Text: Daniel 2:1-24
Have you ever been overcome with the sensation that life is just spinning completely out of control all around you? Job loss, divorce, death of a friend or family member, financial disaster, medical diagnoses, these and so many other things can all give us that feeling that everything that we thought we had no carefully orchestrated has just been an illusion. In true fact, we have never been in control of anything.
What do you do when everything in life goes awry? What do you do when your best laid plans are ripped to shreds, along with plans B, C, D, and E? What do you do when everything that you thought you knew seems to unravel, right before your very eyes?
When we left Daniel at the end of the first chapter, he had finished his three year course of study under Ashpenaz, Nebuchadnezzar’s chief eunuch, learning the language, religion, and literature of the Chaldeans so that he might serve before the king. At the age of seventeen or eighteen, Daniel and his three other captives from Judah joined the Babylonian ranks of magicians, sorcerers, enchanters, and Chaldeans whose duty it was to advise the king. Daniel and his friends joined the ranks, but that did not necessarily mean that they immediately started showing up daily in the court of the palace.
As in all things, there was a hierarchy already in place. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah joined them, but joined them at the bottom of the pecking order. They had a lot of growing, maturing, and proving of themselves before they would climb to the top and be regularly summoned on all of the matters that faced the king.
And so it was that Daniel and his three friends likely had no knowledge of all that transpired in Nebuchadnezzar’s court in the hours after the king’s terrible dream that was so frightening, Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t even sure in his awake state just precisely what it was he had dreamed. He wanted to know what his dream meant. That required that he also be reminded just what it was he had dreamed. So he turned to his advisors, who claimed access to the secret knowledge of the gods and the stars for help in this urgent and unsettling matter.
Unfortunately, the advisors had no secret access to anyone or anything. They simply used their knowledge and understanding to advise the king, trapping it in religious and mystical language for emphasis and mystery to achieve their own ends. When they couldn’t deliver on the king’s demand to tell him both the dream and its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar ordered the whole baffled lot executed. He finally saw through their lies and charades to the mere mortals that they were.
Daniel and his friends were not privy to any of these events. They weren’t present in the king’s courtroom when he demanded this “difficult” thing that no one except the gods could unveil, and the gods’ “dwelling is not with flesh.” Just like that, Daniel’s world was upended and evidently actually to be ended because the king expected his advisors to actually live up to their claims. Daniel heard nothing of it until the executioners came to seek them and carry out their orders.
The king of the most powerful empire then on the earth had just ordered Daniel and all of his like executed. It was a bad day for young Daniel and friends. His doom was the direct result of activities in which he had had no involvement. All was, by all accounts, completely out of his hands. What could he do in the face of such anger and power?
What can we do when the world turns upside down and all seems lost?
There is only one recourse, and that is to seek an intervention. “Intervention” has come to be used to mean an occasion when a group of friends or family members confront someone about a certain path they are on in an effort to get them to change to an alternative, ostensibly better, path. Daniel needed someone to step in and change his fate, his life’s path that was quickly coming to a sudden and undesirable end. Follow along with me through Daniel’s steps through these very rocky waters.
First, he kept his head. Verse 14 says that Daniel “replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard.” Yelling, screaming, bellyaching, complaining, and defiance were not going to do Daniel, his friends, or his fellow advisors any favors. Arioch was just doing what he had been told to do. Daniel did not take steps to stop him, but merely tried to understand what it was that had prompted such drastic action.
Second, Daniel worked the worldly avenues available to him. Nebuchadnezzer had already decided that Daniel and his friends were “ten times better” than the rest of the advisors at the end of the first chapter. So Daniel went straight to the king. “Your Majesty,” I imagine him saying, “I was not privileged to attend the earlier meeting with the rest of my peers. Please, give me some time, and I will find the answers to your questions about your dream. Tell me when to come back, and then I will give you those answers.”
