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Crisis in the Upside Down

Date: Sep. 3, 2017

Author: Bob Henkins

Daniel 2:1-49

Key Verse: Daniel 2:44

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.”

This morning we continue our study of the book of Daniel in our series titled “Living in the Upside Down.” Often people encounter a decisive moment at some point in their lives and that event can end up defining them as a person. Whether it is an important decision, or a serious crisis how you handle that encounter, may impact the rest of your life. Take Martin Luther for example, recently I read about an incident that happened to him when he was in his early 20’s. Martin Luther struggled with an inner fear problem and while he was at the University of Erfurt studying to be a lawyer, unpredictably, the Black Death struck that area and three of Luther’s close classmates died from the plague. Another time, he was playing around with a dagger and he ended up falling on it plunging it into his thigh severing his artery. He had to lay down holding his leg in the air while applying pressure so that he wouldn’t bleed to death while his friend ran for help. These incidents aggravated his anxieties and heightened his awareness of his own mortality. A short time later, when he was on break from school, he went to visit his family in his hometown. He was on foot, near the town of Stotternheim when he was caught in some terrible weather. The storm was so vicious, with enough thunder and lightning to make it seem like the whole world was on fire, Luther was terrified. The raging storm outside matched the raging conflict within himself. Overwhelmed and caught up in his own terrors, he cried out for protection from the patron saint of miners, “St Anne, help me, I will become a monk.” In the midst of that crisis, Luther committed his life to God. In the summer of 1505, Luther left Law school, and all his worldly ambitions behind, and became a monk joining an extremely strict Augustine monastery. For Martin Luther, alone in that thunderstorm, had become a pivotal moment in his life where he made a major life decision that changed his life completely. (1)

We never know what lies ahead in our future, what situation that will arise and challenge us. However, when these moments pop up, they are opportunities that must be seized and responded to in the right way because you never know how they will impact your life. Either you will overcome the situation, or you will be overcome BY the situation. In today’s passage, Daniel encounters such an event, that causes a crisis in the upside down. Let’s see how he responds to this defining moment in his life.

Let’s take a look at what this crisis is all about, it starts in verses 1-3. “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.”” Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon. Not only that, he was a conqueror.  He fought battle after battle until Babylon became the most dominant nation in the region. Being the leader of a world power, and living in a place that sported one of the seven wonders of the world, there wasn’t much that bothered him, however we see in verse one, that Nebuchadnezzar was deeply disturbed by a dream that he had had. He was so shaken by this mysterious and terrifying dream that he could no longer sleep after he had it. And when a leader is troubled, everyone under him is also troubled.

All Nebuchadnezzar could do was think about his dream and what could it mean. [So he called his team, and said tell me the theme, but to him it seemed, they were planning a scheme, and that made him steam, so he wanted to make them scream] So he called together his counselors, all the wise men of Babylon, and had them brought before to interpret his dream. [Samples of these Akkadian dream manuals have actually been discovered through archeology] These wise men were a diverse group that consisted of magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers gathered from Babylon as well as all the other nations that he had conquered. But interestingly, Daniel isn’t part of this group, maybe he was still in his training period. Anyway, as the wise men stood before the king they did what any other person would do in that situation, they praised the king and then asked what the dream was, verse 4, “Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.””[they buttered up the king, wow you look great, have you lost weight, ] The wise men knew how to talk to the king they had done it many times before but this time the king wasn’t having none of it. “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.”” (v5-6) This was no time to play around, the king was serious and he demanded his wise men to, not only interpret the dream, but even to tell what the content of the dream was WITHOUT the king describing it to them first. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can’t even remember my dreams and all I know when I wake up is, “man that was a crazy dream.” I can’t imagine someone asking me to tell them what their dream was! By not telling the wise men the content of his dream, Nebuchadnezzar would be able to tell if their interpretation of it was true or false. He knew that if he told them what the dream was, the wise men would be able to sweet talk their way out of it, that is, they would use their big fancy words and flattering language and magic arts to tell the king whatever they wanted and how would he know if what they were saying was real or not. He would have to take them at their word and judging from verse 9, he didn’t fully trust them. So, he gives them an ultimatum, interpret the dream, or I’ll kill you, your family, and even your house. He would make it as if they never existed. (This kind of reminds me of the situation that’s going on in North Korea these days.)

