Who's In Charge?
There are two strong, disturbing visions of what life is like when lived over and against God being held in apposition to each other today. We have the folly of Nebuchadnezzar, a ninety foot tall gold statue he tells people to worship on pain of death (coupled with the greater folly of his own monumental arrogance) standing hip and should with John's vision of a bloated, anthropomorphic image of Rome/Babylon as a prostitute to the beast. Nebuchadnezzar's tale has a brighter conclusion than John's vision, but both are, and should be, profoundly disturbing.
It would be easy to externalize these images, to point at governments, or people with temporal power, that abuse that privilege and say that they are bad, to condemn "them" and to presume God's judgment upon their poor choices and corrupt actions. It would be easy...and it would be folly.
Life apart from God is being illustrated today, albeit in some pretty dramatic and stomach-turning ways. With those illustrations, we are being reminded that life apart from God is not sustainable. We can't live outside the reality that while we might hold sway in our lives over our immediate environs, we can't control it all--and we can't maintain that control for all time. Eventually, because we are mortal and because life is not predictable, things will change. The mighty fall. The meek rise. The worm turns.
God is reminding us that these conceits, the presumptions of being able to be in charge in the ways that God is in charge, do no one any favors. In fact, these conceits often cause even more damage than we can imagine. Rome and Babylon were magnificent empires, built on the vision of many rulers. They were also built on the backs and with the sweat of many subjugated peoples.
This is not the way God's kingdom works. God, being truly "in charge" is greater than this set of earthly, human presumptions. God's rule preserves the saints. God's rule prevails over the furnace. God's rule humbles kings. God's rule sets what is wrong back on the right path. Who's in charge? You tell me.