Forum Class Daniel #1

Adjusting to Babylon
(Daniel 1-2)

Historical Background. Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, fell before the assault of the forces of Babylon and Media in 612 B.C. Under the leadership of Ashuruballit some Assyrians fled westward to Haran, from which they claimed authority over all of Assyria. Nabopolassar, the king of Babylon, moved in 611 B.C. against the Assyrian forces in Haran. The next year, 610 B.C., Babylon, allied with Media, attacked the Assyrians in Haran. Assyria withdrew from Haran westward beyond the Euphrates River and left Haran to the Babylonians.

In 609 B.C. the Assyrians sought the help of Egypt, and Pharaoh Neco II led an army from Egypt to join Assyria. Josiah, the king of Judah, hoping to incur favor with the Babylonians, sought to prevent the Egyptians from joining Assyria and met the Egyptian army at Megiddo. Josiah's army was defeated and he was killed in this attempt (2 Kings 23:28-30; 2 Chron. 35:24).

Pharaoh Neco proceeded to join the Assyrians and together they assaulted Babylon at Haran but were unsuccessful. Assyria seems to have passed from the scene at that time, but conflict continued between Egypt and Babylon.

In 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar led Babylon against Egypt in the Battle of Carchemish. Egypt was defeated, and Carchemish was destroyed by the Babylonians in May-June of that year. While pursuing the defeated Egyptians Nebuchadnezzar expanded his territorial conquests southward into Syria and toward Palestine. Learning of the death of his father Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar returned from Riblah to Babylon in August 605 to receive the crown. Then he returned to Palestine and attacked Jerusalem in September 605. It was on this occasion that Daniel and his companions were taken to Babylon as captives. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar considered them hostages to warn the people in Judah against rebellion. Or the young men may have been taken to Babylon to prepare them for positions of administrative leadership there if Nebuchadnezzar should have to return to subjugate Judah. Returning to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar reigned for 43 years (605-562).

Nebuchadnezzar returned to Judah a second time in 597 B.C. in response to Jehoiachin's rebellion. In this incursion Jerusalem was brought in subjection to Babylon, and 10,000 captives were taken to Babylon, among whom was the Prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1-3; 2 Kings 24:8-20; 2 Chron. 36:6-10).

Nebuchadnezzar returned to Judah a third time in 588 B.C. After a long siege against Jerusalem the city walls were breached, the city destroyed, and the temple burned in the year 586. Most of the Jews who were not killed in this assault were deported to Babylon (2 Kings 25:1-7; Jer. 34:1-7; 39:1-7; 52:2-11).

The restoration of the Jews back to their land was made possible when in 539 B.C. Cyrus overthrew Babylon and established the Medo-Persian Empire. Having a policy to restore displaced peoples to their lands, Cyrus issued a decree in 538 that permitted the Jews who so desired to return to Jerusalem (2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4). About 50,000 Jewish exiles returned to the land and began to rebuild the temple. This was in keeping with Daniel's prayer (Dan. 9:4-19). The temple was completed in 515 B.C. (Ezra 6:15). From the first subjugation of Jerusalem (605 B.C.) until the Jews returned and rebuilt the temple foundation (536) was approximately 70 years. From the destruction of the temple (586) until the temple was rebuilt (515) was also about 70 years. So Jeremiah's prophecy about the 70-year duration of the Babylon Exile was literally fulfilled (Jer. 25:11-12).

Purposes. The purposes of the book can be deduced from its contents: 1. Daniel's personal dedication to God (Dan. 1) would have been an example to the deportees on how they should live in a heathen society. Daniel served as an outstanding example of godliness to the exiles. 2. The book emphasizes God's sovereign authority over Gentile nations, how He establishes and deposes kings and empires to serve His purpose. It was this great truth that Nebuchadnezzar came to understand (4:35). 3. The book gives an example of God's faithfulness to His covenant people in protecting and preserving them even though they were under divine discipline for their disobedience. God does not cast off His covenant people; He deals patiently with them to bring them to blessing. 4. The book was also written to outline graphically the prophetic period known as "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). The Book of Daniel marks the course of Gentile history through that extended period in which Israel was and is being disciplined by Gentiles. Also the consummation of God's program for the Gentiles will come to its conclusion in the coming Tribulation period. The book carefully and in detail shows the effect the Gentile nations will have on Israel while she is waiting for God's covenants to her to be fulfilled under the Messiah's reign. 5. Daniel's book also reveals Israel's future deliverance and the blessings she will enjoy in the coming Millennial Age. As God covenanted with Abraham, his descendants will occupy the land God promised them. Even though the nation must be disciplined because of her disobedience, she will be brought to repentance, confession, and restoration. God remains faithful. He preserves His covenant people and guarantees them ultimate blessing in their covenanted kingdom on this earth.

Importance of the Book. The Book of Daniel is important historically. It bridges the gap between Israel's historical books and the New Testament. It records certain events in Israel's history in the 70 year Babylonian Captivity which are recorded nowhere else in Scripture (except for snatches of information in Ezek.). Daniel outlines the history of the times of the Gentiles and describes past and future empires that occupy Palestine and rule over Israel until the Messiah returns. The prophecies in the book concerning God's program for the Gentiles, for the land of Palestine, and for the people of Israel, lay the foundation for His eschatological program. Some of the themes introduced in the Book of Daniel, with its emphasis on the Gentiles, are paralleled in the Book of Zechariah. And the themes introduced in these books come to their ultimate consummation in the Book of Revelation. To understand fully the culmination of God's program revealed to the Apostle John in Revelation, it is necessary to understand the inception of His program revealed to Daniel. (Walvoord and Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary)

Summary: DANIEL: ON THE WAY TO THE FUTURE, by Ray C. Stedman

Almost everyone looks at the book of Daniel with a sense of wonder and anticipation, because this is usually regarded as a prophetic book foretelling the future. This is true. The book of Daniel, together with the book of Revelation, marvelously unfolds future events as God has ordained them in the program of history. By no means has this book yet been fulfilled, neither has the book of Revelation. These two books, one from the Old and one from the New Testament, remarkably complement each other in their symmetry and harmony. The book of Revelation explains the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel lays the basis for the book of Revelation. If you would like to know God's program for the future, it is essential that you understand this book of Daniel.

But knowledge of the future can be a very dangerous thing. Imagine what would happen if any or all of us possessed the ability to know what is going to happen in the days ahead. Think what an advantage that would give us in the stock market, in the buying of insurance, and in other practical matters of life. By and large, God does not unfold the future to us -- certainly not in detail and certainly not any individual's future. But what he does show us in the prophetic scriptures is the general trend of events and where it will all end. Anyone who investigates this area thoughtfully, carefully, and scripturally will discover significant and helpful things about what is happening in our world today. Everything that is happening is working out God's purposes on earth. These will all end exactly as God has foretold. We can understand what is happening today if we know what the prophetic program is. God has taken two precautions in this matter of unveiling the future. First, he has clothed these prophetic passages in symbolic language. He has given them to us in figurative form. That is why in these prophetic books unusual things appear, strange beasts with many different heads and horns sticking out here and there, and images of all kinds, and other indescribable visions. You have the some thing in the Book of Revelation -- bizarre beasts with strange combinations of characteristics.

These have always puzzled people. You can't just sit down with the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation and read them through and understand them as you would a novel. You have to study them, taking the whole of the Bible to interpret the symbols in the books of Daniel and Revelation. This is one of the locks that God has provided to keep curious minds from getting into these books without an adequate background in scripture. You cannot understand what is going on in them without first knowing a great deal of the rest of the Bible. These symbolic things are signs erected by God, and signs are given to us so that we may understand facts that are otherwise hidden. God's program for the future is hidden from us until we spend time understanding the signs, and these books are full of signs.

A second precaution God has taken in Daniel, and even more especially in the book of Revelation, is that he doesn't introduce the prophetic section first, but brings us through six chapters into an understanding of the moral character he requires of the reader before the prophetic program can begin to make sense. In other words, you can't understand the last section of Daniel unless you have lived through and understood what is involved in the first six chapters. There is no way to understand what the prophetic program means unless you first grasp the moral lessons of the first part of the book. There is no way to cheat on this. You can't just read it through, and then turn to the prophetic program and hope to understand. You will find that you get nothing out of it. You really have to carefully analyze these initial chapters, think them through, begin to walk accordingly, and experience them, before the prophetic program comes to life. That is the glory of God's book. You can't understand it with just the intellect.

You can sit down with the prophetic outlines of Daniel and of Revelation, draw charts, spend your time explaining to people what all these things mean and how God's program is going to work out, and analyze it down to a gnat's eyebrow -- but unless you have incorporated these lessons of the first part of the book into your own life, you will discover nothing there to enrich your life.

The Lord Jesus himself points this out during the Olivet Discourse when his disciples asked him to name the sign of his coming and what the symbol of his return to earth would be. Jesus said, "So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place then...let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains..." (Matt. 24:15, 16) "Get out of the city of Jerusalem, because things will happen there that will tremendously affect the people living in that area. Then is the time to flee the city, for the great tribulation will be upon you."

When he said, "When you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place," he added in parentheses these words, "let the reader understand." That is, don't read through Daniel superficially. Think it through. Give yourself to thought on this. You have to understand what he is talking about before you will be able to recognize the desolating sacrilege, or abomination of desolation, when it comes. This is why the Lord went on to say that the world in its superficial approach to truth will not understand when it cries, "Peace, peace, peace," for there will be no peace; sudden destruction will come upon them and they will be swept away just as the people of Noah's day were swept away when the flood came.

