I apologize up front to my fellow fans of the Green & Gold: this blog post is not about the Packers. I shamelessly used that color combination to lure in readers. (Did it work?) However, shamelessness does not equal randomness. Read on…
You might recall that in the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar has two dreams. In chapter 2, he dreams about a magnificent statue (that’s the gold part). In chapter 4, he dreams about a splendiferous tree (and there’s the green). (If you’ve been plodding through Daniel with me, your memory of chapter 2 is pretty distant. You can refresh it here, and here, and here.) While the connection between a metal statue and a flourishing tree may not be obvious to you, Daniel helps us see that the two dreams are actually very much related.
Back in chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar watched the multi-layered masterpiece of metals get smashed to smithereens by an extraordinary rock. That rock didn’t bode well for the whole of human achievement, but the news was all good for the second-year king. (I wrote about this here.) When Daniel interpreted that dream, he said:
You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. (Dan 2:37–38 NIV).
When Daniel hears Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream in chapter 4, the once-young king has grown a golden head. He is “contented and prosperous” in his palace, probably at the peak of his impressive career (Dan 4:4). He’s become what Daniel said he would. But unlike his first dream, his second dream isn’t concerned with the whole of human history. It’s all about him, that eye-popping tree. Listen to Daniel’s second interpretation:
The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air–you, O king, are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth. (Dan 4:20–22 NIV)
If you compare these two interpretations, you can see the similarities (especially since I’ve underlined a bunch of them for you). And if you look more closely, you can see an important difference (besides the obvious one, namely that a golden head is not the same as a green tree). In chapter 2, Daniel told the king that God gave him dominion, power, might, glory; God gave him mankind and critters to care for. In chapter 4, Daniel acknowledges that Nebuchadnezzar has cared for the people and the critters, and his kingdom is indeed vast. But he doesn’t mention that God gave it to him – probably because this is exactly Nebuchadnezzar’s problem: he doesn’t acknowledge that God gave it to him. Daniel says it the way Nebuchadnezzar would have said it: “It’s all about you, O king.”
That golden headed king is long gone, but his spirit lives on. I easily see it in the world around me, and if I’m honest, I see it in my own heart.
Me too. I was taking my youngest son to Philly for the start of grad school and we had an interesting conversation. This occurred in the setting of my having been convicted of 33 counts of mail fraud (as a former physician the problem was medical bills and coding for procedures, etc.) on Dec 21, 1998 (Western District of Michigan, Hon. Robert Holmes Bell) and sentenced to 3 years of federal prison (no sympathy please, it was a good place to rejuvenate my handball game, last played on the streets of NYC; though I did miss white wine and female companionship!). Anyway I tell Ross,
“I didn’t do what the government said, but I do admit to having a corrupt value system. By that, I mean I was making a lot of money. In that regard I thought, well making a lot of money means God is Blessing me, and that means I’m wonderful. So I deserve expensive toys!”
To that, Ross, raised Jewish like me (and by me), but only on the way to the N.T (I’m there as of Jan 22, 2001) said “that must be what the Bible means when it says–its easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to go to Heaven”. And there is the crux of the matter, we all seek success, but upon receiving it fail to look to the reason it has been given to us, but rather relax to enjoy the “fruit of the successful labor”. We all tend to assume “its us”, but that is not the case.
Thanks for your candidness, Jeff. Success and talent and experience and…and…and… These are dangerous gifts. What an amazing God we have that He entrusts such things to us.