WHO IS IN CHARGE?
O God, seated upon Your throne, I acknowledge You as Sovereign Lord of my life.
Read Daniel 4:1–18
Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of a Tree
4 [a]King Nebuchadnezzar,
To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth:
May you prosper greatly!
2 It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.
3 How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom;
his dominion endures from generation to generation.
4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. 5 I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. 6 So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. 7 When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers[b] and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. 8 Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)
9 I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. 10 These are the visions I saw while lying in bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.
13 “In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger,[c] coming down from heaven. 14 He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field.
“‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times[d] pass by for him.
17 “‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’
18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
a Daniel 4:1 In Aramaic texts 4:1-3 is numbered 3:31-33, and 4:4-37 is numbered 4:1-34.
b Daniel 4:7 Or Chaldeans
c Daniel 4:13 Or watchman; also in verses 17 and 23
d Daniel 4:16 Or years; also in verses 23, 25 and 32
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectDo you allow God to be God, or do you struggle to find out all the answers?
Have you ever been in a restaurant or a shop and witnessed a disgruntled customer demand to see the manager? I’ve never been quite brave enough to do so myself, even when confronted by appalling service!
In today’s passage, verse 17 answers a series of questions: Who is in charge? Everyone in Babylon, if they had been asked that question on the street, would have instantly and nervously answered, “Nebuchadnezzar!” But who is really in charge? When does he rule? Look at the tense of all the verbs in verse 17—they are all present tense. God rules today, not simply in the future. Where does he rule? Israel? Look in verse 17: “the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth.” That includes here. How does he rule? With complete freedom: God gives kingdoms “to anyone he wishes”—even “the lowliest of people.”
This sovereign freedom of God is expressed in the rather vague word “times” (16), which will come up again and again. It is used to reveal and keep hidden what God is doing. He alone is sovereign: over Nebuchadnezzar, over me, and over you.
The worst charge the Bible has for God’s people is that they honor God with their lips, while their hearts are far away. Kneel and spend a few moments in silence, committing your heart to God.
Lord, I am Yours. I don’t know the end from the beginning—You do. Teach me to trust You more.