Evidently, the king agreed to allow Daniel an opportunity to crack the puzzle, because verse 17 says that Daniel went back to his house and discussed everything with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
Third, the four of them, now fully aware of everything that made their lives hang in the balance, sought the intervention they needed. They did so by pleading with God for mercy that their lives might be spared. They prayed, and they prayed desperately. Of course, as we learn later in Daniel’s story, prayer was already a deeply important part of their daily routine. What they prayed was unique, that they prayed was not. I think that is something key to our prayers that we need to remember. We have all cried out in desperation when we are in a tight spot. The question we need to consider is what we do in all of the other times when our spot is not nearly so constraining.
Daniel and his friends sought their needed intervention. Then the beautiful thing happens. In the midst of what must have been among their darkest hours, God intervenes. He steps in. The pagan sorcerers and magicians and astrologers had answered Nebuchadnezzar correctly that none but the gods could answer the king’s request, and gods do not dwell with men. Truly it was only the one, true God who could reveal the answers to the King’s conundrums. And this God revealed those answers to Daniel in response to the pleas of the four men that He do so.
When life is bleakest, do you remember the utter elation and sheer joy that comes when God intervenes? When God answers our requests and suddenly the path to setting our world back in order is clear and present right in front of us? That’s what happens with Daniel and his friends. God showed them mercy, and they were elated.
Which leads us to the fourth thing that Daniel did in this dark hour. Verse 19: “Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” The execution order still stood. He had not yet met again with the king to unveil the mystery. But Daniel blesses God. And this just isn’t a simple nod of the head and short thanks. It is one of the greatest prayers of thanksgiving in all of Scripture. Listen in, starting in verse 20:
20 Daniel answered and said: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter."
Daniel gave credit where the credit was due. And credit never belonged to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, or Azariah. Credit belonged to God and to God alone. Daniel would be able to provide answers to Nebuchadnezzar’s questions. He, his friends, and all of their peers would be spared from the sword of the king’s wrath. And it was all thanks to God.
So often, we pray our prayers of desperation. But as soon as the answer and the deliverance come, we forget Who it is that provided the answers and the deliverance. Once our life is right again, we slip right back into our old path, neglecting God utterly, giving him no space in our life. Not Daniel. All praise went to God.
Intervention in hand, Daniel went straight over to the king’s executioner, Arioch, and told him that the whole issue was resolved. “Bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.” What a relief to be able to act firmly and decisively before such dire odds, such bleak circumstances! What hope it brings to stare in the face of life’s chaos and hold it back with the power of God’s deliverance! It is a beautiful thing.
Times such as these will certainly come to us, just as they came to Daniel. All of a sudden, going about our regular and routine business, life will go upending, stark-raving mad. When it does, we need to keep our heads, work the avenues available to us, plead with God, and then give God all of the praise He is due when His answer and deliverance finally come.
This morning, I want to tell you that our church stands at this kind of crossroads today. Our world is upended and changed. And our church faces a long struggle to adapt and be a vibrant force for the kingdom of God here in Grit and beyond once again.
The Enemy is conspiring against us, ready to cut us down. He is seeking to conquer us by dividing us. He is driving us apart, causing us to shun one another, to hold old and new grudges against one another, and to twist words and circumstances in our minds. He seeks to take the very life from this church and trample it down. We need to follow Daniel.
Let’s keep our heads. Let’s be prudent, wise, and discerning in what we say to one another. Let’s be humble with each other, assuming the best and not the worst. Let’s stand together rather than fortifying ourselves against one another. It is the only way out.
