The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had much to be proud about…he had won almost every military battle that he had ever fought…his empire spanned the entire Middle East…he had extensively rebuilt his capital city of Babylon extravagantly…he had unimaginable wealth and power. For these and other reasons, his heart was lifted up in pride—so much so that he apparently forgot a basic truth: “Heaven rules” (v. 26).
Daniel 4 starts with a proclamation of Nebuchadnezzar in which he recounts the sequence of events that had taken place during his recent humiliation that was orchestrated by God. This was the same proud, self-centered king who had erected his own image at Dura and had ordered every person in his kingdom to bow before his image. However God, who holds the absolute power and authority, changed the proud king’s heart by permitting him to be temporarily insane and behave like an animal for seven full years. His kingdom was later restored by the sovereign will of God!
While interpreting the dream to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel had hoped that the events predicted could be averted by an immediate and true repentance on the part of the king. In fact, Daniel had advised him to repent from his sins (see v. 27 above). It is possible that Nebuchadnezzar was allowed a full year in the hope that he might repent and avert the judgment of God resulting from his pride. Perhaps the king had listened for a while, but a year later his arrogant pride brought judgment upon himself. Even Daniel’s sincere pleading could not overcome the king’s pride!
It is interesting to observe Daniel’s advice: “Break off your sins by being righteous and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor” (v. 27). This statement suggests that righteousness for Nebuchadnezzar equated with showing mercy to the poor. Apparently, the king disregarded Daniel’s advice and persisted in his pride and arrogance, while ignoring God. As a result, God took away Nebuchadnezzar’s position and power (v. 33) until he turned to the Lord and admitted that God still rules over all (vv. 34–35). It is very much possible that he then instituted a reign based on truth, justice, and humility while giving utmost deference to God (v. 36–37).
Let us understand that righteousness and mercy are two of the marks of true conversion to God. No matter what position we have in life, we need to understand that everything good that we possess has come from God. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). Let us also remember that God is sovereign. When man tries to take the place of God, he becomes like a beast. God still resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. "Surely He (God) scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble." (Prov. 3:34)
Today, let us break away from the cycle of sin that easily ensnares us (Heb. 12:1) by putting on Christ (Gal. 3:27) as our robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), and please God by showing mercy to the poor and downtrodden among us!
"Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth" (Psalms 41:1-2)