THE POWER OF BABYLON Trinity
Daniel Chapter 2 30.9.18
Which city comes to mind when you think about a centre of finance? Maybe New York? What about a centre of Democracy? Athens? Modernity and technology? Perhaps Tokyo? What about gambling? Las Vegas?
2500 years ago if you said ‘power’ or ‘beauty’, everyone knew you were talking about Babylon. In the original list of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, 2 of those wonders were in Babylon.
One was its walls; 12 metres high and 30 wide, in parts. So strong the 200,000 people who lived inside, must have thought they were safe forever. The most impressive of the 8 gates into the city was the 14 metre high Gate of Ishtar. It was covered in enamelled bricks of cobalt blue, and decorated with hundreds of reliefs of bulls and dragons.
Saddam Hussein, saw himself as a new Nebuchadnezzar, and recreated a smaller version on the original site. The 4,000 acres around it, with all its precious ancient ruins have been now been covered with gravel for an American army base.
Then there was the beauty of the hanging gardens of Babylon, built into the walls and watered uphill from the River Euphrates. Acres of beautiful gardens in the middle of a dry desert.
Possibly those walls and gardens came into being in their final form a few years after Daniel and his friends were frogmarched (forcibly marched forward) from Jerusalem to Babylon. The unparalleled culture and power of Babylon and were on display from Day One. How intimidating that must have all been for these teenage boys.
We know that, because the power, culture, achievements and the loud voices of the Babylon where we live intimidates us. Babylon makes us feel small and ineffectual. That is why they, and we, need to see Babylon for what it really is.
1. UNDERNEATH, BABYLON IS BANKRUPT
Scratch below the cobalt blue on the bricks at the Gate of Ishtar, and what do you find? Dig under the skin of Nebuchadnezzar, said to be the most cultured man in the whole world, and what’s there?
He’s had a dream … or maybe the same dream several times. There is something in the dream that is so unnerving, he can hardly undo the buttons of his pyjamas when he gets out of bed. Even while he’s cleaning his teeth, he can’t get the dream out of his head. He is morose and paranoid, and for all his power, amazingly insecure. Not a very happy time for Mrs Nebuchadnezzar, I’ll guarantee.
He has so lost the plot that he plans to execute all the dream interpreters if they can’t tell him what the dream means.
No, it’s worse than that. If they are to live, they have to tell him first what the dream was. Maybe in the past they’ve gone to the university library and read what this means in a dream, and this and this. But now they haven’t even got a starting point. This king has become a brutal and arbitrary tyrant. Life is now very cheap.
VV10, 11 “There is not man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult (want an understatement that is!), and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
These dream interpreters have PhD’s from Nebuchadnezzar’s own university – like Daniel. They are trained to say when a crop will peak, and what the weather patterns are likely to be. But when it comes to things outside of this world, they can’t get even to first base.
The wellbeing of the empire depends on the wisdom of these men. But the king has become so irrational – and so troubled by the dream which he knows means something big, that he’s willing to sink the whole show by killing them all.
Babylon looked so, so impressive along with all its 2018 versions. When push comes to shove (when the pressure is on) however, life is cheap in Babylon, when it runs up against power. And power in Babylon is always just a short step from abusive tyranny. Human wisdom can go only so far. When it comes to the deepest things, the eternal things, it runs out.
My father-in-law was one of the smartest men I have ever known. He was the first to earn a Doctor of Philosophy and then a Doctor of Science from the University of Adelaide where he also taught.
In the latter part of his life, he said to me “I used to think that science had all the answers. Now I see that it doesn’t get even close when it comes to the real questions of life.”
Daniel could have been so easily intimidated by the power and culture of Babylon. But he doesn’t need to be. Nor do we need to be.
Under all the glitz and the glamour, people with power, nous and clout (mind and influence) are so often morose, selfish and abusive when they don’t get their way. Gurus still do not have answers to the ultimate questions.
Underneath, Babylon is still bankrupt.
2. THERE IS TRUE TRUTH ONLY OUTSIDE OF BABYLON
Daniel is part of the crew about to be executed. Can he tell the king what his dream was, and what it meant? Not if all you’ve got are human resources.
However, there is more. Daniel called a prayer meeting with his three friends to seek help. From where? This closed secular world? No – he “told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven” (v18). The big answers are not here – but out there.
“Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. The Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” (v19) How Daniel then praised this God who revealed to him the dream and is meaning.
After that, he told the most powerful man in the world (v27, 28) “No wise men, enchanters, magicians or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked. But there is a God in heaven, who reveals mysteries.”
In this chapter words like ‘reveal’, ‘make known’ and ‘show’ are used 30 times. There is revelation that comes into this world, from outside. There is a God who speaks clearly and without trickery, who is over and above anything you’ll find in Babylon.
