Robert Jeffress - The Dream Team That Failed - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. When the king of Babylon was troubled by a strange dream, not even his greatest advisers could explain what it meant, but there was one Jewish man who claimed he could. Today, we're going to analyze Daniel's interpretation of the king's bizarre dream, and what it says about humanity's past and our future. My message is titled, "The Dream Team That Failed", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
In 1788, Edward Gibbon wrote the classic book, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," and in that book, Gibbon listed the five reasons for the decay and the ultimate collapse of the great Roman Empire. I want you to listen to those five reasons and see if they sound familiar to you.
1. An undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis for human society. (Remember, this is 1788 that Gibbon wrote this book. The undermining and dignity of the sanctity of the home).
2. A higher and higher taxes and spending of public money for free bread and circuses for the populace.
3. A mad craze for pleasure with pastimes becoming every year more exciting, brutal, and immoral.
4. The building of great armaments, defenses, although the real enemy was within, the decay of the individual responsibility.
5. The decay of religion. Faith fading into mere form, losing touch with life, and losing the power to guide the people.
Billy Graham was correct when he said, "The lesson of history tells us that no state or government designed by man will flourish forever". That is true of Rome, it was true of Babylon, and it will be true of the United States of America. No government designed by man will flourish forever. And we see that truth in the passage we're going to look at tonight. If you have your Bibles turn to Daniel 2, Daniel 2. Now remember, the book of Daniel records not only the period of history in which Judah was in exile in Babylon for 70 years, but this book also contains detailed prophecies about the future of Israel, as well as gentile nations. It details the events that will culminate in the return of Jesus Christ.
Now last time, we saw in Daniel 1 how Daniel arrived in Babylon. Remember, Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, took three groups of hostages from Jerusalem, beginning in 605 BC, and Daniel was among that first group of hostages. And from those Jewish hostages, remember that Nebuchadnezzar selected a special group of men to be trained in the Babylonian ways so that they could help Nebuchadnezzar in governing the Jews in Babylon. And among that choice group was a man named Daniel who, originally, his name meant God is my judge.
And as a part of this Babylonian reeducation program, remember Nebuchadnezzar, first of all, changed Daniel and his three friends' names so that their names no longer reflected the monotheism of Israel, but the polytheism of the Babylonian culture. Secondly, he changed their culture, their education. He gave them a new education so that they could become immersed in the Babylonian culture. And finally, he asked them to change their diet to food from the king's table, and this is where Daniel drew the line. He was not going to disobey God's law.
You know, I was thinking this week about that. And I think about you teenagers up there. Daniel was 16 when he was taken captive to Babylon and here he is, ordered by the king to eat this food, and realizing he could lose his life if he didn't obey the king's edict. Daniel could have easily reasoned to himself, here I am in Babylon, a strange city, a strange nation, far away from my parents, far away from the place of worship where I grew up, who's going to know if I defy God's law, I'm all by myself. Or Daniel could have said to himself, look at how God treated me, he disappointed me. He allowed this tragedy to come into my life, to be yanked away from my friends and family and taken to this Godforsaken place. If God's going to treat me this way, why do I have any duty to obey him?
But Daniel's name meant God is my judge. It didn't matter where Daniel was, geographically, he always remembered that God was watching, evaluating, and judging his actions, Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself, that he was going to remain obedient, even when it wasn't convenient to do so. So we see at the end of Daniel 1, Daniel in this training program, and remember what happened at the end of the three years, verse 20 of chapter one says Daniel and his friends were shown to be 10 times wiser than any of the other youth and the wise men. Now that leads us to chapter two and look at verse one. "Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams".
Now, wait a minute, the second year. When we come to the end of chapter one, Daniel has finished his training program and it's Nebuchadnezzar's third year. Why in chapter two are we in Nebuchadnezzar's second year of his reign? Because this is a flashback. This is before Daniel's education is complete. This is before he was demonstrated to be 10 times wiser than all the others who were in this training program. This is in the middle, the second of three years of his reeducation program that these events occur. And you'll see why that's important in just a moment. "It was in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar that Nebuchadnezzar had dreams, and his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him". He was having dreams. He was having difficulty sleeping at night.
What was the cause of this anxiety? When you look down at chapter two, verse 29, you find that the cause of his anxiety was apprehension about the future. Remember, this was in the days before Tylenol pm, so he couldn't take a couple of tablets and conk out. He would toss and turn on his bed trying to go to sleep, and he couldn't help but think about what did the future hold for him. Now, the reason he was concerned about his future was this. He had ascended to power like a rocket. I mean his takeover of Babylon, and Babylon's defeat of Egypt at Carchemish in 605 BC happened immediately. Nebuchadnezzar's father was Nabopolassar, and Nabopolassar had ordered his son Nebuchadnezzar to fight the battle against the Egyptians at Carchemish, and he defeated the Egyptians there, and he came back to Babylon, and his father died a few months after that. And suddenly Nebuchadnezzar found himself the king of the mightiest empire in the world, the Babylonian empire.
