What Is This World Coming To?

By Phillip G. Kayser · Daniel 2:1-13 · 1/19/1997

    “What Is This World Coming To?”

    Daniel 2

    Some years ago I read a book describing the steps we have been taking toward a one world government, and I was depressed out of my socks by the time I finished reading it. The research was well done, but it left me with a hopeless feeling like we might as well give up trying. In my opinion, that writer, and many other evangelicals like him, have been acting like ten of the twelve spies who went into the land of Canaan. They were good spies. They brought back accurate information about the enemy, but they looked at the information from totally a different perspective than Joshua and Caleb did. Joshua and Caleb saw it as a challenge that could be overcome by God’s grace, the other ten spies discouraged the people by describing the situation as a hopeless obstacle. Daniel gives us Joshua and Caleb’s persective. We need more men and women of faith like this, and less discouragers of Israel.

    It would have been easy to be a discourager of Israel in Daniel’s day. I want to begin by giving a little historical context. In June of 605 B.C. Daniel was taken into captivity during one of Nebuchadnezzar’s southern forays into Egypt. Those were dark days of war. Egypt had been conquered and the power of Nebuchadnezzar was increasing. But by the time this chapter begins, a whirl wind of events had transpired that had catapulted Nebuchadnezzar from a small chieftain who had managed to unite several tribes, into an emperor who controlled the known world. He hadn’t conquered Greece, but he didn’t need to. He controlled trade; he controlled everything. Look at verses 37-39: Daniel says, "You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and [notice here how universal his reign was] wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all - you are this head of gold." Do you see how universal his reign had become? World events changed very quickly back then and they could change very quickly today. Those of you who presume upon the future with your long term debts or in other ways are counting on the future to be the same, need to keep this in mind. Could we have a one world government under the United Nations? Yes we could, and it could come quickly.

    But (secondly) does that mean that we have to despair? No. This chapter shows us how feeble are the attempts of man to play god. And we need to keep this in mind. The way some people talk, you would think humanism is invincible. But we ought never to credit humanism with the power and glory that belong to God alone. This chapter assures us of the total, comprehensive victory of Jesus Christ in versees 31-45. But it tells us how to live in the face of humanism in verses 14-30, and assures us that no human institutions are invincible in verses 1-13.

    And we have many parallels to this in modern history. How many here have read the book, Candles Behind the Wall, by Barbara Von Der Heydt? It’s a fascinating collection of stories from former Communist Europe that shows the same weaknesses and insecurities in these countries that we see in this chapter; the same tempations to compromise and how God raised up men, women and children of integrity. I recommend it. But let me read you a couple reviews of this book.

    George Roche III says, “Why has Communism failed? There have been dozens of explanations, but none is more convincing than Barbara von der Heydt’s: Communism was unable to make people forget about God. It was a triumph of spiritual belief, not economics or politics, that brought the Berlin Wall crashing down. Candles Behind the Wall is the most important book to be published on this subject yet, and it will probably retain that status for years to come.” Kent Hill said, “The reader will be inspired, humbled, and overwhelmed with the reality that there really is a source of good in this universe utterly beyond the power of evil to snuff out.” The book shows the profound influence that powerless Christians had.

    And that is the story of Daniel in many ways. We need not give up when darkness comes. We simply light a candle God has given to us, and watch as God works through others to do the same. God’s people can make a difference when they take a stand. No humanistic tyranny is invincible. And throughout the book of Daniel we have hints of how we can act if we should find ourselves in similar situations. Next week we will get to our actions. But let me show how dependant all these power brokers were on each other and how fragile the balance really is.

    The Weakness Of The Mighty (vv. 1-13)

    The Significance of the Timing (v. 1a)

    Every verse in verses 1-13 shows how unstable and vulnerable and weak Nebuchadnezzar really was. Verse 1 shows us that Nebuchadnezzar recongized this himself and was troubled. Verse 1 says this dream happened, in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. This was almost three years after Daniel had been captured, but in the second regnal year by Babylonian calculations. And this is significant. Nebuchadnezzar had huge new responsibilities in this year and as it were, had a tiger by the tail. If he let go of the tiger, it would eat him, and if he didn’t let go, it still might eat him. There was fierce resistance to his expansionism. His position was powerful, yet it could change ever so easily. Archaeology shows us that tension was always just under the surface in this Babylonian empire. From a subject’s viewpoint, freedom seemed light years away. But from Nebuchadnezzar’s perspective, holding the empire together was a touch and go proposition. And there is an advantage in knowing that the enemy realizes its weakness.

