David Jeremiah - The Insomniac
King Nebuchadnezzar reigned over Babylon from 605 to 562 B.C., and he is by far the most significant Gentile king in all of the Bible. He is mentioned 90 times by the biblical writers, and he was the first Gentile ruler to interrupt the history of the Jewish nation. On three different occasions, God refers to Nebuchadnezzar as "my servant," yet he's also as called "the lowest of men". Paradoxically, even the acts of the lowest of individuals can be used in the service of God when He intends to do it.
Nebuchadnezzar was a brutal, despotic king. All of his subjects trembled before him, and he trembled before no one and nothing. Nothing, that is, except his dreams. Daniel 2 tells the story of God speaking to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream. Although the king was unaware of God's hand in the process, he was revealing to Nebuchadnezzar his plan for the Gentile nations, starting with Nebuchadnezzar and going all the way through to the end of time. Yet the dream came in a strange form, using vivid symbolism that the king couldn't understand. It made him uneasy. When the king was uneasy, the whole kingdom was uneasy.
So the first 30 verses of Daniel 2 tell the story of the king's dream, and the entire drama of the story is as if it were a three-act play. The acts are like this: the first act is Nebuchadnezzar onstage, the second act is Daniel onstage, and the third act is Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel both onstage. So we start with Act I, which is "Nebuchadnezzar Onstage," verses 1 to 13. The events of Daniel 2 took place shortly after Daniel had become a part of the king's court. In Daniel 1:18, we read that his three-year period of schooling had been completed and that he had, along with the other young royals, been chosen for the course for which he had trained. Now, get this in mind, folks, because it's easy to forget this. When Daniel came to Babylon, he was about 14, so he is still not yet 20 years of age when this event takes place.
Notice, first of all, Act I, "Nebuchadnezzar Onstage" and "The King's Dream", verse 1 of chapter 2, "Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him". By the time Nebuchadnezzar had his terrifying dream, he had really no reason to have nightmares. He was secure on his throne. All of his enemies had been subdued. He had everything life could ever offer, but he couldn't sleep. How many people like that do you and I know? In fact, there are over 9 million people in America who suffer from insomnia at the present time. The word for "troubled" in this verse is a very interesting word that describes a deep disturbance, one that causes apprehension. Nebuchadnezzar could conquer dynasties, but he couldn't conquer his dreams.
Now, the question comes up often when you tell this story as to why God would give such a prominent dream to an unbelieving pagan Gentile. Why would God convey His major dream about the future to someone like Nebuchadnezzar? Well, the answer is that Nebuchadnezzar is the first ruler of the times of the Gentiles. That's a term that you find in the scriptures, and it's a very important term. Most of the Bible seems to be about Israel, and up until this point in time in the Old Testament prophecy, Israel is moving forward. But when the times of the Gentiles began with Nebuchadnezzar, it continues all the way through to the Tribulation period.
There's a brief parenthesis in the early days of the Tribulation period, but what happens now with the inserting of Gentile rule in Nebuchadnezzar is, the story is all about the Gentile nations, about us, about all of us who are not Jews, and Nebuchadnezzar begins that process, and that's why he's so important. So he has this dream, and the Bible says that he is determined to do something about it. The king determination. Daniel 2:2, "...gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before king".
The king gathered these consultants together, hoping they could interpret the dream for him, and when they were assembled, he announced his problem. He said, "I've had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream". Now, the men replied to him, interestingly enough, in Aramaic, not in Hebrew. They said, "O, king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation". They spoke in the language that Daniel had been studying for three years, the language of Aramaic, and believe it or not, because this is the way it should be, from this chapter, all the way Daniel 7, all of it is in Aramaic, then it goes back to Hebrew at the end of Daniel 7.
So the king brings in his counselors and tells them his dilemma, and the dilemma is in verse 4: "...the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, 'O, king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation". After the counselors had gathered and heard the account of Nebuchadnezzar's sleepless night, they said to him, which would be normal, "Well, if you need an interpretation to your dream, tell us what the dream is, and we'll try to tell you what it means". They weren't sure what the king's motives were, but the king refused, demanding that they tell him the dream and then tell him the interpretation of the dream.
