I wonder if he had to swallow back a mouthful of fear before he delivered the message to the moody king. Or maybe being under the sentence of death made it possible to say clearly what no king wants to hear.
Your power will not last forever.
Your rule will be cut short.
I wonder if it was the king’s terrified desperateness that made him receive this bad news with such fortitude. Far from flying into a rage – which was his modus operandi – he promotes Daniel. Maybe, in that moment, the king was too captivated by the image of the God of heaven hewing out an everlasting kingdom to be concerned about holding onto his own passing power.
Daniel relieved the king of his troubling vision that day, but he himself begins to see troubling things. Visions he does not understand. Nightmares that terrify him, visions that daze him. He cannot carry on with life, he becomes ill. He stops bathing for a while, he even passes out.
What message could possibly do this to a man who had survived the ransack of his country, the destruction of his way of life, the politics of the palace. Where is the bold man who’d stood in a lion’s den and survived? What has reduced him to this?
The vision’s message. The power of kings will not last forever. Their rule will be cut short. All kingdoms will pass away. Daniel sees the upheaval and temporariness of all earthly power. In an instant, he knows too much of the bloodshed and violence that will surround those at the top. And he trembles.
As Americans go to the polls today to elect, among other officials, the president, commentators are agreed this is one of the most polarized elections in our brief history. Fear, racism, hyperbole, dishonesty, and castigation have all played a role. Christians, unfortunately, have been no less insistent in their screeching that THE ENTIRE WORLD is about to end if so-and-so is elected.
Which is odd. Because we’ve been told clearly that all earthly power ends. Daniel wrote down his troubling visions to tell us so. It should not take us by surprise that earthly rulers disappoint. We should be immune from both fear and triumphalism based on who wins and loses.
What we need most of all is not a Republican president, or a Democratic president. What we need is to look for the invisible hand who is hewing out a kingdom of His own. A kingdom that will “come through it all standing strong and eternal” (Daniel 2:44-45, MSG).
And we need to take comfort in the words of the messenger who comforted Daniel. “There is going to be a lot of frantic running around, trying to figure out what’s going on… Go on about your business… Those who live wisely and well will understand what’s going on. Men and women who have lived wisely and well will shine brilliantly, like the cloudless, star-strewn night skies. And those who put others on the right path to life will glow like stars forever” (Daniel 12:3, 9-10 MSG).