Formations 07.14.2024: Looking for Hope

Daniel 2:1-2a, 27-28a, 37-44

At the end of chapter 1, readers learned that God blessed Daniel with the ability to interpret dreams. Now we see this gift in action when King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that his advisors can’t interpret. The dream involves an enormous statue that represents Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom and the kingdoms destined to follow.

It is not the kind of dream the Jewish people would have been happy to hear about. When the book of Daniel was written, they had lived under the control of multiple Gentile empires. One after the other, the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Greeks did what they wanted with their people and their homeland for hundreds of years. And what would they have thought if someone had continued the story by telling them about the Romans, the Arabs, the Franks, the Ottomans, and the British? What if someone had name-dropped the Czars of Russia? Or the Nazis?

Surely there can’t be that many power-hungry empires in the world! Surely there can’t be that many dictators hell-bent on crushing God’s people! The first readers of Daniel may have felt helpless before the rise and fall of Gentile nations, each seemingly more oppressive than the last.

Nevertheless, there is hope at the end. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream doesn’t end with any human empire. On the contrary, it ends when God’s own kingdom is established. This is the kingdom that will stand forever. If you want to know what God intends for the world, you won’t find it in the Babylonians or the Greeks or the British—or even, heaven help us, the Americans.

What this means is that God’s people must decide that they’re going to be in it for the long haul. The succession of worldly powers must run its course. But it will. Not today or next week or with the next election, but eventually, justice and righteousness will prevail, and God’s kingdom will come in all its fullness.

And in a world like Daniel’s and ours, where the power of empire so often seems depressingly unbeatable, that is an encouraging word indeed.

Discussion

• What empires—political, economic, cultural, etc.—currently challenge God’s kingdom?
• What relevance does Nebuchadnezzar’s dream have for believers today?
• How are we to live when history seems to bend toward injustice?
• How can we find hope that God’s kingdom will ultimately prevail?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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