Summary: Instead of praying, "Lord keep me humble," we'll really want to pray, "Lord make me humble."
(sermon theme from Mike Turner)
Boanthropy. Do you know what that is? It’s a psychological disorder where a person believes that he is an animal. Could this be what causes our children to eat the way they do at the dinner table? No. Boanthropy is a bit more involved than that. If your children were really afflicted, they would answer your summons with grunts, and would sleep outside with the coyotes and jackrabbits.
In our sermon text today we meet a famous king who was afflicted with this strange disorder. His name was Nebuchadnezzar and he was the king of Babylon during the time of the prophet Daniel. For a period, Nebuchadnezzar went from living in a magnificent palace to surviving in a muddy pasture. Why? Because of his pride. He refused to acknowledge that his greatness was a gift from God, so God cut him down to size. Sinful pride is not just a problem for kings and celebrities; it threatens to make animals of us all. What’s worse, it threatens to pull us away from our place in heaven’s palace. So let’s see what Nebuchadnezzar’s experience teaches us about pride and how God wants us to deal with it.
It was Nebuchadnezzar who destroyed the temple Solomon had built in Jerusalem. But he is most famous to historians for his building projects including one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: the hanging gardens of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar built this to resemble the mountains one of his wives loved so much.
All this success of course had been given to Nebuchadnezzar by the God who gives any success we enjoy. Nebuchadnezzar thought, however, that he alone ought to receive the credit for his achievements. The way he saw it, he was a self-made man. But God doesn’t tolerate such pride. He could of course have dispatched Nebuchadnezzar with an angel assassin. Instead he sent Nebuchadnezzar a nightmare meant to warn the king to adapt a more humble attitude. In this dream the king saw a large tree that reached up to the heavens. It was so tall that it could be seen from anywhere in the world. Birds and animals of all kinds found shelter in it. But then an angel appeared with the command to cut down the tree and to strip it of all its leaves. All that would be left was a stump.
Nebuchadnezzar had no idea what the dream meant and neither did any of his advisors except for one: Daniel – the same Daniel who would spend time in a lions’ den. It was no mystery to Daniel that the tree represented Nebuchadnezzar and God was saying that he was going to cut him down to size if he didn’t repent of his pride. But look at how Daniel approached the matter. He said to the king: “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries!” (Daniel 4:19b) Daniel seemed to really care about this king – a king who had destroyed Daniel’s beloved homeland and took him captive. We might expect Daniel to rub his hands together in glee and announce: “Hey man, you’re finally getting what you deserve!” Instead Daniel urged the king not to let this happen to him. He said: “Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue” (Daniel 4:27).
How does Daniel’s attitude compare to yours? Do you too desperately seek and pray for the salvation of others? That’s easy to do for those who are family and friends, but what about those who make your life miserable? Seeking their salvation doesn’t mean that we ignore the hurt they cause. Daniel didn’t ignore Nebuchadnezzar’s sins; he pointed them out! But he didn’t do so in a self-righteous manner, but to get the king to see that he needed God’s forgiveness. What a good example Daniel is. I need to be more caring like he was and more bold. I often shy away from pointing out sin because I’m afraid what the other person will say when I should be more afraid that if this person doesn’t repent of that sin, he or she will spend an eternity in hell.
How did Nebuchadnezzar handle Daniel’s advice? Considering that nothing happened to the king for the next twelve months, he must have taken to heart the warning and humbled himself. But one day after that Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the roof of his palace surveying the great city of Babylon when he boasted that he had built it all proving his greatness. Before those words died away, however, other words resounded from heaven. God spoke promising now to carry out the details of the dream. And just like that Nebuchadnezzar went from king to crazy as he believed that he was some sort of wild animal. He left the palace and hit the pasture where he remained, hair and nails growing savage-like long, until he repented.