Summary: Nebuchadnezzar learned from personal, painful experience that pride goes before a fall.
"The First Deadly Sin" Daniel 4:28-37
A celebrity was being interviewed on TV. The talk-show host asked, ¡§Can you recall the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?¡¨ ¡§Yes,¡¨ she answered. ¡§Next question, please!¡¨ Most of us would like to forget our embarrassing or humbling experiences. King Nebuchadnezzar, however, was willing to reveal the most embarrassing experience of his life. The mighty king learned from personal, painful experience that pride goes before a fall.
We often read how governmental officials try to put a positive spin on the latest scandal. Having ¡§Spin Doctors¡¨ is nothing new; the ancient kings spin-doctored their achievements¡Xpraising what was noble, while remaining conveniently silent on their weaknesses and defeats. Historians have to struggle with accounts of events from opposite and biased points-of-view in order to get to the truth. Nebuchadnezzar¡¦s pride was considerable, and if God had not intervened, we would be left with an incomplete record. But God stepped in, and the King confessed all.
The lesson of this chapter is that God hates pride. In fact, theologians who have analyzed the nature of sin say that the essence of sin is pride. The middle letter of sin and pride is ¡§I¡¨. All the way back to the Garden of Eden--and even before with the fall of Satan--pride has caused us to put ourselves first above God, above His Law. All 7 of the 7 deadly sins stem from pride, which I suspect is why the church fathers placed it first. The 6 remaining sins are offshoots of pride, along with all other sins.
Pride is arrogance, presumption, conceit, vanity, selfishness self-trust and self-satisfaction. Though easily defined, it is more easily recognized in others than in self.
ƒçWe can be caught up in our talents, accomplishments, positions and paychecks;
ƒçWe can be puffed up by our recognition and awards;
ƒçWe can start believing our performance appraisals!
-And we can lose sight of the fact that--all that we are, and all that we have, comes from God. An ancient Hebrew proverb declares, ¡§He who takes his rank lightly raises his own dignity.¡¨ Yet I suspect there are some who have prayed, ¡§Lord¡Xlet me prove to You that making CEO, or President of my Company, or General, or a millionaire, won¡¦t ruin me!¡¨ Some people get to the top of the ladder of success only to discover they¡¦re on the wrong ladder. At that point, it¡¦s time to re-define success.
Nebuchadnezzar¡¦s downfall began when he took stock of his kingdom; in verses 28-30 he surveys the splendor of Babylon and gets caught up in its grandeur. The city possessed one of the ¡§7 Wonders of the Ancient World¡¨, the famed ¡§hanging gardens¡¨, constructed especially for his wife, Amytis who had been raised in the mountains of Media. This impressive structure was a series of elevated gardens within multi-tiered terraces, with ingenious hoists constructed to raise water from the Euphrates river for irrigation. The king clearly takes full credit for the wonders of his capital city in verse 30: ¡¨Is this not the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?¡¨
Then he heard a ¡§voice from heaven¡¨ (vs 31). The timing was perfect; the king could not possibly miss the purpose of God¡¦s displeasure at the words he had just spoken. I can¡¦t think of anyone who would more wish they could take back the words they¡¦d said¡Kbut it was too late. Daniel, the king¡¦s advisor, had warned him, but he either did not believe Daniel or simply didn¡¦t care to heed his counsel.
The king became mentally ill and behaved like an animal. His hair and nails grew unruly, and he likely resisted anyone trying to groom him. It is likely that Nebuchadnezzar was kept for his own safety in a secluded private location where he could be under supervision and care, also keeping his condition hidden from public knowledge. He remained in this condition, as Daniel predicted, for 7 years. He sounds like an ancient Howard Hughes.
Nebuchadnezzar was not where he should have been. The king was in the swamp of self-will. In vs. 14 he is described as a tall tree that¡¦s about to be cut down to size. When we get lofty notions of ourselves we cannot prosper. Pride isolates and cuts us off from both God and others who might offer assistance. Nebuchadnezzar became cut off and debased. He became like an animal in appearance and behavior. The Babylonian officials who served him ran the empire during his infirmity.
The king¡¦s root problem was that he was an unbeliever. As such, he was on his own, yet thinking that he could prosper that way. Pride leads people to feel no need for God, to feel independent of God. They¡¦re on their own, thinking that¡¦s a good place to be. I saw someone on TV say ¡§Whenever I have a problem, I call on me.¡¨ God can make us see that self-reliance will bring us eternal ruin.