The book of Daniel is kind of an odd bird. Everyone recognizes it as a prophecy, or group of prophetic visions – centered around the person of Daniel. But most of us first encounter Daniel in the Sunday School stories taken from the book.
There’s Daniel, thrown into the lion’s den because he refused to pray to anyone but God – even though it had become illegal. There’s the similar story of Daniel’s three friends – Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – rescued from the fiery furnace. We know them better by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
When the Jews got together to compile and categorize their Scriptures they chose to put the book of Daniel in the writings category – even though it has many prophecies. It was obviously different enough from the Nevi’im (prophets) that the choice was justified.
But when the Greeks got together to compile and categorize the Scriptures, they placed Daniel in the category of Major Prophet. That choice was also justified. God is speaking through Daniel – not just in the apocalyptic visions – but also in the historical stories.
The text from Daniel that I want to highlight is the portion of the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation where the great king comes back to his senses.
“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:34-37 ESV)
This was the great king who had built the neo-Babylonian empire. His people thought he was so great that they literally worshipped him. Those who refused to do so were destroyed. This was what Nebuchadnezzar had planned to do with those three Hebrew officials with his fiery furnace. God rescued them, and the king was put in his place for a while. But before long, he was full of himself again.
Next, God struck him with insanity. “He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws” (4:33). He stayed like that for “seven periods of time.”
“and seven times shall pass over thee; which some understand of weeks, others of months, others of the seasons of winter and summer; but it is best to interpret it of seven whole years”
PERSPECTIVE ON GOD (34c, 35b).
[read the story here, then come back!]
That story reminds me of this incident with Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was everybody’s “Big John” But God was Nebuchadnezzar’s “Big John.” His sovereignty is absolute. His power and authority are absolute. That was the perspective that the great king learned by his time of humiliation.
“for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation” (34c).
“and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth” (35b).
PRAISE FOR GOD (34b, 37a).
“I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever” (34b).
“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just” (37a).
PERSPECTIVE ON US (35b, 37b).
“none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?“” (35b).
“those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (37b).