Daniel invoked competence of God, verified to the satisfaction of king Nebuchadnezzar, interpreted his dream, and won the king’s acknowledgement of the power of God. The interactions confirm our understanding that competence is a gift from God, includes capability of verification to win human confidence, and is unbounded as God extends it as necessary to accomplish his purpose.
We discuss interactions between Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar, regarding Daniel’s first dream interpretation for the king, to extend our understanding that competence is a gift from God. His gift of competence includes the capability of verification to satisfy human standards and win others’ confidence in one’s ability to apply the competence to their benefit. Human demand for verification of competence is well illustrated by King Nebuchadnezzar demanding the dream interpreter first tell him his dream so he can rely on the interpretation.
Also, we learn through the interactions that God’s gift of competence is unbounded. He extends competence as necessary to accomplish his purpose.
The example from Daniel illustrates that God extends human competence to accomplish an objective consistent with his purpose. Daniel’s recognition that he could rely on the unbounded competence of God defined a clear contrast between him and the Babylonian diviners. The diviners declared the king’s demand impossible to satisfy because they relied solely on human competence [Daniel 2: 11]: “What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.” In contrast, Daniel recognized that human competence derives from the unbounded competence of God and urged his friends “to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon” [Daniel 2:18].
Verification of Competence
King Nebuchadnezzar invited his diviners (magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers) to interpret a troubling dream for him but demanded they first prove to him that they could interpret the dream.
He demanded they verify their competence by first recounting the dream to him [Daniel 2:9]: “… You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” His diviners did not accept the challenge. Instead, they told him his demand was unreasonable and could not be met by any human [Daniel 2:10–11]: “The astrologers answered the king, ‘There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.’”
Daniel Invokes Competence of God
to Satisfy Nebuchadnezzar’s Demand
The king issued a decree to execute all the wise men of Babylon. The decree applied also to Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah because they were among the “wise men,” though not among the group that the king challenged with interpreting his dream.
Daniel became aware of the decree and requested a stay to give him time to interpret the king’s dream. He understood he and his friends faced a real threat of execution and did not have any previous experience interpreting dreams. However, he negotiated a stay based on faith of God intervening to save them. He returned to his friends and called for prayer [Daniel 2:17–18]: “Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.”
Daniel’s prayer was based on faith and motivated by desire to save himself and friends from imminent danger. An unstated motivation could be to demonstrate the power of God to Nebuchadnezzar and his people. Also, through the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Daniel and his friends were in fact on a mission to bring the message of God to that region of the world. Thus, his motive of saving himself and friends was consistent with God’s purpose that they stayed alive to work on the mission for which he took them there. We encountered a similar case of aligning with God’s purpose in a previous bible study under Joseph Interprets Dreams, when Joseph was motivated by compassion to pray to interpret dreams for two fellow prison inmates, not knowing the interpretation will help launch him into the next phase of a special mission.
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Aligning with God’s Purpose—Hannah’s Petition…, getting into alignment with God’s purpose does not require distinct recognition of God’s specific purpose in a given situation. However, if one’s actions are motivated by a desire to worship God and serve him through people, then such actions advance toward fulfilling our side of the covenant in which God promised to be our God if we worship and serve him. That is, a prayer will be closer to aligning with God’s purpose if motivated by a “hunger and thirst for righteousness” [Matthew 5:6].
Daniel’s prayer was, and God granted his request. “During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision…” [Daniel 2:19]. God revealed to him the details and meaning of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. First, Daniel recounted the details to the king, thereby verifying his competence to provide reliable interpretation. Second, he interpreted the dream. The king believed his interpretation and acknowledged the supremacy of God: “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery” [Daniel 2:47].
Verification of Competence
Daniel’s experience illustrates that God’s gift of competence includes the capability to verify the competence to satisfy a human standard. The human standard for verification of competence could include a certification process or demand for demonstration example.
A certification process is usually formal and could include examinations or other forms of proof of competence. A demonstration may at times be informal and could consist of solving a problem of known solution. For example, Nebuchadnezzar demanded the dream interpreter to first recount his dream because he could compare the account against the details of the dream that he knew. Demand for verification is a legitimate way for a human person or organization to determine if they could rely on a claim of competence. Because God’s gift of competence includes the capability to verify, one should always be prepared to respond to a demand for verification.
Human Effort with Faith of God
Daniel’s experience in this event illustrates the competence of God is unbounded. Therefore, human competence, which comes from God, is unbounded. Both Daniel and the Babylonian diviners recognized the king’s demand could not be satisfied by any human. However, the difference in their responses to this recognition of human limitation underscores the contrast between sole human effort and human effort with faith of God.
SOLE HUMAN EFFORT The Babylonian diviners relied solely on human effort. Therefore, they gave up and declined any attempt at the king’s demand: “What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans” [Daniel 2:11].
HUMAN EFFORT WITH FAITH OF GOD In contrast, Daniel recognized human competence derives from the unbounded competence of God. Therefore, he did not give up. He called for prayer: “He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon” [Daniel 2:18].
GOD EXTENDS HUMAN COMPETENCE We learn based on Daniel’s experience that competence of God is unbounded in every area of human need. Whether in science, engineering, medicine, agriculture, or any area of human interaction, to illustrate with a partial list; when you are confronted with an apparent limit of human capability, understand as Daniel did that human competence derives from competence of God and is unbounded. Continue with painstaking human effort, but take the problem to God in prayer. If your motive is consistent with living in the image of God, then God has promised to intervene and guide you to a solution even beyond what may appear as the limit of human competence.
Summary of What We Learned
Interactions between Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar help us understand that competence is a gift from God, includes capability of verification to win human confidence, and is unbounded as God can extend it as necessary to accomplish his purpose. When you confront an apparent human limitation, recognize like Daniel that human competence derives from the unbounded competence of God. Therefore, continue with painstaking human effort and take the problem to God in prayer. If your motive is consistent with living in the image of God, then God has promised to intervene and guide you to a solution even beyond what may appear as the limit of human competence.