Addressing the nations of every language, Nebuchadnezzar pens an open letter, primarily to give glory and honour to Yahweh, but also as a cautionary tale for his subjects that God can humble even the proudest among us. Even after several encounters with the “God of Heaven”, Nebuchadnezzar still chose to follow in his own ways. Pride and arrogance had consumed the king and he was taught a timely lesson by the King of kings.
One day, God spoke to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream that scared the king out of his mind. As usual, neither the king nor any of his court appointed magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners could interpret the dream, enter Daniel.
The Great Tree
This time, Nebuchadnezzar narrated the dream to Daniel before asking for the interpretation, as Daniel was now his chief advisor. In the dream, he saw a great tree standing right in the middle of his kingdom (Babylon), visible to everyone on earth and providing shelter to all the creatures under the sun.
The more we read about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, it is startlingly clear that he was describing his own kingdom. The tree is a also a callback to the Tower of Babel from Genesis 11 where pride and arrogance had led the people to equate themselves with God. And just like God came down and halted the rising tower, similarly He sent a messenger to cut down this great Tree of Babel.
…‘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 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 4:14-16
The Spirit of God provides us with the discernment we need in our lives. Without experiencing the Spirit working in our lives, we cannot tell our right hand from our left (Jonah 4:11). It was the same with Nebuchadnezzar as he had only experienced God through the experiences of others but had no connection with His Spirit.
Daniel Interprets the Dream
On hearing the king’s dream, Daniel was taken aback as the great tree that was going to be chopped down by God was clearly Nebuchadnezzar.
Your Majesty, you 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 4:22
Daniel interpreted the dream to Nebuchadnezzar and told him that he would lose his mind for seven years during which he will be living among the beasts of the earth. His kingdom will be stripped away from him, till the time he acknowledged that it was God who gave him the reigns to his empire.
The purpose of God’s intervention in the king’s life was to make himself known to all the people of the world and remove all doubts with regards to who is actually in control. Nebuchadnezzar had brushes with the glory of Yahweh, at least on two separate occasions previously, but this encounter would not be soon forgotten by this erratic king.
Repentance is the only Way Back
God gives all of us time to change our ways, some maybe more than others. The Israelites were given many chances to repent before they were handed over to the Babylonian Empire. Even the inhabitants of the wicked city of Nineveh were given forty days to repent. God gave Nebuchadnezzar another twelve months to change his ways, else He promised that,
Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.Daniel 4:32
And surely, just like God had promised, a year later when Nebuchadnezzar was on one of his strolls on the roof of his palace, he stopped to admire his kingdom and claimed that he was the one who had built his empire.
Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you.Daniel 4:31
Immediately Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was fulfilled, as he was driven away from his people and ate grass like an ox. 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. He remained in his state, until the appointed time that God chose to restore him.
Nebuchadnezzar praises God for restoring him to his former state and acknowledges that the ‘God of Heaven’ is the only one in control and that no one can question Him. We as children of God have the right to ask our Father anything but must also accept the plans He has for us.
To a pagan king it may seem that our God is distant, doing what he pleases but as the ones who have been brought into his fold, we must embrace Him even more for choosing unworthy people like us.
It is strange to see a passage in the Bible not authored by one of the Jewish writers but Daniel’s inclusion of this letter that Nebuchadnezzar had seemingly written to the entire world, shows us how God can work in anyone’s life. We must understand that, while our pride and arrogance might give us confidence in our own abilities, our God can instantly humble our pride.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its fulfilment in many ways represents our journey from our rebellious phase back to the fold of God. Due to our self-confidence and pride we had let go of God’s hand that was our guide and had adopted the ways of this world.
Just like the king was given ample time to turn from his ways, we too are living in our grace period. Only by acknowledging that it is not us but God who is in control, will we be made whole again.