Podcast: Play in new window | Download
The Lord gently inserts Himself into our lives to call us to salvation. Sometimes He has to break us before He can use us.
Introduction and Recap
Welcome back for Part 2 of God has a plan for your life. We’ve been looking at the Biblical evidence that allows us to affirm without any shadow of a doubt that God has a plan for you. In Part 1 we looked at the story of the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah played a very important role in warning the people of Judah about the impending judgment that was coming upon them unless they repented and turned from their sins. Because they hardened their hearts the Lord didn’t spare them and they went to Babylon for 70 years of Babylonian captivity. To read or listen to Part 2 of this study click here.
In Part 2 we’re going to look at the other side of the coin so to speak. We’ll be looking at the life of the pagan King Nebuchadnezzar, a cruel and proud man of war whom God had called to do the work of chastising Israel for her sins. The Lord used Nebuchadnezzar as a spade or instrument of judgment against the people of Israel. But God had a plan for this pagan idolater, the head of the biggest world kingdom of his time. We’re going to look at the key events in Nebuchadnezzar’s life to understand how powerfully the Lord used him and how the king finally surrendered his life to the Lord.
This is a beautiful story that will inspire you and strengthen your faith that God is working out His plan for YOUR life. Jesus really means it when He says that He came to save that which was lost.
King Nebuchadnezzar, God’s Servant
The story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion is an amazing story. I happen to have a very personal connection with this story.
Nebuchadnezzar was a Gentile, the son of a great general of the Syrian army. So Nebuchadnezzar was born of the spade, which in Bible language means the military. His father had taken the Chaldeans by the sword and united them to Syria. (Chaldeans is another name for the people of Babylon). This was the beginning of the Babylonian empire.
At the time Egypt was the other competing superpower. When Nebuchadnezzar defeated Egypt in battle and subsequently invaded Egypt, he made Babylon the largest superpower of his day.
Babylon was the “kingdom of the north” that the Lord prophesied in Jeremiah 1:15 and 25:9 would come against Jerusalem to punish her.
Nebuchadnezzar fulfilled the Lord’s prophecies. This is why the Lord calls Nebuchadnezzar “His servant” by the mouth of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:9 and second witness in 27:6).
Remember that Babylon was competing with Egypt for supremacy in the world. Nebuchadnezzar defeated Egypt first in a key battle. Then he sieged Jerusalem twice, starting in 597 BC.
Over the course of the various attacks against Jerusalem Nebuchadnezzar took captive a large number of Jews of the privileged classes and brought them back with him to Babylon. The number of Jews who were deported is around 5000. He pillaged the temple and removed all of the furnishings and artifacts of precious metals, including the huge brass columns and the brass laver. He also stole all of the golden vessels and artifacts that had been dedicated by King Salomon.
The spirit of prophecy says that Jeremiah and his friends were able to sneak out the Ark of the Covenant from the temple before the Babylonian invasion. The Ark has never been found yet, but it will be recovered again before Jesus comes.
After the first siege and invasion of Jerusalem Nebuchadnezzar set up a puppet king, King Zedekiah, who ended up being the last king of Judah. Despite all of the dire warnings that Jeremiah gave Zedekiah, even in confidential one-on-one conversations, the king ignored Jeremiah’s counsel. He committed treason against Nebuchadnezzar by allying himself with the Egyptians.
That’s all Nebuchadnezzar needed! As we mentioned earlier he sent his troops back in 586 BC and utterly destroyed Jerusalem. He left the temple a heap of ruins.
The Lord had raised up Nebuchadnezzar to be the sword that would chastise Israel. The Babylonian siege was atrocious, with parents eating their babies and their children for lack of food. Listen to the Lord Himself declaring his anger against Jerusalem:
28 “Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it:
29 And the Chaldeans, that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink offerings unto other gods, to provoke me to anger.
30 For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the Lord.
31 For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face,
32 Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 32:28-32).
The Lord had also prophesied specifically concerning King Zedekiah: “And Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes” (Jeremiah 32:4).
Nebuchadnezzar punished Zedekiah cruelly for trying to plot an insurrection with the help of the Egyptians. He killed his sons in front of his eyes and then ordered his eyes to be gouged. Zedekiah spent the rest of his life a prisoner. The last image he saw was his sons being slain.
So this is the Nebuchadnezzar that God is dealing with and has called, a cruel and proud man of war. What we’ll look at now is the succession of three key events in Nebuchadnezzar’s life that show how insistently the Lord was inserting Himself into his life. The progression of these three events ultimately led to Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion and total surrender to the Lord.
First Event: King Nebuchadnezzar’s First Prophetic Dream
In the Book of Daniel Chapter 2, the Lord gives Nebuchadnezzar a prophetic dream. The dream was extremely vivid and the King knew it was important. But when he woke up he couldn’t remember anything of the dream! He rounded up his counselors – all of the astrologers and magicians of Babylon – and when they couldn’t give him the dream or the interpretation of the dream he threatened to have them all killed.
Daniel, one of Nebuchadnezzar’s Hebrew counselors, and his three Hebrew friends prayed to the God of heaven that He would reveal to them the dream and the interpretation of the dream. The Lord did.
