Bible Dreams – Daniel

Bible Dreams – Daniel

Bible Dreams – Daniel.

“That night God came to king Abimelech in a dream…” (Genesis 20:3); “As Jacob slept, he dreamed of a stairway…” (Gen. 28:12); “In my dream, the Angel of the Lord said to me, ‘Jacob!” (Gen. 31:11); “One night, Joseph had a dream…” (Gen. 37:5); “The previous night, God had appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream…” (Gen. 31:24); “Interpreting dreams is God’s business, so go ahead and tell me your dreams,’ said Joseph.”(Gen. 40:8); “Two years later, Pharaoh dreamed… (Gen. 41:1);“When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord.” (Judges 7:15); “That night, Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream.” (1 Kings 3:5, and 9:2); “I have had a dream that deeply troubles me, and I must know what it means,’ said King Nebuchadnezzar. He sent for Daniel at once.” (Daniel 2:3, 14); “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream…” (Matthew 1:20, also in 2:19 and 2:22); “God had warned the Magi in a dream.” (Matt. 2:12); “Pilate’s wife sent him a message, saying ‘Let that innocent man alone! I suffered through a terrible nightmare about Him last night!” (Matt. 27:19).

Why would God, who has every means of revelation at His disposal, choose dreams as a way to contact a person and convey vital guidance? Dreams tend to be unreliable, unpredictable, illogical, and poorly remembered if at all. Many if not most dreams don’t seem like a very trustworthy vehicle for divine communication. They can be mistranslated so easily, and sometimes are so bizarre it’s hard to take them seriously. And we know now that dreams can be affected by external things like room temperature, what we ate or drank before bedtime, the events of the day, or even if there are any lingering aromas in the house. And because dreamers are in an unconscious state, dreams are outside of our control as the unfettered imagination runs wild.

Nonetheless, God speaking through dreams didn’t seem to raise any eyebrows in Scripture. Everyone from pagan kings to heroic saints were not surprised by this strategy of God to reach them. We now realize that after decades of so-called dream science, the whole topic of dreams are just as mysterious now as in ancient times. Dreams remain a fascinating frontier when it comes to scientific research, and we still simply cannot confirm why we have this ability to mentally experience vivid pictures, stories and images while in an unconscious state. God in His wisdom knows when to approach someone with divine intervention while a person is in a dream state. He knows who is a likely prospect for His appearance in a dream. Perhaps some people are more receptive to God’s guidance when in an unconscious state, which says a lot about a person’s stubbornness when in a conscious state. Perhaps it is only during a dream that a person doesn’t have much of a choice of whether to listen or not, knowing that dreamers are captive audiences. Maybe God waits for when a certain person’s resistance is down. Perhaps a person’s imagination might be more picturesque and creative during a dream, able to manage an other-worldly, heavenly message. We just don’t know for sure the motivation of God in using dreams, of course, because His very presence is a mystery as He somehow travels back and forth between spiritual, material and imaginative realities. But we do know that God often chooses to work in mysterious ways and in this matter of dreams, He has chosen, and continues to choose, dreams to warn, instruct, guide, reveal His presence, and encourage us. God loves us so much that He will do whatever it takes to reach us whether awake, or asleep, or everything in between.

Around 600 BC, Nebuchadnezzar and his huge Babylonian army laid siege to Jerusalem. They surrounded the capital city of Judah and had a stranglehold on everything in Jerusalem… no food, no transportation, no military help. God’s punishment to His Chosen People for their unfaithfulness was to have the Babylonians defeat the people of Jerusalem. The enemy then quickly deported those young men who would serve the king’s court in Babylon. “Only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men, all versed in every branch of learning, gifted with knowledge and good judgment, suited to serve in the royal palace.” (Daniel 1:4). Among these exiled young men were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Nothing would make these young men compromise their faith in God. Despite their resistance to Babylon’s temptations, their excellence in their work (“ten times more competent” (1:20), these four men rose to prominent places of leadership in Babylon.

Eventually the king promoted Daniel to the king’s court to be a ruler over the whole province of Babylon, much like a Prime Minister today. Daniel was a trusted statesman in enemy territory, and continued as a leader in civic affairs for over 70 years. The secret to Daniel’s success was his profound prayer life. He was a prophet who predicted military and political events, and was given visions of the inner workings of the heavenly court. His ancient prophetic insights are still being studied for their contemporary relevance to this day. Daniel was described well in 5:11-12:  “There is a man in your kingdom who has within him the spirit of the holy gods. This man was found to have insight, understanding and wisdom like that of the gods. This man, Daniel, has exceptional ability and is filled with divine knowledge and understanding. He can interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems.” 

