Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
In the second year of his reign, king Nebuchadnezzar began having troubling dreams. None of the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers or astrologers was able to interpret any of his dreams. The king was so angry, he ordered they be put to death. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were in the king’s service and the king was very impressed with them. God had given them all wisdom but Daniel had been given the ability to interpret all kinds of dreams as well. These four men were Israelites who had been exiled to Babylonia and taken to be trained for three years and had now entered the king’s service. When Daniel found out that king Nebuchadnezzar had sentenced all these wise men to death for not being able to interpret the king’s dream, he went to the king and offered to interpret his dream.
This was a step of faith. He went home to his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven to reveal the mystery of the king’s dream to him so they wouldn’t be executed along with the rest of the men. That night God revealed the dream to Daniel in a vision. The interpretation was a warning, but king Nebuchadnezzar was so happy to know what the dream meant, that he pretty much ignored the warning. But what he did was acknowledge that God was the God of gods and the Lord of kings and revealer of mysteries (2:47). He gave Daniel and his friends high positions in his kingdom. But he did not humble himself.
Instead, king Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and commanded all the people worship it. When Daniel’s three friends were caught not bowing down to this image, the king was furious and had them thrown into a fiery furnace. God spared them and once again, king Nebuchadnezzar saw the power of God. He said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants...”(3:28). This was another opportunity for the king to submit to God. He did not.
But he did have another dream which Daniel interpreted and this dream was another warning. Daniel advised him to renounce his sins and do what was right. Again, the king did not humble himself. So God did exactly what He said He would do…the king lost his sanity for seven years. Then God restored him and king Nebuchadnezzar finally humbled himself and acknowledged that everything He did was right and just.
What I see in this story is a parallel to our prodigals. God is giving them opportunities to repent and we pray that they will heed those opportunities. Sometimes though, God will have to take more drastic measures to get their attention. But make no mistake, God is able to get their attention. He is able to humble the proud. I write this because I want you to see the importance of our roles in prayer. If prayer is our part, then we need to understand how important it is. Daniel had been given the gift of interpreting dreams, and now has an opportunity to interpret a dream. What does he do first? He asks his friends to pray that God will reveal the dream to him. He doesn’t assume it will happen just because he has the gift and wants it to happen. We can’t assume God will do something just because we want him to. We must delight ourselves in the Lord. We need to ask and keep on asking like the persistent widow in Luke 18. What if our prayers are the reason they return through God’s warning or opportunity rather than something more drastic? What if our prayers can spare them unnecessary suffering?
I heard the song, Soul on Fire by Third Day today and I found myself putting Nathan’s name in it. This is a way of praying. And I also pray our prodigals, like king Nebuchadnezzar, will once again praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven and acknowledge that everything He does is right and just.