Here’s an interesting passage of the Bible. What do you all think the practical value of this passage is?
1 In 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven
20 and said:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
23 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.”
24Then 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.
This passage is interesting to me because it shows the kind of attitude that God answers. The King in this passage was tired of hearing man-made stories from his servants – stories that were undoubtedly influenced by the servants desire to survive the King’s wrath. The servants would only have told the King things that were vague and happy, so that they could never be proved wrong or found to be judgmental or offensive. But the King was tired of that. He wanted someone with authority to tell him the truth about the way the world was.
In the rest of the chapter, Daniel interprets the dream, and concludes by saying this: “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”. The King replies: “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”
I think it is is going to be difficult for Christians living today to be able to tell people their dreams like that. But what we can do is talk about God’s miracles as revealed by science and history. We can study astrophysics, biochemistry and history and we can explain what God did in creating and fine-tuning the universe for life, in sequencing amino acids into functioning proteins, in creating brand new body plans in the Cambrian explosion, in raising Jesus from the dead as a matter of historical record, and so on. We have to show how great God is to people who do not even think he exists, and without assuming that they believe in the Bible. And we have to do it by focusing on what is true.
Early last week, I got a message from a friend who was interested in a girl that he met on an online dating service. She claimed to be a Christian. My friend explained why he was so interested in some of the evidences I outlined above. She was not impressed. She said “I prefer to show people Christianity is true by not judging them, by being compassionate, by introducing them to a fun and affirming community”. There was no emphasis on truth in her approach. In fact, any religious group could do those things and “establish” their religion as true, by appealing to feelings. But this is clearly not what the God of the Bible intends for people who seek him. He is a God of truth, and truth is established by logical reasoning and supporting evidence.
There are still people out there like the King who are looking for someone who can speak to them with authority. All it takes from us is a little studying, and we can be like Daniel, too. But we have to know what God has done from science and history, and speak with authority about how we can know that God has acted supernaturally. Authority to speak comes from having knowledge about what we are talking about, and knowledge comes from studying and debating with people we disagree with. Nebuchadnezzar was not a believer in the God of Israel, but he was still interested in truth. That won’t always be the case, but it is the case for some people.