Last Sunday we joined a rich story, beginning with a tormented king during the first few years of his reign. Nebuchadnezzar is plagued by dreams and they are causing him to lose sleep, they are troubling him deeply. He calls in all those on his payroll who deal with this sort of thing (magicians, enchanters, astrologers, etc.). The first words out of their mouths are, “May the king live forever!” It seems obvious to Nebuchadnezzar that they are going to only tell him what he wants to hear – a constant reality for those who find themselves in places of power and privilege. He asks them to do something impossible (unless your God!) – tell him his dream first and then interpret it! When they are unable to do this the command goes out, “off with their heads!”
Enter Daniel. Daniel persuades the powers that be to give him a night to work on it and he can tell the king his dream in the morning. Through prayer (note the prayer includes his three friends) Daniel receives a vision from God and knows the dream. Miracle number 1. We are impressed!
But then we get to miracle number 2 and are impressed and left wondering. The dream Daniel tells and interprets is less than flattering to a king, even though he begins with a lot of flattery! The message is the exact opposite of, “May the king live forever!” The message is, “You’re not going to live forever and your kingdom is going to go away…all the kingdoms are going to go away, actually, except for the one that’s eternal.” The miracle is in Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction; he falls prostrate before Daniel and praises the God of Daniel. Why didn’t he kill Daniel for this message? This is not the sort of thing you tell a king. This is not what he as the king is at all used to hearing.
As we walked through this story and wondered what is going on with Nebuchadnezzar we realized this truth: the king actually wants to be told the truth. Nebuchadnezzar is sick and tired of being sold a constant commercial for his own kingdom. He’s tired of being lied to, duped, by those around him who do little more than nod their heads at whatever he says. He yearns for truth and is grateful for it.
And the truth he receives is that God is much, much bigger than him and the kingdom he now oversees will come to an end. He’s not eternal; he’s temporal. And this is profoundly good news for a king who constantly feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. The news that he will fade away might even bring some relief.
Remember when Jesus said, “The truth shall set you free” (John 8:32)? I think that’s what we’re looking at here with Nebuchadnezzar. A king set free from his own power trap. It’s good news that God is forever. It’s good news the king is not.
And yet, power is a powerful addiction. This next week we will watch Nebuchadnezzar fall in love with his own power once again as he attempts to kill three faithful Jews in a fiery furnace. Power, it turns out, isn’t as easy to give up as we might think; it has a firm grip on a scared king. I wonder what hope we will find as we walk next to the flames in this story?
So…how about you? Are you sick of being sold a commercial by our society that claims you can live forever? Or, if not forever, better than ever by buying this or that product? Are you hungry and thirsty for the truth that will set you free? Are you ready for a new kingdom that won’t go away, one that begins like a small rock and grows to a mountain? Ready to put the power down and fall before God?