August 20, 2012

The Tyrant and Daniel

'If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you...' The astrologers answered the king, 'There is not a person on earth who can do what the king asks!'... This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon.
Daniel 2:9-12

There have been many tyrants in our world over the past seventy years or so, vicious and unpredictable men with the power and means to terrorise and destroy. Nebuchadnezzar was probably not the first, and certainly not the last to have filled his servants with dread and anxious insecurity.

The 'wise men' of Babylon were commanded to interpret the king's disturbing dreams; only he refused to tell them what they were. This was a 'public decree' and failure meant death. They would probably have told the king anything to keep him happy. But they were caught between an impossible demand and the arbitrary and irrelevant messages from their occult practices and divinations. Desperate enough to remonstrate, they were soon herded together for execution while the king's troops went off to find Daniel and his companions, also the king's 'wise men', in order to execute them as well.

Daniel took the initiative. 'With wisdom and tact' (2:14), he questioned the executioner, assessed the situation, and then asked for a short delay, saying that he would give the interpretation. He and the other Hebrews began a night of urgent prayer, and in the night God revealed to Daniel the king's troublesome dreams.

Daniel demonstrated faith, courage and diplomacy. He trusted in God's greater purposes. But he and his friends always had a 'but if not' clause - they might die themselves, but God's purposes would never be thwarted (see 3:18). He did all he could to save the Babylonian wise men; he didn't distance himself from the pagan magicians or take advantage of them. He had taken the trouble to understand the culture and worldview round him and knew enough about the king to interpret his frightened and angry demands. But he would only speak the truth. He may have been apprehensive, but he was never scared witless - because he knew the living God was with him.

Christians in some parts of the world today face similar kinds of life-threatening tyranny. But for most of us it may be the petty tyrannies of school bullying, office rivalries, unpredictable bosses and domestic aggression. How do we handle these?
"Daniel demonstrated faith, courage and diplomacy. He trusted in God’s greater purposes." 
by Margaret Killingray

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