There's a great discussion about this in many of the commentaries, and that is, "Did Nebuchadnezzar really forget his dream, or did he just say he forgot his dream because he wanted to find out if his counselors were real"? He had a suspicion, I think, that they were a bunch of charlatans, and that they were just living off of him, and every time he would tell them a dream, they'd come up with some concoction and give him some fancy interpretation, and nobody could tell for sure whether it was true or not. But he had them in a situation now where he was gonna find out. Some people think he knew what the dream was and was just testing them, and others believe that, like often happens, he just had a terrible dream that night, and when he woke up the next morning, he remembered that the dream was awful, but he couldn't remember all the details.
Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever had a bad dream, and you wake up in the morning, and you try to remember? You just know it was bad, but you can't remember what it was about. Well, that's kind of what some people think was happening here. And so he demanded that these counselors tell him the content of his dream, and the outrageous demand shocked the wise men. I mean, how could anybody ever do that? And frankly, they had never heard of anybody ever asking that before.
"The King's Disappointment" is in verses 7-11, and what takes place next is a little interchange between the king and the wise men. Let's just follow the dialogue as we look at our Bibles. Daniel 2:7-9, "They answered again and said, 'Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will give its interpretation.' The king answered and said, 'I know for certain that you would gain time, because you see that my decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, there is only on decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.'"
Once again, we can't help but notice that Nebuchadnezzar didn't believe in his own system. He had an idea that these men were impostors, but he didn't let himself get bothered by that until it affected his future and his own peace of mind, and now that it's affecting him, he's about to find out if these guys are for real or not. Daniel 2:10-11, "The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, 'There is not a man on earth who can tell the king's matter... there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.'"
The wise mens' evaluation was almost true, but not quite. There was not a man on earth who could reveal the king's dream, but Daniel, who was on the earth, had a connection with the God who was in heaven. Daniel was a man on earth who was in touch with heaven and able to bring heaven to bear on the earth. Not a bad definition of a good Christian. Got our feet on the ground, got our God in heaven. We go to God for counsel, and He tells us what to do when our feet are on the ground on the earth.
Now, notice what happened. The king makes a decree in verses 12 and 13. So we've had his dream, his determination, his dilemma, his demand, his disappointment, and now his decree. Daniel 2:12-13, "For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went out..". I don't know if you've noticed this, but Old Testament kings, especially secular ones, are people who don't have a problem with going to the extreme. And so he's decided he's going to kill everybody in the whole city. All the king's men, all the king's wisdom people, all the counselors. "I don't like you guys, and I don't like where you come from. I'm gonna get rid of you, and I'm getting rid of everybody".
He was so furious. He knew his men were just trying to buy time. He knew they didn't know the answer. He knew they couldn't tell him his dream. He knew that his interpretation would never come from these men. He was furious, and he gave the order to execute not only them, but all of the wise men of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar didn't have any hesitation about doing that. If you read the story of him in history, he was one ruthless guy. He was upset, and those men were at the end of his fury. Unfortunately, this delusion of mystic power has not died since the days of Nebuchadnezzar. Babylon was Babylon, but today, we see more and more people starved for meaning beyond the empty materialism of this age turning to mysticism and pantheism and spiritualism to satisfy their spiritual hunger, just as Nebuchadnezzar did.
So that's Nebuchadnezzar onstage. Now this is Act II. Act II is "Daniel Onstage," and that's from verses 13-26. Notice Daniel's problem in verse 13, "...and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them". Now, that's what I call a problem. They started killing off the counselors in the city of Babylon, and they were looking for Daniel and his friends, because they were a part of the group, and they were gonna take him out as well. And though Daniel and his friends weren't a part of the failed attempt to recount Nebuchadnezzar's dream, they were included among the king's wise men and thus included in the sweeping indictment. And Arioch, who in the scripture, is the king's executioner, went to find Daniel so he could put him in prison and prepare him to be executed.
