Daniel 2:30, "But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart."
This morning, what drives most of the modern world and popular culture? Whether someone is involved in economics, politics, or even public religion, many today do things with the express purpose of being known for their feats and having renown for years to come. No matter the venue of effort, self-interest should never be at the heart of what we do. While the modern thought is, "Me, me, me," our thoughts should think of "me" last. A famous NFL running back – Gale Sayers – once wrote a book about his life titled "I Am Third." The purpose of the title was to show that God was first, family second, and himself third (or perhaps last). Such a mindset as that is certainly more becoming of professing Christians than the popular culture of today. In a certain sense, ministers of the gospel most of all should think of themselves last, and it is in this vein of thought that we would like to concentrate our thoughts this morning.
In our study verse above, Daniel stands before the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar to both remind him of his forgotten dream as well as provide the correct interpretation of it. What Daniel is about to do defies natural logic. In the preceding verses, Nebuchadnezzar's astrologers, soothsayers, magicians, etc. declared that the king made an impossible task that was "a rare thing" with "not a man upon that earth that can shew the king's matter." (Verses 10-11) Nebuchadnezzar demanded of his wise men that they interpret his dream, but on top of that, he had forgotten the content of it and demanded that they remind him of it as well. Consider any modern day charlatan. With the human imagination, man is able to spin yarns out of given information that "seem plausible" to natural conception and tickle the natural fancy. Just peruse any religious section of writings on the book of Revelation on the racks, and the postulations and speculations with wild, far-out thought are endless.
However, what charlatan could possibly relate the true contents of a dream so that Nebuchadnezzar could say, "Ah yes! That is what I dreamed!" A faker must have some information to spin, but being demanded of the king to provide the information again and then the correct interpretation "weeds out" anyone that does not truly have blessed and gifted insight into the matter. So Daniel, relying upon His God, eventually presents both the content and the interpretation of this king's dream. Before he does, he diligently reminds the king of some absolute facts in matters such as this. Our verse relates some of those points that Daniel conveys to the king. Daniel's choice to verbally relay these matters shows that Daniel acknowledges where his strength and wisdom stem from.
Lest anyone think that Daniel had "superman" abilities in these areas, Daniel plainly says that the revelation given to him was not due to heightened natural intelligence. Daniel's IQ was not high enough to merit this above someone else, nor did Daniel's natural learning in worldly matters account for this gift of wisdom and insight. Rather, Daniel accounts that the revelation given to him was simply to help others. Daniel does not even claim encouragement for himself in this matter (though certainly he was encouraged). Rather, the primary purpose of God revealing this to him was to benefit them for "their sakes" as well as the king to "know the thoughts of thy heart." This two-fold benefit correlates to the purpose of the gospel ministry today.
Looking at the power that comes from preaching, Scripture plainly declares that such power is not intrinsically built into the man, but rather, his preaching power comes from attendance from on high each and every time that it happens. (I Thessalonians 1:5) Past efforts and powerful impact do not "carry over" much as Daniel's ability to reveal and expound upon mysteries required fresh supplication to the Lord (as the succeeding chapters show). So, whether the ability to convey the secrets and mysteries of dreams in Daniel's day or the ability to expound upon the unsearchable riches of Christ as stewards of the mysteries of God (I Corinthians 4:1) in today's time, the effort requires fresh, renewed Spirit accompaniment.
Just as Daniel did not attribute his ability in this matter to his natural intelligence, so today can no minister claim his abilities of preaching exposition to natural skills of deduction and reasoning. Surely, the preacher must reason and try to logically study, but the rich nuggets of heaven's gold that supply such rich food for hungry sheep does not get delivered by natural power. Rather, ministers many times have to "remove self" and "get out of the way" to see God riches rather than their own ability. Just as Daniel did not claim natural skills to do this (though doubtless the first chapter shows he had much natural skill of learning), so also can the minister today never claim natural skill and ability to preach as he does when done in a powerful way (though he also may have some natural skills of learning).
Daniel also plainly declares that this circumstance of powerful revelation was not for his sake. Rather, he uses the term "their sakes." When a minister attempts to study, meditate, pray fervently to God that thoughts of expounding would go forth to search out the deeper things of God, he does so for "their sakes" and not his own. Any minister that attempts to preach for his own sake and for his own benefit is neither preaching nor conducting himself as a minister should. Undoubtedly, the Lord in His mercy does sometimes feed the preacher with his own preaching, and no doubt Daniel was comforted and encouraged at times with what the Lord blessed him to see, but the primary focus is on others not self. What if the minister does not feed himself with his preaching but the sheep are bountifully fed from the blessing of God's revelation through the mouth of His minister? The minister should be content with that and not dispirited about it.
Daniel also says that not just for "their sakes" but also this is given so that the king might know the thoughts of his heart. Has the preaching ever touched you in a way that you thought, "He spoke words right to my heart today?" Have you ever heard preaching that made you think, "Is he in my head right now?" While I have had thoughts and cogitations like that while in the pew, I can assure you that the man in the pulpit does not know many times if ever exactly what the sheep need at that particular hour. Maybe there are thoughts on their heart that they pant after and fervently yearn for. Nebuchadnezzar desperately wanted to remember what he had dreamed and what it meant. Sheep today desperately desire comfort and peace in their heart and soul. Whether a Daniel then or a preacher today, God knows what the heart desires and needs, and He can and does bless His servants to deliver it.
When preaching reaches down and touches the heart, answers our burning questions, and seems to "read our mind," praise the Lord for His blessings. Nebuchadnezzar responded poorly to Daniel's successful revelation, even though Daniel had specifically placed the glory where it needed to be. Rather than glorify God as God and He alone, Nebuchadnezzar reverences Daniel by bowing down to him and claiming that Daniel's God was true along with the other deities that he believed in. (Daniel 2:46-47) Today, our response to heart-felt preaching should not follow Nebuchadnezzar's pattern. Do not bow before the preacher or put God's blessings on the shelf with the rest of our idols. Rather, let us do what the ministers of the gospel so often implore, "Thank God for any benefit" and cast down our every idol and wicked imagination in life.