Friday, January 20, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel. Day 13, The King Dreams Another Dream

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 13
The King Dreams Another Dream

King Nebuchadnezzar writes a speech which he probably proclaimed aloud from his palace in Babylon; it's possible he also sent copies of it as a letter to the officials in charge of his various territories. He wants everyone, far and wide, to hear the tale of how prideful he once was and how Daniel's God humbled him. This speech was delivered at least eight years after he had this new and troubling dream, for one full year would pass before it came true, then he would spend seven years in a condition which rendered it impossible for him to give speeches. Chapter 4 is quite long and we will need to divide it into sections over the next several days.

It begins with this, "King Nebuchadnezzar, To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth: May you prosper greatly! It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God performed for me. How great are His signs, how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; His dominion endures from generation to generation." (Daniel 4:1-3) Previously, after witnessing God's deliverance of the three Jewish men from the fiery furnace and seeing a fourth man in the fire with them, Nebuchadnezzar threatened the populace that anyone who spoke against the God of Israel would be cut into pieces and his house turned into a pile of rubble. But he called the Lord the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; he did not call the Lord his own God. In that moment he believed God was real, but he did not convert. Today we see something new and different. Nebuchadnezzar wants to tell the people about all the things that "the Most High God performed for me". He has had a personal encounter with the Lord and, like anyone who has been changed to the core by a relationship with the living God, he wants to share the news of this transformation. 

Now he relates to us how this miraculous change began. "I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous." (Daniel 4:4) He had conquered many lands and was enjoying his power and prosperity. He was still a young man when he became a major world player, young enough to enjoy all the pleasures of the world, and he was strong and confident and proud of his accomplishments. Sitting enthroned in the palace, with every imaginable luxury at his fingertips, he must have believed he lacked nothing. But his soul was bankrupt. He was like the wealthy but apostate church of Revelation 3:17, "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." Nebuchadnezzar had gained the whole world but was in danger of losing his soul. (Mark 8:36)

While he went about his days, the king was not aware he lacked anything. But in the night as he slept his most inward fears came to the forefront. His waking mind may not have recognized his spiritual deadness, but his soul was aware of it. "I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me." (Daniel 4:5-6) This, to me, is one of the most important parts of the story. The wise men made a very poor showing the last time the king called for them, so much so that he ordered their execution. This was an order he evidently later withdrew, but he was so displeased with them that he promoted Daniel (a captive and a foreigner) over them all. We would expect him to call for Daniel straightaway but he does not. I think the king is running from God. He suspects the dream isn't good news and that it has something to do with him personally. He also knows Daniel will tell him the truth, no matter how bad it is. And he doesn't want the truth. He's already concluded the Babylonian wise men are frauds, prepared to tell him anything they think he wants to hear, and right now he's so frightened he would rather hear their lies. He would love to be comforted with promises of peace and prosperity even if they are not true.

In order to help them tell him what he wants to hear, this time the king reveals the dream itself to the wise men. When he had the dream about the statue earlier in our study of Daniel, he refused to relate the details of the dream, insisting that the wise men relate the dream back to him (possibly through some method of occult divination). But if the king thought he would get satisfaction from the wise men on this new occasion, he was wrong. "When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me." (Daniel 4:7) The wise men no doubt fear the king enormously, but for some reason they don't dare to manufacture a meaning for the dream. Their minds appear to have gone blank. Their imaginations refuse to come up with anything to tell the king. I have to wonder if this wasn't divine intervention. The Lord, in His mercy, wants the king to understand the message of the dream. He wants to give Nebuchadnezzar an opportunity to repent of his ways so that He does not have to bring upon the king the circumstances contained in the dream. We will learn later in Chapter 4 that the Lord allows Nebuchadnezzar an entire year, following the dream, in which to repent. 

Not a single wise man of Babylon is able to help him and Nebuchadnezzar now does something he doesn't want to do. As a last resort, because no one else can help, he calls for Daniel. "Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him my dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)" (Daniel 4:8) When the king calls Daniel he still does not really understand who Daniel's God is. He is still thinking of the God of Israel as one of many gods of many cultures. He does not say that Daniel receives his power from the one true God, the King of kings and Lord of lords. He uses a very pagan expression by ascribing Daniel's power to "the holy gods", and he seems to think that part of the reason Daniel is graced with such talents is because he renamed him after his own god Bel. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar thinks he pleased the gods by naming this young man after a chief deity of Babylon. 

Nebuchadnezzar tells us what he said when Daniel came into the room. "I said, 'Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you." (Daniel 4:9a) This is even more evidence that the king wanted to avoid speaking to Daniel about the dream. If he truly knew (and I believe he did) that no mystery was too difficult for Daniel, why did he not immediately call for him? Why waste time with men who, if they came up with anything at all, would lie to him? You've probably heard the expression of "killing the messenger", the practice of ancient kings killing anyone who brought bad news, and it's understandable that the wise men of Babylon would desire to tell the king things that would please him. We can easily see why they would be compelled to tell lies. This is a king who often threatens to cut people into pieces or throw them into blazing furnaces. Yet he called for men whom he knew were dishonest to interpret the dream, and it's only by the grace of God that they remained puzzled and mute. God intends to get His message through and He intends to use His servant Daniel to deliver it. The Lord wants there to be no mistake that this message comes from the one true God, the only God Nebuchadnezzar should be serving, and He puts His hand over the mouths of the wise men so that Daniel must be called in. Daniel will give all the credit for the interpretation to God and will advise the king to turn to Him and repent. No wise man of Babylon would have said such things. But the Lord's servant, the godly young man Daniel who intends to live a life of purpose in difficult circumstances, will have the courage and the faith to tell a powerful and cruel king he needs to get his heart right with God. 

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