Daniel: God Draws Near

Welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here and it’s a pleasure to be able to worship with you here at the Embassy Suites conference center in La Vista – as well as with those of you tuning in from home this morning.

We are in our second week of a five-week study on the Old Testament book of Daniel.  Daniel was a bright and upcoming scholar from Jerusalem who was basically kidnapped by Nebuchadnezzar’s army in about 600bc- and forced to live in Babylon, where, as a young teenager he was sent to be indoctrinated in the ways of Babylonian wise men.

Today we read about how Daniel shot up through the ranks to become the King’s most trusted advisor.  And it began with a dream.

One morning the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar awoke with a start.  During the evening he had a vivid and troubling dream.  It was so vivid, so real – so compelling, that he knew it must be something more than a dream.

Now Nebuchadnezzar had at his disposal a group of magi, astrologers, and so – naturally, Nebuchadnezzar called upon them to come to the palace and  interpret the dream.

However, one thing about Nebuchadnezzar – an interesting deal really, he was what we would call – a skeptic.  He – like some of you, perhaps, was very cynical about the supernatural world.  For years the King had been pumping money into this college of astrologers and wisemen, he sent them his finest food and supplied them with every possible resource with hopes that they would pay for themselves by being able to predict the future – and supply the king with reliable intel.

But the King seems to have lingering doubts about all of this, and so – the Skeptical King decides – this is the perfect scenario to find out if these people are able to deliver the goods.  So he calls the chief astrologers into his presence and tells them that he has had a dream that he would like them to interpret.

The Astrologers, feeling rather important and perhaps with a flair for the dramatic, reply – “Certainly O’ King – just tell us the dream and we will interpret it for you…”

The King replied – Here’s the deal.  You have to do both.  Tell me what the dream was, and then interpret it.  And, p.s., if you are unable to do this, I have firmly decided to cut you to pieces and turn your astrologers college back there into a large pile of rubble.

To which, the astrologers replied…  “GULP”.  And then they said, “No one on earth can tell the king his dream! 11 The king’s demand is impossible. No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they do not live here among people.”

(Can we press pause on the story for just a moment to appreciate this sentence.  See – it was originally written hundreds of years before Jesus was born as an encouragement to the Israelites who were in Exile.  It was written as a wink to the Jews in Exile – they know something the wisemen don’t.  And that is the God of the Old Testament does walk with us. and in fact the events surrounding Daniel and the boys life is proof of just that fact.

But there’s an even bigger wink to those of us who live on the other side of the birth of Jesus.  We know that, through Jesus, we serve a God who literally lived among us.  He literally pitched his tent with us.

And so – what we have here is a little divine foreshadowing, don’t we.  The astrologers are mistaken – there is a God who lives among his people.

Now – back to the story – The King has heard what he suspected – these astrologers are a scam – and so he orders the execution of all the wisemen, astrologers, magi and all who have ever graduated from the Babylonian school of witchcraft and wizardry.

And, unfortunately, that includes Daniel, and his buddies, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego.  So one afternoon they hear a knock on the door and it’s Arioch, the commander of the Kings Guard.  Hi Arioch – what’s up?  I’ve come to arrest you and the boys and I’m afraid we’re going to have to execute you.

Now – please note how Daniel responded – naturally and easily – responded to terrible news… The Bible says, “Daniel handled the situation with wisdom and discretion. 

The overarching theme of the book of Daniel is that – in spite of appearances, God is in control.  And when you understand that God – who is both all powerful and all loving – is in control of your life?  Well then – the natural byproduct of that kind of faith is poise.

Even in the face of death – the executioner is at the door, remember – Poise.  Grace in the face of pressure.   Three different times in Daniel the boys are staring death in the eyeball and each time they respond with utter poise.  It’s inspiring and challenging really.  I’m embarrassed at how easily I can get bent out of shape.

I read something last week – it was a poem actually that said – although we all hope to avoid being exposed to the virus – all of us, the writer contends, have been to some extent another exposed BY the virus.

It’s exposed all the weak points in our humanity.  What’s inside of us.  Anxiety, fear, anger, – the virus has done a good job exposing what naturally flows from us.  I desperately want to be a Daniel – and demonstrate poise in tough the face of difficult times.

How do we do it?  Well – poise cannot be manufactured by the will – rather, poise is always a by-product of faith in God – to think highly enough of him to trust him even in the face of danger or inconvenience. Poise is a byproduct of a strong faith.

16 Daniel went at once to see the king and requested more time to tell the king what the dream meant.

Daniel buys a little time and heads back to see his friends.  They know too – that what the King has asked is impossible for a human being to be able to know.  So their response?

18 He urged them to ask the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not be executed along with the other wise men of Babylon.

