Sitting in a rocker in the sunniest corner of my room, I just read Daniel 4. It reminded me of myself… and Job… and America. But I better begin with Nebuchadnezzar, the main (human) character in Daniel 4.
Nebuchadnezzar was king over Babylon at the time. Babylon was the world super-power, the kingdom over all the kingdoms of earth. Pride was a great pitfall for Nebuchadnezzar. As was trusting in himself. This isn’t speculation. This is observation of the chapter. Having a conversation with himself, he accidentally admitted his own pride by saying “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” (vs. 30)
The story begins with God giving Nebuchadnezzar a really disconcerting dream, which the prophet Daniel translated for him. In his dream, the kingdom of Babylon was to be taken from him for seven years, during which time he was going to lose his mind, end up eating grass in the fields like oxen, and after seven years, he was going to suddenly realize Who the true King is, and his authority over Babylon would be restored to him, along with the humility to rule it well.
It’s really easy to skim this and not ponder what this would actually mean for a kingdom and a man. That’s seven years. It’s a few words in print, but about 2,556 days in real time. That’s a long while for an entire kingdom to be flailing while their king acts like a wild beast. I’m sure someone else was ruling in his stead during this time, but that someone else was not expecting to, and likely not equipped to. “Someone else” can do a lot of damage to a kingdom when they start making executive decisions without any long-term vision, or goals that involve the betterment of the kingdom.
Yet, God had a long-term vision. He was going to give the kingdom back to a humbler Nebuchadnezzar. It would soon be a much greater kingdom because, although Nebuchadnezzar was obviously a very gifted leader, he was not submitted to or in awe of the One who rules over the entire universe and breathed everything we see into existence! One can only be the type of leader to rule well when submitted to the authority of the Most High.
Here’s why I thought about myself… because I make a million tiny decisions every day, involving ruling over my own little domain. If my moment-by-moment decisions aren’t under the umbrella of surrender to, and awe of, the one Whose “dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation” (vs. 34), then I will make countless short-term decisions that will deal with that moment, but not be a blessing beyond. I will be working from a place of pride in myself, rather than trust in the Holy One. I will make a tangled mess out of all the things I am responsible for: myself, my family, my business, my relationships, my home, my time. Whereas, if my sights are set on the Most High, and I am looking to Him for counsel and directions day-by-day, my legacy will be one of blessings upon generations. Each generational blessing begins in the unseen, microscopic decisions we make in the mundane moments. Today, I had to choose to postpone dealing with the duties of my day to crease the Bible, get inspired, and write this post. I hope it blesses generations. And it might, because it was an act of surrender to God.
I am reminded of Job, who suffered more than just about anyone but Jesus. And yet, if you read the grand finale of the book, you will find that Job’s healing came from a deeper sense of awe of God, and a humbling of self. No longer did his tragedy of extreme loss invoke a pity party, because it was no longer just about himself. It was about the One who sits enthroned forever, and what eternal worth He would bring of Job’s suffering. This was Nebuchadnezzar’s healing as well. Both men got their stuff back, but both men caught a glimpse of the Majesty of heaven and it transformed them from the inside out, so that they were more equipped to rule their own domain well, because they knew that it was God’s domain they were being given. And God is a magnificent God.
And finally, it reminded me of America. We are a tangled-up mess right now. Our kingdom is crashing. There is so much disunity, misinformation, and… well, I am very hesitant to say too much, because I don’t particularly want to start a forest fire. But I will say, it seems like we are on the Titanic crashing into an iceberg. This past year has felt like that. And honestly, I have seen it coming for most of my adult life.
I have been watching this world unravel, due to our pride. Not only is it our personal pride, but our communal pride. We have spent decades indoctrinating our kids and their kids and their kids to believe God is increasingly invisible. We’ve omitted him from the public school system (where children are taught what they should believe), lied to them about the creation of the world, the value of human life, the purpose of their existence. And now, the whole world seems to be imploding. It seems like, as a nation, and maybe even as a globe (but I really don’t know enough to say), we are losing our bloody mind. It may remain like this for a season. It might be a reset for humanity, as it was in Nebuchadnezzar’s day. I hope we get to the humility-surrender-and-awe phase quickly, so this doesn’t last for 7 years or longer. A whole lot of damage can be done in that time.
But the glory is that, at the beginning of Daniel 4, as Nebuchadnezzar was beginning to tell his story, he introduced it with these words “It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. How great are His signs and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation.” (vs. 2-3). Those of us who survive this trial, this pandemic, this up-ended nation and globe, may we someday soon be proclaiming the might and majesty of the Most High, and giving thanks for the ways He ushered us through this time of trial and brought us out into the Light where we will see His glory and worth! The only way we will heal is by laying ourselves low. As individuals, and as a nation. Or globe. It all begins in the details… in the hearts of individual men and women who are willing to be honest with themselves about how little we matter in the grand scheme of eternity, and how great and mighty the One is who created all things!