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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Wisdom for Living in a Sinful World
Text:Daniel 2:1-30 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Preached:2016
Added:2022-03-08
Updated:2022-04-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Come to the Savior Now 

Great Shepherd Who Leadest Thy People in Love

Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


08/28/2016
“Wisdom for Living in a Sinful World”
Daniel 2:1-30
 
Trouble surges into every person’s life, for Scripture tells us that “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). We all face many troubles and predicaments, but none as severe as the predicament Daniel faced.
 
It is hard to grasp the enormity of Daniel’s predicament. Jerusalem had been invaded three times in the span of about 19 years. The temple was ransacked and then destroyed. Many people were put to the sword. A remnant, including Daniel and his friends, had been brought to Babylon. They were captives – prisoners of war – in a cruel, foreign land.
 
They knew that the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, was powerful. They knew he was eccentric and could be incredibly cruel. But who would expect him to ask his wise men not only to interpret his dream for him, but to first tell him what he dreamed, and then interpret the dream! What an outrageous request!
 
Yet the king was serious about his request. Nebuchadnezzar was so serious that he was ready to execute all the wise men in the land including Daniel and his friends, if no one told him the content of his dream, along with the interpretation. God revealed the dream's content to Daniel, and thus saved Daniel, along with all the wise men, from the edict of execution.
 
God delivered Daniel, not only through the revelation of the dream Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten, but also by giving Daniel “wisdom and tact” – in the ESV “prudence and discretion. In this chapter we see that wisdom and tact – prudence and discretion – go hand in hand.
 
As Daniel dealt with his predicament, he did so with godly wisdom and not a worldly wisdom of shrewdness. The Bible is clear that there are two types of “wisdom”. There is a worldly wisdom which puts self first and tries to outwit others for personal gain. By contrast, there is that wisdom from above, described in James 3:17 as “pure, peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”  It was that type of “wisdom from above” that Daniel used as he sought to discern how to deal with the predicament he faced.
 
However, verse 14 tells us that in addition to wisdom, Daniel used tact. The Scripture points out that “Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact.”  It is crucial that Daniel used tact. How do you think Arioch and Nebuchadnezzar would have reacted if Daniel didn’t use tact?  How would have Nebuchadnezzar responded if Daniel simply said, “That’s an outrageous request! Are you crazy?”
 
It was important for Daniel to be tactful. But tact is something that every Christian should strive for. To be tactful can be defined as having a good sense of what to say or do to maintain good relations with others. It goes hand in hand with godly wisdom. The Biblical word translated as “tact” (NIV) is also used for taste. When you take the first bite of food that you have never eaten before, perhaps you do so tentatively. You analyze the taste and the aroma before digging in. In much the same way, Daniel “tasted” the situation he was in and proceeded with caution as well wisdom and discernment.
 
As Christians we should always be tactful as we seek to establish close relations with others. Our good relationships – relationships enhanced by tact – may become the bridge God uses to reach the gospel into someone else’s life. Admittedly, sometimes we cannot help but offend people because the Scripture tells us that the gospel is a stumbling block and rock of offense to unbelievers (1 Pet. 2:8), “for the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
 
But although the message of the gospel is offensive to those who are perishing, there is a tactful way to approach people, just as there is a way that lacks tact. And as Christians we can learn from Daniel the importance of tactfulness as we use wisdom and discernment to witness the gospel to those around us. 
 
Peter also tells us to be tactful and wise when we speak with unbelievers. In 1 Peter 3:15-16 we read: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” After all, the fruit of the Spirit includes “peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.” And those qualities – the fruit of the Spirit – were evident in Daniel’s life in every area, including his tactfulness.
 
Prayer and Praise
 
Having used wisdom and tact to discern the situation, Daniel urged his friends to pray, and he prayed. Verse 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.”
      
Sometimes God allows predicaments to come up in our lives to force us to our knees. Sometimes, unfortunately, our prayer life suffers until we face a real predicament. Then what happens? We pray. Here again, Daniel sets a great example because he was a person of prayer every day. He is well known for his prayers by his open window facing toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he set aside time for prayer in that special place in his room where he faced the direction of Jerusalem, the city of God. Daniel's prayer life is a reflection of what the Apostle Paul would later write to the Thessalonians about in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. It is one of the shortest verses in the Bible; it simply says: “Pray continually.”
 
