Sabbath School Lesson for January 25-31, 2020
The story of Nebuchadnezzar’s experience gives us all hope that God will continue to give us repeated chances to find salvation. Here’s how the story unfolds in chapter 4:
- The king’s pride becomes excessive, as he contemplates the glories of his kingdom. (Sunday)
- The king is warned by Daniel to avert the predicted consequences in his dream by being more merciful to his subjects. (Monday)
- The king admits that God is sovereign. He is justified. (Tuesday)
- The king appeals to God to restore Him. He is sanctified. (Wednesday)
- The king is finally humbled and is restored to the throne. He is glorified. (Thursday)
Pride has always gotten God’s creatures in trouble. Lucifer is the first example of this unlovely character trait proving to be someone’s downfall. King Nebuchadnezzar had a difficult time with it as well.
There were many reasons to be proud as the monarch sat on the throne of the Babylonian Empire, the one he had seen as a golden kingdom in the dream Daniel interpreted for him so many years before. How could he not have felt some pride in the splendor all around him?
God had given Nebuchadnezzar three miracles that captured his attention, but they proved short-lived in the king’s memory, as he repeatedly went about his business as usual soon after their occurrence.
- Chapter 1–The four Hebrew captives who proved so much better off by following the dictates of their conscience and staying away from the king’s table. Something that took courage.
- Chapter 2–The ability of Daniel, one of those Hebrew captives who not only interpreted his dream, but told him what it was. Something that took wisdom.
- Chapter 3–The strength and determination of Daniel’s friends when they wouldn’t bow down to his image. Something that took faith.
Of course, all of these instances took courage, wisdom, AND faith. The Hebrews acknowledged receiving these blessings from God. They were quite adamant about God’s role in the miracles.
But God wasn’t through trying to reveal Himself to the king. Daniel, chapter 4, unveils even another opportunity for the king to receive God as his heavenly Father.
Memory Text: “How great are His signs, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.” Daniel 4:3 NKJV
Sunday: Is Not This Babylon the Great?
In the book of Daniel is a document, written by Nebuchadnezzar himself, telling about a second troubling dream he had and what the interpretation turned out to be. He admitted the dream made him afraid, and after his wise men came up short in the interpretation, it was Daniel’s turn to hopefully soothe the king’s fears.
Daniel hesitated to deliver the interpretation to his friend, the king, knowing how upsetting it would be to him. Troubled himself, he began by stating that he wished the message was meant for his enemies. But he, nevertheless, delivered the worrisome interpretation to the king as he requested.
The consequence of the king’s pride and arrogance would be for him to be brought down, like the tree that was chopped down in his dream. For seven years, he would live like an animal.
Read Daniel 4:11, 12, 20-22, and Jeremiah 27:6. How likely was it that Nebuchadnezzar easily saw himself as the tree in the dream? How would that have made him feel?
Read Daniel 4:13, 14, 29, 30. Why do you think Nebuchadnezzar’s pride came back after a year’s time? Or was it there all along?
Read Ezekiel 31:3, 6. In what ways was Assyria (the empire before Babylon) like Babylon, and even others that followed? How were the people meant to benefit from these ancient empires, but why did they fail?
Monday: Warned by the Prophet
Daniel, in pity to the king, left him with some hope. Daniel’s final words to him were that perhaps he could avert the coming disaster by breaking free from his sinful, unmerciful ways and start showing mercy to his subjects.
Exploiting others to achieve his own pleasurable lifestyle had become commonplace for the monarch, and an abrupt change in attitude and actions must happen or the unhappy consequences revealed in the dream would be felt.
God must be acknowledged as the Ruler of the Universe, not Nebuchadnezzar, if he wanted to keep his throne. A humbling of his heart may have continued for a time, but after twelve months, Daniel records that the inevitable happened, as a result of the king’s boastful words one day about HIS Babylon (Daniel 4:30).
Read Daniel 4:27 and Proverbs 14:31. What does oppression of others tell about our relationship with God?
Read Psalm 41:1-3, 1 Peter 4:8, and 1 John 4:16. Why might Daniel have been correct in presenting the king with this ray of hope? How and why does love cover our sins?
Matthew 25:40, 45. Why does our treatment of others matter, whether it’s what we do, or what we don’t do?
Tuesday: “The Most High…Rules”
When we first read of Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall, how he lived and acted like an animal for seven years, we wonder how it could have happened. It sounds so strange to us. But mental professionals have seen a real psychological disorder that could account for the king’s unusual experience.
Regardless of how it came about, it had been predicted by Daniel in a dream given to the king that should have caused him alarm. Nebuchadnezzar had heard the interpretation of his first dream in chapter 2, when Daniel actually told him what the dream was. But the king had never witnessed any of these prophecies actually coming about. So, perhaps he dismissed them as just one of those things that might or might not happen.
