Not my words
The title of this hub is not mine. I lifted it from Scotty Smith's prayer for 11/18/11. A Prayer for Savoring and Celebrating Jesus' Kingship. It's worth your read. The prayer is a response to the account of Nebuchadnezzar's conversion to the true God found in Daniel 4. That alone got my attention. I have long believed and taught that the King of Babylon, the most powerful of his time, came to worship the true God. Glad to meet someone who agrees.
What converted Nebuchadnezzar?
Ultimately the answer to that question is "the power of God." But God often, not always, uses earthly visible means to further his purposes. In our arrogant and overly intellectual world we would expect to be reasoned into the faith. Absent a watertight argument for belief in a sovereign God, we feel justified in our agnosticism (the humble face of atheism).
What got Neb's attention was a God-orchestrated experience. There seems to be a direct relationship between our pride in achievement and the degree of pain God must apply. The day it happened, the king was preening himself on the roof of his castle. "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?" That's about as blatant as it gets. You and I would be embarrassed to announce our arrogance so boldly. But I take undue satisfaction in my bosses approval, or the hug of my granddaughter, or the compliment from a former parishioner. The difference between "undue satisfaction" and "appropriate joy" is in who get's the credit. If thankfulness wells up in your heart, you're free of Neb's problem.
Back to the king. God strikes. His timing is always perfect. A voice from heaven announces, "This is it, Neb" The king suffered an instant loss of perspective and became like the animals in the field. He ate grass, his hair grew shaggy and his nails became like claws. Wonder what sort of spin his press agent put on that one.
Seven periods of time (probably years) transpired before the king comes to his senses. This is how it's described. "At the end of the days, I Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High..." The prodigal reasoned first (I'm better off in my father's house) then acted. Nebuchadnezzar acted first (lifted his eyes to heaven, biblicalese for "turned to God") and then reasoned. God can do it either way.
True conversion or political posturing?
Well if it was posturing what would he have to gained in a heathen culture. He wasn't the governor of a Bible belt state. The biblical evidence is that he experienced a true conversion. The chapter begins with a public declaration of God's goodness to him.
"King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me." Sounds like Paul opening one of his epistles.
There follows an honest and straightforward account of what he experienced. He tells of how he had a scary dream which none of his court wise men were able interpret. The king had seen a tree grow so large as to reach the heavens. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit lush and its limbs offered shelter to the birds and shade for animals from the field. But then on order from on high the tree was chopped down leaving only a stump open to the elements. The stump was to be banded with iron bands, indicating that some good thing still lay ahead. Well, Daniel explained with some trepidation that the tree represented King Nebuchadnezzar himself and the day would come when he would be chopped down and left in the field. Sure enough, the man seems to have suffered some kind of mental and emotional breakdown that drove him out of his court into the fields where he became like an animal. All this the king reports without any apparent self-serving spin. When God rescued him, he's quick to give Him the credit and call on the whole world to honor the Almighty.
So the king went from politically correct polytheism to worshiping the one true God; from pride to humility; from soaking up the world's adulation to praising God with abandon.
Which was the greater insanity?
The king's preening on the roof of his castle or his wondering about with the animals in the field? In the former he reasoned, "I'm the most powerful man in the world. I've built this grand palace. I deserve to be treated royally." In God's sight that was far more irrational than anything the king did out in the fields.
So it is with us. Our most reasoned conclusion are deemed utter foolishness by God. Only the gospel returns us to sanity. For the gospel builds on two premises: God is great and holy; man is corrupt and sinful. The gulf between us can be bridged only by God at his initiative. And He has.