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Nebuchadnezzar was not content to have an interpretation of his dream; he demanded that the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans should tell him not only the interpretation but the dream itself. The question to them is, What did I dream? The Chaldeans said, Tell us the dream, and we will tell thee the interpretation. But the king said, No; the thing is gone from me: it was a broken dream; I dreamed dreams, that is to say, I dreamed one dream, but it was so broken and so disarranged that I cannot put it into coherence; the whole thing is gone from me, but if you are really wise men you will just be as clever in recalling the dream as in giving a right interpretation of it. The magicians and sorcerers said: This is unreasonable; we must have something to start with: we ought not to be called upon first to make a dream and then to answer it by way of interpretation; give us the dream, and we will give the meaning of it. "The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can show me the interpretation thereof."
Then the Chaldeans complained: "There is not a man upon the earth that can show the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh." The Babylonian theology was peculiar in this respect; it assumed that every man who came into the world had a god, or demon, or angel, or spirit peculiarly his own, appointed to watch over him for defence and guidance and the like, but it did not lie within the scope of the genius of these individual deities first to recall a dream and then to give the interpretation of it; but the Babylonian theology had in it the further assumption that there are other gods, a million thick it may be when they gather in full hosts, gods that do not dwell with flesh, non-incarnate gods; and only they can see the whole circle of things, only they can tell a man, king or peasant, what he has dreamed, and can show the dreamer the meaning of the vision.
"For this cause the king was angry and very furious," kings soon got angry in olden times and in Oriental nations, "and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon." Daniel was not one of the wise men of Babylon; Daniel was only a student at this time; he was preparing to join the ranks of the wise men; but the king's decree was complete, all-inclusive, final, that every man who professed to study wisdom be killed, because no man can be found to recall my dream, and put it in the shape which I can recognise. That was a short and easy method with imperfect teachers; many would like to practise it now. We do not recognise the limitations of our function as teachers, seers, and prophets, and children of wisdom. We do not see that there are limits even to prayer; it is not fully recognised by us that men can only go a very little way, a mile or two at the most, on the wondrous road that stretches into infinity and eternity. Sometimes we want to scourge our teachers or goad them, or to prick them with the spears of our inquisitiveness, so as to touch their blood and make them bolt forward several miles at once, but it cannot be done. The wisest man has only a lamp, and a certain quantity of oil in it; if he withhold not his oil he is doing all that lies in his power. We must not insist upon impossibilities from our fellow-men; give us what you can, pray what prayer lies within the urgency of your felt need; if you can bring in our sin, and name it with aught of delicacy to God, help us thus by your intercession; and if you have power so to name the Cross as to bring down the answer ere the prayer has gone, use that power for our edification, our release, and our general advantage. Do not hearers expect too much? They want to know things that are only known to God.
Yet there is a sense in which Nebuchadnezzar was right. This is the cry of heathenism. Tell us what we dream; put the nightmare into shape. We have seen wild things, we have walked across wildernesses, we have been lost in storms, we have been deafened by thunder, we have been affrighted by lightning; serpents have coiled round us, questions have risen in the heart like sparks of fire: tell us what it means. Heathenism is right. By heathenism do not understand something that is five thousand miles away, rather understand the unchristianised portion of your own nature; we, dwelling in civilised lands, represent no inconsiderable amount of heathenism ourselves. Christianity ought to be able to tell heathenism what it has been thinking about and what it wants. This is the difficulty of the missionary abroad, and this is the difficulty of the teacher at home. The Christian evangelist has first to tell his hearer the dream that has troubled the hearer's imagination. It will not do for the hearer to tell his own dream; he really cannot tell it; he can hint at a word here and a symbol there and a shadow yonder: only the interpreter in the Christian sanctuary can tell the dreamer what he dreamed. Christianity therefore undertakes in the first instance to put our memories right, to recall vanished images, to make echoes find their way back to the voices to which they owe their existence. Christianity says, I will tell thee, O poor soul, what thou hast been dreaming about: they were strange things that appeared in thy dream; there was an image, black, grim, awful to look upon, with eyes of reddest fire, and a voice full of reproach and cutting rebuke, and denunciation of the most poignant and severe character: thou didst hear other witnesses testifying against thee in the great clamour, voice following voice, accusation following accusation, until thou wast bewildered by the tremendous impeachment: through it all there was a black line, strange, a crossed line; as thou didst look upon that line it shaped itself into a gallows-tree; there was One upon it, his face marred more than any man's; he was wounded in five places; he looked at thee with the look of omnipotent weakness, the pathos of that face was mightier than the almightiness of God: that was thy dream it was a dream of need, a dream of self-accusation, a dream full of trouble, woe unspeakable, and expectation that burned like hell. That is a dream of humanity: a great fear containing a great hope; a tremendous accusation broken in upon by possibilities of eloquent pleading and prevalent intercession; a sin, a creditor, black, stern, oppressive, and One side by side offering to pay all the debt. Thy dream expressed universal necessity: it was a cry for the living God, it was a groping after something that seemed to be quite near, yet strangely to elude the fingers that searched for it. Until you realise the dream the interpretation will seem to refer to some other man's vision. Every dreamer so far must recognise the nightmare, the dream, the troubled sight that came before him; then he will sit attentive and solemn, and listen to the interpreter who has the key of mysteries.
It may be held, therefore, in general terms, that the demand of Nebuchadnezzar was not so unreasonable as it seemed to be. Christianity must do something that no other religion can do, else it will become one of many. Jesus Christ had no plural; Jesus Christ may be described grammatically as a noun of multitude: he represented all the rest, all life eternal, all beauty unfading, all music everlasting. Jesus Christ does not come in with a conjecture, following the guesses of other men; Jesus Christ claims to be unique, original, one, only begotten of the Father; the Ruler of men, their King, and one who brings from eternity water that can slake the thirst of time; the only one who can do away with the little artificial lamps invented by human genius, and displace them by suns that can never burn away, suns that brighten with their burning. When Christianity loses its distinctiveness it foolishly undertakes to descend to a level already thronged by fretful competitors. When the preacher descends from the platform God built for him and begins to read essays, he puts himself into competition with more able men than himself, who know more about the subject and can more fittingly express it in formal and logical manner. So long as he stands upon the crag built by God, and thence thunders the law, or proclaims as with silver trumpet the evangel of reconciliation, he has no rival; only himself can be his parallel. Christianity does not come to answer our curiosity; Christianity comes to reply to our need. The Cross has nothing to say to our intellectual speculativeness; it comes to tell the broken, self-accusing, self-condemning heart that God is love. Keep to your function; stand by your charter: do not disfranchise yourselves by condescending to occupy the lower levels of wrangling controversy, wordy and pithless disputation.
When the intelligence was brought to Daniel he said, "Why is the decree so hasty from the king?" Does he look everywhere That was John Foster's argument, or part of it, in answer to atheistic inquiry. The celebrated essayist said, Unless a man has been everywhere, the place where he has not been may contain the proof of the presence of the living God; and if a man has been everywhere through and through the universe, why, he seems fit to be God. "Why is the decree so hasty from the king?" Daniel took the right course; he "went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would show the king the interpretation. Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: that they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon." That is always the course that is profoundly prudent, because profoundly rational as well as profoundly Christian. To God! That is your marching order. When you are troubled, affrighted, overwhelmed, imperilled, to God! Do not consult equals, or measurable superiors, but flee! Haste thee! Beat urgently upon heaven's door! Knock, and it shall be opened unto thee. If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not: if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give the Holy Spirit unto them that ask him: ye have not because ye ask not, or because ye ask amiss.
Here is the divine hand magnified in the distresses of mankind. Life was brought to a sharp crisis. The king's decree went forth, and in Oriental lands kings cared no more for human life than we care for insect life perhaps even less. The decree darkened the whole heaven; there was gloom in every house in the city, mayhap in the whole country. Because Nebuchadnezzar was wrathful, therefore did the sun retire and the whole firmament drape itself in awful guise. What was done? Daniel knew what course to take; he instantly sought fellowship in prayer, and he and his companions fell on their knees and cried to the God of heaven. "Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven." The captain reported to the king that he had found an interpreter. That interpreter was found in unexpected places, as all interpreters are found. Said Arioch, "I have found a man of the captives of Judah." That is God's inscrutable way. It was not a brother-king that told Nebuchadnezzar what had troubled him; nor was it some man that drove to the king's house in a chariot of gold, with steeds of fire, whose scarlet nostrils were distended as if in pride that they were called upon to enter such lofty service: it was a man among the captives of Judah. How wondrously events touch and interrelate in life! Thus captivity is made true freedom, and thus men far from home established a second nativity, and thus persons who suppose themselves to be instances of humiliation find that those circumstances are but a stairway up to primacy, to sovereignty. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You are in the captivity of poverty, perplexity, difficulty: there will be a message for you some day; for though you have so little outwardly, what treasures you have spiritually; though everything has been taken from you that can be taken except yourself, you live, you pray, you own Christ's dear, sweet name, you have understanding of human nature; therefore you are rich: when you are sent for, speak roundly, with authority, directly, and make no obeisance that has not in it the stoop of royalty.