    Several years ago there was a well-known television circus show that developed a Bengal tiger act. Like the rest of the show it was live before a large audience. One eveing the tiger trainer went into the cage with several tigers to do a routine performance. The door was locked behind him. The spotlights highlighted the cage, the television cameras moved in close, and the audience watched as he skilfully put the tigers through their paces. In the middle of the performance, the electricity went out and there was darkness for 20-30 seconds. The tigers could see him, but he couldn’t see the tigers. A whip and a small kitchen chair didn’t seem like much protection in those circumstances. But he survived and when the lights came on, he calmly finished his performance.

    Afterward, he was being interviewed on how he felt. He said that a chilling fear came over him, because he knew they could see him, but he had no idea where they were. He said, “I just kept cracking my whip and talking to them until the lights came on. And they never knew I could not see them as well as they could see me.”

    And I think this is a great parable of life. At some point in life we are all faced with the prospect of fighting tigers in the dark. It may be internal tigers or external spiritual forces of darkness, or it may be even persecution from men. But one of the things that we must keep in mind is that the enemy knows its weakness, and if we do not back off, we can take advantage of the situation for Christ.

    How many here have read the book, Candles Behind the Wall, by Barbara Von Der Heydt? It’s a fascinating collection of stories from former Communist Europe that shows the same weaknesses and insecurities in these countries that we see in this chapter; the same tempations to compromise and how God raised up men, women and children of integrity. I recommend it. But let me read you a couple reviews of this book.

    George Roche III says, “Why has Communism failed? There have been dozens of explanations, but none is more convincing than Barbara von der Heydt’s: Communism was unable to make people forget about God. It was a triumph of spiritual belief, not economics or politics, that brought the Berlin Wall crashing down. Candles Behind the Wall is the most important book to be published on this subject yet, and it will probably retain that status for years to come.” Kent Hill said, “The reader will be inspired, humbled, and overwhelmed with the reality that there really is a source of good in this universe utterly beyond the power of evil to snuff out.” The book shows the profound influence that powerless Christians had.

    And that is the story of Daniel in many ways. We need not give up when darkness comes. We simply light a candle God has given to us, and watch as God works through others to do the same. God’s people can make a difference when they take a stand. No humanistic tyranny is invincible. And throughout the book of Daniel we have hints of how we can act if we should find ourselves in similar situations. Next week we will get to our actions. But let me show how dependant all these power brokers were on each other and how fragile the balance really is.

    The Insecurity Of Those In Power (v. 1ff)

    He senses that he could be deposed at any time

    First of all, his reaction to this dream shows his anxiety and inward sense of insecurity. He didn’t know what the dream meant, but he might have taken a guess that it represented him. Here is an image of a man which is ground to powder by a power from above. And it troubled him. He no doubt wondered if that meant that he would be overthrown. And that explains by the way, why he wasn’t about to give out his dream. Some would-be conspirator might use this dream as an excuse to depose him. He could say it was ordained by the gods. Conspiracy was certainly in the air. Two out of the next three emperors were assassinated. It explains why he is paranoid about his court and attempts to kill them. That is the kind of climate into which verse 1 pops.

    It says, "Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him." Notice the plural “dreams.” Also, the Hebrew indicates an ongoing tense. He kept dreaming this same dream over and over. And it so distressed him that he was losing sleep.

    We need to keep in mind that powerful rulers are just men. They are not invincible. They are subject to the same diseases, the same sleeping problems and the same fears that we are. In fact, the very fact that they rule makes them a target of others. And God uses that to good effect, as we will see by his relief at the interpretation of the dream. He discovers it isn’t him after all. If you give too much credit to the power of humanistic conspiracies, you need to read Psalm 2 which gives a Biblical perspective on all such conspiracies. They are mere men and are feeble in the sight of God.