The situation was getting more serious. The wise men tried to get the king to tell them his dream a second time but the king refused and he accused them of trying to stall for more time. Look at verses 8-9. “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 only 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.”” For the third time, the wise men responded to the king, “The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one 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. 11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”” I’m not sure, but to me it seems like the wise men started to develop an attitude by saying, “no king however great and mighty.” This made the king furiously mad. He didn’t want to hear any more so he gave the order to execute all the wise men. The decree was issued and men went sent to round up all the wise men including Daniel and his friends. (v12-13) Now the situation had escalated into a full-blown crisis. Daniel was already living in an upside world, and it was about to get even more crazy.

When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, arrived to pick Daniel up, Daniel asked him, “What’s going on?” Verse 14 indicates that Daniel spoke with wisdom and tact. This is crucial when we are in a critical situation. However, it’s not easy to have wisdom and tact when we are under pressure, that’s why we always need to keep calm. (Paul urged Timothy to keep his head in all situations in 2 Tim 4:5) When Daniel kept calm, God gave him wisdom and Arioch explained to him everything that was going on. Verse 16 says, “At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.” To me, the way Daniel reacted was amazing. He wasn’t paralyzed by fear or try to run away and escape the problem, instead, he challenged the problem head on and went to see the king. And I realize that people of faith run toward the problem and not away. This reminds me of David when he faced Goliath, David ran toward Goliath picking up stones as he raced toward his confrontation.

When Daniel asked to see the king, he had faith that God would give him the answer that he requested, all he needed was the time to pray and ask God. It’s interesting that the king accused the wise men of stalling for more time, but he gave Daniel more time when he asked for it. Take a look at verses 17-18. “Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. ” It is often said that “Prayer is the measure of faith” meaning; people who have faith, actually pray. How often do you pray? If you don’t pray, you have to ask yourself why you don’t do it. Are we too stubborn and proud, or do we try to solve everything on our own, or is there a lack of faith?

When Daniel came home, he realized that he needed God's help to interpret the king's dream to save all the wise men's lives, including his own. He believed that God could do it, but as of yet, he hadn’t received wisdom from God to interpret the king's dream. So, he decided to pray that God would give him wisdom and power to interpret the dream, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. In addition, Daniel asked his friends for prayer support, if they would cry out to the God of heaven for mercy in solving this mystery so that the four of them wouldn’t be killed.

What Daniel didn’t realize was, that God had prepared him for this crisis. Up until this point, God had been working behind the scene in Daniel’s life preparing him for time such as this. We learned in chapter one that Daniel was devoted to God, he probably developed that when he was a young boy as he learned about the law. Not only did Daniel learn the law, he actually followed it. We see that in his decision not to defile himself with the royal food. Also, Daniel viewed Babylon’s victory over Israel as God’s judgment, he tried to see things from God’s point of view. He could do this because he studied God’s word and built up a relationship with God. Knowing God’s word, prepares us for crisis. If we don’t participate in God’s preparation, when crisis hit, we may make the wrong choice.

Amazingly, during the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. When Daniel prayed sincerely and earnestly with his friends, God answered his prayer.  From this event, we remember Jesus' promise that if we pray, God answers our prayers. Mark 11:24 Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” And in Matthew 7:7,8 Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” It’s comforting to know that God is always there for us and hears our prayer. We may not always like his answer, but he is always there. Also it’s beautiful to see that Daniel had friends that were close enough that he could pray with them.

