Sermons & Bible Study
The Certainty of God
In an Uncertain World
Scripture Reading: Daniel 2:44–45
Foretelling the Future
Today our lesson will come from Daniel 2 if you want to turn your Bibles there and follow along.
There is an urban legend being told about the popular T.V. cartoon, The Simpsons. That’s because the comedy has an eerie record of supposedly predicting the future with amazing accuracy. (As a disclaimer I haven’t investigated whether or not these claims are true.)
For example, in a 1993 episode, famed entertainers Siegfried & Roy were depicted as being attacked by one of their white tigers. Amazingly, that very thing occurred some ten years later when Roy Horn was mauled during a live performance sustaining severe injuries.
Other inventions were depicted on the Simpsons including a predecessor to the iPhone and the smart watch.
In a 1998 episode, Homer Simpson is depicted working out a complicated equation on the chalkboard. It is said to represent something called the Higgs Boson particle. However, scientists didn’t discover this particle until 2013 after conducting an experiment that cost $13 billion dollars to perform.
In 1995 the Simpsons released an episode entitled Lisa’s Wedding. During Lisa's trip to London, we see a skyscraper behind Tower Bridge that looks eerily similar to The Shard, and it's is even in the right location.
Construction on the building started in 2009, 14 years later.
In this episode from 1990, Bart catches a three-eyed fish named Blinky in the river by the power plant, which makes local headlines.
More than a decade later, a three-eyed fish was discovered in a reservoir in Argentina. Strangely enough, the reservoir itself was fed by water from a nuclear power plant, just like in the cartoon.
In 2000 The Simpsons depicted Donald Trump as president. Of course, he wasn’t elected until November of 2016.
And there are as many as 30 other things that amazingly occurred on the show long before those events occurred.
Knowing the future is big business. In fact, the fortune telling business is a $2 billion dollar a year industry in our country. It is nearly triple that in Italy. When I say industry, I mean that includes people who make money palm reading, psychic hotlines, cardomancy (predicting the future using cards), mediumship, aura readings, horoscopes and astrology. The millennial generation is particularly interested in these types of things.
What this tells us is that many people want to know what the future holds. In fact, this is true, even among Christians. The largest selling section among Christian study books are books that deal with prophecy (or foretelling the future). Prophecy seminars are widely popular and often sell out. Claiming to be able to predict the future sells.
One psychologist explains it this way:
“One of the most powerful influences on fear is uncertainty. The less we know, the more threatened we feel because lack of knowledge means we don’t know what we need to know to protect ourselves.”
Then he uses this illustration: Picture yourself driving down the road at 80 miles an hour. Now imagine closing your eyes and driving a mile down the road without opening them. Just the thought of doing something like that terrifies us because we don’t know what lies ahead, what danger may spring into our path.
The Future Is Unknown to us and that gives some of us a great deal of concern. Søren Kierkegaard once said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Daniel 2 is the story about a king, the king of the Babylonian empire, king Nebuchadnezzar. Because we are limited on time, I’ll give you the summary of the events in that chapter:
The Babylonians ruled the world at the time. Daniel 2 tells us that he began to wander about the future. He wonders what will happen to his great kingdom after he’s gone. And that sets the stage for our lesson this morning. That’s the setting that Daniel the prophet finds himself in. The first thing I want to point out in our lesson is pretty basic:
#1) The future is unknown to us. (Dan. 2:1-2, 10)
From a purely human perspective, the future is impossible to know.
"1 Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him. "2 Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king."
- Daniel 2:1–2 (NKJV)
When it says “dreams” here there is a specific word used. That word is chalom. It is associated with the word “strong” as in “a strong dream.” Have you ever woke up from a dream that was so vivid that it felt real? These were the types of dreams that Nebuchadnezzar was having. And he wasn’t only having these dreams once, but repeatedly. He is so bothered by this occurring over and over that he perceives that it must be some sort of divine message or something – that there must be some meaning behind the dream. So he calls the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams.
