Today our heroes go from near death to triumph and back around again.
Daniel correctly sees Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The king has dreamed of a statue whose body parts degrade from gold at the top to a mix of iron and clay at the bottom. This represents the declining value and (until the iron and clay mix) decreasing mix of Babylon and the kingdoms that follow it. The final kingdom is hit by a stone from God and the whole statue comes tumbling down. This, according to Daniel, represents God's eventual destruction of these kingdoms with an everlasting kingdom of God. Many times since this dream became scripture, people have tried to show that they were living in the last kingdom and God's kingdom would soon appear. Time and time again, they have been wrong.
This success causes the king to richly reward Daniel, and Daniel uses his new found favor to elevate his friends. However, his friends run into trouble when they refuse to bow down and worship a golden statue of King Nebuchadnezzar. The king orders them thrown into a fire, but they are protected by an angel and come out alive. Based on this, the king decides that their God is awesome, promotes the men, and orders everyone to respect their God.
I do enjoy a good story, and so far the Book of Daniel is turning out to be exactly that.
Today's reading starts out with a clear statement of the author's belief that the end times were coming soon:
The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers.Funny how that hasn't worked out so well. The standard excuse for this is that the end is soon in God's time, not human time. However, one would think that such a caveat would have been mentioned here. Otherwise, a book written by a human author (even if he were inspired) for a human audience would obviously be interpreted as a reasonably human definition of soon (less than thousands of years). Or, perhaps, the inspired author misinterpreted the message given to him, but that opens up a whole host of other problems for believers.
In any case, because the end times are near, people should love and help each other and use their spiritual gifts to serve one another. They should be glad at the suffering they experience for being a Christian (but they should make certain that they are suffering for that and not for doing evil).
The author then describes how elders should care for their flock and young men should obey their elders in the church (an idea so prone to abuse, as we have seen in our own times). People should be humble and watch out for the traps of the devil.
Finally, today's reading with the closing passages of the letter.
Psalms and Proverbs
Proverbs about wicked rulers.