Today’s Reading: Daniel 1-4
Today’s Reflection: Daniel 4:23-24
And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king.
History: As a judgment against Judah, God allowed the southern nation to come under the rule of the pagan kingdom of Babylon, ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar. But despite their idol worship practices, Nebuchadnezzar quickly became acquainted with the true God. Under his instructions, Babylon had brought some of the finest of Israel’s young men to serve in their courts, including Daniel and his three close friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (better known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). King Nebuchadnezzar bore witness as following the God-given health laws of Israel resulted in Daniel and his friends being fitter and more clear minded than those who ate the rich foods prepared for the royal table (Daniel 1:8-21). He saw God’s miraculous deliverance of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). Nebuchadnezzar even received a dream from God Himself, which Daniel was able to recount to the King and correctly interpret for him (Daniel 2:1-45). All of this prompted Nebuchadnezzar to recognize and proclaim the God of Israel as the one true God and understand that it was this God who had placed him on the throne of Babylon (Daniel 4:1-3).
But despite this acknowledgment, despite all the miracles he had personally witnessed and experienced, King Nebuchadnezzar continued to practice and promote behaviour that went against the laws of God (Daniel 4:27).
The proud humbled:
The dream and interpretation Nebuchadnezzar received in Daniel 4 declared God’s judgment against him warning him to repent and turn from his wicked and ungodly ways. The dream describes a large and powerful tree, filled with fruit and providing shade to animals underneath it. Then a heavenly messenger gives a command to chop the tree down. The fruit falls away and the animals scatter as the once mighty tree is destroyed. All that remains of it is a stump, bound by a band iron and bronze, and exposed to the elements, for seven seasons. Daniel explains that this dream is a prophesy of future events, and that the subject of this prophesy is Nebuchadnezzar himself.
The tree was Nebuchadnezzar, who under the Lord’s authority, had grown strong and mighty. But after failing to obey the authority that placed him in power, God would remove him from power and take the kingdom out of his hands. Nebuchadnezzar would be bound my mental instability, forced out of the cities, and reduced to dwelling with the animals, and eating grass like a wild ox for 7 years.
It was a warning Nebuchadnezzar would fail to heed.
Not long after, Nebuchadnezzar was publicly proclaiming that it was he himself who had built the majesty of Babylon by his own hand and under his own power. God spoke to him right then to tell him what he prophesied was about to happen (Daniel 4:28-33). Nebuchadnezzar spent the next 7 years, out of his right mind, living like a wild animal. After this time had passed God brought reason back to Nebuchadnezzar and he was finally able to humble himself before the Lord (Daniel 4:34-37).
1) Understand that everyone and everything is under God’s authority. Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was his downfall. He failed to fully submit to God’s authority because he believed his position was due to his own ability. God had to take away Nebuchadnezzar’s human abilities, even his humanity itself, to get him to realize this. We may feel that something belongs to us by right or by our own power and abilities—wealth, a job, a spouse or significant other, even a ministry in the church. God may have to take these things away from us, for a time or permanently, so we can recognize everything we have comes from Him.
2) Understand that when God has revealed Himself to you, you become responsible for what you have seen. Denying what you have come to know is true may cause you to lose your mind. Nebuchadnezzar had seen God’s hand at work many times. Pretending he could continue to go on as if he were ignorant of the reality of God, and the obedience God required, simply was not an option. We too have truth revealed to us, but sometimes want to ignore it because accepting it would mean we could no longer continue in our sinful, rebellious ways. But the reality is we can’t ignore it. Knowing something, yet acting as though it were not true actually causes damage to our mental health. “He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:8)”. The truth convicts us, and if we fail to take heed to it the truth will condemn us at the time of judgment.
Romans 1:19-21 – For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
3) Understand that God can only use a man with a humble heart. A crucial part of God’s mission is to help people recognize Him as the source of our life, movement and our very being (Acts 17:28) through the salvation in Jesus Christ. We can’t be selfless ambassadors of Jesus if we have pride in our hearts. Prideful desires to come first, to be recognized, to be ‘right’ in our judgments and ‘win’ arguments will get in the way of being attentive to the needs of others and listening for the promptings of the Holy Spirit. You can’t minster for God and elevate yourself at the same time. You can only serve one master (Luke 16:13).
Isaiah 66:2 – All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
Psalm 149:4 – For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.