So Daniel revealed the dream and the interpretation of the dream to Nebuchadnezzar. He had seen in his dream a statue which had a head of gold, arms and chest of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay. Then a rock was cut out without hands and hit the image upon the feet and broke them to pieces. The whole statue was shattered in pieces. The stone that broke the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
The interpretation was that the statue represented the succession of world empires until the end of time. The head of gold represents Babylon. The arms and chest of silver represent Medo-Persia. The belly and thighs of brass represent Greece. The legs of iron represent Rome. The feet of iron and clay represent the divided Roman Empire which is characterized by the co-mingling of church and state. The stone that shattered the image represents the kingdom of God that will destroy all other kingdoms and will fill the earth. There will be no place for any other kingdom.
Our study today is not on Bible prophecy so we’re not going to spend any more time explaining this prophecy. However, I do want you to know that this is one of the most foundational end time prophecies in the entire Bible. It lays out the unfolding of world powers until Jesus comes. It helps us understand the visions of the beast that were given to the Prophet Daniel and John the Revelator.
So just contemplate this for a moment. Yes, the Lord used Daniel to interpret the dream. But the vision itself was revealed to Nebuchadnezzar, a Gentile king whose cruelty we’ve seen in how he avenged himself of King Zedekiah.
Think about this: the Lord loved King David and gave him wonderful prophetic utterances in the Psalms. King David never had any prophetic dreams or vision. The Lord spoke to David through the prophets Samuel or Nathan or some other minor prophets. And yet the Lord used Nebuchadnezzar, a Gentile king, a pagan idolater, to reveal to us, the last generation, the succession of empires until the end of time. Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to diminish the anointing of King David in any way. I’m simply trying to stress how extraordinary was God’s privilege that He bestowed upon King Nebuchadnezzar.
Up to now history has proven the validity of the prophecy. It will be confirmed again when Jesus returns.
Second Event: King Nebuchadnezzar Sees Jesus
This event is even more amazing. In Chapter 3 of Daniel King Nebuchadnezzar sees Jesus. And there’s something else that the Lord reveals to us end time generation through the King’s actions in Daniel 3.
Nebuchadnezzar pondered the revelations made by Daniel. He concluded that he wasn’t having any of it, meaning of the empires that succeeded Babylon. He wanted his kingdom to be without end. He rebelled against the plan that God had revealed to him in the vision of the statue.
In rebellion against the God of heaven the King had a statue made all in gold to indicate that his kingdom would last forever. We saw earlier that the head of gold on the statue in his dream represented Babylon. He ordered everyone in his kingdom to bow down and worship this image.
In doing this the King is uniting church and state. As head of the state he also makes himself head of the church by commanding worship to this image. The last power on earth when Jesus comes will also unite church and state and legislate or enforce worship.
But the three young Hebrew men who were Daniel’s friends refused to bow down to the image of the king. They disobeyed the king in order to obey God. In a rage Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to be cast into a fiery furnace that was heated seven times hotter than normal. The king’s servants who conducted the three young men to the burning furnace all died because it was so hot.
But listen to what happened next. The King cried: “Look! … I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25).
This Gentile king was privileged to behold Jesus performing a miraculous rescue of three of His faithful servants. No one else but Nebuchadnezzar was allowed to see Jesus in the fiery furnace. Even King David in his day never saw Jesus although he was the root from which the Messiah would come! What an honor!
Nebuchadnezzar Again Imposes Worship
One last time in Daniel 3 Nebuchadnezzar imposes worship in his kingdom. “Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this” (Daniel 3:29). The king didn’t understand that worship must be offered freely from the heart and not by decree.
And once again God uses Nebuchadnezzar to give us a prophecy of the end time. In the Book of Daniel everything is prophetic: the dreams, the visions, and also the stories. Remember the scripture that we read when we started: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). This is true of the entire Bible and even more so of the Book of Daniel.
The story of the golden image is a direct prophecy related to the prophecies in Daniel 7 and 8 and Revelation 13. It warns us that there will be persecution of God’s faithful people in the end time. God used Nebuchadnezzar to illustrate this persecution for our benefit.
Truly the Lord blessed this Gentile king with incredible spiritual blessings.
But the Lord wasn’t finished yet with Nebuchadnezzar at this point! God was finally going to accomplish His purpose in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. He’d been preparing the king for that, showing him His wisdom and goodness. Our last piece of evidence that God has a plan for you is the third event that culminated in Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion and total surrender to the God of heaven. Another story in which the Lord’s name and power are glorified!
Third Event: Nebuchadnezzar’s Last Prophetic Dream
In Daniel Chapter 4 we read the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion. That didn’t just happen! He needed a really hard knock on the head in order to meet His maker, just as yours truly. The Bible says in Proverbs 18:18 that “pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall”. A big fall is exactly what it took for Nebuchadnezzar to concede that there was a higher power than his own.
Once again Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that really troubled him. Once again he called all the excellency of the Chaldeans who of course weren’t able to interpret the dream. Unlike the first dream this one he did remember. Daniel the Prophet had been summoned together with all the other counselors.
