Back to the Future

A casual reading of the book of Daniel will show that it is divided into two parts. The first six chapters make up the first part (the well-known part). These are chapters of narrative – exciting stories that have kept Sunday School children enthralled for generations. The last six chapters make up the second part. These chapters are full of visions and prophecy, and make much harder reading (not so easy for Sunday School!)

It has been pointed out that the first six chapters are ‘prophetic history’ while the last six chapters are ‘historic prophecy’. What people mean by that is this – in the first six chapters we have given to us in the narrative pictures of future events, such as the faithful Jewish remnant being preserved in tribulation days, but in the last six chapters we have prophecies that were future to Daniel but are historic to us – lots of what was revealed to Daniel in chapters 7-12 has already been fulfilled.

Is there any real importance to this? Yes! Huge importance actually. We can look at those last six chapters and see how the prophecies relating to world empires, the rise and fall of leaders, the coming of the Messiah, and the year of His death, the destruction of the Temple, etc. have been accurately fulfilled, and that then gives us confidence to know that the prophecies that relate to our future will be fulfilled just as literally and accurately. Daniel is a wonderful book to inspire confidence that the Bible is indeed the word of God

But what has this to do with chapter 2? Quite a bit! Could Nebuchadnezzar really not remember his dream? To be honest, I think he had no difficulty at all recalling his dream, but I think his real difficulty was in trusting his magicians and enchanters. Like the fortune teller at the fair, it would be pretty easy for the King’s advisors to invent some kind of bland interpretation, and conjure up a future prediction, but what confidence could Nebuchadnezzar have in its trustworthiness? For this reason Nebuchadnezzar wanted to know if his advisors really did have any special revelation or supernatural insight, so he asks them to give evidence that he can actually verify. If they were able to tell him what happened last night in his dream it would be pretty good evidence they were able to tell him what that dream meant. I heard an American preacher tell about a time he was in a shopping centre and a woman was sitting at a stall and said to him, ’I’ll tell your future for ’. He said, ’No thanks, I know my future, but I’ll give you if you can tell me what I did yesterday’. She admitted she didn’t have that gift, and he told her that he had no reason therefore to believe she had any gift. How different is the Bible! It can be trusted for the future because it has been tested in the past. We can look back and see prophecies that have been fulfilled – there is no way that Daniel, or the other prophets, could have known naturally, or guessed luckily, the events they recorded. The prophets tell us how Christ would die (before the invention of crucifixion), why He would die, and even when He would die. These astounding prophecies were all accurately and absolutely fulfilled. There is no natural or atheistic answer to this, the only answer that accounts for the facts is the one that the Bible itself gives – ‘holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit’, 2 Pet. 1. 21. Looking back at the fulfilment of these past prophecies gives us complete confidence in the fulfilment of the future prophecies.

But let’s have a look at the chapter and see if there are any lessons we can learn for our own lives. Try and imagine how you would respond if you found yourself in Daniel’s situation – you are told that you are going to lose your life because the king’s wise men can’t tell the king what he dreamt. How would you react? Perhaps you would react with panic; perhaps you would react with protests. How did Daniel react? Verse 14 tells us he reacted ‘with counsel and wisdom’. In a different (but applicable) context, the Bible says that ‘he that believeth shall not make haste’, Isa. 28. 16. The person, like Daniel, who has a living faith in the God of scripture will not get in a flap the moment a problem arises. Daniel had proved God in the past, and that gave him confidence for the present trial.

The next port of call was to see the king, v. 16. Again, we see this delightful combination of courtesy and courage on the part of Daniel. He respectfully asked for time, but he didn’t pathetically grovel for mercy! He told the king he would get him the answer.

His next step was to speak to his friends in order that they would all speak to God about it. Daniel had learnt that prayer has a cumulative effect. How it works will forever be a mystery, but the Bible teaches, and personal experience confirms it, that there is increased effectiveness in collective prayer. For that reason I implore you not to have a casual attitude to the assembly prayer meeting. Please don’t think it doesn’t matter if you pray with the assembly just because you can pray by yourself; God expects us to be engaged in personal, and collective prayer.

They then made the matter known to God. I imagine if your life was on the line it would probably get you praying, but can I ask you this, does it take a life-threatening crisis to get you praying? Sometimes we feel the little things of life aren’t worth taking to God in prayer. The Bible encourages us to cast all our care on the Lord, 1 Pet. 5. 7. Mary and Martha presented the need to the Lord when their brother was dying, John 11, but Mary, the Lord’s mother, presented the need to the Lord when the wine had run out, John 2! No matter how big or small the problem, take it to the Lord in prayer.

Daniel then had what I think is one of the greatest thrills of life – the joy of answered prayer! I did something a while ago that was very encouraging, yet at the same time very humbling. I wrote on a sheet of paper all the occasions in which I had received a definite answer to a specific prayer. It was wonderful to review those divine answers, and rejoice in God’s goodness, but it was also humbling that I could fit them all on the one sheet of paper with space left for more! What about you? Have you proved God in your own life? Have you got a first-hand faith? Daniel said, ‘I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might’. He seems to be saying that he had known God as the God of his fathers – the God who had personally dealt with them, but now Daniel has encountered and experienced the nearness of that God for himself.

Can I encourage you, the God of the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, the God of the missionaries, the preachers, and the elders, the God of George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, and Harry Ironside, is your God, to be known, proved, experienced and enjoyed in your life. Don’t live on second-hand reports on what God can do. Let Him into every aspect of your life, and see what He can do in, and through, you too.