Read Daniel 4:19-27
Seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.” – Daniel 4:25-27
I recall a stunning and challenging moment in my vicarage year, when I served at Trinity Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. A vicar is a student pastor who has completed two years of post-college schooling, and is placed under the supervision of a local pastor for some sometimes intense on the job training. I had an excellent experience except for two specific occasions when I earned a stern warning from my supervisor.
The content of that warning is not as important as the importance of it, and the fact that my supervisor felt compelled to express it. It was one of those, “Don’t do that again” kinds of warnings; and I heeded the admonition. I’m not certain, but I suspect that supervising pastor would rather not have had to give the warning. Sometimes, however heavy the truth weighs on us, we must deliver it so that others may turn away from dangerous or harmful ways to the kindness and mercy of God.
Daniel is making such a pronouncement to Nebuchadnezzar in this encounter. He is delivering the interpretation of the king’s dream – a very unpleasant one at that. The news is not good. Nebuchadnezzar will lose his throne, his palace and housing, and even his sanity. Daniel is delivering this stern warning.
Note, however, that Daniel is providing a window of hope in the darkness of God’s judgment. Nebuchadnezzar is to repent of his sin and break off his iniquities by practicing righteousness and showing mercy. This is strikingly similar to the admonition of the prophet Micah: “O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
Whether we are facing judgment and harsh realities on account of severe rebellion, or simply living our lives under Christ in his kingdom, these are good words for us. To do what is right, in a merciful and humble way is the calling for Jesus’ followers. When we pray the Lord’s prayer, saying, “Forgive us our trespasses…”, our failure to live in such a way should be near the top of our lists of sins to be confessed and for which we seek God’s forgiveness.
Wounds of a friend can be trusted (Proverbs 27:6). That is especially true when those difficult words lead us to turn to the One who not only rules over the affairs of men, but who has redeemed us, saved us by his grace, and promised life through faith in Jesus, his Son.