We are to pray with those short impromptu prayers that come into our minds throughout the day, as well as the structured prayers such as Daniel's prayers by the open window. In fact, our whole life is to be lived with the attitude of prayer, trusting God for the provisions of life – our daily bread – and praising him for his provision of all things that we truly need, especially his provision of salvation from sin through saving faith in Jesus Christ.
 
Not only did Daniel set an excellent example for us with his faithful prayer life, but he also set an excellent example in his praise to God for the revelation of the dream. Did you notice that before Daniel went to his friends, and before Daniel went to Arioch or Nebuchadnezzar, he first went to God and praised him for his deliverance from this great predicament?
 
His prayer of praise is in verses 20 to 23, and then verse 24 begins by saying, “Then Daniel went to Arioch…”  Before going to anyone else Daniel first went to the Lord with a prayer of praise! What an example he sets for us! How often do we pray to God when we are in a predicament, but then, once our crisis is resolved, we fail to praise God for his deliverance?
 
However, in the scope of all Scripture, we understand that we are to praise God even for the so called “unanswered” prayers. Even when the Lord doesn't deliver us from the predicament the way we might expect him to, even when he allows us to suffer with the “thorn in the flesh” we are still to give him praise, knowing that he promises that his grace will be sufficient for whatever we face.
 
That is, after all, often the case. We find ourselves in a predicament. We call out to the Lord in prayer. And his answer isn’t always given to us the way we wish. He doesn’t always do as he did with Daniel; he doesn’t always give us the answer we are looking for. Sometimes the Lord says, in essence, what he said to the Apostle Paul when the thorn would not be removed from his flesh. The Lord assured him of the sufficiency of his grace to deal with the thorn. He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). 
 
Sometimes, in answers to our prayers, the Lord says: “You live with that predicament. That’s part of your challenge in life. I won’t remove your predicament, but I will give you the grace and the strength to deal with it.” And when God gives us that answer, then, too, we must praise Him. We know that his will is, in the words of Romans 12:2, “good, pleasing and perfect” and so when we pray for his will to be done, we can trust him to do what is right even when the circumstances that we are praying about don't change.
 
Perhaps nowhere is that response more clearly seen than in the multiple predicaments that Job faced. He lost all that was of value; even the children whom he cherished died. Yet what was his response? Job 1:21: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
 
Prayer isn’t just for predicaments. It is to be a continual part of our life. And, as the Heidelberg Catechism points out in Lord’s Day 45, “Prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.”
 
Frustration for the Faithless
 
By way of further application, although Daniel and his friends were in a perilous predicament, King Nebuchadnezzar was in a far worse predicament. Nebuchadnezzar, although a king, faced the greatest predicament, for he faced life – at this point – without faith in God. Because he did not have faith in the God of Israel – the God revealed in Scripture – he faced life with great frustration, mistrust and hostility.
 
We read of his frustration in the opening verse of the chapter as his mind was troubled and he could not sleep because of this strange dream that he could not remember. We can relate to that to a degree because we have all had strange dreams that we cannot remember, outside of that they were strange and troubling. Perhaps sometimes during the course of the day something happens, and in that insignificant action you suddenly realize that you had a dream that related to that in some way. And it gives you an eerie feeling.
   
But as believers we can rest our frustrations – no matter what they may be – on the Lord. We realize that he is sovereign, and whatever causes frustration in our lives will yet work for our spiritual well-being, because our God is the Almighty ruler of all things, and “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
 
But for the unbeliever – for those in the world represented by Babylon and its disdain for God and its elevation of man – there is always frustration. There is no satisfaction apart from knowing God through saving faith in Jesus Christ. As the early church father, Augustine, put it: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” (Confessions of St. Augustine; Book I, Chapter 1)
 
Nebuchadnezzar was not only restless and frustrated, but he also had a great mistrust of his advisers. In verse 9 he said to his astrologers, whom he looked to for guidance, “You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change.” And that mistrust led to outright hostility. When the astrologers pointed out to the king that no other king had ever made such a request, verse 12 tells us “This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon.”
 
