Summary: Nebuchadnezzar’s pride problem, a second dream, transformation into a beast and his repentance.
You could also call this chapter: “From Beauty to Beast” or “The Birdman of Babylon.”
Sadaam Hussein is the Dictator of Iraq. This week he posted a message on the Internet stating he has become a Christian. Part of it says: “I realized recently that for the past seven years I have been out of my mind—I have been acting like a beast. In the past few days God has opened my eyes—I have denounced Islam and I am now trusting the God of Israel—I have given my heart to Jesus Christ and I plan on spending the rest of my days serving Him.”
Wow! What a stunning development! But it is not true. I just made it up. (And don’t believe everything you read on the Internet!) But I hope it got your attention, because Sadaam Hussein is not the first Wacky Iraqi. 2,600 years ago, there was another king who reigned over the same territory. His name was Nebuchadnezzar–and he really did have a conversion experience! That’s what Daniel 4 is all about. Nebuchadnezzar has been converted to faith in God and chapter four is his personal testimony. It is a book within a book.
Let’s look at verse 1 and 2, “King Nebuchadnezzar to the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly! It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous sings and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.”
Then the next few verses sound like a Psalm. They are written by a man who has been totally changed. “How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.”
The same guy who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace in chapter 3 writes this. This is same man who, even after seeing God’s power, decreed that anyone who spoke against the God of Heaven would be cut up into tiny pieces and their house destroyed. This is a changed man.
Let’s study his testimony today. First we will look at what happened to old Nebuchadnezzar and then we will talk about what it means for us today. First, let’s consider:
SCENE ONE: A DREAM RECEIVED (4-18)
Now about 30 years has elapsed between chapter 3 and this chapter. Daniel is probably in his mid fifties and Nebuchadnezzar is approaching 70. Let’s study Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony. Look at verse 4, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me.”
Uh, oh—another dream. This dream is of a massive tree, healthy and thriving. Then skip down in verses 13-16 to see what scared Nebuchadnezzar:
“In the visions I saw while lying in my bed, I looked, and there before me was a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He called in a loud voice: ‘cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let he 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 [a person, now, not a tree] be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live 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 [years] pass by for him.”
Well, old Nebuchadnezzar sends for his wise men, again. “Tell me what this dream means!” And it says they couldn’t interpret it (when will Nebuchadnezzar learn?) Finally he sends for his star player: Daniel.
SCENE TWO: A DREAM REVEALED (19-27)
Look at verse 19: “Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.’ Belteshazzar answered, ‘My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and it’s 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 beasts of the field, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air–you O king, are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.”
But if you remember in the dream, an angel takes a heavenly chain saw, cranks it, revs it up a couple of times and then proceeds to cut the tree down. Timber! Remember, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.