Some men cannot be captives except in form. All men are not prisoners who are in gaol. Sometimes the turnkey is more a prisoner than the man whom he has locked up, and oftentimes the judge is more a captive than the man whom he may with unconscious injustice have consigned to a prison undeserved. Consider what you are, and what you have, intellectually, spiritually, educationally. Give a boy a good education, and you give him a fortune, which he cannot spend or throw away, and which will come usefully to his aid in faraway places and faraway times; give a child a rich Christian education, a real, sensible, healthy, wise training, store the memory with Zion's own Psalms and minstrelsy, and with the words of Jesus, small as dewdrops but immeasurable as suns, and somewhere the child may become even in poverty and expatriation and shame a prophet, a teacher, one who can let fall upon the darkening mystery the illumination of Heaven. This is the attitude of Christianity today and every day. It tells men the meaning of their nightmare and trouble and sorrow, and it often has to put before the distracted imagination the very thing that was dreamed. But Jesus can do all this. He answered every one who came to him earnestly and urgently. It was only to speculation that he was so stonily dumb and deaf; it was only curiosity that he smote and turned away with a wheal on its brazen face. When men came broken-hearted, with eyes blind with tears, he told them all they could receive of wisdom and gospel and tenderness. The disciples sometimes failed, but Jesus Christ never. The disciples were represented in some feeble degree by the magicians and astrologers, the necromancers and the soothsayers of Babylon, but Jesus Christ was partially represented by the true interpreter, the completely equipped and qualified prophet. Said one, "I brought my son to thy disciples that they would heal him, but they could not." Said Christ, "Bring him hither," and the diseased son went home a free man, strong, and full of gratitude. Said the disciples, "We cannot feed this great multitude, for we have only a few loaves and a few fishes." Said Christ, "Make them sit down; now," said he, "bring what you have got." What hands he had! He brake, and brake, and gave the disciples a busy time of it. There is a touch that multiplies; there is a smile rich as the dawn of a summer day; there is a voice every tone of which has in it a martial inspiration or a tender benediction. That voice is Christ's.
Almighty God, we are thy children; thou hast made us, and not we ourselves. We live by thy power, and because of thy love, thy tenderness, thy daily grace. We are in liberty, we are looking forward to perfect emancipation, when we shall see light in thy light, and have all thy heaven to dwell in. Thou hast inspired great hopes in us through the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ; now we see that with God all things are possible; we have been living in the midst of difficulty and wonder, so that we could not see how the day was to dawn upon the world; but seeing that Jesus Christ, thy Son, has come and has taken upon him the sins of the world, and died for every man, we see that in him is fulness of salvation, and from his Cross and from his throne shall come the redemption and the sovereignty of the world. We bless thee that all souls are thine; thou wilt not forget the least of them; thou dost remember thy jewels; the old man and the little child thou wilt reckon in thine host; the great hero, and the humble sufferer who accepts thy will and does it with a full heart, all alike are thine; thou dost see thine image in the great and in the small, and in the end nothing of thine shall be lost. We pray thee that we may ever remember the solemnity of thy law, The soul that sinneth, it shall die; may we look upon this law as thine, and as irresistible, unchangeable, everlasting; and thus may we discover that we are bound round about by limitations of thine own imposing; may we not seek a freedom with which thou hast not invested us, but accepting what thou hast done for us, may we live in the liberty of thy law, may we enjoy the freedom of thy righteousness, and may we know ourselves to be at our best estate but men, whose breath is in our nostrils, whose days fly like a weaver's shuttle, and whose end can never be far away. Thus in humbleness and reverence, in docility and love, may we spend our time, and behold how the will of God is being done on earth as it is done in heaven. Amen.
