A study on the book of Daniel.
We will divide the study into two major parts: Part I: A History of the Times…And the Setup for Coming Attractions: | Part II: Events Prophesied…Prophecies Fulfilled.
… These two parts will be broken down and delved into in detail.
Daniel’s Response to the Dream
Daniel 4: 19
Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies.
Even though Daniel had been given divine truth directly from God, it still was not easy for him to express those thoughts to the king. He stood there astonished, virtually unable to speak for one hour. Then we see a small crack in the king’s pride as Nebuchadnezzar becomes compassionate toward Daniel, telling him not to let the dream or its interpretation get him down. The king seems to be stiffening his upper lip; since he’s been in a similar situation before with Daniel, he’s probably gearing himself up to hear an interpretation that may not be favorable.
Essentially Daniel says, “O, king, I’ve got bad news for you.” It’s always difficult to bring bad tidings to a friend or a colleague, and Daniel, a trusted servant of the king, must have felt great pain in his own heart. Yet, he remained courageous and spoke the Word of God, even though it was a terrible confirmation of what God would do.
Speaking the Truth in Love
Comfortable or not, it is always the role of the believer to speak the truth in love. Just as a doctor is obliged to cut out a cancer if he is to fulfill his role of worthy physician, so we are compelled to speak the truth of God’s Word with compassion. God says that we must warn people of the wrath to come, or their blood will be on our hands. It’s the same message Paul communicated to young Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2:
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.“
This is what Daniel did once again. The prophet of God was not afraid. He had been given a message from God, and he would deliver it. Daniel was prepared to stand firm in his convictions. Even in a direct one-on-one situation with the king, Daniel did not hesitate to say, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Daniel’s Interpretation of the King’s Dream
Daniel 4: 20 – 27
The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth;
Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation:
It is thou, O King, that art grown and become strong; for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth.
And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven time pass over him.
This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king.
That they shall drive thee from men and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have know that the heavens do rule.
Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable into thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility.
The first piece of discomforting news for Nebuchadnezzar was that he was, in fact, the tree. It was a big, strong, sturdy tree, providing food and sustenance for all, seemingly invincible. But Daniel’s message was that this power could not last forever- a recurring theme, and one you’d think would now be settling deep into the king’s heart. As the tree in the dream, Nebuchadnezzar would literally be “cut down to size,” with only a stump remaining: alive but ineffective. He would one day be revived, but only after a terrible mental sickness had afflicted him.
Here I must submit that God is not only a God of irony, but also one of considerable humor. You’ll recall the passage where Nebuchadnezzar determined to make his great image all gold because he believed that nobody was ever going to defeat him. When he made that decision, he essentially was saying to Daniel, “Look Daniel, I really don’t care what you told me about all that gold, silver, bronze, and clay . . . my statue is going to be all gold. Period!”
So what does God do as He gives Daniel the interpretation of the tree dream? He says, “By the way, King, I want you to notice something about this tree- which is you. There are a couple of things on the bottom you need to know about, like a little band of brass and iron!” I have a feeling this irony was not lost on the king as he probably said to himself, “Come on, not that brass and iron stuff again!” God was saying, through Daniel, “King, the secret I’ve revealed to Daniel, which you accepted at the time, is going to happen; whether you like it or not, the ‘ brass and iron are still major players in your ultimate demise.”
The “Watchers” Among Us-Today!
And who was telling the king about his future? The “watcher” and the “holy one”-angels, sent to do the bidding of their Father. These watchers see all and tell all-to God. They are all around. They protect you, and they protect me. You’ll remember when Jesus was on earth He said, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).A legion in the Roman army consisted of a group totaling seven thousand soldiers. Hence, twelve times seven thousand, or eighty-four thousand angels, would appear instantaneously at the word of Jesus Christ if He requested help.
These were angels who would come from the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2). That’s so far into space it’s mind-boggling. However, here’s an attempt to describe the third heaven and the distance God’s elect angels travel, coming from that location to earth. The atmosphere, troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, ionosphere, and exosphere are all part of the first heaven and reach upwards into the first six hundred miles of space. The second heaven begins at that point and is so astronomical that it’s practically impossible to comprehend.
Recently astronomers discovered a new quasar some fourteen hundred billion light years from earth. How far is that, you ask? Well, light travels at the rate of 186,000 miles per second. This produces a total of six trillion miles annually and is called a light year. Thus, the second heaven extends upwards into space some fourteen hundred billion times six trillion miles. Beyond that is the third heaven-the heaven of heavens- God’s throne. It’s from this seemingly immeasurable distance that these “watchers” and “holy ones” brought Nebuchadnezzar his message of doom in the dream.
When we read a detailed history of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, we see how proud the king was of his great accomplishments, among them a nation he had fashioned into a peaceful shelter and granary for all-full of nutritional abundance. Because of his superb administrative abilities, no one in Babylon would go hungry. Now that great tree of plenty would be destroyed.., and there, again, was this annoying little band of brass and iron.
Here’s an interesting footnote of history.
Nebuchadnezzar often took his military campaigns into the great forests and woods of Lebanon and had become infatuated by the great cedars there. We also read that the king so loved the cedars of Lebanon that he cut many of them down with his own hands. Now that which the king loved would be cut to a mere stump in the ground, meaning that he would soon be removed from office and forced to live away from the palace as a mentally incompetent vagabond, scratching the earth for food as an animal. How long would he be forced to live like this? Until he acknowledged that the true God in heaven was sovereign ruler over the kingdoms of earth.
An Invitation Is Extended
As any good preacher would do after a powerful sermon or illustration, Daniel gave his friend the king an opportunity to repent of his evil ways. Up to that time, Nebuchadnezzar had been immensely cruel to thousands of his subjects, especially during his massive building campaigns (Habakkuk 2:11-13). So, Daniel did not flinch on his interpretation of the dream. There would be no promise that the king would escape from the wrath to come. But Daniel did indicate that perhaps-just maybe- almighty God might extend the king’s era of tranquility if he would repent of his terrible acts of oppression, engage in acts of righteousness, and demonstrate a greater degree of mercy to the poor in Babylon.
We will see the king’s response in our next newsletter.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE