Sunday, January 14, 2018
The Book of Daniel Sermon Series, Week 2
Scripture: Revelation 4:8-11; 5:13 & Daniel 2:20-23; 46-49
Rev. Jill VanderWal
This week we continue in Daniel chapter 2 in our series “Between 2 Worlds.”
Last week, we confirmed that God’s got it. God is with us in it, inviting us to patience and discernment. Now the next two weeks we get to look into chapter 2 for Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. It is interesting that these passages fall on the week we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. and his timeless “I have a dream speech.” We’ll look at that next week.
What sort of dreams do you have or remember? Do keep dream journals? When I was visiting one of our members in Freedom Village she told me of a local pastor who was leading a study and discussion of dreams there. My favorite recent pastor anxiety dream was that I came to preach on the Sunday around the 4th of July and there were only Christmas eve bulletins everywhere. Anxiety dream! As a child I would have scary dreams that seemed so real. Do you believe God communicates in dreams? Throughout the Bible, more so in the Old Testament, God communicates in dreams. You may remember the Magi have a dream warning them of Herod, Paul a call in a dream from a man in Macedonia. In the Old Testament was Jacob’s ladder, and dreams are a theme in the life of Joseph, who dreams his brothers will bow down to him and when goes out to meet his brothers they greet him saying, “behold the dreamer.”
Judges 7 and Gideon takes the cake of unusual dream stories. Gideon sneaks into the enemy camp, and overhears one sentry telling another of a dream he had, in which a roll of barley rolls into the camp and flattens it. The other sentry interprets it as the coming of Gideon to destroy them. Gideon hears this interpretation, takes heart, and goes back to collect his soldiers to do just that. Dreams had great importance.
In Daniel chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar has a bad dream, his spirit is troubled and he can’t sleep. He calls in all his magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and dream readers and says “here is my decree: if you do not tell me both the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins.” Well, this is IMPOSSIBLE!!!
You can imagine the talk among the magicians, enchanters, and dream readers – “There is no one on earth who can reveal what the king demands! In fact no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked such a thing. The thing that the king is asking is too difficult, and no one can reveal it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortals.” The King responded…well, off with your heads then. Now enters Daniel who responds with prudence and discretion. He tells the executioner if he gives him and his friends more time they will be able to interpret the dream. So Daniel goes home and asks his friends to pray with him, and in the night Daniel sees a vision of the king’s dream. He wakes up praising God and goes off to meet Nebuchadnezzar. He explains the dream and it’s meaning. Daniel tells the king, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or diviners can show to the king the mystery that the king is asking, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has disclosed to King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen at the end of days.”
Daniel and His Friends Promoted
2:46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, worshiped Daniel, and commanded that a grain offering and incense be offered to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery!” 48 Then the king promoted Daniel, gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court. This story ends well, but with a crazy ruler nothing is quiet for long. You can read more in Daniel 3.
Where does this connect with us today? On the Macro level
First, where do we live, as we consider the two contexts of exile and promised land living? Daniel is seeking God as an exile. Israel’s life as a nation had several modes, exile, exodus and promised land. Where do we live as Christians in the US, Michigan, or GH? Our national identity and search for religious freedom is very much based on the idea of creating and living in the promised land. This was the foundation for our society for years, and yet this time has come and gone. We no longer live in Christendom. Can we embrace exile living and as Christ followers can we learn how to live as a minority? Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Seminary says this in his book The Dangerous Act of Worship.
“Is no great stretch to suggest that the American church is in Exile in its own contemporary Babylon. Whether conservative or liberal the church mostly looks like the culture around us. We are for the most part indistinguishable. We have decided to enjoy our Babylon while nodding occasionally to the God we say we worship. Many just seek our own welfare and call it God’s blessing, trying to offend as few people as possible along the way. Our unwillingness to live as faithful Exiles explains our capacity to chase culture rather than transform it. Justice in Exile involves a willingness to stand at the intersection of Babylon and God’s kingdom and to practice the difference between honor and worship, submission and allegiance. When we understand that exilic living means staying instead of leaving then we realize we are supposed to make a difference and seek the coming of God’s Kingdom on Earth.” This will mean we have to be ok with being uncomfortable.
In the Micro Details
We live in world where we can be presented with seemingly impossible circumstances. At times, impossible people. Maybe it’s at work, in relation to your health, in our marriage, with our family. In Daniel’s day and ours, the invitation is to seek God and the wisdom that is not of this world. God alone can give us the eyes and heart to see with clarity. In prudence and discussions, seek the Lord for he will reveal. I once was blind and now I see.
God is the one who will reveal mysteries.
The case for community
Seek God with your people. Daniel chapters 1-3 all are about Daniel and his cohort of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Discernment can be communal, and we don’t have to go it alone.
Who is the dream for anyway?
The dream is a statue which embodies the great kingdoms of the earth and their succession. “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, were all broken in pieces and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” A rock obliterates them all, and upon the rock becomes a mountain and fills the whole earth. Is this rock Jesus? Is this rock the kingdom of heaven?
Daniel, our friend. In exile, a foreigner, a minority seeks God to figure out how to navigate his place in the world. Irony, who is the kings dream for? King Nebuchazzer or Daniel, Israel? Just as Gideon found victory in the dream of another, I wonder if the dream was really for Daniel. A message to say, I am so much bigger than the current rule. In this, I find a word of encouragement. No powers or principalities will persist over the God of all ages, the creator at the beginning and the one who is at the end of time drawing all things to himself. Daniel shows us what it is to live between two worlds, Jesus, God with us, shows us what it is live between two worlds.