At some point we reach the end of ourselves – our wisdom, our strength, our energy, our knowledge. Sitting helplessly at home during a pandemic, we understand this. Watching the riots and looting on television makes this clear. There’s nothing we can do.
I had a conversation with a good friend the other day. He’s an “at-risk” senior citizen. But he likes to be active – to ski and to work and to go on long walks. And he had a bandana around his neck when talked to me. And he just couldn’t figure out how to think about all of the things going on in the world today.
The things going on are so contrary to how he’d been raised. Normally, he would have a say in these things. He would have a choice. Isn’t America a democracy, after all? But he felt helpless, stuck at home – stuck between some ideal of “freedom” and a government edict. A rock and a hard place, I guess. Some said it would be immoral to leave his house – to endanger lives. And he just felt frustrated about it all.
And my friend was perplexed. It seemed like, for the first time, he was looking to me for answers. All I could do was shrug and say, “We don’t have control.”
But oh, how we want control!
I’ve been cutting firewood for next winter, and I’m only partially competent at felling dead trees. First, I make sure no one is around! Then I figure out which direction I want the tree to fall – considering its natural lean, of course. And then I try to craft my cuts to make the tree fall that way. Again, I’m only partially competent. Anna was with me the other day when I dropped a big dead tree. She estimated my aim was “only” off by 30 degrees!
We want control. Some things are out of our control – even when we think we should be able to control them. I will get better at cutting down dead trees. But I’m not in control. That much I know. So be careful. Respect the tree.
Nebuchadnezzar got a lesson in lack of control. So did the wisest of his wise men. But Daniel understood. Only God had the power to give the interpretation of dreams – and the knowledge of another man’s dreams themselves. “There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.”
This was beyond the king’s power. This was beyond the power of the wise men, enchanters, magicians, and astrologers. This was beyond Babylonia’s power. This was only something that could be done by an exiled Judean – from a far way province of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom – and even that exiled Judean couldn’t do it. Only his God could reveal the mystery.
The dream was about a statue representing four kingdoms – one symbolized in gold, another in silver, another in bronze, and another in iron and clay. There’s a lot to pull out of this image, but it marks out the fact that the world made up of a succession of kingdoms – one after another. Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome – and on and on it goes.
Who controls who rises next? When the kingdom of “gold” declines, who says there will be a kingdom of “silver”? Nebuchadnezzar had no control. Neither did the diviners. Neither did Daniel. Someone else was in charge.
Whoever it was who carved out that rock, “cut out by no human hand” – that’s the one.
You’ll notice the destruction of those kingdoms – their end – came from outside of them. It came from somewhere else. There is a God who is in control. Nebuchadnezzar would come to the end of himself – indeed, he already had. The other kings and emperors would do the same. And so will we.
And sometimes we sit and we stress about how little control in life that we really have. Things seem to move along at a breakneck pace. Does anyone, really, have control? Where do we look?
There is an unbreakable kingdom. There’s a rock of stumbling for the nations who reject the notion of God (1 Peter 2:7). There’s a spiritual Rock that pours out living water on those who come thirsty (1 Corinthians 10:4). And there’s a rock on which the wise can build their lives (Matthew 7:24).
All of this comes from outside of ourselves. This comes by “no human hand.”
And so Daniel 2 reveals to us something about the human condition. And it reveals to us something about God. He is in control, and we are not. His wisdom is incomparably better than ours. The ultimate answers come from him and not from within ourselves.
Do you seek a wisdom that is from beyond yourself – especially in these days of coronavirus and chaos? Every time we pick up our bibles, we interact with something that’s from beyond ourselves, something not carved out with human hands. We have in our hands a wisdom that is from above.
Every time we contemplate Jesus, we contemplate something that is from beyond ourselves – indeed, that is beyond this world – something not carved with human hands. He’s the Rock that does not disappoint and that cannot be broken.
At some point in every life, we have to decide whether we are willing to accept anything that comes from outside of ourselves. We have to decide whether we have all the answers and whether we need true help.
Think on these things today.