniel and here is Daniel’s wonderful and appropriate response in verses 20-23; “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. 21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. 22 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. 23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.” We (even the Kings amongst us) aren’t worthy of any praise but God is to be worshipped.

We praise Him because He has complete power and our circumstances and characters reveal our weakness.

We praise Him because He is light and life and our circumstances and characters reveal our darkness. We praise Him because He is wisdom and our circumstances and characters reveal our foolishness and inadequacy. And we praise Him because he uses his power for our good, he brings light into our darkness, he gives us wisdom where we have none. What a God. The God who sits on the throne of the universe, the throne of grace, pours his goodness out on his loved people. 

Finally, trusting God as a stranger in Babylon means PROCLAMATION (v24-49). In verse 26 Daniel stands in front of Nebuchadnezzar (but remember that in prayer and praise he has just been standing in front of the King in heaven). And so he is not silenced, instead he proclaims boldly the truth that is knitted all through this chapter; “There is a God in heaven.” Verse 27&28: no one can do what you ask, “but there is a God in heaven.”

Verse 37: all that you have “The God of heaven has given you.”

Verse 44: all earthly kingdoms will be smashed to bits but “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed.”

And the result of this bold proclamation is the incredible sights and sounds of verse 46 and 47; “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel …. “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings”.”  An incredible reversal; Daniel was on death row and now the King bows before him, humbled by the God of heaven.

Conclusion

What a huge encouragement for us as Christ Church Riverside as we seek to find, feed and send people out to the world around us with the glorious news of our Holy God of light in Heaven, all-powerful, all wise. Could it be that we often struggle to be strange Daniels in this hostile world because we just don’t recognise the glory that has been revealed in Jesus Christ?  The wise men of Babylon had a problem with the gods they said they believed in, v 11 again; “No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”

 

But the true God, the God of heaven, the eternal rock that is Jesus Christ, did live amongst humans. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that looked like a rock not cut by human hands, smashing all earthly kingdoms to pieces and becoming an eternal mountain. Jesus Christ stooped to take on our flesh and he won where no earthly king ever managed to, he conquered sin and death, and his kingdom will rule forever. Brothers and sisters, we are to live trustingly, we are to live confident and bold lives amongst a world that is bluffing, a world that is going to be found out one day when all kingdoms collapse and only God’s kingdom remains. The people around us desperately need what we have got. Live trustingly; we are friends of the God in heaven, we are subjects of the King of the universe, and the throne that he sits on is a throne of grace.

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