|Lessons from the book of Daniel
Daniel, ch 4
“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace. I had a dream, and it frightened me; while in my bed, the images and visions in my mind alarmed me…”
Daniel interpreted the king’s dream: “…this is the decree of the Most High that has been issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people to live with the wild animals. You will feed on grass like cattle and be drenched with dew from the sky for seven periods of time, until you acknowledge that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms, and he gives them to anyone he wants. As for the command to leave the tree’s stump with its roots, your kingdom will be restored to you as soon as you acknowledge that Heaven rules. Therefore, may my advice seem good to you my king. Separate yourself from your sins by doing what is right, and from your injustices by showing mercy to the needy. Perhaps there will be an extension of your prosperity.”
All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months, as he was walking on the roof of the royal palace in Babylon, the king exclaimed, “Is this not Babylon the Great that I have built to be a royal residence by my vast power and for my majestic glory?”
While the words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared that the kingdom has departed from you. You will be driven away from people to live with the wild animals, and you will feed on grass like cattle for seven periods of time, until you acknowledge that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms, and he gives them to anyone he wants.”
At that moment the message against Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people. He ate grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with dew from the sky, until his hair grew like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. Daniel 4:4-5 and 24-33
I recall people who lived in the wilderness and didn’t like it. Even though they lived there an extra long time because they didn’t obey God, rather than repenting with abject humility and confessing, “Lord, we should have done what You told us; You do everything so well and all your ways are righteous…,” they continued to grumble and complain. Eventually, those grumblers were destroyed.
God acts as if the grumbling, complaining and ingratitude are a big deal. The Old Testament Israelites got in major trouble for grumbling, and even a fellow like Nebuchadnezzar lost his position because he refused to honor God and give Him thanks. In the New Testament we are specifically commanded to rejoice in the Lord always and to give thanks in all circumstances. Obedience in this regard is not natural, it’s not easy, but it is required. This is a command, not helpful advice for those who would like to have a happier life. It’s a command. Give thanks to God. Praise him. Whatever you’re going through, praise the Lord. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This is a command.
Why do we think that we don’t have to obey God’s command? Why do we think we can grumble and it won’t be as offensive to God as when the Israelites did it? Why? No matter how successful you become, obey. Give God thanks. Give God all the glory. You may feel this doesn’t apply to you because your life really hasn’t been all that successful; you just hang out with successful people whenever you can.
It’s great to be part of the privileged class. At one of the first Sunday School parties I went to in the Atlanta of the 1980’s, a man in the church walked over and said to me, “I wonder what the poor folks are doing tonight?”
This man was excited to be there at the party in an upscale community, because, like many of the other people in the church, he had grown up poor. He got an education, thanks to the G.I. Bill. As a result of his education, he got a good job and he made a good living, and now, he had a nice retirement. He felt mighty good about himself.
It was all the more exciting to him, because he was just one generation removed from poverty. Therefore, it was all the more important to him that people know where he had come from and that he had really come a long way. He was excited about his prosperity, but he was not giving thanks to God. He was just very happy to be prosperous. This doesn’t sit well with God. It really doesn’t. God wants your praise and your thanksgiving.
Think for a moment what God has done for you. You may not be like Nebuchadnezzar, King of the known world, standing on your balcony looking over your gardens and all the magnificent architectural glory of your realm, but you probably have something that you can point to with pride and then brag about your own accomplishment. I don’t know how you’ve succeeded, but if you look at your accomplishments as if they’re your accomplishments, you have a very unhealthy perspective. If your natural inclination is toward complaining, criticizing, grumbling, fussing, finding fault, this is shameful too.
Daniel is a positive role model in giving God all the praise. Nebuchadnezzar is a negative role model. Both of them teach us the same lesson. Given the opportunity, Daniel gives all the praise to God. Nebuchadnezzar has to learn to do that via physical changes that appear to be the result of a nervous breakdown.
I’ve been around some people who had “hair like feathers.” Howard Hughes had the extremely long fingernails. If you saw a man at the zenith of his powers and at the pinnacle of world government, have this precipitous fall, living outdoors for seven years like a brute beast, wouldn’t you want to learn a lesson?
What do we learn? God didn’t kill Nebuchadnezzar. He broke him. He humbled him, but he didn’t kill him right off. For seven years he lived outdoors like an animal. God not only allowed him to live, God allowed him to repent. God restored him. His son, who we read about in chapter 5, knew all this, and was arrogant and blasphemous nevertheless.
No matter how successful you become, remember to give all the glory to God.