Let’s work the avenues we have. That means finding our gifts and making use of them. There are people who work very hard at this church and try to carry all of the load while others do no more than warm a spot on the pew for an hour on Sunday morning. That is not how the church is to work. We are all together this Body of Christ known as Monte Vista Baptist Church, and we are each of us vital to her function. We each have a duty and a role to perform. And when any of them is left undone, the whole church suffers. Know your role, and perform it! Nobody else can be you or do your job. The Bible never lists pew-warming among the gifts of the Spirit, unfortunately. It will require more of all of us. It will require, according to Paul in Romans 12, that some prophecy, some serve, some teach, some encourage or exhort, some contribute, some lead, and some show mercy. And that’s just one list of possible gifts. We need them all. And they are all here, present, right now, in this room.
Working with what we know we already have, let’s seek God earnestly for the deliverance and help we so desperately need lest we enter meaningless oblivion and die off. Let’s pray desperately. It will require all of us. Daniel could not pray alone. He needed his friends. Our church needs all of us praying for its life, its ministry, and its effectiveness. Let’s get busy seeking God’s mercy for our deliverance and our future.
And then when – and I do mean WHEN, not if – WHEN God answers and delivers us, let us remember always to give Him all of the thanks and praise for His glorious work through this, His body bearing the name Monte Vista Baptist Church.
Perhaps you are here this morning and you say to yourself, I’m not part of this body. I’m not part of any body. I’m just me. God promises that all who are His by the blood of Jesus are made part of the body, the Temple, the Bride He is creating in this His church. If you are a Christian, you are part of His body. Our church is one expression of it, both a complete expression of Christ’s body in our community, and an integral part of the whole worldwide Body of believers. You can be a part of it. I encourage you, if you already know Christ’s salvation, to join together with a church and contribute your gifts to a community. We’d love to have you here. In a few moments we’ll sing a song. If you’d like to join us, I’ll be standing down below. Just come talk to me.
But maybe you say you don’t know anything about what it means to be saved by Christ. You have nothing to do with anyone’s blood one way or another. The Bible makes it clear that everyone in this room, indeed everyone everywhere, is a sinner. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And the wages of sin is death. That is, sin is a crime whose penalty is death. But thanks be to God, for when we were in our bleakest hour, condemned to die, God sent His Son to us, born in a manger in a town called Bethlehem. Named Jesus, he went on to live the life we should all live – sinless. Bearing no curse of sin, he had no need to die. But die he did, and in the most cursed way – on a cross. His undeserved death serves to stand in the place of the death all of us are supposed to pay for our sins.
And then even more glorious then all of this is the truth that though He was dead and buried, Jesus did not stay dead. Three days after being taken down lifeless from that cross and laid in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, the tomb was found empty, with Jesus’ burial cloths folded neatly where his body should have been. Jesus appeared to many of his followers, certain witnesses that he was alive. He was alive, but different. His body bore all of the marks of the wounds of the cross, but he was able to appear in locked rooms, disappear in one place and show up in another. He was glorified. And we all have the hope of having this same kind of body ourselves when the resurrection comes.
And it is offered to you. But it cannot come to one who is a sinner. We must acknowledge our sin. We must confess it before God. We must acknowledge Jesus, the Christ, and what He has done for us. We must accept it as our own. And then we must turn aside from our old lives and accept a new direction toward God that is offered to us. This is repentance, turning aside and going a new way. It’s God’s intervention for you and me.
If you would like to know more about God’s intervention for you. Of if you are ready to accept His intervention today, I invite you to come down while we sing and talk with me. I’d love to welcome you as my sister or brother in Christ today.
Perhaps this morning you realize that you have been a pawn of the Enemy, standing in the way of allowing God to work through our church the way He desires to work today. Perhaps you need to seek forgiveness or grant forgiveness to someone you have wronged or been wronged by. I encourage you to do that this morning while we sing. It will mean moving around and seeking each other out. Don’t let pride stand in your way. God’s path is the only way out. We must follow it to find life.
Whatever you need to do this morning, do it now, while we sing.
Our hymn is a song of praise to God, much like Daniel’s. It’s #19, “We Praise You, O God, Our Redeemer.” A song of praise for the work yet to be accomplished through us and among us. Let’s stand together and sing!