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September 15, 2015

Failing Forward

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 14:11 (NIV)

Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “He who gets too big for his britches will soon be exposed in the end!” Such was the case for Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. He had exalted himself as one worthy of worship. He made a 90-foot golden statue of himself that was nine feet wide, and he required everyone to bow down and worship it. He led Babylon to become the world power of his day, conquering all his enemies including Israel. He destroyed the Temple and the city and deported the Jews to Babylon. Disturbed by yet another dream, Nebuchadnezzar sent for a Jewish Prophet named Daniel to interpret it. Although Nebuchadnezzar had exalted himself as a mighty, even Divine king, God was about to humble him and demonstrate that he was just an ordinary man. Daniel told him the dream was God’s way of revealing that he would suffer a temporary insanity and live like an animal for a set period of time until he learned that the Most High God rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone He chooses. The humiliation for the king would be so severe that Daniel urged him,

… please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper. Dan. 4:27 (NLT) 

Have you ever heard or shared such a warning with someone? It’s a call to repentance; to turn to God from our sin and yield our lives to His care and control. In his stubborn pride, Nebuchadnezzar failed to heed the warning. The Bible tells us,

Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. As he looked out across the city, he said, “Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.”

Did you notice how many times he said “my, my, my…?” What an ego! Ego means Edging God Out. Ego exalts itself! When ego is exalted, we are filled with pride! And the Bible says that pride always goes before a fall! Sometimes, God has to teach us, through failure, what we will not learn in success. I call it failing forward. The Bible says,

While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven. “O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone He chooses. That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. Dan. 4:31-33a (NLT)  

I wonder if he remembered what Daniel had told him the year before. It must have sounded like an echo in his heart. Why didn’t I listen then? Why didn’t I humble myself before God when I had the chance?

Here was a man like so many of us. He had witnessed the power of God revealing dreams through Daniel before. He saw Daniel’s friends delivered from the fiery furnace. Despite his recognition that God existed and worked miracles, he failed to acknowledge God as the Most High. He simply wanted to add Daniel’s God to his list of other gods! Only after he was humbled and his sanity returned did he say,

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All His acts are just and true, and He is able to humble the proud. Dan. 4:37 (NLT)