No one could figure it out. Not the magicians, not the astrologers, not the enchanters, not the diviners. None of the wisest men in the kingdom could help me interpret my dream. But how rude of me, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the world’s foremost superpower. You can call me Neb, but don’t tell my servants I let you do that. I have a reputation to uphold. I am the most feared ruler in the known world. I conquered the likes of Egypt and the so-called mighty land of Israel. I then took their best and brightest to come serve me. In my youth, I was a great warrior commanding the hordes of Babylon and gaining victory after victory. My building projects are ahead of their time and the hanging gardens I created will be considered one of the seven wonders of the world. I have a vast array of talents, even among kings. But before I end up making the same sin I committed in the past, let me tell you that all of these things have been gifts given to me by the God Most High, the God of Israel. Let me share with you how I learned this.
As I said in the beginning, no one could figure out the dream I had. In this dream, there was an enormous tree. At the top, it had all sorts of magnificent fruit and all types of animals sought shelter under its shade. Then a voice came from above saying, “Destroy this tree so nothing remains but its stump.” Followed by the words, “Let him be drenched with the dew of the sky, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, until a certain amount of time has passed.” Then followed something about a verdict and the Most High being sovereign over all kings and nations.
I was “stump”ed. And that’s pretty hard to do because remember how talented I am. Eventually, I asked Belteshazzar. You probably know him as Daniel. Earlier, I told you how I conquered the Israelites. He was one of the smart ones I took from them to serve me. He had even helped interpret dreams for me in the past and I had grown quite fond of him.
After I explained the dream to Daniel, he sat there for a long time. It looked as if he knew the answer, but was either unsure of how to word it or afraid to tell me. I told him, “Belteshazzar, spit it out! I’m a king! I’ve been through countless wars! I can take whatever news you have to give me!” Belteshazzar looked at me with sad and concerned eyes! He told me that I was the giant tree. Just like the tree I had grown great and powerful. I could provide food like the fruit and offer protection just as the tree did for the animals. Just like the tree, my greatness had spread across the sky. I liked where this was going…at least, until I remembered what happened next. Belteshazzar said that I would be cut down and lose my kingdom, but my roots would remain so it was possible to regrow. In other words, my kingdom could be returned to me. He continued to explain that I would be driven away from my people and live among the wild animals. I would eat grass like the ox and be drenched with rain until I acknowledged that the LORD, the one true God was ruler of all things. I remember thinking to myself, “Ha! Like that would ever happen!” Belteshazzar wasn’t quite finished. He wanted to give me some advice. He said, “Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” Like I was going to take advice from a servant. Don’t get me wrong. Belteshazzar meant well and he is loyal to a fault, but what did he know compared to me. I am the greatest king of all time and I do what I want when I want, in whatever way I want. At least that’s what I used to think.
A year passed and I had all but forgotten of my conversation with Belteshazzar. I was walking along the roof of my palace. I looked out over the great city and felt a sense of pride sweep over me. I gazed across my riches, the buildings I had created and restored and thought to myself, “truly this is a city built for the greatest of all kings.” This, of course, was me. I was the one that made Babylon into the greatest city on the planet. I opened my mouth, shouting to the world, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” Before the sound from my words disappeared, a voice from heaven exclaimed, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven time will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” Immediately, it came true. I don’t remember much after that, but I’ve been told I started acting like an ox. I could not stay by other people because I was a danger to myself and others. So I was treated like an ox. I ate grass and my hair became matted and unkempt. My nails grew long and untrimmed. Just like that, everything I had: my power, my wealth, even my kingdom, was taken away from me.
Eventually after a time that felt like ages, though I am not exactly sure how long it really was, I raised my eyes to the sky and my sanity was restored. I immediately praised the LORD Most High because I knew he was much stronger than I and in complete control of all things. I sang out about his great power, justice, and mercy.
Thankfully, the Most High saw fit to return my honor and splendor. My advisors sought me out and returned the kingdom. I was restored to the throne. I was even given greater glory than before. I learned my lesson. All my gifts and talents and power and authority are gifts from God. They are not by my own doing. He has the right to give and take them away and he always does what is just and right. Why do I tell you this? So you don’t make the same mistake I did. All those who walk in pride God is able to humble.
