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Daniel 2:31-45: A Statue and a Stone Print E-mail
Sunday, 16 September 2012

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The kingdoms of men do not last.  They are temporary and fleeting.  History teaches us this lesson repeatedly.  For example, the Kingdom of Babylon, which was in its height during the time of Daniel, did not even last for a hundred years.  Even the Roman Empire, which did last hundreds of years, eventually fell.  Both of these kingdoms ruled the world during their times of power.  They appeared indestructible and undefeatable.  They were large and in charge and it seemed like their rule would never end.  Yet, it did.  It always does.  The kingdoms of men just do not last.  They are here today and gone tomorrow.

God teaches the transient nature of kingdoms to King Nebuchadnezzar through a dream.  As we saw last week, the king wanted to be certain about the interpretation of his dream, so he demanded that the ‘wise men’ tell him the dream first before they interpreted it.  Of course, none of them could do what the king asked and he was prepared to destroy them for it.  Yet, Daniel steps in, prays to God, and does what the king asks.  He reveals the dream and goes on to offer the king the interpretation.  He gives glory to God for revealing the mystery and making the dream known.  We know that Daniel is correct because the king goes on to reward him and his three friends (v. 46-49).  Thus, God blesses Daniel and shows Himself to be the revealer of mysteries.  Yet, what does God reveal in the dream itself?  That is what we want to consider in our time together this morning.  We will briefly look at the dream and then move to Daniel’s interpretation.

The Dream (v. 31-35)

Nebuchadnezzar has a vision of a statue, or a man, in his dream.  Look at verse 31.  Daniel tells us that the statue was mighty and of exceeding brightness…its appearance was frightening.  So then, what exactly does this statue look like?  Daniel tells us in verses 32-33.  Look at those with me.  The statue is a man that can be broken up into four distinct parts.  First, the head was made of gold.  Second, the chest and arms were made of silver.  Third, the stomach and thighs were made of bronze.  And fourth, the legs were made of iron, with the feet being iron and clay.  Nebuchadnezzar’s dream consists of this large statue of a man that is made up of these various metals.

But that is not all Nebuchadnezzar sees.  Daniel goes on to describe a stone.  Look at verses 34-35.  Daniel tells us that the stone was cut out by no human hand.  In other words, God was involved with the cutting of the stone.  Then we are told that the stone strikes the statue at its clay feet and brings the whole thing crumbling down.  In fact, the destruction is so great that the whole statue became like chaff…and the wind carried them away.  The statue was completely destroyed and nothing remained.  But the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.  The statue was destroyed by the stone, which became a mountain.  Thus, the dream seems straightforward in its actual content.  But what does it mean?  What is the significance of the dream?  This is what Daniel goes on to tell us.
The Interpretation (v. 36-45)

Daniel begins the interpretation by identifying the golden head.  Look at verses 36-38.  Daniel tells king Nebuchadnezzar that he is the head of gold.  Again, this is straight-forward and probably explains why the king is so happy with Daniel after the interpretation.  Daniel describes the king as very powerful and very great.  His kingdom extends over the known world at this time.  Yet, did you notice who Daniel credits with giving the king such authority?  Daniel states: the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory.  Daniel tells the king that all of his power and might have been given to him by the God of heaven, the God who has revealed these mysteries, the God that Daniel serves.  It is Daniel’s God who is ultimately in control over the kingdom of Babylon.  Yes, Nebuchadnezzar has great authority, but he only has it because God has given it to him.  God has made him the head of gold.

Daniel goes on to interpret the rest of the statue in verses 39-43.  Look at verses 39-40 with me.  The rest of the body represents three more kingdoms besides the kingdom of Babylon.  One is represented by silver and Daniel says it will be inferior to Babylon.  One is represented by bronze and Daniel says it will rule over all the earth.  And one is represented by iron, which will break and crush all these.  Daniel further describes the fourth kingdom in verses 41-43.  Look at those with me.  Daniel describes the fourth kingdom as being divided.  Parts of it will be strong like iron and other parts will be weak like clay.  Just like iron and clay do not mix, so will this kingdom be divided.

