The Difficult Dream

Bible Book: Daniel  2
Subject: Courage; Faithfulness; Prayer
Series: Living Right When Life Seems Wrong

Today we are going to look at a difficult dream. Dreams are something almost all humans experience and most of them mean nothing. Dreams, however, can be very confusing and sometimes troubling. I read about a man who loved to play golf. His wife on the other hand loved to go to auctions. One night, the man yelled out in his sleep, “Fore!” Immediately his wife yelled, “Four-twenty-five.”

Our dreams seem to mirror in some way our experiences. There are times when we dream something that is beyond earthly explanation. That is exactly what happened to the man in our scripture passage for today. Thankfully, most of our dreams have no consequences. I did hear about a man who dreamed one night that he had eaten a giant marshmallow. His friend said, “What’s wrong with that?” The dreamer said, “I woke up and found that my pillow was missing!” I hope that never happens to any of us.

The man in our story had a troubled dream, one that did have incredible consequences. I want you to see today that those of us who know the Lord need to be ready to stand for Him in every situation. We need to walk with God daily because the time will come when we are needed, and if we are not faithful to Him we will not be useful in His service.

We come now to the second chapter of Daniel. As I told you last week, the Book of Daniel is to the Old Testament what Revelation is to the New Testament. Our current passage reveals the prophetic nature of the Book of Daniel. This chapter sets the stage for the details of a great prophecy found in Daniel. Daniel, you will remember, was taken by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylon. He was committed to God so deeply that he determined not to defile himself with the food of the king and was given permission by those over him to eat a different diet than others in the king’s training. This same privilege had been given to Shadrach, Mishach and Abednego. After a period of training, Daniel was brought before the king. The king declared that Daniel and his three companions were ten times better than those who had eaten the king’s diet. So, Daniel was recognized as being one who had unusual powers and abilities.

In Daniel chapter 2, Daniel begins to show the nature of the unusual powers God had given him. These powers were not known among men through education, experience or talent. God alone granted these powers to Daniel. What we need to carry on God's work today demands gifts that are not handed down through DNA, are not found in the halls of scholasticism, and are not learned in on-the-job training. We must seek God as Daniel did if we hope to be effective in our service to our God and King! Let’s look at how this story unfolds.

I. The Strange Dream vss. 1-9

Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful man in the world politically and militarily in his day. Nebuchadnezzar thought he was building a great kingdom, but in reality he was building a school house, a school house where he would learn about God.

In Scripture, the Bible seems to state that dreams can be a means of God’s revelation. Not all the time, but sometimes, God uses dreams as a means to an end. We find dreams being important throughout the Bible. Even the accounting of Jesus’ birth involved numerous dreams. God revealed His will about the coming of Christ through dreams. Some people say God has stopped using dreams to speak to us in our generation. I would say that God is the same and He can use whatever He desires to speak to us. Of course, your dream may have more to do with the pizza you ate last night that with God speaking to you – unless He is telling you to slow down on the pizza binging.

Nebuchadnezzar had two dreams in Daniel – one dream is found in Daniel, chapter 2 and the second in chapter 4. Even the king of the world’s superpower only had two significant dreams in which God revealed important information. Nebuchadnezzar was thinking about what would come to pass in the future as he fell asleep, and once he was asleep he began to dream. In the dream recorded in Daniel, chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed what was going to happen in the future - far, far, into the future.

Everyone wonders about the future. When we see the trends of our time, we feel that it is something of a nightmare and we wonder what is going to happen to us, to our children and their children. Perhaps that is what prompted Nebuchadnezzar to have the thoughts of the future on his mind. Whatever the reason, God came into Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and revealed some very strange things to him. Once he had awakened, he could not remember what he had dreamed and was still troubled by it. Perhaps that has happened to you as well. You wake up troubled by something you dreamed, but you cannot quite remember exactly what it was that you dreamed. That is what happened to Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar decided to call upon his experts to help him with this problem. He called in three types of advisors for assistance. First, he had astrologers as advisors. They sought to tell the future by the positions of the stars. Then, he had sorcerers. These were the people who believed they had the ability to communicate with the dead. Finally, there were the Chaldeans who were supposed to be great philosophers with great wisdom in all matters.

Nebuchadnezzar did what leaders do today when they face a dilemma. Our leaders call the so-called intellectuals and experts to advise them. As the advisors came to Nebuchadnezzar, he told them that he had a dream and he wanted them to tell what his dream was and what it meant. The advisors said that if the king would only tell them the dream they would interpret it. The king saw that they could not do what they were supposed to be able to do, so he told them that they would all die if they did not tell him the dream and what it meant. Now, how would you like to be an advisor in that administration? Not only were they expected to interpret a dream, but they had to know exactly what the dream entailed. I can't remember most of my own dreams either, but I don't threaten to kill someone if they don't tell me what I dreamed and what it means. Needless to say, old "Neb" was not a very rational guy. He was used to getting what he wanted, and he wanted the dream rehearsed and explained.

