Pride is an ugly thing, and most often, we are able to see it in others long before we’re able to see it in ourselves. Proverbs 16:18 reminds us, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” King Nebuchadnezzar learned this in a most dramatic way toward the end of his time as king of Babylon. He was perhaps the most powerful ruler of his time. His kingdom stretched over most of the known world of his day, and things had gone pretty well for him, but his demise came when he failed to recognize that all this had come by the hand of God, not because of Nebuchadnezzar’s goodness, but because of how God wanted to use him in the punishment of His people, the Jews.
In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar had a strange dream that troubled him. It was the second time a dream had upset him dramatically, and in those cases, he calls for his staff of wise men referred to as “Magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and tells them to interpret his dream but they could not. Finally, Daniel is called in because Nebuchadnezzar recognizes that “the spirit of the holy gods is in [Daniel] you”. Daniel tells the king that as great and mighty as his kingdom is, it will be torn from him, and that he, the king, would be driven from the presence of men, and would eat grass like an ox, and that he would be wet with dew and his mind changed from that of a man to that of a beast for seven times, or seven years. This thing was being made known to Nebuchadnezzar so that “the living might know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.”
Daniel begs the king to “break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.” The king foolishly does not heed the advice of Daniel, but finds himself one evening on the roof of his palace reflecting on what a great king he is, and how great is this kingdom that he has built by his own power. While he was still speaking these thoughts to himself, a voice from heaven called down to him, “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men, and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately, this word from heaven was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar it seems became insane for a period of seven years, his kingdom was stripped from him, he ate grass like an ox, his hair grew out until it looked like feathers, and his nails grew out like claws.
His pride had gotten the best of him, and God was teaching him a valuable lesson in humility. I’m not sure why I felt led to write this. Maybe someone reading it needs to hear it; maybe it’s for me, which is probably more likely the case. Pride is an ugliness before God, and is a failure to recognize God’s sovereignty in our lives, and that any accomplishment or ability we possess has been given to us by Him, and it is for His glory, not our own. Paul puts it pretty bluntly in Galatians 5:3, “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, deceives himself.”
My prayer is that we would heed the advice of Daniel, of Solomon, and of Paul, and turn from our pride, and give glory to God. That’s where our source of strength lies; that’s where our gifts and abilities come from. Pride can be hard to see in ourselves, so I hope it doesn’t take someone else to make you aware of it in yourself, as that can be embarrassing, but sometimes that is what God uses to bring us back to our senses and humble us. One last word from Solomon, in Proverbs 27:2, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen