Daniel Ch. 4 - The Humbled and Renewed Man

King Nebuchadnezzar, To the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly! It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. (Daniel 4:1-3)

These are words of a humbled king (the human soul). They tell about what God has worked in him –it’s his testimony as described in Romans 10 below!

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. (Daniel 4:4-7)

Even after the first vision about his kingdom coming to an end –his first encounter with God– Nebuchadnezzar continued to give lip service to Daniel’s God by putting Daniel and friends in charge of only a portion of the kingdom. Being no different from us, he did what he thought was enough to satisfy God. Christian life usually starts off with attempts at performing religious duties: Attending weekly services; repeating memorized prayers; participating in church and community events, etc. But God didn’t give up on the king, nor does He give up on us. Through life’s circumstances, God continued His appeal –showing Nebuchadnezzar that what he was and what he did were insufficient. In the same way, God knocks on the door of our hearts hoping that we will respond to Him for the answers to life’s meaning and purpose.

Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.) I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. (Daniel 4:8-9)

Did you notice that the king (our soul) finally called him Daniel (the Holy Spirit)? He recognized Daniel for who he really was: A representative from Judah (heaven)! All during the rest of this chapter, Nebuchadnezzar told what brought him to this point –like a flashback in time. That’s why he refers to Daniel as he previously knew him –as Belteshazzar.

These are the visions I saw while lying in my bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the beasts of the field found shelter, and the birds of the air lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed. (Daniel 4:10-12)

The tree is described as being the source of food and shelter for everything in the land. Everything was solely dependent it.

“In the visions I saw while lying in my bed, I looked, and there before me was a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him.” (Daniel 4:13-16)

Once again there is a “Holy One” coming to destroy the seemingly important things. The tree went from being the most magnificent thing in the land to merely a woodpile. Nothing would come for its shelter or its fruit. Ironically, that which was shelter for the animals would itself become an animal for a period of time.

“The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that 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. This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” (Daniel 4:17-18)

The king –with his words, but not his heart– recognized and proclaimed the authority of God over his kingdom and everyone else. Like the previous vision, which also terrified him, nothing brought peace of mind so he asked for Daniel. Similarly, we’ve all heard about God and even experienced some of His work in our lives, but in times of trouble we return to the familiar things to bring peace and comfort. It’s when the old ways fail us that we finally turn to God.

Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries!”“The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air– you, O king, are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.” (Daniel 4:19-22)

The first dream was about Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom coming to an end. But this one is about his personal demise. It’s one thing to realize that what we do has no lasting significance in this world (that’s the whole theme to Ecclesiastes). It’s more distressing to know that we ourselves won’t even be remembered for long –we just don’t make a difference. The tree represents our soul; the birds are our hopes and dreams; and the beasts are our attitudes and actions. Before Jesus, our hopes, dreams; as well as our attitudes and actions are solely dependent on our human abilities.

“You, O king, saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live like the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’“This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. (Daniel 4:23-25)

God humbles everyone; some accept Him during their life on earth and others wait until judgment day to bow at His feet. Those who accept Him as Lord in this lifetime reach the conclusion early: Everything that seems important –apart from God– will be destroyed and only the eternal things are truly valuable. This wilderness experience is nothing different from what we all go through. We learn about God and for some period of time we continue to live as we did before –not understanding the spiritual results of our actions. That’s what Jesus meant when He cried out to His Father on the day of His crucifixion, “Forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing!”

The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 4:26-28)

The king heard the gospel preached. He knew there were going to be consequences to be paid for his actions. The ball was in the king’s court.

Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.” Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. (Daniel 4:29-33)

Very few people take God’s word seriously at first. We have to go through hard times to recognize the emptiness and foolishness of self-sufficiency, perceived invincibility, and pride.

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-35)

Finally, True Repentance! It’s not the lack of confessions of his wrong doings that kept Nebuchadnezzar from God. It was his attitude: He was his own god –able to decide what was best to control his own kingdom. It’s at this point in his life that he acknowledged in his heart and proclaimed with his mouth the sovereignty of the Most High over everything. That’s what we do when we surrender to the “Holy One” – Jesus Christ– as our King, our Lord, our Redeemer!

At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (Daniel 4:36-37)

The tree grew again in glory, being no longer bound. In the passage from Ephesians below, there is a description of how we are to grow and live as a well rooted tree.

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge– that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:10-21)

I hope that is your prayer, too.