CONTEST OF THE GODS
Story based on Daniel Chapter 2
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Nebuchadnezzar decided it was time to relish in some of his victories. He had taken over all of Israel, much of Judah. Their kings Ahab and Zedekiah, he had roasted over an open fire. (Jeremiah29:22-23) The smell of victory! His victories were giving him good ratings in the opinion polls. It was time to enjoy what he had accomplished and share a little bit of the glory he had gained with his god Nego. So he decided to go on a royal tour to Nego's temple. With his closest advisors who wanted everyone to know that it was their spiritual advice that was the real reason for the victory, he did his royal walkabout - through Nego's temple, between all the treasures and wealth that Nego's temple had gained. After all, Nego had given him the strength to overcome his enemies - now those things which represented the gods of his enemies were all bowing in submission to Nego. What a victory. What a conqueror - certainly Nego was the best, strongest god of them all. The tour ended with a feast at Nego's temple. Pork roast barbecued over an open fire on the altar. What a feast. The celebration reminded him of the smell of victory. The day of hard celebration over, Nebuchadnezzar went home for a good night of rest. With victory swelling his heart and head, he went to bed, stomach growling - "But pork does that," he thought...
His eyelids closed and the first panoramic dream began. He was admiring the beauty of the dream - and then suddenly, it was all dashed to pieces. With a shock and a shudder, he woke up - shook his head, mumbled "It must have been the pork..." and with hesitation, went back to sleep.
The dream returned, absolute majestic and beautiful, colourful, strong, powerful, tall, and then suddenly it was crushed to dust. With a shriek he woke up, sat bolt up in his bed, disoriented, wondering what was real and what was a dream and what could this mean? "Probably bad pork..." he thought as he once again laid his head on his comfortable pillows closing his eyes - but this time the dream was starting even before he was asleep, the granduer, the artistry, the significance of what he saw, it was so glorious - but then "CRASH" and there was nothing left. He awoke, heart pounding, eyes wide, terrified out of his mind.
"Get me my advisors now!" he yelled at a tired guard. He had no hope of sleeping any more. He needed a problem solved.
His sleepy advisors started running in half dressed wondering what it could be that could be so serious after the wonderful party they had yesterday.
"Your majesty, what is it?"
"I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means."
"O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it." His advisors replied...
Now these advisors were very well trained men. They represented a variety of gods in Babylon. Some of them studied the stars for years and years because they believed that the movement of the stars determined the course of history. And if they heard the dream, they would be able to give the king, based on what the stars were doing, a good analysis of what the dream meant. Other advisors had special spiritual powers that occurred when the made offerings to their gods. Sometimes they saw or heard the meanings of dreams told to them as they worshiped their gods. Others just had gifts of understanding stories. If they heard the dream, they would be able to tell the meaning. They all had special revelation from the gods. They had become rich and favoured in Babylon by dispensing their insights. They were ready to give an interpretation, they knew their would be a fabulous reward. Trying to calm the king they said...
"O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it."
"You tell me my dream and then the interpretation!" king Nebuchadnezzar replied.
Mouths dropped open. The advisors were no longer sleepy. Before a word came out of their mouths, Nebuchadnezzar made it very clear
"This is what I have decided and I won't change my mind: If you do not first tell me what my dream was and then interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me."
In a very wise tone of voice, a leading advisor said again:
"Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it."
But king Nebuchadnezzar doubted the abilities of his wise men. He knew they were smooth with words and advice. If there was any reason he had won so many battles, it was because Nego was a great god and because Nebuchadnezzar was just a really good leader of his powerful army. He sometimes felt like his advisors were there to get a little easy money with little risk. So the king repeated his order.
"I am certain that you are trying to buy time, because you realize I have made up my mind: If you do not tell me the dream, there is just one penalty for you. You have plans to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me."
Suddenly the kings advisors, astrologers, magicians and enchanters were not as eager to claim credit for divine advice. They knew the king must have had a dream, but a person can dream about anything, even things that don't make sense. There was no way they could know. And now their smooth words and wise sounding advice would do no good unless they knew the dream. Their gods might give them an answer if they worshiped hard enough, but how would they know if their god had given the dream to Nebuchadnezzar - there were so many gods. Maybe the answer their god gave would even be wrong...
"There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men."
