A Children's Story based on Daniel 7

(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg

This evening is a stretching experiment in preaching the word of God to children. This evenings passage is Daniel 7, as you may well know, the rest of the book of Daniel is dreams and visions. As adult Christians, we hardly look at these chapters because they are often hard to understand and quite frankly, us westerners, unless we're deep into fanciful future speculation, we have little patience for something that is not presented in a rational propositional format. Yet God has recorded the dreams and visions of his people in scripture. My intent this evening is to tell the story of those dreams to the children in a vivid memorable way while at the same time touching on some interpretation of the dreams.

To the children:
What is the strangest dream you ever had? (Give them time to tell their dream even though it may take some time, anticipate some humour)

Daniel, who ruled during the kings of Babylon? (see if the children can list the kings -Nebuchadnezzar, (Nabonidus) Belshazzar.  What happened to king Belteshazzar?  He saw a hand writing on the wall and didn’t listen to it.  He died that night and king Darius took his place)

Daniel was a man who had powerful and scary dreams - dreams that God felt were so important that they had to be written down so that we could see them with Daniel.

Daniel was laying on his bed, relaxing, when his mind was overtaken by a dream. In his dream, he saw the ocean churning, waves and whitecaps cresting and crashing, wind blown foam and froth everywhere. The wind groaned as it hurtled water in every direction. Then in the darkness of his dream there arose out of the water, first it looked like a lion with fiery eyes, teeth sharp as razors. But as it continue to come out of the water, he noticed that on its back were massive wings that had the ability to lift it into the air so that it could fly like an eagle. As it arose out of the water, he noticed that it had the legs of a man, as he looked at it more closely, it was as if the heart of a man had been given to it.

Right after it came out of the ocean, a second beast came right after it. It was like a tall grizzly bear with ferocious sharp claws and three broken ribs that he was ripping apart between glimmering teeth. A strange command was heard: 'Get up and eat your fill of flesh!' Yet there was something strange about this monstrous bear, it leaned sideways, kind of like it was off balance.
Then another animal appeared.  This one looked like a spotted leopard, fast and sleek, cunning and efficient. It had power to strike at great speed, especially with its four wings that enabled it to fly and attack from above. But it was even more strange, it had four mouths on four heads, as if it could devour four times as much and think with four minds. It was so powerful that it ruled over a vast territory.

But these first three creatures were nothing compared to the fourth one.  This creature scared Daniel, he shook while he slept.  This beast was a nightmare. Its teeth were made of Iron, it was so strong, it scrunched and munched people everywhere, and those he didn’t eat, he simply stepped on, (splat). And it had ten strange horns sticking out of its head. Even as he dreamt, Daniel knew this dream, this creature was different. For Daniel, a horn represented power. A wild bull with two large horns was feared by animal and man. With those horns he could gore a lion and kill a man. Horns were power, and this creature had ten horns! But then from the base of the horns started growing another horn, first it was a bump, then a small horn, and it grew larger and larger, so large, it uprooted three of the other horns before it, they fell to the side. This horn terrified Daniel!  On the end of this horn were two eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully about how powerful it was. Everywhere it went, this creature munched and stomped on people.

Suddenly the scene changed. Maybe Daniel looked up, away from the terror of the beasts. As he did, he saw things both amazing and spectacular. In front of him, in fact all around him, even around the four beasts, a large room was set in place. Chairs, thrones of very important people were placed all around. Important people came to stand by these chairs to watch what was happening. And then God walked in. God, called the Ancient of Days, came to take his seat, a very strange throne made of fire, its armrests made of fire, and on the bottom of the legs it had wheels made of blazing fire. From the front of God’s throne, there was a river flowing but it was not a river of water, it was a river of brilliant fire. We might call it the God’s hot seat. As Daniel looked at God, he saw his clothes were brilliant white, even the hair on his head was a shiny silvery white. All around God there were thousands and thousands of servants who did what he wanted them to do, and there were hundreds of thousands of people standing, watching, waiting to see what would happen. When God sat down, they all sat down, and the books of God’s justice and God’s plan were opened.

Even as Daniel continued to watch, the boastful words of the one horn were yelling “Who is more powerful then I?” “Who dares stand against me?” “Even God cannot stop me!” Daniel was awestruck at the foolishness of his words. He knew such pride would quickly be cut down!  And it was. But the Beast had gained the power to rule over the whole world. Whole nations were trampled and crushed under his feet. The beast with the large boastful horn killed and crushed many servants continuing its boast every day. People who worshiped God died terrible deaths between his iron teeth. “Who dares stand against me?” He made doing good things crimes. He wanted  to torment the world because of his wicked boastful heart. A long time passed, the people of God died and suffered from this beast. Still a longer time passed, God's people continued to be killed and tortured for their faith. Time continued to go on...

And then God, the Ancient of Days, the judge, spoke judgement. Thousands and thousands of servants attacked the beast inflicting blow after blow that threw the beast this way and that. The boastful mouth was silenced. The horn was broken. The body of the dead creature was thrown into the river of blazing fire. The other three beasts watched trembling to see what had happened to the most powerful of them all. And then the crowd of servants rejoiced because they had won the victory against the beast...

Just then Daniel again looked up. This time, just at the moment of victory, from among the clouds he saw a person coming, just like you and me in every way, face, hair, arms, legs, toes and fingers and tears and a smile. Suddenly those thousands of servants who served God served him to, they led him into the presence of God and all the crowds of hundreds of thousands of people worshiped him. He was given all authority and power to rule, to rule absolutely, any way he wanted. And all the people, from every tribe and every nation worshiped him. He became King of Kings and Lord of Lords forever and ever.

Daniel didn’t understand this dream. His heart was troubled. He did not know what to think of it. His face turned pale, but besides writing it down, in a language that everyone could understand, he kept it to himself.

Now Daniel didn’t understand but maybe we do a little bit. What do you think the dream meant?  (If children have heard and understood the previous stories of Daniel, they may understand these interpretations.)
The Lion beast = Babylon // Nebuchadnezzar who was given after his beastly phase, the heart of the man.
The Bear Beast = Medeo-Persia, more powerful than Babylon.  The three ribs may represent its major conquests, ie. Lydia, Babylon and Egypt.
The Leopard Beast = Greece  Alexander the Great was renown for the speed of his conquering army, his empire was divided into four upon his death, (Macedon + Greece (Under Antipater and Cassander), Thrace + Asia Minor (under Lysimachus), Syria (under Seleucus 1), Palestine + Egypt (under Ptolemy the first)).
The 10 horned Beast with the one Boastful Horn could represent the Roman Empire.  It was more powerful than any other nation and it ruled the known world of its time.  And it came just before the Man, the Son of God, Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Scripture on which this story is based.

 Daniel 7
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.
Daniel said: "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.
"The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.
"And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, 'Get up and eat your fill of flesh!'
"After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.
"After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast--terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.
"While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully. "As I looked, "thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.
"Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)
"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
"I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this. "So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things:
'The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever--yes, for ever and ever.'
"Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws--the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left.
I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell--the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.
"He gave me this explanation: 'The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it.
The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time. "'But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.'
"This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself."

(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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