The Blessings of Brokenness
Obviously the Book of Daniel was written by Daniel (although liberal scholars would disagree), but very few people have noticed that chapter 4 was actually written by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It may have been copied by Daniel from the state papers of Babylon. It is a marvelous testimony from the King to the whole kingdom. He had experienced an amazing conversion that radically altered his perspective and his way of living. Nebuchadnezzar had conquered the Mediterranean world, and he was known for his ruthlessness and arrogance. What could possibly change a proud man who was so successful and had no accountability to anyone?
Consider that he was an evil tyrant, a ruthless despot, a pagan idol worshipper, and a man filled to the brim with arrogance and pride. The more success he enjoyed, the more selfish and ambitious he became. Even though God clearly revealed to him in Daniel 2 that his success was God given, he still suppressed the truth and magnified himself as a god in both chapter 3 and 4. In ch.3 he made a large image of gold about 90 feet tall that probably represented himself. He then commanded everyone to fall down and worship the golden image. As you might remember, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to do it so they were thrown into the fiery furnace. Their miraculous protection caused Nebuchadnezzar to say some wonderful things about the God of Israel, but he still did not subject himself to the one true God nor was he humbled before God. In ch.4 God sent him a fearful troubling dream that could only be interpreted by Daniel. The gist of the dream was that God had blessed him greatly with wealth and power, but if he did not humble himself before the Lord and repent of his beliefs and wicked ways, God would remove him, take him down, BREAK HIM.
Why did he feel so proud? What makes any puny man arrogant before God? He was like the flea on the elephant—one day the elephant walked across a bridge which shook under his great weight, and the flea yelled out, “We really shook that bridge.” He was like Dennis Rodman when he played with Michael Jordan. After a victory, Rodman said they won because he and Jordan together scored 60 points (Rodman had 5). Nebuchadnezzar was arrogant because among men, he was great; but a mountain shames a molehill until both are humbled by the stars. Great by human standards is still puny by God’s standards.
What Would it Take to Break Such a Proud Man ?
There is an actual mental illness called zoanthropy (also known as boanthropy or lycanthropy) which is a psychiatric syndrome which involves the delusion of being transformed into an animal. The patient behaves in a manner that resembles animal behavior. One day, a year after God had given him his final warning, the king was walking on the terrace on top of his awesome palace looking at all he had built in Babylon, including one of the seven wonders of the world, the Hanging Gardens. The king was having his usual moments of basking in his vain glorious delusion, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” He sounds like the Donald Trump of his era. While this proud fantasy was still on his lips, God showed up. Sovereignty was removed from him, and he was given the delusion that he was a cow. If we wondered what it would take to humble a really hard case, now we know. He was driven out like a beast in the field to walk on all fours and eat grass like cattle. His hair grew long and his nails grew out like claws. This condition would be quite humiliating and I can imagine his boasting came to an end.
A Miraculous Conversion
Most people would think the king’s condition was a bad thing, and you can imagine the humiliation of his family—“Sorry, Dad can’t come to the phone, he is out grazing in the north pasture.” Nevertheless, at the end of seven years, God graciously brought him back to his senses. I’m guessing that is how tough that guy was, it would have taken a wimp like me 7 minutes, but for Neb it took seven years. That is when his family and his subjects found out the result of his ordeal, he was a changed man—God had broken him. By his own confession, we are told, “I Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High God and praised and honored Him who lives forever.” At the end of ch.4 Nebuch. tells us why this happened to him, God “is able to humble those who walk in pride.” Sometimes the only thing that can impress us is pain and humiliation, but God did something miraculous in this man’s life. It seems clear to me that at this point in his life he was converted, he believed in the one true God, and he wanted everyone to know it. He probably wrote the original testimony in the state papers of Babylon to be sent out for the whole kingdom to hear.
A Personal Testimony
Daniel 4 is Nebuchadnezzar’s personal testimony of his dramatic conversion to the one true God, or as he put it “the Most High”. A personal testimony is a valuable tool for all believers to be able to convey the difference the Lord has made in our life. What is a testimony made up of? Typically it has three parts: Who you were before the Lord was in your life, what happened to change you, and the great positive difference it has made for you. It is a positive recommendation for the audience to pursue a personal relationship with the Lord. You may not know the great theological arguments, but you do know the difference Jesus has made in your life. It is your personal experience, it is true and can’t be denied as everyone can see the positive change in you.
Now many supposedly religious and good people will not speak out about their faith because their religion is “personal and private”, but this is not biblical. Jesus told all His disciples to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all people…teaching them all that I commanded you”. Paul said in 1 Cor.5:19, “God has committed to us the word of reconciliation, therefore we are ambassadors for Christ as though God were entreating through us.” Peter wrote, “always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you”.
Read Daniel 4 and find the three elements of Neb’s personal testimony. His previous life was marked by personal ambition for power, wealth, and acclimation. He was an ego-maniac. If you have ever been a salesman, ever had to humble yourself to make a sale, you have probably been in this guy’s office. Neb viewed himself as the king of the world, and expected the world to bow down to him. He was a self-made man who worshipped his creator (himself). His misplaced adoration peaks out in verse 30 when he attributes all of his stuff and even the whole city to the greatness of his majesty. All of his statements have a repetition of “I, my, and mine”. He had gotten plenty of input from the Lord but ignored it. God gave him a fearful dream that warned him to shape up. Daniel explained it to him, but his pursuit of pleasure and the distraction of riches caused God to have to resort to extreme measures. No person is ever on trial so much as at the moment of excessive good fortune. Prosperity and spirituality have rarely gone together. At that time, God caused something to happen that would humble him forever. He was struck insane or given a delusion of being a “beast of the field”. The once great man became an object of humiliation and scorn for seven years. The third part of his testimony begins in verse 34, Neb is changed, improved forever. At that time God restored his reason, and then he focused on heaven and blessed God with both what he said and a changed life. He gave all the glory to God and recognized God’s sovereignty. Everything he had done and everything he had was a gift from the Lord. The chapter ends with Nebuchadnezzar as a humble man. Now that is a major miracle.
I’m sure that while he was insane his friends and family thought this was a terrible thing that had happened to him, but we know that it was a great blessing from God. Sometimes the only thing that can impress us is pain. If we are really fortunate, God uses extreme measures to get through to us. By the GRACE of God, Nebuchadnezzar was broken. Perhaps someone in your life is a hard case like Neb, maybe you should pray that God would break them. What a revolutionary thought that God could use an affliction to save us. What the world considers a horrible thing could actually be the greatest blessing.
The Greatest Discovery
Dr. James Simpson made many medical discoveries. In 1847 he discovered chloroform to render people insensible to pain during surgery. He was knighted by the Queen for his accomplishments. At the ceremony he was asked, “What was your most valuable discovery?” His reply was, “When I discovered myself a sinner and that Jesus was my Savior.”