And all was going well for Nebuchadnezzar. And I think it's interesting that when all was going well is when he began to worry. Isn't that like we are? You know, things are going well, everything at work seems to be working smoothly, our family is in relatively good shape, we have some money in the bank, and things seem good, and then we begin to worry. What if? what if something happens to one of my children? What if I get a lay off notice at work? What if I make a bad investment and lose all of my retirement savings? What if my mate finds somebody else he or she likes better than me? What if, what if, what if?
Ladies and gentlemen, anytime you build your happiness, your sense of wellbeing, around that which can be taken away from you, you're going to be filled with anxiety because the fact is you realize how easily what's making you happy could change. It could change in a heartbeat. That was Nebuchadnezzar. He began wondering about the future. What if another power overtakes me and I lose this kingdom? Nebuchadnezzar did what no Christian should do. He took his worries to bed with him. Philippians 4:6 says, "Don't worry about anything, instead pray about everything". And so in response to Nebuchadnezzar's wondering what is going to happen to me, God spoke to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream. He revealed to him what God was going to do, not only in his life and with his kingdom, but in all the kingdoms subsequent to Babylon up to the return of Jesus Christ.
By the way, the fact that Nebuchadnezzar was the object of God's communication, that God spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, should forever lay to rest the myth that God can't speak to non-Christians. God can speak to non-Christians just as easily as he can to Christians. Think, for example, in the Book of Genesis, in chapter 20, verse three, God spoke to king Abimelech, in Genesis 41, God spoke to Pharaoh, and God spoke to Nebuchadnezzar as well. And so he was having these troubling dreams, and one in particular dream that really troubled him. So how did he respond? Look at Daniel 2:2, "Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians," the word here magicians meant scholar, "the conjurers," these are people who communicated with the dead, "the sorcerers," what are sorcerers, think Harry Potter, you get the idea of sorcery here, "and then the Chaldeans," these were a special group who lived in southern Babylonia. He called these men in to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king.
Now look at verse three, "The king said to them, 'I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream'. And then Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic," and this is the portion of Daniel now that is written in Aramaic, since it's detailing God's dealings with Babylon. "'oh king, live forever,' they said. 'tell the dream to us, your servants, and we will declare the interpretation'". They said, "King, you want to know the answer to your dreams, the interpretation, we can help you out. You tell us what the dream is, and we'll give you the interpretation".
Now understand these so-called wise men, they had these books that helped them interpret dreams. So if there is a lion in your dream, they looked up lion, oh that represents this. If you had grass in your dream, that represents this. And so all they had to do was hear what the dream was, they consulted their books, and they told you the interpretation. But Nebuchadnezzar wasn't going to fall for that. I mean, he was smart enough to know that an interpretation, who could tell if it was right or wrong? It could be anything the wise men said that it was. And furthermore, he really didn't trust these wise men. They had served his father Nabopolassar. There is no reason he thought they might be loyal to him.
So look at what his reply was in verse five, "The king replied to the Chaldeans, 'the command from me is firm, if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb, and your houses will be made a rubbish heap'". In other words, he said, "I don't want to hear the interpretation, I want you to tell me what I dreamed first of all, that way I'll know whether you're legitimate or not. You tell me the dream and then tell me the interpretation". Verses seven and eight, "They answered a second time, and they said, 'just please tell us the dream, and we will give you the interpretation'". Verse eight, "The king said, 'I'm not budging. I know what you're doing, you're just bargaining for time. I want to hear the dream first'". And he said in verse nine, "If you don't make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you," that is you're going to be executed.
Verses 10 to 11, listen to what the Chaldeans said, "The Chaldeans answered the king and said, 'there's not a man on earth who could declare this matter for the king, in as much as no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any magician'". In other words, what you're asking is impossible. Nobody has ever asked for anything like this. "Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king, except Gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh". These verses emphasize the bankruptcy of human wisdom when it comes to the wisdom of God. And so we see the stage set here for Daniel's interpretation. None of the wise men could answer the king's request for the dream, and so in fury and disgust, thinking that all wise men were nothing but charlatans, what does the king do? Verse 13, "The decree went forth from the king that the wise men should be slain, and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them".
Now, the question always emerges, well, why didn't Nebuchadnezzar call for Daniel to come and interpret the dream to begin with. Ah, remember this was in the second year, this was before Daniel had been demonstrated to be wiser than all of the other wise men. So he wasn't called in. Nebuchadnezzar wasn't that familiar with Daniel. He called in his trusted advisors. And when they couldn't do it, he was so disgusted with all the wise men that he said, "I want you all killed," and that would have included Daniel as well. So the order goes out to find Daniel and his friends and to kill them as well.
Now, how did Daniel respond to the challenge? Throughout the first six chapters of Daniel, which are biographical, we see Daniel responding to a variety of crises in his life. It is remarkable the way he responds. For example, in chapter one, he's told to either eat the king's food or you face execution. What did Daniel do? He very coolly came up with an alternative solution that met the king's objectives, saved his life, and glorified God as well. Now look at how he responds to this threat upon his life. Here's the executioner, Arioch, knocking on his door. Daniel, the king says your time is up, it's time for you to be slain. How did Daniel respond to that threat?
