I little background here. Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, are taken into captivity in Babylon, their Hebrew names stripped from them and replaces with Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Babylon wants to strip every bit of Israels traditions and beliefs from them and make them completely subservient to them, even trying to outlaw their kosher dietary habits. The story of Daniel and his friends is the story of an empire that reaches into the lives of all of its foreign subjects and attempts not only to control them, but strip them of their identity, a cruel and violence form of oppression.
In the verses that we read today, the king finds himself in need. He is having troubling dreams (oracles from God) but he cannot understand or interpret them. So he calls upon Daniel who has ‘enlightenment’ the light of God, the wisdom of God such that he can interpret dreams with wisdom.
These may all seem quite magical, mythical and far removed from our experience. But I would suggest that it really connects quite powerfully with our experience. Let’s just think of some of the things that we are struggling with as a nation at this time (or should be at least); the number of American’s living in poverty, the number of homeless, the issue of bullying which has recently been in uncovered in the NFL, drone warfare that kills innocents in Yemen, Afghanistan and other regions, the lack of adequately paying jobs for our college graduates and the cost of college to begin with.
Let’s take homelessness for instance. We don’t know what to do about this issue. There is a great deal of anxiety and even anger when individuals and communities are faced by homeless beggars. Some communities try to bus them out to other places. Some cities make it illegal for church groups to feed them. We all wonder when faced with this; should I help or will I just be paying for drugs or alcohol and contribute to the problem. It is a complex issue and I’m not pretending that it is easy. What I am saying is that this is a deep dark shadow on our nation, that the land of opportunity is faced with evidence that opportunity does visit everyone. Which is why some are angered. The homeless beggars challenge the myth of a prosperous American. What is needed is Light, Wisdom for such an issue.
The story of Daniel tells us that the King, the political leader of a great empire cannot find the solution for the troubles of his kingdom. It is only the enlightenment of God that can lead people to blessed community.