Often when 'ill fate' befall us it is man's response to wonder: why? Why me? What did I ever do? In the case of Nebuchadnezzar the answer is very easy to ascertain, it is given to us first in Dan 4:25 "till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will". This is followed in verse 26 with "after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule." Just incase we haven't got the message God himself drives it home in verse 32 "until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will"
Pleasingly, but not surprisingly, we actually find the plan worked; in verses 35-37 we find Nebuchadnezzar giving praise to the God of heaven.
The challenge to us is to ascertain what these phrases really mean, when they apply, if they still apply and if so what are we going to do about it?
The meaning is spelled out for us in Pr 8:15 "By me kings reign, and princes decree justice." The rulers and powers over us are there because God has placed them there. This is not simply an Old Testament concept either, Romans makes the same point " Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God"
We see therefore that governmental power comes from God; the danger is that the powers put in place will be foolish enough not to recognize this. A classic example is Pharaoh, and throughout the plagues we find these interesting phrases:
"!that thou mayest know that there is none like unto the LORD our God."
"For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth."
"!and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the LORD'S."
Thus the lesson was not one simply applied to Nebuchadnezzar but to pharaoh too. In fact when we get to Job 12 we find the act of humbling rulers is a fairly common occupation "He looseth the bond of kings, and girdeth their loins with a girdle. He leadeth princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the mighty."
The question then becomes, are these lessons meant purely to correct the ruler themselves. Joshua 4 answers that one: "That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.". Isaiah 37:20 is a plea for a similar effect when the king of Assyria falls "Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD, even thou only."
So the humbling of Nebuchadnezzar was designed as a message, first to him, and then to all who watched. But should it have been a lesson to anyone later? Again scripture provides the answer, Nebuchadnezzar's grandson is scolded for having not heeded the lesson that applied to his grandfather. In fact it is cited as one of the mains reasons for his downfall. He saw, he knew, but he didn't apply.
The question we then have to ask is, does this all still apply to us? The scriptures to answer that one are well known but bear repeating:
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness"
"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."
"Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."
If we believe this lesson can still apply to us we have to look for the pre-conditions to see at what point it may be applicable. We have tackled these in another essay. Nebuchadnezzar had pride in his position, he was jealous of any attention going to anyone but him and he was proud of his achievements. He attributed the favor he was in to his own gift and labor. These are clearly the pre-conditions for God humbling someone.
In my opening paragraphs I posed four questions, I have answered three. The fourth was 'what are we going to do about it?" I cannot answer that one for you. Scripture tells us what we should do about it but what we do do about it can only come from within. Nebuchadnezzar knew what to do but his mind was hardened, as I close with the advice of Peter my prayer is that our hearts and minds will be open to learning the lesson presented.
" Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:"