Daniel 4:33 – “Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. 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.”
Of all the kings in Scripture, no one is as fascinating to study as much as Nebuchadnezzar. He is a living and breathing evidence of the extreme measures God takes in order to bring glory to himself and to pursue his people for their good.
Nebuchadnezzar was a pagan king who God sovereignly used to administer judgment to his people. While in exile, God pursued Nebuchadnezzar and spoke to him in dreams and visions. The pride in Nebuchadnezzar was entrenched deeply in his heart and was a vice that God was adamantly on mission to break down. After God rescued Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace that Nebuchadnezzar threw them in, it appeared briefly that Nebuchadnezzar was committed to Yahweh. At the end of chapter 3, a decree was given that forbid any person from speaking against Yahweh. Even as king of the most powerful nation, Nebuchadnezzar could declare in 4:3, “How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.” Nebuchadnezzar was a changed king! Or was he?
In chapter 4, God gave the Babylonian king a dream that foretold how he would be humiliated in an absolutely incredible way. Because of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride, the dream was fulfilled. Standing on the rooftop of his palace, Nebuchadnezzar admired his work by saying, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” It says immediately after that, while he was speaking these words, God judged Nebuchadnezzar and turned him into an animal who ate grass like an ox, had hair all over his body as long as an eagle’s feather, and had nails like birds’ claws. God disciplined Nebuchadnezzar for God’s glory and for his own good. He learned his lesson. After a while, it says that once again, he boldly admitted that God is the King of all kings who is worthy to be praised.
Talk about extreme measures! God turned a man into an animal to convince him that he isn’t God! There is a spiraling effect that takes place when it comes to discipline. For those that love God and seek to be faithful to him, he will discipline in a greater and greater way to cause them to wake up! Though Christ was ultimately judged by God in our place, to this day, we will experience the discipline of the Lord. God cares too much for our lives and our hearts and for his glory to let us live in rebellion against him. He will discipline in order to wake us up. He will use extreme measures in order to show us what is most important. If we continue to rebel and continue to deny his sovereignty and worth in our lives, then either we are hardened against God and don’t really know him in the first place, or the power of indwelling sin in us is blinding our eyes. If we are his, he will not let us go. He will continue to pursue us, and his pursuit might be extreme! But if we are not his; if we do not believe he is Lord and we have not repented from our sin, he might abandon us to our own sin. Both measures are extreme. The judgment is just and right, and the discipline is mercy and grace.