In Daniel, chapter four, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has a dream and awakens in troubling fear. He summons his learned ones (the Magi), but none of them can interpret the dream. Finally the king tells Daniel his dream. In the dream Nebuchadnezzar had seen an enormous tree with beautiful fruit. Animals find shelter under it, and birds find shelter in its branches. Then he had seen a messenger from God, who called out,
“Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him.” (Daniel 4:14-16 NIV)
Daniel immediately understands the dream, because he had been given a spiritual gift: the ability to interpret dreams and visions. Daniel only wants the best for Nebuchadnezzar, because as long as he is in exile in Babylon, if Nebuchadnezzar prospers, Daniel’s people prosper. Daniel’s first word to the king explains why the king was so troubled by the dream:
“My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds — Your Majesty, you are that tree!” (Daniel 4:19-22 NIV)
Daniel then explains to Nebuchadnezzar that he will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals, eating grass like an ox and being drenched with dew. Since the stump remains, Nebuchadnezzar will be restored after seven “times”, when the king acknowledges that heaven rules, not him. Finally Daniel tells the king how he might avoid God’s judgment:
“Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” (Daniel 4:27 NIV)
Twelve months later, Nebuchadnezzar is walking on the roof of his palace, and says to himself, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” His pride brings the very judgment his dream had forewarned:
Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. (Daniel 4:31-33 NIV)
At the end of seven “times” (fixed seasons – perhaps seasons or weeks or months or even years) the king’s sanity returns and he is restored as king. He ends up giving glory to God who is able to exalt the humble and exclaims that everything He does is right.
Nebuchadnezzar stands as the symbol of pride and self-sufficiency. If he were a modern crooner, he would have certainly recorded “I Did It My Way”. There is a lot of Nebuchadnezzar in all of us, because human pride is at the center of sin. Pride says, “I can do it myself,” which implies, “I will be the god of my own life”. Rejecting the Godship of God is the inner Sin that breeds all other sins. We do not become sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.
And Jesus came to redeem us from that sin. The one who comes to Jesus in humility and gives their life to Him in complete consecration is saved from sin and death by grace through faith. We do not contribute anything to this redemption. It is done in us by the work of Jesus on the Cross and the work of His Spirit in our hearts. And truth is, this is really, really hard for most of us to accept, because it is grace – because we can do nothing to earn it and we don’t deserve it. We don’t want charity. We want to earn the right to be God’s children. But we cannot. In our own strength and will, we will default to selfishness and pride no matter how hard we try to be the good people we imagine God wants us to be to earn His favor.
But Jesus did not come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live!
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NIV)
You see we have a sin nature that warps even our best intentions. What we earn in our living is death. We are sinners who sin, and we deserve to die. BUT God has made a way for us to live, and it is a gift through the redeeming death and resurrection of His Son on our behalf. Jesus took our sin on Himself and put it to death on the Cross so we do not have to die. He paid the price we could never pay. And now He offers everything to us at no cost to us, because He paid the price already. Forgiveness. Eternal life. Power over sin. A new start. Peace. Hope. Jesus gives it all. We can only receive it and walk with Him by faith into the new life He offers.
And that’s good news!