Advent 1 Midweek 2003

Advent Midweek Daniel’s View of the End: Part 1
Daniel 2:19-45

n the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Pharaoh dreamed strange dreams of skinny cows and skinny ears of corns devouring their plump brothers. Through Joseph Pharaoh learned what this meant and was prepared for the future. He stored up grain according to Joseph’s wisdom and grew richer and fatter in famine. But he died in unbelief. His kingdom was spared for one generation. But his wisdom wasn’t enough to save his soul.

Nebuchadnezzar’s strange dream of a statue did not seem so practical. Through Daniel God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar the character of the kingdoms that would follow his. It didn’t seem to have much to do with day to day life or the governing of a kingdom. And yet it was more practical and more important than that! It was not just about Babylon, Egypt, or Israel. It was not just about a famine or the future. It was about the reconciliation of all mankind to the Father. It contained even an offer of forgiveness and grace for old Neb. He, too, could be saved and freed from his own tyranny!

The eternal Kingdom of Neb’s dream has been established by the Rock not cut with hands, the Man born without an earthly father. He smashed the statue’s clay and iron feet. The Romans and the Greeks were defeated outside Jerusalem 600 or so years after Neb dreamed it, whether they knew it or not. Their imagined pantheon was emptied. There are no halls, no castles, no kingdoms left on Mt. Olympus, Mt. Fuji, or Mt. Kailash. Mecca, Stonehenge, and Fatima hold no power. The Sphinx and Area 53 are just bad cartoons. Where men still worship in these pagan ways they bind themselves back to slavery that need not be. That virgin born Rock toppled all the kingdoms of men and of Hell. He set Himself up as the Kingdom that will never be destroyed, for He has come out of death. Men have done their worst. The devil has had his day. They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. And now the Kingdom of Grace rules in the hearts of those who believe. No one will snatch them away from God.

Nebuchadnezzar learned this truth the only way that men ever learn: by being brought low and emptied of himself so that He could be filled with Christ. After this statue dream and the prophecy of Grace that conquers evil men, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed again. He dreamed of a great tree that was cut down. Daniel told him what it meant. His pride was too much. He would be brought low, struck with insanity consistent with his vanity. He would live as an animal, wet with dew in the mornings, eating grass with the cattle. He dismissed the warning and it came to pass, so much so that his hair grew like feathers and his nails like claws while his kingdom was ruled by another. He thus suffered in fulfillment of the prophecy for seven years. But this humiliation was merciful. Nebuchadnezzar’s feet were knocked out from beneath him to drive him to his knees, so that He would know where to find certainty and stability, so that He would know peace. He found it in Daniel’s God, the true and only God. The only sane course is to hope and trust in the mercy revealed to Moses and fulfilled in Mary’s Son. Nebuchadnezzar found sanity in humility and mercy in prayer. He submitted to the God who forgives more quickly than He judges. This great and mighty God has made a people for Himself and populated this Holy Church with the likes of the tyrant Nebuchadnezzar, the prophet Daniel, the harlot Rahab, the cowards Elijah and Peter, the doubter Thomas, and you and me. This is a Kingdom not merit or of birthright, but of Grace.

Thus does that Holy Rock cut without hands prophesy and expound: “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes” Therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of It. And whoever falls on this Stone will be broken; but on whomever It falls, It will grind him to powder.”

Falling on the Stone is repentance. It breaks a man. But the alternative is to have the Stone fall on you and be crushed to powder. Repent. The grace of God is such that He only breaks to rebuild and to heal. Our souls are like broken bones wrongly set by the devil so that they are cutting into our flesh and inhibiting our movements. They must be broken again by God for the sake of resetting them in the proper way, for true healing and restoration. Let our Advent prayer be that we follow in the steps of Nebuchadnezzar, broken and bound up again, with grass-stained lips making our petitions for mercy and for the end. Neb has come to the reward of grace. His humiliation, his foolish pride, his old pagan ways are no more. May it be the same for us all.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana

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