Now all of this is a warning to take the book of Daniel seriously and to endeavor to understand the structure of this book as we delve into it. This book divides very simply into two sections, as I have already suggested. The first six chapters are a history of the prophet Daniel himself and his friends in the land of Babylon -- men of faith in a hostile world.

Let me tell you that there is no section of scripture more helpful to someone who is trying to live as a Christian in difficult surroundings, than these first six chapters of Daniel. If you are working in a company surrounded by a godless crowd who are taking the name of God in vain every moment, who agree with the ideas and attitudes of the world and its ways, and who make fun of the things of God, showing little interest in what God says to mankind, then I suggest that you read carefully the book of Daniel.

The first six chapters are for you if you are a teenager going to school where you are surrounded constantly by those who seem to have no interest in what God is like, or in the things of God. Daniel and his friends were themselves teenagers when they were first taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar and carried off to the land of Babylon. As they began their career of faith, they did so with a total lack of understanding of life and with all the insecurity of a teenager in a hostile environment. The book records in these first six chapters the pressure they underwent as they stood for their faith in the midst of these difficult surroundings.

In chapter 1 the young men are confronted with the necessity of changing their diet. Ordinarily, there would be nothing particularly significant in that. Many of us could stand that, perhaps frequently. But these young men already have been told by God what they are not to eat, and the very things that they were told not to eat are the things that are required eating for them as prisoners in the palace of the king of Babylon.

What are they to do? This king is the most powerful tyrant who shall ever have lived on earth. The Bible itself records that there was no king that had ever lived before Nebuchadnezzar or would ever live after him who was equal to him in authority. There were no restraints whatsoever upon what he desired to do. His word was absolute law. He could take any man's life at any time. Later on in his reign, he took the lives of the sons of the king of Judah as their father watched and then had the father's eyes put out. Another man was burned to death over a slow fire. This king was an expert in torture. So these young teenagers facing this test know that they have to either comply with the king's demands or forfeit their lives.

What can they do? They feel all the pressure and they hear all the familiar arguments that any person hears today to try to get them to give up acting on the basis of faith. They surely hear the argument, in whatever form it took in those days, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." "Everybody else is doing this; what difference does it make what you eat? So what if you have a ham sandwich with these Babylonians? What's the difference?" After all, they are prisoners in a country far away from home. Their own country has been laid waste. Who will know, or care, what they do?

They feel that pressure. But these young men stand fast and God honors them. God gives them the grace to stand despite that pressure, and as a result they are exalted and given positions of authority and responsibility in that kingdom. This story of repeated pressure goes right on through this book.

In chapter 2 you see part of the reason for this kind of testing for these particular young men. It comes out more clearly here, in the story of the great dream vision of King Nebuchadnezzar. He dreams one night of a great image of a man with a strange body. He had a head of gold, shoulders of silver, mid-section of brass, legs of iron, and feet of a clay and iron mixture. But he forgets his dream. He calls in the wise men and asks them to tell him not only the interpretation, but the dream as well. (I've often wondered if this wasn't the beginning of that popular song, "You tell me your dream and I'll tell you mine.") The astrologers and the soothsayers and the sorcerers of Babylon are totally unable to come up with anything. Obviously, if the king can't tell them the dream, then they can't dream up an interpretation. Thus their lives are forfeit.

Daniel is placed in the middle of this situation. Again God's man is pressured and threatened with death if he does not conform. Again God's man comes through, as he always does when he is willing to stand and obey God despite the pressures. God overrules in the affairs of men. Life is never determined by mere superficial pressures. The outcome that seems logically inevitable as you face a situation is not necessarily the outcome that will happen if you are trusting in the invisible God who rules the affairs of men. And that is the great lesson of this book all the way through. You find it beautifully expressed by Daniel in his prayer to God in chapter 2:

"Blessed by the name of God for ever and ever, to whom belongs wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and mysterious things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him." (Dan 2:20-22 RSV)

If you are in touch with a God like that, you don't need to worry what the crowd is doing. For that same God is able to carry you through and to work the situation out no matter how impossible it looks. That is exactly the story of Daniel, repeated five different times through these first six chapters.

And God gives to Daniel and his friends the privilege of obliging the most powerful man on earth to recognize the overall government of God. Do you know that this is exactly the position every believer is placed in today? The world lives with the idea that there is no God, or that if he does exist he has no real power. He doesn't do anything. He doesn't change history. He doesn't affect human lives. He doesn't enter into situations and make any difference. He is a great old man in the sky, off there somewhere, who doesn't really affect anything that happens down here. That is the world's philosophy.

But every believer is put into a position in which if they walk faithfully, if they obey what God says despite the pressures that are put upon them, they are given the privilege of opening the eyes of men to the fact that God exists, that he is not dead, that he is at work in the affairs of men, and that he is a power to be reckoned with.

In chapter 3 you have the story of the fiery furnace. The young men are commanded to bow down before the image which Nebuchadnezzar erected, pridefully thinking of the image in his dream. Because he was told that he represented the head of gold, that he was the great king of earth, in pride he lifted himself up and caused an image to be erected on the plain. It was a huge image, as tall as some of our rockets that we shoot into the sky, and the whole crowd is gathered on the plain, with these three young men among them.

All are ordered to bow down and worship the image. In order to encourage them, a great furnace was built at the other end of the plain, and they are told that if they don't bow down, that is where they will end. Now that is a lot of pressure for young people to bear, and they have some additional inducements as well. There is a band -- and what a band! The instruments are given to us here and we don't even recognize the names of all of them. When the band plays -- the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every other kind of instruments -- everybody falls down and worships. All except the three young men.

When they are brought before Nebuchadnezzar, he orders them to fall down. Then they say these wonderful words, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter." (3:16) They are not being impertinent. They mean that they do not need to take any time to think over their answer. "We don't need to take any counsel. We know what to say."

"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not..." (Dan 3:17b-3:18a RSV)

Those are words of faith: "But if not." "Our God is able to, but we don't know the mind of God. His thoughts are greater than our thoughts. His ways are different than ours. It may be that he won't do it. But even if he doesn't,"

" it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods nor worship the golden image which you have set up." (Dan 3:18b RSV)

Now these are young men who have learned that there are things more important than life. It is better to be dead and obedient to God than alive and disobedient to him. It is far more profitable to the individual concerned to walk with God at the cost of life itself than to be disobedient to what God has said. God will never be in any man's debt, therefore he greatly honors these young men. As a result, they come out of the furnace without even the smell of fire upon them. You know the record. What an amazing story that is!

Then in chapter 4 you have the conversion of Nebuchadnezzar. Did you know that this whole chapter is the testimony of the greatest king that ever lived, the greatest tyrant that ever ruled? It is the story of how God broke the pride of his heart, humiliated him, humbled him, allowed him to exercise his pride until it resulted in what always results when men live in pride -- madness. He went out and ate grass in the field for seven years. His throne was preserved, but he acted like an animal. This is what always happens to man when he chooses to walk out of fellowship with the living God. He becomes animal-like, beastly, brutish. King Nebuchadnezzar became like an animal.

Then the king tells how his reason was restored to him by the grace of God, and his closing word in this chapter is a great testimony of his faith, of how God humbled him and brought him back:

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven; for all his works are right and his ways re just; and those who walk in pride he is able to abase. (Dan 4:37 RSV)

Who brought him to this? Humanly speaking, it was Daniel and his friends; four young men were used of God to win the heart of the greatest king of the greatest empire the world has yet seen.

Now look at chapter 5. Here is the story of the handwriting on the wall, the familiar story of King Belshazzar. Note the luxury and licentiousness and the lust of that kingdom -- a degenerating, deteriorating kingdom -- yet in the midst of it Daniel, having lived through three empires, is still prime minister. God uses him to interpret this strange figure of the hand that appears and writes upon the wall: the judgment of God upon that licentious Icing. This bears out the thesis of this book -- that God is at work in the affairs of men, and any man who sees beyond the things that are seen to the things that are unseen, and acts accordingly, will find that God is with him, supporting him and strengthening him all along the way, bringing him out to the praise of his glory.

Chapter 6 tells of the lions' den and it is the same story told in still another way. Darius throws Daniel into the lions' den, but God sent his angel to shut the lions' mouths. Daniel is brought out again, delivered by the hand of God.

Chapter 7 begins the prophetic section, starting with the vision of the four beasts. It is interesting that these four beasts cover the same period of time as the four divisions of the image that Nebuchadnezzar had seen in chapter 2. That image had a head of gold, symbolizing the Babylonian kingdom; shoulders of silver, for Media-Persia; the trunk of brass symbolizing the Grecian empire, and then the two legs of iron representing the two divisions of the Roman Empire; and terminating at last in a broken kingdom, characterized by feet of mingled iron and clay. This great prophetic passage outlines history from Daniel's day clear past our own day, to the end of time and the return of Jesus Christ. For as the prophet watches, he sees a stone cut out without a hand strike the image on its feet, utterly demolishing it, and then grow to be a great mountain to fill the earth. Clearly this pictures the kingdom of God and the return of Jesus Christ.

In chapter 7, then, the four beasts represent the same kingdoms, but from God's point of view. They are nothing but beasts growling and fighting and quarreling with each other. I think Dr. Scofield points out that all the symbols of modern nations are representations of birds or of beasts of prey. Our own nation is symbolized by an eagle, a bird of prey. The British Empire is a lion. Russia is a bear. The prophet sees these nations struggling together culminating in the powerful reign of a single individual over the whole of this Western world.

