This sermon is a part of a series on the Book of Daniel entitled "A Challenged and Challenging Faith." They were written and preached from the premise that during times of crisis and difficulty, when the believer's faith stance is challenged, an authentic and maturing faith in God enables the believer to rise to the occasion, meet the challenge, and issue a challenge of his or her own.
Within the life of every believer, there is a moment or moments when you are looked to for leadership, for guidance, for expertise, and for know-how. You are expected to step up to the plate, to stand in the gap, to deliver, and to provide. These are moments when others are not able to do, to handle, to face, to shoulder, to conquer, to provide, and you are given the opportunity with the hope of being able to do what others could not. In such times, a question is raised, "Can you do any better?" Can you, with the God whom you serve, fare any better? Can you, with your relationship with the Lord, perform, lead, guide, face, endure, or overcome any better than those who don't know the Lord?
These are moments when the relevance and muscularity of your faith are challenged, and you are given the moment to meet the challenge head on.
It is the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. Throughout his life, he is given to dreaming dreams that he can't understand. This is one of those occasions. It is a troubling dream. The depth of its disturbance causes him to call on the court astrologers for help. His particular demand is unique. He doesn't simply ask them for interpretation. He asks them to first tell him what the dream is and then to provide the interpretation. They ask for the dream. They can then give the interpretation. The king insists that they first tell him the dream and then give the interpretation. The astrologers reply that there isn't a man alive who can tell him such a thing. "No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they do not live among people."
Their inability infuriates Nebuchadnezzar. So infuriated is Nebuchadnezzar that he issues a decree to execute all of the wise men of Babylon for false advertisement. They weren't able to do what they had been advertised as being able to do. Here is a dire situation. There is Nebuchadnezzar's need. There's the astrologers' inability. There is the threat of death to all of the wise men, which includes Daniel and his partners. None of the Babylonians have been able to meet the need. The question is whether Daniel and his road dogs can do any better.
As you are listening, I know that you're saying that you'll never be in such a situation. While that may be so, it does not change the fact that in the course of life, there are questions that beg to be answered, and the challenge is for you to answer them. There are problems to be solved, and the challenge is for you to solve them. There are dilemmas to be overcome, and the challenge is for you to overcome them. There are gaps to be filled, and the challenge is for you to fill them. No one else is meant for them. They are yours.
This is the matter of how you view your life. It is the view of life as being a missional one. There is a purpose for your being here. You are meant for something. You are meant to answer something, to solve something, to provide something, to lead something, to discover something, to compose something, to write something, to say something, to translate something, to interpret something, to sing something, to create something, to teach something, to preach something, to administer something, to bear something, to endure something, to overcome something, to transcend something, and in the doing of it, you improve the lives of others under the power of God, for the glory of God.
With the king's decree, men are sent to find and kill Daniel and his friends. Daniel asks the captain of the guard for the reason behind such a harsh decree. After being told, Daniel requests to see the king so that he could tell the king what his dream meant. He would step up to the plate. He would meet the challenge.
As it relates to the flow of the book, this is the first time that Daniel is mentioned as taking on the task of dream interpretation. It's not only something that others are not able to do, but also in terms of the book of Daniel, it is the first time that Daniel is portrayed as interpreting a dream. There are moments when the need is not simply what no one else has done before. It is also what you have never done before. It is facing the unparalleled, the untried, the unattempted, and the unimagined. It is the call to blaze the trail and to set the pace.
Verses 17 to the end of the chapter show how Daniel stepped up to the challenge and reveal how you and I can step up to the challenges that face us.
Get a prayer covering
Daniel goes home, tells his friends what's happening and urges them to pray to God for revelation. Daniel recognizes the importance of the moment and immensity of the need. This cannot be accomplished in the natural. It is in the realm of the spiritual. It requires the aid of someone greater than they. If he is to succeed or even survive, he's going to need the help of God. With such a realization, he enlists the help of others in going to God for help.
