Blogging Towards Sunday, May 5, 2013
Daniel 2:1-30, 44-49
Or read the whole story from Daniel 2:1-49
If God is sovereign, and if Jesus really rose from the dead, then why don’t we see more of God’s goodness happening around us in the world? If God is moving the world towards salvation (Look at Romans 8:18-27) then where are the birth pangs and signs? Most biblical scholars assert that the Book of Daniel was published as resistance literature for a persecuted religious minority of the second century BCE.
Many read the book of Daniel for the prophecies about the future. Yet that’s only half the book. The first half (chapters 1-7) contain six edifying stories or what it means to live faithfully in the face of the temptation to accommodate to a larger culture, to find the strength to resist in cultural displacement, to work for and from the will of God, to live faith faithfully as a minority in a opposing dominant culture. These stories, often read only in Sunday School, illustrates the challenge and testimonial authority of steadfast God-centered life as a minority people.
Like Daniel, his friends and King Nebuchadnezzar we each have the choice to accept or reject God as constitutive, or at the center, of what it means to be both truly human and alive. We can’t be neutral. Even Jesus says we’re either for him, or against him. Not choosing, is in itself a choice, perhaps the worst possible choice we could make. The person who in faith lives by God’s declared will when other options are available is in a minority in our postmodern, casuistic, ego-centered, possession-driven, beauty-obsessed culture. Those who live in faith by God’s grace become, like Daniel, a signal and symbol of transcendence, or something different, for many who in quiet desperation concern themselves chiefly, if not exclusively, with the needs and cares of a this-worldly existence that hopes for nothing beyond what we see and the grave.
- This story of Daniel interpreting a dream echoes the story of Joseph doing the same for Pharaoh in Genesis 41. But here Daniel has to both tell what the dream is and interpret it.
- The king won’t give the seers and astrologers any more time do come up with an answer [2:7-8], but then he allows Daniel extra time [2:16-17]?
- There is some comic irony here. The professional, full-fledged experts and seers can’t tell and interpret the dream, but the trainee, an exiled foreigner is able to do so. It’s possible that Daniel is not in the first round up of experts because he isn’t yet one, still in training he might have been initially overlooked as a mere apprentice. He’s only been there for 2 of the 3 years of his required training. [See the dating explained in 1:1; 1:5 & 2:1].
- The imperial seers say that only the gods can do such meaning-making. And that the gods are not among mortals. [2:10-11] Yet Daniel’s God reveals the mystery to him in another dream [2:15-23]
- Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is about the downfall of his and all human powers and civilizations. It’s an affirmation that only the God of Israel is true and will be known throughout the world. 2:44. The dream isn’t just interpreted and explained, it actually comes to pass when the king does obeisance and worships the God made known by Daniel [2:46-47]. But does the King worship Daniel or God?
- Throughout the book of Daniel the writer emphasizes the sovereignty of God. How is the God of Daniel different than the gods of the other astrologers?
- The chapter presents ironic, even humors, juxtapositions of what true power and real weakness are. The experts are outdone by the inexperienced slave. The mighty ruler is deposed by the God he seemingly has vanquished through his military battles, he even kneels prostrate before his slave. What does that say about the God we know in Christ? In 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 Paul writes that the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of our world. How is that theme, and aspect of God’s sovereignty addressed in the text? By Paul? How do you experience that today?
- The text lifts up the lowly Israel – defeated, decimated and exiled, as an image or metaphor of how God works in the world, brining glory to God’s-self. Isaiah 40-55 presents prophetic poetry that seems to be realized in Daniel 2. How so?
Questions for wondering and exploring:
- This text articulates that the reign of God is made manifest on earth. And that it is incrementally worked out through the quiet faith of individuals, in ways that the world does not expect, recognize or can even imagine. How do you respond to that? How do you see (or not) that occurring in history? In our world? In our church ministry? In your personal life?
- What strikes you in this text? What gives you hope or encouragement? Why?
- How is this story of Daniel interpreting the dream “resistance literature” that invites, challenges and calls us to resist the ways of the world and to look for the avenues that God is creating for his plans? How do you understand that when you are mistaken in thinking that something is God’s plan or will, when it doesn’t seem to be?
- What’s essential in this text? What could be left out if you tried to simplify it?
- How can Daniel be that important, or make a difference in such a big empire? How can we ever make a difference – or even matter – in such a big universe?