Then in chapter 8 you see the movement of Western history. The ram and the he-goat come together, and this is a picture, as we are told later in chapter 11, of the conquest by Alexander the Great and the rise of the kingdom of the Seleucids in Syria as opposed to the Ptolemies in Egypt. These two families occupied the center of history for centuries after that -- the struggle between Syria and Egypt, with little Israel caught in the middle. The battle rages back and forth, and today Israel is the most fought -- over country in all of history. More battles have occurred in the land of Israel than in any other spot on the face of the earth, and it is in that very same area where the last great battle -- the battle of Armageddon -- is yet to be fought.

In the midst of this, in chapter 9, is Daniel's wonderful prayer as he pours his heart out to God. The answer to his prayer, in the last section of the chapter, is one of the most remarkable prophecies in all the Bible: the prophecy of the seventy weeks. This is the timetable of prophecy concerning the nation Israel. It gives us the principle that is called "the great parenthesis" -- God has interrupted his program for Israel and has inserted between the first coming and the second coming of the Lord Jesus the present age in which we live.

This indeterminate period, which has now spanned more than nineteen hundred years, comes between the sixty-ninth week of years and the seventieth of the prophecy. The seventieth week, a week of seven years, is yet to be fulfilled for Israel. As you read of this you will see that this is what the book of Revelation and other prophetic passages call "the great tribulation," the time of Jacob's trouble. It lies ahead. It has been broken off from the other sixty-nine and is yet to be fulfilled.

Then chapter 10 presents the things unseen which are behind the things that are seen. This is another great revelation of God's sovereign government in the affairs of men and is the explanation for the events of history. What causes the things that happen today? Well, there are unseen forces at work, and these forces are here clearly revealed to Daniel.

Chapter 11 is one of the most remarkable chapters in the Bible in that it records prophecy that, for the most part, has been fulfilled in detail. It foretells the struggle between the king of Syria and the king of Egypt which took place after Daniel's day. It is prophetically and historically fulfilled. These historic events are described in great detail and cover two or three hundred years of history. You can see that the prophecies here have been worked out exactly in the pattern of history. Among other outstanding individuals, Cleopatra appears in this chapter, prophetically foretold.

When you come to the thirty-sixth verse of the eleventh chapter, a noteworthy break occurs. It is introduced by the previous verse, in which the angel says to Daniel:

"...and some of those who are wise shall fall, to refine and to cleanse them and to make them white, until the time of the end, for it is yet for the time appointed." (Dan 11:35 RSV)

Here begins a passage that deals with that seventieth week of Daniel that is yet to be fulfilled -- the time of the end, the last days, the ultimate arrangement of earth's kingdoms just before the return of Jesus Christ. This remarkable passage predicts an invasion of Palestine and a counter -- invasion from Egypt in the south, and then the meeting of two great armies in the land of Israel and the ultimate destruction of those armies there on the mountains of Israel. This is also clearly described in the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of Ezekiel and the second chapter of Joel. And you will find other prophetic references to this.

The beginning of chapter 12 introduces the greatest event of history yet to be fulfilled: the coming again of Jesus Christ. It is not mentioned as such here, but this is what Daniel hears:

"At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people [Israel]. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book." (Dan 12:1 RSV)

This is followed by a resurrection:

"And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." (Dan 12:2 RSV)

And the final judgment of God:

"And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." (Dan 12:3 RSV)

Then Daniel is given a sign of when this will occur:

"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." (Dan 12:4 RSV)

Many Bible scholars understand this to be an indication that as we near that time, transportation and knowledge will rapidly increase just as they have in our own time.

One last thing about this final chapter is important. Daniel asks certain questions of the angel who has revealed this to him, and then he is given to understand two great principles that are at work in human life. You and I often hear people discussing what is happening in the world, with newspaper commentators and others constantly pouring into our ears reports of terrible things. People often say, "What is happening? Is the world getting worse and worse or is it getting better and better?"

On one hand you will hear people describe things in such a way that you are bound to say, "Well, the world is getting worse and worse." Then someone replies, "No it isn't. Look at this, and this, and this. I believe the world is getting better. We are progressing." Now the book of Daniel makes it very clear that we never will understand God's word and God's work until we believe both of those principles. For in the tenth verse of chapter 12 Daniel is told:

"Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined [good will get better]; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand [but evil will get worse]; but those who are wise shall understand." (Dan 12:10 RSV)

Jesus said that the good seed has been sown, but the enemy has come and sown tares among the wheat. "Let both grow together," he says, "until the harvest." (Matt. 13:30) I think this is certainly true in history. Today evil is worse than it has ever been. It is more subtle, more devilish, more satanic, more difficult to detect than it ever has been before in human history. But good is better than it has ever been before. Good is more powerful. Its effect in human society in relationship to the evil around it is far greater than it ever has been before.

These two principles are at work in human society, but neither shall overpower the other. Good is not going to become so triumphant that evil finally disappears, as once was thought at the turn of the century. Nor is evil going to be so powerful that good finally disappears. Both are going to come into a headlong conflict, and the Bible everywhere records that at that precise moment in history God shall again intervene in human affairs. Of the ultimate clash of these two great principles working in human society, Daniel is told:

"Blessed is he who waits and comes to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. But go your way until the end; and you shall rest, and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days." (Dan 12:12-13 RSV)

Here are prophetic words by Helmut Thielicke, the professor director of Hamburg University in Germany,

"We men may do what we will. Nebuchadnezzar may come (and Genghis Khan and Mao Tse-tung) yet none of them can break God's plans, but rather must fulfill them -- even against their will. Even though what we hear now is in mournful, minor tones, what is being played is still God's symphony and it will be played out to the end. The individual tones may think that they know what is what. They may want to assert themselves and swing out on their own, yet they have all been composed into a score in which God alone is in command and in which everything, when it is heard from heaven's vantage point, has its place in God's succession of tones that end in his final chord. The rich of this world are in the process of going but the kingdom of God is in the process of coming. Don't ever think that anybody will ever be able to break away from serving him, though he renounce God ten times over. Even in the extreme perversion of authority, as in the tyranny of a totalitarian state, men are compelled despite themselves to preserve a remnant of God's order. They can never consistently succeed in devilizing and ruining his world. God says, "I who have the power of the whole world of space, should I not be able to encompass your little life, hear your questions and your groans and unravel the tangled skein of your threats?"

(From Adventuring Through the Bible,

 Kings of the Neo-Babylonian Empire
   1. Nabopolassar (627-605 B.C.)
   2. Nebuchadnezzar (605-562)
 3. Evil-Merodach
 daughter married
4. Neriglissar
(Nergal-Sharezar) (560-556)
 6. Nitocris (daughter) married
Nabonidus (Nabu-na'id)
   5. Labashi-Marduk
(2 months, 556)
 7. Belshazzar
(Bel-shar-usur) (553-539)

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god. 3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king's descendants and some of the nobles, 4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. 6 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego. 8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 9 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. 10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, "I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king." 11 So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 "Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king's delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants." 14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. 15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies. 16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. 17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. 21 Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.

Notes on Daniel Chapter 1: Nebuchadnezzar, the mightiest ruler on earth--a brilliant military strategist, [was] a marvelous builder. But he was cruel. Young boys, the nobility and aristocracy of Judah, were torn from their homes, made eunuchs, and forced to serve their conqueror in a foreign land."And the Lord gave Jehoiakim into Nebuchadnezzar's hands." At once we are reminded of the sovereignty of God. God is still on the throne. Later on in this book, three times in one chapter, God says that the Most High rules in the affairs of men. God is the one who puts people in power, and God is the one who removes them. That is as true in America today as it was in Babylon and Judah in Daniel's day. God is still in control. In fact, Jeremiah called Nebuchadnezzar the Lord's servant. He was the temporal ruler; the Lord is the eternal ruler. God is in charge. That should bring us great comfort. When I was in Washington recently, I became somewhat discouraged as I thought of some of the people who are running this country. if I didn't believe in a sovereign God, overcoming man's mistakes and man's self-will, I doubt if I could sleep at night. But I have no cause for worry. I can go to bed and drop off to sleep because "he who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps." God is on the throne and He is going to slay awake.

(1:3-4b) The word "children" is misleading. Don't get the idea these were infants. They were young people, teenagers, Judean youth. These were the elite of the children of Israel, "of the king's seed, and of the princes." They were the finest young people of the land. Our country and our churches still have young people like that. These are the ones the devil] wants the most- those with keen minds and promising features. If the devil can corrupt them, he will go a long way toward destroying our land.

Nebuchadnezzar had special requirements for those selected for public service in Babylon. They were to be people of outstanding ability, physically strong, "children in whom was no blemish," no defect. They were to be pleasing in appearance, healthy, and handsome. That's the kind of person the devil wants to destroy. Daniel and his friends were young, athletic, and strong. Nebuchadnezzar's second requirement for public service was mental keenness. He wanted those who were quick to learn, those who were, so to speak, on the dean's list, the Phi Beta Kappa crowd. They were also to be socially poised, "such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace," young men who knew how to move in royal circles. They had to be cultured, an embarrassment neither to themselves nor to their superiors. These were the kinds of young people who were selected for special training by the king of Babylon.

(1:4c-7) Daniel and his friends were in a strange country, having been deported from their own land. They are the finest young people their nation could produce. They were of nobility and they had ability. They soon faced a crisis, however, because the king was determined to change them totally, to fit them for their careers in the public service of Babylon. The crisis was threefold, a crisis similar to those every young person faces. God says, "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God. . . be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:1-2). We will be transformed, or we will be conformed. Picture Daniel and his friends at the University of Babylon, with a three-year education and indoctrination program planned for them. Here we have a classic picture of brainwashing. We've read about men who underwent brainwashing when they were prisoners of war in North Korea. Loudspeakers were installed in their barracks, and incessantly, night and day, the political philosophy of communism was pounded at them. "What was the purpose? To change their political outlook. The original brain washer is the devil. His purpose is to get us to believe his lies instead of God's truth.

