A Statue and a Stone
by Brett Bradshaw
“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
“This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”
Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king's court.
Over the past year, I have listened to friends and family members worry about the moral and political state of our culture. I do not blame them; I have my own worries. But I noticed that each one of them concluded with something to the effect of a shoulder shrugging, “Well, what can you do?” Perhaps what we are looking for is older than we know and found in a place we might not expect. Let’s consider Daniel’s answer in ancient Babylon.
By way of background, Daniel was caught in the middle of a cultural disaster. The nation of Judah had fallen to the Babylonian empire, the bitter fruit of a long infidelity to the I AM of Israel, the one true God. As a sharp young Jewish man, Daniel was deported to Babylon and forced to serve the foreign government. The Babylonians knew that a “mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Trained in the leading thought of the ancient world, Daniel was as excellent an advisor to the king as he was faithful to God.
Daniel 2 records a mysterious dream that Daniel interprets for the king. His ability is not due to any wisdom he had more than others but a gift of mercy from God (2:30). However much evidence there was to the contrary, Daniel explained that the Babylonian king’s power would fail; not might, not could, it was certain and sure (2:45). Other powerful kingdoms would rise and fall after him, but “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed” (2:44). Daniel witnessed to the reality of God’s sovereign rule of human history and pointed forward to the decisive world-changing event that would subvert and overwhelm all other kingdoms.
Beyond all wisdom of the ancient world and ours as well—the gods do not dwell with flesh (2:11)—the God of heaven entered human history to establish an indestructible kingdom. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . .” (John 1:14). Jesus’s death on the cross and bodily resurrection is the decisive world-changing event that interprets and redeems all our most perplexing problems, personally and publicly. However dark the times, and indeed certain points in history seem almost pitch black, the Kingdom of God is the reality undergirding, permeating, and transcending the present world in advance of filling the whole earth. Jesus Christ is the true world leader, the true world changer, and those who have come to Him in faith are witnesses to a whole new way of living in Him now and forever. A Christian’s appointed task is neither worry nor culture war but humble service in prayer. Every labor of love in Christ, however seemingly small or mundane, from changing diapers to changing public policy and all the varied tasks in between, is charged with the potential of “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”