In Daniel 1, we catch our first glimpse of Nebuchadnezzar as he takes Jerusalem captive. Attack. Conquer. Sounds about right so far. But then, in chapter 2, he has a terrible nightmare that scares him silly, but by the time he calls for his magicians and counselors, he can't remember what the dream was about. Of course, none of them could tell him either, but when Daniel found out what was going on, he stepped forward and said that he could do it. God gave Daniel both the dream and the interpretation of it. I'll let you read all about that on your own because I want to get to Nebuchadnezzar's reaction to this. Look carefully: The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret. (vs. 47) It sounds like Nebuchadnezzar caught on, but, chapter three shows us that he didn't.
We're all familiar with the next chapter. The king, proud of himself and his accomplishments, sets up an image of himself for all the land to worship. It wasn't an option or a suggestion. It was a command. What happened to worshiping the God of all gods? And it gets worse. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to bow down, Nebuchadnezzar threatens to throw them into the fiery furnace, and look what he says to them: Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? (vs. 15) Who is that God? Um, duh, it's the same God you were worshiping and praising in the last chapter--the One you said was the God of gods and King of kings.
As you know, the three Hebrew children still refused, and Nebuchadnezzar made good on his threat, only things didn't turn out the way he had planned. Again, I'll let you read that story, but I want to jump ahead to the king's words once the three Hebrew children were set free from the furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. (vs. 28-29) Finally, he gets it, right? He finally understands that there is no one higher or more holy than the one true God, or so it would seem, but as we continue to chapter four, we see that the king still hasn't learned his lesson.
In chapter four, Nebuchadnezzar's pride gets the best of him again, and he declares, The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? (vs. 30) Immediately, God struck him down and transformed him into some sort of beast that was forced to eat grass and linger in the woods and fields with the rest of the wild animals. Lovely, huh? When God finally releases him from this captivity, Nebuchadnezzar appears to be a changed man. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour 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. 37)
Did Nebuchadnezzar finally have his act together? I'm not sure, but the next chapter tells us that his grandson, Belshazzar, was as wicked as they come. Hopefully, he didn't learn that behavior from dear, old grandpa.
The sad part is that we can often be just as wishy-washy in our faith as Nebuchadnezzar was. One minute we trust God with all that we have, the next minute, we're wringing our hands in worry and fear. In the morning, we praise and worship God for being Lord of our lives; then we spend the rest of the day serving ourselves instead of Him. We claim to want His will above all else, but when it comes time to make a decision, we do what we want instead of what He wants.
It's easy to read through the story of Nebuchadnezzar and think, Shame on you! Won't you ever learn your lesson? But the hard truth is that we have no room to talk. We're just as guilty as he is. So, if we're going to examine someone's faults, how about we start with our own so that we can learn to stand firm on our faith and stop being blown about by every breeze that comes our way.