(1:4c). They were to be enrolled in a curriculum that would indoctrinate them with Chaldean culture. Archaeologists have uncovered thousands of clay tablets that acquaint us with Chaldean life. They were to be subjected to the academic, philosophical, and religious ideas of a godless civilization, to pagan philosophies and evolutionary theories. They were to be taught astronomy, in which the Chaldeans excelled, and astrology, a highly developed Babylonian superstition. These young people were going to have an authority crisis. They were going to be taught that the philosophies and theories of Babylonian scholarship were truth, and that would be in direct opposition to what they had been taught at home.

There is always an authority crisis. Whom are we going to believe, God or the devil? Our young people go off to secular universities and at once face a secular mentality and a secular education, They walk into classrooms where all too often the professor's goal is to shake them from Christian faith, change the source of authority in their lives, remove them from the word of God, and get them to lean on the theories of men.

(1:5). They were to be well fed for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. The king may have thought he was doing them a favor. He gave these students a three-year scholarship including room and board. They were to have opportunity to cultivate appetites for the very best that Babylon had to offer. Nothing was better than that.

This is the second crisis young people face: What is to be the source of our moral authority, the devil's theories or God's truth? The devil wants to change our appetites. He wants us to develop appetites for the things of this world instead of the things of God. He wants to give us a craving for gold instead of God, for the material instead of the spiritual. lie wants us to be more interested in earth than heaven. We are arc subject to constant brainwashing, through the media, music, television, books, and magazines. We undergo constant pounding to give us appetites for the immoral ways of this world.

The purpose is given in the last part of this verse: "That at the end thereof they might stand before the king." The problem was that it was the wrong king. We must make up our minds which king we want to stand before.

When I was a boy, a man used to walk down the street wearing a big sandwich-board sign. On the front was written, "I am a fool for Jesus." People would look and laugh. Then they would look on the backboard. It said, "Whose fool are you?" We must make up our minds which king we intend to serve. We will either sell out to Jesus and stand before God's king or we will sell out to Satan and stand before the prince of this world's Babylon.

(1:6-7). The third crisis was spiritual. The purpose was to remove from these young men of Judah any vestige of devotion to the Lord. "Now among these were. . . Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah." Obviously there were more than four. Why are the others not mentioned? Was it because when pressure came, they caved in? When the testing time came, did they fail the test? Did they give in to the pressure because they would not pay the price, and so their names are not mentioned in God's Word?

We must make up our minds. We can go with the crowd and go off into obscurity or we can be like Daniel and his friends and be different. Young people who belong to a vital, live, Bible-preaching, soul-winning church have a tremendous advantage. They have a peer group who loves the Lord Jesus. When I committed myself to the Lord Jesus, I was the only Christian student in my high school, as far as I knew at the time. In fact, I was the only such young person in my youth group at church. Most of our church's young people were simply playing church. I didn't have anybody to stand with me.

I remember the night of the Junior/Senior Dance. I did not think that as a Christian it would be a good testimony for me to attend it. I went to the banquet, but when it came time for the dance, I left. Six teachers, some of whom were members of our church, stood at the door and tried to talk me into staying. I refused and went out by myself and drove away from that country club. I went to the little square of the county-seat town where I lived (it was probably about nine or ten o'clock by then). Although it was the place where all the young people came, not a single young person was there. As I drove up on that square, the devil said to me, "You've made a fool of yourself, haven't you? This Jesus business! This living for the Lord! Look at you, you haven't a friend left." But the devil is a liar. I did not hear an audible voice but it was just as if the Lord spoke to my heart. He said, "I'll tell you what, Jerry, you stood for me, and I'll stand for you. You've been a friend for me and I'll be a friend for you."

All through the years I have had a glorious life being friends with Jesus. For every friend I've lost for Jesus' sake, He has given me a thousand in return.

Young people, dare to be different! Dare to be a Daniel. Never mind what the crowd does. Attend a class reunion later on in life and you'll see the crowd that used to laugh and make fun of you. You'll see some of them living with a fourth wife. They made fun of you because you belonged to an evangelical church, lived for Jesus, and tried to win people to the Lord. You will see their bloated, alcoholic faces. You will be glad, twenty years from now, that you stood for Jesus in your high school. Life somehow gives things a new dimension.

These Hebrew boys were different. Everyone of their names is a form of the name of God, abbreviations of God--el, elohim. Yah is an abbreviation for Yahweh or Jehovah. Daniel means "God is my judge." Hananiah means "Jehovah is gracious." Mishael means "Who is He that is God." Azariah means "The Lord is help." Evidently they had parents who had faith in the Lord and who wanted to give their sons names with spiritual significance.

You can tell a lot about a society by the kind of names it gives to its children. There was a time in this country when parents named children after Bible characters. Now they are named after rock musicians and movie stars.

Behind the scenes something had taken place in the lives of these boys. There had been a revival in their land. A young king named Josiah one day found the Word of God. God spoke to him and there was a revival. It would be like the president of the United States one night in the White House browsing through the hooks in the White House library. He finds a copy of the Bible, opens it, and has a revival in his heart. The next day he goes on national television to say that God has moved in his heart and he wants to call the people of America to revival. He goes out with preachers and holds meetings and leads young people to Christ.

That would be no more dramatic than what happened in the days of Josiah. Under the leadership of the boy-king Josiah and of preachers like Jeremiah and Micah, they had a revival. Young people caught fire for God.

Wouldn't you like to see that happen in this land? See a revival that would rescue some of our young people? The misery a lot of them are going through is often a testimony to the sins and failures of their parents. Look at the suicide, alcoholism, sex, and all the other problems our young people face. These things are testimony to our society's sins. Oh, for an old-fashioned, Holy Ghost, sin-killing, Jesus-exalting, Bible-loving revival that would sweep thousands of young people into the kingdom of God! It could happen.

Nebuchadnezzar was not content to let these boys have names that reminded them of their faith in God. So he changed their names, and that caused an identity crisis. They changed Daniel's name to Belteshazzar ("Bel, protect my life"). The next one was changed to Shadrach ("I am fearful of god"). Then come Meshaeh ("I am despised before my god") and Abednego ("servant of Nebo"). You can see what they were doing. They were trying to remove from the minds and hearts and wills of these young men any commitment to God. In exchange they were offered the king's meat and wine, a place at the king's table. It was a small thing to give up--their old names. But big decisions ultimately rest on little decisions.

Have you made up your mind to live for Jesus? Pay the price. When you are older you will be glad you have lived for him.

(1:8-21) Life is a series of decisions. We live on the basis of decisions we make, hundreds of them every day--what we intend to do, how we are going to respond to things. What we are today is the result of decisions we have made in the past. What we will be tomorrow will be determined by the decisions we make today.

Many of our major decisions are made while we are young. Most people decide for the Lord Jesus while they are young. We often make the decision for a life's partner when we are young, in our late teens or early twenties. We make decisions about our friends, and friends we make are often our friends for life. We decide what our vocation is to be, or where we will live.

Daniel was at a crisis time in his life. He was about to make the greatest decision he would ever make. Torn from his homeland and taken to a distant land, there he was in the king's palace. At once he had to make a decision.

In these opening chapters of the book of Daniel we find a series of tests for believers. In this chapter there is a test of the believer's walk; in chapter 2 there is a test of the believer's witness; in chapter 3 there is a test of the believer's worship. Every test of life is designed to help us make right decisions in life. So here was Daniel facing a decision. In 1:8 we see the decision Daniel made at the outset. He "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat." It was the right decision, praise God, and he made it early on. It was a decision that transformed his life. From that day to the end of his life he was a better man because of it.

Studying this decision of Daniel should give us encouragement and instill conviction so that we too will make right decisions. We too must decide to live for the Lord and be the kind of person He wants us to be.

Daniel and his friends were called on to make a threefold decision.

(1:8a,b) "Daniel purposed in his heart" literally means Daniel "laid it upon his heart." All real decisions are heart decisions. That is why the Bible says, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23).

Daniel's Babylonian masters could change many things about Daniel's life. They could change his homeland, diet, even his name, but they could not change his heart. What we are in our hearts is what we are, and nobody can change us in our hearts unless we let them. Let us consider this heart decision.

(1:8a). "But Daniel purposed in his heart." Daniel made a decision in his own heart. It was something between him and the Lord. It was made under tremendous pressure and was by no means easy to make.

For instance, there was cultural pressure. Daniel was living in a land where there was no concern for the authority of God's word. The Babylonians laughed at the law of God and mocked the God whom Daniel worshiped.

Our young people are living in a society, in an atmosphere, where there is no respect for the authority of the word of God. Young people are under cultural pressure to make wrong decisions because the word of God is not enshrined in the lives of worldly people.

Those who know Jesus must be ruled by a different standard. No matter what the world says, what matters to Christians is what God says. We do not get our standards from opinion polls; we get them from the Bible. We don't look to see what the majority says in order to decide what we are going to do. We make our decisions on the basis of "thus saith the Lord." The world said to Daniel, "Daniel, go along." God's word said, in effect, "Be not conformed to this world."

There was also peer pressure. As we have noted, only four young men are mentioned in this passage: Daniel and his colleagues. Probably there were several hundred boys involved in the events recorded here, but only four names are listed. Perhaps the others made up their minds to yield to Babylon, to do what Babylon told them to do. Those who just "go with the flow," those who decide to drift along where the current or the tide takes them, are never included in God's hall fame.

