Scripture Text: Daniel 2:31-49
We are people of change. While we do not often like it, we experience change quiet often. Sport teams lose and win. Winners of championships change from year to year. Friends come and go in and out of our lives. The economy fluctuates often. We change jobs, sometimes by our own choice, and sometimes by someone else’s choice. Our supervisors change from time to time. Even our government leaders change from time to time. We just had an election in which we exercised the privilege of choosing our local, state, and federal leaders. We are seeing the reaction to this year’s election as some people embrace that change and others do not, sometimes violently. Change can sometimes bring fear. Sometimes it can bring destruction. History teaches us that governments and nations change. Our own nation, the United States of America, was constituted only a mere two hundred and twenty-seven years ago. Before that time, nations came and nations went. Since that time, history has recorded many nations that have risen, fallen, or changed somehow. Change happens whether we want it or not. Do we expect the United States to be any different? Do we expect this nation to last forever? What gives us stability in the midst of so much change?
A Summary of Events
Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, knew about change. They experienced much change in their lives. They lost their homes, their freedom, their culture, and almost their identities. They almost lost their lives, too. The king of Babylon gave an impossible demand after having an unusual dream. Nebuchadnezzar wanted his wise men to tell him not only what he had dreamt, but also the meaning of his dream. His magicians, enchanters and sorcerers told Nebuchadnezzar that no human being could fulfill that impossible request; therefore, the king responded in a violent, unreasonable rage commanding all of the wise men, including Daniel and his three friends, to be executed. This was not an idle threat. Nebuchadnezzar was a man of his word and sent the captain of the king’s guard to execute all of the wise men of Babylon.
Therefore, Daniel led his three friends in a fervent prayer meeting. They asked for God’s mercy and for God to reveal the king’s dream. God answered their prayer and revealed the king’s dream to Daniel. Daniel then praised God and testified about God before Nebuchadnezzar. In the midst of real danger, God gave Daniel the opportunity to testify about the one true God and the source of his faith. Daniel acknowledged that God is sovereign over all. Though he had destroyed Judah and exiled her people and assimilated much of them into Babylonian culture, King Nebuchadnezzar was doing all of this with the permission of the true God of heaven. God orchestrates the affairs of men and moves human history as He desires. This is the context of Nebuchadnezzar’s strange dream, that God raises up nations and He destroys nations. He raises up leaders and He removes leaders. Nebuchadnezzar might have been the most powerful king on earth at that time, but he only had the authority that God allowed Him to have.
The Dream of a Frightening Statue
So now, we finally come to the very strange dream Nebuchadnezzar had. At least it might be strange from our perspective. It was a dream that unsettled Nebuchadnezzar. After Nebuchadnezzar’s death threat and Daniel’s late night prayer vigil, God revealed the following to Daniel, which he then conveyed to Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel 2:31 You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening.
What Nebuchadnezzar dreamt was a great statue that was dreadful and frightening. I am not sure why the statue was frightening. Perhaps it was terrifying in size and appearance. Perhaps it frightened Nebuchadnezzar because in some way he sensed a threat to his own life or his empire. Given what the statue meant, as we will see from Daniel’s interpretation, we can somewhat understand the frightening appearance. The statue stood for various governments and nations. Government can be frightening. Leaders and what they do sometimes frightens us, or at least causes us concern. Many Americans are frightened about what our newly elected president will do to their freedoms. Some people worry if the president-elect has the temperament to lead our nation. Only time will tell if our newly elected leaders will lead us well.
The statue Nebuchadnezzar saw was large. We do not know how large it was, but Nebuchadnezzar would soon build his own statue, that was ninety feet tall, and made entirely of gold. This is how we sometimes see ourselves: as a colossal statue of achievement. Nebuchadnezzar felt this way and was humiliated (Daniel 4:28-33). The statue in his dream that Daniel interpreted was made with various materials that decreased in value but increased in strength. The statue progressed from a gold head, to a silver chest and arms, to a bronze belly and thighs, to iron legs with feet and toes of both iron and clay. This list of metals shows a progressive decrease in the value and splendor of the materials, but an increase in toughness and endurance. The decreased value may symbolize the moral decline of each succeeding kingdom. The increased strength may refer to the harsher domination each successive kingdom would impose on its subjects. The world’s kingdoms are not moving toward utopia but in the opposite direction. This should be remind us that utopia is not on earth, but rather in heaven.
Kingdoms Come and Kingdoms Go
What lasts forever? As far as we know, nothing of this world will last forever. This is actually a scientific law called entropy. Everything is in a process of decaying and dying. This is true for the nations of the world. None of the nations mentioned in the Bible exist today, or at least not as they once were. This is also true for individual churches. While the Universal Church, the Bride of Christ, will remain forever with Her Bridegroom, Jesus, in heaven, the individual churches will cease to exist. Consider this, none of the churches in the New Testament exist today. This reminds us that things change. This was part of God’s message to Nebuchadnezzar. God had given him the kingdom and God had given him the people he ruled. But things change. Look at the following verses.
Daniel 2:37–38 37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.
God sovereignly gave to Nebuchadnezzar the kingdom of Babylon. He had even given the kingdom and the people of Judah into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand (Daniel 1:1-2). Nebuchadnezzar was essentially a steward of God. The same is true for all of us. We are stewards of God’s resources. He has given each of us a certain amount of time, talent and treasure to use for Him. Are we using those things wisely for God? Even though God had given the kingdom and people of Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar, this arrangement was temporary. God revealed in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that his kingdom would be replaced and others come and go. Look at the following verses.
