By Ben Seewald
Is it okay to pat ourselves on the back? As long as we aren’t too arrogant, is it okay to take a little pride in our achievements? Isn’t self-confidence a virtue? The culture would say “Yes” but as Christians, we need to check God’s Word. In doing so, let’s go to Daniel 4, in which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, recounts his life changing encounter with God.
Verses 2-4 say: "It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation."
Would you be surprised to learn that this was written by a dictator of a pagan kingdom? Go back and read verse 1: "King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you!" This is the same king that had a golden statue made and commanded all his people to worship it with death in a fiery furnace the punishment if they wouldn't! He violently persecuted the followers of God. How did he go from persecuting to worshipping?
Verses 4-18 tell of a prophetic dream King Nebuchadnezzar had. After the magicians and sorcerers couldn't give the interpretation, so he called upon Daniel (a follower of God) and he gave the meaning. Daniel was dismayed when he heard the king recount his dream, because the news would be tough for the king to hear.
Basically, the dream was about a great tree whose top reached to heaven and its branches were visible throughout the whole earth. Then it was chopped down and only the stump remained and a voice from heaven said, "Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. Let his mind be changed from a man's, and let a beast's mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men."
The reason Daniel was dismayed is that this was a prophecy of what would happen to the king. Upon Nebuchadnezzar’s insistence, Daniel reluctantly told that the tree being cut down and the details about being wet with the dew and eating with the animals referred to the king himself.
Verse 28 continues the story: “All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, ‘Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?’ While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will.”
Man! Talk about déjà vu!
Sure enough, the prophecy came to pass. The great king went mad, and was driven out of the palace, and lived with the wild animals eating grass and sleeping out in the fields. His hair and nails grew long as he was an un-kept, wild, maniac. I can imagine a father walking along the road by the fields and pulling his young son close to his side as he grips his staff firmly in his hand. “Daddy! Is that a man out there eating grass with those cows?” The father, with looks down at his frightened and shocked little boy, “Yes, son. Yes. He was once the great King Nebuchadnezzar, whose armies conquered the other kingdoms of the earth.”
God hates pride. Nebuchadnezzar, in his pride, thought himself to be mighty and powerful by his own strength, and wasn’t giving the glory to God. He didn’t recognize that God was keeping him breathing, keeping his heart beating, and keeping him sane. God is a jealous God; He is jealous for His own glory. He will be praised, honored, and glorified as God. He alone is worthy of this; we are not. Pride steals what rightfully belongs to God and attempts to give it to someone or something that is utterly unworthy of it.
We live in a prideful, arrogant culture where pride and self-confidence are praised as virtues. Nebuchadnezzar would have fit right in. He would have been a prototypical American success story. I can see the magazines now: “Here is a man of accomplishment! He set his mind to do great things and he did them!” In America, patting yourself on the back is becoming increasingly accepted, but God hates it with a passion.
The story of Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t end here though. God mercifully restored his sanity and even gave him back his position as King of Babylon. But it was a different Nebuchadnezzar who came back as king; he was a changed man. Listen to his words now in verse 34:
“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored Him who lives forever. For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’”
Wow! What an amazing transformation God brought on this man! God changed the proud, self-absorbed narcissist to a humble worshipper.
This king’s last words in the Bible are “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and His ways are just; and those who walk in pride He is able to humble.”
But there was another King to come who was the ultimate example of humility – Jesus Himself. Philippians 2 is just one of many passages in the Bible that provide us with Jesus’ example of humility. The more we focus on Jesus’ perfection, the more we will realize how far we fall short. We will be truly humbled, and that is exactly where God wants us to be. The joy of this is that once we are no longer blinded by pride, we can actually see God’s amazing grace and love for us, and walk in close fellowship with Him! Let this be our goal daily: To see more of God and to fix our attention on His glory! We will never become humble people by continual focus inward.
Instead of sinful and deceptive self-confidence, we can have God-confidence, living our lives boldly in faith to God. Christians should be courageous and confident people because we can claim the promise of Romans 8:31 “If God be for us, who can be against us?“
Live in His confidence, brothers and sisters.