Click below to download the Cornerstone Connections leader’s guide and student lesson. This week’s resources also include two lesson plans and a discussion starter video which offer different ways of looking at the topic. Each lesson plan includes opening activities, scripture passages, discussion questions, and real-life applications.
Royalty and Ruin (Prophets and Kings)
Chapter 40 - Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of World Empires
It’s one thing to interpret a dream; it’s another to have to do so without even knowing what the dream is. That’s where Daniel discovers how strong his faith really is.
Have you ever had a dream? Did it wake you up? Were you afraid? Everyone dreams; it is part of our brain function. Most of the time, you don’t remember those dreams. In today’s story, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that he could not remember. No big deal, right? Wrong! If the king of the most powerful empire in the world has a dream that troubles him, he will want to know what it is and what it means, or people are going to die!
Supplies: Bible, paper, writing utensil(s)
Let’s go retro this week by playing and old-fashioned Bible memory game. If you look in your cupboards or in the Sabbath School room cupboards, you will probably find some Bible games. If after an exhaustive/exhausting search you don’t find any, you could Google “Bible memory games.” There are lots of options. Most of these games can be played online over Zoom or however you host your Sabbath School class. Teens actually enjoy playing them. If you have cards, you can hold them up to the camera so that they can be seen, and people can say or type their answer. Be careful that your expectations are realistic. Many kids don’t know their Bibles as well as one might think.
Lots of unusual events are happening around us in the world. Did you know that God told about many of them? He gave us a guide that showed what was going to happen in the future. By doing this, God helps us to see that the Bible is true and trustworthy.
BIBLE STUDY GUIDE
Read Daniel 2:1-3.
1In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. 2 So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, 3 he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.”
Read Daniel 2:4-7.
4 Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
5 The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. 6 But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”
7 Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
Read Daniel 2:8-12.
8 Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: 9 If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.”
10 The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. 11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”
12 This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon.
Read Daniel 2:13-18.
13 So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.
14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact.
15 He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel.
16 At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.
17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
Read Daniel 2:24-30.
Daniel Interprets the Dream
24 Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”
25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”
26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”
27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:
29 “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. 30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.
Read Daniel 2:31-35.
31 “Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
Read Daniel 2:36-48.
36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
In this portion of scripture Daniel spells out the future for King Nebuchadnezzar. In huge panoramic strokes Daniel tells the king what God is going to do. In the following paragraph Clifford Goldstein provides a more detailed interpretation of the statue.
“Nebuchadnezzar’s dream recorded in Daniel 2 was of a statue, world history symbolized in sculpture (Dan. 2:31-45). The common interpretation of the gold head (Babylon), the silver arms and breast (Media-Persia), the brass belly and thighs (Greece), the iron legs (pagan Rome), the iron-and-clay feet and toes (the divided nations of Europe) is not uniquely Adventist. Millions of Christians and Jews have interpreted the chapter this way for centuries, including most of the great Protestant Reformers.” (Clifford Goldstein, Adventist Review, 2008-1529-18)
The book of Daniel is a very important one in Adventist history. God continues to expand the revelation of His plans for the salvation of the world through the coming of the Messiah and also gives us glimpses into the future of the world so generations to come would not be surprised by events as they happened. God placed Daniel and his friends in positions of influence so they would be available to help a heathen king know more about the God of creation.
Many find this chapter in Daniel to be one that brings them comfort during times of crisis because God didn’t abandon His people when times were tough for them. Over the past few months life hasn’t been easy for us either, and you have probably had to do some things that you never thought you would have to.
It might even seem as if God has abandoned you, but that would go contrary to the story we read in this lesson. Not only does God care, but He places people in positions in which they can be ready to help at the right time.
One of the difficulties of life these days is that many people feel isolated. Having conversations is a great way to reconnect or chase away the doldrums of staying home. Through Facetime, Zoom, Skype, or any other video platform, connect with an adult and ask them the following questions:
For a Relational Bible Study (RBS) you’ll want to get into the Scripture passage and encourage the youth to imagine participating in the story while it’s happening. Then you will be able to better apply it to your own situation today.