King Nebuchadnezzar faced the greatest predicament of all. He was filled with frustration, mistrust and hostility. But he was not unique. Frustration, mistrust, and hostility characterize the life of an unbeliever. The greatest predicament you can have is not the predicament of a Christian with seemingly overwhelming circumstances, such as Daniel faced. Not at all. The greatest predicament you can have in this life – and it will stay with you throughout eternity unless you repent and believe with saving faith in Christ – is to be like Nebuchadnezzar.
 
If you have never rested in Christ with true saving faith, take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2: “As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” 
  
Most of you are familiar with the practice of having a “Preparatory Service” the week before the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. On Preparatory Sunday we read a familiar exhortation in order to prepare ourselves for the Lord's Supper. That exhortation (in the back of the 1976 Psalter Hymnal) tells us, “...Since it is necessary for us to come to the sacrament in good conscience, we urge any who lack this confidence to seek from the minister or any elder of this church such counsel as may quiet his  conscience or lead to the conversion of his life.”
 
Why is that sentence even in the preparatory exhortation? Most of us have grown up in the church, we know about God, we read the Bible, we are familiar with the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, so why is a statement in the preparatory exhortation urging “any who lack… confidence to seek from the minister or any elder of this church such counsel as may quiet their conscience or lead to the conversion of their life”?
 
It is because you can grow up in the church and know about God in your head, but not truly believe in him in your heart. And if that’s the case, you are then on the inside just as frustrated as Nebuchadnezzar, just as distrustful of others, and filled with hostility against God and his people.  But the wonderful message of the gospel is that “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor. 6:2)
 
Salvation is held out to everyone. And anyone, by God's grace through saving faith in the eternal Christ, can be saved from their sin, saved from God’s proper and just curse upon sin. That is true even for a cruel powerful king like Nebuchadnezzar. Many believe that he did come to salvation. At the end of this chapter, we find Nebuchadnezzar prostrate before Daniel, exclaiming, “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” (v. 47).
 
And later, in chapter 4:34-35 we read this testimony from Nebuchadnezzar:
 
At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
 
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
    his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
 All the peoples of the earth
    are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
    with the powers of heaven
    and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
    or say to him: “What have you done?”
 
Throughout Scripture, we read of all sorts of unlikely people – great and obvious sinners – who are saved by grace. In 1 Corinthians 6 the apostle Paul lists people who would normally be excluded from the kingdom of God. They include sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexual offenders, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers. And what does he write after that? 1 Corinthians 6:11: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.”
 
If you have sat in church for many years and yet never taken the message of the gospel to heart, respond in saving faith – by God’s grace and Spirit’s power – to the invitation of the gospel. The promise of Jesus Christ is that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, in the words of 2 Corinthians 6:2, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
 
Those Who Know Him, Will Praise Him!
 
A second application is that because of God’s grace, and because of God’s revelation of his wisdom, power, and sovereign rule, those who truly know him will praise him. The prayer of praise that Daniel offered in verses 19 to 23 is one of many moving and touching passages of Scripture. We could spend weeks just on those four verses and still not plumb the depths of the riches of God's omniscient wisdom, his Almighty power and his sovereign rule of all the events in this chaotic world.
 
Consider, for example, how God used Nebuchadnezzar's dream to raise Daniel to a place of influence. Daniel was one person in the great multitude of people who had been brought to Babylon. He fit the description of chapter 1:4; he was among the “young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace.”
 
But there were many others who “were handsome, well informed, quick to understand, qualified to serve in the king’s palace. In addition to these from Jerusalem who had been brought into Babylon, there were a large number of advisers to the king described as “astrologers, magicians, and enchanters. There were many wise men in the kingdom, so how would one captive from Jerusalem stand out from the crowd and be brought into the presence of the king?
 
It would have never happened had not God, in his providence, allowed Nebuchadnezzar to have the disturbing dream. And it would have never happened – Daniel would not have come face-to-face with King Nebuchadnezzar – if the Lord not granted him wisdom and tact, prudence and discretion, as the Lord revealed the dream to Daniel.
 
Consider also how the Lord proves over and over the foolishness of all false gods compared to the one true God who alone can guide his people through life. Did you notice in verse 11 how the so-called “wise men” of Babylon said to the king, “What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.”?
 
