[NOTE: at bottom of this message is posted the Youtube Video of the Broadway recording of the song "On the Willows" from Godspell, which is based on Psalm 137]
We see the same thing of Paul and Silas while in prison in Acts 16:25: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Daniel is as good as in prison, yet he lifts up praise to God: READ Dan. 2:20-23. How does Daniel express such amazing joy?
Daniel is about 17-18 years old. He has been trained to serve the King. He is one of many advisors of the King. The King has a disturbing dream. The King is convinced the dream has a deeper meaning. Archeologists have found books and writings from the Babylonian time period showing how important dreams were to them and how to interpret them. God uses something important to the Babylonians to get their attention. The King is disturbed. He demands his advisors first tell him the dream and then its meaning! READ Dan. 2:4-5. ** The King is crazy coo-coo in the head. Dan. 2:7-13, are the back and forth between the King and advisors in which the advisors walk a fine line of telling the king he is unreasonable but careful not insult him. …
The story comes to a head in Dan. 2:12-13 READ. Daniel and his friends go from the frying pan into the fire. Ever had one of those days? When life starts to crumble everything goes wrong. Even the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be the headlight of an oncoming train. Daniel is exiled to the foreign nation of Babylon and sentenced to death because of the whims of a King who could not sleep. Could anything more go wrong? Yet/ Daniel/ shows/ confidence.// One person describes Daniel this way: He has “the ability to remain calm under severe shock and pressure, to think quickly and exercise faith in a moment of crisis…” (J. Baldwin, Daniel, TOTC, pg. 89) . Daniel does not waiver. Daniels confidence is Phil. 4:7 coming to life: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” You can be like Daniel in the face of an overwhelming world. As one person said, “When life knocks you down stand up and say, ‘bring it on, I have Jesus on my side.’”
Through-out the Bible, Babylon is a symbol of an overwhelming anti-God world. The truth: Any system devised by the world apart from God will ultimately fall flat. It will not work. Living without God at the center of life always leads to a dead end, a hollow existence, with no real purpose, no ultimate destiny. A sense of being lost.
Christians often talk about SALVATION. Guess what. SALVATION is not the concern of Christians alone! The entire world seeks purpose, fulfillment, completion. They just don’t call it SALVATION, but that is what it is… If ultimate destiny/ fulfillment was not a desire, Babylon would have had no need to try and conquer the world. If Salvation was not a deep seeded desire, we would have no challenges to the traditional laws of our land. People will always seek purpose, ultimate satisfaction…. The desire of salvation is inherent to all humans. What Christianity brings to the conversation is not the desire for Salvation, but rather, the means of salvation by boldly and confidently declaring that the ONLY WAY TO SALVATION IS THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. Apart from Christ it is impossible to find fulfillment, /lasting contentment. The ungodly world will never find peace…
King Nebuchadnezzar could not sleep, he was troubled, no peace. I believe this as a true and literal story, but I also see in this a picture of what happens to the ungodly world that tries to find salvation apart from Jesus Christ: a troubled mind, confusion. Recently abortion has been in the news because of the disturbing videos of the harvesting of body parts for research…the lie that aborted babies are not human is falling apart… abortion proponents for decades have been trying to paint a picture of rightness of abortion, but guess what: truth will always win. No amount of spinning can take away truth. This is why the abortion issue will never die: advocates of abortion are not primarily trying to convince me abortion is good. They yell loudly because they are trying to convince themselves! They are like the King who cannot sleep as they forever try to convince themselves of the untruth that a baby in the womb is not life.
Like the King, the world trying to find salvation apart from God will never find complete satisfaction. The more our nation drifts away from God the more restless we will be. The King says to the advisors: “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.” The world is searching for SALVATION. The King cannot find answers from his most familiar advisors. Enter Daniel. Daniel is living in exile. He is faithful to the one true God. Daniel shows confidence.
There is HOPE! No matter what direction the world goes, no matter what social experiment the country decides to try, in a confused world there is always a place for Christians. The King listened to Daniel! Maybe you look out of step with society. Perhaps your beliefs are different from the people around you ~ maybe even different from your kids and grandkids. As the world moves away from traditional family values there will always be people in your world that don’t want you to change because they need you. Our world needs churches to cling to the truth of God even when they disagree with us! There are people who want you to be faithful. The King needed Daniel. He needed Daniels wisdom, insight. He needed a man of incredible faith. In a confused world there is always a place for Christians. When the world is overwhelming, don’t compromise, don’t give in, but stay with God and trust God’s timing!
Daniel asked the King for time in Dan. 2:16. He had confidence. He asked God to reveal the mystery of the dream in Dan. 2:18. And God answered Daniels request and revealed the dream and its interpretation to Him.
I am humbled and honored. A huge part of my weeks are often spent with people who are confused about God, discouraged with their world, their life direction, compromised living situation, and for some reason they want to hang around me. I’m not the only one. This week we saw the death of George Bos. How many people found peace just because George was there? The same thing happens to all of you who live the peace of God. Others can tell. Daniel made a difference to the King so he could find peace, and he does the same thing with you and me. There will always be a place for Christians in an overwhelming world. Truth will win. God is using you and will use you to make a difference to others.
When the Israelites were taken captive to Babylon, some sat along the beautiful flowing stream of the Euphrates. But it wasn’t home. Their tormentors demanded they sing songs of their homeland: “be happy, entertain us, this is your new home….” “How can we sing the songs of Zion while in a foreign land” they asked. When the world is overwhelmed, depression is natural, discouragement takes root. Ever feel like you don’t belong?
One young man refused to give up. His name was Daniel. He remained faithful to God. He had confidence and purpose. As the leader of the Babylonian’s world crumbled, Daniel was there representing the one true God. God gave him the answer, and Daniel sang a song of praise, a new song amazed by God while in a foreign land. Next week we’ll talk about the actual dream and interpretation. A couple of things about this song of praise that Daniel sings:
- Daniel is amazed by the revelation he has received, but he is not out of the woods because he has not yet told the King. He doesn’t know how the king will respond.
- Next week when we look at the second half of this chapter, and the dream and the interpretation are revealed, it turns out this is not all good news for the King.
- Looking ahead to next week, the Kings response to the revelation of the dream is astounding. READ Dan. 2:47.
In a confused and out of control world desperately searching for salvation, stay faithful to God and committed to truth. It is a gift from God to have a joy in your heart even in turmoil. Daniel shows us it is more than possible to sing songs of praise on the rivers of Babylon. The searching world needs the stability and truth of committed Christians. Stay firm. Be ready. Dare to be a Daniel. Amen.
** (this was not spoken in the sermon, just an interesting detail.) One of the Bible’s mysteries takes place in Dan. 1:4 that is lost in English translations. Beginning with the answer of the astrologers, “May the King Live forever…” the language of the text changes from Hebrew to Aramaic. Aramaic would be the common language in Babylon in those days. The Aramaic continues all the way through chapter 7 when it goes back to Hebrew. Why? Nobody knows.
The video below is Psalm 137 come to life in song in the Broadway musical, Godspell