Saturday, June 25, 2016

Triplets of Christ-Mind: Pride Demands God’s Judgment, Bringing Wisdom

Photo by Reinhardhauke 2012


As we began to explore last week, God gave Daniel the wisdom to interpret three visions for Babylonian kings, all of which were divine prophetic warnings. The first warning was Nebuchadnezzar’s dream symbolizing three future kingdoms that would replace his kingdom (Daniel 2:1-45). The second warning was Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great tree, foretelling how God would humble him (Daniel 4:4-27).The third warning was God’s handwriting on the wall, declaring judgment on the Chaldean king Belshazzar, who was Nebuchadnezzar’s son (Daniel 5:5-28).

The narrative of Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream begins with his proclaiming to all people, nations, and languages about God’s great signs and mighty wonders He had shown the king, and His everlasting kingdom (Daniel 4:1-4). This suggests head knowledge of who God is, but his subsequent words and actions reveal that he lacked wisdom to love and fear God and understanding to obey Him. Sadly, that is the situation with many who claim to follow God (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 7:15; Mark 7:6). Even the demons believe in God, yet will spend eternity in hell because they despise Him (James 2:19).

Although Nebuchadnezzar had been at leisure in his house, and thriving in his palace, he became frightened by a dream, subsequent thoughts, and visions in his head ((Daniel 4:5). The king himself could not understand the dream, nor could all the wise men of Babylon, except for Daniel.

Although Nebuchadnezzar praised Daniel, calling him master of the magicians, who was not troubled by any secret, he misunderstood the source of his wisdom, believing he possessed the spirit of the holy gods rather than the understanding that comes only from a heart relationship with the One True and Living God (v. 7-9).

We therefore can assume that Nebuchadnezzar was still unsaved, for he continued to believe in multiple gods rather than in Jehovah, and he repeated that he had given Daniel the name Belteshazzar, “according to the name of my god” (v. 8). Our One true God is a jealous God, commanding that we have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3-5), and telling us that the Name of His Son is the only Name by which we may be saved (Romans 10:9-13; Acts 4:12). Only the Lord Jesus Christ could be the perfect sacrifice reconciling sinful man to Holy God (2 Corinthians 5:18), so that all who trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) will have eternal life (John 3:16).

Nebuchadnezzar recounted his dream of a tree growing strong, high enough to reach heaven, and broad enough to be visible throughout the earth, with beautiful leaves, plentiful fruit, and roomy branches. It provided food for all, shade for the beasts of the field, and shelter for the birds. But this lovely vision was disturbed by a “watcher” and a “holy one” Who “came down from heaven” (Daniel 4:10-13).

This Holy Messenger cried for the tree to be cut down, for the branches to be cut off, and for the leaves and fruit to be scattered. He commanded the beasts to get away from under it, and the birds to leave its branches, but the stump of the tree’s roots to be left in the earth. Curiously, the stump was to be bound with iron and brass, yet left in the tender grass of the field, wet with the dew of heaven (Daniel 4:14-15).

At this point the language of the dream report shifts so that the tree more clearly represents a person, later interpreted by Daniel to be Nebuchadnezzar himself. The judgment was to let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth; to let his heart be changed from man's; and to let a beast's heart be given unto him, until seven years had passed (v. 16). He would be insane, roaming the earth like a wild animal. When men refuse to acknowledge their Creator, He turns them over to their own depravity (Romans 1:18-32).

Even Nebuchadnezzar, who was most concerned about the specific interpretation of the dream as it applied to himself, had the knowledge to realize it also was of general significance to all men. It was by the decree of the watchers, and the word of the holy ones, for instruction of all the living. Although Nebuchadnezzar then lacked the wisdom for a heart relationship with God, and the understanding to obey God, he at least had knowledge of God’s power. He knew that the most High rules over the kingdom of men, gives power to whomever He chooses, and appoints a wicked ruler, if that is what the people deserve (Daniel 4:17).

When Daniel heard Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he was stunned by the warning it contained, troubled by his thoughts concerning the interpretation, and diplomatic as began presenting it to the king, voicing hope that the dream would not apply to Nebuchadnezzar, but to those who hated him, and to his enemies (v. 19).

