November 30, 2020 - Immanence and Transcendence

Most people with any knowledge of the Bible know the prophecy of Daniel 2. King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and he asks his wise men, first, to tell him the dream that he had and, second, to interpret it. When they can’t do either, he orders them all killed until Daniel, a Hebrew captive in the kingdom, giving credit to his own God, not only tells the king the dream but then interprets it for him. (Daniel 1:1-45) The king, impressed, declared,“Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.” (Daniel 2:47).

What’s amazing about this chapter is that it reveals two aspects of God: His immanence and His transcendence. Think about it: God is so close to humanity, so immediate to us, even to a pagan king, that He can give that king a dream and then, “in vision of the night” (Daniel 2:19), tell this Jewish captive in the kingdom what the dream was and what it meant. That’s closeness, that’s what theologians called God’s immanence. As Paul said, “He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).

And the transcendence of God? In the dream and its interpretation, a series of four world empires, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome, including the breakup of the Roman Empire into the nations of modern Europe, which will, the interpretation says, “be partly strong and partly fragile. And, too, they “will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay” (Daniel 2:42, 43). European nations, partly strong, partly fragile, but will not adhere, as in unite, with each other? How many wars in the past century alone have been fought among the fragile and strong nations of Europe, which, today, remain as divided as ever?

Immanent. Transcendent. That’s God, who knows, loves us, and promises us, in Christ, a wonderful future (Daniel 7:27).