Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Bible reading: Daniel 2v31-49 ' A Kingdom that cannot be shaken'

"31 ‘Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue – an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing-floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

36 ‘This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

39 ‘After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron – for iron breaks and smashes everything – and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

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 for ever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands – a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

‘The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.’

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honour and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 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.’

48 Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chief ministers over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court."

Still under the threat of death along with all the wise men of Babylon Daniel reveals the dream to king Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel begins by revealing what the king saw; a statue of four different materials in four different parts.  This statue is destroyed by a stone that becomes a great mountain and filled the whole earth. God’s sovereignty, a theme of the book as a whole, runs through the chapter and the dream. Nebuchadnezzar by contrast is troubled because he thinks he is in control but he isn't God is.  This dream confronts Nebuchadnezzar with the truth that for all his great power and influence his power is given by God.

Daniel then interprets the dream for Nebuchadnezzar in verse 36 and following; the Gold Head is Babylon (37-38), interestingly Nebuchadnezzar may well have had this statue in mind when he builds his image in chapter 3.  The other kingdoms that follow are probably: the Silver chest and arms the Medo-Persian Empire, the bronze belly and thighs Greece, and the clay and iron feet the Roman empire.

No matter what the debate about who exactly the kingdoms are the emphasis in the passage is on what happens next.  The rock, not made by human hands - in other words made by God - which in contrast to the other transient kingdoms is eternal.  Interestingly it is a kingdom that begins (v44) during the times of those other kingdoms and kings.  It is a kingdom that will be eternal, is established by God (34, 44), is victorious (34), indestructible and infallible, (35) and universal.

God’s kingdom is not that of Cyrus, it’s not the remnant returned to Jerusalem, for they are then ruled over by Greece, and Rome. It is seen in the establishment of God’s kingdom in Jesus.

The message of the dream is one of hope and encouragement for Daniel and his friends and for all the exiles; God is sovereign, he is in control and he is working to establish his eternal kingdom.

It is also a warning for Nebuchadnezzar, his power has been given to him by God and on matter how things appear his kingdom will not last for ever.  The dream clearly confronts Nebuchadnezzar with the real King and the real Kingdom.  Yet the chapter ends somewhat dispiritingly with a  non-conversion: Neb now knows of God, he is awed but he is not converted.  Though Daniel and his friends for their faithfulness to God are rewarded - they go from death row (13) to the kings court (49).

The encouragement for us is that we are part of the stone kingdom, a kingdom which is being established though it looks small and will one day, when Christ comes again, fill the whole world.  Will we live life in the light of the stone kingdom we are called to be part of?

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