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Government in Crisis

Daniel 2v14-23

11th October 2019

Last time we read the story of the time King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream that frightened him. He demanded that his advisors tell him the dream and then interpret it for him. Unsurprisingly, they were unable to tell him what he'd dreamt, and he issued a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be executed. Since Nebuchadnezzar was a very clever man, this shows us how frightening the dream must have been.

Daniel and his friends were being trained to be wise men, and so they were quite unjustly included amongst those who were to be killed. Daniel would not meekly accept his fate.

Daniel 2v14
When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact.

It's often been said of Christians that either we're too quiet or we're too forceful. Even when evangelising, either we're too timid to do it, or we pummel people with the Gospel so they can't possibly receive it. But we can learn to speak with wisdom and tact.

You might imagine Daniel would have prodded Arioch in the chest, saying "What on earth is going on? How dare the king do this. Isn't it outrageous? It’s contrary to scripture" (which of course Arioch, like most of our neighbours, didn't know).

Christians, when we're not hiding away in our bunkers, keeping our heads down and playing for time, tend to be manning the barricades, waving placards about and posting unpleasant things on Facebook. Isn't there a middle way, where we speak to those in authority in the land, or the hospital, or the school, or the university, or the company with wisdom and tact?

The people running our country, or our organisation, are scared, although they prefer not to show it. Wise, godly advice, given tactfully, might be received. If we oppose aggressively, we will set up a contention, which means we can't be heard. If we will speak with wisdom and tact, perhaps we can be heard.

Daniel 2v15
He asked the king’s officer, "Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?" Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel.

Daniel didn't complain that the king was being cruel or foolish. He asked, "What's happening? Please help me understand. Can I help? What problems is the king facing that we might be able to assist him with?" And, because Daniel was polite and tactful, Arioch took the trouble to explain the situation to him.

Daniel 2v16
At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.

Daniel, a 17-year-old lad in a foreign country, trying to learn a foreign language and get by in a foreign culture, went to see the most powerful man in the world, who had just issued a decree to execute all his advisors, and said, "Excuse me, I think I can help. Can you give me a few days?" I’m impressed.

The day may come in your life when you have to stand up and do something incredibly brave, when you have to speak with wisdom and tact to somebody who has such power and authority that you'd rather be anywhere else, for the sake of your brothers and sisters in Christ, for the kingdom of God, and for the society around you. Sometimes you have to stand up and say, "I think I may be able to help."

In Verse 36, Daniel calls Nebuchadnezzar "The king of kings". Nebuchadnezzar was the first person in the Bible to be given that name – but not the last. He was the king of kings in the sense that he was a very impressive king, and also because other kings recognised his authority over them. He was literally the king of other kings. He might have told Daniel, "You’re just a spotty 17-year-old lad. You haven’t even finished college yet. What do you know?" But the kings of kings agreed to give Daniel time. Nebuchadnezzar must have known that he needed help.

Many of our leaders are profoundly insecure, worried about the mistakes they might make and the consequences of those mistakes. Surely there are ways for Christians to get near enough to some of them to become their advisors. Billy Graham was counsellor to twelve American presidents (Truman to Obama). He had wisdom and tact, and he earnt their trust and their respect, and he became their advisor. Cannot one Christian in this land achieve the same? And maybe one Christian at your place of work, your hospital, or your school, can earn the respect of those who are in authority over us, and become an advisor to the powerful people who lead that organisation, so we can give them God’s advice, tactfully and wisely.

Daniel 2v17-18
Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

It wasn't their fault. It wasn't their doing. They were in a foreign country 1,000 miles from home, in an education system they still didn't fully understand, trying to pick up the language. And they were going to be killed because they'd been put on a university course that would lead to a profession which has just become politically incorrect.

I can't imagine what that felt like, but I'm sure they prayed! As Samuel Johnson said, "When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully". I'm sure they pleaded for mercy from the real King of Kings, God Himself. God is in control all the time, and he had the answer Daniel needed.

You don't know which day the breakthrough in our country is going to come, or the breakthrough at work or at home. But it's going to come, because God is in control, so pray.

Daniel 2v19a
During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision.

Every dream we have is caused by something. There's always a reason why you dream what you dream, and there is some value in understanding our dreams, so we find out why we're dreaming what we're dreaming. But that's an inexact science, and it pertains only to the natural realm.

This was a prophetic dream, a dream given by God. He gave the dream to Nebuchadnezzar, and then he gave the same dream to Daniel. And, somehow, Daniel knew that the dream was from God, and he knew that it was the same dream that Nebuchadnezzar had already had.

Daniel 2v19b-23
Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king."

Daniel praised God. He remembered to say "thank you". When God moves in our lives, may we always remember to take time to say "thank you".

Daniel knew and gladly acknowledged that any wisdom, and any revelation, that he had, had been given to him by God. He knew he couldn't interpret dreams, but God could show him Nebuchadnezzar's dream and interpret it.

Maybe something similar will happen for you. Maybe God will show you something really important about another person, who really needs to hear it. And give you the courage to tell them, wisely and tactfully, what God is saying to them.

But Daniel was now going to have to go back the courtroom of the anger, frightened king. He would have to trust that the dream he'd seen was the same as Nebuchadnezzar's dream (something that's much easier to do when you're at home with your friends, than it is when you're standing in front of the man who has threatened to have you executed). He would find out if the king believed him, and was satisfied with his interpretation. He would have to trust God more than he ever had before.

We'll read that part of the story next time.