Nebuchadnezzar constructed a giant image of gold about ninety feet tall and about nine feet wide. He ordered all of the people of the land to fall down and worship his golden image upon hearing the prescribed musical instruments playing in symphony with all kinds of music. Anyone disobeying that order was to be immediately thrown into a fiery furnace to be destroyed.
When he was informed that the Jews, (That is the first or one of the first times that God’s people were referred to as Jews.) Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego had refused to bow down to the image, the king called them for confirmation of the report. They answered, “O Nebuchadnezzar…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…nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” The infuriated king ordered the fire to be burning seven times hotter than usual to consume those defiant men.
Because the fire was so hot, the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego into it were killed by the heat. BUT, by the power of God, the three men along with a fourth who appeared in the fire with them were protected to the extent that even their clothing did not smell of the fire.
The king was impressed. He spoke, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him…Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or language which speaks anything amiss against the God…shall be cut in pieces…because there is no other God who can deliver like this.” That pronouncement did not indicate a belief in God as the only true God, but that He was God among many other gods. Instead of dying because of their faith, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were promoted in the province of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar was like many of today’s people who praise and honor God. He recognized God as the true God, but he also held on to his false god.
The king had another dream. After his interpreters had failed to understand the meaning of the dream, he again called for Daniel. In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar had seen a tall tree standing in the middle of the earth. As it continued to grow stronger and reach up to the heavens, it provided fruit for all. The beasts of the field cooled under its shade and the birds built their nests on its branches. However, “a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven,” ordered the tree to be cut down with its branches cut off and its leaves and fruit scattered. All who had depended upon it for comfort and fruit would be without its benefits. Its stump and roots would be left and banded with an iron and bronze band. The tree would be wet with the dew and it would become as a beast and eat grass with them.
Nebuchadnezzar sensed that Daniel was disturbed and probably fearful for his life as he realized the end result of his dream. At his insistence, Daniel relayed the message. The tree represented the king and the decree regarding him had come from, “the Most High.” Nebuchadnezzar would be driven from his palace and would eat grass with the beasts of the field. He would be wet with the dew of heaven for “seven times” (years or seasons). The stump and roots signified that his kingdom would continue to be his after he had, “come to know that Heaven reigns.” The king, in humility, related the details of Daniel’s interpretation including the consequences of his dream.
The calamity that the dream portrayed to Nebuchadnezzar could possibly be averted if he would turn from his sins and show mercy to the poor. After twelve months, it happened. Power and prestige overloaded his pride. “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” As he was speaking, a voice from heaven informed him that his dream was coming true. The king did, indeed eat “grass with the oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.”
After the set time, Nebuchadnezzar did return to his kingdom and all was restored to him. He had learned a lesson in the “school of hard knocks.” “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.” We must not allow pride to interfere with our lives as Christians.