A SEVERE MERCY
Lord, help me to learn from my suffering, and give me compassion to help others with their suffering.
Read DANIEL 4:19–37
Daniel Interprets the Dream
19 Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.”
Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! 20 The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, 21 with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds— 22 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.
23 “Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’
24 “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: 25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. 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. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”
The Dream Is Fulfilled
28 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
31 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. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. 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.”
33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the 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.
34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 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?”
36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Have you learned any important lessons about God and the Christian life through painful experiences? Give thanks to the Lord for what he has taught you.
There are at least two kinds of knowing: one consists of being given information which comes from without; the other is the knowing from within, which can come only by experiencing a truth for oneself. Mysteriously, yet profoundly, the second kind of knowing can sometimes be attained only by passing through the most painful experiences; even our Lord Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8).
Daniel interprets with compassion and courage the emperor’s dream, hoping (27) that Nebuchadnezzar will repent rather than have to go through the terrifying period of insanity just described (25). However, Daniel’s hope is in vain. The root of Nebuchadnezzar’s sin is his pride; verses 29 and 30 make clear that this persists even after hearing Daniel’s words of warning and entreaty. The emperor needs to know in the depths of his being that “Heaven rules” (26), that “the Most High is sovereign” (25,32), that “His dominion is an eternal dominion” (34); he can only learn this by the bitterest of experiences.
From verse 34 onwards, the format reverts to that of testimony by Nebuchadnezzar. The message of the chapter is summarized in its final sentence: the issue is always one of pride vs. humility, which in the emperor’s case appears on a grand scale. In our lives too, pride, a reluctance to acknowledge God’s sovereignty, a refusal to “let God be God,” is often the sin with which the Holy Spirit is battling. We may balk at the idea that God causes suffering in order to teach us humility, but we should note C. S. Lewis’s statement that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain” (The Problem of Pain, 91).
What do you think the Lord wants you to know at a deeper level? If you are going through painful times, what is God teaching you through this experience?
Lord, help me to remove every vestige of pride and its sidekick, arrogance, from my life as I endeavor to become more pleasing to You with each passing year.