NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S 2nd DREAM
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The clay brick below is housed at the Museum of the Bible and bears an inscription celebrating the construction of a new palace for Nebuchadnezzar and his family in Babylon. It is written in cuneiform script in the Babylonian dialect of Akkadian.
To the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly! It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.
We come here to the remarkable personal testimony of this ancient Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. It is an amazing declaration of his conversion to belief in the reality of the true and living God. People may argue with you about the Bible or even the existence of God, but the one thing they can't argue with ... is your testimony. That is, when you share what the Lord has done for you. One of the great proofs of the reality of Christ, is the lives he has changed. Over the centuries, millions of people have been wonderfully changed by the one, true and living God ... Jesus Christ. Here, in chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar, first king of ancient Babylon, writes his testimony. Furthermore, he sent it forth to all the peoples and provinces of his kingdom and ... more importantly ... it found a home in the eternal Word of God so that you and I, and countless other generations, have been able to read it.
Now, Nebuchadnezzar is a study. He is a study in human nature, as well as a study in the workings of God in the heart of a man. When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, he knew nothing about the true and living God. He never dreamed that it was the beginning of the greatest spiritual adventure of his life. You might call that stage of Nebuchadnezzar's spiritual journey, the unconscious stage. All believers have had a time in their lives when they were in the "unconscious stage" ... the time when they did not know God and were blind to the things of God. Nebuchadnezzar was unaware of it, but God was beginning a work in his life that would change him forever. The God who reveals himself, was matching up this wicked and spiritually unconscious king with a man of God named Daniel. There must always be a preacher of the Word of God in order for a poor lost sinner to get saved. That's why your testimony and mine are so important in the lives of the lost people who are around us. As you have it in Romans 10:13-15,
...for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'
I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)
I said, 'Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. These are the visions I saw while lying in my bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the beasts of the field found shelter, and the birds of the air lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.
In the visions I saw while lying in my bed, I looked, and there before me was a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He called in a loud voice: '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.'
The next step toward faith in the life of Nebuchadnezzar could be called ... the receiving phase. The truths which Nebuchadnezzar received in his dreams concerning the workings of God in the realm of men are just as applicable and pertinent today as they were when Nebuchadnezzar first penned them, over 2600 years ago. The only difference is ... these truths are communicated to us today by way of the written Word of God ... whereas, Nebuchadnezzar received them by way of a dream. He lived in an era before the completed written Word of God, you see. In those days, God often used dreams to communicate his truths. So, it was by way of Nebuchadnezzar's dreams, that he received the Word of God and was, then, in a position to respond and get saved. No one can be born again, be saved apart from hearing the Word of God. As you have it in I Peter 1:23,
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
So, in order to be saved, people must receive a word from God. It's just that simple. The word that Nebuchadnezzar received was that the Most High rules, in and over, the kingdoms of men. Nations rise and nations fall ... simply because the true and living God is sovereign. And, he gives them to whoever he wills. Someone might say, But not here in America. We elect our leaders! Really? God's Word says,
... the powers that be are ordained of God. Romans 13:1
Did you notice that Nebuchadnezzar said that he had learned that the Lord sets over the kingdoms of our world the basest of men (KJV)? What do you make of that? A humbling but very enlightening truth, is it not? If we think that people get, or pick, the best leaders, we don't know history. Why does God set the lowliest of men over the kingdoms of our world? It is because men universally reject His rule and authority over them. We see this rejection, more and more, in our own country today. Separation of church and state ... is the mantra that is heard on every side. However, let's call a spade a spade. That catchphrase is a mere pretext that is being used to eliminate God from every aspect of our government, schools and, if possible, even our public discourse ... in spite of our First Amendment rights. Make no mistake about it, in America today, ungodly men are making every effort to reject and repudiate the one true and living God's rule and authority over our nation.
I believe in the separation of church and state, by the way. However, the clear purpose of our founding fathers was not to divorce the God they loved and worshipped from the public sector ... rather, they wanted to ensure this government would never impose any single state church upon the people. They never dreamed that one day their prohibition would be interpreted and expanded to attempt to completely eliminate the true and living God from every aspect of government and public life ... even going so far as to prohibit prayer, remove Christian symbols or make it illegal to so much as mention the name of God in the public square! If you had told them that was what was coming, their mouths would have dropped in incredulity. What a tragedy.
There is a strong case in history that it was the true and living God who established our nation, guided us in the making of our laws, and was central in the lives of the vast majority of our founders. Hence, because this nation initially acknowledged the Most High God's existence, rule and authority over us, God has greatly blessed the United States of America. And, we have risen to be one of the greatest nations ever seen on the Earth. However, in my life-time, this basic and fundamental core value ... of acknowledging the Most High ... has changed ... and our country has abruptly turned away from acknowledging the God of Heaven's rule and authority over us. Is it any wonder then, that God would place over us the lowliest of men, just as he has done with so many other kingdoms of this world who reject Him? It is my prayer that the American people will wake up to these axiomatic truths that were in Nebuchadnezzar's dream ... before it is too late.
