A long way from Home.
How can God’s people change the mind of governments and rulers, and perhaps more importantly how do you show the world the greatness of your God?
When you live a long way from home in a land that doesn’t share or respect your beliefs, where you are a people in exile, where you are an insignificant people, and those around you have strange religion beliefs, they don’t share your values or morals, how can you influence society for the glory of God?
It seems to me that those are questions that we face, but we are not the first of God’s people to face them. As we look at Daniel Chapter 2 today we are going to see how Daniel and his friends managed to do just that and influence a king and glorify God in a strange land a long way from home.
Here is what we are going to see this morning. Even when you are a long way from home God reigns, and works through his people.
The king has a dream (and a problem). 1-13
Here we have a disturbed King with a nightmarish dream and a whole bunch of spiritual advisors whom he cannot trust. So he summons them and proposes a solution. “I have had a dream” he says “and it troubles me and I want you to tell me what it means.”
“Fair enough” say the spiritual advisors, “Tell us the dream and we will give you the interpretation.”
Here is the King’s solution. “No” he says, “if you are as wise and spiritual as you say you are, you tell me what the dream was.” And what’s more he says “if you can’t tell me what the dream was … I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into pile of rubble.”
And so the spiritual advisors ask again. “Tell us the dream and we will interpret it for you.” And again the king insists that they must tell him the dream.
And the spiritual advisors are bewildered and confounded. “No one can do this… it’s too difficult.” “No-one can reveal it to the king except the gods and they do not live among men.”
The tragedy is that that these spiritual people believe in god’s who are powerful but not interested. Praise God that we know that that is not true. That there is a God in heaven and he will live among men and he will act.
And so the spiritual advisors are under a death sentence. Here is the problem. While it seems that they were not involved in the showdown in the courtroom, Daniel and his friends are under the death sentence too.
But what is the relevance of this situation for us? An ancient king with a spiritual problem and a distrust of his advisors. A tricky situation for the people of God…..
Well there are rulers in our world too, and they make laws and edicts that increasingly impinge on our freedom to worship and express our faith. And where there are not laws there are cultural expectations. Don’t talk about your faith. There is the rise of secularism. The great religion of our age. Public life must carried on without reference to God, and spiritual dogmas mast be kept away from the public realm and we must insist that that is a spiritual dogma too. And what do God’s people do?
They Pray! 14-23
So the King’s guard come to take Daniel and his friends to the place of execution.
What do God’s people do in these crunch times? Organize a march? Have a protest? Write letters to the Babylon Times?
They do two things. First they act graciously. Daniel spoke to Arioch with wisdom and tact. V14 and an interview is arranged with the king. You know I think there must have been something very special about Daniel’s words because the spiritual advisors got accused of playing for time and when Daniel asks for time (v16) he gets it.
You know we should ask God for wisdom and tact in our dealings with the world.
But notice with me the second thing that they do: They pray.
I wonder if you have ever thought or said in a kind of shrugging the shoulders way almost as an excuse “We can only pray.” You know we ought to repent of that attitude that almost says “There is nothing of real value that I can do so I’ll pray.”
What do these friends do? Daniel explains the situation and “urges them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven.”
Have you ever pleaded with God for anything? There are two things that bring Daniel and friends to that place. The first is an utterly helpless situation and the second is a faith that there is a God in heaven.
Now don’t we need, living as we are in our world where every day there are approaching challenges to our freedom to worship God to learn to pray like that? Don’t we need to learn what it means to plead for mercy? Notice that they do it together. This is God’s people together pleading for mercy.
You know I wonder if it was the grace of God to Daniel and his friends that there was little else that they could do other than pray. I find myself wandering if we don’t learn to plead for mercy from the God of heaven when there is something we can do. These guys prayed like that because there was nothing else to do.
If God didn’t answer prayer they were done for. But you know that is just as true for us. We might not see the urgency but it is still true that if God doesn’t answer prayer we are done for. Without mercy from heaven there will be no supernatural component to anything we do, and we will descend into good intentions empty of divine power.
Application: Maybe, one of the things that we need to learn a long way from home is to pray like Daniel and his friends prayed pleading for mercy from the God of heaven. Hard work, faith filled desperate and God dependant prayer..
And then Daniel praises God. 20-23. This is Daniel’s God! He is a god of wisdom and power, who sets up kings and deposes them, A God who gives wisdom and knowledge and reveals mysteries. You know Daniel’s God is our God. Our God is a God who sets up kings and deposes them, A God who gives wisdom and knowledge and reveals mysteries.
Daniel Speaks to the King 31-45
And so Daniel is brought before the King. “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” asks the king.
And what does Daniel reply? “No!” Wouldn’t you have liked to see the look on Belteshazar’s face when Daniel began his reply.
Here is the point. Daniel, wise man, spiritual advisor to the king publicly confesses the private reality. So many would have been tempted to just tell the king his dream, but not Daniel.
27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.
Here is a Jerusalem boy made good, with amazing opportunities advising the king. I wonder how many would remain quiet about God and think that it wouldn’t be right to risk my position. Daniel refuses to hide his divine dependence.
Comment on work environments – and it doesn’t apply in the staff room or in
Application Don’t we need to publicly own our private dependence. If it’s an answer to prayer say that’s a real answer to prayer to your Christian and non Christian friends alike. Offer to pray for you non Christian friends as you would for your Christian friends.
Here is the sobering observation. If there had been no public owning of the private reality it would have achieved absolutely nothing. Do you see what is at stake here. Because of what Daniel says God gets the glory!
The outcome 46-48
So what happens? Nebuchadnezzar falls prostrate before Daniel v46 But the honoring of Daniel is incidental in a way. Look at verse 47. The King glorifies God.
But… Here is something that I feel I need to say. You know this chapter doesn’t have a and they all lived happily ever after ending. I mean it’s not as though Nebuchadnezzar gets born again and learns to play the guitar. Theologically he has a lot to learn. God is not adored as the true God, just a superior God, and in the next chapter he is up to his old tricks again.
When you are a long way from home you may see the world getting glimpses of glory, but it not really changing very much.
We will need to remember that Daniel gets another day and God will be glorified again, but it’s not all going to get better straight away. From time to time someone will come along and say “this is the thing that will make a difference” If you believe them and it doesn’t get better, you may be disheartened. Remember what happened on Mount Carmel? Shouldn’t that have turned the nation back to God?
Daniel and his friends are not disheartened and they are still faithful as you read on and so must we be!
Application: What does happen is that Daniel and his friends get promoted. Here is one last question. Why would God raise someone to prominence? It’s an important question because it could happen to some here and you will need to remember why God has put you where he has put you. As we go on through Daniel we will see that God does this for the good of his people, for the working out of his purposes and for the sake of his glory.
We missed out the dream. What I’ve wanted to stir your faith to believe is that God reigns over kings and kingdoms. Even though he is not recognized as such Jesus is king of Kings and Lord of Lords. If you need that underlined again, notice that God used an unbelieving pagan king to bring a prophecy that spoke of the kingdom of the King of Kings! 44-45
Secondly I want to stir you to think about prayer and to wonder if God might call us find our what it means to plead for mercy.
Thirdly I’ve urged you to own the private spiritual reality in the public sphere. Be a public witness of the private reality.
Finally I’ve reminded you of the reason why God raises to prominence. Daniel could have had a good career, and a good life and a nice income, but he knew why God had put him where he had put him and we will see that he is willing to put it all on the line.
A long way from Home.