The image which King Nebuchadnezzar saw was a remarkable one: "This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass. His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay" ( Dan 2:31-33 ).
A wonderful ministry is this image-reading. We are too frequently content with outsides, geometrical shapes, and colours that can be named; we have not sufficiently entered into the dream region, that wondrous world that lies immediately behind a translucent veil. We do not know how near the angels are. We have contrived, possibly through some temptation of the evil one, to put heaven a long way from us: it is across bleak cemeteries, it is beyond deep black rivers, far away: that may be due to our perverted and vicious imagination. Heaven may be within us, within hand-reach of us, and the angels who can say where they are? are they not all ministering spirits? and is not the very fact of their ministering a proof of their nearness? Do servants work at an infinite distance? Do they not draw near that they may work easily, sometimes silently, and always effectively? We should gain more if we paid more heed to the dream region, the ministry of image, impression, suggestion, wordless stimulus of the mind. We know there are dangers along that line; but what line is there worth going along that has not danger on the right hand of it and on the left? It draws nearly all its value from the perils which assail or beset its progress. There is the danger of nightmare, there is the peril of our imagining things that should occur for our selfish interests or for our personal consolidation. These dangers are not sentimental, they are substantial, they are living, they are to be overcome only by the strength of God the Holy Ghost; but we are the temples of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost dwelleth in us.
Do we get all our knowledge, do we acquire all our best possession, by hand or eye or other frail sense? Have we not shut out the living God from most of our life, and admitted him only by partial entrances, guarding with a kind of blind vigilance that often mistakes presences that ought not to enter for ministries that should be welcomed with all the enthusiasm of the soul? Daniel knew the dream; it was not the king's nightmare, it was God's revelation. That dream came forth from the Lord of Hosts, and he handed it to the interpreter, that every line of it might be read distinctly, with an enunciation that was itself a commentary with an emphasis which was itself a proof of its royalty.
The image is a picture of all evil "gold," "silver," "brass,"
"iron," "clay." That is the difficulty of the case. If evil were only evil we could easily get rid of it; it is when evil has a head of gold that we are bewitched or bewildered by it It is true personally. Men are not always instances of black evil, all over, from head to foot, in and out, through and through. Some evil men have heads of gold, tongues of silver, looks that are fascinations, tones that importune the soul with the solicitude of music. If you look more clearly and closely at them you see that they are not all gold. But the very mixture which we find in our own character is itself either a hope or a temptation; everything depends upon the spirit of our reasoning, or the purpose of our inquiry; we start where our imagination says we must begin. If laying hold of our deeper selves, then we can turn the whole character into gold, yea, fine gold; we can pray more simply, more filially, more effectually, great, broad, strong, tender, prevailing prayers, that were answered before they were begun, because the soul out of which they went was a prepared tabernacle, every door flying open that the God of the house might come in and own it, every corner and stone. Starting from our clay selves, or iron, we sometimes lose heart and say what little gold there may be about us is only superficial it is gilding rather than solid gold, it is a species of gold liquid into which we have been dipped; it will all wear away, and in reality we are nothing but iron or clay, we are some base metal, or some worthless dross; and thus we lose touch of Heaven, thus the light of hope is blown out, and too frequently we sink clear down into the abyss of despair. The same rule holds good in regard to institutions. Sometimes we are told, in a rough-and-ready logic that is pregnant with everything but reasoning, if an institution is good, accept it; if it is bad, reject it. But institutions do not divide themselves thus cleanly and sharply. There is no institution that can be publicly named and honestly advocated that has not in it some gold, some fine metal, some noble and valuable elements; and when we approach institutions of a mixed kind it is with some hope that we may be able to take out all that is base and comparatively worthless, and show how the entire institutional figure may be made from head to foot of gold. If institutions were all bad, we should not discuss them; if ministries, agencies of every kind, were either good or bad, our course in reference to them would be very simple and easy; it is where the mixture is large, yet subtle, that our difficulty begins and ends. We are not going to say that wickedness even has not its attractions. Young people would never run after a beast that was all darkness, a horrible, terrible image that was all fire and all cruelty. The young see in the image some glimpse of gleaming gold, or hear from it some sound of voice well trained, tones aimed at the target of the heart with unfailing precision; and they say they are going after the better parts of the image, they will be able to distinguish between the gold and the brass and the iron and the clay, and they will know which to take and which to refuse, and the image says, Come! and when they get over to the place which he has appointed it will take all Heaven to bring them home again.
