Government in Crisis
4th October 2019
The government was in crisis, again. Governments are usually in crisis. When was the last time that most people thought our government was doing well?
One reason why governments are usually in trouble is they dream too much. "Wouldn't it be nice if we could improve the quality of education but not spend any more money on teachers." "Wouldn't it be nice if we could keep everybody well all the time." "Wouldn't it be nice if we could pass a law so that nobody was ever unkind to anybody ever again." "Wouldn't it be nice if we could cut knife crime without actually searching anybody for knives." "Wouldn't it be nice if we could cut taxes and raise public spending at the same time." It's not surprising governments get into problems because they dream.
Nebuchadnezzar dreamed. He was dreaming about the future, and it frightened him. He dreamt about a huge statue with a golden head, that was struck by a stone and disintegrated. If you were the king, what would you think it means?
Nebuchadnezzar was absolute monarch of all he surveyed. But one of the downsides of being absolute monarchs is that there are plenty of other people who'd like the job. You have to be very careful. You need food tasters, and bodyguards, and secret police, if you want to cling on to your power.
Nebuchadnezzar's dream made him afraid, and when governments become afraid of losing power, and possibly their lives, they get into crisis.
So Nebuchadnezzar called for the most intelligent, educated people in his kingdom. These people were magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers. We know now that they may not have been the best people to go to but, at the time, the culture in which they lived saw these people as the university professors, the first division civil servants, the smartest brains in the land.
And it makes me wonder how much we've we changed. Now some of our university professors, journalists and other opinion formers believe all sorts of stuff. You wouldn't call them magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers but I suspect that in the future, people will look at our wise men and wonder, "What did they think they knew? Why did anybody listen to that lot?"
People whose philosophy is not Biblical philosophy are inevitably misguided. As G.K. Chesterton once said, "When a man stops believing in God, he doesn't believe in nothing, he believes in anything." And when a culture turns away from God, the people – especially the educated people – can believe in all kinds of nonsense. Listen to the BBC news sometime. You will hear a lot of things that Christians know are untrue and misguided, because they've turned away from the Bible.
Our government today doesn't know what to do. The House of Commons isn't exactly united, nor are the Conservative party or the Labour party. Their advisors don't know how to help them any more.
I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know this is a terrific opportunity for God to move. When the government and the opinion formers begin to realize they have no idea what's going on, maybe they'll ask God what's going on.
Nebuchadnezzar summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers - the intellectual giants of the day - and said, "I've had a dream". And I'm sure they thought, "Oh no! not another one! Nebuchadnezzar's got another bright idea coming on." But Nebuchadnezzar didn't just ask them what his dream meant; he insisted they tell him what his dream was.
I imagine the average minister sitting in Whitehall, calling Sir Humphrey over and saying, "I've had an idea. I don't really understand what it is, but wouldn't it be nice if it came to pass. Can we write a law so everything will change for the better?" And Sir Humphrey replies, "You tell me what your idea is, and I'll tell you how achievable it is". And the minister says, "Oh no. You explain it to me first". I suspect that happens more than we realize.
The intellectuals, with all their university degrees and all their books, didn't like Nebuchadnezzar's idea at all. It was too difficult for them:
Science in the Babylonian empire was very different from what it was now. Their scientific disciplines included subjects like astrology, magic, and dream interpretation. Of course, we left most of that behind centuries ago. I wonder what future generations will think of our scientists. They had books on the interpretation of dreams. And they know that if Nebuchadnezzar related the dream to them, they could go to the library, look the dream up in the index of a book, and read the interpretation.
The King didn't mess about. He liked absolute power and he wasn't afraid to use it. He assured them that, if they didn't tell him what his dream was, he would have them all killed, and he would ensure all their families were homeless.
He wasn't interested in their suggestion, and you've got to wonder why not. It was his system that educated them, that preserved the books, that funded the research. But he reached a point where he didn't trust their wisdom, didn't believe in their explanations, any more.
And when a government, and a society, realize they can't trust their wise men, there's an opportunity for God to move.
If you were Boris Johnson, or Jeremy Corbin, or Jo Swinson, wouldn't you spend some time thinking, "How did we get into this mess? What rubbish advice did we listen to that got us here? Maybe some politicians will cry out to God, saying, "I don't know the answers any more. I now know that I don't know what to do."
Surely a culture can reach a place where it knows that its answers aren't adequate, and it needs better answers. Cannot God move in such a culture?
Again, the government's intellectuals urged the king to tell them the dream, so that they could explain it to him. He retorted that they were playing for time, because they didn't know what to do. He was absolutely right. They didn't know how to help.
Hello? Look at our country. Now as then, the wise men, the civil servants and professors don't know how to help.
Most countries in our world, if not all, are led by people who want things that nobody could possibly deliver. This is especially true of democracies. They have to please all the people all the time, providing more and more goodies for less and less money. It can't be done. No astrologer, or scientist, or philosopher, or special advisor can fix the problems.
The astrologers told the king that no-one could do what he wanted, "except the gods" – an opportunity for God to move.
The Babylonian establishment, and the British establishment, can reach the point where they know that the only answer is a God answer. Pray that ours does.
The wise men told the king that the gods "do not live among men". But we Christians know that the true God does, indeed, live among us. Jesus promised, "Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18v29). If somebody wants to meet God, he can go to any living church any Sunday morning.
Before we condemn Nebuchadnezzar for his bloodthirsty disregard for human life, let us pause to consider the fact that, in Government-funded hospitals in Britain, 200,000 unborn children are killed every year. Nothing changes.
Daniel and his friends weren't even through university yet, but they were included because Nebuchadnezzar was angry, and he was angry because he was frightened.
If you were Daniel and his friends, 17 year old lads, two-thirds of the way through a university degree, in a foreign culture with some horrible books to read, and silly names, and a totally despotic king, who was ready to kill all the members of his civil service who couldn't answer his question, you might feel rather uncomfortable. You might fear that this is the end, the you'll be swept up in the purge and executed with the others.
But God's always got an answer. He's always got a plan. And just before these young men were executed, God moved.
In our country, in our generation, some evangelical Christians think the church is in real trouble here. It seems that ungodly learning, non-Christian government, and unbiblical universities have the upper hand. Some of us wonder where God is and why He doesn't act. But God has a plan. God knows what to do. God will break through in our culture. He just needs a Daniel to stand up. Why shouldn't it be you?
Daniel did stand up. We'll read about that next time.