“The Gospel According to Daniel”
Lesson 5 – God in Pursuit
Daniel chapter 4 is surprisingly written from the perspective of Nebuchadnezzar. Let’s review what we know about Nebuchadnezzar so far from the first three chapters of the book of Daniel.
- The king of Babylon (Daniel 1:1)
- Not a worshiper of God – he worshiped other gods (Daniel 1:2 3:12)
- A proud man (Daniel 3:15)
- A man with a violent temper (Daniel 2:12; 3:19-20)
- Willing to use violence to enforce his will (Daniel 2:13; 3:4-6,29)
- Unable to accept that Babylon could ever fall and that only God’s kingdom would be eternal (Daniel 2:31-35, 44; 3:1-6)
Let’s read Daniel chapter 4 together.
Nebuchadnezzar’s words in the first three verses are a beautiful praise song to God! These do not seem like the words of a cruel pagan king who built a golden image in defiance to God. These words are from a humble and gracious man. What happened to transform Nebuchadnezzar in such a way?
In order to answer this question, let’s consider the first three chapters from the perspective of Nebuchadnezzar.
In Daniel chapter 1, Nebuchadnezzar meets four young individuals (Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael) who lived a different lifestyle and were wiser than all the magicians and astrologers in his realm (Daniel 1:20).
In Daniel chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar learns of God through a strange dream and another encounter with Daniel, who is actually a worshiper of God. By interpreting the dream, Daniel gives glory and testifies of God. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges the existence of God, but is not yet ready to accept God. At this point he still prefers his own religion (Daniel 2:46-47).
In Daniel chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar challenges the authority of God and ends up having an encounter with Jesus (Daniel 3:25). He now cannot deny the power of God, but is not yet ready to have a relationship with Jesus. Note that Nebuchadnezzar never addressed the fourth person in the fiery furnace and only calls out Daniels’ friends to come to him. Nebuchadnezzar seemingly honors God with a decree, yet the violent provision in the decree shows Nebuchadnezzar’s heart has not changed. Nebuchadnezzar is struggling at this point with the failure of his own religion in light of the power of Jesus.
In Daniel chapter 4, we learn that Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was the stumbling block that was preventing him from personally knowing Jesus (Daniel 4:27, 30). Nebuchadnezzar could not have a relationship with God because he put himself first in his own life. It took an extreme act from God and seven years before Nebuchadnezzar was able to humble himself and cast away his pride (Daniel 4:25-26, 31-34). When Nebuchadnezzar repented of his sins and glorified God, he became a different person. He transformed from being proud and vindictive to being gracious and humble.
Friend, can you see that God has been pursuing and trying to reach Nebuchadnezzar this entire time? Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan king who had access to all the power, land, material possessions, and pleasures this world could ever offer. Yet, God knows all such things are meaningless in the face of eternity (Ecclesiastes 5:10; Luke 19:16-21). Even though Nebuchadnezzar was not a Hebrew, God still cared for him (Psalms 139:13, 15-16). God sent Daniel to minister to and witness to Nebuchadnezzar. It took many years, but Nebuchadnezzar’s heart eventually softened to the point where he allowed Jesus into his life (Revelation 3:20).
If God can reach someone like Nebuchadnezzar, He can reach anyone! Nebuchadnezzar’s story should give us encouragement that redemption is possible for everyone, even someone with the most seemingly hardened of hearts. If there is someone who you love that does not yet know Jesus, keep praying! Will you trust God to keep pursuing them?