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God Teaches He Is Sovereign

Daniel 4:11–12 (ESV) … “The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.”

Some students believe that twenty or thirty years may have elapsed between the episode of the fiery furnace described in chapter 3 and the events described in this chapter. Nebuchadnezzar was now enjoying a time of peace and security. After defeating all his enemies and completing several impressive building projects, he was able at last to rest at home and delight in what had been accomplished. Nebuchadnezzar thought that he was the builder of “Babylon the great” and the architect of its peace and prosperity, but he was soon to learn that all these things had been permitted by the will of the Most High God.

Once again God in His grace used a dream to communicate an important message to Nebuchadnezzar. In his first dream (Dan. 2), the king saw a great metallic image of which he was the head of gold, but in this dream he saw a huge flourishing tree that fed and sheltered a host of animals and birds. He heard an angel command that the tree be chopped down, its branches and leaves cut off, its fruit scattered, and its stump banded with iron and bronze. Then a command from the angel announced that someone would live like a beast for “seven times” and then be restored. After the first dream—that of the great image—King

Nebuchadnezzar was troubled (2:3), but after this second dream, he was terrified (4:5, niv). He summoned his wise men and asked them for the interpretation of the dream, but they were baffled; so he called for Daniel. After the experience of the first dream, when the wise men failed so miserably, you would think Nebuchadnezzar would have bypassed his advisers and called Daniel immediately. But it seems that in the record of both of these dreams, Daniel is kept apart from the wise men, even though he was “master of the magicians” (v. 9). The Lord wants to remind us that the wisdom of this world is futile and that only He can give a true understanding of the future.

Nebuchadnezzar had changed Daniel’s name to Belteshazzar which means “Bel protect his life” (vv. 8, 19; see 1:7). Bel (Marduk) was one of the king’s favorite gods. The fact that Nebuchadnezzar used both the Hebrew name and the new name in this document suggests that he had grown fond of Daniel over the years and didn’t treat him like the ordinary exile. The king recognized that “the spirit of the gods” was in Daniel and had give him remarkable wisdom and insight.

The king described his dream to Daniel: the vastness of the tree (note the repetition of “all” in vv. 11–12), the terrifying words of the angel, the transformation of a man into a beast, and the affirmation of the angel that all of this was by the decree of the Most High God. The dream was sent to teach an important lesson: “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men” (v. 17, niv). God saw the pride in Nebuchadnezzar’s heart and was prepared to deal with it. The king could issue his decrees (2:13, 15; 3:10, 29; 6:7–10, 12–13, 15, 26), but it was the decrees from the throne of heaven that ruled events on earth (4:17, 24; 9:24–27). “The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:19, niv). [1]

The lesson Nebuchadnezzar learns in this chapter is recorded in the last sentence of his testimony: “Those who walk in pride [God] is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37). The lesson came from the worst experience of Nebuchadnezzar’s life, but today from Heaven he would tell you it was the best thing that ever happened to him. [2]

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (pp. 48–51). Colorado Springs, CO: Victor. [2] Stortz, R., & Hughes, R. K. (2004). Daniel: the triumph of God’s kingdom (p. 62). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.


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