Faithful Living in An Unsympathetic World – Part 2 – Sermon – Rev. Alex Moir

WELCOME

Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)

Call to Worship

“For Christ ends the law and brings righteousness for everyone who has faith.”   

— Romans 10:4

Prayer

As we are reminded of the pivotal role Your Son has played in our lives we come to this place, our providing Father, to celebrate this “life to the fullest” that His act of sacrifice has made possible.  As we inhabit an attitude of worship we humbly pray for Your holy presence as our guide.  It is in the name Jesus the anointed we pray … amen.

Song

Today's Message: Faithful Living in an Unsympathetic World – Part 2

Scripture Reading: Daniel 2

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

1 In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. 2 So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, 3 he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.”

4 Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

5 The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. 6 But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”

7 Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

8 Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: 9 If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.”

10 The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. 11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”

12 This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.

14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. 15 He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. 16 At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.

17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him.
23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
    You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Daniel Interprets the Dream

24 Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”

25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”

26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”

27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:

29 “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. 30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.

31 “Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure 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 baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

48 Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.

Our passage begins with a reality that all of us have experienced … a key character in our story is having trouble sleeping due to some bad dreams.  Most of us try to cope with this condition by picking up a book that will induce drowsiness, maybe watching a little boring TV or taking a sleeping pill … but whatever he was trying was not working for King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (circa early sixth century, B.C.).  Further, because of his position of authority his sleeplessness became a problem for the entire kingdom.  It reminds me of a tee shirt somebody gave to my wife Linda a few years ago.  The message on the front read … “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  The King is having bad dreams so suddenly the rest of the kingdom is in turmoil as well.  He summoned all his advisers … “I have had a dream that troubles me …” is what he told them (v. 3).  But it’s what happens next that is most challenging for them.

The response from his advisers is what you might expect … they asked him to tell them the dream so that they could try to figure it out.  But what the king says next is a bit of a surprise … not only does he want the meaning, but he wants them to tell him the dream itself.  I think we might classify this under the category of “unreasonable requests”.  Imagine if you are visiting your doctor with a problem, you hope he can treat … but you refuse to share the nature of the problem.  It is in this awkward situation that the “magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers” of the nation of Babylon find themselves … and the stakes are quite high.  Hear the frightening words of Nebuchadnezzar:

“If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it,
I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.”

We might get to the core of the king’s frustration by looking at our text a little more closely.  Apparently, the sleepless king had reached a frustrating point with his palace advisors.  “You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things …” it states in v. 9.  Such is a common experience for people in power.  People serve these influential individuals often with uncertainty, regularly wondering whether their jobs (and self-worth or their very lives, in this case) are on the line due to their performance.  It is no wonder that they try to “spin” the information for the King.  No doubt Nebuchadnezzar was well aware they were saying what they felt he wanted to hear.  Such a dynamic might create a situation where the person in charge feels that he/she cannot trust anyone.

It is no doubt that the King is “not in a good place” as we would say today … and it presents a dangerous situation for our hero Daniel and his friends, as they are considered part of the court “advisory team.”  When “the decree was issued to put the wise men to death …” (v. 13) Daniel wastes no time in trying to get to the bottom of the issue.  The scripture states that he speaks to Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard (v. 14).  Addressing a person of such a high rank would be a delicate move, so our text suggests that our hero speaks to him using two fascinating terms in the Hebrew language.  The first, rendered “wisdom” isn’t the usual word one would use but at its base means “to conceal” or “to cover” which means Daniel has to choose his words carefully.  The second word at its most basic means “judgment” but to give it more meaning it can also mean “taste” indicating not a full meal but just a sample of food.  In this case, the fewer the details, the more likely this important official may listen.  Daniel shows why he has been chosen to serve in the palace court … he approaches this situation with care and subtlety, knowing that their lives are on the line.  Then he reveals once again how, through his wisdom and people skills, he has developed such a network of contacts.  He goes directly to the king (v. 15) to ask for some time “… so that he might interpret the dream for him.” 

Of course, there is an important step to take in this matter, as we know from our own experiences as believers.  When Daniel returns to his house, he immediately updates his three closest friends (v. 17) and enlists their help “to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery.”  We know that prayer is always an important component as we strive to unlock the mysteries in our own lives.  Daniel is about to utilize a wonderful gift that the Father has conferred upon him … but he dare not do so without the foundational support of praying friends.