In times when you are confronted with facing what others have not faced, cannot face, or will not face, you need to recognize that you are not dealing on the natural level alone. You are operating in the supernatural as well. In order to face the challenge, you need supernatural assistance. You need the help of the supernatural. You need the help of the Lord. When you know that you need the help of the Lord, it's wise to get with some people who know the power of prayer to pray with you. You need to join their faith with yours and bombard heaven with your need.
Daniel needed revelation. He asked his friends to join him in prayer for revelation. Sometimes, the gravity and immensity demand the assistance of others in prayer. The Apostle Paul understood this well. That's why in Romans 15:30-31 he writes, "Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me … Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the Christians there will be willing to accept the donation I am bringing to them." In 1 Thessalonians 5:25, Paul writes, "Dear brothers and sisters, pray for us." In 2 Thessalonians 3:1, he writes, "finally dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to pray for us. Pray first that the Lord's message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. Pray, too, that we will be saved from the wicked and evil people …" In Hebrews 13:18, Paul writes, "Pray for us, for our conscience is clear and we want to live honorably in everything we do. I especially need your prayers right now …"
In the moments of personal challenge, the wise believer is the one who seeks the prayer covering of others and simply says, "Pray for me. I need understanding, pray for me. I need guidance. Pray for me. I need revelation. Pray for me. I need power. Pray for me. I need patience. Pray for me."
Get you a prayer covering. Get with some believers who know the Lord, who believe the Lord, who have a relationship with the Lord, and who have a prayer life with demonstrated results.
Daniel sought the prayers of his friends. Notice the particular request. He urges them to ask the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret. It's their view of God that empowers their prayer to God. He is the God of heaven. He is God in the highest. There's nobody higher than him. There's nobody besides him. There's nobody like him. He is the God of heaven. Regardless of what the Babylonians portray, Yahweh is God. Yahweh is sovereign. What others' gods can't do, Yahweh can. He is the God of heaven.
Your view of God impacts how you approach God. When you are facing what no one else can face, you need to go to somebody who is unlike anybody else. You need the real God. You need God Most High. You need God Almighty. When you know this God, you go knowing that he is the able God.
Notice further that Daniel instructs them to ask God for his mercy. They were not to approach with an attitude of entitlement. They were to approach with recognition of need beyond their merit. They ask for mercy. They ask for his looking upon them with pity. It is to keep something from happening to them that should happen. They are to ask him for his mercy. It would be the right basis to appeal to God. After all, it is the Lord's mercy that kept them from being consumed. The Lord's mercy has endured through all generations. The sun was shining because of the Lord's mercy. The moon and stars glowed at night because of the Lord's mercy. They were alive because of the Lord's mercy. They were elevated to positions of influence because of the Lord's mercy. Therefore, they were to simply go once more before God with a plea for mercy. They were encouraged by the testimonies of others concerning the Lord's mercies. Psalm 25:10: "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies." Psalm 32:10: "He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about." Psalm 36:5: "Thy mercy O Lord is in the heavens, and thy faithfulness unto the clouds." Psalm 86:15: "For great is your mercy towards me, and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell."
At the request of their friend, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael pray to God for his mercy and for revelation. That night, the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision. It is here that we see the second thing.
Be open to the revelation that God gives
God answers the friends' prayer through a vision that God gives to Daniel. Daniel receives the vision. He's open to the revelation that God gives him. He does not question what God shows. He simply accepts it. He receives it. He takes it.
When you pray to God, you must believe that God will answer. Your belief in God's willingness and ability to answer must be matched by openness to God's answer. How open are you to God's answer? How available are you to God's direction and guidance? When God gives revelation, you must be open to it. This is especially true when you are confronting the unparalleled and untravelled. When you dare to go where no one else has gone or to attempt what no one else has attempted and God gives you revelation, it will involve hearing what no one has ever heard. You must trust God enough to be open to what he reveals.
In a posture of receptivity and openness, God speaks to Daniel in the form of a vision. Daniel receives it. He takes his reception to another level.
