In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.
Daniel 7:1 (NIV)
The other day I had an unusual experience. All night long I had strange and vivid dreams. Most of them were the typical mish-mash of things both silly, non-sensical, and strange. I woke up, however, remembering one vivid dream about me and an old friend going golfing. This is funny because I’m not a golfer, though I remember playing a few holes with him once. That was over thirty years ago.
I remember from my dream that we were standing in line in the clubhouse waiting for our tee time. It was a busy course. There were others in our group, but I didn’t know them. The tee box for the first hole was literally right outside the clubhouse door in a sort of vestibule with the exterior walls of the clubhouse on either side of the tee box extending and creating a kind of alleyway. The fairway went about ten yards in front of the tee and then did a severe ninety-degree dog leg around the corner of the clubhouse.
What was funny about this is that if I try to hit a golf ball straight, it would probably shank at just that 90-degree angle (which is why I’m not a golfer) but I could never in a million years do that on purpose, and in my dream, I knew this. I was perplexed about how to proceed and considered using my putter off the tee to get the ball past the clubhouse wall and effectively lay up for my second shot. I can remember thinking in my dream what a terrible golfer I must be to have to use my putter off the tee.
For some reason, this dream stuck with me that day and it came to mind as I was getting ready for bed. I hadn’t talked to my friend in a long time, so I texted him out of the blue that evening. I didn’t expect him to reply immediately:
Okay, that was wild. Was there anything spiritual about it, or was it just a coincidence? Here’s where my thoughts on the prophetic provide me with guidance. I won’t dismiss it outright, and I won’t obsess about it. I do believe that everything is connected. I will hold on loosely and enjoy the wonder that my spirit, and/or Holy Spirit, seemed to somehow connect that a dear friend was celebrating a big waypoint on life’s road that day (and that I should have been with him at Pebble Beach that day!!! 😂😂😂).
Today’s chapter represents a huge shift in the book of Daniel. So far, it’s been a string of really incredible stories. From here on out, it becomes largely a record of prophetic dreams and visions. The dream in today’s chapter describes four strange beasts that are metaphors for the successive empires that will rule the Near East in the coming centuries: Neo-Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman. Daniel’s dream ends with a vision of “the son of man” (a title Jesus used of Himself) who will establish a kingdom of “all nations and peoples” with dominion that will be eternal.
It is not unusual for the prophetic to be “layered” with meaning. While it certainly points to the coming of the Messiah, the second half of today’s chapter is also regularly connected by scholars to the visions of the end times in the book of Revelation.
As I contemplated the prophetic and the dreams in today’s chapter, my thoughts led me to consider that God was particularly active in delivering miracles, dreams, and visions during this period of the Babylonian exile. That’s one of the themes across the Great Story. There are seasons and periods of time in which the miraculous and the prophetic are plentiful. Then there are seasons and periods of time in which they are rare. I find it fascinating that the seasons of plenty tend to coincide with periods of struggle. The time of Moses came in enslavement and wilderness wanderings. This period of the stories of Daniel and Esther happens during captivity and exile. Jesus’ arrival on the scene and the subsequent Jesus Movement happen as Daniel’s dream predicts, amidst Roman occupation and then persecution.
So I have found it to be in my own spiritual journey. It is in times of struggle, tragedy, wilderness, and exile that the work of God’s Spirit becomes more active and acute. Perhaps it’s because I’m spiritually more needy, focused, and open during these seasons. Perhaps it’s because God knows that I need more encouragement and a reminder of His provision and presence as I traverse the dark valleys on life’s road. Perhaps it’s a combination of both. Either way, there’s wisdom in embracing the reality that I will experience both types of seasons in my story, just as both types of seasons are present across the Great Story.
And, happy birthday to my friend, Matt. I hope Pebble Beach was a blast. It’s probably good I wasn’t there. Me putting off the tee would have only been an embarrassment.
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