"3 And the king said to them, “I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream.”"
- Daniel 2:3 (NKJV)
In response, the Chaldeans ask the king to tell them the dream and then they would give him thejr interpretation.
And the king tells them that they would either describe the dream or they would be cut into little pieces, and their houses burned to the ground.
It appears as if the king has had his suspicions that his interpreters were not interpreting his dreams at all but instead were probably just telling him something that sounded like it fit his dream, because of his statement in verse nine: “you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.”
In other words, if you really have a special gift to know the unknown, prove it to me by telling me what dream I’ve had.
What they were arguing was “we can’t read your mind. No one on earth can.”
That is true. Nobody on earth has the power to predict the future. So why do we keep trying?
Ancient times: there were oracles. Counselor-type people in ancient temples. They were highly trained and were said to be able to channel messages from the gods.
Others used method I call prophecy by chicken. They placed chickens in a cage. If the chickens went after the food aggressively it was an indication of a positive future. If they didn’t it was considered a negative sign.
Heptomancy: oracles would kill an animal, study the entrails (especially the liver) and they thought they would be able to foretell the future using this method.
In America 125 million people believe in a astrology. 70 million read their horoscope every day. Of those, 7% of them (or 12 million) of them read their horoscope daily and change their behavior based upon what it says. On top of all of this, 10% percent of those who identify as Christians believe in astrology also.
Many people are taken by some History channel show they’ve seen about Nostradamus. (Who, by the way, was a pharmacist in France in the 1500’s). I’ve seen these shows and there is always this spooky music played in the background. As they describe how Nostradamus predicted everything from the assignation of president Kennedy to the attacks of 9/11. The only problem is, I’ve read several of Nostradamus’ prophecies. They are so vague and ambiguous you could interpret them any number of ways. Retrospectively, they could fit almost any event.
In the 60’s a so-called psychic named Gene Dixon became famous after supposedly predicting the assignation of President Kennedy. She was followed by many famous people and politicians, President Richard Nixon among them. However, she also predicted that JFK would lose the election and Ricard Nixon would win the nomination. She also predicted that WWIII would begin in 1958, that an American labor leader named Walter Reuther would run for president of the United States in 1964 and that the Soviets would be the first to put a man on the moon and that Jackie Onassis would never marry again. None of these things came true. In fact, she even predicted that then Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau and his wife would give birth to a girl (it was a boy). (She couldn’t get it right when she had a 50/50 chance! In spite of her failed prophecies, her book still sold nearly 3 million copies. It goes to show how much interest there is in predicting the future.
#2) Though the future is unknown to us, the future is well known to God.
When the king issues the decree that his counselors would tell him the dream or be executed and their houses burned to the ground Daniel hears about it and he knows what the Chaldeans know…that the future is unknown to man. But Daniel knows something that the Chaldeans don’t…that the future is well-known to God. So Daniel asks for the king to give him some time and He does so. Now notice what Daniel does next:
"17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, "18 that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. "19 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven."
- Daniel 2:17–19 (NKJV)
Daniel calls his companions and holds (what we might call) a prayer meeting so that he might show the future to the king (v. 16). Daniel believed that it was possible to know the future (if God reveals it to you). In Psalm 139 David wrote these words:
"1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me. "2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. "3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. "4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. "5 You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. "6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it."
- Psalm 139:1–6 (NKJV)
God knows everything. He is omniscient. His understanding is immediate, comprehensive and without deterioration. He has never forgotten something. He has never had to learn. He has never had to go to school. God never has to put two facts together to discover a logicl conclusion. God never says, “Oh really!” or “Wow! I didn’t know that” God has never been caught off guard, never been surprised by an outcome, never been unsure about which decision He should make. God is the know-everything God.
Daniel knows this and he is banking on it.
God is not confined by time. He is outside of time. He exists in a place we can only describe as eternity. So, he can see time from beginning to present to future.