You will need to ask God for the Holy Spirit to be present as your small group discusses the questions (no more than 3-6 people in a group is recommended). Start with the opening question. It is a personal question and the answer is unique for each individual. There is no right answer and nobody is an expert here, so don’t be surprised when you hear different responses. You are depending on the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak through your group. Say what God prompts you to say, and listen to what others share.
Take turns reading the chapter out loud. Follow that with giving the students some time to individually mark their responses to the questions (a PDF version of the handout is available as a download). This gives each person a starting point for responding when you start to share as a group. Next, begin the discussion by asking the students to share what they marked and why on each question as you work your way through. Feel free to take more time on some questions than others as discussion warrants.
Encourage each person in the group to apply what is discussed to their personal lives and to share with the group what they believe God wants them to do. Then ask them to pray that God will help each of them to follow through in doing so. Remind them to expect that God will show them ways to live out the message of this passage in the coming week, and that they are free to ask others in the group to help hold them accountable.
Be sure everyone takes time for personal applications before you end your Sabbath School time together.
For several weeks we have followed the demise of God’s people in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. God’s messages through Jeremiah to return to the covenant by being faithful to God were ignored or repressed. This led to God’s people being taken into Babylonian captivity and the destruction of the sanctuary in Jerusalem.
The first wave of captives left Jerusalem for Babylon in 605 BC. The nobles and ruling class were taken in this group, including Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Nebuchadnezzar raided Solomon’s temple at that time, but didn’t destroy it. Taking the goods of a country’s god(s) and adding them to one’s own stockpile of wealth was thought to add more power to one’s growing collection of gods (see Daniel 1:2).
When one kingdom overpowered another kingdom, it was thought the gods of the conquering kingdom overpowered the god(s) of the conquered kingdom. That’s why the conquering kingdom would ransack the temples and take the defeated gods and just add them to their collection of gods—they gained more power by having even more gods.
Daniel and his friends entered Babylon with the narrative that their one super-god, Yahweh, had been defeated by the Babylonian gods. But they didn’t see it that way. They saw it as the predicted discipline because they, as a people, had continued to break Yahweh’s covenant. Daniel and his friends chose to remain true to Yahweh, staying in covenant with Yahweh even as captives in hostile Babylon. Ask the youth to think of contemporary examples of that kind of situation for young people today.
It is in this setting that we start the book of Daniel, God’s prophet in Babylonian captivity.
Tested for Life
What would you include in your favorite meal?
Read Daniel 1:1-21.
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.
1. Why were Daniel and three others (Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah) picked for training?
2. Why did Daniel and friends choose not to eat the king’s best food and drink the wine?
3. Why did Ashpenaz agree to the 10-day dietary testing?
4. Why did these four Hebrew captives have their names changed?
5. What difference could 10 days make?
6. Why did Daniel and friends outscore all the others after three years?
7. What tests have you already faced in your life? What tests are you likely to face in the future?
8. How would you have done if you had had to face Daniel’s tests?
Daniel and his three friends faced major tests when they arrived in Babylonian captivity. They passed the first test, which placed them in the favored group to begin their graduate education in Babylonian studies, to possibly be included in the esteemed group of the king’s advisors. Much more could be discussed about their 10-day dietary test. It’s miraculous that they were even able to do this test. The outcome also seemed miraculous. And God’s hand was seen in their graduation results—ten times better than all the others in their classes, as well as the most learned advisors already in Babylon. And Daniel, a Hebrew from Judah, continued as a top government advisor for 70 more years, including advising Medo-Persian kings who conquered Babylon. If Daniel served 70 years, this also means Daniel was probably a teenager when the events in Daniel 1 took place—a challenge and an invitation for teens today to be true in following God.
