The days are growing longer; the sun is shining brighter; the snow is beginning to melt away. Spring will be here before we know it, which means the spring Holy Days will soon be upon us. We will soon de-leaven our homes, make arrangements for the Night To Be Much Observed, and—most importantly—examine ourselves in preparation for the Passover.
We know the Bible is an Instruction Manual written by our Creator for our admonition—to teach us how to live His way of life. God has preserved the most interesting and exciting stories from history as examples from which we are to learn.
If we are willing, we can learn lessons from the two greatest kings who have ever lived. One was a king whom God had to abase; the other was a man after God’s own heart. It is to our benefit to study their examples to help make the most important decision of your life.
The Greatest Gentile King
Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon, the greatest empire of the Gentile nations. The capital of his empire had walls that were 56 miles long and wide enough for two chariots to pass beside each other. The city was also home to the famous Hanging Gardens, which is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Legend has it that King Nebuchadnezzar built the gardens for one of his wives, who was homesick for her homeland, Media. The Babylonian Empire encompassed a vast part of the known civilized world.
Beyond the physical qualities of the empire, God, using the prophet Daniel to interpret a dream, made it clear that Babylon was the most magnificent of all empires (Daniel 2). This sobered and impressed Nebuchadnezzar so much that he attempted to worship God by bowing to His servant. Daniel quickly pointed out that the only way to serve God was to obey and worship Him.
However, Daniel’s advice and the dream’s message were soon forgotten. Nebuchadnezzar thought more about his power and how the world’s leaders and his subjects should worship him. He had a golden image erected in his likeness, and made a decree that all who would see the image and hear the accompanying music must bow down and worship the statue.
God worked through Daniel and his friends to show Nebuchadnezzar who really gave him his kingdom. Even after the amazing miracle of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being saved from a fiery furnace for their steadfastness in worshipping the true God, the king was still far from repentant. He had much to learn regarding how insignificant he truly was compared to God.
Yet Nebuchadnezzar’s pride in his power and possessions made him conclude that he must be a special person. Daniel’s reminder that everything came from God went unheeded.
After the king received another dream from God, he told it to everyone in his throne room—the top leaders, thinkers and wise men of the empire—hoping to find the dream’s meaning. As before, Daniel was the only one who could give the correct interpretation, because God was with him.
Notice: “Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonished for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spoke, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble you. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate you, and the interpretation there of to your enemies.
“The tree that you saw, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation:
“It is you, O king, that are grown and become strong: for your greatness is grown, and reaches unto heaven, and your dominion to the end of the earth. And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him.
“This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will. And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; your kingdom shall be sure unto you, after that you shall have known that the heavens do rule” (Dan. 4:19-26).
Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom may have become great and powerful—but it was God who had given it to him. God was going to make certain that Nebuchadnezzar would recognize this.
A year later, when the king walked along the top of the massive walls of the capital, he pointed to the great city that spread out before his eyes, and said, “Feast your eyes on all this! There’s no place in the entire universe like my city—Babylon—which I have built by my great power for my honor, glory and majesty!”
Once those words left his mouth, the promised punishment of abasement began (vs. 33)!
The king failed to heed God’s warning, that it was His mighty hand that directs world events and the flow of history. Due to Nebuchadnezzar’s ingratitude, God removed the “spirit in man” (Job 32:8), causing the king to become as a wild animal, roaming the countryside and eating grass. This ruler of the greatest empire on earth lived as a madman for seven years!
Only then did the king learn his lesson. Notice this sobering and insightful account: “And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up my eyes unto heaven, and my understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High [God], and I praised and honored Him that lives forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What do You?…Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase” (vs. 34-35, 37).
Nebuchadnezzar had ignored the many signs from God. It was only after being abased that he finally saw things from the right perspective. Through this sore trial, Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was broken. He came to see how puny and weak he and his kingdom were compared to God.