How is this image to be handled? It is not to be handled; it is to be thrown down "without hands." That is the emphatic reference in the thirty-fourth verse.
"Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces" ( Dan 2:34 ).
There are influences in the universe other than human. That is a fact which Science cannot ignore. Poor, yet self-conscious and partially haughty, yet erewhile humble, Science sometimes drops from a tone of great boasting into a confession of know-nothingism. You never saw a figure more limp, drenched through and through with invisible rain, bedraggled and mendicant-like, than Science (with a very large S) when it has come to certain parts of the mystery of life; no undertaker overwhelmed with a great rain outside a pauper's funeral ever cut a less imposing figure than Science cuts when it sees things done "without hands." It is a coward then; it knows the way home. But we want a judgment, a revelation, a testimony, that will cope with invisible, immeasurable, incalculable influences; a sovereignty that will rule the spectres and run with a monarch's dignity and a mother's sweetness over all the things that baffle and startle and bewilder the soul. "Without hands." That is the mysterious element in life. If all things were done with hands we could arrange by careful calculation what could be done under given circumstances. It is the unknown quantity that troubles our arithmetic. The fool wrote upon his slate so many thousand bushels of grain, so many scores of years, so many necessities provided for by so many supplies; then, having added the thing up, he said, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease," and a voice without a shape said, "Thou fool! this night thy soul shall be required of thee." The calculator had set down in his calculation everything but God, which means that he had filled his slate with ciphers. All great things are done "without hands." The sun, to use popular language, is rolled up in the east morning by morning without hands, and the least flower warms itself at that great fire, erects itself without hands, and is painted without hands. It is the handless ministry that is so mysterious and sublime. We were delivered by a hand unseen; we were reared from our cradle by influences that only embodied themselves in father and mother and home agency. The real Father we have not seen; he is father-mother-nurse, shepherd-lover-friend; hyphen all these great, sweet words, and so link them into eternal wedlock, and they will stand a poor symbol of the thing that never can be fully spoken.
Think of convictions, impulses, impressions, inspirations, urgings of the soul that we cannot explain these are things that are done without hands. In all spiritual work there may be too much of the operation of the mere hands. We may build great machinery, we may build a very fine organisation, we may build noble stone edifices, all of which may be more or less useful according to the circumstances; but we are not to look to the machinery to do the work, but to the indwelling, overflowing Eternal Spirit. Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name, be all the glory, all the praise, world without end. We did but build the altar and supply the wood and the fuel, and we laid upon it the flesh; but the spark, the accepting fire, was thine. There is another and better side of this handless ministry in life. We read of a house not made with hands. That house is heaven, home, the temple invisible, the great gathering place in which there is room for all; hands could never have built it: it is the creation of God. "We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," The rhythm is good in that sentence, "Not made with hands, eternal in the heavens"; it is not a rugged and abrupt ascent, but a gentle and infinite slope right into things infinite and celestial. Thus the Lord builds the city, thus the Lord keeps the life, thus the Lord without hands ministers to us; so there is no noise, no flutter in the air, no palpitation to irritate the most sensitive brain; we open our eyes, and the table is spread in the wilderness; we lie down at night, and awake, having lost our old age and our feebleness in the river of sleep, and come up out of that invisible water young again, strong with invincible strength. Fear thou not, O loving soul; they that be with thee are more than all that can be against thee, if so be that in the heart there is honest, healthy pureness, simplicity of trust, reality of love.
How wondrously this whole interpretation illustrates the fact that only similars can really and permanently unite!
"And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men; but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay" ( Dan 2:43 ).
