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On Pride And Humiliation

We are going to look at a passage today that is needed in a day where we live in one of the greatest and most powerful nations in the history of the world.  Daniel 4 includes several first-hand accounts from a Babylonian king who had come to know that the God of Israel was indeed the ruler over all things.  He was so impressed and so powerful that he sent this proclamation to all the nations of the world that were under his control.  In it he reveals that the God of heaven is not impressed with our great pride.

The Reasons For Pride

In Daniel 4:1-4 we find several reasons for the pride that King Nebuchadnezzar had.  He ruled from the 600’s to the 500’s BC, at a time when God was judging Jerusalem.  God gave him the power to subdue even the Assyrian empire that had risen before him down to even the Egyptian nation.  Yet, God would not hold back judgments upon Babylon and its king.

Nebuchadnezzar, in the first person, sets the scene by pointing out that he was at rest in his house, and flourishing in his palace.  He was at rest.  Everything was going well and his mind was tranquil and secure without any major worries.  This is a dangerous time for us because it tends to lead to pride.  Not only was he tranquil, but he was flourishing.  All that he had put his hand to seemed to come easy.  He dominated the nations that he moved against.  He is the instigator of that wonder of the ancient world we know as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  Like a plant, he had grown quickly and fruitfully in the things of this world. Notice his statements “My house,” and “my palace.”  He had accumulated many possessions that were his and he attributed them to his own power.

Later I will come back to another reason for pride.  But it is easy to see why Nebuchadnezzar would think highly of himself and think all was okay.

The Grace of God Humbles Us

God in His grace gets Nebuchadnezzar’s attention through a dream.  This dream was a very ominous dream in which it was clear that something bad was going to happen.  It troubled him greatly.  He had called his counselors to interpret it.  Earlier in chapter 2 there was a dream that they couldn’t interpret.  However, this time it simply says, “but they did not make known to me its interpretation.”  It almost seems that they knew the answer but were afraid to tell him.  Daniel comes and tells him what the dream meant.

The dream was simple.  A huge tree was like a skyscraper up into the heavens and its branches reached all the way to the ends of the earth.  The birds lived in its branches and ate its fruit.  The animals lived in its shade and ate from its fruit.  But then an angel called a Watcher comes down.  He proclaims a heavenly decree that the tree is to be cut down, the branches cut off, and stripped.  But the stump is to be left in the ground with an iron/bronze band around it till 7 times pass.  Also, the pronoun becomes personal when the angel adds at the end, “let his heart be changed from that of a man to that of an animal…”   The interpretation Daniel gave was that Nebuchadnezzar would lose his kingdom for seven years and at the same time he would lose his mind.  He would become like an animal.

Now Daniel in verse 27 warns the king that he would be wise to stop his wickedness and begin living righteously.  He also instructs him to quit oppressing the poor.  “Perhaps,…” God would relent or give mercy.  We do not know whether Nebuchadnezzar tried to follow Daniel's advice or not.  But verses 29-33 show that it was a year later when Nebuchadnezzar was walking through his palace that his judgment came down, losing both his mind and his kingdom.

This brings me back to reasons for Pride.  God always sends warnings before his judgments.  This length of time has a way of being misinterpreted by men.  We tend to think either that it won’t happen, or that what we have done to try and appease God has “worked.”  Either way, we often continue in that lifestyle of arrogant pride before God and people.  Nebuchadnezzar was in the middle of boasting about his kingdom when a voice comes from heaven basically saying that his time was up.

God gives periodic judgments, not because he is a mean God, but because he loves us.  In his grace he puts things in our path to trip us up and hold us back along the hurtful paths we choose in this life.  In verse 17 the angel tells why this judgment is coming down.  First it is to demonstrate that God rules over any kingdom of men.  Also that God puts whomever he will in charge of those kingdoms, even the lowest of men.  In our ability and power, whether we are king or an average Joe, we forget that God is our sovereign.  We answer to him and if we choose the path of pride, he will humble us.  Why?  Because he loves us and those around us too much to let us continue without warning and judgments.

The whole reason for judgments in this world is so that we will repent.  This is for the person being judged and those who are watching it.  Repentance is always the proper response to God’s warnings.  It is the proper response whether it “works” to avoid difficulty, or not.  However, through it all, we can trust that God means us good even when he dispenses judgments in this life.  Of course this begs the question of the ultimate judgment when we stand and give an account for our life.  Am I ready for that?  Are you ready for that?

Cooperate With God’s Grace

At the end of 7 years, God graciously gave Nebuchadnezzar’s mind back to him.  Jewish tradition makes reference to Daniel taking care of this king gone mad.  When his mind comes back to him, he blessed, praised, honored, and extolled the Most High God.  Nebuchadnezzar finally “got it” that God was greater than even him.  This led him to witness to the world around him of God’s power.  But Nebuchadnezzar also references the Justice of God.  Justice is more than doing what is right.  It is the sense of balancing out an evil.  A just punishment is one that fits the crime.  To overly punish a crime is not just and to under punish a crime is not just as well.  God is just in his judgments.  Nebuchadnezzer sends a proclamation to all the nations under his power to witness to God’s power and justice.  He ends with the powerful statement that God is able to put down those who walk down in pride.  However, the Bible takes this point one step further.  God has put mankind on warning that he is not only able, but completely decided to judge the pride of all mankind. 

Has God humbled you recently?  Perhaps he is speaking to you about your life.  Turn to him and cooperate with this grace.  Listen to his instruction and walk in the paths of living according to God's Word.

On Pride and Humilation Audio