We will use Daniel 2 as a concrete example to set forth certain principles which apply to the effective presentation of any subject. Before we preach a sermon or give a Bible study on this subject, we ought first to analyze the prophecy in our own minds. We should ask ourselves, What do I really want to accomplish in this sermon on the great image ? What is the real objective of this prophecy? What is the real point that I want to drive home to the minds and hearts of my hearers? An effective sermon or Bible study on Daniel 2 should present vastly more than mere historical facts in relation to the fulfillment of prophecy. We should never preach on prophecy merely to display our knowledge of history, although a skillful handling of history greatly adds to the presentation of prophecy. Our commission is : "Preach the gospel; preach the kingdom of God; preach Christ."
Our objective in presenting the prophecy of Daniel 2 is not merely to show that the Bible is a true book. This point may, and should, properly appear in our presentation. But it is not the real goal. The real objective of Daniel 2, in the setting of God's message for today, is that the end of all things earthly is at hand, and the kingdom of glory is so near that every person in the world ought to enter into that needful preparation to live forever in this coming kingdom. This is what Daniel 2 ought to mean to me as a preacher. And this is the nail of truth that I ought to drive home to my hearers and readers.
In other words, our objective will have the same keynote that characterized the preaching of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1, 2), Jesus (Matt. 4:17), and the twelve apostles (Matt. 10:7). "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." This question may arise : How could this kingdom-at-hand keynote be appropriate in the days of John, Jesus, and the apostles, and still be in order in our day nineteen centuries later ? Every preacher ought to have a ready answer. The kingdom was truly at hand in the days of John, Jesus, and the twelve apostles in Matthew to :7, because the kingdom of grace was forever confirmed, ratified, and established by the atoning death of Jesus Christ, toward which all events were then tending. The kingdom is truly at hand today, because the kingdom of glory will be forever established at the impending return of the King, when earthly governments will cease, and the divine rule will be introduced and established forever in the new earth.
After having placed our eye and mind on this as the real objective of Daniel 2, we then proceed to build the sermon or study accordingly. This means the elimination of a long introduction on the circumstances of the king's dream and the leaving out of extended reference to the details of the story. If there is too much detail the audience is tired before we get to the real point of the matter. It is time for the meeting to close before we ever arrive at the opal. If I am going to preach on Daniel 2
I like to be explaining the image within five to ten minutes after my opening sentence. We ought to come right to the real objective, making it so plain that no one can fail to see the point, and then taking time to drive home the thought of preparing for the coming kingdom.
We should build the sermon outline or Bible study in a way to drive home the true objective of the subject in the clearest, most direct, and most powerful manner. We must not let the sermon or study lose its force by wandering into bypaths or by indulging in circumlocutory talk. Before admitting any point or even a scripture into the sermon or study, we should ask ourselves, Is this point or text really pertinent and essential to the accomplishment of my real objective for this topic? The entire sermon or study must be shaped from beginning to end on the accomplishment of the true objective.
In all our teaching we must Plan to present the truth in such a positive way that it will correct prevalent erroneous conceptions. And we can do this without getting on the negative side or without giving unnecessary offense by singling out some class as being wrong. For example, on Daniel 2 the idea is widely prevalent that the kingdom of God will be established by the gradual extension of Christianity over the earth or by religio-political plans for the betterment of society. We must present the truth of the establishment of the kingdom of God by the sudden, personal interposition of God to bring an abrupt end to this present world order by the destruction of sin and sinners. And we must present this truth in such a way that it will completely counteract all false conceptions, and we must do it in a constructive manner, rather than merely trying to demolish other peoples' ideas, as is so often 'done.
We must definitely plan to make an appeal to prepare for God's coming kingdom. I find it helpful and forceful at the close of the exposition of Daniel 2 to ask for a show of hands on how many believe we have made it plain that, according to this prophecy of the great image, the great final act must be near at hand. This brings almost a universal response. Then we can turn and say, "Now, friends, this brings us to the greatest question of all—Am I ready for this coming kingdom ?" Then proceed with the appeal. The request of the penitent thief on the cross can be used to good advantage here, as well as Matthew 21 :42-44. There is just one of two outcomes—either you fall on the Rock and are broken, or the Rock will fall on you and grind you to powder.