There is a law of unity, of brotherhood or consolidation. Mechanical association has nothing to do with true unity. Men may sit side by side in the same church, and yet have a universe between them. Men may handle the same psalm-book and sing the same words without worshipping the same God. Brotherhood is a question of the soul. We are new creatures, and therefore we have new relationships in Christ Jesus. At first, of course, the only possible relationship was a relationship of blood; man and man stood together in a certain sequence: but Jesus Christ came to alter all that; it does not follow that your father according to the flesh is now your father at all, and as for your brothers, they may be the greatest strangers to you on the face of the earth; the great relationship now is a Christian one. We are in relation to one another what we are at the Cross of Christ The man who is on the Cross is not one with the man who never was crucified with Christ. This is a great mystery, and it goes dead against the first instincts of nature, which must be killed one by one before we can understand the mystery of the new life, the blessed mystery of the new kinship. Thanks be unto God, it is not necessary that a man's father should cease to occupy the paternal relationship; the father and the child may both be crucified with Christ, and thus belong doubly to each other. Nor are we to throw off old relationships frivolously and Pharisaically, saying, I am now a Christian, and therefore I can hold no consort with those of my own household who are not Christians. We must prove our Christianity by seeking to make other people Christians; we must evangelise at home. A little child can lay its tiny fingers upon its father with great effect; if moved by the spirit of the Cross, the dear little evangelist could say, "Come and see the Son of God," and the father would feel the child to be twice his and for ever his, if they could only kneel together to pray, and each say for himself, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Compromise is never strong. Carry this law fearlessly through and through life. Do not marry into strange faiths, or into no faith. If you are a Christian soul, and shall wilfully marry one who is not a follower of Christ, do not be surprised it vengeance suffer you not to escape. It would be strange indeed beyond all reason and all calculation if in this line only law failed. If men could set up any compacts they pleased in life, and evade the law, why there would be one great province of creation left untended, unwatched, undirected by the God and Father of men. Apply the doctrine also to business. You, a Christian business man, cannot keep a partner to tell the lies of the business, whilst you attend to all the religious ceremonies; ye cannot serve God and mammon. Clean the house, suffer loss, but let the morsel of bread that remains be sweet, because it is the bread of honesty.
Then Daniel lays down a great law: "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed." Only the divine is the eternal. Have nothing to do with any temple that God does not build; renounce all policies that God does not inspire; have nothing whatever to do with any engagement about which you cannot openly pray and hold consort with God at the Cross of Christ; then your life, though not outwardly successful according to the calculation of men, will have in it a sanctuary, safe from every storm, an altar where the cold winds never blow, a secret gate opening upon all heaven.
Daniel told the king what it all meant, and we too have interpretations to give. "The great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter; and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure" ( Dan 2:45 ). We can solve the world's problem; we can interpret the world's wild dreams. Even if we abstain from going into details, yet here is the interpretation of all: Say ye to the righteous, it shall be well with him; speak it loudly, clearly: say ye to the wicked, with an emphasis as strong, though divested of all sense of exultation or triumph, that it shall be ill with him; he shall be torn to pieces, he shall go away into eternal punishment. This is the great interpretation, not an interpretation that deals with little details, and puts together accidents and incidents so as to make a mosaic that will please the eye: the great interpretation is that righteousness means heaven, and wickedness means hell. And God himself cannot alter these consequences; they are part of himself; they originate in himself; they are the expression of his godliness.
Then the king answered Daniel and said: I see it, it is right, I know it; every word thou hast spoken unto me confirms itself, "Of a truth it is that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a Revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret." Have we not lost this power of revealing secrets to men? Then I would rather have lived under the Old Testament than under the New. Has inspiration all ceased? Does God give less now than he used to give? Has he caught himself in some act of extravagance, and is he economising by starving succeeding generations? Is this the God who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think? Here we must be reverent, but reverence is consistent with lofty, eager, hungry expectation.
"The wealth, greatness, and general prosperity of Nebuchadnezzar are strikingly placed before us in the book of Daniel. The God of heaven gave him, not a kingdom only, but 'power, strength, and glory' ( Dan 2:37 ) His wealth is evidenced by the image of gold, sixty cubits in height, which he set up in the plain of Dura ( ib. Dan 3:1 ). The grandeur and careful organisation of his kingdom appears from the long list of his officers, 'princes, governors, captains, judges, treasurers, counsellors, sheriffs, and rulers of provinces,' of whom we have repeated mention ( ib. Daniel 3:2-3 , and Dan 3:27 ). We see the existence of a species of hierarchy in the 'magicians, astrologers, sorcerers,' over whom Daniel was set ( ib. Dan 2:48 ). The 'tree whose height was great, which grew and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto the heavens, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth; the leaves whereof were fair, and the fruit much, and in which was food for all; under which the beasts of the field had shadow, and the fowls of heaven dwelt in the branches thereof, and all flesh was fed of it' ( ib. Dan 4:10-12 ), is the fitting type of a kingdom at once so flourishing and so extensive.....