Daniel 2:39–41 39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay.
Scholars almost universally believe that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream represents four kingdoms in ancient history. Keep in mind that God gave Nebuchadnezzar this dream and Daniel the interpretation almost six hundred years before Christ was born. The following are the most common meanings for the various sections of the large statue.
- Gold (Babylon) — God gave Nebuchadnezzar power and glory and used him for His purposes. Babylon itself was an amazing achievement, with the hanging gardens (one of the Seven Wonders of the World) and many temples.
- Silver (Persia) — This kingdom would rule after Babylon, but would be inferior to Babylon in glory and unity, though still strong and powerful.
- Bronze (Greek) — Same as above.
- Iron & Clay (Roman) — This kingdom would be strong as iron, yet it would be an unstable composite of different people who would not hold together.
Notice, there was no action for Nebuchadnezzar to make. Daniel gave Nebuchadnezzar no decision to make. God was essentially giving information to Nebuchadnezzar (and to Daniel!) about the future. It was to let Nebuchadnezzar know that he was not in control, that his rule would not last, and neither would the kingdoms that come after him. All of these kingdoms were “broken in pieces”, “the wind carried them away” like dust in the wind, “so that not a trace of them could be found” (Daniel 2:35). So it is with every nation and kingdom before God. They will all cease to exist. There is one, everlasting kingdom that will destroy all of the remaining kingdoms on earth. There is one God who is on His throne and who is moving human history. That leads us to the last kingdom.
A Stone To Crush Them All
There was actually one other kingdom mentioned in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. This was a kingdom of stone which destroyed the other kingdoms. The stone was cut by no human hands. It was made by God. This kingdom was not made by man or ruled by a man. The stone in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream represented God’s heavenly kingdom that He “threw” at the earthly kingdoms and destroyed them all. Like the stone that David threw and overcame Goliath, God threw His stone and overthrew all of the earthly kingdoms and established His heavenly kingdom. Look at the following verse.
Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,
The stone in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream broke the colossal statue into pieces, which were carried away by the wind until no trace was found. The stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. God will eventually establish His kingdom that shall never be destroyed, and which will ultimately destroy all earthly kingdoms. Though God’s kingdom starts small, as a mere stone, it will grow into a “great mountain” to fill the earth. Unlike the earthly kingdoms, God’s kingdom will endure forever. The superiority of God over the Babylonian false gods is evident not only in the revelation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to Daniel, but also in the revelation that Daniel’s God will be the final and eternal victor over all of the kingdoms of humanity. God’s kingdom is coming and it will destroy all other earthly powers. In the model prayer Jesus gave us, there was request for God’s kingdom to come (Matthew 6:9-10). Do we pray for God’s kingdom to come? Do we put our hope and trust in Him and His kingdom, or do we trust in the kingdoms of this earth, which come and go as dust in the wind?
Christians are citizens of both the City of God and the City of Man. We must be sure not to confuse the one for the other. Regardless of which earthly nation we currently live, there is a King above all kings who remains on His throne forever. There is a Kingdom that crushes all other kingdoms that will never fade away. There is a citizenship that is not earned or given by natural birth. We all are immigrants to God’s kingdom by His grace and by the blood of Jesus Christ. In short, Jesus Christ is the stone that crushes all others. Jesus said the following.
Luke 20:17–18 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
God’s kingdom grows from humble beginnings to ultimate, united glory as a single kingdom that fills the whole earth forever. This kingdom belongs to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The reign of King Jesus dawned decisively in His first coming, and His full and uncontested reign will be perfectly completed at His second coming. How might this give you hope? Faith in Jesus’ ultimate rule over matters present and future is the basis for our abiding peace and unshakable hope amid the trials and troubles of this current life. Are you worried about the future? Are you concerned about what the future will hold or where our country is going? The future may be uncertain from our perspective and the government and country may be in peril by the unwise and ungodly who lead the country, but there is a God who holds the future in His hands. Trust in Him!
This should also force us to avoid making an idol out of our nation or politics. Many people put too much faith in the outcome of an election or in a particular leader or a political party. If your security and peace of mind comes from who leads the nation from the White House, or what party is in control in Congress, or what judges sit on the Supreme Court, then you are worshipping an idol. All of these are fallen men and women who represent a temporary and soon-to-be fallen government. If there is one thing that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream tells us, it is that there is a God who raises up leaders and nations and who also puts down leaders and nations. There is a God who reigns supreme and whose kingdom is everlasting. We do not need to worry about the future and we should not worship our nation and government. While nations and governments change, there will never be a change of power in heaven. God will always be the God of heaven. That should give us hope when the future seems uncertain.
In conclusion, what a comforting passage this is. In this present world of injustice, wars, and crime, it is reassuring to know that Christ is coming; and when He comes, all of the evils of this age will end. There is indeed coming a day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14), for Jesus’ reign of righteousness will extend to the ends of the earth. Our hope is not in our country, our government, our jobs or anything else in this world. Our hope must be in Almighty God, who alone can turn hearts back to Him. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream explains the history of four earthly kingdoms, but it also looks for the great King of kings and His heavenly kingdom that will remain forever. Our hope is in Jesus Christ! Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.