    He is dependant upon his wise men

    Verse 2 shows how dependant Nebuchadnezzar is upon others. "Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king." Here were the representatives of all of the brain trust of the kingdom. Why does he need them? Because no ruler can rule without the wisdom and help of others. He’s limited. He is not God. And that fact alone ought to encourage us. This gives a defacto balance of power that God has built into humanistic systems.

    These wise men are dependant upon the king.

    But it’s not just the king dependant upon them. These wise men were dependant upon the king. Now they liked to think of themselves as powerful. They sought to manipulate the gods, and manipulate fate and manipulate life. They thought they had life somewhat in control. But without the king paying their salaries, they couldn’t do their demonic work. There are many agencies and institutions in America promoting the work of Satan which could be axed overnight, given the right circumstances. They are unduly dependant upon government. Humanism is always that way. You might think of Planned Parenthood as a powerful institution, and it is. But a few major hits to the government pocketbook and Planned Parenthood would suffer and perhaps even die. We think of Government education as powerful, and it is. But it is dependant upon Government handouts.

    Their sense of security is artificial

    We see the artificial sense of security that these men had in verse 3. "And the king said to them, “I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream. It’s always a great feeling to be needed. He’s anxious for our services. He needs us. But this artificial sense of security vanishes in the next few verses as they realize what they are up against. I have had people say that they are not planning to save for retirement because the government would not dare touch Social Security. The government is too dependant on the populace’s good favor. But that is a false security which is going to let many people down. In God’s good timing, our country may face an economic collapse, and only Christians who have been faithful with their finances will be in a position to take advantage of that and influence. So we see a false sense of security.

    has power of wise men, but fears the wise men (v. 9)

    But back to Nebuchadnezzar. He thinds he has power of life and death over these wise men, which he does. Yet, he fears them. In verse 9 he accuses them: "For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed." He feels manipulated by them. They are a threat to him. And he fears them with good reason. Assasinations often came from either this court of men or from the military.

    The Foolishness Of The World’s Wisdom (vv. 2ff)

    Verse 2 describes the brain trust of Babylon

    But this passage also describes the foolishness of the World’s Wisdom. You have the brightest of the bright gathered before the king. And up until this time, Nebuchadnezzar has been convinced by their false philosophy and the current wisdom of the textbooks. But every society has times when real answers are needed, not a parroting back of what we want to hear, and it is then that their bankrupcy becomes most obvious.

    It is during such times that people are willing to listen to new ideas. It can be a terribly dangerous period. Hitler’s ideas were grasped at by people who had been made desperate by the artificial inflation designed to destroy Germany. Where were the Christians who could have promoted true Biblical paradigms? It is in times when humanisms answers have failed that Christians have made the most progress. You can see this when Rome began crumbling to the barbarian invasions.

    Thirdly, realize that pagan politics is always self-defeating. And I find this point so encouraging! Things don’t run well in pagan governments. God ensures that this is the case. This is a universal truth. Russia and China would not have survived as long as they have without our government loans, our cheap grain and our exported technology. If Western governments were not propping up Communist Angola, free Angola would get along quite well. And the same was true of both Judah and Babylon. Both countries eventually collapsed because of the weight of bureacratic paganism. You may fear big government which uses money to buy votes and to promote evil. They are getting away with it now, but it wouldn’t take much to dry up government’s ability to do those things. Think about abortion for example. Planned Parenthood and its axilliary organizations are in many ways dependant upon the government. This makes them powerful now, but it also makes them very dependant on that money. How quickly could that money be taken away? When you consider the amount of money that the US had to pour into one earthquake a handful of Hurricanes, one flood and one drought, you can calculate that if God just raised the disasters a few decibles and threw in a war or two, the government would not have the money to support such organizations as Planned Parenthood. Like the tower of Babel, they can collapse overnight. In the book of Esther, wicked Hamaan was hung on the very gallows he had erected for Mordecai.

    Verse 2 describes the brain trust of Babylon

    Up to this time, no one listened to God’s wisdom.