Give God praise prospectively
Daniel immediately praises God. Listen to his praise of God: "Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he alone has all wisdom and power. He determines the course of world events; he removes kings and sets others on the throne. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. He reveals the deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he himself is surrounded by light. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded."
Daniel praises God prospectively. He has yet to see the king. He has yet to receive any indication that what he's received from the Lord is correct from the king. Yet Daniel praises God in advance. He does so because while he has yet to speak to Nebuchadnezzar, he has heard from the Lord. His knowledge of the Lord causes him to trust what the Lord has given to him. Therefore, he praises God prospectively. He praises God in advance.
When you go to God and God responds, there ought to be some praise that you give to God prospectively. It is a praise in advance of outcome. It is a praise in advance of seeing the results of His direction. It is a praise prior to things being turned around. It is a praise of God based upon the character of God. Look at Daniel's praise. Look at where it starts. It starts with who God is. He is the God of all wisdom and power. He is the determiner of history. He is the revealer of the deep and mysterious things. Because God is who God is, Daniel receives what God has given him.
It's the knowledge of the person of God that moves you to praise God prospectively.
Go with what God gives you
Having received the revelation and praised God for the revelation, Daniel went with what God gave him. After you've praised God prospectively, you've got to put legs on your praise. Daniel puts legs on his praise. He goes to see Arioch who had ordered his execution. He tells him to not kill the wise men, to take him to the king, because he would tell the king his dream.
My friend, you must put some legs with your praise. If God is all that you say that God is, then there should be some personal action on your part that demonstrates your belief in the content of your praise. You must go with what God gives you. You must approach matters with the talent that God gives you, the direction that God gives you, the insight that God gives you, the wisdom that God gives you, and the discernment that God gives you. You must trust what God gives you to be enough for the challenge.
Sometimes what God gives you may look small in the eyes of the world, but you must go with what God gives you and trust it to be enough. All that David had was a slingshot and five smooth stones to take on what everyone else ran from.
When he reaches the king, the king asks him, "Is this true? Can you tell me what my dream was and what it means?" Can't you hear the question behind the question? "Daniel, I went to my cabinet. I went to my astrologers. They couldn't help. They couldn't do the job. They couldn't fit the bill. Can you do any better?"
Listen to Daniel's answer, "There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or fortune-tellers who can tell the king such things. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future. Now I will tell you your dream and the visions you saw as you lay on your bed."
Daniel informs the king in advance that this isn't about what men are able to do. This isn't about what their gods can do. This isn't about Apsu, Tiamat, Ea, Marduk , Sin, Shamash, Ishtar, Adad, Nabu, or Kingu. They are powerless and impotent to help. This is about Yahweh. It is about who Yahweh is and what Yahweh is doing. Daniel places the eyes of the king where they need to be. His eyes need not be on Daniel. They need to be on the Lord. Daniel recognizes that he's on mission with God. Part of his mission is that God is acknowledged as he steps up to the challenge.
Openly acknowledge God
As Daniel acknowledges God before Nebuchadnezzar, you and I, as believers, are called to do the same. It is our lot to be where we are and to have the opportunities that we have so that people may be directed to him. It is not so much that we are seen. It is really so that God is known and acknowledged. Daniel is very clear about this being a God-thing. The revelation will not come from Daniel. It will come from Daniel's God. The secret things belong to him. He is the only wise God from whom all wisdom comes. In wisdom, God made everything. By wisdom, God laid the foundations of the earth. By understanding, he set the heavens in place. The information that Daniel will give will have come from God. The crisis that will have been abated will be due to God.
God is looking for some men and women who have no problem openly acknowledging Him. He's looking for some men and women who have no problem saying the skill that I bring to the table comes from God. The wisdom that I bring to the group comes from God. The solution to the problem has come from God. The help that I am comes from God. My skill comes from God. My sensitivity comes from God. My passion comes from God. My insight comes from God. My anointing comes from God. Whatever impact I'll have will be because of God. Whatever help I'll be will be because of God.
