Most “churched” folk have heard the story of Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego at some point in time. I’m a tad ashamed to admit that my first exposure to the story was watching the Veggie Tales video with my pastor’s kids while I was baby-sitting. (Does anyone else picture Nebuchadnezzar as a big zucchini? Anyone? Just me? Ahem…moving along now.)
This week I’ve been reading the book of Daniel. I’ve read the book of Daniel before, but it’s been quite awhile and I either wasn’t paying attention the first time or I’m in a different place spiritually and I was just struck differently this time around. I’ve always had an idea of Nebuchadnezzar in my mind as this arrogant man who created an idol and threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fire when they wouldn’t worship the idol. I knew that when they weren’t consumed by the fire and Nebuchadnezzar saw an angel with them in the furnace that he acknowledged that they served a mighty God. He even prohibited anyone from speaking badly about their God, but that’s not exactly choosing to follow God or acknowledging that He is the one true God.
Then I got to chapter four. The king had a dream, which Daniel later interpreted, where he learned that he was going to lose everything and be humbled until he knew ”that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will (verse 25).” And it happened. Nebuchadnezzar lost his kingdom, and in verse 33 we read “He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.”
God brought him, a king used to splendor and riches, to a breaking point. So what did he do? He praised God.
“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation…
…At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 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.”
(Daniel 4:34,36-37 ESV)
I was so struck. At a time when most people would be cursing God and blaming Him for all of the bad things happening to them, Nebuchadnezzar finally honored God as the one true God. I love the line “my reason returned to me.” I’ve been there. I’ve been in those times where things are so bleak and I know that it’s just a low time and that God will bring me through it, and even though my heart may not feel it, my mind — my reason — knows that this is not an abandonment by God, but a learning experience from God.
Nebuchadnezzar was restored. It was a terrible process, but he was confronted with his own sin and humanity and it humbled him and brought him closer to God.
No one is so far into their own sin that God cannot restore them. Nebuchadnezzar was throwing believers into a fiery furnace because they wouldn’t turn away from God and worship a statue, and God restored him.
I think this story resonated with me because in the past few weeks DH and I have been walking through some friends’ restorations with them. When we talk to them, there’s a brokenness there, but a peace at the same time. They’ve finally acknowledged that things are in God’s hands. They’ve been brought to the same point as Nebuchadnezzar, where everything else has proved futile and the only thing left to do is cry out to God, admit that you need Him, and begin the restoration process through Him.
I’m so thankful for restoration stories in the Bible. When I read the stories about Nebuchadnezzar, King David, Paul, and so many others, I see that God really does want us to acknowledge Him, pursue Him, and follow Him, and that even though we mess up over and over and over again, He desires our restoration.