Daniel 4:24-25: “… this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”
After his dream of the great statue (Dn. 2), and after God delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace (Dn. 3), Nebuchadnezzar still persisted in his pride. Daniel 4:29-30: At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”
So, God gave Nebuchadnezzar a second dream (Dn. 4:4, 13-17). As before, the king’s wisemen were not able to interpret the dream, and so he turned to Daniel, for God had enabled Daniel to interpret the king’s first dream (v. 5-12, 18). Once again, God revealed the meaning of the dream to Daniel, who then spoke its interpretation to the king (v. 19-27). Through the imagery of a great tree that was chopped down and destroyed, the dream foretold how God would humble the proud Nebuchadnezzar.
The main lesson which Nebuchadnezzar needed to learn is stated several times in the chapter: “… till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (v. 25, also v. 17, 26, and 32). In order to teach the king this lesson, God caused him to endure a period of temporary insanity during which he lived and ate like a wild animal, until he lifted his eyes to heaven, blessed the Most High, and praised him who lives forever and ever (v. 28-37). The end result was that, for a time at least, Nebuchadnezzar recognized God’s sovereignty and praised him as the everlasting King of all things (v. 1-3, 34-37).
One of the questions this chapter confronts us with is: How long will we persist in our pride? To what lengths will the Lord need to go to teach us to abandon our pride and gratefully acknowledge his sovereign rule and wisdom? Daniel urged Nebuchadnezzar to repent of his pride and wickedness, but he refused to listen (Dn. 4:27). Will we harden our hearts and stiffen our necks in the same way?
I learned humility from my dad. He is not a self-regarding person. All my life he has simply, quietly, and diligently gone about his business of working hard to provide for his family, help other people, and serve the Lord. There is nothing flashy about him. He does nothing to draw attention to himself. He simply does what he knows God has called him to do. I will be forever grateful to God for giving me a father who is such an example of true humility.
But, having seen this humility in my dad doesn’t mean that I haven’t had to learn the hard way myself about the dangers of pride. I have been stubborn. I have been arrogant. I have been argumentative. I have been self-seeking. And, the Lord has humbled me. He has humbled me through the consequences of my sin, through the confronting and convicting word of people who love me, and through failure, tragedy, and loss. The Lord is able to humble those who walk in pride (Dn. 4:37). He brings down those whose eyes are haughty (Ps. 18:27).
Humility is not just “knowing” that God Most High rules over our lives and everything else. It is living according to this truth. It is giving credit and praise to God instead of taking it for ourselves. It is admitting that God’s ways are better than our ways, and it is striving to walk in God’s ways instead of our own. It is following the example of Jesus who lowered himself to do what was best for us, instead of only looking out for his own interests (Phil. 2:1-11). So, let us not be as proud and hard hearted as Nebuchadnezzar was. Let us not so persist in our pride that God must drive us temporarily insane to teach us humility. Instead, let us seek to be humble as Jesus was humble. Let us repent of proud attitudes and actions when we recognize their presence in our lives, and let us keep our focus on God and others – and not ourselves.
Take time now to seek God. This brief prayer can help you get started. “O Lord, teach us to walk in humility before you. Forgive us for our stubborn pride. Change our hearts, that we will submit to you and honor you in all our ways. Thank you for the way you humbled the king of Babylon. Help us not to walk in his ways. Thank you also for the humble example of Jesus. Strengthen us, O Holy Spirit, to follow Jesus’ example. In His name, Amen.”