Conflict Results in Conversion
Thomas Thwaites spent three days in a herd of goats studying goat behavior. No, he was not a shepherd or hired hand, he was trying to be a goat! You can read about the story of a man who tried to live like an animal here. Apparently it was not easy.
The Bible tells us of a king who ended up living like an animal. However, unlike Thwaites, he did not choose to live like one. His life choices did lead to such an event. You can find this story in Daniel 4, the only chapter in Daniel not written by Daniel himself. It was written by Nebuchadnezzar, and it contains his testimony.
The plot of the chapter is very similar to Daniel 2. Nebuchadnezzar has a dream, but this time he remembers it. He calls all the wise men and tells them the dream and asks for the interpretation. Remember that in Daniel 2 they specifically asked Nebuchadnezzar to tell them the dream and they could reveal its meaning. However, in Daniel 4 they are given the dream, but their inability to decipher the dream reveals their usefulness (or lack thereof).
Finally Daniel, faithful Daniel, is called in. After hearing the dream, we can tell it is not good news because Daniel was astonished for a while. Nebuchadnezzar fishes it out of him. We can learn from Daniel’s example about how to treat those who do not believe in God. Just as the Lord does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, Daniel too did not find pleasure in revealing the dire news of the dream to Nebuchadnezzar. As Christians we should always be concerned for our fellow brothers and sisters, even if they do not believe in God. We should not gloat in the eventual destruction of the wicked. At the same time Daniel had to deliver the word from God. He could not sugarcoat this dream. He could not make it palatable. Like Daniel, when we are faced with situations where we must deliver difficult news, we must do so in love, but also in complete honesty. Daniel did not shy away from the message waiting for Nebuchadnezzar, but he also did not boast in Nebuchadnezzar’s predicted downfall.
The tree represented Nebuchadnezzar, and the rest of the interpretation indicates that Nebuchadnezzar would be driven from men and live like an animal. His hair would grow out, he would eat grass, and lose his mental capacity to think like a human. Why such a punishment? Because God had revealed himself continually to Nebuchadnezzar through Daniel and his friends. Nebuchadnezzar had been given many opportunities to repent, and this dream was a warning of what was to come if he did not humble his heart.
God’s messages to us always end in hope. For Nebuchadnezzar, there was a way out of this prognosis. Daniel 4:27 shows Daniel offering advice for Nebuchadnezzar to do what is right, and to help the poor. If he humbled his heart and acknowledged that God is ultimately in control of earth’s events, his prosperity would continue.
And the good news?
Nebuchadnezzar repented! For the next year he maintained humility and followed Daniel’s advice. And he did not turn into an animal. After a year though he was walking through his palace and boastfully credited himself with Babylon’s success. At that moment he was a changed man, or rather animal. The dream that God had mercifully warned him a year earlier with an opportunity to change came to pass. The king was removed from the realm of humanity and lived like an animal for seven years.
At the end of that time the Bible tells us that Nebuchadnezzar came to his senses and finally repented and gave his life to God. He concludes his testimony by acknowledging that God is the ruler of men and gives power to whoever He wants to.
Nebuchadnezzar’s story gives all of us hope to turn to Jesus. He was a pagan king, who put Daniel and his friends through many trials. Yet God gave him many chances to repent. Nebuchadnezzar repented for a time, but ended up backsliding. Yet at the end of his experience he acknowledged God’s sovereignty and surrendered fully to God. What an amazing testimony! In a book filled with beasts and prophecies and conflicts between God and man, we are given insight into the most powerful man in the world at the time and the inner conflict he endured. Praise the Lord that he turned his life around!
Nebuchadnezzar’s story can be your story. It can be your friend’s story. It can even be your enemy’s story. But God in his mercy desires that all men come to Him and that all be saved.