The King’s First Dream. Soon after the arrival of these outstanding Jewish boys, King Nebuchadnezzar started having dreams that troubled his spirit so that he couldn’t sleep at night. These dreams mystified him, and he desperately wanted to understand their meaning. So he brought what could be called the Chaldean College of Wise Men to interpret his dream. The king’s college included so-called counselors like the magicians, who were involved in a variety of divination, including dream interpretation; the astrologers, who not only read the stars but also performed incantations for healing; the sorcerers, who performed various kinds of witchcraft; and the soothsayers, who were diviners that were thought to foretell the future. All these “wise men” could be lumped together as Chaldeans, the advisors to the king who were steeped in occult knowledge and pagan divination. They were considered the cream of the crop, but they had stiff competition in the God-fearing Daniel. This makes sense, since only someone blessed with the wisdom of God would be able to interpret revelations of God. Only Daniel, the Godly man with the spiritual gift of dreams, would be sufficient.

Here we find Nebuchadnezzar at his most unreasonable and illogical. He told the court occultists that they must tell him both the contents of the dream but also the interpretation of the dream! The king told them essentially, “First tell me what I dreamed, then tell me what it means!” The king’s occultists responded that of course they couldn’t do that, not in a million years. Since they couldn’t help him, he flew into a rage. Finally, the king thought of Daniel, and asked him to come to the royal court and tell the king both the contents and the interpretation of his dream. There was a lot riding on this assignment… the king declared that he would execute all those who couldn’t interpret the dream. So Daniel asked his three friends to pray with him before he approached the king, that “they request compassion from the God of heaven.” (Dan. 2:17-18).

God mercifully revealed everything Daniel needed to know in order to meet the ridiculous demands of the troubled king. After Daniel revealed to the king the dreams contents and meaning, Daniel gave God all the credit and offered this beautiful word of worship to Him: “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though He is surrounded by light. I thank you and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me the wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded.” (2:20-23, NLT). 

The king’s first dream looked like this: There was a gigantic statue, impressive in size and splendor, a truly extraordinary stature that drew the king’s fixed attention. The statue was made of various metals such as gold, silver, bronze, iron and a little clay mixed in. All the statue’s body parts were composed of different metals. And then in the dream, the king continues staring at this statue until a rock, cut out of a mountain, a rock that had no human origin, that was cut out “without human hands,” struck the statue and crushed its feet of iron and clay. And then all at the same time, the statue was completely crushed by this rock, the wind carried away the remining pieces, and there was no trace of the statue that could be found. This rock of destruction then became a great mountain that filled the whole earth.

Through God’s inspiration, Daniel had no trouble interpreting the dream for the king. The statue represented four succeeding powerful earthly kingdoms in all their glory. Each of the four metals represented a different empire, each kingdom that would have its time that would enjoy earthly power and influence: Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. The rock cut out of the mountain represented God, who will establish His eternal kingdom after He leaves these other kingdoms in ruins. The rock will then become a huge mountain that will cover the earth. God’s kingdom on earth, unlike the other kingdoms, will never be destroyed, never dominated by any other earthly power. Daniel tells the king that God is in fact more powerful than any other king on earth. The king had to hear the humbling words that he is not invincible. Despite the current power of the king’s domain, ultimately God’s kingdom will be triumphant over all other kingdoms. Rabbinic tradition states that the triumphant rock in the dream is a picture of the coming Messiah, that the mountain is the messianic rule he will establish over all the earth. It is fascinating to see that God inspired Daniel to speak of events that will occur several centuries beyond his time. Daniel’s interpretation has been accepted as inspired prophetic foreknowledge of future events, and indeed messianic in its message.

Christians believe that the Rock was indeed the Messiah Jesus. Jesus Christ, the “living stone” (1 Peter 2:4), who overpowered all earthly powers through His death and resurrection. After crushing the statue, The Rock has become a mountain of God that is spreading over the world right now. The Christian Church, the kingdom of God, has grown into a mighty mountain that fills the earth, just as Daniel predicted 600 years before Christ.

