We now return to the book of Daniel, and close up the story of Nebuchadnezzar. This is the famous story of how Nebuchadnezzar lost his sanity, acting basically like a cow for 7 years before finally acknowledging that God alone is sovereign.
The story opens up with Nebuchadnezzar praising God, saying,
How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. (3)
This indeed, is the theme of the whole chapter. Nebuchadnezzar then talks about how he had been in his palace, content, prosperous, and as a result, quite full of himself. But then he had a dream that terrified him. He saw a huge, beautiful, and fruitful tree that provided shelter and food to all. But then a messenger from heaven called out,
‘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.
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.’ (14-17)
I find Daniel’s response to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream very interesting. It was filled with compassion. Here was a man who took Jeremiah’s words to heart when he said,
Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. (Jeremiah 29:7)
Though Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the nation he loved, still Daniel desired Nebuchadnezzar’s good.
He told Nebuchadnezzar that this dream was directed at him and that judgment was about to fall on him until the day came when he recognized God’s sovereignty over all, including his own self. He then urged the king to repent so that God’s judgment would not have to fall.
As is God’s pattern throughout history, he gave Nebuchadnezzar time to do so before passing judgment. For one year, God waited for Nebuchadnezzar to repent. But after one year, nothing changed. And one day, Nebuchadnezzar was on the roof of his palace bathing in his own glory, saying,
Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty? (30)
At which point, God’s judgment fell on him, and he became like a beast for 7 years. When this happened, no one knows, although it has been noted that there is no record of Nebuchadnezzar’s activities between 582 and 575 B.C.
Finally, at the end of this time, Nebuchadnezzar looked up to heaven and his sanity was restored. As it was, he praised God saying,
[God’s] 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?”…Everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (34-35, 37)
What can we get from all of this? Very simply: Remember that God is sovereign. You are not.
What does this mean for us practically?
For one thing, are you in a position of authority? Whether as a husband, or a mother, or a boss, or whatever position you may be in? Remember that though you may have a position of authority, you yourself are subject to the ultimate Authority. And he will hold you accountable for how you use the authority you’ve been granted. God did not give you this authority to trample on those in your care. He has given you that authority to serve.
Jesus himself is our example. As God, he had ultimate authority. But he didn’t come to reign. He came to serve. And so should you. Serve your wife. Serve your children. Serve the people in your care. That’s what it means to be a leader.
Second, when you are worried about who’s leading you, whether on a government level, or in your job, or in your family, remember that God is sovereign. God has allowed them to take these positions of leadership over you, though we may not see why. And as Daniel did with Nebuchadnezzar, we are to seek their good and pray for them even when they aren’t good leaders. We are not to rejoice when they fail or fall. We are to pray for their repentance and restoration. For when our leaders are truly submitting themselves to God, not only will they prosper, but so will we.
How about you? Are you submitting to God’s sovereignty in your life?