I'm not up to it, but God is. I can't see it, but God can. I can't produce it, but God can. This isn't about what I can do. It's about what God is able to do through me. I may not be able to do better, but the God I serve is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I ask or even think according to the power that is at work within me. With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible to those who believe.
In verse 31, Daniel proceeds to tell Nebuchadnezzar the dream. At verse 36, he tells Nebuchadnezzar the meaning of the dream. At verse 46, there is Nebuchadnezzar's response. Nebuchadnezzar bows to the ground and worships. He says, "Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret."
Because Daniel acknowledged God before Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar is led to acknowledge God. Daniel's giving God credit ahead of time sets the stage for Nebuchadnezzar to acknowledge God after the fact. God can do better. God is better. God is higher. Bel is not the god of gods. Ishtar is not the god of gods. Nabu is not the god of gods. Shamash is not the god of gods. Marduk is not the god of gods. Kingu is not the god of gods. Yahweh is the God of gods. He is the Lord over kings. He is sovereign. He rules over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in his hands and no one can withstand him. Nebuchadnezzar had to declare that Yahweh can do better and that things are better with him.
When you step up to the plate and acknowledge that this is about God, God gets the chance to show himself strong. God has room to glorify Himself in you. People see you work, but it's God who gets the glory. People hear you speak, but it's God who gets the glory. People watch you operate and maneuver, but it's God who gets the glory. The problems are solved but it's God who gets the glory.
When you acknowledge God and give God room to glorify himself in you, somebody will come to know that truly your God is the real God. Jesus put it this way: "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Somebody discovers that God is better and that things are better with God.
That's how Jesus lived his life. He came to glorify God. He came as an open acknowledgment of the glory of God. Can't you hear John write, "And the word was made flesh and we beheld his glory, as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth"? Everywhere he went he acknowledged and glorified God. Hear him in John 5:17: "My Father is always at his work to this day, and I too am working…The Son of Man can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees the Father doing because whatever the Father does, the Son also does." Listen to Jesus acknowledge God the Father in John 7:16: "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me." He lived his life as a living example and conduit of the power and glory of God. He stepped up to the plate. He stood in the gap. He took on what no one else could take on. He faced what no one else could face. He fought what no one else could fight. He healed what no one else could heal. He cast out what no one else could cast out. He raised what no one else could raise. He did it, giving glory to God. He showed that he could do better and that with him things can be better. The woman with the issue of blood discovered that Jesus could do better and things are better with him. The man born blind discovered that Jesus could do better and that things are better with him. The woman with the infirmity for 38 years discovered that Jesus could do better and that things are better with Jesus. As he approached his date with the cross on our behalf, his concern was the glory of God. Hear Jesus praying in John 12:28: "Father, glorify thy name." Hear Jesus praying in John 17: "I glorified you on the earth, having accomplished the work you have given me to do." Jesus took on what he took on at Calvary to the glory of God. God glorified himself in Jesus at Calvary. He glorified himself in Jesus on Sunday morning by raising him from the dead. God glorified himself in Jesus by highly exalting Jesus and giving him a name that's above every name; that at the name of Jesus, every knee must bow and every tongue must confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
I'm glad that Jesus stepped up to the plate and showed that he could do better and that things are better with him. Somebody can testify that you've found out for yourself that Jesus is better and that things are better with him. With him, there's a better life. With him, there are better promises. With him, there's a better covenant. With him, there's a better joy. With him, there's a better peace. With him, there's a better hope. With him, there's a better love.
I want the world to know if you're looking for better, it's in Jesus. I want to live so that the world knows that better is in Jesus. I want them to know that there's nobody like him. I want them to know how great he is, how wonderful he is, how awesome he is, how true he is, how loving he is, how gracious he is, how powerful he is, how magnificent he is, how merciful he is…. I want them to know his splendor, his might, his majesty, and his glory.
Claude Alexander is the Senior Pastor of The Park Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.