Daniel: Being a stand up person in a bow down world (week 4)

Daniel: the stone not cut by human hands. 
Daniel 2:31-49


This week we begin to look more closely at the content and interpretation of the dream that strikes fear into King Nebuchadnezzar. As we venture into the world of prophecy it is interesting to note that many scholars date the book of Daniel as later for the pure fact that his prophecy was so accurate and because despite the evidence to the contrary their worldview cannot entertain the possibility that there is a God who wants to communicate with humanity. As Christians, we believe in such a God and in fact one of the most compelling evidences for the credibility of Christianity is indeed the fulfilment of prophecy that we find in scripture.

Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a frightening statue in the form of a human whose parts are made from different materials.  It’s head is gold,  its chest and arms silver, its middle and thighs bronze and its legs and feet made up of a composite of iron + clay.  The four distinct parts of the statue represent four successive empires which Daniel will go on to explain.  Special focus within the dream is given to the first (golden head) and the last of the empires (feet of iron and clay).  We know from Daniels interpretation that the golden head is Babylon; the  rich and glorious empire established under Nebuchadnezzar and history testifies to the succession of empires that each of the other parts represent. Babylon ruled for 70 years followed by the Medo-Persian Empire  (200 years), then the Greek empire (130 years) and finally the Roman Empire. What Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t quite truly get yet is that he would not be succeeded but rather superseded.  The glorious and powerful Babylon will inevitably be overtaken.  His power will not last. Although he may think of himself as a god the simple fact is that he is not.  And indeed the overriding theme of the entire statue itself is that man-made governments and systems of power are essentially all vulnerable, unstable and temporal.  Every system of government is flawed because every human being is flawed.

And then comes the stone.  A stone that is neither a part of the statue nor cut by human hands. It comes from elsewhere.  The stone strikes at the feet of the statue (Roman Empire) and the entire statue is broken into minute pieces and swept away as though it had never existed.  But the stone grows to become an all-consuming mountain that covers the whole earth. Daniel explains to Nebuchadnezzar that this stone represents God and His Kingdom.  As those on the other side of Christ we can see very clearly who the stone is.  Peter refers to Jesus as “living stone” in 1 Peter 2:4-8, rejected by men but chosen by God.  The stone that “causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall”. In Luke 20:9-18 Jesus himself tells the parable of the owner of a vineyard whose son is killed by the tenants of the vineyard. The owner will then have those tenants killed and give the vineyard others.  After sharing this parable Jesus then says, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”  (v17-18)  Jesus is illustrating a point to the teachers of the law and chief priests; that those who try to exert power and control over others by making themselves gods will inevitably meet their destruction.   It is the same point that God in his grace was trying to communicate to Nebuchadnezzar.   Flawed humanity’s only hope for the world cannot be found in man’s power but in God’s supernatural power. In Christ “the living stone”.

>N.B There is a lot more that can be written about the dream and it’s interpretation and we would urge anyone interested to have a look at John Lennox book “Against the Flow” or The Bible Speaks Today “The message of Daniel.”

Listen to the sermon here

For discussion in communities:

Question to open discussion:

Do you still believe that God communicates to us through prophecy today? How do you think we should approach prophecy and scripture in terms of discerning God’s guidance in our lives?

Read together Daniel 2:31-49 and Luke 20:9-18.

Q1. What are some things that you notice about the dream and its interpretation?
Q2.  What do you notice about the stone?  In what ways does Jesus exemplify the stone?
Q3. What do you think God’s purpose was in giving Nebuchadnezzar this dream?
Q4. What do you think the dream and its interpretation meant to Daniel?
Q5. Read 1 Peter 2:4-8, if you were to describe to someone God’s kingdom in comparison to earthly kingdoms how would you describe it?
Q6. What things do you notice about King Nebuchadnezzar’s response to Daniel’s interpretation?
Q7. The major theme of the dream is the frailty of human power and man-made systems of governing….what do you think our approach should be as Christians to the governing powers within our society?
Q8. One commentator makes the interesting observation about the statue that it moves from the head which is solid and as it progresses it becomes increasingly weaker and fragmented.  He makes the point that on the whole history degenerates.  What evidence might we see of this in our time?  What do you think our response should be as Christians to this?

For accountability + prayer:

You can use these discussion questions either in smaller prayer and accountability groups or as a part of your own individual devotional life.

Q1. Share with each other what it is about Christianity that provides you with reassurance and confidence in its truth.
Q2. Where in your life could you demonstrate the Kingdom of God.
Q3. How might you participate in this failing Kingdom whilst testifying to the eternal Kingdom?

Prayer together for the wisdom

For personal devotion + study:

Monday:  Meditate upon 1 Peter 2:4-5

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Tuesday: rejected by humans but chosen by God…

Reflect upon the myriad of ways that Jesus experienced rejection.  Isnt it comforting to know that if and when we experience rejection especially for being a follower of Christ or for choosing to make different choices than those around us because of our commitment to Christ that Jesus totally gets the experience of that.

Wednesday: precious to him…

We get the sense from scripture that one of the reasons as to why Jesus could endure such rejection was because He knew just how precious He was to the Father. It was the relationship that both anchored Him and gave Him the courage to undertake His mission. Do you understand how precious you are to God? How do you know that you are precious to Him?

Thursday: you also, like living stones…

There are two things interesting about this phrase. Firstly the ‘you also’ referring to us being like Christ. Jesus is our model for living. We are called to mimic Him. And secondly the verb “living” is an interesting way to describe stones. Living implies activity as opposed to inactive and animate as opposed to inanimate. We are to be active in our imitating of Christ. When do you think God might be calling you to be more active?

Friday: Being built into a spiritual house..

The reference that Peter is making here is to the old testament temple where God’s presence dwelt. The meaning is that christians together become a place where God’s presence is both manifest and worshipped. One stone on its own is not sufficient to build a house but rather the many stones work together to make God known in the world. How do you work with other believers to make Gods presence known in the world?

Saturday: Offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus…

There are a few places in the New Testament where the authors talk about us as believers offereing spiritual sacrifices. Read these verses and meditate upon what it means to offer spiritual sacrficies to God trhough Jesus. Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 13:15-17.