Ok. I’m done acting like Nebuchadnezzar. Back to being Pastor Jake. From the story of Nebuchadnezzar, we see that God wanted Neb to repent of his wrongdoings and then build a relationship with him. We saw Neb tripping up on his pride over and over again. It was standing in the way of him realizing who the one true God is. Neb thought it was himself, but it wasn’t. It was the Lord.
There’s an illustration I’m going to share with you. A classmate of mine at Martin Luther College would always trip over something every time he visited my dorm room. It was a pair of boots. I would leave my boots by the door (not in front of the door) and every single time he would enter the room, he would take a step to the side and accidently trip on them. I tried slowly increasing the distance of the boots from the door. He’d still trip on them. I felt so bad for him that I started moving them to different locations. First, I tried putting them in the corner of my room. I thought for sure his problems were over. The next time in our room, he saw a basketball in the corner of the room and for some reason thought it would be a good idea to try and balance on the ball as he held onto the wall for balance. Eventually, he fell off, caught his balance for a second, only to trip over those infernal boots again and end up on the ground. Next time I saw him coming, I put the boots on a chair, thinking there was no possible way he could trip on them if they weren’t on the ground. He came in and without looking goes to stand on the chair and proceeded to trip over the boots. One last time I tried moving them. I had the top bunk so I put my boots on the edge of my mattress. There was no way he was tripping on them this time. As my friend walked in. He saw the boots on my bed and told me, “Hey, you don’t want your boots on your bed. That’s where you sleep, man.” He took the boots off my bed and put them on the ground despite my protests. Five minutes later, he forgot the boots where on the ground and tripped over them yet again. I took my boots home and wore my shoes for the rest of the winter. Hey, I didn’t want to end up responsible for some serious injury.
In that story, no matter what this guy did, he always tripped over the same thing again and again until it was removed so he couldn’t trip on it any longer. In the account of Nebuchadnezzar he kept tripping on his pride over and over until God moved it out of the way. Now the question is: What is tripping you up? God wants to have a close relationship with you, like a father with a son or a husband with a wife, but is there something getting in the way? What are you tripping over again and again?
Maybe it’s the same thing as Neb and your pride cannot let you accept that you need the Lord’s help to be saved. You think, “I’m not that bad of a person, I don’t need saving,” even though that is not true at all. Maybe you look at some of the bad things other Christians do and think, “What a bunch of hypocrites!” Then you let their actions affect how you think of God, even though God had nothing to do with it. Maybe your friends hold the consensus that being a Christian makes you unintelligent and you are too afraid to admit to them that you are a Christian. Maybe you think you could do a better job at running the universe than God does, and so you reject his ultimate plan for you. Maybe you don’t like the way a particular pastor preaches and so you use that as an excuse not to come to church or spend time in God’s word at all. It’s ok if you don’t like the way I preach or the way Pastor Brohn preaches, but you have to get the word of God from somewhere, whether it’s here or another church or the Bible, we all need as much of God’s Word as we can get. We need to be reminded to focus on our Savior. Whatever idea or conception is keeping you from the type of relationship God wants to have with you, it’s time to throw that conception out. Stop tripping over it. Move it aside and watch as God comes to you. Repent!
Trust me when I tell you God is not the one getting in the way. He loved you so much that he gave himself up for you. He didn’t make some random guy die for the sins of the world. He stepped up and sent himself in a human body as Jesus to die for the sins of the world. That action shows you just how much he loves you, just how much he wants to have a relationship with you. He wants what’s best for you. Therefore, he wants you to repent of your sins and turn towards him. Where else can you get that kind of deal? When you repent, you know God will take you back despite your sins. That is not a license to sin, but it is love in the form of forgiveness of sins. It’s like if you could say sorry and erase all the consequences of a past mistake. What other relationship can you do that with, where you can get a second, third, tenth, twentieth chance? God gives you a completely clean past no matter what you have done in the past. God loves you so much that he is always waiting for you with open arms. Move whatever you are tripping over out of the way so you can experience the full blessings he wants to overflow your life with. Don’t let anything get in between you and the person who loves you most, the God who always has what is best for you in his mind. Repent so you can experience the full scope of God’s love. Amen.