The Wrong Way & The Right Way

For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. Then with counsel and wisdom Daniel answered Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon; he answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, ‘Why is the decree from the king so urgent?’ Then Arioch made the decision known to Daniel. So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation.”—Daniel 2:12-16 (NKJV)

Have you ever asked someone a direct or pointed question only to have them offer a vague response in return, or worse, ask you to repeat the question (as if you weren’t clear the first time)? Or perhaps your boss questions you about a problem you don’t know how to answer tactfully, so you do what many of us do in uncomfortable situations: stall for more time.

In today’s verse, King Nebuchadnezzar gets angry because that’s exactly what his wise men did when he asked them about his dream. Not only did his advisors hem and haw and ask a second time for the king to tell them his dream, but they also got defensive and declared publicly that what he was asking was impossible when he refused to offer any further details.

King Nebuchadnezzar is so furious, he calls for their execution. Why? Bible commentator David Guzik notes that “Though he was a despot, Nebuchadnezzar knew that false religion is worse than useless. He knew that it was a curse, and he had no use for wise men that could not bring him wisdom from God.”

What happens next is interesting, and we should take note of the difference a godly approach to a problem can make. When Daniel heard about the situation, he questioned the severity of the king’s decree privately “with counsel and wisdom,” and once he understood the nature of the problem, he went to King Nebuchadnezzar directly to ask for more time. You see, Daniel understood several things the wise men didn’t: He knew the king’s demand was impossible for man, but not for God; he knew he needed time to seek God for the answer; and he didn’t try to stall or manipulate the king to offer more details about the dream.

Instead, Daniel goes directly to Nebuchadnezzar to ask for time to consult God on the matter, and the king apparently wasn’t bothered by his straightforward request. Daniel also didn’t level accusations at the king for being unreasonable. Rather, he proceeded with caution and confidence, not trusting in his own understanding but on God’s (Proverbs 3:5).

What can we learn from today’s verse? First, when faced with difficult or even threatening situations, we should not react defensively but respond in humility by bringing the issue to the Lord in prayer. Second, we should use discretion and not just vent our frustrations openly, which could lead to more trouble. When we take a godly approach, we can walk in confidence trusting in God’s omniscience and ability to turn any situation into His glory.

DIG: Why was King Nebuchadnezzar so angry at his wise men but not at Daniel when both needed more time to respond to his request? 

DISCOVER: How was Daniel’s approach to the problem different than the wise men’s, and why do you think it made such a difference in the situation?   

DO: The next time you are faced with a difficult situation or question you don’t know the answer to, be honest and direct (even about your limitations) and ask God for His wisdom and counsel. Then trust in Him to reveal the right response to take that will bring Him glory.