II. The Serious Demand vss. 10-16

These experts were in trouble. Look at the passage before us. Note that the wise men did not have the answer. Those who think they have the answers actually do not have them. Note also that these experts thought that no one had the answer. Look at the arrogance of these experts. They think that if they don’t know the answer no one can possibly know it. Pride and arrogance filled these men. Wherever you find pride and arrogance, you will soon see a demise – a collapse – a fall!

A. The Anxious Man

Although Nebuchadnezzar was the king of the most powerful nation at the time, with all the possessions and powers that you can imagine, he was facing a dilemma beyond his control. Yet after verse 1, after God reveals something in the dream, it shakes Nebuchadnezzar so much that his spirit is "troubled and His sleep left him." That’s what happened when a revelation of God came to this man, Nebuchadnezzar. Why was he so troubled? He was troubled because he was so insecure. The king of the most powerful nation in the world was insecure. He had money, power, fame, great armies, and servants all around him, but he was insecure. Listen to me, the only real security in this world comes from the Lord. He has a peace to give that goes beyond understanding! However, when a natural man faces something beyond himself, he feels inadequate. By a single dream, the greatest king in the world was shaken. The greatness of a man is still smaller than a dream-visit from God.

Position does not guarantee peace. He had the highest position, but could not buy a single night of peaceful sleep in His life. No matter what kind of position you might achieve, it cannot buy you peace. The highest position of the universe at the time could not buy a single night of sleep for Nebuchadnezzar.

Why was Nebuchadnezzar so insecure? Because he had no control over the situation!!! When we lose control in our lives, we lose peace. Nebuchadnezzar was probably in control of almost everything in his life and the lives of those in his kingdom. He could snap his finger and anything he wanted was granted. But, when he had this dream, he had no control over it. Now we don’t exactly know whether he remembered the dream or not. Perhaps he knew the dream and he wanted to test the magicians. Or he just couldn’t remember the dream. At any rate, he woke up in a cold sweat and demanded the wise men to tell him the dream. But one thing is for sure, it shook him so much that he could find no peace and no rest. He had to know what the dream meant – he had to know what this dream foretold.

B. The Angry Man

Man without God is not only a man of insecurity, but also a man of anger. As we look at 2:12, we see "For this reason, the king was angry and very furious...". Anger is a natural result of being out of control of something important in your life. Some of us get angry when a car is going too slow in front of us on the highway. We can’t control the speed of the other car, so we become angry. Even simple things can make us angry, but a man with great power is very dangerous when angered, and Nebuchadnezzar was powerful and infuriated.

Why was he angry? "For this reason..." What reason? The magicians said in verse 10-11, "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." These astrologers were saying that only "God can tell you what you wish to know and neither you nor us are gods."

Since his aides could not tell him what he wanted to know, the king threatened to kill all the wise men of Babylon. Why is he so angry that he is willing to kill? He is that angry because he has no control of the situation. But, also, he looks weak before his advisors. He is the king and surely he can remember his own dream. He feels weak and even his choice of advisors reveals his weakness. In his arrogance and weakness, he is ready to kill!

Now, listen closely. Nebuchadnezzar may not have realized it, but he was actually angry at God. You see, God is in control and old “Neb” just can’t accept that. I have seen people mad at God, haven’t you? Job seemed to have a bit of that anger in him when he was in the midst of his woes. I read recently that the number one reason people give for a lack of faith in God is the fact of suffering in the world. In other words, because we as humans are not in control we will simply deny that God is there. Isn’t that a bit strange? I mean, is the true God subject to what we want Him to be? Actually, that kind of thinking reveals that man wants to be God. That is what the Serpent (Satan) promised Eve. Just rebel against God and you can be a god. How foolish! Yet, that is what many people are doing today. If God doesn't control things in this world the way I think they should go, then I just want believe in Him. I have news for you, it doesn't matter whether you believe in Him or not - He is the great I AM. He was, He is and He will be. You can't change that!

Nebuchadnezzar was angry because he could not control the situation and he was determined to take out his frustration on his advisors. The situation was tense and dangerous!

C. The Asking Man

Nebuchadnezzar was a man with a question. He wants to know and understand what his dream means. He is a man with a quest! Why would a king be so anxious to know a dream? He is troubled by this because it describes his soul’s hunger. All his accomplishments had not brought a good night’s sleep. All his possessions are meaningless because of one, simple dream. Do you realize that all you have and all you have done in your life can be swept away by one nightmare? Nebuchadnezzar learned that the hard way.

Every person can be said to be asking questions about the meaning to life. We are all on a quest. Some people get hung up on the wrong questions. How can I get rich? How can I be happy? Why do these things happen to me? The right question is one that will lead us to God, for only in Him are the most important answers in life found. How can I get rid of my sin? How can I have eternal life? How can I find purpose and meaning in my life? The answer is: JESUS. God's Son came to cleanse us, give us the promise of heaven and to give us abundant life now. So often, people are asking the wrong questions to the wrong people and getting the wrong answers. Only God and His Word can give you the answers you need.

