Anxiety and Sovereignty: Daniel 7 (Sermon)

 

Kingdoms Rise And Fall Remain Faithful to the king Who rules over all

WELCOME 

I am pastor Rob. It is great to worship with you. 

INTRODUCTION

Who was Daniel? What made him so strong and faithful? Wasn’t he amazing? How could he keep doing the right thing over and over and over again? As a youth, he stood up to the conquering king, refused to eat kingly food, and became a vegetarian. He served that same wicked king faithfully for decades. He was humble and brave, and smart. How did he do it? Did he struggle? We don’t see any chinks in his armor. Daniel chapter 7 is a bit different. It shows us Daniel’s heart prior to him standing up to King Belshazzar and facing the lions’ den. In chapter 7, Daniel recorded a dream he had. It is about kings and kingdoms, persecution, and justice. It is about good and evil and God and his people. The chapter has four sections. An introduction (7:1), Daniel’s dream (7:2–14), the interpretation of his dream (7:15–27), and a conclusion (7:28). Chapter 7 begins with a narrator telling us when this dream is happening and quickly shifts to hearing Daniel describe his dream directly. If you have your Bibles, let’s see this for ourselves. Turn to Daniel chapter 7, verse 1. What does it say? 

TEXT

In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. 

PRAY

Let’s pray. God, we need you. I need you. Apart from you, we cannot see, hear, or do what you want. We are people who are desperate for you. So please reveal yourself and make your ways known; in Jesus Name, amen.

OVERVIEW 

There are twelve chapters in Daniel. Up to this point, we have been looking chronologically through the lives of four expatriates: Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego. These four were abducted as youths and indoctrinated to serve the king of Babylon; his name was Nebuchadnezzar. In chapter 5, Nebuchadnezzar had passed away, and his son was at the end of his reign but didn’t know it. In chapter 6, we read of a new king and kingdom, Darius of the Medes and Persians. Finally, chapter 7 takes us back between chapters 4 and 5 to the year of about 552 B.C. Likely, Daniel was in his sixties. This is the first chapter in a series that describes Daniel’s dreams and visions, what they meant, and how he responded.  

BIG IDEA OF THE BOOK   

We pastors came up with a statement capturing the theme of the entire book: Kingdoms rise and fall: remain faithful to the king who rules over all. It is on the picture in your bulletin. Let’s say that together. Nice job. 

BIG IDEA OF CHAPTER 7

Chapter 7 is similar to the first dream that Daniel interpreted in chapter 2. This chapter helps us understand Daniel, offering us a sneak peek into the future and Daniel’s heart. If you want two words to capture this chapter here, they are Anxiety and Sovereignty. Anxiety and sovereignty collide in chapter 7. Daniel gets to see what will happen in the future but has to live in the present, and it is not easy. Let me say that again. Daniel gets to see what will happen in the future but has to live in the present, and it is not easy. 

VERSE 2-14 PARALLELS DANIEL 2

You may remember in chapter 2; King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. He dreamt about a statue made out of gold, silver, bronze, and iron. The gold head was him and his kingdom. It would pass away. Another kingdom would come after his; it was silver. Then after that, another kingdom would take its place, bronze. Finally, an iron kingdom would crush all the others. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream also had a stone in it, not cut by human hands. That little stone destroyed the entire statue; and grew into a mountain, symbolizing God raising an eternal kingdom and king. Daniel shared this interpretation with Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar’s dad. This dream relates directly to Daniel’s.

DANIEL 7

In verses 2 through 14 of chapter 7, Daniel dreamt of a large body of water. (I imagine a lake like Michigan.) Out of that water came four beasts: A lion with eagle wings, his wings get ripped off, yet, he rose to stand like a man and spoke. Next came a bear with three ribs in his mouth. This bear was hungry for more. And he would devour what was before him. After him came a leopard with four heads and four wings. Finally, out of the water came the fourth beast. It was worse than all the rest. Look at verse 7. It was “terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth.” This was the first part of Daniel’s dream. The fact that there are four beasts in chapter 7 and four types of material in chapter 2, I don’t think, was a coincidence, nor the “iron” in both. I believe these dreams are about the same topic: four kingdoms. If we read further, it proves my point.   

DANIEL 7:7+

At the same time, this dream tells us more information about the future than in chapter 2. For example, the fourth kingdom had ten horns. Then, another little one rose and took out three. This little horn had eyes like a man and spoke eloquently. 