So the king told the dream. There was a lush and beautiful tree that gave life to many birds and beasts of the field. Then a watcher, a holy one, (mark those words, we’ll come to that in a moment) came down from heaven who cried aloud and ordered that the tree be chopped down and its branches cut off and the leaves stripped of and its fruit scattered. But the stump and roots should be left in the earth to get wet with the dew of heaven and to graze with the beasts on the grass. His heart was to be changed from the heart of a man to the heart of a beast during seven times.
Now that’s a really strange dream. Notice how it suddenly changed from “it” speaking of the tree to “him” speaking of a person. But listen also to this verse in Daniel 4:17: “‘This decision is by the decree of the watchers,
and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men’”.
Who are these watchers that play such an important role in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream? Another name for the watchers is the recording angels. Every person has at least two holy angels assigned to them: a guardian angel and a recording angel or a watcher. The guardian angel’s role is to guide and protect. The watcher’s role is to observe us in minute detail and record every word and action in the books. These are the books that will be used in the judgment, when each person must appear before the judgment seat of heaven.
Question for us to ponder: What will the watchers have to say about you and me? What will be written in the books about us?
In Nebuchadnezzar’s case, clearly the watchers were saying that Nebuchadnezzar needed to learn a lesson. And they communicated the heavenly decision that he needed Daniel to interpret for him.
Daniel reflected for a short while after hearing about the dream. Then he gave Nebuchadnezzar the interpretation of the dream:
“This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4:24-25).
The dream is prophetic. It was a direct warning from God. Daniel counseled the king in this way: “Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Daniel 4:27). Based on Daniel’s words it appears that the Lord had set a time period for Nebuchadnezzar to repent of his sins.
One year later Nebuchadnezzar was in his palace contemplating beautiful Babylon, probably the beautiful gardens, which he considered to be his work. Let’s read:
28 “All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”
31 While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! 32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.”
33 That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws” (Daniel 4:28-33).
With his pride Nebuchadnezzar had filled the cup of his iniquity. God is the absolute sovereign ruler, He sets up kings and removes kings (Daniel 2:21). Nebuchadnezzar had someone above him to whom he needed to submit.
Notice also the change in diet. In Daniel 1 we read about the “delicacies” that were served in the King’s court, this was presumably his diet. While he was in exile from the throne he ate grass with the oxen. Great for the development of humility!
Seven years went by as prophesied in the dream. Then one day Nebuchadnezzar came back to his senses and was able to praise the Most High as the supreme authority in heaven and earth:
34 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 …… 36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. 37 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” (Daniel 4:34, 36, 37).
Until he was humbled, Nebuchadnezzar was a child of pride. That’s a dangerous thing. It gives the devil a claim to you. The Bible says in Job 41 that Satan is king over the children of pride.
But Nebuchadnezzar had been called by God. Through a progression of event in his life the Lord was revealing Himself to the king. The culminating event and the final wake-up call was Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation. The king’s fall and exile from the throne was key in the Lord’s accomplishment of His purpose in his life. We read this scripture in Part 1 of this Program: “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6).
The Lord had to break him like a potter’s vessel (Jeremiah 19) in order to rebuild him into a new man that was obedient and surrendered to Him. Once Nebuchadnezzar had submitted to God and been restored in his throne, even more majesty was added to the king.
Not only did the Lord use this Gentile king, ruler of the world superpower of his day, to chastise Israel so that the Jews might come to repentance. God also wanted Nebuchadnezzar to know Him and accept Him as His personal God. He wanted Nebuchadnezzar to glorify Him among the nations and among the Gentiles.
The process of Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion took at least 15 years to be fully accomplished. But what a mighty testimony that king had for the world!
What This Means for You
God has a plan and a purpose for every human being, and that includes YOU. There isn’t anyone born under the sun for whom God doesn’t hold a vision of what he or she can become under His patient and loving hand.
He may need to utterly break you before He can use you. He may need to pull out the rug from under your feet to make you fall from your high place. He may allow your world to crumble around you in order to get your attention. He wants to save and sanctify you. He wants your light to shine. He wants to give you a hope and a future and bring you to an expected end.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Jew or Gentile. It doesn’t matter if you come from a very devoted family or if you’ve walked in darkness all your life. It doesn’t matter how young or how old you are. There’s no age or preferred profile to start walking in God’s ways and in His plan for you.
The stories of Jeremiah and Nebuchadnezzar should really encourage us that we also can be used to accomplish great things for His kingdom. They had radically different personalities and were used by God in totally different but complementary ways. They worked together to bring about Israel’s chastisement, which the Lord orchestrated to bring Israel to repentance.
Regardless of your current scenario, whatever talents and resources God has gifted you with, He has a calling on your life. He wants to save you and use you to save others. Our greatest glory will be revealed when we co-labor with God to help bring about the Plan of Salvation for all mankind.
Our goal should be to submit to the Lord and to walk with Him in obedience and humility, resisting the devil. If we do that, God will finish a beautiful work in us as He has promised. “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
To read or listen to Part 1 of this study click here.
(Photo by Alex Blajan on Unsplash).