It all started with a weak spot in the floor in the attic. A buddy and I were working on adding extra flooring over the joists that were already in place. Someone placed boards on the floor, but they were not sufficiently thick to hold anyone over one hundred pounds. We discovered this truth, quite by accident, when one of my friends stuck a foot all the way through to the dining room making his way across in the dark, looking for something in the attic. If we were looking for weakness, we found the perfect way to test for it – walk across the floor and see where we would fall through!
I wish every weakness in life could so easily be spotted. It seems like the times we live in are filled with people who have a weak strategy to navigate the flooring of life. Some people try to navigate life with emotions, but that seems to burn people out. Others try to get through by positive thinking, but that only works if your life isn’t falling apart. Still others of our fellow citizens have decided the place to put their trust is in government to navigate the storms of life and care for their hopes and dreams of prosperity and stability. That may not be the best option, and it appears to be making many more dependent upon government services – at least according to some academic studies…Walter E. Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University, wrote a column this week about the growing ranks of those classified as “poor” by the US Government’s Census Bureau:
“…Here are a few facts about people whom the Census Bureau labels as “poor”. Dr. Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, in their study … report that 80 percent of “poor” households have air conditioning; nearly three-quarters have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more. Two-thirds have cable or satellite TV. Half have one or more computers. Forty-two percent own their homes. “Poor” Americans have more living space (square footage) than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France or the U.K. He paused in the report to add these words… “What we have in our nation are dependency and poverty of the spirit, with people making unwise choices and leading pathological lives aided and abetted by the welfare state…He went on to explain some things I had not calculated: Since President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, the nation has spent about $18 trillion at the federal, state and local levels of government on programs justified by the “need” to deal with some aspect of poverty. In a column of mine in 1995, I pointed out that at that time, the nation had spent $5.4 trillion on the War on Poverty, and with that princely sum, “you could purchase every U.S. factory, all manufacturing equipment, and every office building. With what’s left over, one could buy every airline, trucking company and our commercial maritime fleet. If you’re still in the shopping mood, you could also buy every television, radio and power company, plus every retail and wholesale store in the entire nation” (http://tinyurl.com/kmhy6es). Today’s total of $18 trillion spent on poverty means you could purchase everything produced in our country each year and then some.
I am no expert, but if what the report cites is true, the war on poverty is being won by poverty hands down – and that cannot make anyone feel good. This isn’t a critique column on the poor, nor on the American government – it is a Bible lesson. Strangely, however, the theme of the verses we will study in this lesson are VERY MUCH about the weakness of trusting government, and several Biblical reasons why you must not place your hope in its ability long term to meet your needs. The principle the text demonstrates clearly is this…
Key Principle: God is working a plan through kings and kingdoms (governments) – but human government won’t ultimately fix what is broken – because it can’t.
Let’s go back into our study of Daniel… this time to look at the record of a specific prophecy. We studied the first six chapters in the book, but I deliberately side-stepped speaking on the passage at the end of chapter two, because the details of the prophecy fit better into the last part of the book, where we are going to detail each prophecy of the book and see if we can discern its interpretation based on what God gave us. Remember, the book is twelve chapters, with Daniel 1-6 a biographical and historical narrative (with the exception on 2:19-45), and Daniel 7-12 contains a series of prophetic records.
For teaching purposes, I would like to split the text into two parts, with the first part opening the door to our study of the prophetic portions of the whole book – by reminding us of seven truths about prophecy in Daniel 2:19-23.
Daniel 2:19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; 20 Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. 21 “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. 22 “It is He who reveals the profound 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 power; Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, For You have made known to us the king’s matter.”
The seven truths are these:
• First, God reveals what could not be known to man without His revelation of it – and that is a reason to PRAISE HIM. Daniel 2:19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
• Second, prophetic truth reminds us that God exists outside of TIME, and He is ABOVE AND BEYOND the plan of history. Daniel 2: 20a Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever…
• Third, prophecy illustrates the GREATNESS of God’s mind, and His ABILITY to do what He promises. Daniel 2:20b: “… For wisdom and power belong to Him.”
• Fourth, prophecy reminds us anew of God’s SOVEREIGNTY over the universe. Daniel 2: 21a “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings…
• Fifth, prophecy humbles us, because even when we grasp its truths, we reckon it was not because of our own ability. Daniel 2:21b “…He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.”
• Sixth, it reminds us that what we cannot see is obvious to Him. Daniel 2: 22 “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.”