The king watch these glory hungry vultures turn to wimps. His ears turned red, his eyes bloodshot. He roared in anger:
"Guards! Get them out of my throne room. To death all of them!" With whimpers, the wise men of Babylon ran for their lives as fast as they could. The kings order was sent throughout the land to have all his advisors killed. Arioch, his chief guard was given the responsibility to fulfill the kings orders.
(Do you know the names of some of those advisors?)
(Belteshazzar, and Daniel's friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.)
Arioch, the kings guard came to Daniel's house to arrest and then kill Daniel too. When Daniel heard why, he asked the king for a little more time so that he would be able to interpret the dream. He then returned to his friends and together, they got on their knees and asked God for mercy so that they too would not be killed. And during that night, while they were praying, God gave to Daniel Nebuchadnezzar's dream along with what it meant. When Daniel had come to understand what the dream was, he praised and thanked God because he knew that the God of Israel, Jahweh Elohim was the God who is the most powerful, he controls the stars and seasons, he controls the world, his gives wisdom, even dreams and he answers prayer even in far away places like Babylon.
Daniel found Arioch, the kings executioner and said "Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him." Arioch, in turn raced to the king claiming his hard and diligent work had found a man to interpret the king's dream. It seemed even faithful guards wanted to make gains from the kings dream. Quickly Daniel was rushed to king Nebuchadnezzar's palace.
"I am told you are Belteshazzar." the king puzzled. "You are one of my eunuchs from Judah. Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?"
"Well, no, your Majesty, I can't tell you your dream and what it means. None of your advisors could ever tell you that. I am not greater than any of your other advisors. But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He gave you this dream about the future. And this is the dream he gave you.
In your dream, you saw a totally awesome enormous statue, beautiful, dazzling and bright. The statue had different colours. Its head was made of pure gold, his chest and arms of silver, his stomach and the top of his legs were bronze, its legs of iron and its feet partly of iron and partly of fragile pottery. Even as you were admiring the statue, out of the corner of your eye, you saw a rock being cut away from a mountain without human hands. It rolled and rolled and his the statue. The rock smashed the statue to bits. It all turned to nothing, to dust blown away by the wind. But the rock grew bigger and bigger and filled the whole earth. That was your dream O King.
Nebuchadnezzar's eyes were stuck open. As Daniel described his dream, it was as if he was seeing it all over again. The beauty, the majesty, the wonder of that statue, and then the rock that smashed it, and it was all gone.
"Let me your Majesty tell you the meaning of the dream. You, your majesty are the head of gold, great and glorious. After you will come another kingdom represented by the silver, after that another, represented by bronze and still another represented by iron and finally a weak kingdom represented by iron mixed with pottery clay. But then you saw a rock. That rock is from God himself. He will set up a kingdom that will smash all those human kingdoms and the kingdom of God will last forever and ever. This dream has come from God and it is telling you the future. And you your majesty, can trust this interpretation.
Nebuchadnezzar's chin was quivering. Not only had Daniel given him his dream, the interpretation made perfect sense. He knew it was trustworthy even as he heard it. And he got off of his throne, first he got down on his knees, and then he went flat on his face in front of Daniel. He honoured Daniel and ordered that he and others would offer honour to Daniel by presenting an offering of worship to him. Daniel was promoted to rule over the entire province of Babylon and placed in charge of all the kings advisors. Even Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego became administrators for the king. But their promotions were not really that important. What was important was what the dream told Nebuchadnezzar. The king realized something. He once thought that when he destroy Israel and Judah, he defeated their God too. But now he realized that even though he destroy God's people, their God was still alive, infact their God was in control of what was happening, even to the point of giving enemy kings bad dreams, even to the point of controlling the future. He said to Daniel "Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery." Even as he said it he started realizing that it was not Nego, his own god that had given him all those victories, it was another God, far more powerful than Nego. But as of yet, he did not understand why this foreign God was giving him victories. Daniel knew. Maybe you do too.
Ask - why - because this was God's promise to Israel that if they disobeyed God, they would be defeated. Nebuchadnezzar won based on that promise.
To all. This chapter - through chapter 7 in written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. Reason - its a proclamation for all to understand.
Scripture on which this story is based: Daniel 2 (NIV)
1 In the second year
of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he
could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters,
sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they
came in and stood before the king, he said to them, "I have had a dream
that troubles me and I want to know what it means."
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.