Idolatry - We're All Nebuchadnezzars

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 28, 2012 2 comments

Hopefully that title jumped out at you a little bit. And hopefully it's because you are thinking about what you know about the tyrant mentioned in the title, and not because you are desperately trying to figure out how to pronounce his name. For those of you who already know a good bit about King Nebuchadnezzar, it is a very frightening thought that we are just like him. If you spent any time in the church as a child, you are probably familiar with one popular story involving King Nebuchadnezzar. I'm talking about the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the blazing furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon at the beginning of one of my favorite books in the Old Testament - Daniel. He and his army besieged Jerusalem, killing most of the Jews and taking captive any of the best young men they could find to go and serve the Babylonian kingdom. This group included Daniel and his 3 friends, who were later named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. All of this can be read and studied in Daniel 1. I've done some extensive studies on the first 3 chapters of Daniel. Without going into a long discussion, I'll just tell you that we have every reason to believe that Daniel and his friends were made eunuchs (meaning they were castrated just in case I needed to get more graphic) in addition to watching their loved ones be killed and being carried off to another kingdom with a foreign language, culture, and faith.

But enough about Daniel and his friends (I could really go on forever about what we can learn from them). This post is about King Nebuchadnezzar. As if everything mentioned above was not enough for him, he had to be in control of every single detail of the lives of those under him. He changed their names, controlled what they ate, and tried to dictate when and who they could worship. You can read in Daniel 3 that King Nebuchadnezzar had a giant image of gold - ninety feet high and nine feet wide - made so that he could issue a decree that all peoples everywhere in Babylon must bow down and worship it when they hear the sounds of the instruments. It was the refusal to worship this image that eventually got Daniel's friends thrown into the blazing furnace, setting the stage for their miraculous rescue which is often remembered by those of us who know the story. So, it is clear that King Nebuchadnezzar disobeyed the 2nd Commandment and made for himself an idol. But I submit to you that the idol King Nebuchadnezzar made for himself wasn't really the giant image of gold. I mean, after all, did he ever bow down and worship it himself? We have no evidence in Scripture that he did. The idol that King Nebuchadnezzar made for himself was the same one that we all make for ourselves, whether we want to admit it or not.

As I already pointed out, it is at the beginning of Daniel 3 that we read about this giant image of gold. Take a look back at the previous chapter. In Daniel 2, we read about the troubling dream that the king has which he is desperate to interpret. God gives Daniel the gift of interpreting the dream so that he can gain favor with the king. But even though Daniel was exalted and praised for his ability to interpret the dream, that doesn't mean King Nebuchadnezzar liked the answer he got. Daniel tells the king that he saw an enormous statue in his dream that had a "head of gold" and a body made of several other materials. He then tells the king that the head of gold represents he and his kingdom (vv. 36-38). But then he tells the king that "the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people", that this kingdom will "crush all other kingdoms", and that this was all represented in the king's dream by a rock that broke the gold and the other materials into pieces (vv. 44-45). So, to sum it up, Daniel is telling King Nebuchadnezzar that, while God has temporarily allowed him to have dominion over all, there will come a kingdom (that of Christ) that will destroy his and all others FOR GOOD! And what was King Nebuchadnezzar's direct response to Daniel's interpretation after he got done praising him for the mere ability to interpret the dream? Enter Chapter 3 and his decision to have the huge statue of ONLY GOLD erected and declare that all under his power must worship it. He was defying what Daniel had interpreted, and even had some astrologers greet him with "O king, live forever!" (3:9) King Nebuchadnezzar was basically saying to himself, "Forget what that fool Daniel interpreted because my kingdom will reign forever!" Friends, this was not a mere act of worshiping a golden image. This was the most blatant act of SELF-WORSHIP there ever was!

Our first inclination is to believe that there is no way we are that self-centered, that bold in our rebellion toward God, or that mean and disrespectful toward those who don't do things the way WE think they should. But seriously, stop and think about it. We can only say that King Nebuchadnezzar was worse than us because he had more power to carry out the evil desires of his heart than we do. But are our hearts really that different? If you could pretty much just eliminate anyone who didn't cater to your needs and desires, would you do it? If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior and his promised Holy Spirit to guide you, the answer is hopefully "no". But, apart from the Holy Spirit, where our flesh and evil hearts reign, the truth is that we would do anything and everything to look out for number 1 and get our way. That, my friends, is idolatry, with ourselves as the primary idol. Idolatry, especially self-worship, makes us to crazy things we never thought we would do. I don't know that King Nebuchadnezzar was that bad of a guy, but I know that once he began worshiping himself, he was a control freak, a murderer, and mentally insane. There is no way to experience freedom from those chains without surrendering fully to the only One who deserves our total worship.

The good news is that, even for those of us who have spent years or maybe even a lifetime worshiping ourselves and been led ultimately to a place of despair, all we have to do to be set free is surrender. For all the evil that King Nebuchadnezzar did, my favorite part of his story is told in Daniel 4. Daniel interprets another dream much like the first one, again telling the king that he will lose his power. Exactly one year after that, it happens just as Daniel interpreted it. Then, finally, King Nebuchadnezzar surrenders to the Lord. He writes in his own words the following: "I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored" (4:34). He then goes on to praise God and his very last sentence is a declaration of both God's righteousness and what He can do to those who worship the idols of themselves. "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" (Daniel 4:37).

Like King Nebuchadnezzar, all of us, even those who can regrettably look back and see a history of self-worship in their lives, can change it all with a decision of surrender and experience complete freedom. Think about it. Daniel and his friends were in captivity, yet they were more free than Nebuchadnezzar ever was until he finally repented and worshiped the Lord himself. In Monday's blog, Katie challenged us to take time to evaluate our lives to see what idols we might be worshiping. I suggest we start with the one in the mirror.


Bill said...

Great article on the book of Daniel and its relevance to today's world.

redeemedrev said...

Thank you, Bill! And thanks for reading the blog. My goal with the blogs that I write is to make the topic relevant to everyday life for most or all people, so I really appreciate the affirmation. I'm not sure if you've been reading our other blogs, but feel free to check out Katie's blog on IDOLTARY from the previous Monday and all of our previous blogs on other relevant topics. God bless!