Things are not good in the Babylonian White House. According to Daniel 2:29, Nebuchadnezzar went to bed one night thinking about the future. He had seen the great Assyrian Empire fall and he had seen the Babylonian Empire rise in its place. It must have made him wonder what would happen to his empire. The king woke up deeply troubled. He had a dream that was too important to pass over lightly.
Nebuchadnezzar needed his top counselors in these matters to help him understand the dream—but that was just the problem. How could he be sure that their interpretation of the dream was accurate and that he could rely on what they said? After all, it was his future that was up for discussion.
His plan was simple: if the dream came from the gods and if these sorcerers really had contact with the gods, learning the content of the dream shouldn’t be that difficult. He could then trust their interpretation. But if they couldn’t access the content of the dream, what assurance did Nebuchadnezzar have that the interpretation was also accurate?
The Babylonian Brain Trust
Nebuchadnezzar called in four groups of advisors.
- The “magicians” were probably the magi, the same “wise men” we meet every year at Christmas who came to honor Jesus as a baby. They were Persian astrologers who claimed to be able to predict events based on the movement of the stars and planets.
- The “enchanters” were mediums, men who claimed to have contact with spirits and on that basis to have access to knowledge about the future.
- The “sorcerers” were Harry Potter–style wizards who used potions, charms and incantations to coax information from the gods.
- The “Chaldeans” or “astrologers” were another class of Babylonian priests. Their specialty was the interpretation of dreams, which is why the king directs his comments and instructions to them.
Nebuchadnezzar had a simple request of all these learned men who claimed to speak with spiritual power—tell me the dream and its interpretation and I will lavish you with riches; fail to give me the information and you will die.
If you read this account in the King James Version of the Bible, it sounds like the king forgot his dream, but I don’t think that is the case. The dream had made an indelible impression on the king and he couldn’t forget it. Nebuchadnezzar was testing these wise men to see if the gods really communicated to them. In the end they had to face the truth (and admit to the king) that they had no reliable answers at all.
Looking for Truth
It’s still true that these channels of spiritual wisdom are empty and dry. If you are looking for some kind of guidance from a horoscope or from a reader of Tarot cards, you are tangling with things that are at best a hoax and at worst the activity of spiritual forces of darkness. God has warned his people over and over to have nothing to do with such approaches to spiritual truth. Daniel had no choice but to be trained in the techniques of the Babylonian priests, but he did not trust their methods or accept the underlying beliefs. He knew that the astrologers and wizards had power from the evil one, but their guidance did not lead to the true God. It only led deeper into the darkness.
In the crisis that followed, Daniel relied on the same resources that are available to us.
- First, Daniel prayed. He had no assurance that God would reveal the dream to him, but he was not afraid to ask big things from a big God. So many times we don’t even do that. We don’t have from God because we don’t ask (James 4:2).
- Second, Daniel went to other believers that he trusted. When you have a pressing burden or need, the best thing to do is pray and the best people to call on are not the whole church but the two or three friends whose hearts are knit to yours. A pastor friend and I met recently with a young believer who was caught in a web of bitterness and resentment toward another Christian. When we got to the meeting place, the bitter man had brought an unbelieving friend with him for support. The unbeliever supported him all right—not toward repentance and forgiveness, but deeper into anger and hostility. Daniel knew the value of a few committed friends.
- Third, Daniel was humble. When God revealed the dream and its meaning that night, I would have jumped up and rushed back into the king’s presence to give him the news (and maybe to collect the riches he promised). That’s not the path Daniel took. He stayed in God’s presence and spent some time giving praise and honor to the true source of wisdom, God alone. Daniel was willing in private and in public to give God all the credit. Humility is a common thread among men and women God uses greatly. They are not impressed with their own gifts and insights; they are captured by the greatness and wisdom of God.
Life’s Curve Ball
Most of our lives and most of the things we care about are out of the realm of our control. I want my children and grandchildren to follow Jesus and to live fulfilled lives, but I can’t make that happen. I want the people in my congregation to love God fervently and to serve him passionately, but I can’t browbeat them into it. They have to choose to follow, and when one turns aside or leaves in a huff, I have to live in the backwash of that decision—and pray.
Daniel had already gone through so much trauma and change in his life that we might think this latest curve ball is unfair. But life isn’t like that. God keeps molding us and hammering us into the likeness of Jesus. We grow best not in the ease of blessings but in the pressure of problems. Whether our faith holds up or folds up at that point depends on where we have put our trust. Daniel trusted the sovereign God even when he could not see what the outcome would be. In an out-of-control world, that same God is the one secure anchor we have.
What’s the main idea in this section?
What is one thing you can act on based on this reading?
Taken from A Deeper Look at Daniel by Douglas Connelly. Copyright(c) 2013 by Douglas Connelly. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com
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