The Providential Fall of Nebuchadnezzar

Daniel 4:28–33 (ESV)

“All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.”

I think if we were honest, we sometimes have wished a similar fate as this one on a few of our political leaders. But this story is not just about Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation, but also about God’s providence. A little farther along in Daniel 5:21 we read at the end of the verse concerning Nebuchadnezzar that it is by God’s providence that He will set those over the thrones of mankind.

There are many other examples of God’s providence in Scripture: Joseph’s time in Egypt (Genesis 50:20); the stories of both Esther and Ruth; God’s use of and judgment of Assyria (Isaiah 10:6–7, 12); and most assuredly in the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 2:23; 4:27–28), just to name a few. But what is meant by God’s providence?

1. Providence does not eliminate or reduce human free will, nor does it lessen our accountability for our own actions and inactions. Sin is still sin and we are held accountable by God.

2. Providence does not mean “whatever will be, will be”. This fatalistic view attempts to absolve us from any responsibility.

3. God’s providence is over all creation, not just in believers (see Psalm 2).

In Philippians 4:19, Paul wrote, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”. As a father plans and creates opportunities for his children, so does our Father in Heaven do for us. In His providence, God’s glory and His desire for our own good are forever tied together. While we may sometimes not understand everything that happens to us and around us, we must remember His purpose will ultimately be fulfilled (Lamentations 3:37; Ecclesiastes 7:13; Proverbs 21:30).

Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was his fall, yet God in His grace eventually restored him. God used the King of the Babylonian Empire to bring about punishment for His people who had strayed so far from Him, yet He still sustained them. Just as many were blind to the providence of God in this action then, so are we in today’s world. Our focus on the events surrounding our temporal lives take away from our time seeking God’s Will for our lives, and thus the congruency with His providential reign. We must affirm God’s sovereignty in our daily walk, especially in times of struggle and pain, and give Him the glory and honor for carrying us through when we otherwise would have fallen in despair.

"That God may be all in all," I must not only allow Him to take His place, but secondly, I must accept His will in everything. I must accept His will in every providence. Whether it be a Judas that betrays, or whether it be a Pilate in his indifference, who gives me up to the enemy; whatever the trouble, or temptation, or vexation, or worry, that comes, I must see God in it, and accept it as God's will to me. Trouble of any sort that comes to me is God's will for me. It is not God's will that men should do the wrong, but it is God's will that they should be in circumstances of trial. There is never a trial that comes to us but it is God's will for us, and if we learn to see God in it, then we bid it welcome.”
~ Andrew Murray