Summary: We are comforted knowing God is in control.
Imagine a set of scales. On one side, let us put all your struggles. Maybe you had parents who were neglectful, mean, or played favorites. Add the dead-end job and the hateful boss who has been promoted beyond his ability. Some would include a bad marriage or rebellious children. There are bad days, bad health, and bad breaks. Stack them up. That side of the scale hits bottom.
On the other side let us put the sovereignty of God. You place on the scale the reality that, despite appearances, God is in control; just that one truth. The side holding all your burdens begins to rise. With the sovereignty of God comes the weighty truth that He is a powerful God, more powerful than anything on the other side. The sovereignty of God reveals that He has more power than the illness that will not release your body, or the person from the past or the present who sows lies about you in your psyche. As a growing understanding of the sovereignty of God begins to add truth to your life, it becomes more influential. One outcome is you are comforted knowing God is in control.
In Daniel, God’s people are in a foreign land under the rule of a dictator who has total control over their lives. He can be exceedingly prideful and deadly when crossed. The story of Daniel’s three friends tossed into a burning furnace for not bowing to the golden statue of King Nebuchadnezzar is one example of his ferocity.
Daniel 4 is a word to God’s people that God protects His people in spite of their helplessness before a seemingly all-powerful human ruler. On one side of the scales it appears that Nebuchadnezzar controls their fate. But the following story of the King’s dream and madness rips away the façade and shows the reality of who is in control. It is God, not Nebuchadnezzar, who calls the shots. The reality of God’s sovereignty is to comfort God’s people. I have divided the chapter into five parts. Let us go through them quickly and then we will look at how His sovereignty comforts us.
I. PRAISE (DANIEL 4:1-3)
To those of every people, nation, and language, who live in all the earth:
May your prosperity increase. (2) I am pleased to tell you about the miracles and wonders the Most High God has done for me. (3) How great are His miracles, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.
There is debate over who this Nebuchadnezzar is but we will leave that for the scholars. This is a remarkable chapter because it is an official Babylonian document that is included in the Word of God; no prophet, priest, or Israelite king wrote this chapter. It is the only chapter in the Bible where the author is not of one of those offices but a Gentile king. What he writes we would call in our day a witnessing tract of his personal story of how he became a follower of the God of Israel. You could do this. Go to www.mostimportantthing.org and put your story of how you came to salvation in Christ. I will give you some cards to give to others to direct them to the web site to read your story. Nebuchadnezzar thinks he is a big deal but he learns only God has an eternal kingdom and His rule lasts for all of time and eternity.
II. INTERPRETER (DANIEL 4:4-18)
(4) I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace. (5) I had a dream, and it frightened me; while in my bed, the images and visions in my mind alarmed me.
Nebuchadnezzar had conquered his enemies, he built two of what we now call the Seven Wonders of the World, and his political affairs were working smoothly. He had outward and inward satisfaction and peace but this dream was about to reveal that it was a false peace:
(6) So I issued a decree to bring all the wise men of Babylon to me in order that they might make the dream's interpretation known to me. (7) When the diviner-priests, mediums, Chaldeans, and astrologers came in, I told them the dream, but they could not make its interpretation known to me. (8) Finally Daniel, named Belteshazzar after the name of my god—and the spirit of the holy gods is in him—came before me. I told him the dream: (9) Belteshazzar, head of the diviners, because I know that you have a spirit of the holy gods and that no mystery puzzles you, explain to me the visions of my dream that I saw, and its interpretation.
Why did Nebuchadnezzar take a different approach with the wise men of Babylon this time than he did in chapter 2? Why did he not go to the top man, Daniel, to begin with? The author does not give us that information. It is not important to the truth Daniel wants to teach God’s people. The fact that the Babylonian wise men again fail to interpret the dream, but Daniel knows, teaches that God’s man is superior to Nebuchadnezzar’s men. God’s court rules over the earthly king’s court. That is what we need to know. The rest is inconsequential speculation.