By the time we reach v. 24 we realize that our hero has made the decision, after much consultation and prayer, to try to intervene in this matter.  The affirmation has come to him “during the night” at which time “the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision (v. 19).”  This should remind us of the words of the apostle Paul, who called the followers of the One, “ …servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (I Corinthians 4:1).”  We might not see ourselves in this light … but the message that we shall see in a bit, the one that Daniel delivers to a sleepless king, is the same one we have to deliver to troubled people in our own networks.  Such a “peace that passes understanding” seems incredible … but it is attainable for everyone through faith in King Jesus.

Having attained his answer, Daniel initiates contact with the king’s commander of the elite palace guard once again and volunteers to perform the risky task of trying to interpret the king’s dream.  It appears that Arioch instantly agrees and immediately accompanies him into the king’s presence.  His introduction is very interesting … he tells the king that he has “… found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means (v. 25).”  This is a good lesson for all of us.  Insight into life’s challenges from the Father of lights can come from unexpected sources.  May He find us open to different voices!

The charge from Nebuchadnezzar is direct, as we might expect … “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it (v. 25)?”  Daniel’s reply is characteristically humble:

“No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner
can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about,
but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries”

— Daniel 2: 27-28a

What welcome words those must have been to this man who was at his wit’s end!  How precious they are to us, as well.  We may be at the end of our resources, desperate to find a solution to life’s problems … to know that there “is a God in heaven” injects a measure of hope to situations which may have produced only despair.

Daniel’s process in outlining the dream and bringing an interpretation brings relief to the troubled king.  First, our hero prophet confronts the king with the truth of the dream … that the thing keeping him up at night, the end of his kingdom, would indeed happen.  Such was the significance of the statue in the dream (v. 31 and following) made up of many different types of materials.  All of them, from the head made of gold (the current empire of Babylon) to the body down to the feet (representing succeeding empires) would be destroyed.  Perhaps this was all that Nebuchadnezzar had wanted.  It’s my humble guess that, in spite of all of his successes, this powerful man was beginning to understand the dangerous and unpredictable world in which he lived.  He realized that his kingdom had what we would call a “shelf life” and would not last forever.  In his wisdom Daniel begins with this … as we should with the people whose paths we cross on a daily basis.  There is a point everybody reaches where they realize life will change … what they need is someone who is willing to admit that this is so.

But it may be the final word (v. 44) that gives the sleepless king the greatest comfort … and some degree of hope, if he will let it happen:

“In the time of those kings
the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed,
nor will it be left to another people.
It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end,
but it will itself endure forever.”

Daniel’s advice to the king is this … that he will sleep better if he fixes his attention and energies to the “forever kingdom”, outlined for all of us in the “forever book.”  It is his advice to us as well.  Our various “kingdoms”, areas where we feel some authority or satisfaction, will change over time … but there is one kingdom to which we can all contribute which is always progressing. 

Reflect

May the “God of heaven” continue to make His wonderful presence known amongst us … so much so that we serve him faithfully and sleep well, trusting in His guidance for the future.

Prayer

Gracious Father as we note our brother Daniel’s readiness to be helpful in Your kingdom, we once again give thanks for our partnership with You in the care of souls who, like the Babylonian king, have become aware of the brevity of life.  We want to serve as he did, our Father.  Fill our days with an awareness of those around us, who often live in quiet desperation.  May we be ready with a listening ear, an understanding heart … and a love for You, the source of life abundant.   

These moments of praise and reflection afford us an opportunity to process in our minds the living of our days.  We confess, forgiving Father, that there have been occasions when we have acted and thought in ways that have not brought honour to Your kingdom.  As we become increasingly aware of our calling, so remind us that You are not absent from any moment of our lives.

As we close our prayer this final day of a world event like the Olympiad, we have been reminded again that, in spite of the cultural diversity in our world, there are some experiences common to all of us.  We pray for a world that desperately needs a purpose and a cleansing that only You can bring.  Continue to loosen Your Spirit in a powerful way … in the strong name of Jesus.  Amen.

Song

Benediction

“Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth … if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

— Matthew 17:20