Speaking Truth to Power

Image above is from Pinterest.

Daniel 2:25-30

This Scripture passage reminds me of a discussion at a poetry seminar I attended several years back. Dr. James Everett Kibler, Professor of English at the University of Georgia at the time, was conducting a seminar on the Poetry of William Gilmore Simms. I had lived all my early life reading South Carolina history from Mary Simms Oliphant (1891-1988) who lived on James Street in Greenville, SC and who was Simms granddaughter. (For information on Mrs. Oliphant see https://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/oliphant-mary-chevillete-simms/ an article from The South Carolina Encyclopedia).   

the-oracle-at-delphi-artists-impression-15380

In the course of that seminar Dr. Kibler referenced the inscription at the Oracle of Delphi in Ancient Greece. (See above an artist’s conception of the Oracle inhaling vapors from the volcanic fissure; Two Greek nobles consult with the Oracle at Delphi before setting out to establish a new colony abroad. Art by Mateusz Przeklasa.2023-01-15_14-01-21

Dr. Kibler asserted that this inscription, “Know Yourself!” was not related to self-knowledge advocated by modern psychologists. It is rather a warning for the questioner “to know his/her place.” “One is best served by studying and understanding one’s own physical and psychological strengths, weaknesses, limitations, and influences. “Know yourself” is classified as a proverb—be aware of your own limitations; know what you are capable of doing. The motto of a ballet corps was “Know thyself”; every dancer was expected to know how far she could stretch, and not hurt herself by trying to exceed her limits.” (see https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/Know+thyself

Latin Know Thyself

By the way, the same aphorism occurs in The Matrix film, only it is in Latin. “Temet Nosce” is a Latin phrase translated as “Know Thyself.” This phrase was on a placard over the Oracle’s kitchen door. She became a sort of Sci-fi Pythia or a Sage to depend on for sound advice. (Image is from Pinterest.)


How does the cryptic Delphic inscription fit into Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. He thought he was the one who received messages from God (sometimes through his soothsayers but sometimes without them). This dream took him down a notch or two! He had a problem playing his God-given part.

Leonard Berstein was asked which instrument was the most difficult to play in the orchestra. Without hesitating he answered, “Second Fiddle.” To use that analogy, Daniel took the chair of “first fiddle” when it came to recalling and interpreting dreams. God was the invisible conductor. Nebuchadnezzar was in the second fiddle chair and didn’t like it. Whether or not he and his descendants learned the lesson remains to be seen in the rest of the Aramaic section of Daniel.

This dream incident shows the twin themes:

1. God alone is absolutely sovereign; and
2. God alone knows and reveals mysteries.

God wants all to know that He alone has the answers to life’s mysteries. 

vs. 25 “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening.

I. We must realize our message to secular folks might not be what they want to hear. vs. 25

Since those who have recently come into power are unsure if they will last, they are easily disturbed. We may think in our day that astrology, omens, etc. are passé. No, in my living memory a first lady used an astrologer to indicate when meetings ought to be scheduled and the safest times for Air Force One to take off and land. And how many people today open a website to read what their horoscope says about the day, or read their fortune cookie at dinner to get a tip about the future? Really. How many millions of people as individuals will read that horoscope as giving them direction for their life. How about the several million others who have that same astrological sign and will have that same prediction? Omne can see how inane this practice is. The horoscope is like an idol in the ancient world.

The power of any idol—molten, mental, or carved—comes into play when someone receives it as truly for them. (cf. I Corinthians 10:19-20—19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants [Greek word is with demons. (ESV emphasis mine.)

daniel-interpreting-nebuchadnezzars-dream-mattia-preti

God alone knows the future and holds forth His Word as our guide. Wisdom comes from taking our place humbly before God and faithfully obeying His commandments. See Ecclesiastes 12:13-14—13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (ESV emphasis mine.)

Telling the truth from God’s viewpoint may take away our worldly success. Or, failing to say what the ruler wants us to say can be fatal.


Dr. C. Everett Koop Gadfly in Reagan’s Cabinet 

“Tension between pro-life activists and Koop heightened when in 1988 President Reagan asked Koop to800px-C._Everett_Koop,_1980s prepare a Surgeon General’s report on the effects of abortion on women’s health. With the end of his presidency in sight, he sought to affirm his pro-life values by focusing on the psychological and physical effects of abortion on women, which he thought were pronounced enough to provide a rationale for reversing the nation’s abortion laws and policies.

“Koop concluded that there was no unbiased, rigorous scientific research on the effects of abortion on women’s health that could serve as the basis for a Surgeon General’s report on the issue.

“Koop’s refusal to take a pro-life position in the debate over the health effects of abortion on women made him unsuitable in the eyes of many conservatives for the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services in the new administration of President George H. W. Bush, a position in which Koop had expressed interest.”  (Excerpts from Reproduction and Family Health, about Koop.

Koop did not say what “the King” wanted to hear. He ran afoul of George H. W. Bush’s incoming staff (new to the job). He was pro-life as he always had been, but he would go against clear scientific evidence, and there was no study that proved Reagan’s conclusion to be true. He said, in effect, “the King is not wearing any clothes.” He had to go.


That last word in verse 31, surely captured the King’s response to his dream—frightening. You don’t want a frightened king on the throne.

vs. 26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”

II. God can place His people in key positions, so they can give the answer to solve crises in government. vs. 26

At every point in this “court tale of contest” Daniel gives all the credit to God. I noticed in vs. 25, Arioch claimed to have played a part in the solution. He had found Daniel. Arioch knew Daniel from the time Daniel ate a plain diet and turned-out superior to those who ate fancy food from the King’s table. That is the way of the world—horn in on the matter so you can get some of the credit. Daniel was the only person in the king’s court that day without a private agenda. He wanted God to get all of the glory. 

Daniel And Companions Before Nebuchadnezzar

Daniel And Companions Before Nebuchadnezzar (public domain)

vs. 27-28 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

III. God’s wisdom spoken to power exposes charlatans as it solves problems. vs. 27-28a 

28b but …God in heaven…has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: 29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. 30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.

God’s message delivered to pagan rulers (or pagan bosses in our case) may take him and his court down a few notches. So, God’s true messengers should expect a severe backlash after they tell the truth to troubled people. (e.g. Chapters 3—the fiery furnace & 6—the lions’ den.)

Next, the Dream given.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s