Book of Daniel - Learning the Hard Way
Chapter 4 - Learning the Hard Way or God's Way!
In Daniel Chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon was given a choice between a hard way and an easy way. He chose the hard way. Some of us would admit that we have learned a number of hard lessons in life because we did things our way instead of God’s way. Daniel was about 50 years old at this point in the story, it was believed that 30 years might have passed since the episode of the fiery furnace described in Daniel Chapter 3.
King Nebuchadnezzar prepared an official proclamation distributed throughout his kingdom. King Nebuchadnezzar wanted everyone in his kingdom to know that he had an encounter with the true God. It’s remarkable that a king should openly share that he learned an important lesson the hard way. It was the worst experience of his life, but it was also the best thing that ever happened to him.
Daniel 4:4 - The Dreamer
Nebuchadnezzar was now the king of the greatest empire in the world at the time. His kingdom stretched from what is today Egypt to western Iran, and from modern Syria into Saudi Arabia. He was enjoying a time of peace with his enemies because everyone was afraid to attack him. He was an accomplished builder for he had hundreds of thousands of slaves working for him. One of the outstanding structures that he had built was the Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was a special gift for his queen Amytis, who had been raised in the mountains of Media and who didn’t like the flat plain of Babylon. So Nebuchadnezzar built this impressive structure which consisted of a series of elevated gardens with multi-tiered terraces especially for her.
At long last, Nebuchadnezzar was able to rest at home and delight in all that he had accomplished. He was contented and prosperous, he felt satisfied and secured. As he surveyed all the wonders of his great capital city, he began to think that he did it all by his own power and ability. But he was soon to learn that all these achievements were not his own doing but God was behind it all.
Success and prosperity are good, but they can be dangerous if we don’t handle them properly.
Prosperity and success can cause us to have a false sense of happiness and security. Sometimes we don’t recognize what gives true security until our world is shaken and things start to shatter. This is what was about to happen to Nebuchadnezzar.
Nebuchadnezzar was busy chasing after the things in life that he had no time for God. So God had to talk to him when he was asleep; God gave him a dream to communicate an important message to him, in fact He gave him a nightmare!
Daniel 4:5-18 The Dream
In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw a great flourishing tree that fed and sheltered a host of animals and birds. But at the height of its majesty, an angel came and ordered it to be cut down, its branches and leaves cut off, its fruit scattered, and its stump bound with iron and bronze.
Then the angel announced that someone would live like a wild animal for “seven times” or “seven years” and then be restored. The dream was sent to deliver an important message: “…the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men” (Dan 4:17, 25, 32).
The message is that God alone is in charge. He alone decides who is to rule, He gives the authority, and He delights to appoint the lowliest, the humblest of men because He hates pride. He “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). It was a warning to Nebuchadnezzar because he was proud. Unless he changed his ways, he was going to undergo a personal disaster.
Nebuchadnezzar was terrified by the dream. He summoned his wise men and asked for interpretation, but they were baffled, so he called Daniel. The king recognized that “the spirit of the gods” was in Daniel, for he was still believing in multiple gods; but the truth is that Daniel’s God is the one true God who could give wisdom and insight. After hearing the description of the dream, Daniel was stunned and troubled, and he told the king, “…you, O king, are that tree!” (Dan 4:22).
Daniel 4:24-27 The Interpretation of the Dream
The dream was a warning of judgment for Nebuchadnezzar and he was given an opportunity to change his ways. So Daniel urged the king to do 2 things:
1. Renounce sins. Repent of his pride, humble himself before God and submit to God’s way and start doing what is right.
2. Be kind to the oppressed. Nebuchadnezzar had built a vast empire by exploiting and taking advantage of the slaves. He ruled with an iron rod and showed no mercy to those in need. He used his wealth to gratify his selfish appetites instead of helping the poor.
Unless he repented of his ways, he would be struck down with personal disaster, and live like a beast for 7 years. Although Nebuchadnezzar knew that what Daniel spoke was true, he refused to heed the warning. Pride had so gripped his heart that he would not submit to the will of God and make a new beginning. He had to learn lesson the hard way.
The Sin of Pride
The world today doesn’t think that pride is a wicked sin; as a society, we like to boast of our success and accomplishment. Pride, is the first of the seven deadly sins that God hates, says Proverbs 6:16. Pride is the fountainhead of other sins; it leads to discord, jealousy, arrogance, self-righteousness, a judgmental attitude, etc. No one is exempted from the temptation to pride.
It is pride that caused Satan to fall (Is 14:12ff), and now he uses pride to tempt us. He used it on Adam and Eve, he used it on Jesus and now he uses it on us. Different things inflate pride in different people. And so Satan uses different baits to tempt us.