• Seventh, prophecy reminds us that understanding God’s truth can only be achieved by prayer and dependence upon God. Daniel 2: 23 “To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power; Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, For You have made known to us the king’s matter.“
Stepping back and thinking through the verses, we easily recognize that we are in for “quite a ride” when we get involved in the prophetic portions of the Word. First, we must acknowledge that GOD has to reveal truth – because we cannot fully grasp it without Him. Second, we must come to the conclusion that when TRUTH is REVEALED – it should lead us to PRAISE GOD!
With that short primer, off we go! The remaining verses in Daniel 2:24-45 contain THREE simple parts: the setting (Daniel 2:24-30), what the king saw (2:24-35) and what God meant by it (2:36-45). We will call the first part “the situation”, the second part “the vision” and the third part “the lesson”.
The Setting (Daniel 2:31-35)
The passage opens with a few verses of how Daniel got into the throne room to see the king. Normally, details like these would be at the edges of the narrative in terms of really helping us understand much about the prophecy – but there is a very important little lesson in the verses we dare not skip. Take a look:
Daniel 2:24 Therefore, Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and spoke to him as follows: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon! Take me into the king’s presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king.” 25 Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king’s presence and spoke to him as follows: “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!” 26 The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians [nor] diviners are able to declare [it] to the king. 28 “However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind [while] on your bed. 29 “As for you, O king, [while] on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place. 30 “But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than [in] any [other] living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.
You can see three important facts are mentioned:
• First, Daniel and the other wise men faced death if the vision was not made plain (2:24-25).
• Second, Nebuchadnezzar was open to saving the men, but he wanted the vision made clear to him at all cost (2:26).
• Third, Daniel went to great length to make sure that it was ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that God could do what he could not do – and that God did not work BECAUSE of Daniel, but because of His Sovereign choice to reveal truth to men (2:27-30).
How significant it is for us to begin a study of prophetic portions BATHED in the humility that God chooses to reveal truth to men – not because of how GOOD they are, SMART they are, or even how WELL STUDIED they are. We should study hard – but that won’t guarantee truth’s revealing. God does what man cannot do. He speaks from the black darkness, where He can see every bit as clearly as if it were a place drenched in light. God is not blinded by time or circumstance. He alone knows all things, and He shares that which He chooses to share. We must not grow into arrogance from study of truth that He chooses to reveal – quite the opposite. We should feel smaller in His presence.
The Vision (Daniel 2:31-35)
As Daniel opened the imagery of the dream, he confirmed in the mind of the king that God was truly the speaker, for Daniel could not fake this detail. Daniel reported:
Daniel 2:31 “You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. 32 “The head of that statue [was made] of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 “You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. 35 “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
Daniel said the king’s vision had four parts:
• First, there was the image or statue of a man. The vast statue was in a human form and was considered “awesome” – perhaps a reference to its size (2:31). It was also clearly a made statue cast from different materials. Daniel scanned the view of the image from head to foot: The head was made of gold, the chest and arms were made of silver. The belly and mid-section were made of bronze, and the legs were made of iron. The feet were made of iron and hardened pottery (2:32-33).
• Second, the king had observed the formation of a ballista stone that was cut without human hands and hurled without aid at the statue (2:34). The ballista crushed the statue from the foot to the head, crushing the image quickly into dust (2:35a).
• Third, the refuse pile of the statue that now lay crushed to dust, was blown by a great wind – until the refuse disappeared (2:35b).
• Fourth, the ballista stone grew into a powerful mountain that covered the surface of the earth (2:35b).
It was essential for Daniel to move systematically through the vision to present the whole of the lesson, while confirming the details of the vision with the king. Yet, all this detail would not help the king, Daniel, or you and I – if it were not for the last part of the chapter… where Daniel was able to reveal the point of the revelation…
The Lesson (Daniel 2:36-45)
Daniel 2:36 “This [was] the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king. 37 “You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; 38 and wherever the sons of men dwell, [or] the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given [them] into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold.
Daniel made the simple point that Nebuchadnezzar was the gold head of the statue. He had what he had because God gave it to him – but he had MUCH. No question about it: the Babylonian king and his empire were the first part of the revelation… He continued:
39 “After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. 40 “Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces.