The King’s Second Dream. In Daniel 4 we read of another of Nebuchadnezzar’s nightmares. In terror, he once again called his Chaldean wise men, who once again failed at the kings’ request of interpreting his dream. Daniel was called upon again, and he was able to reveal the meaning of the king’s dream. Daniel wasn’t thrilled at being the bearer of bad news to the king, but he bravely forged ahead and told the king everything that God had revealed to him.

Daniel told him that this was a dream of fair warning, that the king would lose everything, including his own sanity, if he didn’t repent of his pride, cruelty, and lack of mercy in his rule. The dream foretold that the king would live like an animal after his kingdom was taken away from him, that he would be forced to eat grass like the cattle, that he would have to dwell out in the open and live like a wild creature away from human contact. Daniel told the king that he placed himself above the sovereign King of the Universe, and that, as Frederick Buechner said… “You got so used to being called God that you actually started believing it.”

Sure enough, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t take this warning seriously, and after being given twelve months to repent of his arrogance, the king continued in his pride as he strolled on the roof of his royal palace, saying, “I, only I, have built Babylon into greatness through my own power and ingenuity, and I deserve to be held in high honor because of my majesty.” Well, the king ignored the Big If of the dream and soon had his entire kingdom taken away, was driven into the hinterlands away from human civilization, and became a fellow member of the animal kingdom, complete with hair as long as an eagle’s feathers and fingernails that grew so long that it curved into his hands like the claws of a bird. In other words, the king’s pride came before his fall, and in fact ushered in his fall for seven years of insanity. Finally the king came to his senses and recognized the “Most High God and Eternal One, whose reign will endure forever.” As Daniel had predicted, once the king repented, everything was returned to him, including his sanity, and his kingdom was “even greater than what it was before.”

The First Dream of Daniel’s. “In the first year of Belshazzar’s reign over Babylon, Daniel had a dream that included visions as he slept in his bed. When he got up, he remembered the dream and wrote it all down.’ (Daniel 7:1-2). Daniel was terrified as he dreamt about various historical kingdoms waging fierce warfare against the “holy ones.” But then an amazing heart-stopping vision was revealed to Daniel. The contents of this part of his vision has stood the test of time as profoundly Messianic, and it included a glimpse into unheard of scenes in the throne room of heaven. This needs to be told in its entirety: “As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of His head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.
10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.

And then Daniel witnessed in his vision the Messianic term that Jesus Himself used often 600 years later: 13 In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

Son of Man. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another…” (Matthew 25:31-32). Jesus gave Himself the title Son of Man throughout His ministry as recorded in the gospels, more than seventy times. Son of Man was His favorite way of describing Himself, even though He never once heard that term applied to Him by His disciples. Practically all biblical scholars believe that Jesus, at least in part, took that title from a well-known vision of Daniel’s and turned it into a title for Himself. There is much controversy, though, about what exactly this title Son of Man means. There were times in the gospels in which Jesus called Himself Son of Man in reference to His humanity. Jesus used the title in order to remind everyone of His humble condition as a flesh and blood, generic human being, in complete solidarity with all of humanity. Matthew 8:20 probably falls in line with that thought, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 

But then again, when Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, He was most likely declaring Himself to be the Messiah, the fulfillment of the Son of Man vision in Daniel 7. Many scholars claim that during Jesus’ time the Son of Man was the “highest term used in Jewish thought for the Messiah, and it was the most exalted view of the coming Redeemer.” (Brad Young, Jesus, the Jewish Theologian). So when Jesus used that title, it was commonly understood by those who heard it that He certainly intended to suggest Messiah. Although not having taken the time to certify this number, one biblical scholar claims that Jesus directly referenced the vision of Daniel as many as fifty times when using the term Son of Man.

Isn’t it fascinating that Daniel’s vision reveals the “One like the Son of Man” to be in human form, but was also divine, given the sovereignty over all the earth. This majestic person in the vision is “like” the Son of Man, but then again it is obvious here that He is much more than that. When Jesus claims to be the Son of Man, He is referring to both His humanity and His divinity. Jesus claimed to be both aspects of the prophesied Son of Man in Daniel, completely human and completely divine. He claimed to be the glorious fulfillment of Daniel 7, coming in the clouds of heaven to approach God in His eternal presence. Yes, He was born of a human being, mother Mary. And yes, He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, God Himself. He was a Person, yet He received from God the kingdom of the earth. The Messiah, both human and divine. Jesus the Messiah. He wasn’t merely “like the Son of man,” He was as He repeatedly said during His ministry, “the” Son of Man.

