Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
Daniel 4:31-32 (NIV)
One of the things that I’ve observed along my spiritual journey is that God as revealed in the Great Story is present and active on both the macro and micro levels. God is at work on a grand scale in the universe as far and deep as the James Webb Telescope can see. God is at work across this earth and the story that’s being authored across our history. God is at work in the lives of individuals, drawing people to Himself.
Today’s chapter is fascinating on so many levels that I struggle to hone my thoughts and words into one cohesive theme. On a macro level, there has been a paradigm shift that has far-reaching consequences. The story from Abraham in Genesis to the end of the monarchy we read about in 2 Kings has been myopically focused on the Hebrew people in a “us vs. them” fashion.
The Hebrews are now living in exile in Babylon and the theme shifts to what God is doing and wants to do in the life of the Babylonians and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The Hebrew exiles are told to live in Babylon, to prosper in Babylon, and to bless the Babylonians. This shift was foreshadowed through the prophet Jonah when God sends the reluctant seer to the hated, enemy Assyrians in Nineveh in order to spark a spiritual revival. Jonah is indignant that God would care about the Assyrians, but this has been the plan from the calling of Abraham when God said to Abe: “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
In the book of Daniel, we’re witnessing the shift from “my people” to “all people.”
On a micro level, today’s chapter is about God’s concern for one man: Nebuchadnezzar. The leader of the Neo-Babylonian empire had every reason to have boastful arrogance. Babylon was a wonder of the ancient world with walls so thick that a four-horse chariot could race around the perimeter atop the walls. The hanging gardens of Babylon were one of the seven wonders of the world.
But God wants Nebuchadnezzar to be humbled, and to know, just as Daniel told him, “there is a God in Heaven” who has lifted him up and can take it all away.
In the quiet this morning, I find myself meditating on God on all levels from the eternal Kingdom of Heaven down to the kingdoms of this world, down to me and my innermost thoughts, and even down to the sub-atomic particles of creation that lie beyond human knowledge. There’s a wonder in embracing that the God of the universe loves me and is intimately concerned with my spirit, heart, mind, and body; He wants to author a story in and through me and my life. Lest I get too focused on myself, Jesus tells me that His work in my life and story is really about being an agent and ambassador of Love with everyone around me, which feeds an even larger story He cares about in their lives and the Great Story He is authoring on all levels.
Today’s story, and the theme of the book of Daniel through the first four chapters, is about God wanting one man to acknowledge and know him. Fascinating to think of the events happening on the macro levels cosmically and internationally to make this very personal story happen.
Today’s featured image is Nebuchadnezzar by William Blake.
Public Domain. Located at the Tate Modern in London.
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