Then Daniel, who was called Belteshazzar, was severely distressed for a while. His thoughts terrified him. The king said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or the interpretation terrify you.’ Belteshazzar answered, ‘My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you, and its interpretation for your enemies! The tree that you saw, which grew great and strong, so that its top reached to heaven and was visible to the end of the whole earth, whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and which provided food for all, under which animals of the field lived, and in whose branches the birds of the air had nests— it is you, O king! You have grown great and strong. Your greatness has increased and reaches to heaven, and your sovereignty to the ends of the earth. And whereas the king saw a holy watcher coming down from heaven and saying, “Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave its stump and roots in the ground, with a band of iron and bronze, in the grass of the field; and let him be bathed with the dew of heaven, and let his lot be with the animals of the field, until seven times pass over him”— this is the interpretation, O king, and it is a decree of the Most High that has come upon my lord the king: You shall be driven away from human society, and your dwelling shall be with the wild animals. You shall be made to eat grass like oxen, you shall be bathed with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, until you have learned that the Most High has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals, and gives it to whom he will. As it was commanded to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be re-established for you from the time that you learn that Heaven is sovereign. Therefore, O king, may my counsel be acceptable to you: atone for your sins with righteousness, and your iniquities with mercy to the oppressed, so that your prosperity may be prolonged.’
What it is to be a prophet of doom! What might it be like to tell someone to their face that their days are numbered, that their pride and greed have caught up with them, that they will be cut down unless they change their ways imminently? Can we imagine what that is like?
What it is to be the recipient of prophecy! What might it be like to hear that our way of life has eaten us up, that we have but a short time to avoid a terrible fate? Can we imagine what that is like?
Well, actually we can. Like Nebuchadnezzar, we have benefited from a sumptuous way of life bought at others’ expense. We have consumed the earth’s resources like there is no tomorrow. We have assumed that our (economic) power will go on forever. And, like Nebuchadnezzar, we are wrong. We are morally wrong – we should care about our suffering world. We are factually wrong – our greed will catch up with us.
We could be Daniel. You and I could – should – write today to our MP and our local council asking them to support declaring a climate emergency and acting quickly to save our world. You and I could – should – engage in prophetic action through Christian Climate Action (part of Extinction Rebellion) to show those in power the dire warnings of God, spoken through the best scientific minds of our age.
Whether or not we are prepared to be Daniel, we are King Nebuchadnezzar. Our time is up. As we shall see tomorrow, Nebuchadnezzar had just a year to change – and he failed to listen. The International Panel on Climate Change has given us twelve years (one of which has gone). Will we listen?
You saw a tree grown great and strong… its foliage was beautiful and fruit abundant, under which animals of the field lived, in whose branches the birds had nests. And you said “Cut down the tree for development.” And you did. And the earth could not survive. So now you too will be chopped down unless you learn quickly that Heaven is sovereign. And did the people say: Amen?
The Rev’d Gethin Rhys, Policy Officer of Cytun (Churches Together in Wales), member of Parkminster URC, Cardiff.