Summary: How sin can make us unrecognizable...not just to other, but to ourselves!
“That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws.”-Daniel 4:33
Several years ago our church held a few public awareness classes on the Dangers of Meth. Our local law enforcement set up a a display, the ladies of Grace House Teen Challenge came and gave testimonials, and a representative from the county prosecutors office participated. One of the things that got my attention was a slide presentation they showed us of before and after pictures of people addicted to meth. The people they showed went from normal healthy individuals to decayed shells of their former selves.
The process was so gradual and the addiction so controlling that most of them didn’t even recognize how bad it had gotten: teeth missing, hair falling out, massive weight loss, sunken faces, and scars from picking at their skin. Literally they had become unrecognizable.
As I consider the story of Nebuchadnezzar I am intrigued by the transformation that this man went through; one that left him virtually unrecognizable! He is described as being drenched with dew, covered in long hair, his nails were like birds’ claws, living in the wilderness, and eating grass like a cow. That is a long way from the robes, servants, and palace life he had been living in for years. I am certain that those who saw him were in shocked by his appearance and behavior as over a period of seven years he became unrecognizable!
As a Pastor, I have sat in several counseling sessions with people who have got caught up in sinful situations and compromised their faith. As they sit in my office, on more than one occasion, i’ve heard them say… “When I look back on that time of my life, I don’t even know who that person was.”
What were they saying? Basically, they are admitting that their behavior, attitudes, and activities were so deplorable and outside the will of God; so far from who they professed and wanted to be, that they did not recognize themselves.
How do we end up in a place in life that we don’t even recognize ourself? Nebuchadnezzar’s story can help us. It begins in Daniel 3:1-6:
“Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
Here we read how the King set up an golden statue of himself for the people to worship and anyone who did not worship the image was cast into the fiery furnace “
The journey to becoming unrecognizable begins when we start building altars to ourselves. We live in a culture that promotes and encourages self-worship. Books, blogs, and podcasts focus on creating a new you, a healthier you, a stronger you, a smarter you, a more successful you, a richer you, or a more beautiful you. None of which is necessarily a bad thing unless it becomes what you live for and it defines you.
This pursuit has led us into having an over-inflated sense of ourselves. Nebuchadnezzar was no different. Remember he didn't build a statue to himself that was 6 ft, 10 ft. or even 20 ft. tall. No! He build one that was 90 ft. tall. He had become consumed with himself. This was about him. He wanted the music and the fanfare and if you didn’t support him in his grand delusion; you were cast into the fire and cut off!
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”-Daniel 3:16-18