Our lives would be much easier if we could learn from the mistakes of others without repeating them. Yet the sins of the past—in this case, pride—seem to rear their ugly realities in every generation. Some time after King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign in Babylon ended, Belshazzar began to rule. Despite knowledge of his predecessor’s costly arrogance, this new king also refused to walk in humility (5:22-23). As a result, God stripped the kingdom from Belshazzar in dramatic fashion, proving that He will not be mocked. The same is true today. The Bible repeatedly warns that God will not share His glory with anyone (Isa. 42:8; 48:11). Wisdom beckons us to avoid much heartache by heeding the devastating examples of how pride destroys us. Are our modern idolatries any less significant than Belshazzar’s? Do we expect our blatant disregard for God’s commands to go unnoticed? As difficult as humbling ourselves before the Lord might be, facing His judgment for unbridled pride is much more painful.
How have you learned from the sins of others? In what ways have you failed to do so?
Nebuchadnezzar’s journey comes full circle in these verses. After enduring a time of great distress, the king was able to see reality much more clearly. By recognizing God’s supreme sovereignty over his life, Nebuchadnezzar could now appreciate his achievements as gifts from the Lord rather than evidence of his equality with the Most High God. Because he yielded to God’s chastening hand, this pagan king (possibly pagan no more) felt compelled to acknowledge Yahweh’s supremacy and sovereignty. For us, abandoning the subtle deceptions of pride can be just as painful. Though God likely will not force us to the ground like animals, He will strip us of any encumbrances that prevent our conscious reliance upon Him. He is more than willing to remove the hindrances that cause us to glory in our personal resumes rather than the praise of our heavenly King. In His providence, God is willing to hurt us in order to help us. Praise readily falling from our lips is a good indicator that we, like Nebuchadnezzar, finally realize how undeserving we are of His good gifts in our lives.
What season or event in your life has led you to praise the Lord more deliberately than before?
Grace takes many forms and is not always immediately recognizable. Yet what sometimes appears to be God’s harsh judgment often turns out to be one of His blessings in disguise. Driven from the throne to the field in order to eat like cattle, Nebuchadnezzar endured the harshest of circumstances from the hand of God. The goal of this plight, however, was to rescue the king from himself. Because the only remedy for pride is humility, the Lord was actively prodding His subject to repentance. We should expect no less today. Because life is no more than a vapor (Jas. 4:14), we should not view the temporary inconveniences that humble us as liabilities to resent. To the contrary, we can rejoice knowing that God compassionately interrupts our temporal lives in order to reward us eternally. Rather than chastise Him for every problem we face, we should first look for ways to humble ourselves before the Lord instead. What we erroneously perceive as His absence in our lives is often the greatest evidence of His activity.
What inconveniences has God used in your life to humble and sanctify you?
How do you respond to bad news? Despite God’s revealed intention to humble
Nebuchadnezzar like an animal, Babylon’s king continued to boast in his strength.
In his mind, the strength of the kingdom was a testimony to his power and majesty.
Though he claimed that the Hebrews worshiped the Most High God, the wayward
king lived as if he were above all others. Tragically, it is not difficult to see ourselves
falling into the same destructive pattern.
Though we say Christianity is not about us, we sometimes live to the contrary. We may
nod our heads in agreement with declarations about the priority of God’s kingdom, yet
we might also reduce the kingdom to whatever makes us happy or fulfilled. Knowing
that God’s glory takes precedence over our own glory does not prohibit us from
magnifying ourselves at the expense of our Savior. Like Babylon’s ancient king, our
hearts gravitate toward what we perceive to be testimonies of our strength. In our efforts
to be like God, we sometimes recklessly compete with Him.
How does your allegiance to self stand in the way of your commitment
Despite his observation of God’s repeated glory and power, Nebuchadnezzar’s pride continued to blind him to the authority of his Maker. Though he gave lip service to the unrivaled strength of Yahweh, Babylon’s king saw himself as omnipotent and ultimate. To him, the strength of his kingdom was the work of his own hands. Thus, God again came to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream, but this time with a warning of his impending humility. Daniel not only interpreted the vision but also pleaded unsuccessfully with his leader to repent. Unfortunately, we often fall victim to the sin of self-reliance as well. Though every good and perfect gift in our lives is from above (Jas. 1:17), we dangerously live as if we were the source of the blessings we enjoy. In order to appreciate the grace of Christ fully, however, God desires that we walk in faith and humility. Failing to do so blinds us to the authority God has over our lives while also creating the illusion that we chart our destiny. Because Jesus submitted to the will of the heavenly Father, we must seek to do the same. Unless we humble ourselves, God’s greatest blessings in our lives can actually become stumbling blocks that foster sinful arrogance.
