Sunday, July 29, 2012

Big Pride, Big Mistake

Nebuchadnezzar. Big name. Big head. Big mistake. I recap his story as we again consider a rule (number 12) that Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) wrote for humble living.

            As usual I’ll repeat it in the language of his day, “Entertain no fancies of vanity and private whispers of this devil of pride, such as was that of Nebuchadnezzar.” The ancient king made a boastful statement about the kingdom he’d created by his own might and that’s when God humbled the king in a unique way. Taylor notes that most of us have daydreamed about a fantastic moment when we might obtain some greatness. If a person dreams of becoming an actor, they might dream of an audience and thunderous applause.

            Someone might dream of climbing the corporate ladder to sit behind a desk plaque that reads CEO. Have you ever daydreamed of inheriting millions from a long lost uncle? And it only took five minutes to dream the scenario and spend all the money! Taylor refers to these daydreams as “imaginative pleasures.” However, he creatively calls them “fumes of pride.”

            Let’s look at Nebuchadnezzar II and what brought about his humbling. The book of Daniel contains this portion of the king’s story. Historians credit his reign with huge building projects, completing some his father started. His war campaigns also added captives to the Babylon workforce that built extravagant structures, including the legendary Hanging Gardens.

            One day when King Nebuchadnezzar walked on the roof of his royal palace he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

            We’ve all been tempted when prideful thoughts arise in our hearts. If one is in tune with God, we know that our next breath comes only because he ordained it. Humble people recognize the sin of bragging before it ever reaches the lips. Apparently, the king said all this aloud, because, “The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven: ‘This 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 cattle.’” The prophecy continued, “Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Daniel 4:28-37).

            At once, all of the things happened to the king. Brought low, his subjects drove him from the royal courts where he began to eat grass like cattle. We’re told the dew drenched his back until his hair grew thick like the “feathers of an eagle” and his nails like the “claws of a bird.” To say he was unkempt would be a compliment. Insanity seems to have accompanied his seven-year sentence as he lived with the animals of the field under the canopy of heaven with God alone as his caretaker.

            The king gives a first person account of what happened at the end of that time, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.” The king went on to declare that God resides over an eternal dominion, that man has no power unless given to him by the Most High, and no one can stop something he has ordained.

            The king went on to say, “My honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom.” He said he became greater than ever before, but along with that pronouncement, he praised and exalted the King of heaven, the one who placed him on his throne.

            Daniel 4 gives more details about this episode in the king’s life when he learned a lesson in a pasture that he refused to learn in splendor. Our humility scripture for today is a direct quote from that long ago king. Have any of us had imaginative daydreams of might, power, or wealth lately? Be on your guard against the seeds of sinful pride that starts in the thoughts. Even though King Nebuchadnezzar realized great wealth and power, they turned into “fumes of pride.”           

            Nebuchadnezzar. Big name. Big head. Big mistake.

            Hunger for Humility (30): “The King of heaven . . . everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37).


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