Thursday, March 16, 2006

What Daniel Saw

Daniel had been King Nebuchadnezzar's right-hand man for a long time. He was a high-ranking official put in charge of an entire province -- over all the other wise men.

But now Daniel has been put out to pasture. He's an old man now, past his prime. The new king doesn't even know who he is...until the new king has a problem.

In the middle of his drunken party, a hand appears and writes a strange message on the wall. Then, as mysteriously as the hand appeared, it disappears. The king's first instinct was probably to switch to coffee, but soon he realizes that this wasn't a hallucination; it was real.

He calls all his wise men and asks them to decipher the message, but they cannot. Then the Queen (probably King Belshazzar's mother) remembers Daniel. He used to be good at this kind of thing. Maybe he could do it again.

So, they send for Daniel.

What does Daniel see when he walks in? Obviously, he's going to see the writing on the wall. He's also going to see the new king -- the one who discarded him in his old age. He sees the aftermath of a huge drunken orgy. But what may have caught his attention more than anything else were those goblets from Jerusalem. They were made of gold and silver and stood as a reminder of what worship used to be like in the Temple.

How long had it been since Daniel had seen them? What was going through his mind and heart when it occurred to him what they've been used for here?

Not only has the new king insulted Daniel; he's insulted Daniel's God. And now this impudent king says to Daniel, "Do me a favor and tell me what that scribbling up there means. I'll make it worth your while."

If I was Daniel, I'd say, "Figure it out yourself."

But that's not Daniel's style. Once again, my character has a long way to go before I respond like Daniel.

One other thing that Daniel may have seen: opportunity. The king is offering to restore Daniel to prominence. This had to be tempting for him. It may have even tempted Daniel to shrink away from telling the king the whole truth.

That's not Daniel, though, because -- more than anything -- what Daniel saw was one more chance to serve God by making a stand. Just like he did in chapter 1 with the king's food. Just like he did in chapter 2 with the king's dream about the statue. Just like he did in chapter 4 with the king's second dream about the tree. Daniel has demonstrated a clear pattern of integrity that he has no intention of violating now.

What Daniel saw in the writing and in the new king and in the old goblets was the hand of God moving steadily -- sometimes visibly -- most often invisibly -- to bring about his purposes.