Some Christians are more susceptible to things like power, money and position; they easily get puffed up when surrounded by worldly success, recognition and goods. Others are more susceptible to arrogance over spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are essential for our spiritual growth but we must be careful that we don’t develop a superiority complex over others.
The Danger of Pride
What is the danger of pride?
• Forget God
Pride caused Nebuchadnezzar to forget God; it can cause us to forget God too, to forget who God is and what He has done for us. Moses cautioned his people that when they had become satisfied, they should praise the Lord and be careful not to forget Him. Pride can cause us live like we don’t need God, we can do things without God. Pride can also cause us to live like we are better than others, we look down on others.
• Look down on others
Pride makes us compare with others, especially those who are less accomplished than us- those who are of lower position, drive a smaller car, live in a smaller house. When we compare with these people, it makes us feel good about ourselves and more superior to others. That was Nebuchadnezzar’s problem, he couldn’t see others as important and as deserving as him. He oppressed the slaves, he was blind to their needs, somehow they were not worth as much as him!
Are we blind to the needs of other people? When we give to the poor and needy, what is our motive?
Do we give it out of pride?
Do we do it to be seen to be doing the right thing?
Or do we do it, because they are as deserving as us and we want to use what God has given us as God would like it?
We are all created equally in the eyes of God. But when there is pride in us, we tend to look down on others and tend to be critical about their behaviour and condition.
God was incredibly gracious and patient with Nebuchadnezzar; He gave him a year to repent of his pride and turn to Him. But Nebuchadnezzar said No! So, God had to deal with him the hard way.
Daniel 4:28-33 The Humbling of the Dreamer
One day, Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the roof of his palace, boasting about what he had built. Suddenly, a voice from heaven announced that the time of probation had ended and judgment was about to fall. God is patient, but when the time comes for Him to act, there is no delay. Immediately, his mind became like that of an animal. He was driven from the royal palace, and for 7 years, he lived like a wild beast in the fields. One of the greatest, most prosperous, most powerful human kings to ever live was utterly and completely humiliated by God. Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself and he was humbled. But when he humbled himself, he was about to be exalted.
Daniel 4:34-37 The Restoration of the Dreamer
At the end of 7 years, as God had promised, Nebuchadnezzar was delivered from his affliction and restored to sanity and normal human life. It began with him lifting his eyes to God (Dan 4:34). Nebuchadnezzar repented and humbled himself before God and was restored. The first thing he did was to praise the Lord (Dan 4:34).
7 years earlier, the king considered himself a great man and his kingdom a great kingdom, but now he has a different perspective. In verse 35, He admitted that no one, not even a king, is in a position to question God’s action. He admitted that his punishment had been proper and he was in no position to complain.
Whatever God does, it is always right, it is always good! We just have to humbly submit to His perfect will.
Nebuchadnezzar had found something bigger than himself to live for- something bigger than even his mighty empire, he had found the Sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords. His life was totally transformed and he was prepared to dedicate all his energies and wealth to serve this one true God.
Nebuchadnezzar learned his lesson the hard way. He who thought of himself as a god became a beast to learn that he was only a human being.
God not only restored the king’s mind, He graciously restored his honour and splendour and gave him back his throne and he “became even greater than before” (Dan 4:36). Instead of boasting about his own accomplishments, Nebuchadnezzar said, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven…” (Dan 4:37). He closed with the lessons the Lord had taught him: “…And those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Dan 4:37).
Learning & Living God’s Way
Daniel 4 draws an unforgettable image of what can happen to a human- no matter how powerful or accomplished, when he allows his heart to swell with pride. This Chapter also raises the issue of personal salvation. The king was saved because he responded to God with repentance and faith.
In this busy modern world, we can become completely absorbed in solving every other question around us that we neglect the most important question concerning our salvation and spiritual priorities. Sometimes, we are like Nebuchadnezzar, we procrastinate in obeying God’s instruction. As a result we had to pay the price, suffer the pain and learn the hard way. But the good news is this: We don’t have to live like that. Not everything in life has to be learned the hard way. We can learn and live God’s way. How to do that?
1. Humble yourself. Humble yourself before God and He will give you grace, He will exalt you.
2. Seek godly advice. Who do you turn to for godly advice? Nebuchadnezzar went to the wrong people at first.
3. Be teachable. Daniel was teachable and so God gave him profound insight into deep spiritual things.
4. Acknowledge that God is sovereign. Acknowledging that God is in charge is the beginning of many good things in our lives. It is saying, “Lord, I’m going to move out of the way and let You be God.”
We don’t have to learn the hard way. Let’s start learning and living God’s way!