However, it was very important that Nebuchadnezzar learn that the God in heaven is the true Sovereign over all that the king had claimed as his own. See Daniel 4:30. What a fitting way to teach him this truth–to have him take the humble place of an animal, lower than any of the king’s human subjects, over which he ruled.
For seven years (a symbolic number that indicates completeness), he sees the world from a different perspective. It was life-changing for him, just as God intended.
Read Daniel 4:30, 34. Just how far had Nebuchadnezzar come from the start of the seven years, till they were over and his reasoning powers returned?
Read Daniel 4:12, 32, 33. Why did God choose to make him like a “beast of the field”? What could and did it possibly teach the stubborn king?
Read Daniel 4:15, 16 and Psalm 51:10. How was this a heart-changing experience for the king?
Wednesday: Lifting Eyes Toward Heaven
This pagan monarch went from looking down on everything and everyone about him to looking up to God. This change in direction also changed the direction of his behavior. No longer did he see himself as a mighty king, but as a lowly subject of the King of heaven. He could no longer oppress others with the feeling of immunity that had hardened his heart and caused him to miss out on a loving relationship with his Maker.
This story reveals a God who does all He can to save our sinful planet. He not only gives repeated invitations to accept His authority, but He goes to extreme lengths to accomplish it. Having a king of such stature live like an animal for seven years is about as extreme as it can get.
The king’s experience was not only designed to save the king. Its inspiring message must have influenced those in his kingdom, as well as the millions in the centuries since who have read about his unusual downfall and restoration.
Read Daniel 4:31, 34. Why do we fail to look up toward heaven as often as we should? What was God trying to tell the king (and us) every day, and what prevents us from hearing Him?
Read Daniel 4:37 and Psalm 33:4. How was Nebuchadnezzar taught through his seven-year experience that God is right (or just) and true?
Read 1 Timothy 2:4, John 17:3, and John 14:6. What is God’s desire for all of us? How is a knowledge of the truth and eternal life related to Jesus?
Thursday: Humble and Grateful
Once again, Nebuchadnezzar is allowed to provide his own words to Daniel’s story. This, of course, makes it all the more powerful to readers–to hear firsthand what God did to and for this proud king.
He offers an ending that is astounding. We are moved by his seven-year trial, but even more amazed at the happy ending.
Humbled and grateful, Nebuchadnezzar shows that he is no longer the main character of the story, but God takes center stage and is given all the credit for the events he went through. The boasting is replaced with unstoppable praise for the true King of us all.
If the emperor of one of the most powerful kingdoms on earth uplifts the Creator God in such a magnificent way, who are we to feel superior to God, or any of His children? This story puts all of us in our rightful place before God.
But, remember that this is a God who loves us and cares enough about us to lift us up as well. Look at what He did for Nebuchadnezzar!
Read Daniel 4:35, Isaiah 40:15, 17, and John 15:5. Why are the nations said to be nothing? What makes us be something?
Read Philippians 2:3. What is the antidote for ambition? Is all ambition selfish, and why or why not?
Read Philippians 2:8-11. Why did even Jesus need to show humility while He lived with us on earth? On what level does this bowing down to Jesus put Him, in reference to God?
Before looking at future events in some of the visions and prophecies Daniel later receives, it’s important for us to set the stage for what has been going on in the universe.
- The first test of Daniel and his friends had to do with food, their appetite…the first test of Adam and Eve also had to do with food.
- Daniel saving the wise men who couldn’t tell and interpret the king’s dream remind us of how God revealed to Adam and Eve that their only way to escape death was through the Seed or the Messiah, seen as the stone in the dream.
- Just as the Son of God walked through the fiery furnace with Daniel’s friends, we can trust that God will be with us through all our trials on earth.
- The king learned humility through his seven years, living as an animal. We, too, must give up our pride and become humble, just as our Savior humbled Himself and came to this earth as a babe in Bethlehem.
All of these stories, and others to come, are giving us a glimpse into the plan of salvation.
The story this week especially encapsulates the steps by which our salvation is attained. Looking at the three parts of the earthly sanctuary, we find ourselves walking through what it takes to be saved.
- The courtyard contained the altar of sacrifice, where the sinner witnessed the killing of the sacrificial animal and confessed his sins. This act made the sinner just or righteous before God–thus the term justification.
- The Holy Place, where we found the altar of showbread, the lampstand, and the altar of incense, is a place where we learn about the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, and pray through Him, with our prayers drifting heavenward and reaching the Most Holy Place. This is a place where we gradually become holy, like Jesus. This process is thus called sanctification.
- In the Most Holy Place, where God is said to reside in the ark of the covenant, we find ourselves closest to God. This occurs ultimately when Christ comes and takes us to heaven to be with Him for eternity. Our bodies are changed or glorified, and death is finally conquered. This is known as glorification.
King Nebuchadnezzar experienced all of these steps as the disturbing dream he had was fulfilled. We learn from it every day as we, too, struggle with our personal pride, the hardest of all sins to conquer.
Next Week’s Lesson: From Arrogance to Destruction (Daniel 5)
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/