Daily bible reading: 8 January

A revealer of mysteries.

Something to read

Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him. The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” Then the king gave Daniel high honours and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king's court.

Daniel 2:46 – 49 from full reading Daniel 2:24-49

Something to think about

Daniel is shown in the Bible as a paragon, an exemplar, a model of good character and faithfulness, a truly godly man. He lived under the pagan rule of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon who had sacked Jerusalem, destroying the Temple, plundering the whole city, killing, mutilating and enslaving its inhabitants.

Daniel was among the flower of the youth of Judah: handsome, clever, gifted, and of good family. He and others like him were taken away to a kind of college in which to be taught and, if you like, indoctrinated in order to become the administrative elite of the Empire. A glittering career beckoned, if he would fit in with the new order. Jeremiah had encouraged them: But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7)

Here, he responds to an extraordinary challenge from the king: to tell the oracle or die. At no point does he demur as to king’s right to do any of these things, tyrannous and unreasonable though they might be. He humbly offers himself to the task and, in his magnificent faith, completes it, by the Lord’s gracious will.

The dire threat instead becomes a platform on which Daniel and his friends are raised to prominence by God’s provision of the answer, and God himself is extolled and glorified. But the subtext throughout is about who really rules. Is it Nebuchadnezzar, or is it the Lord, the God of Israel? It is the Lord who casts down and lifts up all the successive Empires as they come and go. He alone is Sovereign, and over rulers of the earth, however powerful and magnificent, however deluded or paranoid, however proud or vain, only the Lord is truly in control. The best thing that any one of them could do is to humble themselves before him and acknowledge the Lord God, who is sovereign over all.

Something to do

Look at a variety of newspaper headlines from across the world and consider how leadership today compares to that of Daniel’s day. 

Something to pray

Let us pray for our rulers, that they do not fall prey to delusions of grandeur, or paranoia, but that they humbly do their best for their people; and that we likewise may seek the welfare of our communities, and not be afraid, knowing that truly all things are in the hand of our Heavenly Master whom we serve.

Today’s reading was provided by the Reverend Jeremy Bevan, a minister of the Church in Wales.

('Something to do' was provided by Christian Aid.)