August 8, 2011

Tuesday after the Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.77, 1 Sam. 9:1-10, Lk. 13:10-21
Evening - Ps. 74, Dan. 4:19-27, Acts 23:12-24

Commentary

Nebuchadnezzar is a tyrant. He has built an empire on violence and bloodshed. He rules it with ruthless efficiency, killing those who cross or displease him (Dan. 2:12-13). He enriches himself at the expense of conquered peoples, and credits an idol with granting him success and prosperity. In Nebuchadnezzar's defense, most of the conquered people would have gladly done the same to him, for then, just as now, people were not good at making peace through voluntary alliances. They were much better at conquering neighbors and forcing them into slavery, thus, carving out for themselves brief eras of peace and security at the expense of others. In Daniel's time, Nebuchadnezzar was better at this than anyone else around him, so he was able to build and maintain an empire.

For an unexplained reason, God is giving Nebuchadnezzar a chance to repent. His dream, easily explained by Daniel, tells of a time when he will be removed from his throne and his kingdom given to another. God raised him up for His own purposes, and God will cast him down at will. The watcher in verse 23 is an angel who begins the judgment of God on Nebuchadnezzar (25-26).

But the same God, who sent the dream to warn the king of his impending doom, also sent Daniel to invite him to repent. It is important to see the great invitation in this dream. It gives Nebuchadnezzar the chance to repent. It gives him the chance to turn to God. Nebuchadnezzar had the opportunity to leave his idolatry and turn to God. This is one of the most important aspects of this entire dream.

The entreaty of verse 27 invites the king to begin to rule the empire in righteousness and justice. It invites him to uphold the rights of the people, especially the poor, which would be the people of conquered nations as well as the poor of Babylon. It is an admonition to stop ruling according to his own whims, which have not become corrupted by power, and to start ruling by the principles of justice, truth, and integrity; not to benefit himself and the ruling class, but to benefit all people.

Imagine how different the world would be if Nebuchadnezzar had turned to God. Unfortunately this is yet another example of a great gift of God thrown away by human sin.

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