Of course, the question that most want answered when dealing with this passage is who do these three kingdoms represent?  Two basic answers have been given through the years.  First, most conservative scholars, who are not troubled by Daniel prophesying the future, identify the second kingdom as the Medo-Persian Kingdom, the third kingdom as Greeks, and the fourth kingdom as the Romans.  Second, those who believe that the book of Daniel was actually written during the time of the Greeks, see the kingdoms as Media, Persia, and Greece.  Much has been written to defend one interpretation over the other and both sides have certain weaknesses.  Of course, a third option is that Daniel is not necessarily referring to three specific kingdoms, which is possible, but seems difficult in light of the context and wording.  We will discuss this more when we come to the later chapters of the book (ch. 7-12), but, at this point, I side with those who view the kingdoms as representing the Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman kingdoms respectively.  But we should note at this point that the identification of the kingdoms is not the point of this passage.  If we are not careful, we can focus so much on this secondary issue, that we fail to see the greater significance of the dream, which is found in verses 44-45.

Daniel finishes the interpretation of the dream by telling us what the stone signifies.  Look at verses 44-45.  Daniel tells us that during the days of the last kingdom, God will set up a kingdom that will be unlike the other kingdoms, for it shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people.  God’s Kingdom will not be destroyed or swallowed up by another.  No, God’s Kingdom will stand forever.  The stone that was cut by no human hand represents this coming Kingdom of God that He will establish.  It will stand in contrast to all of the other earthly Kingdoms because it will not come to an end but will bring them all to an end.  It will be permanent where they were all transient.  It will stand where they all fell.  Thus, the stone will destroy the statue and will rise into a mountain that covers the whole earth.  This is the interpretation that Daniel gives to the king concerning the dream he has had.

So then, what lessons can we learn from the king’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation?  Let me close by mentioning three:

First, God is sovereign over all kings and all the kingdoms of men.  Do you remember Daniel’s praise of God in verses 20-23?  Look at how he describes God in verse 21a.  It is God who removes kings and sets up kings.  Put yourself in Daniel’s shoes and think what this would mean to him.  He is not in Babylon because God has lost control.  He is not in Babylon because King Nebuchadnezzar has gotten the upper-hand on God.  No, He is in Babylon because that is exactly where God wants him to be.  Nebuchadnezzar has conquered God’s people because that is exactly what God said would happen.  God has not lost control.  No, the opposite is true: God is in complete control over Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar.  He raises up kings (like Nebuchadnezzar) and, as the dream makes clear, he removes kings (again, like Nebuchadnezzar). 

Does this mean that God is even in control in a democracy?  Absolutely.  I cannot tell you who will be elected president in November.  But I can tell you that God will be sovereign over whoever is elected.  Does this mean that we should not vote or not be involved?  No, like Daniel, we are not to just sit idly by and see what happens.  Rather, we are to exercise our responsibility and vote, while trusting that the outcome belongs to the Lord.  He raises up and He removes.

Second, God has a plan for history.  God has a plan for Israel and Babylon.  God has a plan for the kings and kingdoms who will come after them.  As Daniel says: A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this.  God is sovereign over all of history.  He has a plan for all of time.  And what is His plan?

Third, God’s plan culminates in the establishing of His Kingdom.  Daniel tells the king that a stone is coming, a stone that was cut out by no human hand, a stone that will become a great mountain and fill the earth.  King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a dream about the coming of King Jesus, the King of the whole earth.  What did Jesus preach when His ministry began?  The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).  How did He conclude the parable of the wicked tenants? What then is this that is written: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?  Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him (Luke 20:17-18).  And Peter calls Him a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious (1 Peter 2:4). 

We may have a tough time identifying the other three kingdoms in the dream, but I can tell you Who the stone is!  Six hundred years before Jesus is born, in the time of Exile, a pagan king has a dream.  God raises up a man named Daniel and gives him the interpretation of the dream so that we can sit here this morning and say to one another and to the world: “The King has come!!!  His Kingdom will know no end.  Repent and believe in the glorious good news of His death and resurrection.” 

If you have never turned from your sins and placed your faith in Christ, then I plead with you to do so today.  Only His Kingdom will last forever.  Only He can provide for your greatest need: the forgiveness of your sins.  Trust in Him today!  As believers, I pray that this passage will encourage us to believe and trust and proclaim the Kingdom of God.  King Jesus has come to inaugurate the Kingdom and He is coming again to consummate it.  May we delight ourselves in the King, live for His glory, and believe that His Kingdom shall stand forever!  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 27 September 2012 )

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