We can imagine the conversation that went on in the dormitory, and the kinds of things that were said to Daniel as he refused the king's food and wine. One of his peers might have said, "Listen, Daniel, we're a long way from home. Nobody will know or care what you do here. We are of w are by ourselves." Another might have said, "Come on, Daniel, it's just a little thing. It really doesn't matter." Another might have urged, "Now then, Daniel, let's not get legalistic about this. You can carry that kind of thing too far." Somebody else might have commented, "Daniel, it may not be strictly kosher, but it will give us an opportunity to witness. How can we win people if we offend them?" Peer pressure. Even if the minority of his peers said, "Go along," Daniel refused to be conformed to that pagan milieu.

There was also fear pressure, the pressure of circumstances and of consequences. Who knew what the king might do when he learned that Daniel refused to drink his wine and eat his meat? People did not go against the rules of the king of Babylon. Life was cheap there. Anyone who dared to defy the king would have to pay for it dearly. There is a price to pay when we decide to say no to this world and yes to Jesus. There are times when the decisions we make will have enormous consequences. Our jobs might be at stake if we dare to say no for Jesus' sake. A young person might get a lower grade in a class because she or he takes a stand on an issue. Not every teacher is a Christian; I have known teachers to lower the grade of a young person because he dared to live for the Lord. We may not get that promotion at work. We may be excluded from a key group if we take a stand for Christ.

So, in spite of the pressures brought to bear on him, Daniel made his choice. There were solid, scriptural reasons why he did so. There was, for instance, the way the food was prepared. The Jewish people were told in the mosaic law how they were to prepare food. Probably some of these foods were prohibited by Leviticus 11; they were defiling and not to be eaten by Jews. In Babylon all wine was offered as a toast to the gods. All meat was offered in worship to Bel-Merodach or one of the other gods of Babylon. To eat such food meant a sacrifice of spiritual conviction. It meant acknowledging a pagan god. Daniel made up his mind to do what God wanted. There is abundant evidence in the book of Daniel that Daniel knew the scriptures.

I believe that Daniel had a daily quiet time. I believe there was a time every day when Daniel meditated on the truth of God and studied God's word. From that spiritual reservoir he drew convictions that enabled him to make a right decision when crises came.

Although the Bible does not give specific commands concerning all the issues we face in life, let me emphasize the importance of reading the Bible daily. Sometimes people say, "I've been reading my Bible, but I've not been getting much out of it." What they usually mean is they haven't been getting the feeling they want.

Is that your problem? Don't worry about the feeling; just keep on reading God's word, keep hiding it in your heart. You are storing in your heart the materials from which you construct convictions that will enable you to make right decisions at the right time. From that inner reservoir of God's word the principles will emerge to give you spiritual, scriptural guidance when decision times come.

Daniel made an individual decision. Everybody else was eating the king's meat but Daniel said, "Not I." Everybody was drinking the king's wine, but Daniel said, "I won't do it." He had the courage to say no.

Sometimes that is the most difficult word in the English language for us to speak. I challenge you to say it when you are in a difficult spot. Everybody is doing something questionable or sinful. You stand there and know what you ought to say, but that word no is hard to get out. But it is one of the most effective words in the English language.

Here's how it works. Your friends are all drinking. They urge you to join in. They tell you that a little drink is not going to hurt you. They threaten to ostracize you. But say no, and keep on saying it, and you will stay sober all of your life. You will never become an alcoholic. No is the most effective word in the English language. The same is true of drugs and sex. You say no and you will never become an addict. You say no and keep on saying no, and when you get married you will be pure. Young people, let me encourage you, in the power of Jesus, to use that word no. Make up your mind to make an individual decision to say no

(1:8b). Daniel stood all alone in this verse. Now read 1:10. The prince of the eunuchs replied to Daniel and said, "For why should he [the king] see your faces. . .?" Do you see the impact of the phrase "see your faces"? Daniel's decision was potentially influential.

What we decide will influence others. Every young person, every business man or woman, every housewife, every career person, every one of us has a sphere of influence. The decisions we make are influential. They help determine the decisions that those in our sphere of influence make. If we say yes, we may lead others into sin; if we say no, we may lead others to do what God wants them to do.

My first night in college was at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. The first drinking I ever saw I saw on the campus of that college. I'm not criticizing my Alma mater. I'm thankful for the education I received there, for every teacher, for every dollar that was given to me to make possible my education, but Christian colleges ought to be different from secular colleges. There should be a higher standard of behavior and a reverence for the word of God far beyond what one finds in a secular university. There was no homework my first night on campus. When one of the boys said, "Let's just go and look around town," six or seven of us jumped in a car. We stopped at a restaurant and as we sat there one older boy said, "Let's have a beer." I opened the door and stepped out of the car. They said, "What are you doing, Vines?" I said, "I'm walking back to school. I've come here to study to preach the gospel and I'm not starting my college education by taking my first drink of beer." They said, "All right, Vines. Get in the car. If you won't drink, we won't drink." See my point? Just one skinny youth from North Georgia--but when I made an individual decision, it became an influential decision. We would be surprised how many wrong things we could stop if we would have the courage to make an individual decision, if we would purpose in our hearts not to defile ourselves. We don't know who may be watching us to see if we as Christians are going to crumble under pressure. When \we stand we may give others courage to stand under pressure too.

(1:8c-16) Daniel was an unusual man. He had hard, strong convictions but he handled them in a humble way. The prince of the eunuchs, who was in charge of them, was named Ashpenaz (1:3). Daniel went to him and requested that he might not have to defile himself. Do you see the humility there? What a gracious attitude Daniel had.

We ought to take a stand, we ought to be firm, unyielding in our convictions, but we must be careful to be gracious and humble when we stand for those convictions. Often people who have strong convictions become hard, unyielding, and obnoxious in the way they hold their beliefs. They turn people away from the Christian faith and its standards by the rude way they express their views. One doesn't have to be a crank to have convictions. We can be sweet and kind in the way we hold them.

Notice that God was already working in this. God had already brought Daniel into favor with the prince of the eunuchs, who had a warm affection for him (1:9).

But the prince of the eunuchs did what most of us do. He made his decision in the light of how it was going to affect him personally (1:10). He said, "I'll keep that king's meat and wine away from you, you might show it. You might look inferior to the others and I'll lose my head." Daniel's request was denied. Now what?

Daniel said to Melzar (the word means "chief attendant," "the warden") that he would submit to a test. He said, "Put us to the test for ten days. Let us eat pulse (vegetables or grain). Let us be put on a strictly vegetarian diet for ten days. At the end of that ten days, check us out." Daniel had tremendous faith in God. He believed that God would honor his decision, and the prince of eunuchs agreed to the experiment.

Notice what happened. See what God did for those boys. He affected the appearance and countenance of Daniel (and those who followed his lead) because they had the courage to have convictions, courage to be true to the Lord and not go along with the crowd. That is so important. Whom we serve will eventually show on our faces.

Ten days later they brought those boys in. They looked at their eyes, and their eyes were clearer than the rest of the boys. They looked at their faces, and their faces were more radiant than the rest of them. Their muscles were stronger and their posture was more erect. There was a difference in their countenance. See that boy over there? That boy has decided to live his life for sin and Satan. Look at this boy here. He has decided to live for the Lord. That boy has decided to go along with the crowd, to adopt the customs and habits of the world. This other boy has decided, regardless of what the world does, to live for Jesus. The devil gets hold of one life and the Lord Jesus gets hold of the other. Follow them on down the road. Look at them ten or twenty years from now. See the face of the first one as the signs of sin have begun to make deep grooves in his face. See the guilt and emptiness in his eyes. That is what the devil does to a life. But the other one has a sparkle in his eye. Courage and conviction shine in his countenance.

It pays to serve the Lord. Daniel made a humble decision and God honored it.

(1:17-21) God says, 'Those who honor me I will honor" (I Samuel 2;30). Daniel's decision was an honored decision. How did God honor Daniel and his friends) "As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom." Learning is the acquisition of facts; wisdom is the ability to use those facts.

Those young men were studying difficult subjects at the University of Babylon. God honored their decision to be true to him by giving them learning and wisdom, knowledge and skill. He gave them discernment. They were able to take full advantage of their education. God allowed it to make sense.

The problem with secular education is that it leaves out the spiritual dimension. Secular education can teach a person how to build a great building, but not what to do with it. Secular education can tell a person how to have a healthier body, but not how to live in that body. Secular education can give a person a head full of facts, but it cannot give a heart of peace or build eternal relationships. God was at work with these boys.

It does not mean that if we live for the Lord, we won't have to study. Just because a person is a Christian doesn't mean he can waste his time before the test and then walk in on the day of the test, lay his head on the algebra book, and say, "Dear Lord, may the facts in this book be assimilated by my mind." It doesn't work like that. But if you study your hardest and pray your heart out, God will bless you. We had a boy at school who really did study. We called him old Grady. Old Grady was a very spiritual fellow and also the manager of the softball team. He would say, "Brother Jerry, if the Lord leads, lay down a bunt." That's how spiritual old Grady was.

One of the subjects we took was Hebrew, and it probably was the hardest subject I ever took. The night before tests how diligently we would study. I know Grady studied. I saw him lie agonized over his Hebrew. He would come to me on the morning of the test. "Brother Jerry, the Lord knows I can't get this Hebrew, so I get on my knees after I've studied the night before the test and I say, 'Dear Lord, you know I can't pass this Hebrew. Show me the questions he is going to ask in the morning.' And He does it every test." Old Grady passed Hebrew.