Daniel was so thankful that he burst into praise, verses 19-23, “Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. 21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. 22 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. 23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”” These verses teach us God is the Sovereign Ruler. He also answers his children's prayers. Even though Nebuchadnezzar was a mighty king, when he did not know God, so he was greatly troubled by a dream he couldn’t interpret. On the other hand, Daniel was nothing but a POW and yet because he knew God he could come to him in his time of need and God answered his prayer.

Leadership emerges in crisis. We’re it not for the threat of Hitler and the crisis of World War II, you and I would probably not know the name Winston Churchill. Also, were it not for the crisis of segregation and discrimination in America, we would probably not know the name, Martin Luther King, Jr. At ordinary times, there seems to be no distinction between true Christians and non-Christians. But when people confront crises, they reveal their true colors. True Christians overcome crises with courageous faith and render glory to God. On the other hand, godless people are gripped with fear and only try to get out of the situation or throw others under the bus.

For those who are unprepared when a crisis hits, it’s a disaster. However, for those who are prepared when a crisis hits, it become an opportunity. This crisis was an opportunity because Daniel was prepared. Daniel was taken before the king once again. Take a look at verses 26-28. “The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” 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. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:” Daniel didn’t try to take credit for interpreting the dream, he used this opportunity to introduce God to the king. Daniel realized that this was the reason the crisis in the first place.

On the one hand, we can blame Nebuchadnezzar for the situation. But where did that dream come from? Who led Daniel into the company of wise counselors so that he would be vulnerable to this decree? “The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord,” David wrote, in Psalm 37. Is Daniel a good man? We already saw his devotion to the Lord in chapter one. He is whole heartedly devoted to His God. This is not some chastening from God that Job’s friends might imply. This is not the negative consequences of bad choices in the past. This is a set up by God Himself for Daniel! God gave Nebuchadnezzar the dream. In verse 28 of this chapter, Daniel clearly says that. God Himself initiated this crisis by giving Nebuchadnezzar a troubling dream. That tells me that God is actively involved in the affairs of men, even in the lives of the ungodly. At this point, Nebuchadnezzar is a wicked, brutal idol worshipper. We might not think God would speak to someone like that but he did.

It’s interesting to see that all Daniel’s good decisions didn’t lead to a comfortable life, instead they led him into a life and death crisis. It’s a very simplistic gospel that simply says good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. That was the theology of Job’s friends and God Himself rebuked it. The ways of God are a bit more complex than that. Daniel and his friends, through no fault of their own, are providentially placed in a crisis situation. So why did God give Daniel such a hard time? Well, how do you know your faith is strong until it’s tested? True, it was a difficult time for Daniel, but how else was God going to be revealed to a king like Nebuchadnezzar? God used this powerful situation to make an impact in Nebuchadnezzar’s life and he also used this position to advance Daniel’s career.

It’s important to understand the times in which we live, we live in an upside-down world, where wrong is right and right is wrong (1Tim 3:1-5, Isa 59:19-60:2, Dan 11:32). Understanding our times helps us to navigate difficult situations. Kings and kingdoms of the world rise and wane, but the kingdom of God is forever. That is why our faith is so important, faith is the victory. Daniel overcame his fear by his faith in God. Because of his faith, Daniel, in the middle of the crisis, was able to witness about God to the king and thus rendered glory to God. Although they didn’t know it at the time, the rock in the dream pointed to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. In the Bible, the rock refers to Jesus. Gospel writers, and especially Peter, refer to Jesus as the "cornerstone." 1 Peter 2:6 says, "For in Scripture it says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'" This is a quotation of Isaiah 28:16. Its meaning is that whoever trusts in Jesus will never be put to shame and they will inherit the kingdom of God. Again 1 Peter 2:7 says, “’The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,’ and, ‘A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.’” This fits well with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream where the rock shatters the statue. Those who put their faith in the statue (meaning the things of the world) when a crisis comes what they hoped in leaves them disappointed. However, those who put their faith in the rock, Jesus, will never be let down. For in Christ, there is eternal life.

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