Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon describes a time in his life (Daniel 4) when he was “flourishing in his palace” and saw a dream that made him afraid. That dream was accompanied by many thoughts and imaginations that troubled him, hence he sought to find out the meaning of the dream by calling in all of his wise men and explaining it to them. They could not. Then he called for Daniel and asked him to explain the dream.
10 “These were the visions of my head while on my bed:
I was looking, and behold,
A tree in the midst of the earth,
And its height was great.
11 The tree grew and became strong;
Its height reached to the heavens,
And it could be seen to the ends of all the earth.
12 Its leaves were lovely,
Its fruit abundant,
And in it was food for all.
The beasts of the field found shade under it,
The birds of the heavens dwelt in its branches,
And all flesh was fed from it.
13 “I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed, and there was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. 14 He cried aloud and said thus:
‘Chop down the tree and cut off its branches,
Strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit.
Let the beasts get out from under it,
And the birds from its branches.
15 Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth,
Bound with a band of iron and bronze,
In the tender grass of the field.
Let it be wet with the dew of heaven,
And let him graze with the beasts
On the grass of the earth.
16 Let his heart be changed from that of a man,
Let him be given the heart of a beast,
And let seven times pass over him.
17 ‘This decision is by the decree of the watchers,
And the sentence by the word of the holy ones,
In order that the living may know
That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men,
Gives it to whomever He will,
And sets over it the lowest of men.’
Daniel explains that Nebuchadnezzar would be the tree that would be chopped down. He says that the decision to cut down the tree was taken by the “watchers” – apparently significant inhabitants of heaven. While the dream portrays the message to be the outcome of a decree of the watchers (vs17), Daniel shows it to be a decree of the Most High (vs24). The watchers who sat together in the court of heaven had pronounced a sentence upon Nebuchadnezzar. This sentence was actually God’s sentence upon Nebuchadnezzar that was pronounced by the watchers.
This sentence upon Nebuchadnezzar came to pass at the end of 12 months as he looked out around him and ascribed his success and prosperity to his own abilities.
“While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! 32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.””
Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his palace. “he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.” Something happened to him that caused his understanding and reason to be taken away (vs 34 and 36). He had lost his sanity. He lived out in the open among the beasts of the field, ate grass like oxen and was ungroomed. The Word tells us that this state continued for 7 years until he understood that he was just a man and that God was in control of the kingdom of men. At the end of 7 years, his sanity was restored and so was his kingdom. He had learnt his lesson.
The key phrase here is in verse 32 – “until you know”. Until you know your own frailty, your own mortality, your own helplessness, your own inability, your total dependence on God. Until you know that God is God.
It took Nebuchadnezzar 7 years. It takes many of us much longer.
In fact, many of us wander in the wilderness of independence for years, refusing to face our own inadequacies or ugliness of self-effort, refusing to be brought to the place of surrender, battling with many giants some of whom simply receive stature and power from our own self-centredness.
Let me repeat that. We empower some of the giants we battle by our own refusal to die to self.
The greatest battle of all is not with the devil nor with the world nor with the flesh, but with the Holy Spirit. He seeks to bring us to the place of deliberate surrender and dependence upon God while we fight Him tooth and nail every step of the way, refusing to give up the ghost.
There are struggles that we face, storms that we pass through, problems that we grapple with, issues beyond our control that wreck the peace, repeated failures that occur “until we know”. No amount of praying will calm the storm. Fasting will do little to help. Throwing out the cargo won’t help. God will seem far away. He is waiting.
He is waiting for us to know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men. He is waiting for us to come to an end of ourselves, to an end of our strength, to an end of our wisdom, to an end of our dependence upon our capabilities. He is waiting for us to count our qualifications and accomplishments as rubbish. He is waiting for us to come to the place where we seek to gain Christ and to know Him above all else. He is waiting for our vision to die, our striving to cease, our power to fail, for the grain of wheat to fall to the ground and die, for our frailty to be exposed, for us to see ourselves for who we are and to see God for who He is. He is waiting for the soul to completely cease from self-effort and to be fully surrendered to the Saviour.
I like the word “brokenness”. It is the place that the Spirit leads every Christian to, a Peniel designed just for us. It is the place where the wretchedness and inadequacy of self is displayed for personal viewing, seen and put to death, the place where the alabaster box is broken, the place where the Spirit has prevailed. It is the place where the Lordship of Christ has been consciously applied to every part of our beings. Then the countenance lights up with radiance, a radiance that proceeds only from the one who is truly surrendered to the Lordship of Christ, a radiance that the unbroken can never possess. From the broken there emanates the fragrance of Christ, not the nauseating stench of a mixture between self and the Spirit. Here, dead flies do not putrefy the perfumer’s ointment causing it to give off a foul odour. The aroma of Christ freely dissipates from such a one, the unadulterated perfume of Christ.
He is waiting for us to see Him as He is; to see the Jesus as revealed at Patmos instead of the Jesus at Bethlehem or the Jesus at Calvary. We have always been fixated with the Jesus at Bethlehem and the Jesus at Calvary but have’nt been so with the resurrected and ascended Jesus, who dies no more for death has no dominion over him. He is waiting for us to move camp from Bethlehem to Calvary, to the Mount of Olives, to the upper room and to Patmos. He is waiting for us to be as the Greeks who simply said to Philip, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”.
Until we have come to an end of ourselves and have seen Jesus for who He is.
To see Jesus as the visible image of the invisible God, the eternal Word by whom all things were created and who sustains all things by the Word of His power. To see Him as the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth, at whose name every knee bows in heaven, earth and under the earth. The excellence of the knowledge of Christ, the spirit to spirit communion, the apprehension of His salvation, the union with Him is sufficient to count all things as loss and to suffer the loss of all things.
A fresh vision of Jesus is sufficient to change your Christianity and give it fresh impetus and meaning. Time spent looking for Jesus in the gospel of John, Colossians, Hebrews, Ephesians and Revelation with the NLT will do more for your soul than the reading of many books, the listening of many sermons or the scramble from one meeting to another. Climb that sycamore tree, press in through the crowds, open that roof and get in, leave all, come at night, speak to Him from your cross, cry out like Bartimaeus, throw away your cloak, reach for the hem of his garment, walk on the water, beat your body and make it your slave, take up your cross and go after him, be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day! It is worth it.
God wants to bring us to the place of brokenness, that place of yieldedness, surrender and “knowing” of both ourselves and Himself. This is the place where the Spirit of God has prevailed over self, where the spirit has been forever severed from the restraints of the soul, where we have entered into true rest, a ceasing of self-effort and the place of simple reception of the salvation offered by Jesus. This place can be reached either by being taught by the Lord or by simply following Nebuchadnezzar’s footsteps.
There is a Nebuchadnezzar in each of us that has to come to the place of knowing. May it be sooner rather than later. That will benefit us, the church, the world and God. That alone will enable us to bear lasting fruit.