VERSE 10

The dream goes on to describes a being called the Ancient of Days. Who is that? We can learn a few things about him from the text. He had thousands of lords reporting to him. Earlier in Daniel, we read that Belteshazzar had a party with 1,000 lords in attendance. Darius mentioned having lords under him in chapter 6. This Ancient of Day was in charge of thousands of lords. He was greater than both kings. Not only that, his court held 100,000 persons. He must have had stadium seating like Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. We read that the Ancient of Days sat on a throne of fire, with wheels of fire, which issued fire. King Belshazzar’s dad used fire in chapter 3. He used it to judge Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego, but he could not control the fire. His own men died, and those he wanted to punish miraculously survived. This Ancient of Days was greater, and his judgment final. Who could sit enthroned in fire and not be burned? Who was this ruler called the Ancient of Days? Our answer is in Exodus, in part. God spoke out of the burning bush that didn’t burn up. He answered Moses’s question about who he was stating,


“I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Exodus 3:14–15)


You can’t get more ancient than that. He always existed and will always exist. He lives continually in the present. He is the great I AM. He made time. Time does not bind him. 

JUDGE

On top of that, according to Daniel 7, he is the judge of all, from Egypt to Babylon, from presidents to prime ministers, and from kings to kingdoms. He will judge the fourth beast and destroy it with fire. 

SON OF MAN 

Next, Daniel saw someone called the “Son of man” approach the Ancient of Days. Then the Ancient of Days bestows on his son dominion. Look at verse 14. 


And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:14) 


JESUS 

Who was he? When Jesus was being interrogated on his last day, he and his accuser brought this man up in Mark chapter 14. 


Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. (Mark 14:61–64)


PRIESTS

Why would Jesus call himself the “Son of the Blessed” or insinuate he was the “Son of Man?” Why would that necessitate the death penalty? Because Jesus was calling himself the Messiah, the Christ, the one Daniel saw in chapter 7. Jesus was saying all dominion and all glory and all power will be his forever. The religious leaders believed in a Messiah, but not in Jesus. Blasphemous. Blasphemy is disrespecting God and deserving of death according to this High Priest.  

REACTION 

Daniel believed in the Messiah but knew him under a different name. Recall Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2. It didn’t use the phrase “Son of Man,” but a stone not cut out by human hands. That stone became a king with a kingdom that surpasses all others, according to the interpretation in chapter 2, verse 44. 


And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:44)


Let me read that again. 


And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:44)


DAVIDIC COVENANT

Daniel probably made a connection between this Son of Man and another prophecy from centuries before. Nathan the prophet said to King David,


When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. (2 Samuel 7:12–14)


The Son of Man would be that son of God, that future king forever, that stone not cut by human hands, our Jesus. 

RESPONSE

How did Daniel respond to this revelation? Was he pumped, excited, enthralled, euphoric? Look at verse 15? He was anxious. He was alarmed. Why? Why was this dream so disturbing? The problems for him and his people had only begun according to this dream. 

  • The bear had yet to “Devour much flesh” (7:5)
  • The terrifying, dreadful, strong fourth beast had yet to devour and break in pieces what was left (7:7)

More evil was still to come for Daniel. He was living under the reign of the first beast. He has spent decades away from his homeland in Babylon, seeing the wicked kings and remaining faithful. He gets to see what will happen in the future but has to live in the present, and it is not easy. 

BAD NEWS

Have you ever had to wait? Have you ever had to wait for bad news? You know something bad is coming. You don’t know exactly what it is, but you know it is going to happen. There is a knot in your stomach and a pit in your throat. I think Daniel was feeling that. That is why it describes Daniel as anxious and alarmed. 

ANXIETY 

What did he do with that anxiety? What do you do when you are worried? What do you do when you are concerned? Daniel sought more understanding. He didn’t understand, so he pressed in for answers. It is okay to seek answers. We don’t need to be afraid of the truth. For many of us, we don’t know who to trust anymore when it comes to truth. That was not where Daniel was. He was in his dream and figured he didn’t understand it, and those around did. Thus, he pulled aside someone in verse 16 to explain to him what was going on. 

KNOWING MORE 

Deciding to preach on Daniel 7 through 12 was not easy. In our day, people can do one of two things with these chapters. They can get so into this prophecy and what means for our day that they miss the book’s point. I remember books and leaders telling us that the end would come in 1988, 1998, or 2000. I remember reading twenty years ago someone claiming the president of the United States was the Anti-Christ. Reading Daniel this way is not what we are to do. Jesus said in Matthew 24, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36–37). Jesus was talking about the timing of the end. We are not going to know when everything is going to happen. And, when people talk about dates of Jesus coming back or the end of the world, I begin to tune them out. Only the Father knows the day it will all come to an end. At the same time, we don’t want to skip these chapters because they seem weird and confusing. We can look at these signs and recognize they do fit into history. God predicted what would happen. These chapters are here for a reason. We don’t want to ignore them. Overall, Daniel gets to see what will happen in the future but has to live in the present, and it is not easy. That is good for us to hear.