The foolishness of false gods is revealed in Daniel's answer to the king. In verses 26 to 28 we read: The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”
 
Daniel replied, “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. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come…”
 
False gods can never give the answers that people need for guidance in life. And that wasn't just true for Nebuchadnezzar. How many false gods do people turn to today?  The false gods of material possessions, monetary gain, and humanistic teaching – all these can become a god to people to follow after the vain philosophies of this fallen world. 
 
And what about astrologers? The king was looking to the astrologers reminding us that there is nothing new under the sun. Just as the astrologers and the false gods of Nebuchadnezzar’s Day had no answers, so today all the horoscopes in the world cannot give us the guidance we need. We only find the guidance and the knowledge that we need to live when we turn to the Lord and the wisdom of his Word.
 
Then also, consider how the Lord “changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and disposes them.” Some of you may have noticed the footnote on verse 4. The footnote explains how from verse 4 of the second chapter all the way through chapter 7, the writing in the original manuscript is in Aramaic instead of Hebrew, which most of the Old Testament is written in.
 
One reason why is that Aramaic was a language that had a worldwide acceptance at that time, much as English has a broad acceptance today. As we will see, the Lord willing, when we get into the content of Nebuchadnezzar's dream next week, the dream will show the rise and fall of many world powers. Because the dream relates not only to the people of God in the Old Testament – the people of Israel – but to the Gentiles, Daniel used the language that people from other nations – the Gentiles – could easily understand.
 
The opening chapter and the last chapters have a greater relation to the people of God and thus they are written in Hebrew, the language that most of the Old Testament is written in. It is just one more reminder that God is sovereign, that his purposes and plans prevail; he determines the rulers of nations, deposing who he will and raising up who he pleases. It also points us to the complete accuracy of his word, that every word of God is flawless; every word is proven true (Prov. 30:5).
 
That knowledge should give us peace about all circumstances, regardless of what they may be. Even when we are saddened by the choice of candidates in political elections, and by the outcome of elections, we have the assurance that of verse 21 that God “changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and disposes them.” Or in the words of Romans 13:1, “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
 
God has a purpose and a plan, and although the details of that plan may be hidden from us, he will accomplish his purpose for the world, for our nation, for our church and for our individual lives, all of which are in his hands in such a way that we can never be snatched out of his perfect care. Indeed nothing, not even death, can separate us from his love!
 
No wonder Daniel was filled with praise! Even though he was a captive in a foreign land, and even though he still had a great challenge before him, he had trust and faith in our omniscient and omnipotent God. Daniel knew that the interpretation of the dream would involve telling King Nebuchadnezzar that there is a kingdom far greater than Babylon. There is an eternal kingdom that will never fall – not even the gates of hell can prevail against it. It rules over all kingdoms, and all kings will give homage to the true King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
How would Nebuchadnezzar respond to that?  How would he respond to the interpretation of the dream? Even though Daniel had the dream revealed to him, he still faced uncertainty and many challenges; he still would have his share of predicaments as he lived a godly life in an ungodly world.
____
 
I don’t know what specific troubles and predicaments you face in your life. But as you and I face whatever predicaments come our way, may we face them as Daniel did - with wisdom and tact, prudence and discretion, with prayer and with praise, with true saving faith in Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb. 13:8).
     
And regardless of how God moves, whether he removes the predicament or just gives us the grace and strength to deal with it, may we always praise his name, now and throughout all eternity! Amen.
 
 
 
Sermon Outline:
 
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are
His. He changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” – Daniel 2:20-21
 
                         “Wisdom for Living in a Sinful World”
                                               Daniel 2:1-30
 
I.  God’s revelation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream delivered Daniel from
     death. We all face many predicaments, but none as severe as what 
     Daniel faced (1-13).  Daniel handled the predicament with:
      1) Wisdom (14; prudence, ESV), given to him by God (23) and tact
           (14; discretion, ESV), which is part of godly wisdom (James 3:17)
 
 
 
 
 
       2) Prayer (17-18) and praise (20-23)
 
 
 
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) Nebuchadnezzar, although a king, faced the greatest predicament,
         for he faced life (at this point) without faith in God, manifested by
         his frustration (1), mistrust (9), and hostility (12)
 
 
 
 
 
     2) God’s revelation of His wisdom, power, and sovereign rule elicits
          eternal praise from His people (19-23)
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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