Do your part, live for Jesus, and God will do his part. Do you want to be smarter than your teachers? Turn to Psalm 119. Every verse in Psalm 119 has reference to God's word. It is the longest chapter in the Bible and it is all about the Bible. Look at 119:97-99: "O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teacher; for thy testimonies are my meditation." In other words it is not enough just to know facts; we need to know Jesus and know how to put those facts together in a spiritual way.

(1:18-20). Perhaps those young men were scared as they came in for their oral exams. We can imagine them perspiring. Their whole future was at stake, and now the time had come to defend their theses. The king himself was going to ask the questions. They were brought in, the king pondered their answers, and when the test grades were scored they finished at the top of their class. The king said, "I'm going to put you all in positions of royal authority." The Bible says they stood before the king. That means they had official positions in the imperial government of Babylon.

Moreover, "The king inquired of them." That means they were his counselors. We can be sure when he received counsel and advice from them it was ten times better than any other counsel.

(1:21). We read, "And Daniel continued." Link that to 1:8, "But Daniel purposed in his heart." Daniel lived through the remainder of the Babylonian empire and on into the empire of Persia. Think of all the in-fighting that goes on in high government circles. Think of all the attempts made by his jealous peers to sabotage his position. Think of the various changes of administration. When they were all gone, there was Daniel, still on top. The Bible says, "The world passes away, and the lust thereof; but he that does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2;17).

Note the reference to Cyrus, the first Persian emperor. It was he who wrote the decree that released the Jews from bondage and allowed them to return to their land. The first chapter of Ezra tells about that. It's possible that Daniel's last official act was to prepare the papers releasing his people from Babylonian bondage. Decide now in your heart to live for Jesus. God might use you one of these days to be the means of setting a multitude free from the captivity of sin. (Excerpted from Exploring the Book of Daniel by John Phillips and Jerry Vines, Loizeau Brothers, New Jersey, 1990)

Daniel 2:1 Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him. 2 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. 3 And the king said to them, "I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream." 4 Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, "O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation." 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, "My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap. 6 "However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation." 7 They answered again and said, "Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will give its interpretation." 8 The king answered and said, "I know for certain that you would gain time, because you see that my decision is firm: 9 "if you do not make known the dream to me, there is only one decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation." 10 The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, "There is not a man on earth who can tell the king's matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. 11 "It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh." 12 For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave a command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. 14 Then with counsel and wisdom Daniel answered Arioch, the captain of the king's guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon; 15 he answered and said to Arioch the king's captain, "Why is the decree from the king so urgent?" Then Arioch made the decision known to Daniel. 16 So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation. 17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18 that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. 21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. 22 He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him. 23 "I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, And have now made known to me what we asked of You, For You have made known to us the king's demand." 24 Therefore Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: "Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; take me before the king, and I will tell the king the interpretation." 25 Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king, and said thus to him, "I have found a man of the captives of Judah, who will make known to the king the interpretation." 26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, "Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation?" 27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, "The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. 28 "But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these: 29 "As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be. 30 "But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart. 31 "You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. 32 "This image's head was of fine 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 clay. 34 "You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 "Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. 36 "This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. 37 "You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; 38 "and 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. 39 "But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 "And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. 41 "Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. 42 "And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. 43 "As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. 45 "Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold--the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure." 46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him. 47 The king answered Daniel, and said, "Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret." 48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.

Notes on Daniel Chapter 2 from Ray Stedman (

King [Nebuchadnezzar] saw a great image, a colossus, a statue of a man divided into four sections: a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron with its feet of mingled iron and clay. Naturally he was puzzled by this and did not know what to make of this strange dream. He called in his wise men, enchanters, magicians and astrologers, to discover the interpretation of the dream.

The empire of Nebuchadnezzar has long ago crumbled into dust. Even the great capital of Babylon is today an uninhabited desolation of ruins covered by the dust of centuries. But the dream that this king dreamed is still being fulfilled in our day, and it is this that makes it so significant to us. We have not yet reached the end of Nebuchadnezzar's dream and its meaning.

The wording of the King James Version suggests that the king forgot his dream in the morning and demanded that his wise men make known to him the substance of the dream as well as its interpretation. But the RSV is quite right in changing the phrase of Verse 5 from "the thing is gone from me" to the more accurate "the word from me is sure. " The king did not forget his dream at all. He remembered it well, but he is testing his counselors and he was a wise king to do so. He well knew that these men would concoct an allegedly supernatural interpretation of whatever it was he told them, and he would be helpless to challenge their meaning. Of course, they could use this as a clever gimmick to obtain whatever they wanted from the king. No wonder he was suspicious of these men for he knew they operated on the basic philosophy, "You tell me your dream, and I'll tell you mine." So he tested them by this strange demand on his part. That explains what some have felt to be an extremely cruel demand on the part of this king. Of course, the counselors rebelled at that, as well they might, for they realized they were on the verge of exposure. If they were truly able, by supernatural power, to interpret dreams then it would have made no difference to them to tell the original dream and its interpretation, or the interpretation alone. But the king has hit upon a very fine device to expose their duplicity

But Daniel is perfectly right when he says to this pagan king,

"No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery which 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." (Dan 2:27b-28a RSV)

In that passage Daniel uses a phrase which is really the key to this dream and even to the book itself. It is the phrase, "in the latter days." Daniel indicates that what has been shown to the king is a vision of the future. He says very plainly in Verse 29:

"To you, O king as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be hereafter, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be." (Dan 2:29 RSV)

This is a vision of the future. It clearly predicts events that would come to pass in the near future and in the far distant future as well. This predictive element is why the book of Daniel has been under attack by liberal scholars

The phrase, "the latter times," concerns itself with a particular area of the future; a future called elsewhere in this book, "the end times," or, "the time of the end." The phrase, "the latter times," is used in a number of other places in the Old Testament. One striking instance of it occurs in the very next book to Daniel in the Bible, the prophecy of Hosea. In a striking passage in the third chapter of Hosea, the prophet gathers up the whole of the history of Israel after their captivity in Babylon. He says, in Verse 4,

"For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim." (Hos 3:4 RSV)

This reference to Israelites living without a sacrifice places the fulfillment of this after the time of our Lord, for, in New Testament times they were still sacrificing in the temple. But here is a prediction that there would come a time when Israel would abide without sacrifice. As most of you know already, from the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. until this present hour, through 1900 and more years of history, the Jews have never had a blood sacrifice. The prediction continues:

"For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall turn and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days." (Hos 3:4-5 RSV)

There is the same phrase that Daniel uses. It confirms the king's dream as a prophecy that concerns itself with the end of times and, specifically, with the end of the times of the Gentiles. This prediction takes on increased significance to us in view of our Lord's words about Jerusalem when, 40 years before the city was destroyed by the Romans, he uttered these remarkable words,

"Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (Luke 21:24 KJV)

Jerusalem was to be in the hands of Gentile overlords, and the Jews would never possess the city again until the times of the Gentiles should be fulfilled. A most remarkable thing has taken place in our own day. On June 6, 1967, the Jews recaptured Jerusalem. It is a most moving thing to visit that ancient city and see Jews thronging the streets of the Old City once again. Orthodox Jews, with their long curly sideburns and their strange hats and garments stand around looking longingly into the temple courts from which they are still excluded because it is such a holy enclosure. Each Sabbath they gather at the Wailing Wall in great numbers, running through the streets of the city in order that they might be present at the beginning of the service to remember Jerusalem's glory, and wail over her present desolation. This most remarkable event would indicate, in the light of our Lord's words, that we have reached the last of the times of the Gentiles.

I must point out to you that the word, "times," in that expression, is an inaccurate one. There are two words used in Scripture to indicate passage of time: "times," and "seasons." Jesus said to his disciples after the resurrection, "The times and seasons are not for you to know, but the Father has kept them in his power," (cf, Acts 1:7). The "times" are great overall divisions of time in which God is working out some major purpose with man, such as, "the times of ignorance" that Paul refers to in Romans, which covers the whole of the Old Testament. The times are divided, in turn, into "seasons," which are marked by some special development within these time periods, much as we refer to the seasons of the year.

Some time ago I ran across a quotation by Archbishop Trench that was most illuminating in this respect:

The seasons [in Greek, the word kairoi] are the joints or articulations in the times: The critical epoch-making periods foreordained of God, when all that has been slowly and often without observation ripening through long ages is mature and comes to birth in grand, decisive events which constitute at once the close of one period and the commencement of another.

If you set June 6, 1967 in that context you will see that here indeed was a "grand, decisive event" which marked the close of one period and the commencement of another. If we are right in this, then it indicates that the last "season" in which Gentile authority will reign unchallenged in this world has already begun. Who knows how long it will last? We cannot set dates. There are no limitations on how long these seasons take to run their course. But according to our Lord's own prediction, this last of the seasons of the Gentiles has already begun.

Within this lengthy period called "the times of the Gentiles," which began with Nebuchadnezzar. This dream of the king as interpreted by Daniel indicates that there would be four world powers, and only four. It would begin with Babylon itself, the kingdom headed by Nebuchadnezzar. Let us read that now and quickly comment on a few things, leaving the rest for our next study.

