August 9, 2011

Wednesday after the Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 80, 1 Sam. 9:11-21, Lk. 13:22
Evening - Ps. 81, Dan. 4:28, Acts 23:25-24:9

Commentary

Nebuchadnezzar did not repent. If anything, he became even more arrogant. "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" (4:30). Remember that, in the dream, God told Nebuchadnezzar that it was God who raised him up and gave him the empire of Babylon. It was not Bel who did this for him, and it was certainly not the accomplishment of Nebuchadnezzar alone. By sending this message to him, God gave Nebuchadnezzar an extraordinary opportunity to, as we would say in New Testament language, "be saved." Very, very few people receive special dreams from God. Fewer still are visited by a prophet to interpret them. We are accustomed to reading about such things in the Old Testament, and we may think they were common occurrences. Not so. They were very rare. That's one of the factors that made them noteworthy, and it is one of the reasons why they were recorded in the Bible. So Nebuchadnezzar was the recipient of a very rare gift from God, and he threw it away.

Before we criticise Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps we should ask ourselves how great our opportunities have been, and what use we have made of them. He had a dream, but we have the Bible, which records many dreams. He had a prophet, but we have the bible, which contains the words of many prophets. We have the New Testament, which records the life and teaching of Christ. We have the Holy Spirit. We have the Church, the Sacraments, and all the means of grace at our disposal. Many reading this commentary have hours of leisure time each day and live in lands where we can own and read the Bible freely. By all accounts we should be the most informed, most Biblically literate, most Godly-minded people in the history of the world. What have we done with our opportunities? To leave "undone those things which we ought to have done" is just as sinful as doing "those things which we ought not to have done."

To whom much is given, much will be required, so, as Nebuchadnezzar had a great opportunity, his loss for rejecting it was also great. The dream came true in every detail (33). It is possible that this happened in the last years of Nebuchadnezzar's life, and that he died soon after the events recorded in verses 34-37. Whether this is so or not, Nebuchadnezzar leaves the pages of the book of Daniel in verse 37, but not before his sanity is returned and he is allowed to return to his throne (36). He also proclaims great faith in the God of Daniel, whom he calls the King of Heaven in verse 37. Was his conversion genuine? Did he truly turn to God? Or did he merely acknowledge Him as the greatest among all gods? We cannot know this until we walk the streets of Heaven ourselves and find him present or absent. We can know whether our conversion is real or not, and what we have done with our own opportunities.

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