Today’s reading: Daniel 4-6.
Nebuchadnezzar should have known better. He had witnessed the power of God in the lives of Daniel and his friends repeatedly. He even praised the God of Daniel for his works. Finally, the LORD gave him a dream about the danger of failing to acknowledge God. Daniel interpreted the dream for him and warned him to act before it was too late. Still the king hesitated.
…as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” The words were still on his lips when 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 cattle. Daniel 4:29-32
The king lost his sanity and acted like an animal. His illness was God’s response to his boasting and pride. Let me be clear that mental illness is not usually due to pride. More often it is a result of genetics, abuse, trauma, or great loss. But in the king’s life it sprang directly from his pride.
Belshazzar was the final Babylonian king, and pride also caused his fall. On the night that the Medes conquered Babylon, Belshazzar held a party and called for the gold goblets from the temple in Jerusalem. Soon God was tracing his judgment of doom on the palace wall. Daniel interpreted the words for the king, declaring that God had weighed him and found him wanting. He reminded the king that his predecessor had failed to acknowledge God and paid for it with his sanity.
“But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.” Daniel 5:22-23
One of the kings received mercy; the other didn’t. Nebuchadnezzar finally repented of his pride after seven seasons of insanity, and God restored his kingdom. He acknowledged that dominion belonged to God and that he reigned supreme over every man. Belshazzar made no such profession, and his life ended the very night God passed judgment on him.
God gives grace to the humble. Therefore, let us humble ourselves by acknowledging God’s power and dominion. Let’s submit to his word and his will. If we practice the prideful ways of men like Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, we would be insane to expect a different outcome.