One of the wonderful things about Biblical Christianity is that our God is a God who speaks. He has not abandoned us to the dark, or to the wisdom in a closed system like Babylon.
He comes from outside and speaks into Babylon. He did it by a dream to Nebuchadnezzar, and then a prophet like Daniel. “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2).
Since Jesus is the complete revelation of God, we won’t be looking for dreams and prophets with which people back there had to be satisfied. But the words of Jesus, and the Holy Scripture that bears witness to him, are the true truth spoken from outside.
After people turned away from Jesus in droves when he preached truth to them, he asked his disciples “Won’t you also go?” Peter answered: “To whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” (John 6:38). Why look for answers to the really big questions in Babylon when “the God of heaven” has spoken from outside Babylon, into it?
Do you want to unscramble life? Do you want to know why you’re here? And what matters in this life? The best university minds, journalists and politicians don’t have the answers. Not in the closed world of Babylon.
Do you want to help people around you unscramble life – your kids, your neighbours, people you study or work with? In this revealed Word you are holding secrets that people out there simply do not have. And never will have, apart from this book.
I reckon the wise PhD’s of Babylon went to bed this night, so thankful for Daniel. Because he was there, and God spoke through him, they didn’t have to stand in front of the firing squad.
Daniel didn’t ignore them or write them off. But they got blessed because he spoke God’s words into Babylon.
I am not saying we are Daniel. He was a prophet in a way none of will ever be. Do you think people are going to really live without words of eternal life? Don’t you reckon we can speak true truth without apology and without embarrassment?
1. Underneath Babylon is bankrupt – always.
2. There is true truth only outside Babylon – with the Living God alone.
3. THERE IS AN END TO BABYLON AND ITS POWER
What was the King’s nightmare?
Read verses 31-35.
Four parts to this figure, from a head of gold, to a silver trunk, down to bronze legs and feet of iron and clay.
Daniel tells the king that he is the head of gold, and the kingdoms after him are inferior to his. Are they the Persian, Greek and Roman empires? Or Babylonian kings who will succeed him?
It doesn’t matter too much to Nebuchadnezzar. As long as he is top dog (the most important), that’s all he is worried about.
The big deal in the dream is, I think, this rock that was from outside of this world – “cut out by no human hand”. It is going to roll right on in to this world, and skittle (Knock over) kings and their kingdoms like tenpins. Then Jesus’ kingdom will become a kingdom that will not only fill the whole world, but outlast every human kingdom there is.
Some years ago the manager of the BBC in London was approached by a department head who wanted the Religion Department within the BBC to be ditched. “Why?” asked the BBC head.
The younger guy said that it was because life had changed and no one any longer went to church, read the Bible or even pretended to be religious. The manager simply answered “The church of Jesus Christ will stand at the grave of the BBC.”
We have had 5 Prime Ministers in about as many years in Australia. We know that this year’s celebrity is next year’s has been? Why the changes? Look at what Daniel tells the man who is the King of kings in verse 37:
“You, O King, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom (which kingdom?), the power and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, (by war and murder? Yes) the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them …”
Those with power in Australia are given it by Jesus, as are the laws we have. As will be the government given at the next election. It is Jesus who gives, and who takes away.
Makes you wonder why we get so feverish and hand-wringing about political changes, don’t you think.
Not that what God does is arbitrary. Nebuchadnezzar blew in the breeze, but Jesus doesn’t. All his actions are carefully planned to establish his kingdom and church right across the world. To run up his flag to still fly when the flags of more than 200 kingdoms of this world have all been lowered.
Should you have a view about political trends and changes? Sure you should. Should you act in a way that serves the welfare of those who live in Babylon? Of course. What the dream tells us is to have a view beyond the view, and over and above every political view, that puts those views in perspective.
If you are a Canberra watcher, I hope that over and above that, you are run by what Jesus is doing to establish his eternal, indestructible kingdom.
Just now there is a cruel and brutal tightening up of the freedoms of churches in China. Beijing is making sure that the primary allegiance of Christians is to the state, not to Jesus, with some being forced to sign papers denouncing Christianity lest they lose state welfare benefits. Church buildings have been bulldozed, CCTV has been placed inside others.
Zion Church in Beijing, one of the largest unofficial congregations in the country, had its building demolished this month. The pastor, who had been preaching there for more than 20 years, was then sent a bill of $250,000 for the costs of demolition.
He was quoted in the Guardian Newspaper this week: “Before, as long as you didn’t meddle in politics, the government left you alone. But now if you don’t push the Communist Party line, if you don’t display your love for the party, you are a target. Of course we are scared, we’re in China. But we have Jesus.”
Don’t trade love for Babylon for love for the real King, will you.
For “we have Jesus”.