#3) The Future is made known to us.
"26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation?” "27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, “The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. "28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these: "29 As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be."
- Daniel 2:26–29 (NKJV)
God has always been willing to reveal certain aspects of the future to mankind. He predicted the coming of Christ and predicted his death. He predicted that He would give Israel a promised land and He did. He predicted that they would be taken into captivity and then predicted that they would return from captivity and they did. God tells us that Jesus will return again someday. Some people and events are predicted decades or even centuries before they ever happen or are born. God reveals certain aspect of the future to us.
When God speaks it isn’t like humans guessing what the future may be. “When God gives prophecy, God isn’t guessing about the future. It’s God revealing good news to a guessing world.”
#4) The Future Makes God known to us.
"45 Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.” "46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him. "47 The king answered Daniel, and said, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.”"
- Daniel 2:45–47 (NKJV)
After Daniel is able to tell the king his dream (information known only by the king and the king alone – no way to fake getting this right) the king believes – he realizes that Daniel’s God is the one true God. That is one of the biggest reasons God reveals things to us. God uses prophecy as his business card. In a world full of hundreds of gods we can choose from only one of them can predict the future. God uses prophecy to prove that He is the true God. Once David revealed the dream to Nebuchadnezzar he understood that Daniel’s good was the true God.
Listen to God throw down the gauntlet and challenge what other so-called gods can do:
"21 “Present your case,” says the Lord. “Bring forth your strong reasons,” says the King of Jacob. "22 “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come. "23 Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together. "24 Indeed you are nothing, And your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination."
- Isaiah 41:21–24 (NKJV)
In John 14 Jesus predicted that the Holy Spirit would come. And how He would real things to them. Listen to the reason Jesus told them this beforehand:
"29 “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe."
- John 14:29 (NKJV)
Jesus said He was telling them so that when it did happen, they would believe in Him. Foreknowledge of something can only come from God.
Jesus essentially has three things that set Him head and shoulders above other religious figures throughout History. That is:
His impact upon history
His resurrection from the dead
The thing that distinguishes Christianity from all other world religions is detailed prophecy. There is something called compounded probability. In other words, anyone could make a prediction about the future and get it right. But the more specific something is or (in other words) the more detail you add, the less likely it will come true (unless that prophecy is from God). Take Jesus, for example – that he would be born in Bethlehem, to a virgin and that he would be from the tribe of Judah (that narrows the crowd already). That He would come out of Egypt. That He would be betrayed for forty pieces of silver and that money would be used to purchase a field. That He would be beaten, killed between thieves, buried in the tomb of a rich man, that His bones would not be broken, that He would raise from the grave. And those are just eleven things predicted about Jesus among over 300 prophecies about Him in the Bible. You can see how impossible it would be for someone to fulfill all of these prophecies without it being God predicting the future. The Bible contains detailed prophecy.
And that makes it unique when compared to every other religious book known to man. You won’t in the detailed prophecies in the Quran, you won’t find them in the writings of Buddah, in the writings of Lao Tsu (Tsaoism) or in the writings of Confucius or the hidden in the Hindu Vedas. Detailed prophecy that has come to pass is found only in the Bible.
Did you notice in Daniel 2:45 how certain Daniel is that of the message he has for the king? He tells the king: “The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.” Daniel knows that the vision came from God and God is never wrong.
The reason God reveals things to us is not merely to inform people of God’s plan, but to convince them to conform to God’s plan.
It isn’t to wow people but to move them to worship.
Even though you can’t see around the corners in life, we serve a God who does. And He is ready to meet you there at those moments when you need him most.
It only makes sense that we who are limited would submit ourselves to Him who is unlimited.
Corrie ten Boom was a holocaust survivor during WWI. She became famous for her many speeches following the war. In one of her speeches this is what she had to say what helped her to survive the concentration camps:
“Never be afraid to trust and unknown future into the hands of God.” – Corrie ten Boom