God’s patience for us
If you read the last post, you know that Nebuchadnezzar once again believes that Daniel’s God is the Most High God, but unfortunately, we’ll see again in Daniel 4 that the king backslides into his old habits.
Daniel 4 is the only chapter of Daniel not written by Daniel itself. It is written, or at least dictated, by the king himself (Daniel 4:1). It his is testimonial, if you will.
The chapter opens with Nebuchadnezzar praising the Most High God for his signs, wonders and everlasting kingdom. His dominion from generation to generation (Daniel 4:2-3). It seems he learned his lessons. This chapter is the story of his final lesson.
Nebuchadnezzar has another dream, and it seems has forgotten Daniel’s unique abilities, because he calls for all the wise men of Babylon to interpret the dream. Of course, they can’t, and finally Daniel shows up and Nebuchadnezzar appears to suddenly remember his skill at interpretation (Daniel 4:4-9). He tells Daniel his dream:
I was looking, and behold,
A tree in the midst of the earth,
And its height was great.
The tree grew and became strong;
Its height reached to the heavens,
And it could be seen to the ends of all the earth.
Its leaves were lovely,
Its fruit abundant,
And in it was food for all.
The beasts of the field found shade under it,
The birds of the heavens dwelt in its branches,
And all flesh was fed from it.
“I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed, and there was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. 14 He cried aloud and said thus:
‘Chop down the tree and cut off its branches,
Strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit.
Let the beasts get out from under it,
And the birds from its branches.
Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth,
Bound with a band of iron and bronze,
In the tender grass of the field.
Let it be wet with the dew of heaven,
And let him graze with the beasts
On the grass of the earth.
Let his heart be changed from that of a man,
Let him be given the heart of a beast,
And let seven times pass over him.
‘This decision is by the decree of the watchers,
And the sentence by the word of the holy ones,
In order that the living may know
That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men,
Gives it to whomever He will,
And sets over it the lowest of men.’ (Daniel 4:10-17)
And he asks Daniel to interpret the dream, through the Spirit of the Holy God (Daniel 4:18).
Daniel is shaken by the dream and it’s interpretation, he doesn’t want to tell the king what the dream means. He tells the king that he wishes the dream was meant for his enemies (Daniel 4:19). But, he gives the interpretation nevertheless:
In short, Nebuchadnezzar is the tree, powerful, seen by all, provider for many, strong and great whose dominion covers the earth. But that Nebuchadnezzar would be brought low, but not destroyed, and that for seven years, the king would be like a wild animal, eating grass and sleeping out in the wild, but that after seven years, his kingdom would be returned to him.
The dream was a warning, to for Nebuchadnezzar to humble himself before God, or else God would humble him forcibly (Daniel 4:19-27). We don’t know if the king takes the interpretation to heart or not, but a year later, he’s walking in his palace, looking over his kingdom and says to himself “Look at how great I am to have built all this” (Daniel 4:28-30).
As soon as he says it, he hears a voice from heaven reminding him of the dream, and his sentence therein. Nebuchadnezzar goes insane, is driven out of the palace and spends seven years eating grass, sleeping outside until his hair was so dirty and matted, and his fingernails so long unkept that he looked like an animal (Daniel 4:31-33).
After seven years of this, something in Nebuchadnezzar causes him to finally look up to heaven, to acknowledge God, and his mind is restored. He thanks God and praises him, and as far as we know, Nebuchadnezzar follows God the rest of his life. His place is restored as king of Babylon, just as God promised.
What is amazing is that God spent 30 years trying to reach Nebuchadnezzar. Why? He wasn’t an Israelite after all. I think God operated in the same way in the Old Testament that He does now. We may not see people going insane due to their pride anymore, but God is still chasing down those people who will follow Him if given enough chances. He continues to seek us, regardless of our history … or even how stubborn we are.
It also tells us that we cannot earn our salvation ourselves. Nebuchadnezzar, arguably one of the greatest and wealthiest kings in human history, still needed to humble himself before God. Why? Because this gift from God (Romans 6:23) is not something we can earn, no matter how hard we try, how much money, or power we have (Ephesians 2:8-9).
I want to bring this out, because in the next few posts, we’re going to be talking more and more about our responsibilities back to God, about keeping His commandments out of the love and gratitude we have for Him. But, I don’t want you confused and thinking that keeping these is what saves you. The Bible teaches four basic principles of attaining salvation:
- Believe that God loves you (John 3:16)
- Repent of your sins (Acts 11:18)
- Confess your sins to Jesus (1 John 1:9)
- Let Jesus into your life (Revelation 3:20)
And all these really do is acknowledge that we need God, that we can’t do it on our own. That’s the core message of Christianity. Nothing can save you but God, through Jesus’ sacrifice.
The interesting paradox in Christianity is this: That in acknowledging that you cannot do anything on your own, that you have no power, this gains you an incredible power through Jesus (Mark 11:24). That in order to truly live, we need to die to self (Luke 9:24).
Next post we’re going to delve a bit deeper into prophecy. We’re going to see another archetype come out: how physical Babylon extends into a spiritual Babylon that continues through to our time in the book of Revelation. We’re going to see a message from God to those still in captivity in Babylon. Stay tuned.