INTERPRETATION 15-18

So, what was this dream about? A person in Daniel’s dream revealed to him that the four beasts were four kings. Scholars seem to agree that the first beast was Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar. He rose to power, God humbled him, he repented, and God brought him back. The second beast represented the reign of the Medes and Persians. The third represented the Greeks. We will learn more about them in Daniel’s second dream next week. The first king of the Greeks was Alexander the Great. He conquered the world fast and furious. He died young, and his four generals divided up the kingdom, hence the four heads of the leopard. The fourth beast, scholars say, was Rome, but it also could represent all nations and rulers that will oppose Christ, the Son of Man. 

INQUIRY

Daniel writes about the 4th beast in verse 19. Look at verse 19.  


“Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. (Daniel 7:19–22)


Daniel understood that the fourth beast was the worst. He comprehended that the little horn would make war against the saints and prevail. Daniel learns that the Ancient of Days will appear and brings judgment on this beast and the saints will possess the kingdom of the “Most High” in the end.

UNDERSTANDING 

Verse 23 explains the dream for us some more. 


There shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. As for the ten horns,  out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end. And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’ (Daniel 7:23–27)


In the end, the kingdom of God will belong to the saints. The enemy will be vanquished. That is incredible! 

BEATITUDES

It reminds me of the Beatitudes. Jesus said: 


“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

(Matthew 5:10–11)


SAINTS

Who was Jesus talking to on the Sermon on the Mount when he shared the beatitudes? His disciples: his followers. Who were these saints Daniel dreamt about? Holy ones. The dream depicts those set apart, pure, or blameless, as Daniel described himself in chapter 6. 

HOW CAN WE BE A SAINT? 

How can a person be holy or blameless? The author of Hebrews tells us, connecting Jesus’s followers to being holy. “So Jesus also suffered … in order to sanctify [make holy] the people through his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12). We are made holy by the blood of Jesus on the cross. If we put our faith in Jesus, if we turn from our sin and follow Jesus, if we rely fully on Jesus for salvation, we will be blameless and called saints of the “Most High” and holy. The Apostle Peter put it this way. 


But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9–10)


ENCOURAGEMENT

That is good news. How do we respond to it? Does it encourage you? The good guys win. Evil is defeated. God reigns. But that is not how Daniel reacted. Look at verse 28. 

VERSE 28

“Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart. 

SO WHAT

Daniel concluded with alarm. Things were going to get worse before they got better. He was serving the first beast. He had three more beasts to go, and the last one involved eleven kings. He was not a spring chicken. He was in his sixties. It has been decades since Daniel left home. We have to figure many of his friends and family had died. This dream tells him he and his people were in for a long road ahead. It was a future of devouring and breaking and even prevailing against them.

TELL ME THE FUTURE

As much as I want God to tell me the future, I want it to be good, not a season of oppression. What if God gave us a picture of future heartache and pain? Maybe that is your current reality. If God told me I was going to suffer in the future, I would want a way out. Daniel doesn’t get this option. It reminds me of a sci-fi show where the character goes back in time to alter the present, but in so doing, he or she puts the pieces in play for the present reality. Daniel can’t change the future. And the future doesn’t look good in the short term. So how does he deal with trouble and trials? Do you get anxious and alarmed? Daniel did. We know what happens in the coming years. He remains faithful to the king who rules over all. He does his job. He stands out as one who serves the wicked, non-believing kings. He prays to God three times a day. He is faithful. He pressed into his relationship with God, he didn’t give up or just cave into the predominant culture. 

WHY IS THIS HERE? 

This passage is for you and me. I think this passage is here to help us in our trials. We are not alone in our anxiety. Daniel had to wrestle in his faith with a sovereign God. Daniel gets to see what will happen in the future but has to live in the present, and it is not easy. We read in this passage that God is faithful and powerful to do what he says. Ultimately, good triumphs. The followers of God inherit the kingdom. This means our hope will never be in a political party; Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, or Socialist. Our hope is in a different kingdom. One day God will reign, and it will be great. But until then, life can be alarming and concerning. Take courage, church. God wins in the end. Evil is uprooted. And those who trust in God benefit. We will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Let us treasure the promises in our hearts and press into God. Remain faithful. 

NOT BELIEVER

Perhaps you don’t see yourself as a follower of Jesus or saint of the “Most High.” You can be. The power of his Holy Spirit, God might be pricking your conscience to want to be called such. All you have to do is repent and believe in him. That means you need to turn from your sin, from rebellion, from running from God and press into him. Believe in him. Trust in him. Seek him. Jesus died on the cross to make us saints. He did what we could never do in our moral effort. We could never erase the wrong we have done, nor do enough right things in the right way at the right time to get us into heaven or make us saints. Only God could do that. He made away for you to be a saint by dying in your place. Do you believe it? Then join us and press into God. The promises will be yours too.   

PRAYER

Let’s pray.


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