In fact, in verse 46 we note that the king is extremely happy when Daniel tells him the dream’s interpretation: "Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, 'Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.'"

Daniel basically told the king, “You are not in control of your life or of your current situation.” You would think that such a comment might anger the king, but it actually made him happy. Wow! Nebuchadnezzar was not angry toward Daniel at all. Why not? The king is learning about God – the true God. He is discovering that there is One who is in control. I think people are hungry for the truth. Some of them may not realize it, but that is what mankind really desires. When Nebuchadnezzar heard the truth, he was glad!

Daniel was one of the wise men in Nebuchadnezzar’s entourage. He was chosen by the king to be one of his wise men and so he was in danger of being killed along with the others if he did not tell the king the dream and its interpretation. It is apparent that Daniel was not consulted during this first round of dealing with this problem. Perhaps this is because they considered him a religious fanatic. They were not going to ask him anything unless they had to.

Friends, it is a strange thing to me that the experts don’t want to here from God and God's people until they are in real trouble. Leaders in government can pass laws that are immoral, like legitimizing aberrant sexual behavior and partial birth abortion, and when the religious advisors speak up they mock us with cat-calls. They call us the far religious right and claim we are part of a dangerous fringe group. They refer to us as religious nuts. But, let them get in trouble and they send for the preachers to counsel them and hold them accountable. When some insane person goes into a school and shoots people, the government leaders call for the preachers to come and pray and counsel the families. Would it not be better to just listen to the preachers in the first place? The government throws Jesus out of our schools, and then wonders why the schools become places of drugs, sexual license, fist fights and shootings. We are the last ones called! How shameful. If Nebuchadnezzar had called on Daniel in the first place, he could have solved the problem more quickly! So, the right-wing, nut-job, God-fanatic Daniel is final called and the answer is found!

III. The Supernatural Deliverance vss. 17-

Something was needed here which no earthly, physical talent could deliver. An answer could only come from above. God had given Daniel the ability to interpret dreams. But even this did not come without Daniel taking the proper step.

A. Daniel’s Prayer vss. 17-18

Daniel asked for time and he told the king that given time he could do what the king asked. Daniel tells his friends to join him in prayer. He asks for help in this matter of praying. Dear friends, we need to pray with and for each other. Daniel was not so arrogant as to think that he had the only open line to God. We must join in prayer with others and make our requests known to God!

They must have prayed into the late hours, because the answer came in the night. Do you see the contrast here? Nebuchadnezzar's problem began in the night - with a nightmare! Yet, God's man found the answer in the night - in a prayer! Nightmares can come in the night, but so can God’s answers. God gives songs in the night. God sent the answer in the night.

B. Daniel’s Praise 19

In verses 19-23 Daniel gives praise to God. You and I must spend time in praise for all the answered prayers in our lives. Never neglect to give God all the glory in your life! Humility and praise go hand-in-hand.

C. Daniel’s Proclamation

Daniel intercedes for the lost men who have little or no respect for him. Then, he goes before the king with the answer. The king asks Daniel, “Are you able to interpret dream?” The king is asking if Daniel if he can really do what he has been asked to do? The world looks at us and they want to know if what we say is true. Is it real? Daniel answers, “There is a God in heaven.” Daniel doesn’t take the credit, he points to God.

Many men have stood before God, and then been able to stand before the world’s kings and leaders:

Joseph stood before the Pharaoh

Moses also stood before Pharaoh

Elijah stood before Ahab

Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Peter, and Paul, all stood before human kings without fear because they saw the King of kings and Lord of lords – the One who was greater than those human kings. Who will be a Daniel of our day? Who among us will stand for the truth? The human leaders of our day are oblivious to the answers to the world's greatest problems. Only God has the answers and He is seeking followers who will be open to receiving and speaking His message.

Of Thomas Hooker, a Puritan preacher, it was said, "He grew bigger and bigger as he preached. You would have thought he could have picked up a king and put him in his pocket." Only those who have total faith in the living God can speak with boldness before great earthly authorities.

Conclusion

So, what is the great lesson from the passage of scripture?

First, are you walking with God faithfully in a difficult world? Daniel was and that is why he made a difference for the Lord and His cause.

Second, are you partnering with other faithful believers in prayer and ministry? Daniel did, and it made him capable of doing what seemed impossible.

Third, are you ready for any situation that might arise? Daniel was and it was because his faith was not just a one-day-a-week faith. He loved God - Obeyed God - Talked to God - He lived for God everyday!

Lastly, are you willing to stand for God without shame or fear? Daniel had a peace in the midst of a crisis that could have cost him his life. He was ready because he had made it a point in his life to remain true to His God!

We are in a secular world, one that does not like to acknowledge the God of the Bible. We must walk with God everyday if we are going to make a difference in this kind of society. We must cease thinking only of ourselves and experience a close walk with the Lord. The time is upon us when we will be called to stand for him at the very cost of our lives. Only the most faithful will have the courage, faith and peace to do so. Let’s determine today that we will be among those faithful servants of our Lord.