Sunday, January 22, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel. Day 15, The Interpretation Of The Dream

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 15
The Interpretation of The Dream

King Nebuchadnezzar has concluded his description of the dream which has upset him so. Now he waits for Daniel's interpretation. 

"Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, 'Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.'" (Daniel 4:19a) Daniel is visibly shaken. The dream foretells bad news for the king and he does not want to be the bearer of that bad news. The king is an ill-tempered and violent person, but Daniel's reluctance to relate the interpretation doesn't appear to stem from fears for his own life. He has taken to heart the instructions the Lord gave the people of Judah through the prophet Jeremiah regarding the Babylonian exile, "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." (Jeremiah 29:7) Daniel does not want to see harm come to the king. Any threat to the king is a threat to his subjects. Anything that jeopardizes the security of the nation of Babylon jeopardizes the personal security of all who live there. 

Daniel lived long before the Apostle Paul but he would have wholeheartedly agreed with Paul's instructions to his friend Timothy, "I urge then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people---for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:1-4) We could learn a great deal from the attitudes of Daniel and Paul. Both men lived lives of purpose, being obedient to God, praying for those in authority over them so that perhaps these leaders would come to know Almighty God. We've just come out of a difficult election year and no matter who we voted for, and no matter whether we are happy or upset with the outcome, the holy and infallible word of God tells us to pray for our nation and its leaders. We can never go wrong by asking God to protect and preserve and bless the United States of America. If it prospers, we too will prosper. If America is enjoying peace and quiet, its citizens will enjoy peace and quiet. 

Daniel speaks now and in his words we see the anguish of heart he feels about the troubles foretold for the king, "Belteshazzar answered, 'My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning for your adversaries! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds---Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth." (Daniel 4:19b-22)

"Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, 'Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.'" (Daniel 4:23) What the king suspected is true: the dream is about him and it is not good news.

"This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone He wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules." (Daniel 4:24-26) King Nebuchadnezzar has gloried in his own intelligence, talents, and accomplishments as though he received these without the help of a Creator. Now God intends to take away the things in which the king has such abundant pride so that he will know he has nothing without the Lord. The Apostle Paul cautioned his listeners not to be puffed up with pride or to think more of themselves than they should, "For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" (1 Corinthians 4:7) If we had created ourselves and endowed ourselves with brilliance and talent, then we would have the right to boast. But since we did not, we owe all our thanks to God. We owe Him the praise for being alive today with whatever gifts we possess, having eyes to see this page and having minds capable of understanding God's word. Without Him we wouldn't even exist.

Daniel now gives the best advice anyone can give another human being, and I believe he offers it to the king in all sincerity and compassion. "Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be then that your prosperity will continue." (Daniel 4:27) Daniel says, "Repent! You don't have to keep going down the wrong road. You can stop and turn around. You can know the Savior of mankind and receive His redemption. The fate that awaits you in your dream doesn't have to come to pass. The Lord offers you another way, a better way."

If Daniel had not purposed in his heart to remain obedient to God no matter what, he would never have been in a position to give such wise counsel to a pagan king. If Nebuchadnezzar had not found Daniel to be a man of integrity, he would never have stood for being called "wicked" or being urged to repent. But he respects this godly young man. He knows Daniel's motivations are pure and that he is sincere when he says he wants the prosperity of the king to continue. If we do not remain true to our convictions as Daniel did, we will never have any influence on unbelievers. They observe our manner of living to determine whether we are sincere. They will not be as quick to dismiss our advice if they see us practicing what we preach. Nebuchadnezzar will not at this time take Daniel's advice, but after the Lord humbles him with affliction, he will realize that Daniel was right. And he will acknowledge that Daniel's God is the God. If Daniel had never been taken captive to Babylon, and if he had not been a man of principles and conviction, and if he had not given his testimony about Almighty God, Nebuchadnezzar would never have known enough about the living God to praise His name.

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