Because of the king’s swelling pride, God could not work with him. Pride, arrogance and ingratitude prevented Nebuchadnezzar from grasping the full scope of the Creator’s power.
We know that God suffers long with us. But we should take the account of this Gentile ruler as a sobering lesson, and acknowledge God’s might and His overarching authority in every aspect of our lives.
The Greatest King of Israel
Next, let’s consider King David, Israel’s greatest king.
When Samuel traveled to Jesse’s home to anoint the nation’s next king, the prophet had to ask if he had seen all of Jesse’s sons. In time, David was called in from tending sheep, and was anointed (I Sam. 16:11-13).
But Saul was still king over Israel. He persecuted David and sought to kill him. Yet David would not retaliate against Saul, even when an easy opportunity presented itself. When Saul was within his reach, instead of taking the king’s life, David secretly cut off a piece of Saul’s cloak. He repented of this, horrified he had disrespected God’s anointed (I Sam. 24:5-7).
The kingdom was David’s to possess, but he would have to wait patiently for God to give it. He did not have the authority to seize it for himself.
Sometime later, when he learned the news of Saul’s death, David and his men mourned and lamented the loss: “Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him: And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the Lord, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword” (II Sam. 1:11-12).
David’s first thought was not, Great, the kingdom is finally mine! The coronation ceremony is tomorrow! as other men would have thought.
Notice how David felt about his enemies and how he prayed for them: “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourns for his mother” (Psa. 35:13-15).
Even with the downfall of one of his enemies, David mourned as much as he would if he were his own flesh-and-blood.
King David’s attitude was far different from that of King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made a 100-foot-tall golden image of himself. David was a man who sought to humble himself. He even wanted God to show him what the final days of his life would be like. “Lord, make me to know my end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am” (Psa. 39:4).
Such humble thoughts never crossed Nebuchadnezzar’s mind—nor are in the thoughts of most people.
King David knew his physical life was short—temporary—and that, in comparison to God, it was “less than nothing” (Isa. 40:17).
In Psalm 39:5, David states, “Behold, You have made my days as a handbreadth; and my age is as nothing before You: certainly every man at his best state is altogether vanity.”
Continuing in the next verse, David knew how we think of ourselves: “Surely every man walks in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain.”
This does not just speak of looking at yourself in a mirror and thinking you are looking “pretty good.” We can be vain about practically anything. We can think too highly of our job, language, skills, experience, education, ethnicity, home, car, city, family, wealth, country, etc. Surprisingly, we can even be vain about absolutely nothing or the lack of something in our lives, such as being poor or ignorant. It is man’s natural state not to be humble!
God “raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also He gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, which shall fulfill all My will” (Acts 13:22).
For God to refer to David in such a manner, declaring he would perform “all My will,” King David must have made a choice—the same choice we all must make.
Ours to Choose
No one—not even the Creator of the vast universe—can humble you. God can only abase you, through trials, as He did with King Nebuchadnezzar. If God could humble us and impart humility, then we would not be free moral agents. God wants us to choose to humbly obey Him. This decision is ours to make.
The Bible reveals what David and all servants of God must do: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8).
Translated correctly, the last part of this verse should read, “and humble yourself to walk with God.” We should stop and deeply ponder this passage, especially prior to Passover. God is telling us that to walk with Him we must lower ourselves. This implies that human beings automatically elevate themselves in their thinking.
Consider: We have all seen someone walk down the street with an “air” about him, acting as if he were better than everyone else. That “someone” is all of us! All human beings in their natural state walk above God in their thoughts and motives. God tells us to, in essence, “Get off your high horse and come down here and walk with Me, your Creator!”
The apostle Peter reiterates the same point recorded by Micah: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (I Pet. 5:6).
Ask God to give you a yielded, humble and teachable attitude so that He can use you as His instrument in helping fulfill His Master Plan.
When you make the daily choice to humble yourself and walk with God, He may say, as He did with King David, that you are “a man after My own heart, which shall fulfill all My will.”