Saturday, October 27, 2012

Daniel 4 - Nebuchadnezzar's Pride

LINK: Daniel 4

BACKGROUND

This map shows the extent of Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom. He had so much in the world's eyes. No wonder he was so proud.

There is a big gap of time between the events of Daniel 3 and Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel 4. The events in in Ezekiel happen during this gap of time.

Nebuchadnezzar reigned for 43 years (605-562 B.C.). He was insane for seven year toward the end of his reign. Commentators believe the incident in Daniel 4 occurred during his 35th year of rule in 570 B.C.; perhaps 20-30 years after the three men were thrown in the fiery furnace. Daniel's age at the time of the incident in Daniel 4 ranges anywhere from 50-76 years old.

Daniel 4:1-18 and 34-37 are unusual because Daniel includes King Nebuchadnezzar's proclamation in the first person. Nebuchadnezzar refers to Daniel (Belteshazzar) as the chief of the magicians because he was the wisest of them all, and he needed Daniel to interpret his dream about a tree that was big, beautiful, fruitful, and provided shelter for all animals and birds but was also chopped down.

Daniel's interpretation was simple: Nebuchadnezzar was the tree, and he needed to be "cut down to size" because he had exalted himself above God. The punishment would be mental illness. Some commentators believe this was an illness called "zoanthropy" where a person thinks of himself as an animal and acts like one. Daniel exhorted Nebuchadnezzar to break away from his sins by doing what is right and being kind to the oppressed, but he did not listen to Daniel's advice, and the dream was fulfilled in twelve months.

Thankfully, the king was restored through repentance of his pride and acknowledgement of God's sovereignty, dominion, and irresistible will! This passage is also an indication of God's great love for ALL the peoples of the world, not just the Jews.

REFLECTION

I shared this in the first year of the Bible Book Club, when we studied the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, but I must share it again even though it is quite embarrassing:

In 1981, I was offered a position as a nutritionist at a nursing facility in Zaire. I would be the nutrition educator for nurses who would go out and do community health projects. In addition, I was to be the dorm mom/discipler, living "with them" on a daily basis and helping them grow in Christ and teach nutrition to people in remote villages.

I thought, "WOW! This is what I have always dreamed of! It is an opportunity for life-to-life discipling and also for using my college education!" I was so pumped.

I had to pray about it though. I asked God for a "promise." He gave it to me in the vision of the GREAT TREE:
Behold there was a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great (Hey, I'm tall. I thought this had to be my promise!).
The tree grew large and became strong 
And its height reached to the sky, (scary how much this sounds like the Tower of Babel)
And it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 
Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, 
And in it was food for all. (Hey, that is me. I'm a nutritionist, get it?)
The beasts of the field found shade under it, 
And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches (I would have all those nurses in my branches)
And all living creatures fed themselves from it (Nutrition and discipling. Physical and spiritual nourishment) (4:10b-12)
I thought I had found my promise. No joke! I was so arrogant and ignorant of the context of that Scripture that I just took it as my promise without reading the rest of the chapter! (George just leaned over to me right now to say, "Great individual verses, Carol; but bad theology!")

I had my promise, and I was ready to go, but my discipler gently suggested that I take a year before I go to get more training in discipling. So, I took her advice and decided I would go for "just a year" to the University of Oregon Navigator ministry and live in the training center with the new staff woman there. It was a great opportunity. So, I went.

And boy, did God ever have some training for me!

Suffice it to say that the year was one of the hardest and most humbling of my entire life, culminating in a nervous breakdown. God had to rip at the core of my arrogance and pride. It may have been the most humbling experience, but it was also the best thing that has ever happened to me. God loved me enough to humble me. I am so grateful.

In the course of that time, I started really learning what the Old Testament said (remember I was more a "New Testament" gal) and read the remainder of Daniel 4 about that "Great Tree."

An angelic watcher descended from heaven and shouted:
Chop down that tree and cut off its branches, 
Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit; 
Let the beasts flee from under it 
And the birds from it branches. (4:14)
Why did God do that to King Nebuchadnezzar?

He did it . . .
In order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, 
And bestows it on whom He wishes 
And sets over it the lowliest of men. (4:17b)

I was prideful. I was doing things for my own glory, and God was gracious enough to "chop my tree" down to size to show me Himself, just as He showed King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon after his kingdom was removed and then restored. I can agree with Nebuchadnezzar when he said, 
I praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride. (4:37)
So, this really was my "promise" even though it was incorrectly interpreted and applied originally!

Two different stories out of Babylon with the same root issue: PRIDE. 

Amazing.

Praise God for His ability to continue to chop away at my tree (or tower) one branch (or brick) at a time. May He do that in all of us for His glory!

APPLICATION

Ask God to show you where there is pride in your life that is keeping you from giving Him all the glory. I also recommend the book Praying God's Word by Beth Moore. She has a chapter on "Overcoming Pride" that is excellent to pray through!

PRAYER

Lord, we worship You as the God of all the earth. We bow down in humble adoration and praise and acknowledge that You are LORD of heaven and earth. We praise You that You are able to "humble those who walk in pride," and I ask that, by way of application, You speak to all of us here who are reading through Your Word, that You root out the pride in our lives so that only Your name will be glorified in our lives. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.


Characteristics of Daniel
He had insight into human history 
Scholars have attempted to put together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that we call “history,” but their best attempts have failed. Like the telephone book, the book of history has a huge cast of characters but no plot. Apart from knowledge of Scripture, we can’t interpret history accurately. 
At the center of history is the nation of Israel. Why? Because Israel is God’s chosen vehicle to bring salvation to the world, for “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). At the center of the Israel’s history is God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3) as well as God’s covenant with the Jews at Sinai (Ex. 20–24) and in the plains of Moab (Deut. 27–30). If Israel obeyed, God would bless them and make them a blessing to the Gentiles; if Israel disobeyed, God would discipline and use the Gentile nations to do it. 
But the visions also taught Daniel that the nations of the world were beastly in character, like lions, bears, leopards, rams, and goats. Nebuchadnezzar’s pride changed him into an animal (Dan. 4), and it is pride that turns leaders into worse than animals as they devour one another. In one sense, our world is improving, and we’re grateful for every advancement in medicine, communications, transportation, security, and comfort. But in another sense, the nations of the world are becoming “cheaper and cheaper,” as God revealed in the vision of the great image (Dan. 2). It goes from gold to silver, from silver to bronze, from bronze to iron, and from iron to clay! There’s not only a decrease in value, but there’s also a decrease in strength. By the time you get to the feet and toes of the image, there’s nothing but clay to hold it together! 
Daniel had no illusions about the future. He knew what the human heart was like and he knew what God had planned to do. No wonder his heart was resolute and nothing moved him or changed him! He could say as Paul did in the storm, “Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me” (Acts 27:25, nkjv). 

(Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (155). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)
Post a Comment