Series on Daniel, II Conflict, A Visions of the Ages, 1 The Stone, a Insecurity, Text 2:1-13, Title: Nightmares

Introduction


Having seen the context of Daniel's life and writing in chapter 1, we now move into a very distinct section of the book of Daniel in which he outlines the great conflict which is going on in this world. This section is distinct for two reasons. First of all it is organized in an unusual way. You may note from your outline that we are considering chapters 2 and 7 together, then three and six and then 4 and 5. We do this because the material in those chapters is very similar. in literature this is called a chiasmus and is represented by a designation such as a- 
b-c-c-b-a. There is another thing which the English reader cannot see that makes this section of Daniel even more distinctive. It's written not in Hebrew but in Aramaic which was the common language of the known world at that time. The reason for this according to a large number of commentators including my OLd Testament professor E. J. Young of Westminster is that Aramaic being the language of the world is used where Daniel is outlining the future history of worldly empires, but Hebrew is used in those sections which are interpreting for the Jewish people the meaning of Daniel's visions of the world empires. This is not a perfect solution, but it seems to be the best we have. In chapter 2 then, we 
begin looking at Daniel's visions of the ages with a dream which God gave to Nebudchadnezzar the king of Babylon. This dream has to do with an image and a stone, but as we enter the scene today we see first of all the insecurity of this world, and we note three characteristics. The world in which we live is ambitious, anxious, and angry.


I An Ambitious World


Nebuchadnezzar, like the kingdom he ruled, is a picture of the world around us. He had dreams,which we all have, and which scientists discern by rapid eye movement, but in this case God controlled the dreams to send a message. They might have been called nightmares by us because you notice that he was troubled and sleepless because of them. The reason he was so upset was that he was a very ambitious man, and although he did not understand the dream fully he knew enough to realize that the great stone in the dream which smashed the image was a forewarning of trouble for his kingdom. He, like most oriental potentates, at least partially believed the propaganda about his divinity. Notice in verse 1-4 how he was addressed! In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.”  Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” Later in chapter 4 we see his pride in full bloom just before it is cut down by God. The world around us, and all too often including us, has its heart set on ambitious goals which in the long run 
prove to be mirages. Ambition is the reason that every form of government in this fallen world seems to gravitate towards tyranny and the men who lead us will do almost anything to remain in power. But, the horizons of worldly ambition are always fixed on things of change and decay, whether they be aspirations of power, or wealth. or fame, or comfort they are illusions because they can never be satisfied. Jesus alone satisfies. As Shakespeare said, the very substance of the ambitious is but the shadow of a dream. The word ambition is from the same root as ambulatory and means going around. It came to mean going around for favors. Surely, worldly ambition is going around in circles and never finding satisfaction.


II An Anxious World


Nebuchadnezzar's anxious attitude is quite evident in verses 5-9, The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.” Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me the dream, there is just one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” The closer you get to the top of the ladder, the easier it is to fall off. i am reminded of Herod the great who murdered member after member of his own immediate family because of his paranoid preoccupation with the power and the glory of his throne. So Nebuchadnezzar makes totally unreasonable demands of his counselors, demands which can be met only by divine intervention. The German philosopher Nietzsche said, “If there is a God, how can I bear not to be that God.” Thus was the king of Babylon. The true God could not be Lord because Nebuchadnezzar was. Do we realize that all anxiety comes from the same root? It is putting ourselves in the place of God. Do we come here with anxiety? The reason is that we are trying to be God and not trustingly and willingly accepting what he has planned for us. We want what we should not want. We are trying desperately to obtain what we think is best; our goals and our ambitions, and when we see ourselves failing to do that we are anxious. We make unreasonable demands of others. All we have to do is let God be Lord and do what is best and the anxiety will vanish, but because of indwelling sin that is hard for us to do, and so we keep on wanting and therefore we keep on being anxious. Let's be really really honest and admit we don't want what Jesus offers in Matthew 6:25-32, For this cause I say unto you, Do not be careful about your life, what ye  should eat and what ye should drink; nor for your body what ye should put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment? Look at the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, nor reap,  nor gather into granaries, and your heavenly Father nourishes them. Are ye not much more excellent than they? But which of you by carefulness can add to his growth one cubit? And why are ye careful about clothing? Observe with attention the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; but I say unto you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of these. But if God so clothe the herbage of the field, which is to-day, and to-morrow is cast into oven, will he not much rather you, O of little faith? Be not therefore careful, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we put on for all these things the nations seek after; for your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things. The truth is we want more and the instant we want more that's worldly ambition and the result is anxiety.


III An Angry World


And so Nebuchadnezzar sends out the decree to assassinate all the astrologers, his wise men and advisers because they tell him that what he is asking is impossible. And so we read in verses 10-13, The astrologers answered the king, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.” This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death. Of course if God does not give Daniel the solution, he and his friends die with the rest. All the violence that proceeds from men's mouths in the form of hateful words, and all the physical violence committed by individuals and armies in the world proceeds from one source, evil ambition and anxiety. As we engage in  this study, Memorial Day is upon us. We remember all those who have died in defense of our liberties. But they also died because we live in an ambitious, anxious, angry world. James says in chapter 4:1-3, Whence wars and whence fightings among you? Is it not from your desires, which war in your members? Ye lust and have not: ye kill and are full of envy, and cannot obtain; ye fight and war; ye have not because ye ask not. Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask evilly, that ye may consume in your pleasures. In chapter 4 James also tells us come near to God and he will come near to us. This is the solution, but the world is full of hatred because it rejects God, and we as Christians often find ourselves being angry because we are anxious and we want what God has not decreed that we should have. Later in the book of Daniel, the king of Babylon's pride is brought down literally to the dust, but Daniel trusts the Lord and is exalted. All those in a covenant relationship with God have this same opportunity. What God does is use Nebudchadnezzar' s anger to get rid of the false prophets, the astrologers, the evil counsellors and at the same tine elevate Daniel to a place of prominence. What an amazing phenomenon. God really is working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose. We know He will do this for us because if He sent His Son to die for us, if He loved and saved us through the cross, He will not forsake us. Truly trusting Jesus as your Savior and God as you father is the way to be rid of anxiety today. Stop wanting what you shouldn't have and start being happy with what you do have in Jesus. It’s a good way to avoid nightmares.