But there was no denying the interpretation God had given Daniel. The tree represented Nebuchadnezzar, who had become great, strong and powerful throughout the earth. Yet he lacked the wisdom to understand in his heart that all this came from God (James 1:17), even though he had acknowledged that with his words. God’s judgment was that the king would therefore lose the company of men, live with the animals, and feed like the oxen, eating grass and drinking dew (Daniel 4: 20-25).

He would be humbled in that debased state for seven years until he knew in his soul that God rules over all and apportions power as He chooses. But Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom would remain, so that when he came into his right mind he could reclaim it. Daniel advised the king to turn away from his sins, to seek the righteousness of God, and to show mercy to the poor, so that God might be merciful and delay His judgment on the king’s pride (v. 25-27).

Evidently God did give Nebuchadnezzar a full year to repent, but he still failed to acknowledge God’s power, mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:16). Instead, he bragged about having built the kingdom of Babylon by his own power and for his own glory. As he boasted, a voice from heaven announced that the kingdom had departed from him, that he would live with beasts instead of men, and that he would eat grass as cattle do (Daniel 4:28-32).

All this came to pass within the hour and lasted for seven years. Nebuchadnezzar’s body was wet with the dew of heaven, his hair grew out like eagles' feathers, and his nails became like birds' claws (v. 33). When man’s heart is filled with self-righteousness, pride, and rebellion, God may allow trials into his life to allow him to come to the end of himself and to seek God (Acts 17:27), as in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Only when we realize we are sinners doomed to hell and need the Savior Who redeemed us (Romans 5:16-18) can we be saved by faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8-9).

At the end of seven years of abasement, Nebuchadnezzar finally sought God, Who gave Him understanding (Daniel 4:34), for He always answers a sinner’s prayer to find Him. Nebuchadnezzar blessed, praised and honored God Who lives eternally, rules forever, and whose kingdom is continuous, lasting from generation to generation. (Daniel 4:34-35)

As Nebuchadnezzar finally knew God in his heart, God restored his reason, honor and brightness. His former cabinet once again supported him, he was established in his kingdom, and God gave him greater majesty than he had before (v. 36). The king ends his narrative with:

Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase. (v. 37)

May we daily seek God, recognize His strength and our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and praise Him so that He does not need to humble us for our pride (Luke 14:11). May we not only know about God, but seek wisdom to love Him in our heart and understanding to obey His Word!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
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4 comments:

  1. Dear Laurie,
    Nebuchadnezzar was certainly "a tough nut to crack" but I do agree with you that the king of Babylon was eventually saved. Not only was he impressed with Daniel, his three assistants who survived the fiery furnace, but also showed respect for the prophet Jeremiah, leaving him with a choice whether to remain in Judea or resettle in Babylon. It was a pity that Nebuchadnezzar's conversion wasn't taken seriously by Belshazzar, who I think might have been his grandson, with King Evil-Merodach being the direct son of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 52:31). If this is true, then the mystery of the three ribs in the mouth of the bear (Daniel 7:5) seems to make sense, since it was Nebuchadnezzar who razed Jerusalem to the ground, seventy years had to elapse before the Temple could be rebuilt, allowing the reign of the last three kings of Babylon, the only three kings under whom the Jews were subjected. Daniel must have been in his late eighties or early nineties by the time he was shut in the lion's den under King Darius' reign. Just my thoughts.
    Whatever the case might have been, the fact that Nebuchadnezzar's letter to his people actually becoming part of the Word of God is in itself remarkable.
    An excellent post. God bless.

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    1. Dear Frank,
      As always, I appreciate your Scripture-based insights and value your encouraging comments. It is indeed remarkable how God can use even pagans for His purposes, and, as you point out, even as part of His Word. Thanks for your valuable contributions and God bless,
      Laurie

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  2. I find it interesting to follow Nebuchadnezzar's growing understanding of God from his worship of Daniel in Daniel 2, to his prohibition against saying anything against God in Daniel 3, to his statement that he now worshiped God in Daniel 4.

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    1. Great point, Donald! Often we get discouraged because our witness seems to have no effect, but if we plant the seed, God will arrange for it to be watered and to bear fruit with His perfect timing.
      Thanks for your comment & God bless,
      Laurie

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