"This was the dream; 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 sons of men, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, making you rule over them all -- you are the head of gold. After you shall rise another kingdom inferior to 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 which crushes, it shall break and crush all these." (Dan 2:36-40 RSV)

We shall be content now with identifying these four kingdoms. The first one, Daniel himself tells us, is the Babylonian empire headed by King Nebuchadnezzar. This would be followed, he says, by a second kingdom which would be inferior to the first. History identifies that clearly for us and, in fact, it came into the picture even before the book of Daniel closes. At the end of the book, Daniel is no longer under the Babylonian empire but is now serving under the Medio-Persian empire, that divided kingdom which followed Babylon as the ruler of the world. This, in turn, was to be followed by a third empire which would come upon the scene quickly. It is identified for us in Chapter 8 as the kingdom of Greece, under Alexander the Great. History has confirmed this, exactly as the book predicts.

The fourth empire is really the central study of this chapter. This strange, rather mysterious kingdom comes upon the scene after the Grecian kingdom. We usually call it the Roman Empire, but it is very striking that it is never so called in the Bible. It is never identified by name though it includes the Roman Empire, and there is no doubt about that. It began in Rome as certain predictive passages in the New Testament make very clear. In Revelation, we have a clear identification of this empire with the city of Rome, seated upon its seven hills, so there is no question but what this fourth empire began with Rome.

But, since the period encompassed by the image covers all of time down to the second coming of Jesus Christ, the fourth kingdom must include far more than what we call in history, the Roman Empire. That is why it is never so named in the Bible. We will be much closer if we simply refer to is as "the West." That is the way we identify it today, "the Western nations." The prophecy centers upon what happens to these nations, especially as they near the end.

In our next study we shall give ourselves to the details that Daniel reveals about the West and its remarkable place in the processes of history. But I do want to point out one thing before we leave this, and that is that, in this image, there is a decreasing value from the head down to the feet. It begins with a head of gold, then silver, then bronze and, finally, iron -- so it is decreasing in value but increasing in strength -- until the final stage is reached, which is a mingling of iron and clay and there is no strength at all.

That is surely significant to us. It is important to note that Nebuchadnezzar was the most autocratic king to ever rule in all the world. Daniel himself says that God had given him authority over all the earth and he had the right to rule over all the world. He did not exercise it to that extent, but he exercised it to whatever degree he chose. No one ever withstood him; it was his successors who were finally overthrown by the Medio-Persian empire, as Daniel had predicted.

All this indicates that in God's sight the most perfect form of government is not a democracy but a monarchy. A monarchy is headed by a single individual whose will obtains throughout the length and breadth of his kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar symbolizes God's ideal of the best kind of government, but Nebuchadnezzar was by no means God's ideal monarch. This is made clear by other events in this book. The value of a monarchy is directly related to the individual who occupies the throne. Ultimately God's kingdom will prevail over all the earth with the right monarch on the throne -- the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why Paul refers to him as "that blessed and only sovereign" (1 Tim 6:15 RSV) who is about to appear -- the "Potentate" he is called in the King James Version, the Lord Jesus Christ, God's rightful King.

There are many fascinating things to be said about this, but I shall close with this emphasis: The remarkable thing about this dream is not these four divisions of man's kingdoms, but the strange, final kingdom which comes out of heaven as a stone cut without hands, and which strikes the feet of the image to destroy it.

It symbolizes what the Bible universally declares, that all the kingdoms of men will end at the appearing of God's kingdom. The prayer we so frequently pray in the Lord's prayer will at last be answered: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," (Matt 6:10b RSV). This is what gives hope to our day.

We must be realistic as we look at life and realize that the investments we make in earthly kingdoms can, at best, only be of temporary value to us. The time that we have given to us is to be spent in that which lasts. The Bible does not prohibit making investment in earthly affairs, but it does urge that we handle these things realistically. Do not get yourself involved in them too deeply. Do not live for these things and make them a life-or-death matter. No, hold these things loosely and, rather, be sure you are investing in that which endures. Is this not what Jesus meant when he said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth but rather lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where rust does not corrupt, and moths do not eat, nor thieves break in to steal," (cf, Matt 6:19-20). Our effort is to be invested in that which will endure beyond us, be worthwhile and meaningful far beyond the limits of this life.

That is why these predictive matters are set before us. There is a fatal flaw in man's kingdom. It is built upon a false foundation. As Jesus pointed out in the story of the two houses, one built on the rock and the other on sand, the ultimate explanation of what survives is the foundation. It is only that which is built upon the rock that will endure. Man's day, and man's kingdom (the Great Society, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier, and all the other political slogans that we are so used to) shall all be blown away before the wind. They are not wrong. There are elements in these that we must become involved in. But the final question is: "Where has the thrust of your life been put?"

These prophetic matters are given, not to make us curious but to make us cautious; to lead us to invest in that which endures, to have a part in that which is real. Surely the greatest tragedy of all is to arrive at the end of life and, in the judgment of an eternal God, discover we have lived a wasted life. These things are needed, and are set before us, that we might have something by which to measure our life and help us distinguish between the temporary and the eternal, between the passing and the permanent. May God grant wisdom and understanding as we study these things together, to learn what is to happen in the days to come.

We are now in the second chapter of Daniel, trying to determine the meaning of the great dream image which was first seen by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and later recalled to him by Daniel the prophet, and interpreted for him. As we saw, this great dream image, consisting of a man divided into four sections, with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of mingled iron and clay, constitutes a great outline of history into which all other prophetic passages of the Scripture can be placed. It is our task now to investigate Daniel's interpretation of this dream and especially that part of it which has to do with the fourth division, the fourth kingdom which is to come upon the earth.

Beginning with Verse 36 of Chapter 2, Daniel gives us the interpretation of the dream.

"This was the dream; 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 sons of men, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, making you rule over them all -- you are the head of gold. After you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth." (Dan 2:36-39 RSV)

We saw in our last study that these first three divisions of the image have been already fulfilled in history, and were fulfilled exactly according to the pattern predicted here by Daniel. The head of gold was the empire of Babylon, headed by Nebuchadnezzar, and existing within Daniel's own lifetime. It was superseded as the world power of its day by the divided kingdom of Media-Persia -- first the Medes and then the Persians coming in -- and yet history recognizes it as essentially one kingdom, though there were two ruling families involved. Then this was followed, as we know now from history, by the rapid-fire conquests of Alexander the Great, who swept across the world of his day, conquering the known kingdoms of earth and weeping because he had no other worlds to conquer. This was the "belly and thighs of bronze."

Then Daniel comes to the fourth kingdom. This is of peculiar interest to us because it is within the scope of this kingdom that we still live. As Daniel made clear, this kingdom is to last from the disappearance of the Grecian empire until the time when God sets up his own kingdom on earth. As we focus now on this fourth kingdom we shall have several matters of intense interest suggested to us. Let us look first at Verse 40:

"And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things; and like iron which crushes, it shall break and crush all these." (Dan 2:40 RSV)

This is the prophet's interpretation of the fourth division of the image consisting of the legs of iron and extending clear down to the feet and toes of mingled iron and clay. This was to be the fourth empire. There are several things we can note immediately about this. History interprets a good deal of this for us as we look backward from our twentieth-century vantage point. It is clear now to us, as it must have been even to those in our Lord's day who read the prophecy of Daniel, that the fourth kingdom began with the Roman Empire.

For three hundred years before Christ, the city-state of Rome, located on the banks of the Tiber River in Italy, had already dominated other city-states and tribes of Italy and had begun to thrust out into the Mediterranean world. Gradually its legions conquered territory throughout Italy and around southern France and into Spain, had crossed the seas into North Africa, was doing long-term battle with Carthage, and had begun to thrust out into Egypt, Greece, and east, almost to India. By our Lord's day, this kingdom was enthroned as the dominant power of earth. It is clear to us, as we look at history, that the Roman Empire was aptly symbolized by the iron of this image, because, as the prophet said, iron breaks to pieces and shatters and crushes. Anyone who has read the story of the Roman Empire knows how characteristic this was of Rome. They were dominated by a passion to rule the world and they had the power to achieve it and to continue that rule. Roman legions were known everywhere for their ability to fight, to march in and overwhelm all opposition, utilizing the short sword which became the famous mark of the Roman soldier. The Roman phalanxes and legions moved throughout the earth and eventually dominated every kingdom known to the Western world.

The chief mark of Rome was its resolute will to conquer. Will Durant, in his remarkable volumes, The History of Civilization, tells us that the Roman senate sometimes deliberately began wars in order to acquire further wealth for Rome or to quiet unrest among the plebeians and slaves at home. The Roman legions became synonymous with peace so that men boasted of what they called the Pax Romana, a peace of conquest by military might which kept everything stable and quiet throughout the Empire.

The third thing suggested by this prophecy is that Rome would stamp its image upon the entire Western world. Here is where we of the Western hemisphere enter the picture. The Roman government was marked by a passion to establish colonies and then to defend these colonies by military power. That characteristic of Rome has continued throughout the history of the West. Western nations have been colonizing nations who have reached to the uttermost parts of the earth. With the colonizing came the necessity for great military power to protect the trade routes and the colonies from being overwhelmed by others. Thus the Western nations became mighty militarily, protecting the colonies which they had established.

The Roman Empire was soon divided into two portions, corresponding to the two legs of iron of this image. One division was in the West, centered in Rome; the other was in the East, with Constantinople its capital, and became the Byzantine empire which colonized toward the north, into Russia, and into the east, to Persia, Iran and Iraq, and spread Byzantine culture all through the area.