Notice his four responses. First of all, he exercised discretion. In verses 14 and 15, "Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king's body guard". Verse 15, "He said to Arioch, the king's commander, 'for what reason is the decree from the king so urgent'"? Why is the king so hot and bothered about this? Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter. What I want you to see is Daniel didn't fly into a panic. He kept a cool spirit. Ladies and gentlemen, when you believe, like Daniel did, that God is sovereign and in control of every part of your life, you don't panic, and you're able to make much better decisions, by the way. Proverbs 17:27 says, "He who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding". Daniel guarded his words very carefully.
Number two, notice that Daniel demonstrated faith. Look at verse 16, "So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him time in order that he might declare the interpretation to the king". He said, "Please ask the king to give me some time, and I will interpret the dream". That means Daniel was confident he was going to be able to interpret the dream. He was really putting his reputation and life on the line. He says, "I'll be able to do this, if you give me some time".
Notice the third thing Daniel did, he prayed. Verse 17, "Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, about the matter so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery". Daniel just didn't keep this problem to himself. He went to his three closest friends and said, "I want you to pray with me in this matter. Pray that God would show us mercy and give us the interpretation of the dreams". You see, the Babylonians worshiped the heavens, but Daniel worship the God of those heavens. And so he took the matter to prayer.
And then notice what happened after Daniel prayed, he went to sleep. Knowing his life was on the line, he went to sleep. Nebuchadnezzar couldn't sleep at all, and he was the king. Daniel was facing execution, he could sleep. Where do I get that he went to sleep? Look at verse 19, "Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision," that is in a dream. While Daniel was asleep, the vision came to him. And when Daniel awakened, he blessed the Lord of heaven. And that leads to the fourth action of Daniel, he thanked God for answered prayer. Look at verses 20 and 21, "Daniel said, 'let the name of God be blessed forever, for wisdom and power belong to him'".
Philippians 4 says don't worry about anything, pray about everything, tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank him for his answers. When God answers prayer, remember to thank him. Just like a parent who likes to be thanked by his child, God likes to be thanked for the good things that he does for us as well. And then verse 21, "It is God 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". Do you believe that? God is the one who removes kings and establishes kings. Now Nebuchadnezzar's dream is recounted, beginning in verse 24. Daniel reports to Arioch, he says in verse 24, he said, "Please do not destroy the wise men". Look at verse 24, "Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon. Take me into the king's presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king".
Daniel was concerned about these wise men, these pagans, that he didn't even know, but he was concerned for their life. Verse 25 and 26, "Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king's presence and says, 'i found the man among the exiles of Judah who can give the interpretation'". He was trying to take a little credit for himself before the king. "And the king said to Daniel, 'are you able to make known the dream which I have seen and its interpretation'"? Now, what I want you to notice in the next verses is how Daniel uses this opportunity not to bring glory to himself, but to bring glory to the one true God. Daniel understood, even as a teenager, this time, 18 years old, he understood that his only reason for being in Babylon was to be God's representative there.
And notice how he does that, beginning in verse 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'". He said, "King, people are bankrupt. Nobody can declare this interpretation to you". I can just see Nebuchadnezzar's face reddening as he listens to one more excuse. He's about to say off with Daniel's head when Daniel, after saying, "No man can interpret this dream," look at what he says in verse 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".
I want you to underline that phrase, the latter days. This is a key phrase in Bible prophecy. The latter days are used in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, referring to the events that will lead up to the return of Jesus Christ. And so Daniel was not only going to tell Nebuchadnezzar what was going to happen to his kingdom, but he was going to give him a sweeping panorama of all of human history, of all the kingdoms that would succeed Babylon until the return of Jesus Christ. Now here's the dream, verse 31, "You, oh king, we're 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. The head of the statue was made of gold. The chest and the arms were made of silver. Its belly, or abdomen, and thighs were made of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet, partly of iron and partly of clay". The legs and the feet were a mixture of both iron and clay, noting strength as well as brittleness.
Now, first of all, the statue is stationary, and then suddenly in the dream, there was a dramatic event. Look at verse 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". In other words, out of nowhere, this giant stone that comes out of a mountain, but it hasn't been cut with human hands, this giant stone comes catapulting through the air. It strikes the statue and it crushes it. It doesn't say it in the Hebrew, but it crushes it into Smithereens is what it does. That's the thought of verse 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. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth".
This stone that crushed the statue, suddenly it grows, and it grows, and it grows, and it grows until a great mountain that fills the whole earth. What in the world does this dream mean? Well, Daniel gives Nebuchadnezzar the interpretation, beginning in verse 36. He says, "This was the dream, now king, we're going to tell you the interpretation. You, oh king, are the King of kings to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom". He was being respectful to Nebuchadnezzar, but he also said, "Nebuchadnezzar, your power comes from God". God is the one who has given you the kingdom. "And wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beast of the field, or the birds of the sky, he has given it into your hand. You are the head of gold". The head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar and the kingdom of Babylon. Remember in Isaiah 14:4, Babylon is referred to as the golden city, because gold was used to decorate its shrines, and temples, and other buildings.