Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events:he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surround by light. (Daniel 2:20-22 NLT)
An impossible task: tell the king what he dreamed or die(and by the way he won’t even give you a hint).
An accomplished task: revealed by God, Daniel saw the dream and understood the interpretation.
God is the keeper and revealer of secrets.
ABOUT THE INFAMOUS DREAM
This dream was a prophecy of things to come. And at first glance, it seems to be the whole point of the passage. The dream contained an ominous statue, comprised of various materials and metals ranging from gold to clay. Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar that he and Babylon represented the head of gold. His was the strongest of kingdoms. It would however be overthrown and replaced with a subsequent, inferior kingdom represented by the arms and chest of silver. The pattern continues through the bronze torso, iron legs, and followed by feet and toes of iron mixed with clay. Daniel doesn’t say which kingdoms follow Babylon exactly, but he states that an eternal kingdom, established in heaven, will eventually crush them all. This was the meaning of the rock, cut from the mountain, which crushed the statue to bits and then grew into a mountain that covered the whole earth.
The vast majority of scholars agree the following kingdoms fulfilled this prophecy:
- Babylonian Empire – Head of Gold
- Medo-Persian Empire – Arms of Silver
- Greek Empire – Torso of Bronze
- Roman Empire – the Legs of Iron.
It was during the rule of the Roman Empire when Messiah arrived on the scene. He didn’t physically crush the “statue” at this time, but he did spiritually crush it by establishing the Kingdom of God through his crucifixion.
But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. (Matthew 12:28 NLT emphasis added)
We now have access to this Kingdom in our lives, and its dominion is far greater than any government ruling today. Everything we do will either contribute to things built in this world to eventually pass away, or contribute to things built in that world to stand forever.
Here’s where some scholars disagree on the prophecy. Some believe that this specific prophecy in Daniel has been fulfilled in total. Our commentary leans in that direction, suggesting that Rome constitutes both the legs of iron and the feet of iron and clay.
However, there are other scholars who believe the ten toes of iron and clay correspond to the ten horns described in Revelation 17:12-13. In Revelation, these horns are most commonly interpreted as the ten rulers who will rule with Antichrist for a brief period of time at the very end of days. This group of scholars also believes that the rock cut from the mountain, in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, not only spiritually destroyed the statue at the cross, but will also physically destroy the world kingdoms and establish Christ’s physical rule over the earth one day.
You can read the passages for yourself and pray for God to lead you in your convictions. Either of these interpretations could be true, although we can be sure only one is true. This is one of those things in prophecy that still remains mysterious.
It seems there is an ever-present apocalyptic spirit in the air today, with the massive number of post-apocalyptic movies and television shows, and Christian leaders who keep setting dates for the end. It’s always fascinating and intriguing to think about prophecy and how it might relate to the things we see in the world right now. And while there is most definitely a place for that, I want to be cautious how much energy we put into predicting the future, because the potential for spiritual distraction is great. Understanding what will unfold in the future is but one gleaning from this text in Daniel.
I want to draw your attention to verse 30 where Daniel is telling the king that God had revealed the king’s secret.
And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart. (Daniel 2:30 NLT emphasis my own)
It’s strikes me that this text describes the interpretation of the dream, which is not insignificant, and that God does this because he wanted the king to understand what was in his heart as well as what would happen in the future. Anytime God reveals a mystery, it is for the purpose of our understanding. Why does God want any one of us to understand what is in our heart?
The pattern of God’s will for our lives always begins in our heart. The first week of this study I described the pattern of God’s will in our lives as: captivity -> preparation -> purpose. This week I want to discuss God’s revelations. He tends to reveal his secrets along the same pattern of his will. He reveals the secrets of our heart while we are in captivity, he reveals the secrets of heaven while we are in preparation, and he reveals the secrets of his plan while we are in our purpose.
REVELATIONS OF THE HEART
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV)
In the previous lesson, I mentioned this verse when I talked about the voice of our conscience/heart. The heart is deceitful because it is so easily influenced by the complexities of our surrounding culture and experience. What comes out of our heart depends wholly upon what goes into it. Whether in part, or in whole, if our heart is not given to Christ, we are in captivity.
I’ve been a Christian most of my life, and I’ve always taken pride on being introspective, looking at my own behavioral motivations, ensuring my heart was good. Then one day the Lord put a mirror in front of me. He revealed a few nasty things in my heart that I had NO IDEA existed. So what do we call it when we think our heart is fine, and it’s not? It’s still called captivity.
Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! (Matthew 6:22-23 NLT)
Who can truly understand the heart? God completely understands our heart. He is in the business of healing our heart by providing the revelation of its darkness. He’ll show us the anger, the pain, and the fear nestled deep within the tissue, so that we might escape its bondage. God will show us, we then recognize it, confess it, so that he will carry the burden in our stead, thereby closing the door to the enemy. He then fills that darkness with light; no longer held captive.
REVELATIONS OF HEAVEN
Jesus almost always spoke in parables when he was teaching the masses. When his disciples would get confused, he would explain the symbolism. One day he said,
You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God… (Mark 4:11a NLT emphasis mine)
These parables, like all the symbolic rituals in the Old Testament, held pictures that revealed the truth of heaven, secrets of the Kingdom of God. When we enter the often-grueling period of preparation in the “wilderness,” if we respond to God’s plan by seeking to know Him, he will reveal great spiritual truths. Things that were once hidden will suddenly jump off the page. Until we exit captivity however, the truths of heaven are hidden.
But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. (I Corinthians 2:14 NLT)
For those of you who tend to dread the periods of life spent in the “wilderness,” I want to share the most exciting part about it:
For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand…Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given – and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. (Mark 4:22-25 NLT emphasis mine)
Listen closely and your understanding will multiply! That means we’ve got to stop getting sucked into the distractions that stow away with us on our journey into the wilderness. We’ve got to slow down enough to listen. We can’t worry ourselves as non-believers do. (Mt 6:31) Trust God and His plan for you. Partner with Him and know Him.
REVELATIONS OF HIS PLAN
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. (Isaiah 64:4 NLT)
And then we walk into our purpose, which is scary and intimidating and exhilarating all at the same time! At the beginning of our journey, we can’t even conceive what God plans to do, and that may be where you are right now. But know that he plans to equip you with revelations of your heart, revelations of heaven, all culminating into revelations of his movements. You’ll begin to see his hand in your community and around the world. You’ll start to see the role he has for you as he boldly asks you to step forward into his plan.
It’s exactly what we see at the end of this chapter when Daniel steps into the role God prepared for him in the king’s court. When I read Daniel’s praise in this chapter, I got the feeling that he’s almost breathless, because the Lord had just revealed his movements. Daniel could see his plans, his purpose, and he was participating in His awesome story.
And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it. (Matthew 11:12 NLT emphasis mine)
I just love the imagery of the Kingdom of Heaven forcefully advancing. Y’all, Jesus is coming back! God’s movements are sure and definite. Like the rock cut from a mountain that grows into a mountain, covering the whole earth, he will continue to reveal his movements so that we might walk in step with His Spirit. Living out our purpose means that all our work will have eternal value and will stand forever.
I am confident that God has you here, because His plans include you. You are being prepared as you hear this to participate in the building of his eternal Kingdom, the great harvest, the preparation for His second coming.
At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!” (Matthew 11:25 NLT)
Sadly, revelation doesn’t occur for everyone. Those who are predisposed against anything God might have to say, those who’ve already decided they’ve figured it out, they have closed their ears to the voice of God. But like a child is a sponge for knowledge and learning, if we too are open to learning, we are positioned to hear his voice.