Heaven Has the Rule
Robert Wurtz II
And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule. (Daniel 4:26)
Sometimes it takes a radical situation or desperate times to remind us that God is still on the throne. He is in charge. In the words of the Rev. D.L. Burch, “He’s not sitting up in Heaven with His head in His hands having a nervous breakdown.” He is the sovereign God of all the Universe. He gives the kingdoms of the earth to the people He selects — even the lowliest (Daniel 4:17). Nebuchadnezzar II was about to learn that when men rear their heads to exalt themselves above what is reasonable, God simply selects from a myriad of divine options to bring about their destruction and fall from greatness. As Matthew Henry once said, “God is never at a loss to deal with rebellious people, His quiver is always full.”
Nebuchadnezzar II (ca 634-562 BC) was one of the greatest world leaders who ever lived. He certainly was the greatest ruler of Babylon. In fact, God’s estimate of him is revealed symbolically as the head of gold on the great statue (Daniel 2:6-8). Part of his reign encompassed the years when Zedekiah (Mattaniah) was the last king of Israel before the people were carried away, the Temple and cultus destroyed. (Jeremiah 4:7, 52:1ff)
Nebuchadnezzar moved in a barbarity characteristic of those cruel times. For example, he ordered the sons of Zedekiah executed in their father’s presence, and afterward, his eyes put out so that the last memorable thing that his eyes saw was his sons being murdered. Zedekiah was then loaded with brazen fetters, and at a later period taken to Babylon, where he died. This is just one example of the ruthlessness that Nebuchadnezzar was capable of.
A Troubling Dream
Dreams can be meaningless phenomena (so-called “pizza dreams”); but occasionally, God sends a dream. Nebuchadnezzar described the phenomena saying, I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. (Daniel 4:5) Dreams that come from God have a unique way of arresting our attention. The dream itself can be read in Daniel 4:10-17.
Nebuchadnezzar took it upon himself to record and proliferate this story related to his dream. The event consumes the entire 4th chapter of the book of Daniel. The fact that such a great man would publish a self-incriminating and self-deprecating story presses the stories’ authenticity beyond doubt. He writes, Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. (Daniel 4:1ff) He addresses this message to everyone on earth, present and future.
An Essential Lesson
God was teaching Nebuchadnezzar an important lesson. I have sometimes said that “there is a generation that doesn’t learn by lecture, illustration or revelation; but by destruction and devastation.” Destruction deals with loss; devastation deals with the emotional response to that loss.
Nebuchadnezzar was under the delusion that somehow he had made himself great. When he surveyed the great and magnificent city from the top of his palace, “pride overcame him,” so that he dedicated the building of this great city as the house of his kingdom to the might of his power and the honor of his majesty. A cursory study of the topic of pride in the Bible reveals God’s attitude towards it.
We read the troubling interpretation, This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. (Daniel 4:24-26)
God was about to make this man into a circus act. God was going to swap out his human heart and give him the heart of an animal. This means he will behave like an animal and will lose his ability to reason as a man reasons. He would be driven from his human habitat (estate) into a different habitation! He would live like an animal for seven years — going so far as to eat and sleep after the manner of oxen. This phenomenon was known among the Greeks and in modern times as Zoanthropy, only for Nebuchadnezzar it would be “God induced.” He soon lived and looked like a wild beast. His hair grew out like feathers and his fingernails became like claws.
An Appointed Time
God knew how long it would take to thoroughly change Nebuchadnezzar’s mind. In other words, God changed his heart so he would change his mind. Who can fathom this? God took this man’s heart (reasoning faculties) so that he would learn who was really in control. Seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. (Daniel 4:25)
How Soon We Forget
Daniel gave instructions to Nebuchadnezzar to be careful what he says so that God may give him a reprieve and not immediately enforce the dream. But a year went by and with it the disturbing feeling and fear that came with the dream itself and the interpretation that followed. At the end of twelve months, he walked amidst the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty? (Daniel 4:29, 30) If we jump ahead to Nebuchadnezzar’s commentary at the end of this publication we read, those that walk in pride he is able to abase. (Daniel 4:37b) He spread abroad the root cause of his suffering. He walked in pride. As if to say, I am Nebuchadnezzar and if he can humble me he can humble anyone. Matthew Henry once stated to the effect, God is never at a loss for a means of punishing a stiff-necked people, His quiver is always full.
God Keeps His Word
The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. (Daniel 4:33)
Solomon made an observation once that speaks to the hearts of men; Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. (Eccl. 8:11 ERSV) God did not delay in carrying out what He said. The “same hour” that Nebuchadnezzar spoke pridefully he was driven into madness and then into the fields to graze in the pasture and chew the grass like a cow.
When the Time was Up
It took seven years, but this proud leader finally came to himself. Perhaps his forgetfulness led to the length of days needed to complete the work, but God took the time to deal with him. He knew what to do and He did it. Unlike Pharaoh that rebelled over and over until he was at last destroyed, Nebuchadnezzar serves as an example to all of how to rightly respond to God. He didn’t get angry, he worshipped. And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: (Daniel 4:34)
God is still on the throne and He is working out His purposes in the earth. Why did God choose Nebuchadnezzar to rule Babylon? I don’t know. My job is not to question God but to trust Him. He knows what He is doing. If I had all the facts and the mental ability to comprehend them — I feel confident that I would agree with God. He always does what is right. Seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.