SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER
Lord, we acknowledge that You are the source of all power.
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.
Spend some time praising Jesus because he is the truth, and all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him.
Any leader or government must deal in the two currencies of truth and power. Significantly, Jesus and Pilate had a brief conversation about each, and Pilate opted for power rather than truth (cf. John 18:37,38; 19:10,11,16). “Speaking truth to power” has become almost a cliché: in this chapter we see it played out in the relationship between two men, Nebuchadnezzar, who is preoccupied with power, and Daniel, who is committed to truth. For the full story we must wait until Monday, when we reach the end of the chapter, but today’s passage, written as a royal proclamation from Nebuchadnezzar (1), gives us insight into each of the protagonists.
Nebuchadnezzar is preoccupied with power. “When tyrants suffer from bad dreams, God is at work” (Walter Luthi, quoted in Dale Ralph Davis, The Message of Daniel, 41). God is still on the emperor’s case and, as in chapter 2, speaks to him by means of a disturbing dream. The opening verses tell us how this will end: at last Nebuchadnezzar will acknowledge that the kingdom of Daniel’s God “is an eternal kingdom” (3) and, by implication, that his own reign is temporary and dependent on God’s permissive will (17). However, as we shall see on Monday, it is not the dream itself but its fulfillment which brings Nebuchadnezzar to his knees, both literally and metaphorically.
Daniel is committed to truth. Since the words of today’s passage are those of Nebuchadnezzar, we understand something of how Daniel is seen through the emperor’s eyes. Nebuchadnezzar is unclear about the reality of the one true God, the source of Daniel’s divine insights (8,9a). Despite this, Daniel has the emperor’s respect and trust (9b,18) and is genuinely concerned for his master’s welfare (see verse 19). In all this, Daniel stands as a model for any Christian holding office in an organization which does not acknowledge the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Are there situations in which you need to speak truth to power? In any leadership role you have, how do you use power and maintain truth?
Lord, never allow me to get to the place where I think that I am sufficient in my own ability and position in life.