Monday, November 5, 2012

When Pride Meets Humility: Part 1

When Pride Meets Humility: Part 1


“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6

Pride.  We all know what the word means, but if you had to put a face on it, it would be the face of a lion, stomping through the grass, unafraid of anything, and ready to pounce on the unexpecting prey and in destruction.  A liter of young lions is even called a pride.  In an exact opposition to the lion is the lamb, which resembles humility.  Lambs are unable to protect themselves, unable to watch over themselves, and submit to the complete care of a shepherd. 
Nebuchadnezzar was a lion! He was possibly the most prideful ruler to ever live.  In the book of Daniel his story begins with him raiding Jerusalem during the reign of King Jehoiakim and taking back with him assorted plunder - and children.  He took the children that were wise and well educated, and the children of the king himself.  He wanted to take them back to his idol worshipping Babylon and have them teach the language of the Chaldeans.

To show even more of how his pride ruled over his people, he picked the food they would eat!  They no longer were to eat the food that they ate in Jerusalem, but food that he determined.  Reading about it you can almost see the prideful father commanding he get his way sitting at the end of the table shouting “You will eat the food I gave you or you won’t get up from that seat!”
Nebuchadnezzar valued himself so much more highly than anyone around him that in Daniel 2 we read of him having a dream.  He wanted someone to interpret the dream, but decided that he would make sure it was a divine interpretation by cutting to pieces anyone who could not tell him the dream – and interpret it.  And when none of his wise men could tell him his dream, he decreed that they all be killed – right away!  His pride now worked as an axe on the neck of his own servants – those closest to him.  

And then you have Daniel.  Daniel is a humble servant of God, and exact opposite of Nebuchadnezzar.  When he hears of Nebuchadnezzar’s plans, even being a captive servant in a foreign land, he chooses to serve and prevent the death of these wise men.  He begs the captain of the king’s guard to wait, and tells him he will interpret the king’s dream.  And then we read Daniel’s words to God in Daniel 2:20-23 which say:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
For wisdom and might are His.
And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.
 He reveals deep and secret things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And light dwells with Him.

I thank You and praise You,
O God of my fathers;
You have given me wisdom and might,
And have now made known to me what we asked of You,
For You have made known to us the king’s demand.”

We can feel the humility and gentleness of a lamb in Daniel's prayer.  He praises God, and acknowledges God’s power over all kings, all wisdom, all secrets, all evil, and all power.  Humility works on the heart of God.  James 4:6 says “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Grace – God’s own unmerited favor – was given to Daniel once again.  God gave him King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in detail, and the meaning of it.  He was able to go to the King and tell him what he wanted to hear.  And because of that, the King appointed Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, to positions in his government. 

But Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was still alive and well.  In the very next chapter, Daniel 3, he sets up a ninety foot tall gold idol in Babylon and demands that when they hear the music played by many instruments that they all bow down and worship it.  Here’s a king so prideful that he creates his very own god!  So throughout Babylon, the music would play, and everyone would stop what they were doing, and bow to the king’s god.  There was no appointed time, but at his very whim, he would choose to call the musicians to make music, and stop everyone in his kingdom to worship his god.  And everyone bowed, that is, except for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. 

The king was livid!  He commanded them to come before him, instructed them that they would indeed bow or be burned in the furnace.  And then perhaps in the most prideful statement ever made, in Daniel 3:15 the king tells them “But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” My goodness! Mr. Too-Big-For-His-Pants has just threatened Almighty God!

How do the three young men react to this statement?  I think they were a little indignant at the statement made by the king, knowing he mocked their God!  They answered him saying “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  If that is the case, 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.”  Even if God choose NOT to save them, they were never going to turn from God to worship another. That’s loyalty.

After all these three young men had been through, they knew their God was the only God.  They were unwilling to submit to the king, regardless of the punishment, because they feared (respected) God more than anyone else.  But King Nebuchadnezzar’s pride swelled within him!  These three men who had just found favor with him and been appointed high positions were now to be thrown into a furnace and burned.  But not only were they to be thrown in, he wanted them clothed in even more garments to assure they were highly flammable, and he wanted the furnace heated to seven times it’s heat.

So prideful Nebuchadnezzar has them thrown into the furnace, which was so hot that it killed the very guards who carried them there, and the three young men fell into the furnace.  The King wasn’t satisfied to just know his punishment was carried out – he wanted to see it!  And God had planned something for him to see as well!  When he looked into the furnace, he saw four walking around unharmed in the flames, and Nebuchadnezzar himself faces God when he says “and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

Was Nebuchadnezzar now a believer?  Yes! He commanded that everyone in Babylon worship the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, “because there is no other God who can deliver like this”.  Was he still prideful? Oh, perhaps even more so! 

But God wasn’t done with Nebuchadnezzar.  God himself was about to take on this lion.

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