As always, here’s my fairly literal translation of these verses:
25Then Arioch to hasten brought in Daniel before the king and thus he said to him, “I have found a man from the sons of the exiles of Judah who will inform the interpretation to the king.” 26The king answering and saying to Daniel whose name Belteshazzar, “Are you able to inform me the dream which I saw and its interpretation?” 27Answering Daniel before the king saying, “A secret which the king asking not wise men, conjurers, horoscopists, [or] astrologers being able to declare the king, 28but there is a God in the heavens revealing secrets. He has informed to the king Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter of the days. Your dream and the visions of your head upon your bed this it. 29[As for] you, the king, your thoughts upon your bed came up what will become after this and One revealing secrets has informed you what will become. 30And [as for] me not in wisdom there is in me from the all of the living this secret was revealed to me but in order that the interpretation to the king will be informed and the thoughts of your heart you will know.
Obviously, one could say a lot about many things in these verses. I’d like to camp (again) on how much these verses express exactly what goes on for believers in the secular workplace.
Here’s the deal: this is God’s world. He rules. It’s all for Him, from Him, through Him, and to Him. Everything. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. It’s all Him. And He is all of this whether we’re in church singing on Sunday morning or working at our jobs at 2:00 in the afternoon on a Thursday. As we go about our work and even as our perhaps unbelieving bosses and co-workers are going about theirs, it’s all about Him.
Work comes down to getting things done and figuring things out. That means a lot of things in a million different ways, but it all shakes down to power and wisdom. “Getting things done” comes down to power. “Figuring things out” and “knowing what to do” come down to wisdom. And what did Daniel say about that? “Wisdom and power are His … He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.”
Just like in our workplaces today, Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans in 600 BC are trying to get things done, trying to figure things out. That’s basically what they did and we do all day every day. In their case (and often in ours), they don’t even so much as acknowledge the Lord but, fortunately for them, He is a God of grace who “makes His sun to shine on the evil and the good.” He allowed them (like He does us) to enjoy some measure of success at their efforts. Like Arioch, of course, they’re more than happy to take credit for anything good that happens (i.e. “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means”), and, as we all know, they’re also more than happy to blame anyone and anything else when things don’t go well. But, most of all, I want to point out, they (and too often we) are missing the most important factor in it all – that this is God’s world and it is Him who gives wisdom and power – including at work.
Now, enters the genuine believer. You and I walk into work and one of the very deep and fundamental differences between us and those who perhaps don’t acknowledge Him is (or should be) that we see God. We see His hand, His presence, His plan in it all. Of course, even with that said, we are ourselves still responsible to “get things done” and “figure things out.” But while we are responsible to do all those things, while it is our job to do this or that, to figure out ways to make this or that happen, yet we know where it comes from. We know it is beyond us. We know that even at our jobs, one man may sow and another water, but “it is God who gives the increase.” We know it is “God who gives us the power to gain wealth.” We know that “promotion comes neither from the east nor from the west, but from above.” We know that “every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights.”
I’m trying to learn to keep that in mind all day every day, but, just like Daniel, it’s only a matter of time and we find ourselves in the situation where the bosses need something to happen, want something figured out, and no one seems to be able to get the job done. My mind almost whirls with all the times it’s been “impossible.” It can’t be done. There’s no way.
Sometimes it’s as simple as math. I remember sitting in a meeting one day with all of the department heads and they couldn’t figure out how to distribute some costs between the departments. Each was quite sure he was paying more than his share; and the boss was exasperated because he couldn’t see any good answer. At that moment, the Lord helped me to see a very simple way to do it mathematically, so I said, “I have a suggestion, sir,” explained it, they liked it, and everyone went away happy. I hope somehow, in that moment, some of them knew in their hearts that it was actually the Lord in me that gave them that answer. I guess I’ll find out in Heaven – but I’d like to suggest that that is what us believers do. We do the impossible. Just like Daniel.
I stood in one of our wastewater treatment plants a few years ago looking around thinking what they really need to do is just bulldoze this place and build a new plant. But the next thought was, “Right. And with whose money?” I knew it would cost $10,000,000. It was impossible. It’s a town of only 5,000 people. How do you get $10,000,000 out of 5,000 people (of which probably 2/3 are children or elderly people)? Yet, even as I type this, their new plant is built, it’s running, and about all we have left to do is pave the parking lot. How did that happen? It’s a miracle, that’s what it is. Interestingly, as we have tried to design and build it, we have faced one job-killing obstacle after another. Yet we’ve overcome every one of them and here we are today. There is no question in my mind the opposition we faced was Satanic. He wanted it to fail. He wanted to leave every one angry and suing each other. He was a murderer from the beginning. Yet here we are today. I can say I’ve tried to work hard for the people and I can say I’ve prayed hard for them, but that plant isn’t there because of me. It is because there is a very great and very kind God in Heaven who enjoys giving good gifts to the children of men, even ones who don’t necessarily acknowledge Him. Once again, I hope in some way I’ve stirred someone’s heart to see God above it all. I’ll only know in Heaven probably. But that is, again, just like Daniel, what we’re all about.
Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. No one could help him figure it out. Daniel prayed and Daniel could. “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” the king asked Daniel. The king then learned that his wise men were wrong on two points – they were wrong that “there is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks” and they were wrong that “the gods do not live among men.”
We believers enter the workplace as people who can do the impossible. We know it isn’t us, that it is God working through us, but we know that He can do the impossible, and by prayer and hard work, He will often enable us to accomplish those things. I believe He wants to do just that, to use His people to accomplish the impossible, precisely because He still has “much people in this city.” Here is where it is so important for us to live the same humility as Daniel. “As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men … there is a God in Heaven who reveals mysteries.” Hopefully our humility allows others to see Him in it, to stir their hearts to want to know this God who after all does “dwell among men!” In Acts 17, Paul told the Athenians, God “has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if perhaps they might seek after Him, and find Him.” People live when they live and where they live specifically that they might themselves be drawn to seek the Lord. Believers’ presence in the workplace and the Lord’s work through them is one of the ways He intends to “adorn the Gospel.” And again, this is precisely where genuine humility is so critically important. He wants to do the impossible – through us – but when it’s done, it needs to be Him and not us they see.
What a fine young man our Daniel is. I would like to suggest to anyone’s interested perusal that the Daniel we have seen already in just these first two chapters is everything we believers ought to be as we venture out to ply our trades. We have seen he is gracious, respectful, considerate, principled, brave, a hard worker, appreciative, and above all humble. He worships a great God and takes Him to work. He was all those things and here we are 2,600 years later still learning from his good example.
God help us all to be like Daniel in our workplaces – along with our schools, our neighborhoods, our communities, our sports programs, and wherever else our gracious Lord allows us to live out our everyday lives. It’s all about Him.