In what ways have you mishandled God’s blessings in your life?
For the second time in the Book of Daniel, we observe Nebuchadnezzar exalting the God of Israel with elaborate praise. Through the lips of unbelievers, exclusive declarations magnified Yahweh as the only God worthy of worship. What caused these remarkable confessions? In a word, faith. Because Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego displayed faith under pressure, God’s beauty and majesty were clear to all. In addition, their salvation from the fire made His strength and power undebatable. Our lives have the same potential. Remaining faithful while suffering will inspire others to follow our God. And oftentimes, the miraculous intervention of God in our lives while we hurt compels others to praise Him. Likewise, the transforming effect of salvation magnifies the reality that God has rescued us from the flames of hell. When it is obvious that God is at work, His name will be exalted among believers and unbelievers alike.
Does your life compel unbelievers to see God’s worth and glory? Why or why not?
God is always present with His people. The incredible deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrates this encouraging truth as vividly as any biblical passage. Though caught in a deadly fire, one of the worst circumstances imaginable, these three devoted servants of God were not alone, and possibly they were joined by the Son of God Himself. The comprehensive protection of God not only prevented their clothes from burning but also prevented the stench of smoke from following them out of the furnace. Even when our outcomes are not so favorable, the abiding presence of God is just as certain. God is with us in the fire even if He does not allow us to come out of it. He comforts and cares for us when nothing about our lives makes sense. He will not forsake us even though the world does. He is there even though we cannot always see or feel how. We look forward to the day when God makes all things new and wipes away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). But until then, He remains faithfully by our side.
How confident are you of God’s presence in your life when you face great difficulties?
Despite witnessing the glory of Daniel’s God firsthand, wicked Nebuchadnezzar chose to erect a monument made of gold and commanded his people to bow and worship it. Though we cannot be sure whether the statue represented the king or one of his gods, it does seem clear that Nebuchadnezzar was declaring, contrary to his dream, that his kingdom would never end. Standing alone, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to insult the true God by kneeling before the idol. The logic behind their countercultural stand is still instructive today. These committed Hebrews were content to let God choose the course of their lives, knowing that He is good and trustworthy. Why is it so difficult for us to do the same? Though God is able to prevent all things in our lives, we must learn to trust Him even if He chooses not to. Harsh circumstances should not limit our willingness to obey the Lord. If He, for reasons we cannot understand, allows our worst-case scenario to unfold, we must continue to believe that He is working for our ultimate good and for His divine glory.
What hardships in your life tempt you to disobey the Lord?
The prophetic impact of Daniel 2 is just as significant today as it was originally because we are still looking for the final kingdom to be revealed—the messianic kingdom. With Babylon (head of gold), Medo-Persia (chest/arms of silver), Greece (legs of bronze), and Rome (feet of iron and clay) in our rearview mirror, we long for the coming of a new heaven and new earth where our Savior King will reign forever and ever. Until then, Daniel models how we should live in a fallen world. With his life in jeopardy due to the king’s decree, Daniel sought the Lord faithfully in order to report and interpret the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. Ultimately, his ability to do so was the direct result of God’s mercy and goodness toward him and his friends (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah). Realizing this, Daniel refused to boast or promote himself while speaking God’s words. In fact, he celebrated God’s power and glory so much that the king also declared that Daniel’s God was God of gods and Lord of kings (2:46). The faith of a faithful prophet revealed the glory of the Lord over all.
How can you better reveal God’s glory with the gifts He has given to you?
This passage tells us of God’s plan to restore a united Israel to the promised land. The Lord committed not only to bring them back home but also to set over them one king who would act as a servant-leader—“My servant David” (v. 24). God’s plan to appoint a servant king over Israel was ironic in light of the historical events surrounding the original schism between Israel and Judah. The split of the kingdoms was essentially the result of King Rehoboam’s unwillingness to serve the people of God as his elder counselors advised.
Ezekiel’s prophecy, of course, pointed to the messianic King—Jesus Christ. Jesus embodied for us what servant leadership looks like. Examining Jesus’ life, we see that servant leaders seek the glory of God (Mark 10:42; John 7:18) while not being preoccupied with their own (Mark 10:43-45). They forgo their own rights for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:15-19) and understand the joy in serving others (Mark 9:35). Jesus’ life was marked by service and our lives should be as well.
How are you embodying servant-leadership in your life for the sake of the gospel?