The book of Daniel introduces us to a maniacal despot named Nebuchadnezzar who threatens to cut his opposers into pieces and burn their houses down. But by chapter four we find him declaring the praises of the Most High God. What happened in between?
Phase One: Daniel Lives Out His Convictions
When required to eat the “king’s delicacies” and participate in the culture around him, Daniel and his friends refused to follow the king’s orders. Instead Daniel “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank” (Dan. 1:8). Despite the pleadings of the people around him, Daniel stood firm in his convictions while the “world” watched.
At first, Daniel’s decision aroused the suspicion and anger of the king. Not only would Daniel’s life be in danger if he disobeyed the king, but the life of his friend Ashpenaz, the chief of the eunuchs, also hung in the balance. The chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel “I fear my lord the king who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age. Then you would endanger my head before the king” (Dan. 1:10).
But when the king interviewed and examined Daniel and his friends, after they had eaten nothing but vegetables for ten days, he found their faces fatter and fresher than all of the other captives. In turn, this gave them the opportunity to display their wisdom and understanding in the audience of the king, who found them “ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in his realm” (Dan. 1:20).
Phase Two: Helping People In Their Time of Need
Phase two came in response to the king feeling “troubled” about his dream. Since none of his magicians, astrologers and sorcerers could interpret the dream, Nebuchadnezzar became “very furious” and “gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So, the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men, and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them” (Dan. 2:12-13).
It is then that Daniel reveals and interprets the dream to the king. As a result, not only did God deliver Daniel and his friends from destruction, which in turn led to job promotions, but more importantly their actions once again showcased the Most High God to the king. In turn, this caused the king to exclaim, “Truly your God is the god of gods, the Lord of kings, and the revealer of secrets since you could reveal this secret” (Dan. 2:47).
Thanks to Daniel’s convictions and prayerful action, the king was now moving closer to conversion. The application? While you may not be able to interpret people’s dreams for them, you can certainly give them advice and support when they feel “troubled.” In addition, when all other cultural experts and counselors fail, you may be the only one able to share insights from the Word of God with them.
Phase Three: Miraculous Intervention
Phase three is rare, maybe once or twice in a lifetime, but it does happen. God may orchestrate or engineer events in our lives to show forth His power and glory. At first, this may be unpleasant as it was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. The king demanded that everyone worship the golden image he had set up on the plains of Duma. Those who refused to bow when the music played would be burned alive in a fiery furnace.
Once again, the followers of God had a decision to make. Would they stand up for their convictions or bow down to what a threatening ruler wanted them to do? Quite literally, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego chose to stand and not to bow down to the golden image. As a result, the king was furious. Forgetting all about his former praise of the Most High God, he demanded these men to be thrown into the furnace immediately.
Then the miraculous happened. The king (note, it was the king) saw four men in the furnace and one looked like the Son of God (Dan. 3:25). Immediately he called for the men to come out. Their hair was not singed, their garments were not burned and not even the smell of smoke could be detected upon them. God had totally, miraculously, undeniably, intervened.
This caused Nebuchadnezzar to proclaim:
“Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God’!” (Dan. 3:28).
The king moved yet another step closer to conversion. You and I may find ourselves in a similar situation. We may fall victim to a debilitating disease or experience some sort of natural disaster. Likewise, we may undergo a serious financial disaster or suffer the tragic loss of a loved one. How we respond in these trials is pivotal and may help move someone closer to believing the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. The watching world is always looking for a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15).
Phase Four: Personal Trauma or Loss
The king had another dream, and this time the interpretation was not good. Daniel delivered the news: you will be cut down like a great tree and crawl about like an animal for seven years (Dan. 3:14-16). One year later, while Nebuchadnezzar was revelling in his great power, a voice fell from heaven and announced his demise. For the next seven years Nebuchadnezzar appears to have lost his mind, crawling around on the ground like an animal, living in the wild, letting his hair grow like eagle’s feathers and nails grow as long as claws. All this to learn that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Dan. 3:32).
After seven years, the king-turned-beast got the point. In the words of Nebuchadnezzar himself:
“And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: At the same time my reason returned to me…Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Dan. 4:34-37).
Dare To Be A Daniel
In real time, these four phases may happen concurrently or even in a different order. But to view them in four phases helps us see how God is at work in even the hardest of hearts. So, like Daniel, live out your convictions before others, even when it is counter-cultural to do so. There are those who are watching you and they will see that your face, or attitude, is far fresher and healthier than others. Like Daniel, come to the aid of those who feel “troubled.” Nebuchadnezzar was troubled by his night visions and Daniel was there to stand in the gap when things started to go sideways. The king took note that it was Daniel’s God who had revealed the secret of his dream. I wonder how many more acknowledged that it was Daniel’s God that had saved them too.
Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego have the courage to stand up for your convictions, and the resolve to not bow down to what our present sinful culture dictates. Determine to say with these three men: “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Dan. 3:17).
The conversion of Nebuchadnezzar can teach us a lot about how to conduct ourselves while underneath the microscope of a watching world. Let us therefore put these things into practice, starting now. The Most High God will take care of the rest.