They prayed.  They prayed and asked the One who knows everything about us – even our thoughts and dreams…  And…19 That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven. 

In the morning – the King learns that Daniel has discovered and interpreted the dream.  And has Daniel ushered into his presence…

“Is this true? Can you tell me what my dream was and what it means?”

27 Daniel replied, “There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or fortune-tellers who can reveal the king’s secret. 

28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future. Now I will tell you your dream and the visions you saw as you lay on your bed.

31 “In your vision, Your Majesty, you saw standing before you a huge, shining statue of a man. It was a frightening sight. 32 The head of the statue was made of fine gold.

Its chest and arms were silver, its belly and thighs were bronze, 33 its legs were iron, and its feet were a combination of iron and baked clay. 

Daniel then goes on to explain to the King that each of the four sections of this statue represents a kingdom.   And you Nebuchadnezzar – are the head – made of gold.  But, oh King – your kingdom will not last forever.  Another will come behind and overtake you.

Another Kingdom.  Represented by the silver arms.  Daniel doesn’t know the exact dates, but we do – we know that Another Kingdom – another king – and if we look at history we’d say that second kingdom was the Persian kingdom, that would swallow up Babylon in 539bc.

But alas!  That kingdom too will not last forever.  The day will come when that kingdom too will be swallowed up in defeat.  Another kingdom, another king.  The third kingdom in Daniels dream – the kingdom of bronze – would be – if we look at history – the Greeks.

In 331bc – Alexander the Great swallows up the Persians.   But – we know that the Greeks do not reign forever either.  In fact – just 8 years after Alexander defeats the Persians, he will die – at 32 years old – and interestingly – he dies in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace in Babylon.

Finally, Daniel tells us – the fourth kingdom – made of iron.  And again, if we follow world history – the greek world was swallowed up in the Roman Empire, about 146 years before Jesus was born.

But even this last kingdom – the one of iron – it too would not be an eternal kingdom.  No.  Daniel tells us what will happen.

34 As you watched, a rock was cut from a mountain, but not by human hands. It struck the feet of iron and clay, smashing them to bits. 35 The whole statue was crushed into small pieces of iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold.

Then the wind blew them away without a trace, like chaff on a threshing floor. But the rock that knocked the statue down became a great mountain that covered the whole earth.

“What does this mean?” you ask?  Thankfully, Daniel tells us exactly what it means.  He himself interprets it.

44 “During the reigns of those kings, (Daniel is giving us a glimpse into the future and he tells us – that sometime in the Roman Empire – something is going to happen)  the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. 

Okay now – let’s fast forward about 600 years from this story – and one day Herod, who was proclaimed to be “King of Judea” by the Roman Senate, who were ruling the world at the time, hears that some visitors have come from the East – bearing gifts.

You’re familiar with the Christmas story right?  Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some Royal Astrologers from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

The wise men – the astrologers from the East – probably Babylonian astrologers – graduated from the same college Daniel did – watching the skies for a sign – regarding the King who would one day be born – who would be called the King of the Jews.

They show up at the palace looking for the newborn – king.  Jesus.  Herod is not pleased to hear about a rival king.  Makes plans to destroy him.  Jesus escapes to Egypt and then 30 years later – begins his ministry – and we read about it in Matthew 4 23 Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom.

King Jesus – teaching about life in His kingdom.  King and kingdom.

And when this king – Jesus teaches people to pray he teaches them to pray like this – he says, talk to your father – the one in the heavens – hallowed by thy name – thy Kingdom come…  Thy will be done.And in Matthew 6 he teaches his disciples about what is the most important thing – the king – Jesus, says – 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

And he taught us – the kingdom of heaven – is like a mustard seed – it’s small and it grows!  Sound like Daniel?  The rock grew and became a mountain to fill the earth – in the same way, Jesus taught – the kingdom of heaven is like

And he tells his followers that the kingdom if like a treasure you stumble across in the field – you find a treasure chest in a field – you sell everything to get the field – same with the kingdom – it’s worth giving up everything in order to have…

And how does one enter the kingdom of heaven?  Jesus tells his followers – “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  You have to become like a child – who naturally and easily trusts his parents – like a child who demonstrates pure faith that her parents will be there for her – it takes that kind of faith in a loving and kind God.

Daniel prophesied that there is coming in the future a King – who is the King of a Kingdom unlike any the earth has ever seen.

And 600 years later there is a man named Jesus.  Make no mistake – Jesus is the rock of Daniels dream.  And the Kingdom that Daniel refers to – the one not made of human hands – is the kingdom of heaven that Jesus spent his entire ministry life preaching about.