"The moral character of Nebuchadnezzar is not such as entitles him to our approval. Besides the overweening pride which brought upon him so terrible a chastisement, we note a violence and fury ( ib. Daniel 2:12 ; Dan 3:19 ) common enough among Oriental monarchs of the weaker kind, but from which the greatest of them have usually been free; while at the same time we observe a cold and relentless cruelty which is particularly revolting. The blinding of Zedekiah may perhaps be justified as an ordinary Eastern practice, though it is the earliest case of the kind on record; but the refinement of cruelty by which he was made to witness his sons' execution before his eyes were put out ( 2Ki 25:7 ) is worthier of a Dionysius or a Domitian than of a really great king. Again, the detention of Jehoiachin in prison for thirty-six years for an offence committed at the age of eighteen ( ib. 2Ki 24:8 ) is a severity surpassing Oriental harshness. Against these grave faults we have nothing to set, unless it be a feeble trait of magnanimity in the pardon accorded to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, when he found that he was without power to punish them ( Dan 3:26 ).
"It has been thought remarkable that to a man of this character God should have vouchsafed a revelation of the future by means of visions ( ib. Daniel 2:29 ; Dan 4:2 ). But the circumstance, however it may disturb our preconceived notions, is not really at variance with the general laws of God's providence as revealed to us in Scripture. As with his natural, so with his supernatural gifts, they are not confined to the worthy. Even under Christianity, miraculous powers were sometimes possessed by those who made an ill use of them ( 1Co 14:2-33 ). And God, it is plain, did not leave the old heathen world without some supernatural aid, but made his presence felt from time to time in visions, through prophets, or even by a voice from heaven. It is only necessary to refer to the histories of Pharaoh ( Gen 41:1-7 and Gen 41:28 ), Abimelech ( ib. Gen 20:3 ), Job (Job 4:13 , Job 38:1 , Job 40:6 ; comp. Dan 4:31 ), and Balaam (Numbers 22-24), in order to establish the parity of Nebuchadnezzar's visions with other facts recorded in the Bible. He was warned, and the nations over which he ruled were warned through him, God leaving not himself 'without witness' even in those dark times. In conclusion, we may notice that a heathen writer (Abydenus), who generally draws his inspirations from Berosus, ascribes to Nebuchadnezzar a miraculous speech just before his death, announcing to the Babylonians the speedy coming of 'a Persian mule,' who, with the help of the Medes, would enslave Babylon (Abyd. ap. Euseb. Praep. Ev. 9:41)." Smith's Dictionary of the Bible.
Almighty God, we love to look up to the place where thine honour dwelleth. Thou dost call upon us to look up when we are sad that we may see and try to count the stars. When Jacob said his way was passed over, and Zion thought herself forgotten, thou didst call upon thy people to look up, and behold who hath made these lights, so that by regarding thy wondrous works we may recover our faith and rekindle our hope. All nature talks to us; each season has its own sweet gospel of youth, or energy, or beauty, or fulness, or rest, and all things declare the goodness of God. But our eyes cannot see; our ears are dull of hearing; our hearts do not quickly answer the music of thine appeal. Oh, woe unto us! Having eyes we see not, and ears we hear not, and hearts we do not understand; all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, but now by thy goodness in Christ Jesus, thy Son, our Saviour, God with us, we have returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls; now we see, now we hear, now we somewhat understand; we have beheld the descent of the kingdom of God upon the earth, and we are enlarged, and ennobled, and sanctified by the Holy Ghost. This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes: blessed be God for this heart-hunger; thanks unto the eternal God for this thirst of the soul. These are new appetences, new desires; they proclaim our origin, they hint at our destiny, they prepare us to receive the kingdom of the Cross. The Lord be with us; fighting on the battlefield; suffering in quietude and loneliness; wondering much because of the bewildering things that smite our life and make it reel; praying, hoping, despairing; sometimes full of God, and sometimes conscious of an infinite vacancy in the heart. Thou knowest the tumult, the variety, the wonder: come to us, and if thou dost come by way of the Cross thou wilt bring with thee many pardons. Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Daniel 2". Parker's The People's Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26