I want to remember that earthly power is temporary. Lent Week 3, Day 17
The Old Testament book of Daniel tells a fascinating story. Nebuchadnezzar is a king who is consumed with himself. He loves power. He loves being the center of attention. He loves being the object of people’s worship.
There are moments when Nebuchadnezzar starts to get it. But those moments are short-lived. Among the egocentric actions he performs as king, he builds an idol and demands all people bow down to him. He also gets tricked (but I don’t think the perpetrators had to work too hard) into signing a resolution that all people can pray only to him.
Nebuchadnezzar writes about a dream he had. He talks about the lessons he learned—of where his egotism and pride took him. He lost everything he had. He learned a lesson of humility.
And eventually, he loses his kingdom. And it’s not just that he loses his kingdom because he died and passed it on to his son. Another kingdom comes in and drives him out. And then that king gets overrun and another kingdom takes over.
And then another king and another king….
Power feels good. Power brings attention. Power is the narcissist’s dream.
But power is temporary. It will go away. Every powerful leader throughout human history? Either dead or dying. How many empires are called “the most powerful kingdom the world had known” only to not exist anymore? The power that comes and corrupts and satisfies pride will go away.
There are days that knowledge brings me great comfort.
And in the book of Daniel, there are these characters: Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego. These young people are amazing.
When a law is passed that says everyone must pray to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel immediately goes to his room and prays to God.
When a law is passed that says everyone must bow down to a really big gold statue, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stand tall.
They knew earthly power was temporary. They knew they believed in God—a real God who wielded real power. They knew that the principles they stood for were more important than turning their backs on God.
And for the rest of their lives they lived as slaves in someone else’s kingdom. They never received earthly freedom. They never returned to their home.
Yet they remained steadfast to what and who they believed.
While I want that to bring comfort, I often find it to be quite convicting.
“Earthly power is temporary” does not mean
that eventually every elected official will be one I agree with.
that in terms of policy and law I will someday get my way.
that I can absolve myself of responsibility to God and others during corrupt leadership.
Earthly power being temporary means that regardless of who sits on the throne or lives in a white house, I stand when others bow. It means I pray to God when others pray to earthly power symbols. It means that I serve and work for those around me.
It means I trust in God more than I trust in the next election.