- Let God Be God
- Daniel 2
- Lyndol Loyd January 19, 2021
Daniel: Pursuing Integrity Daniel 2: Let God Be God
Good morning, Church! Today we are going forward in our message series based on the Old Testament book of Daniel. Last week we launched the series by looking at how Daniel would have had everything going for him in his homeland of Judah – He was bright, handsome, good with people and most of all he had a genuine faith in God that was more than just head knowledge. Daniel lived in a life-giving relationship with God.
But as you’ll remember, Daniel’s life took a sharp turn when Jerusalem was invaded by King Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonian army looted the temple, killed many people, and took others like Daniel and his friends into captivity. After the army took Daniel and his friends captive, he was given a new name, forced to learn a foreign language, and adapted to a totally new culture. Nothing in Daniel’s life was as he had planned or would have dreamt about.
It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Daniel to live as a passive victim of his circumstances. But instead, Daniel exhibited incredible resilience in the face of extreme adversity. He found a way to stand in faith even when it could have cost him big time.
This morning, we are going to move forward in Daniel’s story to Daniel 2 where Daniel experiences having his life on the line once again and how his relationship with God sustains him.
YOU’RE NOT GOD
Some years ago, a man named Ernest Kurtz wrote what became the definitive history of the Alcoholics Anonymous movement, a book entitled, Not God. In it, he contended that the alcoholics’ basic problem is their refusal to acknowledge limitation and weakness.
They tend to live under the delusion that they are in control of everything, when the truth is, they can’t even control themselves. He wrote, “Fundamental to the recovery process is that healing and sanity begin with a single realization that I am not God.”
This “I am God” illusion is not limited to alcoholics. Behind the very FIRST SIN ever committed was this same deceptive illusion. According to Genesis 3:5 the serpent said to the woman, “5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
It was the first temptation. “You’ll be the master of the universe. You don’t have to bend the knee. You don’t have to submit to somebody else’s wisdom. You can get away with flouting the moral law of the universe. You will be like God.”
People have been falling for that line since the beginning of time.
It is amazing how confused we get over this one single principle. Someone once made a simple but profound declaration, “The biggest difference between you and God is God doesn’t think He’s you.” Failure to understand that we are not God can destroy our spiritual lives.
As we pick back up with the story of Daniel 2 we find that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon saw the world as revolving around him. That often happens when everyone around you boldly declares, “The world revolves around you!”
In ancient times, many kings claimed that they were God. Who was going to argue with them? Head of a powerful nation with a mighty army, Nebuchadnezzar was in control; people existed to make him happy. All the pleasures of this world were at his fingertips. He was fully caught up in the “I am God” syndrome.
Many people TODAY still live under this delusion. They may not be king or queen of a mighty nation, but they live as if the entire cosmos moves around them. Their guiding attitude in life is that their needs, desires, and dreams are what matters most.
When mental health professionals evaluate people who have really run hard and far with this kind of attitude they use terms like “Messianic Complex” and “Grandiosity.” Put simply, when we get swept into a mind-set that says, “I am the center of the universe,” we are experiencing the “I am God” syndrome.
DANIEL 2:1-12 One night during the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had such disturbing dreams that he couldn’t sleep. 2 He called in his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers, and he demanded that they tell him what he had dreamed. As they stood before the king, 3 he said, “I have had a dream that deeply troubles me, and I must know what it means.”
4 Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic, “Long live the king! Tell us the dream, and we will tell you what it means.”
5 But the king said to the astrologers, “I am serious about this. If you don’t tell me what my dream was and what it means, you will be torn limb from limb, and your houses will be turned into heaps of rubble! 6 But if you tell me what I dreamed and what the dream means, I will give you many wonderful gifts and honors. Just tell me the dream and what it means!”
7 They said again, “Please, Your Majesty. Tell us the dream, and we will tell you what it means.”
8 The king replied, “I know what you are doing! You’re stalling for time because you know I am serious when I say, 9 ‘If you don’t tell me the dream, you are doomed.’ So you have conspired to tell me lies, hoping I will change my mind. But tell me the dream, and then I’ll know that you can tell me what it means.”
10 The astrologers replied to the king, “No one on earth can tell the king his dream! And no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked such a thing of any magician, enchanter, or astrologer! 11 The king’s demand is impossible. No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they do not live here among people.”
12 The king was furious when he heard this, and he ordered that all the wise men of Babylon be executed. 13 And because of the king’s decree, men were sent to find and kill Daniel and his friends.
We know that this happens in the 2nd year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Assyria, which had been Babylon’s chief enemy, had completely collapsed five years earlier. Nebuchadnezzar is the absolute dictator of an empire that reigned with unchallenged authority over the known world.
Nebuchadnezzar had youth, strength, wealth, fame, and unparalleled power. The most secure person on the face of the earth, he is seen as a god by people. But he’s a god who can’t sleep. A year into having everything he discovers that everything is all wrong… and he’s TROUBLED.
People who live under an “I am God” delusion are always just one bad dream – just one bad night’s sleep away – from UTTER INSECURITY. They are building a house on sand, and it takes only one big storm to cause everything to come tumbling down.
I AM NOT GOD When Lyndon B. Johnson was president, he once asked Bill Moyers, his press secretary and also an ordained minister, to pray at a cabinet meeting. As Moyers was praying (somewhat quietly) at the other end of the table, Johnson interrupted; “Speak up Moyers, I can’t hear you.” To which Moyers simply responded, “I wasn’t talking to you, sir.”
No matter how high we might climb on the ladder of this world, we will never be God. When we accept this reality, a fresh humility and perspective overflows in our heart, mind and life. Everything changes.
