Nebuchadnezzar: The Insanity of Pride

Text: Daniel 4:1-37

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.” —Daniel 4:37

There is an old kid’s story about a lion who was very proud and decided to take a walk one day to demonstrate his mastery over all the other creatures. He strutted his way through the jungle until he came across a bear. “Who is the king of the jungle, bear?” the lion asked. “Why of course you are, mighty lion,” said the bear. The lion went on until he found a tiger. “Who is the king of the jungle, tiger?” “Why you are, great lion.” On he walked until he found an elephant. “Who is the king of the jungle, fat elephant?” The elephant immediately grabbed the lion with his trunk, spun him around a few times, and slammed him to the ground. He then stepped on him a few times, picked him up, dunked him in the water, and threw him up against a tree. The lion staggered to his feet and said, “Look, just because you don’t know the answer is no reason to get so upset!”

None of us are immune to pride. Whether it’s assuming we are better than others, boasting in our achievements, holding on to an offense done to us, needing credit from others, demanding recognition or attention for ourselves, or the arrogant critiquing of how the God of the universe should carry out His affairs, pride always goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

Nobody should understand this more than King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon. In Daniel 4, we see the world’s most powerful dictator of that time “at ease” in his house and “prospering” in his palace when his kingdom was suddenly interrupted by an alarming dream. From our previous devotions in this series, we understand that Nebuchadnezzar knew who to call when a strange dream needed interpretation, so he referred to Daniel’s business card.

As an unchallenged tyrant, anything the king saw or desired, he simply took. He was forceful, selfish, brutal, and egotistical. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t answer to anyone, or so it seemed. But boy was he in for a rude awakening! Daniel pointed out that the “tree” which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, noted for its size, strength, prominence, beauty, and visibility to the whole earth, was about to get “chopped” down. Daniel makes it very clear, “it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong… you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field.”

Nebuchadnezzar learns a powerful lesson about the insanity of pride. His madness drives him into the wilderness to live in isolation and eat grass on all fours like a wild animal, “till you know” WHO really is in charge—“that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” His hair grew as long as eagle’s feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. Thus Nebuchadnezzar became the original “Beastie Boy.”

After a period of time, something transformed in Nebuchadnezzar. “I lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me.” If ever we lived in a time when “reason” desperately needed to be returned, these are the height of those days. We have yet to mitigate the curve of unreasonableness in this hour! Our reasonableness is found in direct correlation with our turning, or returning to God—it could cure all of society’s ills. A narcissistic king regains his sanity when he distinctly confesses that God is supreme. He concludes, “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.”

This ancient king teaches us the importance of replacing our pride with humble praise to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Where might you need to let humility guide you into dependence on His grace in this hour? Your reasonableness is very much at stake. Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.

PRAYER

Father, you are sovereign and true. Your dominion is an everlasting dominion, and your kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are subject to your mercy. We humble ourselves under your mighty hand. This is our reasonable act of worship. Forgive us of the pride of thinking we can go about this life in our own power. Help us to confront our pride and learn submission to your kingdom reign in our lives today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:

  1. What does the term “temporary insanity” mean to you?
  2. What was the meaning of the tree in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 4:20-26)? What happened to the king twelve months after the dream (Daniel 4:28-33)? What happened at the end of the king’s illness (Daniel 4:34-37)?
  3. When has pride brought you low? In what ways can our view of ourselves hinder our spiritual growth? When have you ignored what you felt was a warning from God about specific sinful behavior?
  4. What recent insight, revelation, or reminder about God has given your faith a boost?
  5. Where does humility need to take you this week in submission to the supremacy and authority of God?

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This VBS curriculum is based on the Old Testament book of Daniel. The theme teaches children how to live with courage in uncertain times. It was designed as a camp curriculum for children 8-12 years of age. Can also serve as a 5-week Sunday morning children’s ministry teaching series.