Content & Images © 2008-2014 - Rachel Miller, Ink Road Originals LLC, All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekly Snippet: Humble Yourself

I have been reading Daniel again this week, studying each chapter for details I might have previously missed.  This time I found myself comparing the lives of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar.  Neither could be called good men, but one was brought back from the brink by the decision to humble himself before God.  The other despised God to the swift end.  Can we learn something from even these atypical role models?

I can contextualize much of their thinking by pointing out that the kings of those days were often seen as gods among men--literally.  You may not be familiar with early Babylonian history, but you are probably familiar with the god-kings of Egypt.  When ancient kings (almost the world-over) spoke of carrying off the kings of a country, they were saying that they were more powerful than the gods of the kingdoms they had conquered (see Isaiah 10: 8-14).  In fact, they were exalting themselves as supreme gods among lesser gods.  No humility there!

Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar were no different.  Unfortunately, they chose to glory in their conquering power over the "little" God of Israel.  This can be evidenced by the godlike tone of statements such as this one from Nebuchadnezzar: "[I]f you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?" (Daniel 3: 15).  Belshazzar knew where those golden goblets had come from, yet he praised other gods and ignored the God of Israel (Daniel 5: 2-4). They had no respect for a God they thought they had defeated, but God wasn't playing their games. He gave them their power and all their victories; they were His tools, not His betters (Isaiah 10: 15-19).

Both men, mind you, were terrified by the power they suddenly encountered when God showed Himself to them.  Who can stand against God's wrath?  Nebuchadnezzar was warned when he saw the three Hebrew children walking in that fire, and he immediately ordered that their God be shown more respect--by others, and not exclusively, mind you (Daniel 3: 28, 29).  Later, he had a dream predicting his imminent destruction, and he heard Daniel's counsel to humble himself before God, to avert this judgement (Daniel 4: 27).  He forgot this for a year, but in the end, he learned his lesson and honored God.  How strange it must have been to his court to hear a conquering "god" praising the God of a conquered country as the "Most High," whose power even he couldn't question or deny (Daniel 4: 34, 35)!

Contrast Nebuchadnezzar's change of heart to Belshazzar's behavior on the night of his defeat.  Belshazzar, like his predecessor, was equally terrified by this appearance of God--the hand writing on the wall.  Again, from Daniel's lips he heard of his kingdom's imminent demise, and he was urged to humble himself (Daniel 5: 18-23).  Though the Bible doesn't explicitly say that Belshazzar scoffed,  we get the idea that he did.  Though Daniel had asked him to keep his gifts and give his high appointments to others, he ordered the fine robes and the proclamation anyway (Daniel 5 : 29).  I see a mockery here that is parallel to the mocking of Christ before the crucifixion (Matthew 27: 27-31).  That very night (as secular historical records corroborate), Darius of the Medes disguised himself as a palace guard and killed Belshazzar while his men took the rest of the capitol.

Fatal Hubris

I have spoken before of the tendency in all people, since the days of Adam and Eve, to be filled with the kind of pride that causes us to aspire to godhood.  The Bible is full of so many examples of these so-called "gods" who dared to challenge God, saying, "By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding," (Isaiah 10: 12 NIV).

Today, I don't think I need to rerun the facts.  We should read the stories of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and take heed of the lesson.  Shall we be like Nebuchadnezzar, who needed seven years of Divine punishment to drive him to repent?  Worse still, will we scoff at God's power when He sends us a warning on the eve of our demise?  I would personally rather humble myself before blows or final warnings have to come.  How about you?

Something to think about over the weekend.  As always, thanks for reading!  This is my reminder to stay savvy and bow to the Most High, before He humbles us.

"Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.  By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, 'In the Lord alone are deliverance and strength.'"All who have raged against Him will come to Him and be put to shame." (Isaiah 45: 22-24 NIV)