Nowhere in the ancient literature or records of Babylon is it mentioned that a great Chaldean regent spent seven years on all fours grazing like a bovine. But that’s not surprising, really, is it? Royal records can be tidied up; inscripted tablets can be ground to dust. Classified information can stay hidden. A monarch’s memory may be preserved as he wishes it remembered.
Except that Daniel, respected advisor to the king, has kept his own records. And Daniel is determined to have us learn a pattern for prayer that is relevant to any life, to leaders of world empires and to everyday people like you and me.
So when any of us, like Nebuchadnezzar, refuse to deal with our issues of pride, the lines of communication between God and us are hindered. We might not be so overt as the Babylonian king, boasting, “Is this not the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” We are subtler than that.
We rate others based on their weaknesses compared to our strengths; we believe we are making an honest assessment.
We criticize the wayward; we believe those mistakes are beneath us.
We disparage those that resort to life on the streets; we believe those failures are impossible for us.
We take credit for our successes, ignoring God’s provisions that were intrinsic to our rise.
Pride is always comparative. It is by nature competitive. It does not tell us we are good, but better than others. It is not satisfied until it rises above someone else. Pride uses leverage to lift us against the fulcrum of others’ backs. When we begin to believe that we are inherently better than others, we begin to distance ourselves from God. First, people become stepping-stones to our own plans for success. Then we use God.
Daniel had observed Nebuchadnezzar’s positive response to the miraculous fiery furnace event. The king had promoted the three God-followers, and issued an edict that all Babylonians must respect this God (or “be cut into pieces”!). Yet his personal response is shallow. His prayer is superficial; He avoids letting it change his lifestyle. Daniel perceives the king’s prosperity has come at the expense of oppression of others. He warns the regent that his most recent dream predicts the effects of pride. The great spreading tree of the king’s influence (see Daniel chapter four) would be leveled to nothing more than a stump should Nebuchadnezzar fail to control his pride. He ignores the warning, he continues to glory in himself, and he soon discovers he wants nothing more than to graze in the forest. Perhaps only with the mind of an animal can he learn to praise his Maker.
It’s unlikely I will ever suffer from boanthropy like Nebuchadnezzar’s seven-year delusion. But if I am resolved to develop the aspect of my character that best facilitates prayer, I’d better learn from the king’s experience. God wants humility to be foremost on my list of traits. I can learn the easy way, or I can learn the hard way.
Externals do not fool God.
Who does God hear? “This is the one I esteem (says the LORD): he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2). Let’s move from bellowing to trembling and see what happens to our prayers.