Historically, the vision in Daniel 7 has been understood as a vivid description of the Second Coming of Christ in glory. It is the momentous time in history when the Messiah, the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, returns and receives from the Father “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.” (Daniel 7:14). John’s revelation dovetails with Daniel’s prophecy as he said in his Revelation 14:14, “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown.

The Second Dream of Daniel’s. The angel Gabriel even went so far as to make a personal appearance to help Daniel understand this complex, historical vision in Daniel 8. It clearly had everything to do with “the time of the end.” Daniel was completely overwhelmed with his puzzling vision and the shocking appearance of Gabriel. “I was overcome and lay sick for several days… I was greatly troubled by the vision and simply could not understand it.” (8:27).

Daniel, the Ultimate Visionary. Daniel was undoubtedly filled with the Spirit of God, and the Lord knew He found in Daniel not only someone deeply faithful but also a person gifted with a receptive, inspired imagination. We find in Daniel someone who was able to combine true vision of the heavenly by means of his earthly ability to imagine such things. His visions were true, he actually saw them, but one wonders if he was only able to have these visions because he was open to using his imagination for God. One dramatic vision in particular stands out, his vision of Jesus Christ Himself.

Daniel had many visions that only God could interpret, that he didn’t understand. One time later in his life we find Daniel fasting for three weeks (chapter 10). He witnessed an extraordinary sight while standing on the bank of the Tigris River in Babylon. He saw a heavenly Christ standing before him… pure linen clothing, a belt of pure gold, a body that looked like a precious gem, a face flashing lightning bolts, and arms and legs that shone like polished bronze. This figure in the form of a man also had eyes that flamed out like torches, and his voice roared like the sound of a multitude of people. This sight is virtually identical to Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 1:26-28 and John’s vision of Jesus in Revelation 1:13-15. This heavenly being in front of Daniel is certainly Jesus Christ. Daniel’s strength understandably failed him, and he fainted with fright.  Even after Jesus touched him and lifted him up, Daniel was still trembling from head to foot.

A second heavenly visitor came to Daniel at that point (verses 10-11), probably Gabriel the angel, who made sure Daniel recovered from his fainting spell and also to share a message. Gabriel told Daniel that he was precious to God and he should listen carefully to everything he has to say. The divine Messenger explained that He was delayed in coming to Daniel, despite his prayers, because of spiritual warfare. A powerful spirit prince of Persia was contending with Him in the spiritual realm. Maybe we shouldn’t worry if an answer to our prayers seems delayed. This frightening message once again caused Daniel to lose the ability to talk. But Gabriel touched Daniel’s mouth. Daniel shuddered and croaked out his state of emotions, filled with anguish and weakness, and having a hard time breathing. Daniel said to the angel, “How can someone like me, your servant, talk to you, my lord?” (10:17). Daniel was still overwhelmed, and once again Gabriel touched him to give him strength and a measure of peace. Gabriel stated that He must return to that spiritual battle, but first he must reveal Israel’s future, and that of the Gentiles (ch. 11). The end time is then prophesied, and Biblical scholars since then have debated how to interpret these words. It is prophesied that at the time of the end, “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (12:4).  Are we there yet? We have unprecedented mobility on our planet, and certainly technical and scientific knowledge has increased beyond anyone’s imagination. Of course, only God knows when the end will come.

We just need to be ready for the end when it comes. We should ask God’s help as we juggle our lives in a pagan culture, just like Daniel. We could also learn how to pray like Daniel, praying through the inevitable spiritual warfare that is engaged right now in the spiritual realm. These hidden but real battles were not limited to Daniel’s time. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12).

Daniel was asked by his pagan employers his whole life to compromise his convictions and his faith, but he remained steadfast in a unique kind of holy stubbornness. Loyalty, thy name is Daniel. He was a true prayer warrior. Daniel was somehow able to combine the mystical with the practical, able to be both spiritual and political in a pagan culture. After a lifetime of standing up to the powers-that-be, it’s a miracle he lived to the ripe old age of 90 years old or so. Let’s all dare to be a Daniel, a voice of divine reason and holy wisdom that somehow maintained credibility and influence in an alien society.