Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 98; 146, Daniel 4:28-37, 1 John 4:7-21, Luke 4:31-37
The second time Daniel interpreted a dream for Nebuchadnezzar, he warned the king that his pride would be his undoing. A year later he was on the rooftop of the palace, boasting of how the kingdom existed to glorify him him, when things took a bizarre turn:
Immediately the sentence was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven away from human society, ate grass like oxen, and his body was bathed with the dew of heaven, until his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails became like birds’ claws.
This lasted for seven years. Nebuchadnezzar recovered his senses after accepting that the Lord was sovereign over all, including the king himself. When it was over, he went back to business as usual, but with a new humility.
One popular interpretation of this story is that putting our own will and pride above the will of God is a madness that results in our own degradation. We think of Nebuchadnezzar’s time in the wilderness as punishment – how pleasant could it have been? – but in the grand scheme was he worse off than when he believed in God but ignored him?
Is this story a little hard to swallow (no grass-munching pun intended)?
If so, it’s okay not to know what to make of it. We like to understand and classify the stories we hear, whether they come from the Bible, the news, or our own experiences, so we can drop them in the appropriate mental file, reinforce our preferred worldview, and move on. Sometimes, though, it’s preferable to ponder something without arriving at a tidy resolution.
Do we relate to the chaos, the tragic flaw of pride, the eventual humility, or even the dark humor of a king reduced to living like a wild animal? Nebuchadnezzar liked quick answers – he was willing to execute hundreds to get a dream interpreted! – but it took him seven years to work out what God was saying to him and turn his eyes heavenward. Live with the chaos, ridiculousness, and mystery for a bit, and you might be surprised at what you learn.
Comfort: You don’t always have to force an answer.
Challenge: Seriously. Stop doing that.
Prayer: God of mystery and truth, teach me to appreciate both in equal measure. Amen.
Discussion: What unanswered questions are you living with, and are you at peace with that?
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