I blame reality television.
And I don’t just mean just reality TV shows—I mean reality TV shows, and cable news, and YouTube, and Twitter, and Instagram and every other 21st century wonder that tricks me into believing I’m qualified to judge someone I’ve never even met. I’m never quite as irritable as when I’m watching people do things I cannot even begin to understand, much less justify or defend. And yet I can’t turn away! It’s the proverbial train wreck going on all around us—noisy and graphic and consuming and we just can’t stop looking.
Obviously technology isn’t really to blame here. I’m a grownup, and I make my own decisions. I decide what I will consume and how I will respond. But I’m a sinful grownup. And I know my saved-by-grace-alone self enough to know it could just as easily be me on the other end of that unfortunate YouTube video gone viral or that reality show that’s unbearable to watch.
Grace is the great leveler — we all need it, heaping amounts of it, all the time.
What am I really saying when I write off another person in my heart? Am I saying they’re beyond repair, that they’re not worth waiting for, praying for, hoping for? Am I saying the Gospel isn’t big enough for them, that God’s arms of compassion and grace aren’t long enough to reach them?
Were I Daniel, I would have thought all those things about Nebuchadnezzar. As a person who knew the God Nebuchadnezzar didn’t, such destructive choices would have been tough to watch.
I mean, look at this guy: when he wasn’t spending his time expanding his kingdom, he was admiring it, worshipping it, and ordering others to do the same. He was changing men’s names to what HE thought they ought to be, fitting what he saw as the square peg of their unimportant existence into the round hole of his own, selfish worldview. For crying out loud, he nearly had people killed for not being able to describe his own dreams back to him! Had a licensed psychologist been handy, I’m pretty sure ole Nebu would have been diagnosed with Grade A narcissism.
Enter the God of Israel. The God who sees, pursues, loves, forgives. With the one, true God on the scene, not even the narcissistic king was a lost cause.
It started with a dream. Nebuchadnezzar has another inexplicable dream, and he calls Daniel in to interpret it. So Daniel does, explaining that Nebuchadnezzar himself was the magnificent tree and that God was going to humble him in a dramatic and effective way.
What happens next is the stuff not even reality TV shows are made of — the king very literally goes crazy, becoming like the wild animals and beasts of the field. Nebuchadnezzar is humbled to the point of losing himself completely, but when his sanity is restored, his spirit is also restored.
But at the end of those days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven, and my sanity returned to me. Then I praised the Most High and honored and glorified Him who lives forever:
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and His kingdom is from generation to generation.
This is an exclamation point moment! The king who had the whole world at his fingertips bows low before the God of heaven and proclaims, “All the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing” before the Most High King (Daniel 4:35). Counted as nothing! This, coming from a man who most definitely prized being counted as something.
In a remarkable example of God’s boundless goodness and grace, Nebuchadnezzar is transformed from destructive pride and self-exaltation to restorative humility. And our response should be? Praise be to the King of Heaven! “All His works are true and His ways are just. He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (Daniel 4:37).
Friend, you and I need God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice just as much as anyone else on this vast, sinner-filled earth. When we are caught up in the confusion and noise around us, unable to look away from those our hearts are prone to judge, may we remember the beautifully disarming image of pompous king Nebuchadnezzar returning from the field to praise the God of heaven. And may we pray:
Father, capture the hearts of those lost in kingdoms of their own making — ourselves included — and seize our affections for you and you alone, the only true King. Amen.