Monday, September 19, 2016

The Wisdom of School-Boys

"What were you thinking?"  Every parent has uttered these words.  My husband often follows it up with the frustrated growl, "You WEREN"T thinking!"  The hallmark of maturity is the ability to guard both our actions and our words in terms of their consequences.  But our grandparents wouldn't wouldn't have called this "maturity," they would have called it wisdom and it's this characteristic that is highlighted in the second chapter of Daniel.  

The story begins by challenging us to do a little math: "Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar,"   Daniel was supposed to be trained for 3 years (Daniel 1:5); Nebuchadnezzar can not have been King for more than 3 years*(Daniel 2:1). Daniel had been kidnapped at Nebuchadnezzar's direct order.

3 years of school -  only 3 years as King = still in school

The fact that Daniel was still a schoolboy helps the rest of the story make sense.  No wonder Daniel wasn't there when the King called in the fortune-tellers and the sorcerers and ordered them the declare his dream.  He wasn't a full fledged wise man yet!  That's why the Captain of the King's bodyguard, Arioch, has to search for the boys and have them all killed. (Imagine Anakin storming through the Jedi temple slaying all the younglings in Revenge of the Sith)

And when surprised and shocked by the newly declared policy of having all the wisemen killed, Daniel "replied with discretion and discernment."   This shouldn't shock us.  All the boys in the wise-man school had been chosen for similar talent (Daniel 1:4).  Yet only Daniel had the wherewithal to stop Captain Arioch in his tracks.  Only Daniel had the courage and the sense to approach the king and ask for more time. 

I have long wondered about this. Why did Daniel need more time?  Later in his prophetic career Daniel would be able to instantly access miraculous knowledge just like God's other prophets (Daniel 4 and 5, 2 Kings 20, Amos 7). But here at the beginning Daniel, and the three young men, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (often known by their Babylonian names of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego) just pray!   God does not seem to have acted miraculously in their lives before. Daniel has enormous faith; he believes if the four of them pray, God will reveal the answer to him.

Daniel had wisdom.  A characteristic we all wish our children possessed in abundance, yet a commodity we still  struggle to quantify. 

Is wisdom super-powered knowledge?  Like the difference in Usain Bolt and The Flash?  

Does wisdom just deal with social and life skills whereas knowledge is taught in a classroom?  Or perhaps both of these and something more?  

For Daniel, wisdom was the ability to think quickly of just the right thing to say.  Wisdom included the courage to speak up and save himself and others.  Wisdom wasn't already having all the right answers to the King's impossible questions but having the faith to get down on his knees and beg for them.  Wisdom was praising God with all his heart when he received the answer he needed.  

This week as you study with your kids, be sure that you read the story straight from the Bible.  Don't forget to compare the timing between Daniel 1 and 2.  Help them to see that although Daniel still very young, he behaved very wisely.  Point out that in the moment of crisis Daniel knew the right thing to say; he was courageous and kept his head.  Furthermore being wise doesn't mean having all the answers. "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5). Spark discussion by asking your kids to think about situations where they need wisdom and help them see that like Daniel they can be wise: quick thinkers, faithful seekers, and courageous champions.

*The Babylonians count "Ascension, year 1, year 2..." So say Nebuchadnezzar became King half way through a year, that year would be his ascension year and the following year his "first" year. At the end of his second year he could have reigned at most 3 years. See Mark Mangano's "Esther and Daniel"  from "The College Press NIV Commentary" for more details on the chronology of Daniel. 

1 comment:

  1. I love that you are encouraging parents to read the Bible stories straight from the Bible. While we do have a few Bible story books, I do think they should be treated as commentary alone and not the true Word of God.

    Thanks so much for linking up with us at Literacy Musing Mondays.