Sunday, August 7, 2011

The BIG Finish

Daniel 2:1-23

Ever had one of those dreams that left you feeling as if it really happened?  You wake up with tears in your eyes or an uneasy feeling that you can't quite explain.  Well, King Nebuchadnezzar had just such a dream; problem was, he couldn't quite remember what it was all about.  He may have seen a glimpse or two through his mind's eye -- probably enough to recognize it if he'd had some sort of subconscious DVR, but not enough to relate it to anyone.  So he calls his magicians, and astrologers, and so forth.

I picture them, rushing in wearing their robes of finest linen, embellished maybe, with precious jewels -- eagerly anticipating yet another chance to please their king with sycophantic rhetoric and fortuitous prognostication.  Their wicked little hearts racing with the thrill of the reward they will receive upon successfully earning the "king of king's" favor.

“May the king live forever! 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 honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”

Huh?  Tell you the dream?  You see, that's not how this usually works.  You have to tell us the dream, then we tell you what it means.  Got it?  OK, let's try this again (probably with much less enthusiasm this time): “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

But no.  That's not what Nebuchadnezzar desired.  All his boot-licking, kow-towing, self-seeking hangers-on were about to be cut into little pieces.  So they start back-pedalling, tripping over their tongues to talk their way out of this one. 

"Don't you see, King?  Mighty and great kings know how this works.  They would never put to serious practitioners such a silly, outrageous task!  Surely you are not a fool!"  (My own paraphrase, sure, but I think that's the gist)

That did it!  King Nebuchadnezzar snapped.  He ordered the execution of all his wise men -- even those not present.  Now the text really doesn't specify, but my guess is, the greedy little in-house "wise" men were the first ones to go.  By the time the assassins went looking for David and his friends, I'm sure the minions who had stood before Nebuchadnezzar, singing his praises a short time before, were fish food.

I'm going to fast-forward just a bit, because I think there is a contrast here that, until I read this today, never really struck me before.  Sure, Daniel stepped up to the plate because he knew God was in control.  Sure, he let his buddies in on it so they could pray and be redeemed, as well.  And sure, God honored His servants, and gave Daniel a vision of just what the king had seen -- along with it, a not-so fortuitous interpretation.  But, what did Daniel do after receiving God's wisdom? 

Praised God.  Praised Him -- it says, "then" -- immediately.  He didn't seek out a royal emissary; he didn't rush to gather up his friends and head on over to Nebuchadnezzar's place with the good news.  He praised God.  While the agents of Nebuchadnezzar entered his presence grovelling and sucking-up to him (and we see where that got them), Daniel remained true to his God -- the One and Only Living and True God.  And he finished the task!  Not by relaying the message, necessarily, but by praising God for His goodness and mercy!  Our praise is the closing to the letter, the test pattern on the screen, the fat lady's song, the big wrap-up.  Until we praise God for what He has done or allowed us to do -- it ain't over!

I asked God for something the other day.  I'd lost a gift card.  Silly, really, but I know He cares.  I found the gift card.  I breathed a sigh of relief and sort of shook my head at my foolishness (I'd put it somewhere for safe-keeping) and kept right on rolling.  Minutes later, as I was pondering my own "senior moment," I remembered what Daniel never forgot:

  “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
you have made known to us the dream of the king.”
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