    Cocky, self-assured. Tell us the dream and we will tell you the interpretation. They had dream books.

    But N. began to have doubts about their wisdom. He began to question as people in all ages have.

    When push came to shove, it will become more and more apparent that humanism cannot provide the needed answers.

    The Tower Of Babel Revisited: Babylon Against Babylon (vv. 5-13)

    As I have said many times before, humanism crumbles of its own weight. It may seem impregnable for a time, but it will crumble.

    One of the books that I recently picked up is called, Candles Behind the Wall. In it, the author (Barbara Von Der Heydt) documents many previously unknown stories in former Communist Europe. It is a fascinating book showing God’s purposes in allowing communism and God’s purposes in shattering communism. In many ways, these events parallel what happened in Babylon. And it’s interesting reading. Let me read to you a couple of reviews of the book. George Roche III says, “Why has Communism failed? There have been dozens of explanations, but none is more convincing than Barbara von der Heydt’s: Communism was unable to make people forget about God. It was a triumph of spiritual belief, not economics or politics, that brought the Berlin Wall crashing down. Candles Behind the Wall is the most important book to be published on this subject yet, and it will probably retain that status for years to come.” Kent Hill said, “The reader will be inspired, humbled, and overwhelmed with the reality that there really is a source of good in this universe utterly beyond the power of evil to snuff out.” The book shows the profound influence that powerless Christians had.

    And that is the story of Daniel in many ways. We need not give up when darkness comes. We simply light a candle God has given to us, and watch as God works through others to do the same. God’s people can make a difference when they take a stand. No humanistic tyranny is invincible. And throughout the book of Daniel we have hints of how we can act if we should find ourselves in similar situations.

    God’s judgment comes as well. And this ought to give us confidence.

    Daniel chapter 2 answers the question: “What is this world coming to?” When we live in times such as Daniel did, we can’t afford to go be unrealistically optimistic, nor can we afford to give up or feel hopeless This book deals head on with the anguish of those who have had to live through the grinding tyranny of communism and other forms of Babylonian humanism. So it’s a negative question of pain - “What is this world coming to?” But it is also a positive question, inquiring about God’s plans for planet earth - “What is this world coming to?” Is there hope? Is there any point in trying the change the world? And both sides of the question are important. Most people focus on the prophecy in verses 31-45 which promises the eventual triumph of Christ’s kingdom. But we shouldn’t ignore the rest of the chapter. There are three major sections in this chapter which show us that we can make a difference right now in the face of tyranny. We have the tendancy to get frustrated, to lose heart and to give up when immediate Christian victory is not evident. This chapter focuses on a sane approach to life that can enable us to keep on keeping on no matter how difficult things appear.

    And the first issue that we need to understand is that humanism is not invinciple. Verses 1-13 show us how God can manipulate and use the enemy to defeat its own purposes. Humanism is not as invinciple as many evangelicals tend to think.

    One of the books that I recently picked up is called, Candles Behind the Wall. In it, the author (Barbara Von Der Heydt) documents many previously unknown stories in former Communist Europe. It is a fascinating book showing God’s purposes in allowing communism and God’s purposes in shattering communism. In many ways, these events parallel what happened in Babylon. And it’s interesting reading. Let me read to you a couple of reviews of the book. George Roche III says, “Why has Communism failed? There have been dozens of explanations, but none is more convincing than Barbara von der Heydt’s: Communism was unable to make people forget about God. It was a triumph of spiritual belief, not economics or politics, that brought the Berlin Wall crashing down. Candles Behind the Wall is the most important book to be published on this subject yet, and it will probably retain that status for years to come.” Kent Hill said, “The reader will be inspired, humbled, and overwhelmed with the reality that there really is a source of good in this universe utterly beyond the power of evil to snuff out.” The book shows the profound influence that powerless Christians had.

    And that is the story of Daniel in many ways. We need not give up when darkness comes. We simply light a candle God has given to us, and watch as God works through others to do the same. God’s people can make a difference when they take a stand. No humanistic tyranny is invincible. And throughout the book of Daniel we have hints of how we can act if we should find ourselves in similar situations.