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Three Unknowns of Daniel 2: Part Two

Daniel answered the king and said, “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, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind. Daniel 2:27–30

Our last post traced the remarkable turn of events that culminated in Nebuchadnezzar’s famous dream. After waiting for centuries, God chose to set Israel aside and open communications with the greatest king of the pagan world. The divine decision to take up dealings with Babylon’s darling was a radical move that must have stunned many devout Jews.

People are creatures of habit, often relying on rules and customs to give them a sense of safety and control. Our self-confidence grows deadly when we use religion to justify ourselves and avoid maturity, but our Lord is immune to this danger and committed to purging it from each of us. He wasn’t going to step aside and allow Israel to drift into a comfortable apostasy. His people had slumped into delusional, self-righteous slumber when God suddenly hit the brakes, fishtailed the car, and sped His way in an entirely new direction.

God had yet another surprise in store for captive Israel, embodied in the form of an impromptu prophet. Daniel came out of nowhere and became a prophet unlike any before him. In fact, had the Lord Jesus not called him a prophet (Mt. 24:15) we might have wondered what to call him.

Traditional Prophecy

Prophets and prophecy were a well-known and firmly established part of life in Israel and throughout the ancient world. Moses—regarded as Israel’s greatest prophet (Dt. 34:10)—was used by God to guide Israel through its redemption from Egypt and its development as God’s sacred nation (Ex. 3:7–8; 19:3–5). Even the patriarchs, such as Abraham and Isaac, were recognized as God’s prophets (Gen. 20:7; Ps. 105:15); so the role of prophet was truly ancient, existing long before the offices of priest and king (Jude 1:14). Moreover, the role of prophet was far more expansive than the monarchy and the priesthood, involving men and women (Ex. 15:20; Judg. 4:4), rich and poor alike (Num. 11:29; Amos 1:1). Even donkeys and deranged men prophesied (Num. 22:20; 1 Sam. 19:24), which ultimately gives us a clue to what prophecy is really about.

Daniel interprets the dream of Nebuchadnezzar by William Brassey Hole
Daniel interprets the dream of Nebuchadnezzar by William Brassey Hole

Missing the Message

Prophecy is usually understood to be a miraculous foretelling of the future, but this is a misconception that misses the heart of the matter. Prophecy is not a magical ability to tell fortunes but rather an ability to make God’s mind known to others. Prophets are God’s representatives, speaking on His behalf and giving direction for His people’s present need (Num. 11:16–17; 1 Cor. 14:3). Foretelling of future events was significant in confirming that the prophet was indeed God’s mouthpiece, instead of an arrogant imposter (Dt. 18:22; Jer. 28:8–9). More than that, events foretold were never supplied as spiritual stunts but opportunities for God to make His heart known to His people. We take time to show others who we are by what we do, and it is no less the case with God. Every event foretold has been given so that we may know and understand God’s heart, so an over-occupation with prophetic events can miss the point, rather like a lover who is so enthralled by the beauty of a valentine that he never finds the message inside.

Man with a Message

Defeated and disqualified, captive Israel deeply needed to hear from God. Daniel would bear this responsibility, but in a manner unlike any prophet before him. We will explore this subject in detail in our next post. In the meantime, have you noticed some ways that Daniel’s ministry differs from the ministry of Moses, Elijah, or Isaiah?

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