Friday, 18 September 2015

Bible Reading: Daniel 2 'A Powerless king'

"In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. 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, he said to them, ‘I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.’
Then the astrologers answered the king, ‘May the king live for ever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.’
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. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honour. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.’
Once more they replied, ‘Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.’
Then the king answered, ‘I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realise that this is what I have firmly decided: 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. 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."

Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful man by any definition that you would use.  His army had swept all before them.  He was the king, demanding total obedience and used to having his every whim fulfilled.  But here in Daniel 2 we quickly see that Nebuchadnezzar's power and authority are just a mirage, he can no more control history than anyone else.  It is his dream that confronts him with his powerlessness, his dream leaves his mind troubled and he cannot sleep(v1-3).  The powerful king is revealed to really be a powerless king.

We also get a sense of his powerlessness in his dealings with his wise men.  Nebuchadnezzar is powerful but he knows that he cannot trust his advisers and so he tests the wise men, he wants real answer (8-9), not the words of yes men.  So not only must they interpret the dream but they must tell him what the dream was.  Unsurprisingly the astrologers are horrified, convinced that "No one can reveal it to the king except he gods, and they do not live among humans."

The stage is set, the question is posed, is there anyone who can tell the king his dream and interpret it?  Is there anyone who can hear from the gods and answer the king.  As verse 13 draws to a close we see that this capricious king frustrated by his revealed impotence and limitation has put every wise man, including Daniel and co, on death row. Only gods can reveal dreams!

We see a number things in these opening verses of chapter 2, we see the capriciousness of king Nebuchadnezzar, he certainly wouldn't win any boss of the year awards.  He is prone to rages and quick to judge, Daniel and his friends have not entered the service of a wise, loving, beneficent ruler. Their job is dangerous, it is not hard to see how dangerous it could be for four young men with strong convictions about their faith, about God, to be quickly in peril in such a court.

But we also see that Nebuchadnezzar is not all powerful, he is limited, there is only one who knows the future and he holds it in his hands.  If only there were someone who heard from the gods.

It reminds us that it is easy for us to forget the privileges we enjoy as God's people, not only do we hear from God in the scriptures, where as we read it he speaks to us each and every time.  But amazingly Christ pours out upon his people the gift of the Holy Spirit, we don't just know of God, we know God and he dwells with us as his people.  That is something to give praise to our God for.

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