We had a lot of rain in East Tennessee this week. It reminded me of something Jesus said…
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. –Matthew 5:45b NIV
When I was younger, rain meant we couldn’t play outside, so I thought Jesus’ comment about rain was a negative example, as in, bad things happen to both good and bad people. Later, I learned that in the ancient Near East, the sun and the rain were good things. Thus the application for us goes like this: “God gives out gifts of wisdom, talent, beauty, and skill according to his grace—that is, in a completely unmerited way. He casts them across the human race like seed, in order to enrich, brighten, and preserve the world” (Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor, Penguin: New York, 2012. 191). Without disputing this truth, I think the negative perspective is also true. Consider this example…
This is no light drizzle, people.
In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream. He knew it had meaning, but he couldn’t understand it for himself, so he summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed (2:2). Daniel and his three friends had recently been added to this group of so-called wise men after the king found them “ten times better” than all the others (1:20). On this particular night, however, those four young Jewish men did not heed the king’s summons. We don’t know where they were or why they didn’t come.
Sometimes “not fair” is
the center of His will.
With all his wise men standing around (except Daniel and friends), King Nebuchadnezzar got more than a little irritated, and he decided not to tell the wise men about his dream but to expect a recounting of the dream along with an interpretation. That’s crazy unfair, and the wise men told him so: “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks!” (2:10). But the king was insistent. If no one could tell him both the dream and its meaning, He decreed that all his wise men would be cut into pieces and their houses demolished. Seems more than a little extreme to us, but this was no democracy; he had the right to do it.
A little later Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, knocked on Daniel’s door. Imagine how that conversation went after Arioch said, “Hi, Daniel. Hi, guys. Umm…I’m here to kill you.”
Arioch proceeded to explain the situation and, thankfully, gave Daniel some leeway on the whole cut-to-pieces thing. I can imagine Daniel’s hands trembling just a little, his voice wavering, as he rushed to the king and pleaded for a little time. He was, after all, still a young man. The king granted his request, and that night, God showed Daniel what Nebuchadnezzar dreamed and what the dream meant. Through Daniel, God saved not only his life and the lives of his friends but also the lives of all the wise men in Babylon.
It’s a good story, with lots of truth we could pull out, but for now, let’s go back to that time between when Arioch knocked on Daniel’s door (2:14) and when God revealed the king’s dream to Daniel in a vision (2:19).
This is a downpour!
They had to go through
the fear of being killed
just like everyone else.
God created a situation that couldn’t be resolved on human terms, and he dropped these four faithful men right in the middle of it. With no advance warning, they were faced with a life-or-death situation. Yes, Daniel had the gift of interpretation (1:17), but he’d never seen anything like this before. These guys were scared. You can see it when Daniel talks to his buddies: He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven…so that he and his friends might not be executed (2:18). They had to go through the fear of being killed just like everyone else. (This is before the furnace, so they didn’t exactly have practice with this type of situation.)
It was all about
It was a tense night in every wise man’s house. I’m sure candles remained lit across the city. In Daniel’s house, I think they were on their knees—no, on their faces—in prayer. After God answered those prayers by giving Daniel a vision, the first words out of his mouth reveal the purpose of this whole situation: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever” (2:20). God gave Nebuchadnezzar the dream, caused/allowed him to become infuriated to the point of mass murder (putting the lives of the faithful at risk), then provided Daniel with the answer. And it was all about His glory. In the end, Nebuchadnezzar said, “Surely your God is the God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery” (2:47). Something tells me all those magicians, sorcerers and astrologers changed their tune about the God of the Jews as well, especially when Daniel got put in charge of them (2:48).
And now for the rainbow…
God knew Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (their Hebrew names) would remain faithful, that they would pray and listen to Him, and that they would honor Him in the resolution of the situation. They had done it in an easier test involving food (Dan 1), and they would do it again in an even harder test, literally passing through fire for His Name’s sake (Dan 3). Just look what Daniel says to the king here: “There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (2:28) and “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future” (2:45). Daniel never took the credit for himself.
Even while their knees were
knocking and their tears falling,
their faith never wavered.
Sometimes the faithful must go through something difficult alongside the unfaithful in order for God to get the most glory. Daniel and his friends got the rain—the flooding rain that threatened to wash away everything, not the gentle crop-nourishing rain—when they didn’t deserve it, but even while their knees were knocking and their tears falling, their faith never wavered. Maybe at some point in the night, one of them quoted King David,
Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. -Psalm 62:1-2
Whatever it is, Lord…from light drizzle to torrential downpour…let me remain faithful and attentive so that You will be most glorified.