From his birth – when the wisemen from the east bowed to him as King – to the last day of his life – when soldiers mockingly ailed a sign above his crucified body – “King of the Jews”, Jesus is the King and his kingdom will never be destroyed.  It will never be conquered.  It’s the only kingdom that’s eternal.

Acts 4:1111 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected, has now become the cornerstone.’ 12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

The Kingdom of heaven was promised by Daniel – and the doors to this kingdom were thrown open by Jesus who fought for our right to become part of his kingdom.

And what do we find when we look at the Kingdom of Heaven?  We see a King who is unlike any other king – a commander like any other commander – see – Alexander the great became great because he had an army that fought for him.

Alexander – when he defeated Darius – he introduced a military strategy called the pawn Sacrifice – where he sent thousands of men to a certain death in order to gain an upperhand over his opponents –

He became great by ordering soldiers to their deaths.  He became king because others were willing to die for him.

The Kingdom of heaven – is unlike any other the world has ever seen – in the Kingdom of heaven – the King died for the soldiers.  The king died for the pawns.  Who ever heard of a King sacrifice?

But Jesus knew that if you and I were to ever taste victory over our greatest enemies – it would require that he fight to the death on our behalf.

And just as Nebachadnezzar defeated the Assyrians – just as Alexander defeated the Persians – Jesus earned his kingdom by defeating not one, not even two – Jesus defeated three of humanities greatest enemies.

First – Jesus’ death and resurrection defeats the power of sin.

What happened on the cross?  Colossians 2 tells us that on the cross 14 Jesus canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 

Secondly, Jesus defeated our spiritual enemy – the devil and his minions.

15 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

Cancelled our debts, disarmed the spiritual powers – and according to 1 Cor 15, the resurrection of Jesus means that we get to stick our tongues out at death itself – and taunt it by asking

, 55 O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What a King!  What a kingdom.  What a privilege it is to be invited to live in the right now Kingdom of God.

But see now – here’s another important distinction between the Kingdom of Heaven and Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom.  If you were defeated by Nebuchadnezzar – you weren’t given an option to belong to his kingdom.  He conquered you and you capitulated.

But the Kingdom of Heaven isn’t like that.  God is not interested in defeating you.  He’s interested in redeeming you, re-forming you – welcoming you as a friend.  And that doesn’t happen unless you want it.

Just before Jesus is sentenced by Pilate to be crucified – Pilate asks Jesus a question – and Jesus answer used to bother me when I read it.  Pilate asks Jesus – Are you a King?  And here’s where I want Jesus looked in the eyes of Pilate and he says – You better believe it!  I am iron man!

But Jesus doesn’t say that – Jesus says – basically – he says – If you say so.

And this is the key to understanding the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus is King – if you say so.  The invitation is to be able to confess with your mouth that you serve a king.

Jesus has lowered the drawbridge – it’s crossed the moat of our sin and shame – the gates are wide open – for anyone to walk through – if they want to.  Come – all of you who are weary and tired and ready – enter the gate and be folded into a Kingdom that will bring you rest for your souls, and poise for life.

Because we serve a King who laid down his life for its inhabitants.

In a moment we are going to take communion together – and we will remember the price that Jesus paid to win the fight on our behalf.

Before we do – let’s take a moment to reflect in our souls.  Some in here might have to admit we are lacking poise.  This strange time in our life has exposed us – and it has revealed a gap between what we believe and what we feel.  We know God is with us.  And yet we lack poise.

Let’s take time to reflect on the cross and what Jesus went through to deliver us from fear.  He didn’t die on that cross and leave us marooned in this world. Let’s reflect on his love for us.

Others might have to ask – have you ever laid down the crown and surrendered your kingdom to Jesus?  He requires unconditional surrender.  Everything we are and have and will do and be- it all belongs to the one who won the battle we could never win, or order to bring us a the “With God” life available to all through faith in Jesus.

Maybe today is the day you – in your heart – talk to Jesus and tell him you are ready and willing to surrender to him – and follow him with all your heart and days.  And you will be the newest member of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Our Father which art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Take a moment to think highly of God.  Express to him what you love and appreciate about him.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Let’s take a moment to pray for one of our ministry partners – expanding the Kingdom around the world.  Pray for Global Partners and their work in Mali and Togo.  For Christophers Hope Orphanage in Haiti.  For our church planting effort in the Dominican Republic.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Let’s take a moment to pray for any needs we might have today.  And pray on behalf of anyone who the Lord brings to mind that you know is in need.

And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

Ask the Lord to forgive you, and to bring to mind anyone we might need to forgive.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

Lord I pray on behalf of the church for your divine protection and guidance during these difficult days of trying to get ahead of a virus.  Keep us safe and keep our spirits high.

And we thank you that we are safe in your care. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.