Thoughts to Ponder: Chapter 9
Chapter 9: God Reveals the Future to Nebuchadnezzar ~ Daniel 2:31-49
Q1 – Why do you suppose God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar the coming of Christ? How was his kingdom like the head of gold in the statue?
A1 – God had chosen Nebuchadnezzar to carry out His purpose. However, unlike Pharaoh, whom God had chosen in order that His power could be seen and His name made known, God seemed to take a more personal interest in Nebuchadnezzar. Rather than simply using this ruler as an instrument to accomplish His will, He also revealed Himself through the dreams that Daniel interpreted. God knows the hearts of people. Perhaps He thought Nebuchadnezzar’s heart could be softened, for He seemed to be calling Nebuchadnezzar to Himself.
By using the image of the great statue, God graphically showed Nebuchadnezzar his place in His grand plan that would bring Christ to the world. As the head of gold, his kingdom would be the most magnificent, but God wanted him to know that his might and the opulence of his kingdom were the result of God’s favor toward him. The kingdoms which would follow would never measure up to his. This knowledge of where God had placed him and the role he would play in God’s plan greatly humbled this great king.
Q2 – Read the Parable of the Wicked Tenants in Matthew 21:33-46. Note Jesus’ reference to the stone the builders rejected and His explanation of the parable. How does this tie in with the happenings foretold in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?
A2 – This parable gives a short synopsis of the Jewish religious leaders, who are the tenant farmers, and their relationship with God, who is the landowner or master. After choosing the Israelites as His people, God provided them with His law and helped them set up everything needed to nurture their relationship with Him. Yet, time and again, they rejected Him and the many prophets He had sent to instruct them. Finally, He sent his Son, Jesus, to bring them to Himself, but they killed him as well.
Note that Jesus, in telling this parable, is foretelling His own death, that the Jewish people would soon kill Him. It’s also interesting that the priests and Pharisees who heard this parable recognized themselves as the wicked farmers. They would have arrested Jesus right then, had they not been afraid of the crowds who considered Jesus a prophet.
How does the scripture in Psalm 118:25-26 which Jesus quotes relate to this parable? The stone the builders rejected was Jesus, God’s Son. He corresponds to the landowner’s son in the parable who was sent to the tenant farmers. But who were the builders who rejected the stone? Here’s what Matthew Henry states in his commentary: “The chief priests and the elders were the builders, had the oversight of the Jewish church, which was God’s building: and they would not allow Christ a place in their building, would not admit his doctrine or laws into their constitution; they threw him aside as a despised broken vessel, a stone that would serve only for a stepping-stone, to be trampled upon.” (Find Matthew Henry’s commentary here.)
Yet, this stone which had been cast aside by the Jewish leaders would become the cornerstone for God’s eternal kingdom. What is the significance of a cornerstone? In building a stone structure, the cornerstone is the first stone placed on the foundation. Often, this stone will be inscribed with the date and other information relevant to the structure being built. All the other stones are then laid in reference to the cornerstone. It determines their positioning and hence the positioning of the entire structure.
No wonder the religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus. He had just told them the Kingdom of God would be taken away from them and given to a nation that would produce the proper fruit, implying that they had not produced what God had expected of them. Remember that under the Old Law, there was no separation of church and state. So they were the political as well as the religious leaders for the Jewish people. Jesus essentially was telling them they would become irrelevant when this great change came about!
The stone in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was also destined to bring about great change. Having been cut from a mountain, but not by human hands, meant that this was God’s doing. This stone represented a divine new kingdom, and earthly rulers would play no part in establishing it. (It’s also possible the mountain represents God, and Jesus, as a stone cut from the mountain, was the part of God that came to live on earth.) This stone would then crush the magnificent statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to bits, and the wind would blow the pieces away. This divine new kingdom would supplant all the earthly kingdoms, and it would continue to grow and become a great mountain covering the whole earth.
In both Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the parable of the wicked tenants, the stone represented Jesus. He fulfilled the Old Law, and in establishing the New Law, He became the cornerstone on which God’s eternal church is built. This new kingdom is a spiritual rather than an earthly kingdom, and it will last forever. As a rock hewn from the mountain of God, it will be able to withstand all challengers and contenders. Best of all, this divine kingdom is open to all peoples of the world, regardless of their earthly lineage.
Q3 – In a relatively short period of time, Daniel went from his life hanging in the balance to being promoted ruler over the province of Babylon. What other examples can you think of where God turned a situation from being seemingly hopeless into an advantage for His people?
A3 – The Bible contains numerous examples of God’s hand at work in people’s lives. One that comes to mind is Joseph (see Genesis chapters 37, 39-41). Sold by his own brothers into slavery, he became a servant of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. After being falsely accused of rape by Potiphar’s wife, he then spent several years in prison in Egypt.
Joseph’s life changed instantly when, with God’s help, he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream. Pharaoh then put him in charge of the entire land of Egypt, second in rank only to the king. Pharaoh gave him his signet ring and fine linen clothing, hung a gold chain around his neck, and provided him a chariot in which to ride. “And Pharaoh said to him, ‘I am Pharaoh, but no one will lift a hand or foot in the entire land of Egypt without your approval.’” (Genesis 41:44, NLT)
Pharaoh also gave Joseph a wife, who bore him two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Both of these sons’ descendants would later receive an allotment in the Promised Land, meaning that Joseph essentially received a double inheritance. Remember that Joseph’s father, Jacob who was later called Israel, had twelve sons and there would later be twelve tribes. But the descendants of one son, Levi, did not receive a tribal allotment, because they were the priestly tribe. In return for their service to God, they received other considerations, including the food offerings brought in by the other Israelites. However, Manasseh and Ephraim, Joseph’s sons, both received an allotment, thus bringing the number of tribes to twelve.
So Joseph went from being his father’s favorite son to being presumed dead. After being sold into slavery, things got even worse when he was thrown into prison in Egypt. He was seventeen when he was tending his father’s flocks (Genesis 37:2), and he was thirty when he began serving in Pharaoh’s court (Genesis 41:46). For those thirteen years in between, his life looked pretty bleak. But then everything changed, and he went from being a prisoner to being second in command over one of the greatest kingdoms of that time. His being placed in that position became a huge advantage for his family, who had to move to Egypt to survive the great drought. God later rewarded his descendants with a double portion of inheritance in the Promised Land. It took awhile, but things worked out well in the end for Joseph.