The fact that Babylon wasn’t the LAST great kingdom was made clear. There would be another, then another, then another – each less valuable in their essence, but, in some ways, stronger in their power. Daniel didn’t dwell on that truth, but that was implied in the different materials of each kingdom. Gold is very expensive, but very malleable. Silver may be valued as less – but it is a stronger metal. Bronze is certainly stronger than silver or gold, and iron stronger than all. Yet NONE OF THE KINGDOMS will be strong enough to resist the ballista stone’s eventual crushing work. Before he fully explained the interpretation, Daniel got distracted by the feet. God wanted to say something about the FEET:
41 “In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. 42 “[As] the toes of the feet [were] partly of iron and partly of pottery, [so] some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. 43 “And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery.
The feet seemed to be a REVIVAL of the legs in a slightly different form. The legs were NOT EXACTLY like the feet – because the feet were made from mixed materials. If each material represented a DIFFERENT KINGDOM – it is clear the fourth kingdom had both an iron phase, and a mixed phase that followed it. Since the kingdoms can be identified now with Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome – the feet seem to be a revival of Roman-like government that is made a bit differently. Let me suggest the clear difference is that the legs were ONE PEOPLE, while the feet were men and women from DIFFERENT NATIONS that joined in a Senate-like republic that drew men from many places. Let me further point out that it was not a “melting pot” – but rather a coalition of people that included both COMMON MEN and those of significance.
I don’t believe it would be a stretch to project the feet as a republic that dominated the world at the end time – before God steps in to end governments of men with a powerful blow from Heaven. It includes people who TRY TO STAY TOGETHER in a coalition – but they cannot. They are TOO DIFFERENT! Look at Daniels commentary as he continued:
Daniel 2:44 “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and [that] kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. 45 “Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”
This was the point of the vision Nebuchadnezzar had in the first place. God will PUT AN END TO HUMAN GOVERNMENT. Men won’t end in chaos by their own choosing – God will crush government and take over direct control of the scene Himself. Later on, we will discover the Bible projects the coming of Messiah as a JUDGE. Jesus said it clearly:
Matthew 25:31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. …41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; … 46 “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The simple fact of the matter is that a judge is coming – but He is a perfect judge. He is coming to a world that is not prepared, and to believers that should be prepared. The Bible teaches that he is not going to offer eternal judgment to followers of Jesus because of their sin – for that was fully judged at the Cross and our trust in the work of Jesus alone covers us from any future penalty for our sin. The lamb paid for all of our sin. God has been clear. At the same time, the performance as a believer is going to be judged when the Savior comes– and I should walk every day with that coming review in mind. Let me show it to you in the context of the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:
Revelation 11:15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18 “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”
As I told you when we studied the details of Revelation 11: When I stand before Jesus – seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years will evaporate into the smoke as the fire of His eyes burn through my life’s work. What is left after all the selfish, ego-driven, stubborn, hard-hearted, gossip-laden, flesh colored work is gone – is what Jesus can BEGIN to celebrate. Mature believers keep that day in their minds eye – and never lose sight of it. Brethren, some of us seem to be content wasting our only opportunity to please Him!
Yet, here is the point of our lesson: Government is a temporary tool from the Master’s tool box. Like bodily exercise, it profits SOME and for a TIME – but it is NOT THE ANSWER to humanity’s needs.
God is working a plan through kings and kingdoms (governments) – but human government won’t ultimately fix what is broken – because it can’t.
Nebuchadnezzar got the opportunity to see it clearly! Look at the end of the passage in Daniel 2:
Daniel 2:46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. 47 The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.” 48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel [was] at the king’s court.
The end of the passage was God using government to promote His men and His agenda. That is what it can do if God is revered. That is the BEST it can do – but it must be willing to follow Him!Look at the truths:
• God’s kingdom begins to rise while the other earthly kingdoms are still operating (2:44a).
• God does the work of bringing His kingdom to men (2:44b).
• God’s kingdom is NEVER destroyed, NEVER overthrown, NEVER bankrupt, NEVER mismanaged, NEVER vanquished, and NEVER ends. (2:44b).
• God’s kingdom CRUSHES all men’s efforts to build a lasting peace and prosperity through governments made by their own hands (2:44b).
• God brings about God’s government Himself – it is NOT a work of men (2:45).
At long last, we must remember the whole picture:
God will allow human government – until He is done with it.
God will invite men to unite and participate – but they will fail.
God will replace human government with a perfect King and peaceful kingdom.
Christ shall reign. He will not reign from WITHIN human government – He will CRUSH human government and reign in its place. It will be as David reigned – a Sovereign over a people. This is no reflection of a spiritual reign through a church in a world system tht does not love him, and countries that do not obey Him. Christ shall reign- forever and ever.
Are you ready to have Him as your king?