Around the 6th century B.C., in the world of his day, King Nebuchadnezzar was at the pinnacle of power when he had his two dreams. Despite Daniel’s first interpretive warning from God, Nebuchadnezzar chose to ignore it (Dan 2). He went ahead and constructed a Golden Image of himself to be worshipped by all his subjects. When Daniel and his three friends refused to bow down to the image, they were arrested and thrown into a blazing furnace; only escaping when a mysterious fourth person joined them in the fire, protecting them (Dan 3). But the King paid only lip service to Yahweh’s sovereignty when he pardoned the three (Dan 4:1-3). Soon, Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream, with a significant fearful personal content, sets the scene for another reading by Belteshazzar. When Nebuchadnezzar described it, Daniel was terrified by its severe judgment on his monarch (Dan 4:19).
The dream’s content goes like this: a huge tree that reached to the heavens represented the King over his realm, but a voice from heaven ordered it to be cut down to its stump, and it remained that way for seven years. God was going to judge Nebuchadnezzar by humbling him. At the risk of his own life, the chief of the magicians (Dan 4:9) pleaded his King to “break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity” (Dan 4:27). But Scripture is silent at this point! Nebuchadnezzar remained truculent. Twelve months later, despite his loss of sleep over his last bothersome dream, God removed King Nebuchadnezzar’s sovereignty from him (Dan 4:28-31), and his descent into years of madness began (Dan 4:23). Pride has a strange way of entrenching and blinding us, be it in our illusionary contentment and affluence or otherwise.
As believers, we are delighted and take great pride with the accomplishments of our God, but King Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was not of this genre; it was focused exclusively on his identity and accomplishments, that inevitably gave way to a bloated entitlement. Not unlike Nebuchadnezzar, the noxiousness of such wayward pride would invariably preclude us from consideration or an accommodation of opposing views, with a level of arrogance and pernicious abusiveness towards others. Humility, on the other hand, is the acknowledgement that all that we are and have, are gifts that come graciously from God’s hands (1Chron 29:14-16; 1Cor 4:6-7). Furthermore, pride’s trajectory will progressively erode our humanity in our empathic identification with others and inured us in relating to our Lord’s compassion. God had Nebuchadnezzar ‘characterized’ himself with ‘the beasts of the field’ until he recognised that Yahweh is the Ruler over the nations and bestows on whomever He wishes (Dan 4:32); as instinctive animals are different from empathetic and self-aware humans.
As Nebuchadnezzar discovered, pride hindered him from seeing the wood from the trees concerning God’s sovereignty in his life; and the fact that God was disciplining him was indicative of His lovingkindness. When he saw himself in all its self-absorptive ugliness that demanded His inescapable judgment, and simultaneously, as an object of Yahweh’s mercy and grace, God healed him (Dan 4:34-37). It was an indelible transformative lesson for the King, that impacted the way he thought about himself, his subjects, and Yahweh from that moment. Our being in Christ ought to bring about an important and lasting change in our view of our God and our relationship with Him, accompanied by a behaviour that honours our Lord in our labours, towards our possessions, and with compassion towards His creation (1Peter 5:5-7)!