How God Humbles the Proud
How God Humbles the Proud (Daniel 4)
How does God respond to human pride? We may gain insight for our own lives from His dealings with Nebuchadnezzar, proud king of Babylon. This chapter is unique in all Scripture for containing the imperial decree of a pagan king. This is Nebuchadnezzar's own testimony. From his dream of a great tree and its destruction we learn how God responds to human pride.
Virtually every shade of pride is reflected in the experience of Nebuchadnezzar. He demonstrates the pride of engrossment (vv. 4, 29-30). "Is this not the great Babylon I have built?" He is like all those who are totally preoccupied with their own personal kingdoms to the neglect of God! Witness in his life the pride of establishment (vv. 10, 22) Just as a massive tree stands in lonely loftiness, so Nebuchadnezzar towered above all men in the stability of his kingdom. Men assert their pride when they think too much of their own human stability. Added to this is the pride of enlargement (vv. 11, 22). Even as Nebuchadnezzar watched all that he was doing grew and expanded. It is a rare man who can overcome pride as his accomplishments grow. All of these other occasions of pride were joined by the pride of enhancement (v. 12). All that Nebuchadnezzar did had about it a health and brightness that was unsurpassed. His very presence betokened the exquisite and the luxuriant. When a man is so graced he may easily be proud. In his relationship to others there is exhibited the pride of endowment (v. 12). All the known world depended on Nebuchadnezzar for protection and nourishment. Whenever a man harbors those beneath him who are dependent for life and protection he may become proud of his very responsibilities.
Those qualities which provoked Nebuchadnezzar's pride abide in every generation as temptations to hurtful and obnoxious pride before God.
It is axiomatic in scripture that God will judge pride. It is not a matter if God will do so, but when God will do so. Certain factors in God's judgment on pride are exhibited in Nebuchadnezzar's experience.
God's judgment is appropriate in its announcement (vv. 14, 31). God judges human pride in a way that is unmistakable. When the word of God came to Nebuchadnezzar, the decision was already made and the source of judgment was undoubtedly God himself. In just the hour that Nebuchadnezzar most luxuriated in his power God spoke.
God's judgment may be total in its abasement. When God deals with the man of pride that man is first diminished (v. 14). One word from God can cut a man down to human size. Such a one when judged may also be deserted (v. 14) and deranged (v. 15). The most devastating judgment of God on Nebuchadnezzar is to witness the great king dehumanized (vv. 16, 25, 33). Nebuchadnezzar would not only live where the animals lived but he would live as an animal. Nebuchadnezzar's pride evidently deranged his mind until suddenly it broke. He went from the palace to the pasture. It is a matter of encouragement that God's judgment on pride is delineated (v. 16). God wishes to judge a man only so long as necessary to bring repentance.
God's judgment is purposeful in its accomplishment. The desire of the living God is to teach all men His absolute sovereignty and His divine mercy (vv. 17, 25, 32). The judgment of God is not a blind rage; it is a purposeful discipline. Therefore the judgment of God is merciful in its accompaniment. If Nebuchadnezzar will repent, God will temper His judgment (vv. 26, 27). Judgment is God's "strange" work. He delights in mercy.
The pathway to wholeness begins with resignation to divine sovereignty (v. 34). It was when Nebuchadnezzar lifted up his eyes to heaven that healing began in his proud life. Immediately after that there is a restoration of human rationality (v. 34). Nebuchadnezzar's understanding returned when in humility he looked up to almighty God. The insanity that characterizes proud leaders in this present age will be healed only when they too look up. This led to a recognition of divine eternity (v. 34). In contrast to the transient and temporary kingdom of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar recognized the eternal kingdom of God. Pride always ends when a man recognizes fully his own mortality. In it all there is a beautiful realization of divine equity (v. 36). After the judgment of God, Nebuchadnezzar was more brilliant in his rule and more prosperous in his kingdom than ever. In his great mercy God does not wish to crush the proud man but to redeem him.