We see this lived out in Daniel’s life as we pick back up with v.14. “14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, came to kill them, Daniel handled the situation with wisdom and discretion. 15 He asked Arioch, “Why has the king issued such a harsh decree?” So Arioch told him all that had happened. 16 Daniel went at once to see the king and requested more time to tell the king what the dream meant.
17 Then Daniel went home and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what had happened. 18 He urged them to ask the God of heaven to show them his mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not be executed along with the other wise men of Babylon. 19 That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven. 20 He said,
“Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power.
21 He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. 22 He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light. 23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded.”
Daniel’s actions offered a crystal-clear demonstration that he was not God.
- For one thing, he cried out for God’s help, acknowledging his own need. He was so vulnerable that he needed others to PRAY for him and with him. What a great reminder that we are not in control of the universe… the simple act of prayer.
- Then Daniel lifted up PRAISE. He admitted that God was the One who revealed things that were deep and hidden… not Daniel.
- To top it off, Daniel gave public CREDIT to God. He would not let people say, “Wow! Look what Daniel did.” Instead, he made sure the king and everyone else knew that God alone deserved praise for this great revelation.
As we seek to live lives based on the truth that God is God and we are not, all three of these PATTERNS should mark our lives:
- Every time we pray, we ADMIT that we need God’s leading, wisdom, and power to make it through the day.
- When we praise God, we express to him that he deserves the glory… not us.
- And each time we see God do something wonderful and publicly give him the credit we AVOID the “I am God” syndrome.
YOU ARE NOT GOD… BUT HE WOULD LOVE TO MEET YOU Daniel had a deep desire for Nebuchadnezzar to understand the spiritual reality that was unfolding right under his nose. Daniel knew God, and he wanted the king to “Meet his Maker”… in a good way.
At its heart, the book of Daniel is about EVANGELISM. Going into exile in a foreign country looked like the end of the world for Daniel and his friends. Instead, God used the situation as the evangelistic opportunity of a lifetime.
When we humbly declare, “I am not God,” and “I am lost apart from God” our whole outlook on life changes. Not only do we celebrate God’s saving grace, but we want OTHERS to experience it too.
We devote ourselves to doing whatever it takes to help people see God’s presence and power in this world. We take all kinds of risks, pay all kinds of prices, and devote ourselves to helping other people meet the one true God.
Daniel had many reasons to shrink back, not the least of which was that he could be killed. But he used exquisite wisdom and boldness. First, offering a simple, honest testimony of God’s presence and power, he then revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream interpretation and made sure to give God the credit. The king’s response was dramatic.
Daniel 2:46-47 reads, “46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar threw himself down before Daniel and worshiped him, and he commanded his people to offer sacrifices and burn sweet incense before him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is the greatest of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this secret.”
Was Nebuchadnezzar converted at this point? Not likely. He’s still engaged in pagan idolatry and oppressive violence. But Daniel doesn’t give up on him, because he knows the God of heaven is AT WORK even in Nebuchadnezzar’s heart. His story is still being written.
Most people’s spiritual journeys are usually NOT straight up the ladder. Often it’s two steps forward and one step back. When we live with a deep awareness that God cares about people, we do all we can to introduce them to the God, who already loves them. Like Daniel, we take risks, speak truth, give testimony, and TRUST that God is at work.
One other subtle THEME that runs through this portion of Daniel’s history is the way he always included his friends. He gathered them when the challenge arose so they could pray with and for him.
When it came time to interpret the dream for the king, Daniel said, “We’ll interpret the dream.” He wanted his friends in on the credit. This is why at the very end of the story, after the king has honored Daniel, he also elevated and honored Daniel’s three friends.
FREEDOM THAT COMES FROM NOT BEING GOD If God is God and I am not, I can STOP WORRYING. When worry comes along we can allow it to be a prompting of the Holy Spirit to remind us that we don’t carry the world on our shoulders. We can humbly say, “God, I’m going to give this situation to You. I lay my fears at Your feet. I trust You to carry me through. You are God. I am not.”
Daniel was in a foreign land, under a death threat from an angry king, and profoundly aware that he did not have any personal power to exercise in this situation.
Yet, he had an amazing certainty that his life was in the hands of a competent God. Subsequently, he didn’t live in fear. He was not paralyzed by anxiety. He did not let worry rule his world.
I’d like to ask each of you to do something this morning. I’d like for you to take a moment and assess the LEVEL OF WORRY in your life. If we used a simple 10 point scale with 1 being “I almost never worry” and 10 being “I worry all of the time.” Where would you place yourself upon that scale?
If you find yourself on the higher end of the worry scale this morning I’d suggest to you that if you were focus on the spiritual reality that you are not God and TRUST HIM to be in control that more than likely it would reduce your stress level significantly.
There was a man who was a member of a church I used to pastor who ended up in the doctor’s office because his blood pressure was through the roof and he was having heart problems related to his stress level. He was a control freak and he came to this point where he received a hard lesson on the fact that he wasn’t God.
His doctor looked at him and told him, “If you wake up tomorrow morning and it wants to rain outside you go ahead and let it rain. You need to realize that you cannot control that. Leave being God up to God. You take care of what you can and leave the rest up to Him.”
One of the biggest antidotes for worry is PRAYER. Daniel modeled this with his life. We also see this truth taught in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul. Hear his words from Philippians 4:6-7, “6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
We read Daniel 2 and find the story of God’s faithfulness to Daniel. May it inspire us to trust God with our lives understanding that not only was God faithful to Daniel, He is also faithful to us.