'This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.
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! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air _you, O king, 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.
You, O king, saw a messenger, a holy one, 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 like the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him."
This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle 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 the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. 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. Therefore, O king, 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.'
I would call this stage of Nebuchadnezzar's spiritual journey, the awakening stage. Although he is still a polytheist (believing in more than one god), he has heard from the one true and living God and now has something to think about. There is a Biblical principle here that is very important. It simply states that when someone responds to the light that they are given ... God will send them more light. That is a basic theological truth and is always the case ... whether a person lives amongst the most sophisticated and civilized cities of the world ... or resides in the remotest, benighted and darkest jungle. As you have it in Matthew 13:12,
For whosoever hath, to his shall be given and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath.
Nebuchadnezzar received the Word that God gave to him through his dream and Daniel's interpretation of it. And, soon, he would be given even more light ... the dream of his humbling ... in order that he might be saved. Salvation is always by grace and grounded in faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Scripture says Abraham, believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6; cp. Romans 4:19-25). What did Abraham believe? He believed God when God told him that he and Sarah would have a baby ... which flew in the face of their old age. The content of what God had said, both to Abraham and to Nebuchadnezzar, is very small in comparison to what he has said to you and me today. Today, God has unfolded to men the complete history of the coming of his Son into our world ... the record of His death upon the cross for their sins ... the record of His resurrection from the dead ... and the record of His ascension back to Heaven. Have you believed what God has said to you about his Son? Nebuchadnezzar and Abraham responded and believed the light that God gave to them. Have you responded to the tremendous ... almost blinding ... light God has given to you? Jesus said,
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12b
It wasn't easy for Daniel to tell Nebuchadnezzar the meaning of his dream. Just as it is not easy to tell people today that they are sinners and that Christ came to save them. However, nothing short of speaking the truth can save a sinner. God always tells us the truth. He never pulls any punches. In effect, Daniel had to say to Nebuchadnezzar, Pride is your problem. God hates that in you and he is not going to allow you to hold on to it! He is going to do something about it. Proverbs 6:16-19, says,
There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes (pride), a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.
When God begins a work in the lives of haughty, blind and independent sinners ... his ultimate goal is to turn them around with the truth (save them) and then to set them on a new path to become like himself. He desires to conform them to the image of his Son. It is an amazing process that God alone can accomplish. And what is his Son like? Well, for one thing, Jesus was and is the ultimate example of humility. As you have it in Philippians 2:8,
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And again, Jesus said,
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29
What is God like? That is what God is like. And, it is what you and I will be like ... one day ... if we have truly come to know him as our Lord and Savior.
All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 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?' The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, 'This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.' Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. 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.
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18
Nebuchadnezzar had to learn his lesson the hard way. I would call this Nebuchadnezzar's conviction stage. It was that time in his life that God would apply what he had said to Nebuchadnezzar. I make no apology for the description of what he became. To accomplish his purpose, the God who holds the universe together by the word of his power, simply made the necessary changes to Nebuchadnezzar's anatomy that were required and, immediately, he became bestial. The Roman historian, Josephus, quotes the Babylonian historian, Berosus, concerning this strange "sickness" of Nebuchadnezzar.
The strange creature that Nebuchadnezzar had become had to be driven out of the palace and the city. Then, he began to live his life among all the other wild beasts and to eat grass for his sustenance. His situation ranks among the most bizarre and visibly humbling experiences from the hand of Almighty God ... that can be found in all of recorded history. Nebuchadnezzar existed in this state for 7 years (the term times refers to years), before he was allowed to come to his senses again. Why 7 years? Apparently, that was how long it took to break this stubborn and prideful king's ego and cause him to completely accept the truth of God's sovereignty over him ... without reservation.
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.
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?'
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. 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.
If we could ask Nebuchadnezzar, Was it all worth it? Doubtless, he would answer, Are you kidding? Of course it was worth it. The God of Heaven changed my life. I found the true and living God. I will never be the same again. This is Nebuchadnezzar's conversion stage. That moment in time when he acknowledged and believed the truth. Nebuchadnezzar had discovered the One who is Truth itself, you see, and he was forever changed. Nebuchadnezzar's praises above, still ring down through the centuries to us today. They were heartfelt and accurate. He had come to know the One who said in John 14:6,
I am the way and the truth and the life.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Nebuchadnezzar came face to face with his Creator and his God ... and he responded correctly ... believing God... resulting in eternal life. Praise God, Nebuchadnezzar! Looking forward to meeting you in Heaven some day.
One more thought before we leave this chapter. My wife, Carol Ann, has been editing these pages and she suggested that when God disciplines us believers ... we all experience our own "Nebuchadnezzar moments". Here are a few scriptures that bear out that excellent insight.
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." James 4:6
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time... I Peter 5:6
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
"My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives."
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:5-13
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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