As a child you may have sung the song “Dare to be a Daniel.” This teen provides an inspiring and worthy role model for teens and adults today. Here are some ways for you to apply the example of Daniel to your life this coming week.
Of all the captives from Judah taken to Babylon in 605 BC, Daniel found three friends who were ready and willing to commit their lives and all they did to faithfully follow Yahweh. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah joined Daniel by staying true in an environment hostile to their beliefs. Who are your “+3” friends who you can count on to be true to God and stick with you through thick and thin? Take some time to reflect on this. Pray about it. Then make contact this week with each of those “+3” faithful and Godly friends. Tell them they are part of your “+3” and thank them for that. (For an example of King David’s “+3” see 2 Samuel 23:8-17.)
It’s likely that Daniel and his friends were teens when they experienced their testing in Daniel 1. This week, contact two different people and ask them about tests they have faced in their lives. Ask how they fared and what they are willing to pass along to you to help you in tests you might face. For one of the people, choose someone about your own age. For the second person, choose someone older than you—preferably someone you look up to as a role model or mentor who has faced multiple tests over the years. You may want to end your listening by asking for permission to make future contact with them for counsel and prayer when you face tests in your future.
What do you eat? What do you not eat? Try the Daniel diet for 10 days and see what you notice. Some people think 10 days isn’t that long, while others find it extremely difficult to stick to anything for 10 days. This might be especially true if you lack self-control or if your current diet is quite different from Daniel’s diet. What did Daniel and his three friends eat for those 10 days? Vegetables and water is what most English translations say. Water is pretty simple to understand. The word translated “vegetables” is the Hebrew word zeroim which literally means “seed-food”—food grown from seeds. This would include vegetables, but also other plants and grains—basically a vegan diet. If you’re already vegan, this has been your diet. If you’re not, give it a try and see if you notice any differences after 10 days. Who knows, you may want to do it for three years (and beyond)!
Building a Great Team
By Steve Case & Hubert Cisneros
Are you an area youth director or maybe a youth leader in a church? Are you just beginning or highly experienced? Are you a young person who is ready to be a leader right now? Use the principles, ideas, examples, and plans as tools for what you create with the inspiration that only God can give you. Use all six chapters to cover many areas as a youth ministry “intensive” over one day or over a weekend. Or pick one session to share with others. Try it out, adapt it, try it again. Many youth leaders have found these elements to be vital for their youth ministry.
Add pizzazz to lunch for seniors. In addition to receiving the hot portion of the meal in a tray, Meals on Wheels recipients get the cold portion in a lunch bag. Add life to their meals by decorating lunch bags. Simply buy paper lunch bags and use your creativity, crayons, markers, stickers, or any art materials you have on hand.
Cost: Less than $5.00
Provide essential care items for the homeless. Collect essential hygiene items and place them in resealable plastic bags. Donate to shelters or use for street ministry.
Help community members preserve the memory of a loved one lost during COVID. Use fabric and sew these special bears to help others ease the pain of grief, hold silent witness to their sorrow, or serve as a cuddly reminder of the their loved one.
Cost: Less than $5.00 (many stores are donating cloth)
Make masks and help save lives. With your help, we can make sure our frontline health workers have medical-grade face masks to protect them from COVID-19.
Cost: Less than $5.00 (many stores are donating cloth)
Camp in your backyard for a cause. Plan a Sleep Out with your family to raise awareness and money that directly benefits youth facing homelessness.
Costs: Less than $5.00
Virtual #OneTeam Playbook
NAD Youth & Young Adult Leadership Convention
You are invited to join the North American Division Youth Ministries Department for leadership training on Zoom from September 3-5, 2020! This event is open to all pastors and local church, conference, and union youth and young adult ministry leaders. It will feature a wide variety of seminars plus training for youth Sabbath School, Master Guide leadership, and much more. The Zoom link for the event will be emailed one week before the event to the email address provided in your registration.