Now, he arrives at Daniel's house, verses 14 and 15. We see the poise of this young man. Remember, I have to keep reminding you, he's not 20 years old yet. I was gonna ask you if you're not 20 to raise your hand, but I won't do that. He's not 20 years old. So here's what happens in verse 14, "With counsel and wisdom Daniel answered Arioch, the captain of the king's guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon... and he said, 'Why is the decree from the king so urgent?' Then Arioch made the decision known to Daniel".
When Arioch came to Daniel's house to carry out the king's decree, Daniel asked why there was such a hurry about this, and he illustrates how a great leader handles a crisis. Don't panic. De-escalate the situation. Don't make it worse. Daniel had such a charismatic personality that when, as a teenage boy, he asked this high-ranking officer for an explanation, Arioch sits down in his house and explains it to him. Securing his good will was a wise move on Daniel's part, because as we're going to learn, Arioch is the only one who had the possibility of getting him in front of Nebuchadnezzar. Notice his persuasion in verse 16, "Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation".
Daniel received an audience with the king, and he asked for more time. He said, "Give me a day, and tomorrow at this same time, I'll tell you the answer to your questions". And Nebuchadnezzar saw there was something different in Daniel than the other guys, so he gave him his request. Notice what he does, his prayer in verses 17 and 18, "Daniel went to his house, and made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon".
Daniel and his friends petitioned God to spare them from the king's decree. The Babylonian wise men sought the answer in the stars. They were astrologers. Daniel and his friends sought mercies from the God of heaven. The best the astrologers could do was get to the stars, but Daniel knew God, who made the stars, and God in wisdom had all the treasures of knowledge that Daniel would need. So he went right past the stars to the God who made the stars. When the answer came, the Bible says in verse 19, "the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven".
Now, that's the end of Act II. Daniel has his answer. And Act III now is "Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar Onstage". And we read about this in the last three verses of text, verses 27-30, "Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, 'The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets... He, who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be. But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart'".
What an incredible speech to the king. This less than 20-year-old boy stands up before the king with courage and strength. He is careful to let the king know that he has the answer, but humble enough also to let him know that the answer isn't from him. He wants the king to know that the answer has come from God. I love Daniel. He inspires me. He was never afraid to stand in the place where God put him.
Can you imagine being under 20 and having the courage to go before the most powerful man in the world? And you know his reputation. If he doesn't like you, if this doesn't go well, it's over for you. Daniel knew his God, and he walked into the presence of the king, and he gave him the answer that he needed. Before we close our Bibles, because this is about insomnia, and the king can't sleep, I give you a few closing thoughts about that that we should take away from this particular passage.
So let me give you some encouragement.
1. Since God Will be Awake All Night, You can Sleep! You got that? Psalm 121:4, "He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep". Psalm 127:2, "It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep". How many of you know sleep is a gift from God? So the first thing I want you to know is this: God's gonna be awake all night, so you can go to sleep.
2. You May Not Know What the Future Holds, but You Know Who Holds the Future! That's an old and trite statement, but it's true. Almighty God knows what we cannot know. He knows what is in the darkness, He knows what is in the future. So just concentrate on your relationship with the one who knows, and don't get so paranoid about the fact that you don't know. There's so much about what's going on in this world we can never know, but thank God we know the one who knows. Daniel 2:22, "God reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him". There is no past, present, or future with God. He sees everything in the now, and He knows what's ahead for this nation, for this church, for this family, and for this individual.
3. Since the Whole World is in God's Hands, your World is in God's Hands! Isn't it interesting how we always want to trust God and praise him because: He's got the whole world In His hands He's got the whole Right? Isn't that the way we do? And then we go home and we can't go to sleep because we're worrying about our world. Now, wait a minute. If He's got the whole world in His hands, your world's in His hands. Amen? If He can control all that's going on in the governments of the world, is it not a reasonable thing for those of us who claim to be Christians that almighty God controls our world as well?
So while we're giving Him praise for the world that He controls, let's give Him thanks for the world that we live in, our little world, whatever that may be. He controls our world as well. When you feel overwhelmed, and your problems are pulling you down, and your pressures are too great, remember, you can leave those in God's hands. He's gonna be awake tonight, He knows the future, and He's got your world in His hands. Here's a scripture for you to remember, Psalm 4:8, "I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety".