The Proud Abased
The Scriptures abound with declarations that God will bring down the proud. “He hath put down the mighty from their seats” (Luke 1:51). “Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased” (Luke 18:14). “God resisteth the proud” (1 Peter 5:5).
The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar
We see this principle vividly illustrated in the experience of king Nebuchadnezzar.
The king was a very proud man. He reigned over the mighty kingdom of Babylon, and he took complete credit for his success and prosperity.
He did not acknowledge the true and living God; there is no indication that a prayer of thanksgiving was ever offered for what he enjoyed. So, God revealed in a dream that he would bring down the proud king, “Till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.”
The wise men of the kingdom were unable to interpret the dream; but Daniel was called on and the Lord enabled him to give the meaning. Although Daniel was in captivity, he had a good relationship with the king and was troubled at the thought of conveying the bad news. But the king wanted to know, so Daniel proceeded to inform him about what was coming according to the dream. “It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth.” He continued, “They shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee…” (Daniel 4:22, 25).
Daniel urged the king to repent. He said, “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility” (Daniel 4:27). Some might suggest that since God had given a decree that judgment was coming there was no need to call for repentance, but this obviously is the message God would have his servant deliver.
At another time, Jonah brought a message to Nineveh that in forty days the city would be overthrown; but the people repented, and the city was spared.
We see here both God’s sovereignty and man’s accountability.
God has the absolute right to send judgment on the wicked and the right to withhold judgment when there is a turning from sin. Surely we need to recognize this truth today when it seems there are judgments falling on our country. The situation should not be viewed as hopeless, but we must remember that God is merciful and ready to deliver when there is true repentance.
The Lesson for Nebuchadnezzar
A year passed after the dream was interpreted, and there was no sign of judgment. The king had not turned from his iniquities and probably felt secure since there was no sign of trouble. But one day as he stood boasting of his power and majesty, the Lord said, “The kingdom is departed from thee.”
This proud king accustomed to the best of food, the finest of clothes, the most luxurious of accommodations was brought down to eat with the beasts of the field.
His hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. He ate grass like the oxen, the dew settled on his body; and he remained in this state for seven years. Some scholars speculate that the king was kept near the palace grounds and was not exposed to the public eye. It must have been a difficult time for those in the government to have their king unable to function for such a long period of time and to see their leader living with wild donkeys. What a startling sight to see the king who had been such a powerful leader having “his heart made like the beasts.” Indeed the Lord knows how to bring down the mighty from their seats.
In keeping with what was foretold in the dream, after seven years he was restored to his right mind and to his kingdom. He had learned some powerful lessons and the first thing on his mind was to extol the King of heaven: “I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitant of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”(Daniel 4:34-35).
Here the doctrine of God’s sovereignty is clearly set forth by the king of a pagan nation.
He spoke the truth, but much of what he said would be disputed by many religious leaders in our time. Objection would be raised to the thought that “all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing.”
This is the day of promoting the concept of self-esteem and self-worth. The Bible doctrine of total depravity is looked on with disdain. Likewise to say, “He does according to his will,” is objectionable to many. Man prefers to think that God must operate in a manner he deems to be acceptable, and God would be unfair to do otherwise. The Psalmist declares, “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased”(115:3).
God is not limited in power nor restricted by men’s opinions. He carries out his purposes; he saves whom he will.
Here is where man raises serious objection to God’s sovereignty. Knowing that would be the case the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write in the Roman epistle. “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid” (Romans 9:14).
Man may charge God is unfair in choosing some and passing by others but the Holy Spirit says this is not the case. God is holy and what he does is always right whether man agrees with it or not. So the conclusion is drawn, “He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy”(Romans 9:15-16).
When properly understood the doctrine of the sovereignty of God is a most comforting doctrine.
How good to know God is on the throne and ruling according to his pleasure! It is not fate or some unknown power that rules the universe but our God who is holy, good and merciful. It is not a hopeful desire for good luck which sustains us from day to day but the realization that our times are in God’s hand. As we look toward eternity we rest on God’s free grace and not our own choices. Nebuchadnezzar learned the lesson the hard way. He had to suffer great adversity and humiliation.
Let us recognize that God is sovereign and bow ourselves before him, submitting ourselves to his Word and commands. Here’s the promise, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). When a man exalts himself he is in deep trouble. But what a difference when he humbles himself and then God exalts him to the glory of his name!