Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
(Daniel 2:45, KJV)
This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands-a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”
Delivered on Sunday, December 7, 2008 @ 11a.m.
While president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Bailey Smith declared, “God does not hear the prayers of a Jew.” While this is a bigoted and narrow minded expression, it is undoubtedly representative of many other like minded individuals. Presumptive individuals are quick to declare what God will and won’t do.
However, to such person’s surprise our text relates how God used a pagan king to disclose a Messianic truth. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, would seem to be the most unlikely person through whom God would speak a word of prophesy.
While king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar was a devoted followe3r of the idol Marduk. Under him the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were cast into a fiery furnace. He marched a steady stream of captives from Egypt, Judah, and Syria to serve his whims. It is even said that Nebuchadnezzar fell so low that at the end of his life he became as a beast grazing in a field.
Yet, it is through such a man that God gives a dream of what must come to pass. In this dream God shows the superiority of His Kingdom over the kingdoms of the world. The dream is filled with figurative representations. These earthly kingdoms are seen as being made of various metals that include gold, silver, brass, iron, and clay pottery. Ironically, it is a stone carved out of a mountain without the benefit of human hands that utterly destroys these other elements’ kingdom.
Normally, we think of iron as an instrument to break up stone. Usually an iron hammer or pick is used to crush stone. It is harder and more likely to survive a collision with stone. Yet, in the dream, it is this extraordinarily hewn stone that destroys these other elements, which includes iron.
Most biblical commentators believe this passage is a Messianic reference. The stone specifically is believed to be a reference to the Messiah. As Christians, we believe it is Jesus Christ who comes to earth as the supreme ruler of all.
Nebuchadnezzar has this dream, but he does not understand it. Initially, he sends for the soothsayers, magicians, and astrologers to tell him the meaning of the dream. When they are unable to fulfill the king’s request they are condemned to death.
However, it is Daniel, the prophet, who comes forth to disclose the meaning of dream. In the process, Daniel asks for the lives of the condemned diviners to be spared.
This narrative therefore is filled with irony. Stone destroys iron. A pagan king has a dream that reveals the future with the Messiah’s arrival. Then, a captive Jewish prophet pleads for the lives of Babylonian diviners. This biblical story introduces the unexpected and the unfamiliar. It stretches us to think beyond the conventional earthly customs.
From time immemorial humans have erected partitions among themselves. Those who are with us we tend to identify with. However, those against us we are quick to label as “them.” Thus, the world becomes divided into the “us” and “them” camps. In the minds of many, these groups are at odds and never shall come to a cordial meeting of the minds.
I believe this story with its irony is as instructive in that regard as is the more readily perceived dream’s message. I believe it is telling us that God is no respecter of persons. He can and will use anybody to get His message across to all people. God is not ethnocentric. He is not racist. He is not sexist.
God is God of all. He made all throughout the universe. He called the winds from the four corners of the earth. He spat out the seas. He laid the path for the flow of the rivers, streams, and bays. He clothed creation in all of its colors. Every tribe, every kindred, every people on this terrestrial ball, all belong to Him. He sends them all rain, sunshine, and air to breathe.
It is utter rebellion to attempt to elevate one segment of the created order while excluding another. God is universal. His grace and mercy is without borders. His goodwill overflows from nation to nation and people to people.
Hence, the stone cut out of the mountain without hands is not come just to obliterate governments. Rather, He is come to destroy evil. He is come to eradicate ethnic cleansing. He is come to put down genocide. He is come to put back together what Satan has put asunder.
It is for this reason that at His birth shepherds in the field heard an angelic choir sing the first Christmas carol that included the following lyrics:
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, good
will toward men.
That is the ultimate meaning of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. That is the meaning of the stone rolling down the side of the mountain.
Jesus came that humanity might be at one with God the Father and fellow human beings. Yes, God was in Christ reconciling the world back unto Himself.
Thus, rather than concentrating on how different we are one from the other, we would do well to realize that in Christ there is unity. In Christ we share communion. We become the body of Christ when we submit to His will and way.