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Daily Devotional • April 18

David Baumann
A Small Opening
A Reading from Daniel 2:1-16

1 In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed such dreams that his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. 2 So the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. When they came in and stood before the king, 3 he said to them, “I have had such a dream that my spirit is troubled by the desire to understand it.” 4 The Chaldeans said to the king (in Aramaic), “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will reveal the interpretation.” 5 The king answered the Chaldeans, “This is a public decree: if you do not tell me both the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6 But if you do tell me the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.” 7 They answered a second time, “Let the king first tell his servants the dream, then we can give its interpretation.” 8 The king answered, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time because you see the decree from me is firm: 9 if you do not tell me the dream, there is but one verdict for you. You have agreed to speak lying and misleading words to me until things take a turn. Therefore, tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.” 10 The Chaldeans answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can reveal what the king demands! In fact, no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11 The thing that the king is asking is too difficult, and no one can reveal it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortals.”

12 Because of this the king flew into a violent rage and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13 The decree was issued, and the wise men were about to be executed, and they looked for Daniel and his companions, to execute them. 14 Then Daniel responded with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the king’s chief executioner, who had gone out to execute the wise men of Babylon; 15 he asked Arioch, the royal official, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. 16 So Daniel went in and requested that the king give him time and he would tell the king the interpretation.

Examined through the lens of history, the nature of Nebuchadnezzar and even his identity are unclear, but at the center of the various Biblical and scholarly witnesses is a ruler noted for being a builder king, a warrior who greatly expanded the kingdom of Babylon by conquering many nations, and a tyrannical  despot. 

In this early chapter of Daniel, he has had a dream that has severely disturbed him. He has sought the counsel of the “magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers”; his determination to understand the dream causes him to make the unprecedented demand that those who interpret the dream must know, by supernatural means, what the dream was. This will guarantee to him that no adviser can fuddle a meaning to his own advantage, and that anyone who can truly know the dream without being told can present a reliable interpretation. The threat to execute all the advisers if they cannot do what he demands, followed by the order to carry that threat out, shows, well, that he needs advisers; and maybe that he is desperate. 

But unlike Pharaoh before Moses, who was willing to see his entire country devastated rather than concede that Someone might have authority greater than his, Nebuchadnezzar leaves an opening: he recognizes that the dream is of supernatural origin and has critical significance. He is clearly shaken by it; he is definitely not used to being in such a vulnerable position and doesn’t handle it well. Into this situation comes Daniel. In yesterday’s lesson we saw Daniel’s fidelity to God. The meaning of his name, “God is my judge,” shows that he is precisely the right person at the right time. Through the little opening that Nebuchadnezzar has left, that there is Something supernatural that may be over him, Daniel will step in the Name of the God of Israel.

David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.

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The Diocese of Seoul – The Anglican Church of Korea
Church of St. John the Divine, Houston
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