Monday, March 23, 2015

Daily Lenten Post, Day 29

I almost forgot to blog!! Here are some thoughts for today...

It's impressive in Daniel 4:28-33 that Nebuchadnezzar not only shows how vain and ridiculous he is again, but that the consequences of his actions, directly from God, come so suddenly and with such depth. What happens definitely doesn't leave one wondering who was in control in this situation.

In verse 34, we suddenly hear from Nebuchadnezzar himself. He tells of what seems like a conversion story, when he finally learned his lesson that God is greater than he is. We would wonder if he really believes that, or if he'll forget it again, based on past experience.

This story makes me wonder what we can really believe about Nebuchadnezzar. Though my study Bible pointed out early on that the timing mentioned at the beginning of Daniel signals to us that it is a folktale, that is someone's interpretation, of course. We wonder how much of this is what Nebuchadnezzar was like, and how much might have been interpreted or added, to make a point for the people reading this years later. I studied literature for a long time, and I guess that's why it's never bothered me to think of the Bible as stories, to appreciate it for its literary value, and not to parse out fact versus fiction. We Christians debate the inerrancy of scripture. We make claims like, "The Bible clearly says..." Some have put so much time and energy into turning the book of Genesis into a science book to explain the beginning of creation. It seems as though in some ways, we prefer knowing the Bible to knowing God. We want to avoid remembering that the person or persons who translated our Bibles were not there when the scriptures were actually written, that we don't have any kind of "original draft" for the vast majority of scripture, and that every translation is also an interpretation.

What does this have to do with the story of Nebuchadnezzar? Well, I don't know that there was such an absolutely ridiculous king. It seems entirely implausible for a king to go wander out in some pasture somewhere for seven years, then return to his throne. Yes, I believe that everything is possible with God. I also believe that we learn a lot from Nebuchadnezzar's story, regardless of its factual truth. As Christians, we retell our story every year, through the cycles of the church year. In the retelling, new truth is revealed, new understanding given, and new calling received, among other things. Whether or not every detail is reported and is factual, we learn about who God is and who we are from scripture. We learn about the people who have known that God through the ages and about their cultures. We learn how to keep becoming the people God wants us to be. That seems more important to me than determining where the ark landed...but that's just me...

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