History is interesting to me. Through the various seasons of life my interest in it has waxed and waned, but right now I’m really interested in it. My work at the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko, NV has been very rewarding and has opened up new areas of knowledge and interest to me.
As interesting as history may be, we should always keep in the forefront of our thinking that God is the controller of human history. Nothing we do catches him off guard or by surprise. Neither should we think that we are so powerful that we can alter human history or world events in any way that is different that what God intends or plans to allow. It’s not that He is a Grand Puppeteer, pulling the strings to make everybody do stuff. This is one of the great paradoxes of faith. We have free will to choose what we do and how we impact the world. It’s just that God already knows what those choices are going to be and has already incorporated them into His Plan.
His Plan for human history is on full display in Daniel Chapter 2. God reveals to Nebuchadnezzar and us how the broad strokes of human history are going to play out. We saw last time how the king had demanded that the “wise men” of his kingdom not only interpret his disturbing dream to him, but – to validate whether they are speaking truth – to also identify the elements of the dream itself without him disclosing it to them. Ultimately, Daniel was called in and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.” This is where the story picks up today.
“Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.”
Daniel had already identified to the king that God is the revealer of mysteries, but here Daniel confirms that the reasons the king had the dream was so that God could reveal to him the meaning of the dream as well. In other words, it’s intended to be a message from God for the king.
“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. This was the dream.“
Daniel accurately related the elements of the dream, no doubt to the amazement of the king. But this also confirms to the king that the interpretation God has given Daniel is also trustworthy and accurate. There are five elements to the dream. The statue is the focus, but each part has significance.
- Head of gold
- Chest/arms of silver
- Middle/thighs of bronze
- Legs of iron/feet of iron/clay mixture
- A Stone that demolishes it all and fills the earth
Each element of the statue decreases in perceived value as you descend, but also represent varying levels of strength. The stone (seemingly of ordinary material) nevertheless proves to be greater than all and replaces the statue as the end focus. Daniel now provides the interpretation.
“Now we will tell the king its interpretation. You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.“
Numerous commentators, including Chuck Swindoll in his Daniel study (available at https://archive.org/details/danielgodspatter0000swin/page/28/mode/2up) identify the silver portion of the statue as the Medo-Persian empire which would conquer Babylon. Daniel witnessed this and we learn about it later in his book. The next empire, the bronze one, is identified with the Greek empire of Alexander the Great, who would come along in a few hundred years. Finally, the iron mixed with clay is the Roman Empire, which had immense influence across western civilization. Pastor and Teacher Ray Stedman spoke about this extensively in a message called The Last Act and it can be heard/read at https://www.raystedman.org/old-testament/daniel/the-last-act. The stone which would smash the statue (representing all world kingdoms) and grow to fill the earth (representing God’s kingdom) is none other than Jesus Christ, who came during Roman times and who ushered in God’s kingdom and will reign for all eternity.
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. The king answered and said to Daniel, ‘Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.’ Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.“
We tend to study history and make it about people. Well, people are certainly involved in history-making, but never forget that God is the one who is in control. I’m reminded of the time recorded in Luke 13:1-5 when Jesus was asked about recent death’s of Jews at the hands of Pontius Pilate. It says, “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.'” Jesus was not being cold-hearted here. He was simply acknowledging that our perspective on human events needs to remain focused on the One who is in control. Whatever is happening around you – in the past, present, or future – keep your focus on the One who controls your destiny. Are you living in right relationship with Him? Are you ready to stand in His presence and give account for your life? We can only have the confidence to do that if we have put our trust and faith in the rock who fills all the Earth with God’s kingdom. He is the one who gives us the ability to stand righteously before God.