GOD HUMBLES A PROUD KING
Story based on Daniel 4
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Nebuchadnezzar worshiped idols. We know of a few - the idols Nego, Marduk and Aku. At the same time though, he knew who had won his kingdom - he had. He was smart, shrewd, tactically brilliant, manipulative, brutal. He could use people the way he wanted. He could take their lives when he wanted. He knew just when to strike his enemies at their weakest points. He was a great King and he had created his kingdom - it wasn't his idols. In his heart he knew it.
But then one day he had a total change of heart. He came to realize that his kingdom did not come from his idols, his kingdom came from the Most High God, the God of Israel. And he was so convinced of that that he wrote a decree about it to everyone in his country in a language they could understand, and he wrote it probably to people who lived in other countries.
Let me tell you how this all happened.
It started with another dream. He was doing well. He was rich. He didn't have to worry about his enemies. He was more powerful then them all. But even though he was rich and safe, he was not safe from this dream.
In this dream he saw a giant tree, so tall that the top of the tree touched the sky. It was so tall that no matter how far someone traveled - they could still see the top of the tree. Not only that, it was beautiful. It had enough fruit on it to feed everybody. People would hide from rain storms under it. When the sun was too hot, they would have a siesta in its shade. All kinds of birds nested in its branches. Even every animal was fed by it. But then a messenger, an angel came down from heaven and he commanded: 'Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. (Use elastic band around finger to demonstrate the effect of the iron and bronze band around the tree trunk).
But then the dream suddenly changed. Instead of a tree, the messenger started talking about a man. "'Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him. "'The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.'
In his dream, king Nebuchadnezzar heard the announcement. It terrified him. He did not know what it meant. His heart was anxious so he sent for his wise men, magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners, the experts in Babylon in interpreting dreams. He hoped that with them, they might be able to explain it in a way that would make him happy again, at least give his heart some peace.
But when he told them all the dream, they were stumped. And if they had an idea what it was about, they weren't about to tell Nebuchadnezzar. After all, he had a history of throwing even people he liked into blazing furnaces. If their interpretation upset him, they could be roasted next. If he thought their interpretation was wrong, or lies, they knew they would be joining others in the fiery furnace. So they said nothing. They were stumped.
Finally, Nebuchadnezzar sent for Daniel. He didn't really want Daniel to interpret his dream because he knew Daniel spoke the truth when he spoke, and Nebuchadnezzar was afraid of the meaning of this dream. But the truth is better than nothing - and so he sent for Daniel - he knew that Daniel could accurately interpret the dream because the Spirit of the God of Israel was with him.
When he told Daniel the dream, Daniel was confused and scared because he knew the dream was not good news. King Nebuchadnezzar reassured him. "It's OK, tell me the dream no matter what it means." And so Daniel told him what the dream meant. He said: "My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries!
The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air--you, O king, are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your kingdom extends to distant parts of the earth. "You, O king, saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, 'Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live like the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.' "This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules.
You mean that your God gave me this kingdom? I didn't build it by myself?
Yes your majesty! And until you recognize that, this will come true of you.
Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue."
Now King Nebuchadnezzar was a proud man, and like many proud men, he was a little bit slow to learn. He heard Daniel's advice, but he didn't really take it to heart. He thought he would be a little kinder, a little nicer to his slaves, but he had a kingdom to keep. And so he went on with his life, and it wasn't long before he was back to his old ways. He tricked those who served him. If he was just a little angry, he would roast a few more people. He didn't really care if things were not fair.
He continued on this way for a year. One day, he was walking around on the roof of his royal palace. He looked out over his massive kingdom. He saw his two other palaces in the distance. How wonderful they looked. He saw chariots racing on the walls of the city - he had built them. 25 kilometers of walls, 6 meters thick, 10 meters tall. And they were double walls. No enemy would ever attack him.
And the palace he lived in 50 times bigger (630,000 sq ft.) than any of our homes. And his hanging gardens were regarded as one of the wonders of the world. He had machinery built to lift water out of the Euphrates river just to water these gardens.
He looked at all he had accomplished and he said to himself "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?"
But he hadn't finished the word majesty before he was interrupted by a voice that came from heaven!
"This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes."
In that moment, Nebuchadnezzar's mind changed. He bent over. Instead of walking on two feet, he started to crawl on his hands and his feet. He couldn't think like a man. He couldn't speak. All he could do was paw the roof of his castle hoping to find some grass to eat. How he got off the roof, we don't know, but he went out into the fields around Babylon. Days and Nights he spent in the field, eating grass, making strange animal sounds. He was naked, but his hair grew long all over his body, so long it covered him like fur. In the mornings his body would be drenched with dew. His finger nails became long and strong, like claws on a bear. No longer was he king. He had become an animal, nothing more. He had no kingdom. He had no accomplishments to boast about. He was insane.
Finally after 7 years of being insane, he looked up and realized that God, the most high had done this to him. And he came to his senses. He recognized right away that in a nation where there were many gods, there was one God greater than them all - God most High, the God of Israel, the God of Daniel, our God. God is the one who has an eternal kingdom that last throughout history. He is so powerful that he does whatever he wants, even to men like Nebuchadnezzar. No one can stop him. There is no God as great as the God of Israel
When Nebuchadnezzar realized this, his sanity returned. Once again, he became king of Babylon. Daniel had taken good care of his kingdom while he was insane.
And so Nebuchadnezzar wrote a letter to everyone, all the nations, all the people, in a language that everyone could understand - Aramaic. In that letter he stated all that had happened, and he let everyone know that there is no God like the God of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar was a proud king, whom God had humbled. And now even Nebuchadnezzar became a person who worshiped God Most High - the God of Israel. He concluded his letter with these words: Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
The Scripture on which this story is based: Daniel 4 (NIV)
Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven,
because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And
those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.