DUNCAN/The kingdom of God will prevail
Please turn with me in your Bible to Daniel 2:1-49. This passage begins with the half-remembered and consternating dream of a pagan ruler. These verses also remind us that God is sovereign and that He reveals Himself in whatever way He so desires to reveal Himself. God’s sovereignty is thus displayed in that He reveals His plan for the future through a dream to, of all people, Nebuchadnezzar. Furthermore, the great message of chapter 2 is that even in the midst of the rise and the fall of world empires and the reigns of good and bad rulers and in good times and bad times, the kingdom of God will be established. In relation to this truth, this passage can be divided into three sections. First, in verses 1-13, we see the restlessness of Nebuchadnezzar. Next, in verses 14-30, we see the confidence of Daniel. Finally, in verses 31-49, we see Daniel’s word of proclamation of God’s sovereignty.
I. The Restlessness of a Heart that Knows No Peace with God.
In verses 1-13, we learn that there is a crisis in the court. Nebuchadnezzar cannot get an answer to the meaning of his dream. So he has decided to kill all of the wise men. In this decision, we see the restlessness of a heart that knows no peace with God. Nebuchadnezzar, though the most powerful king on earth, is nothing but a lost child in the darkness. He either can't remember the dream or he can't remember it clearly. Whichever the answer is, it is a pretty pitiful condition for the man who was the most powerful monarch on earth at his time. And so he calls on his wise men to tell him the interpretation. The wise men, of course, are petrified at this prospect. Nobody calls in the wise men and asks them for the dream and the interpretation. They are just supposed to be able to give the interpretation. Thus, in his anger, Nebuchadnezzar orders for all of the wise men to be slaughtered.
In these actions, we see the restlessness of the heart of a worldling. Nebuchadnezzar has everything of which a worldling could dream. He has fame, power, wealth, and influence; yet he has no peace because his heart is set on the world. He is a fundamentally insecure and hostile man who is frustrated at his own lack of inner peace and inability to control his own destiny. And this is why you see this lashing out at his wise men. This passage reminds us that God has made us for Himself, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Him. We find peace in this life only in the righteousness of Christ that brings us fellowship with God. And Nebuchadnezzar does not know that kind of peace. And we don't have to be the pagan ruler of the most powerful nation on earth to have Nebuchadnezzar's problem. In fact, we can be in any role in life and still be taken captive by this insidious problem of worldliness. So God reminds us in this very passage of the danger of a restless heart not at peace with God.
II. The Confidence of a Heart that Knows the Peace of God.
In verses 14-30, we see the example of the grace-transformed life of Daniel. He manifests the confidence of a heart that knows the peace of God. In relation, there are three things in particular that Daniel shows us in this passage. First, in verses 14-16, we see that Daniel acts with wisdom in his response to the king’s decree. And it is important to note that Daniel’s wisdom has come not from within but from knowing God’s Word and living out His Word in his life. Secondly, in verses 17-19, we see that Daniel is a man of prayer. He tells his friends that they should pray that God would reveal Himself in His compassion and mercy. In an opportunity to glorify God, we observe that Daniel initiates a prayer meeting with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Finally, in verses 19-23, we see that Daniel responds with thanksgiving and praise in response to God’s answer to his prayer. He praises and worships God for His eternal wisdom and power. He praises God that He is in control of history and for His nearness to His people. In his response, we see that Daniel shows confidence in God’s sovereignty, even in the midst of crisis. He is wise, prayerful, and thankful in a time of crisis in his life. And in his response, Daniel has provided us a model for how we should respond during our own tribulations.
III. God's Kingdom Will Prevail Over All.
In verses 31-49, we see Daniel's revelation and proclamation of God's sovereignty in history. Daniel reveals the dream and the meaning of the dream to Nebuchadnezzar but he never takes credit for himself. Instead, Daniel says “I did not know this because I have more wisdom that other men, I know it because God revealed it to me.”
In verse 31, Nebuchadnezzar is put in his place by Daniel in the very first verse of the revelation. Specifically, he says, “You, O king, were looking.” That phrase is a humbling phrase. Nebuchadnezzar is the greatest power on earth, but in this dream he is only a spectator. He doesn't call the shots, God does. It is not the four powerful worldly empires made by human hands, but the rock that was not made by human hands that will rule over all. In response to this interpretation of the dream, Nebuchadnezzar falls on his face in awe. He exalts Daniel and gives him influence, but he doesn't convert. Nebuchadnezzar is amazed at what God does; but he is not changed in his heart. He is still hardened and he doesn't follow after the one true God.
There are two words of comfort that believers can learn from this passage. First, we already belong to God’s kingdom. We are already part of God’s kingdom and that means that our allegiance must be to His kingdom. Secondly, we learn that we have assurance of God's own word that His kingdom will ultimately triumph. Think of the encouragement of Daniel's friends hearing the interpretation of a message originally given by God to Nebuchadnezzar. The message that God's kingdom, though Israel is in captivity, will destroy the kingdoms of the world and will ultimately prevail. Daniel’s inspired words in verses 44-45 remind us of the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to the Messiah in Psalm 2:8-9 where God says, “Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware.” May we thank God for Jesus Christ who reigns over a kingdom which will never cease of which we are a part only by God’s grace.
The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email at email@example.com.