August 7, 2011

Monday after the Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Morning - Ps.75, 76, 1 Sam. 8:4, Lk. 13:1-9
Evening - Ps. 73, Dan. 4:4-5, 10-18, Acts 22:30-23:11

Commentary

Nebuchadnezzar has had another dream. Like his first, this is not an ordinary dream, and he believes it is a divine message. As with his first dream, the leaders of the religions of Babylon are unable to discern the meaning of the dream. This is a critically important point leading to two possibilities. First, maybe the dream is not a message from the divine, although, if that were true the astrologers and wise men should have been able to tell the king so. Second, maybe it is a message from the divine, but the Babylonian religious leaders are not being told what it means. This leads to the conclusion that they are not sufficiently connected to the divine to understand what it is saying in the dream. In other words, their religions are not really just different ways of worshiping the same God; they are about completely different gods, and those gods are not there. Thus, they are completely disconnected from the Living God. It is very important to realise that we are not free to change God in order to make Him more acceptable to us, or to confuse Him with the gods invented by human imagination. We must take God on His own terms. It is we who must conform to Him, not He who must conform to us (see Jn. 14:6).

In verse 8, Daniel comes to the king, and is immediately welcomed into his presence, for the king knows Daniel is profoundly connected to the divine. I am using the word "divine" because the king, while recognising the reality of the God of Daniel, does not recognise Him as the only God, nor does he believe He is the only God who inspires Daniel (4:8). He probably believes his dream has come from Bel, high god of the Babylonian religion, and assumes the God of Daniel is subservient to Bel. Thus, he calls Daniel according to the name of his (Nebuchadnezzar's) god, Belteshazzar, and the reference to the high God in Daniel 4:2-3 probably refers to Bel rather than God. It seems apparent also that Nebuchadnezzar considers Daniel one of the prophets of Bel (4:9).

Though Nebuchadnezzar recognised the reality of the God of Israel (Dan. 2:47) he never forsook the idolatry of Babylon, so his references to Bel are not surprising. His brief recognition of God serves as a warning to all who take faith in God lightly. Many a person, seemingly converted in the warmth of a strong sermon or church service, is found among the unbelievers again in short order. Many a church member, whose faith appears strong while he is under the influence of a caring church family or minister of the Word, fades back into the world when that influence is removed. Many who once appeared to be faithful student of the Bible are now found among its critics and skeptics.

Tonight's reading ends with the king's order to Daniel, as a prophet of Bel, to interpret the dream. Daniel obeys, but it is not a prophet of Bel who gives the meaning of the dream. It is Daniel, whose name means, "God will Judge," who addresses the king in the name of God.

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