In the West the empire centered on Rome. It first mastered the whole of the Mediterranean area and Western Europe and even after the fall of Rome itself continued to dominate as the kingdoms of Europe, the monarchies of France, of Germany, Spain, Great Britain and Portugal. These, in turn, began to reach into the western hemisphere after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. The interesting thing now is that every single nation of this western hemisphere was begun by one of the nations of the Roman empire. Our entire Western world is Roman to the core. You can see that even in our own history. We have a senate which is one of the fundamental bases of our government, and which we copied directly from the Roman senate. The very republican form of the United States government is based upon the republic of Rome. Our courts, our laws, our military, all reflect the courts and laws and military forms of the Roman Empire. We even derived our national symbol from Rome. The American eagle is known throughout the world as were the Roman eagles in the days of Rome's power.

In Europe today there is an even more remarkable tracing of Roman heritage possible. As students of history know, the Goths and Huns and other pagan tribes of the north swept down over the Alps, overran Italy, and finally sacked the city of Rome. There emerged from this chaos what is called in history, "the Holy Roman Empire." The Church became a stabilizing influence through all that time and the Pope emerged finally as a Roman ruler. It was still Roman, but it was now a religious empire. The seat of imperial government was transferred first to France, then into Spain, and finally ended up in Germany. The German rulers were called Kaisers, which is simply the German spelling of the word Caesar, so it is apparent that the Roman Caesars were perpetuated in the Western empires as the Kaisers.

A strikingly similar thing took place in the Eastern empire under the Byzantines. In about 1453 the city of Constantinople was sacked by the northern tribes and the seat of government was ultimately transferred from Constantinople to Russia. The ruler was called the Czar, which is the Russian spelling of Caesar. Thus the Roman Caesars have continued right up to modern times. What to me is a fascinating footnote to history is that both of these divisions of the Roman Empire, in its imperial form, ended in the same year, 1918, when the Russian Czar was overthrown and murdered by the Bolsheviks as they came into power in Russia, and the German empire with the Kaisers ended at the close of World War I. So we have the whole of the Western world as an extension of this mighty fourth kingdom which Daniel saw was to dominate the earth. It is stamped with the Roman image from that day to this. It is still Roman, and only recently has ceased to colonize, and thus dominate, major parts of the earth. Vast military power is characteristic of the fourth kingdom throughout its duration.

In Verse 41 a strange and remarkable new element enters into the picture. Daniel says to the king,

"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 miry clay." (Dan 2:41 RSV)

There was a sense in which the Western kingdom was "divided" between the Roman and Byzantine Empires, analogous to the legs of the image, but now here is a different division. This is a division in character which comes in at the foot stage of the image. The legs were made of solid iron, but Daniel saw that the feet of the image were made of mingled iron and clay.

What is the symbolism of this? The clay is obviously the opposite of iron. Iron symbolized an imperialistic attitude or form of government,the power and might of imperialism seeking to dominate and to rule by brute force and strength. Clay, on the other hand, is weak, pliable, easily molded. Most Bible scholars are right in identifying this as the principle of democracy. Perhaps that may cause us to bristle a bit. We do not like to see democracy attacked. We like to think that the reason the United States and Great Britain have become strong nations is because they are democracies; that it is the voice of the people that gives strength. But if you look at history, especially the history of the West, in the light of the revelation of Scripture and in an honest evaluation of democracy, you will discover that democracy is not really a very good form of government.

The voice of the people is always a fickle voice. It is easily molded, like clay. That is what politicians capitalize on. Every election year you can hear them shaping the clay, molding the clay into the opinions they want them to have. Today we are subject to the tremendous pressures of mass media which play upon our minds to mold the will of the people. That is the weakness of democracy.

Let me share with you an interesting quotation which I think you will find most significant, especially in view of when it was uttered. It is called, Why Democracies Fail.

Democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasure. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefit from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship, and then a monarchy.

That sounds as if it was written today, does it not? But it was written by professor Alexander Fraser Tytler, nearly two centuries ago, while our thirteen original states were still colonies of Great Britain. At the time he was writing of the decline and fall of the Athenian Republic, over two thousand years before. It is a clear and honest evaluation of democracy. No, it is not democracy that has made the United States great; it is another element -- the same element which produced greatness for a considerable period in Great Britain and other nations. Scripture reveals that the element which makes a nation great is righteousness. When righteousness pervades a nation that people is strong; without righteousness it begins to falter. That is why we are seeing our American democracy beginning to totter, stagger, and crumble. The element of righteousness is fast disappearing within it. Democracy has no power to stand or be strong unless righteousness is there. This one thing God's word clearly reveals: "righteousness exalts a nation, but shame is a reproach to any people." In the words of the motto of the state of Hawaii, Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono, which means, "The life of the land is preserved in righteousness." That has been the fundamental secret of the strength of the United States.

In this passage the prophet Daniel says the kingdom is to be so divided. In the final stage of this collection of Western nations, dominated by Roman principles, there would come a struggle for dominance between two principles: the iron of imperialism, and the clay of democracy. These two things would struggle and attempt to mingle together.

As we look back in history we can see that World War I marked the beginning of the end of an era. The end of that war was characterized by the fall of crowned heads all over the world. Many monarchies ended then, either abruptly and completely, or they were transformed into representative monarchies in which the king became merely a figurehead, exercising no power or authority at all.

World War II completed the picture; the age of kings ended in that interim period. From that time on there has been clearly emerging a new age, a new condition among nations. It is described for us in Verses 42-43, when we come to the very toes of the feet of the image.

"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 miry clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay." (Dan 2:42-43 RSV)

The phrase translated in the RSV, "in marriage," is not too accurate. Literally, it is (in the King James), "they shall mingle together with the seed of men," which seems to imply a universal application, i.e., this is a grass roots matter, it permeates the masses. In the stream of humanity these two conflicting currents struggle together, and as we near the end of this fourth kingdom it becomes a struggle at the grass roots level. It strikes me as highly significant that this is what we see arising in our own day. I am not going to be dogmatic on this as being positively the fulfillment of this prophecy, but the trend seems to be unmistakable.

What is happening in the nations of the West in our day? Well, clearly they are torn by domestic strife. They are being weakened by internal conflict. There is enough iron yet to threaten with the power and strength of ancient Rome, but there is enough clay to weaken and paralyze so that nations are unable to accomplish their objectives. Thus we have the sight of great and powerful nations which are almost helpless to carry out what they set themselves to do. They are being throttled and thwarted by internal weakness, by struggles breaking out from within, by the unmixable principle of the voice of the people and the iron will of authority in conflict.

This is what sets the stage for the final act of history. By this the world becomes ripe for the invasion of God. That last act is given to us now in Verses 44-45:

"And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever; 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 hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure." (Dan 2:44-45 RSV)

Our attention is immediately drawn to this opening phrase, "And in the days of those kings." What kings? There have not been any kings mentioned in this passage at all. Kingdoms, yes; kings, no. "In the days of those kings" -- what a cryptic reference this is. But as you compare this passage with other passages in the seventh chapter of Daniel. and also with the book of Revelation, it becomes clear that the final form of the Western confederacy of nations will be the emergence of a confederation of ten nations, here symbolized by the ten toes of this image. The only possible antecedent for the reference to "those kings" is the ten toes of the image. In the days when the ten-kingdomed empire emerges as the final form of the fourth kingdom (essentially Roman in its emphasis and characteristic), then God, in those days, shall set up a kingdom which shall not be destroyed.

Daniel saw in the dream that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and struck the entire image crumbled, suddenly, dramatically. Then the stone grew until it became a mountain that filled the entire earth. It is not difficult to interpret this imagery. The stone is identified for us clearly in Scripture. The Apostle Peter gathers up several passages out of the Old Testament and identifies the stone for us. In First Peter, Chapter 2, Verse 6, he says:

For it stands in scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame." (1 Pet 2:6 RSV)

To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner," and "A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall;" for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

What a remarkable revelation of the authority, power, and right of Jesus Christ to rule among the kingdoms of men! He is the stone that comes striking suddenly into the affairs of mankind -- God once again intervening dramatically in history to destroy all that man has built through the centuries. The entire structure of civilization collapses and crumbles at the impact of this mighty stone, and the stone in turn grows to fill the entire earth. This clearly introduces the millennial kingdom which has been prophesied by the prophets.

What is our part in all this? If we stand, as I believe this passage clearly suggests, at the termination of civilization as we know it; if we are approaching the end of man's day and God's program which the prophets have long predicted is at last to be established, then Peter suggests that it is our privilege now to rejoice in that "chosen and precious stone." The question that impinges upon us in this hour is, What is our relationship to that stone? Is he the foundation for our life, or is he coming to destroy all that we have built? Is the coming of the Lord to us a thrill, or is it a threat? Is he coming as a friend, or as a foe?

The purpose of prophecy is to help us keep our lives balanced, now. What are you going to do tomorrow? You say. "Well, I've got to go back and make a living." Yes, God is interested in you making a living. Prophecy does not remove us from the need to make a living. But it does face us up to the question: What else am I doing tomorrow, and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and throughout the whole week? Even those who are not Christian will be engaged in making a living. But, if I belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, what else is involved? Am I doing nothing more than simply trying to get ahead, like the rest of the world? Or am I also investing in eternal issues that will last beyond this time? That is the question which is important. It is a tragic possibility that one may know the Lord, and know the Scriptures, and yet arrive at the end of life and, looking back, find that much of it has been wasted because it was invested only in that which was to crumble and be dispersed to the winds at the coming of Christ.

I find the great hunger of every heart is to do something permanent, something worthwhile, something enduring. These great prophetic Scriptures are designed to face us up with the question: Am I now being an available instrument for the working of God to do his purpose, in terms of my work, my school, my play, or whatever? Am I walking in harmony to the eternal program God is working out through the forces of history? Or am I related only to that which ultimately shall crumble and be scattered to the four winds?

May 2, 2004.

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