Daniel and the King
Years into his exile to Babylon, Daniel was no longer a novice in the court of the king, but a trusted advisor and leader. King Nebuchadnezzar was also much more seasoned. Having been on the throne decades, with major wars behind him. Now he focused much attention on revitalizing the city of Babylon. Through his efforts, this crown jewel of the nations (cp. Isaiah 13:19 NIV) became known world wide for breathtaking beauty and comfort.
As Babylon’s golden era was reaching its climax Nebuchadnezzar had dream, one that inferred his great reach as a monarch, but also a quick demise, even if only for a season. With Daniel’s help Nebuchadnezzar discerned God is in charge. Thus the king would have a hard fall, become something other than what he had been, and for seven years live among the animals within his gardens and parks. His would be a humiliating and terrifying experience, one that could be avoided if only he would humble himself before the one true God (see Daniel 4:27).
Sadly, he would not. Twelve months later (Daniel 4:29 NIV), while musing over his own greatness, he “was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird” (Daniel 4:33 NIV).
The Power of the Polemic
A polemic is a refutation of another’s principles, and the polemic offered here is that humans are not in charge of time and space. Three times in Daniel 4 we see that the Most High is over the kingdoms of humanity and establishes them as he pleases (see Daniel 4:17, Daniel 4:25 and Daniel 4:32). It is a universal reality that the Most High is sovereign over all things.
Such is not the first time this message has been given regarding Babylon. Genesis 11 tells of people settling in this spot, establishing the first great civilization, and building a monument to their own glory and effort designed to reach the heavens–the Tower of Babel. In the ancient tongue the name “Babylon” means “Gate of the Gods.” This description offered a fitting glimpse into the rebellious spirit of the people. They were determined to unify around self-glorification. That God Almighty would scatter them by giving them different languages served as a strong polemic against their arrogance. Note that the name “Babel,” serving as a play on “Babylon,” means “confusion.” God had asked people to scatter and multiply across the earth (Gen. 1:28). Their desire to gather and unify for power would not be tolerated.
God is in Charge
Millennia later God demonstrated this point again. Babylon was marvelous beyond comprehension, and its people, chief of which was King Nebuchadnezzar, took pride in it. They perceived themselves as having accomplished what the people in Genesis 11 were not able to complete: a capital promoting self-glory, hosting the worship of created beings within structures highlighting human majesty. God confronted them, but instead of confusing the people through various languages, God confused the king himself, thrusting upon him a mental disorder called Boanthropy. This awful disease forced Nebuchadnezzar into the wild, where he would live like a bull, eating grass and running with the wild animals. Herein is a hint to God’s disdain for Bel Marduk, the Babylonian bull-god who was the patron of Babylon. It is as if God were saying, “You like bulls so much, then be one!” God is in charge!
The Power of Grace
Despite this grace abounds in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. That God does not take his life is evidence of God’s mercy. That God would choose to preserve Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom (cp. Daniel 4:26) speaks to God’s gracious purposes for the king. When the seven years ended Nebuchadnezzar “lifted [his] eyes to heaven” (Daniel 4:34) and began a transformation that would remain the rest of his life (the verbs in Daniel 4:37 speak to an on-going commitment to God). Nebuchadnezzar was a transformed man who no longer relied on the pagan gods he had grown up with but upon the true King of Heaven, the Most High God whom Daniel revered. As a side note: Marduk, referenced earlier, was also commonly called “the king of heaven.” How earth-shattering for the Babylonians to have their king assign this title to another!
The Power of Availability
Daniel spent decades loving and serving the king of Babylon. He remained available to the king, and the king had the opportunity to see in Daniel’s life that God was in charge. No small wonder that when Nebuchadnezzar’s terrible time was coming to an end he turned his eyes to God. He had learned from Daniel that the Most High God is premier and worthy of exclusive devotion. All of us who follow Christ have opportunities to influence just like Daniel.
Let us begin today.