1During the second year that Nebuchadnezzar was king, he had such horrible nightmares that he could not sleep. 2So he called in his counselors, advisors, magicians, and wise men, 3and said, “I am disturbed by a dream that I don't understand, and I want you to explain it.”
4They answered in Aramaic, “Your Majesty, we hope you live forever! We are your servants. Please tell us your dream, and we will explain what it means.”
5But the king replied, “No! I have made up my mind. If you don't tell me both the dream and its meaning, you will be chopped to pieces and your houses will be torn down. 6However, if you do tell me both the dream and its meaning, you will be greatly rewarded and highly honored. Now tell me the dream and explain what it means.”
7“Your Majesty,” they said, “if you will only tell us your dream, we will interpret it for you.”
8The king replied, “You're just stalling for time, 9because you know what's going to happen if you don't come up with the answer. You've decided to make up a bunch of lies, hoping I might change my mind. Now tell me the dream, and that will prove that you can interpret it.”
10His advisors explained, “Your Majesty, you are demanding the impossible! No king, not even the most famous and powerful, has ever ordered his advisors, magicians, or wise men to do such a thing. 11It can't be done, except by the gods, and they don't live here on earth.”
12-13This made the king so angry that he gave orders for every wise man in Babylonia to be put to death, including Daniel and his three friends.
God Tells Nebuchadnezzar's Dream
14Arioch was the king's official in charge of putting the wise men to death. He was on his way to have it done, when Daniel very wisely went to him 15and asked, “Why did the king give such cruel orders?” After Arioch explained what had happened, 16Daniel rushed off and said to the king, “If you will just give me some time, I'll explain your dream.”
17Daniel returned home and told his three friends. 18Then he said, “Pray that the God who rules from heaven will be merciful and explain this mystery, so that we and the others won't be put to death.” 19In a vision one night, Daniel was shown the dream and its meaning. Then he praised the God who rules from heaven:
20“Our God, your name
will be praised
forever and forever.
You are all-powerful,
and you know everything.
21You control human events—
you give rulers their power
and take it away,
and you are the source
of wisdom and knowledge.
22“You explain deep mysteries,
because even the dark
is light to you.
23You are the God
who was worshiped
by my ancestors.
Now I thank you and praise you
for making me wise
and telling me the king's dream,
together with its meaning.”
All power has limits. This is a fact often denied by tyrants and yet self-evident. A person may control the world outside but not their inner world. By day they may be all powerful, but who is king over their dreams? To add to Nebuchadnezzar’s frustration at this chink in his armor, what happens if the nightmare of the night before remains elusively out of reach, creating vague terrors but not distinct recollection?
Bluster and threat are the weapons to hand and Nebuchadnezzar is well used to wielding them. Moreover, he knows how easy it is to use weasel words. He does not want to be taken in by his wise men’s flattering talk; he pays for results. He calls their bluff and demands the impossible. They try to reason but they have chosen the wrong man. There is no way out and they seemed doomed by their own publicity.
Except that there is one person whose skill does not lie in smooth words and clever talk. Daniel is God’s person and God is Lord of both the conscious and the unconscious mind. Daniel knows where the answer is found, though he does not presume he has a right to it. He knows God and, with his friends, casts himself on his mercy, pleading with him in prayer. What was given to the king first in a dream comes now to Daniel in a vision, together with its interpretation.
What fits Daniel to be entrusted with this knowledge is his response. Far from being filled with pride at being able to understand when no one else does, his reaction is unqualified gratitude to God and an outpouring of worship. His concern was never primarily his own skin but rather God’s glory; and so he went forth to meet the king.
Father, Daniel’s God and my God, thank you that I can pass my burdens on to you in prayer. I pray for those in authority today, being aware of the extraordinary pressures they face each day. I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
First used in Encounter with God, July to September 2015, written by Colin Sinclair, copyright Scripture Union. Used with kind permission.