31 “Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.
44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This isthe 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 its interpretation is trustworthy.”
46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”
48 Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon,while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.
[I substituted the NRSV from the Lectionary with the NIV since the word 'stone' (NRSV) is better rendered 'rock' (NIV).]
The two great prophetic dreamers in the OT are Joseph and Daniel. Both were also high ranking civil servants, one serving mighty Egypt and the other formidable Babylon. Being so close to the seat of power, both Joseph and Daniel had dreams and interpreted dreams having to do with their respective leaders and kingdoms that they served.
Occasionally, a dream would be given that included events in the far distant future. Such was the case in the above passage.
King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and he wanted someone in his kingdom to tell him (1) what dream he had and (2) the interpretation of that dream. The only one who had this ability was Daniel. In the passage, we pick up Daniel's response to Nebuchadnezzar -- the dream the King had and what the dream meant.
Biblical scholars (those who believe in predictive prophecy!) interpret Daniel 2 as setting forth the sequence of empires that begins with Babylonians (Nebuchadnezzar), followed by the Persians, the Greeks, and then the Romans. These four worldly empires are overthrown by a fifth "empire" that will be established on earth to enforce God’s righteousness, peace and mercy. This fifth empire is established by the "rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands" (Daniel 2:45). This Rock -- the Messiah -- will destroy all earthly empires and will rule the final kingdom of righteousness with the saints.
A grand dream on a global scale, to be sure. Yet, we should note, such a dream was indeed given to Nebuchadnezzar and to Daniel to interpret.
Might the Lord continue to give such dreams to our leaders and prophetic dreamers? There is no biblical reason why such bestowal of dreams and their interpretations should cease. Visions and dreams certainly continued during the New Testament era and continued, perhaps sporadically, throughout the history of the church.
Perhaps the Lord will grant you dreams as well.
The important message about such grand dreams is this: that the Lord is sovereign, that world events are not outside God's hands, that the unfolding of history itself is ultimately shaped by God. And in these truths, we can take comfort. Anxiety about the future therefore is inappropriate. We just need to look to Jesus, the Lord of History, for us to find solace and encouragement that events -- large or small -- are all within the mystery of God's providence.
Yes, it would be pretty cool to be a prophetic dreamer on the level of a Joseph or Daniel.
Better still is to know that our future is in the caring, mighty hand of God of the universe and history.
Let's pray: God, our Father, we entrust our lives and future to you knowing full well that you are sovereign over all things, We trust in your good providence to shape our lives and the lives of those whom we love. We trust your providence over the rising and falling of nations and their particular roles in history. We trust you today because of your vigilant care and compassion over our lives and welfare. In Jesus' name, Amen.