The greatest pagan king in the history of the world became a believer in the Most High God after He taught him many lessons of who He is and humbled this man in an amazing way. King Nebuchadnezzar became an absolute vessel of God for the fulfillment of His purposes. The king was steeped in pagan culture and in the ways of the gods of Babylon. He was full of himself, prideful and arrogant. Yet, the Lord brought him to a knowledge and reverence of Him and turned his heart. Nebuchadnezzar’s story is one of the most dramatic in all of the Bible.
None of this happened overnight. Nebuchadnezzar is a textbook example of Proverbs 21:1 which says:
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
Yahweh had raised up this king to become the most powerful ruler of the greatest kingdom in the world. Assyria, the most feared of all nations because of its brutality, was lesser than Babylon. God gave Nebuchadnezzar the prophetic dream of kingdoms to come that Daniel described and interpreted. It showed Nebuchadnezzar and his rule as the golden head, greater than any other. That had to swell the king’s pride to unimaginable proportions, but that encounter with this Jewish youth also set the stage for Nebuchadnezzar’s eventual conversion. It was in this experience of having the dream, and in Daniel’s ability to hear from God, that the king got an inkling that Yahweh was greater than any of the gods he knew of and worshiped. After all, Daniel proclaimed who this God was in making known the dream. He said in Daniel 2:45:
“… A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this … “
Nebuchadnezzar then acknowledged this truth in thought and words, but not yet from his heart, when he stated in Daniel 2:47:
…“Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”
But this was only the start of the internal change that was to come.
The king’s next coming face-to-face with the Lord came when he erected the giant image of himself for all to bow down and worship. What hubris! But remember, Daniel had told him how mighty his kingdom was. Why wouldn’t he exalt himself upon learning of this?
However, it was in this episode that Nebuchadnezzar saw true faith in action when Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego wouldn’t worship the king. They were willing to die rather than give their loyalty to any but their God. How confounding this must have been for the king! Naturally, it made him furious, but his tune changed quickly when the three youths emerged from the fiery furnace intact. Just as puzzling for Nebuchadnezzar was his having seen the fourth man in the fire with an appearance “like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25) None of the gods the Babylonians worshiped ever appeared like this to save their faithful ones. Who was this God that these young men followed?
All this certainly made Nebuchadnezzar reflect on the gods of his people and this God of the Jews. The Holy Spirit was working in his heart, but he was still king of the most powerful and glorious nation upon the earth. Who was he to bow to anyone or anything, even the God who astounded him by His actions?
But Yahweh had a plan. The first part of it occurred when Nebuchadnezzar had another dream that Daniel interpreted. To Daniel’s horror he saw how this fearsome king would be brought low. He had to relate what he saw, and surely Nebuchadnezzar pondered its significance. But how was he to know the way it would actually play out? In his ignorance, he didn’t take God’s warning to heart.
The decree of foretelling came from God Most High through His divine messengers. The Watchers in Yahweh’s Divine Council had determined beforehand what the punishment would be for the king upon proclaiming himself as greater than God. This happened in Daniel 4:30:
…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?”
That was the tipping point. The Lord brought down the hammer of judgment upon him as related in Daniel 4:25:
… that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”
The nature of this lesson was repeated several times (Daniel 4:17,32). Nebuchadnezzar would be as a beast in the field until he knew God. This happened and the transformation in his heart occurred. Daniel 4:34 tells us:
“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever…”
Even better, he said in Daniel 4:37:
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
This king of kings had been humbled by the Lord Most High. No longer did he believe that he was the mightiest being in the world. There was a God in heaven far beyond him in authority, power, and glory.
The Holy Spirit had worked in this man’s life. Nebuchadnezzar gave his heart to God. We will see him in heaven. Won’t it be amazing to hear this king’s story of conversion from his own lips?