Studies in Daniel: Chapter 4

Daniel“The Hound of Heaven.” That’s how one poet spoke of God. Though he fled, God ever pursued.

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

of my own mind; and in the mist of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter. (Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven)

Our God is a tenacious God. He is unrelenting in His pursuit of those He would redeem. Often in His pursuit He will use difficult circumstances to draw men and women to Himself. Such is the surprising case of Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel.

Across the early chapters of Daniel we see that God has been revealing Himself steadily to the wicked King. He has routinely surprised the King, urged repentance upon him, and rebuked him. So, in chapter 2 God reveals Himself through Daniel’s ability to interpret the King’s dream, which no one else in all the kingdom could do. The King is so overwhelmed by the testimony of God’s power in Daniel that he even says, in verse 47 “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings.” But his belief doesn’t last, for in chapter 3 he has erected a 90 foot golden statue of himself that he commands all of the people to worship. And again when God reveals Himself in the salvation of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Nebuchadnezzar testifies to this God’s supreme power and worth. “There is no other god who is able to rescue in this way,” says the King (v. 29). But in Chapter four he is back to his old ways once again.

Another dream disturbs the King’s sleep and again Daniel gives the interpretation. This time it is a warning to the King that he must humble himself, or God will humble him. The text says that God will cause Nebuchadnezzar to become like a beast of the field and for seven years to spend his days eating grass and out of his own mind. Chapter 4 is interesting in that it is the actual testimony of the King himself. So we read:

King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.

How great are his signs,
    how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and his dominion endures from generation to generation. (v. 1-3)

In verse 4, he starts with “I Nebuchadnezzar.” This is his story that he is telling of how God humbled him, and how he is now bowing to the one true God. We know, of course, that once again this humility and surrender to God does not last, but the point of the text is the unrelenting faithfulness of God. God pursues with utter tenacity those who are far from Him.

This King seems like an unlikely candidate for such dogged grace. He is wicked, arrogant, and self-deceived. Pride makes us utterly foolish, and that is so evident in Nebuchadnezzar’s case. He has seen God’s faithfulness and power over and over again, even witnessing the pre-incarnate Christ in the fiery furnace, and yet remains undeterred in his self-worship. Yet this is the amazing part of God’s grace: it knows no limits. God is tenacious, even reckless in His love. He abounds in steadfast love, and is undeterred by our rebellion. He pursues with such commitment that we can only marvel at it.

God, in Daniel 4, is pursuing the King. He wants the King to come to Him. Consider what the Apostle Peter has said about God’s patience with men:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

He desires that non should perish and that all should come to repentance, and so He is tenacious in His appeal to wicked people. We are all unlikely candidates of God’s grace, that’s why it is called “grace.” He exhausts the offer to come and repent. He may even blow-up our lives in order to awaken us to our desperate need of Him. The trials and difficulties we face may be a means by which God is attempting to alert us to Himself and our need of Him. Not all suffering is, of course, a result of sin (John 9:1-3), but sometimes it is and God is using it to show us how desperate our state is apart from Him.

Consider, if you are a Christian, how relentless God has been in his pursuit of you and in His continued working with you. God does not let His children wander far into sin without shaking them, stirring them, or working them over. He is faithful to hurt us when we go astray in order that we might learn to stay close to Him (Prov. 27:6; Ps. 119:67). Consider how God has been tenacious in your life and praise Him for it.

Consider, too, how you can model this determined compassion of God in your pursuit of others. Have you given up on those who continue to reject counsel, reject God’s Word, refuse to submit to Christ? God does not give up and calls us to champion His grace by going after those who are far from Him. Over time the way you do this will change. But we can always pray that the Hound of Heaven will do His work.

Consider, lastly, if you continue to reject Christ you will find nothing that satisfies you in His place. As Thompson wrote in his poem:

‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’

All your pursuits, temporary pleasures, and seeming joys will betray you. Until you surrender to God you will never find real and lasting rest. The tenacious God won’t let you, but will continue to wreck your life until you surrender to Him. Take it from Nebuchadnezzar:

all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
    and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
    and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
    or say to him, “What have you done?” (v. 35)

Turn to Him today, friend. He is waiting.

God is tenacious. He pursues with dogged grace, desiring that all should repent. Rejoice in such glorious news.

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