King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages that live throughout the earth: May you have abundant prosperity! The signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me I am pleased to recount.
How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his sovereignty is from generation to generation.
I, Nebuchadnezzar, was living at ease in my home and prospering in my palace. I saw a dream that frightened me; my fantasies in bed and the visions of my head terrified me. So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, in order that they might tell me the interpretation of the dream. Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the diviners came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not tell me its interpretation. At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and who is endowed with a spirit of the holy gods —and I told him the dream: ‘O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that you are endowed with a spirit of the holy gods and that no mystery is too difficult for you. Hear the dream that I saw; tell me its interpretation.
Upon my bed this is what I saw; there was a tree at the centre of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew great and strong, its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the ends of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful, its fruit abundant, and it provided food for all. The animals of the field found shade under it, the birds of the air nested in its branches, and from it all living beings were fed.
‘I continued looking, in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and there was a holy watcher, coming down from heaven. He cried aloud and said:
“Cut down the tree and chop off its branches, strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from beneath it and the birds from its branches. But leave its stump and roots in the ground, with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field. Let him be bathed with the dew of heaven, and let his lot be with the animals of the field in the grass of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a human, and let the mind of an animal be given to him. And let seven times pass over him. The sentence is rendered by decree of the watchers, the decision is given by order of the holy ones, in order that all who live may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdom of mortals; he gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of human beings.”
‘This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation, since all the wise men of my kingdom are unable to tell me the interpretation. You are able, however, for you are endowed with a spirit of the holy gods.’
10 years ago Susan Boyle, unemployed and wanting to become a professional singer, walked out on the stage for the auditions of Britain’s Got Talent and sung I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables that was to change her life. Ant and Dec, who hosted the show, pointed at the screen: ‘You didn’t expect that, did you?’ The audience and the judges had written her off. Amanda Holden said, ‘That was the biggest wake-up call EVER!’
Those words: I had a dream my life would be different from this hell I’m living. So different not from what it seemed now life has killed the dream I dreamed describes a situation from Victor Hugo’s novel based on the story of the have and have nots in 19th Century France.
In our text Nebuchadnezzar describes his kingdom as one that is enjoying peace [shalom] and prosperity. No wonder! He had conquered Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Egypt and Arabia and had accumulated enough wealth to make Babylon one of the most fabulous cities of the ancient world.
And yet living a life of luxury he had a dream that made him afraid. He looks to his scribe Belteshazzar (Daniel) for explanation. ‘No mystery is too difficult for you’ to bring about understanding and meaning.
Our churches, the world in which we live and move and have our being, need problem-solvers, not more problems. Within our congregation we have people who like to cause us all sorts of trouble because they don’t get what it means to be a disciple of Jesus: ‘How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing Good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil’ Acts 10:38
‘I dreamed a dream’ and the King looks to Daniel, who will bring hope in a very grim situation.
So, problem solver Daniel: ‘Bring it on!’
Gracious God, kick us out of bed today with a wake-up call to action.
When we meet problems, give us wisdom to resolve them.
When we meet any facing grim and difficult situations today, enable us to support them.
May any who feel that ‘life has killed the dream they dreamed’ encounter something of the love of God through us.
‘Through our lives and by our prayers your kingdom come’* Amen
*Rejoice and Sing No 401
The Rev’d Andrew Royal Minister Maidstone & Staplehurst