Lesson One for the King
In Daniel 2, we saw Daniel recount the King’s dream back to him, and give it’s interpretation so that the king recognizes there is no god like the God of heaven.
The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” ~ Daniel 2:47
Lesson learned right? Not quite.
Lesson Two for the King
We saw in the last chapter Daniel’s three friends going through persecution from King Nebuchadnezzar for being faithful to the One True God. At the end of that chapter, the King realizes (for the second time) that God is almighty and there is no other like Him.
Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.
Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” ~ Daniel 3:28-29
Again, Nebuchadnezzar understands that there is no god like our God and He is able to deliver his people.
Lesson learned right? Again, no.
Lesson Three for the King
It seems King Nebuchadnezzar still has one more lesson in store for him to really bring home the message that God is omniscient, ominpresent, and omnipotent (all-knowing, everywhere at all times, and all-powerful). This one really drives it home because it impacts King Nebuchadnezzar personally. So much so that this chapter is written from the king’s perspective:
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king, To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you.
2 I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me.
3 How great are His signs, And how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And His dominion is from generation to generation. ~ Daniel 4:1-3
The king starts off verses 1-3 saying “God is awesome and let me tell you a story of just how awesome He is!”
From David Guzik: “This unique chapter is the testimony of a Gentile king about how God changed his heart. In this, Nebuchadnezzar is a good example of a witness (one who relates what he has seen and experienced).”
4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace.
5 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts on my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.
6 Therefore I issued a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream.
7 Then the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers came in, and I told them the dream; but they did not make known to me its interpretation.
8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying,
~ Daniel 4:4-8
Does this sound familiar? It did to the king as he’s been through this before back in chapter 2. The Lord often does that with us. He uses current experiences to remind us of what He has done or said in the past. As a matter of fact, that’s how the entire Bible is written. The whole of the Old Testament (before Jesus was born) was written to point to the coming King who would save us from our sins – Jesus Christ. Then the whole of the New Testament (after Jesus was born) was written to point us back to Him as our Savior and King.
Every single story we read in the Bible has a purpose from God for us today. Many of them repeat a common thread or message from a previous story. We see that in Nebuchadnezzar’s life in Daniel. He needs to see God work amazing wonders THREE TIMES before he gets the message. This third time is familiar to him because it came by way of a dream – similar to the first lesson.
Notice, the God of the Hebrews has not yet become ‘his god’ as he shows us when he talks about Daniel: “he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods”. He still calls Belteshazzar ‘his god’ and he thinks Daniel simply a spirit of a god (or gods). He still hasn’t yet recognized that there is only One True God. But he will soon.
9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation.
10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great.
11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth.
12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.
13 “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven.
14 He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches.
15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth.
16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him.
17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’
Now this dream is much different from the king’s last dream or vision, but like the last one it’s impressive enough that the king knew it was special and filled with meaning. This time the dream includes an angel (a ‘watcher’) who gives the orders to cut down the tree, and scatter it’s fruit.
I’ve cut down many tress tree in my yard, and I usually try to remove he stump. Generally I have a purpose or a plan for cutting down the tree. I want a flower bed there or maybe I’d like to plant grass, or the tree is getting in the way of something else. But I try to remove the stump when I’m done because it has no purpose in leaving it there and in fact it’s going to be in my way. Here, the watcher instructs to leave the stump in the ground. There is a purpose or a plan for that stump.
I love this quote from the study notes in my Bible:
“This shows how carefully God has planned events and governs them for his perfect ends; therefore the faithful can recognize that none of their troubles take God by surprise, and none will derail his purpose.” *
God has a plan for that tree stump!
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28
Nebuchadnezzar has recognized God and he has come close to belief in God as sovereign but he is not quite there yet. Yet Nebuchadnezzar was “called according to his purpose”. You will see that the stump is Nebuchadnezzar himself, and that God has a plan for his life. The same is true for you and I. God has a plan for each of us and He uses all the circumstances in our lives to bring about His plan in us and for us.
18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! ~ Daniel 4:18-19
Daniel is a little fearful of what he knows the interpretation to be! Who wants to tell the king the bad news? I wouldn’t want to be that guy. However, this a good lesson for us that sometimes we are called by God to be the one to speak up in another person’s life. Sometimes, we are called to listen and simply offer encouragement. Other times we are called to listen and respond in love but with a message they may not want to hear. In those times we really need to listen to God’s Holy Spirit and be in prayer to make sure we are saying is from the Lord.
That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.
~ Ephesians 4:14-15
Our goal in responding to people should be to bring about growth in their faith and not to tear them down. We will see that Daniel doesn’t criticize the king. As a matter of fact, you can see from Daniel’s reply that he loves the king and he doesn’t want to see this trouble come upon Nebuchadnezzar.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1-2
This verse could have been written about Daniel! He had the gift of prophecy, he understood ‘all mysteries and all knowledge’. And here we see him speak to the king in love.
The Interpretation of the Dream
20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth,
21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived—
22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth.
23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’
24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king,
25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.
26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules.
27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.” ~ Daniel 4:20-27
Daniel tells the king the bad news: Your kingdom will be cut down and you will become like a wild beast living outside in the wilderness. And the ‘seven periods of time’ are probably seven years! But all this is avoidable as Daniel says “let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
Daniel doesn’t call the king names or tell him how dumb he is for his sin, or how ‘mad’ God is at him. He doesn’t say that God is going to punish him by removing his kingdom and making him eat hay. In this situation, God calls Daniel to treat the king with kindness, love, and care. Daniel even offers the king a solution to avoid the unpleasant future.
Grace and Mercy
Are there times when God calls us to be a little more harsh and direct? Sure. Look at Moses and Pharaoh. Ten times Moses warned Pharaoh and the message and warnings became more harsh as time went on and Pharaoh continually denied the Lord. But here God knows exactly what the king needs, and while it includes a lesson, it also includes grace and mercy.
28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar.
29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon,
30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”
31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you,
32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”
33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.
34 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, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me.
37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. ~ Daniel 4:28-37
Remember, God knows what He is doing! He knew exactly what it would take to turn the heart of the king toward Him in reverence and honor. In the king’s two previous encounters with God,
Nebuchadnezzar recognizes God is all-powerful, and that He is faithful and able to deliver His people. But now we see the king give God all glory, honor, and praise! This seems to be a complete change of heart for him. “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
There is also a lesson here for us to listen when God is trying to instruct us:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.
~ Psalm 32:8
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
~ Proverbs 3:5-6
*The ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version, Copyright 2008 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers