I’m sure you know the story of King Nebuchadnezzar. The king of Babylon had reached a height of unparalleled greatness and power, and in an act of divine glory thievery, he created a large golden image and commanded everyone under his authority to bow down and worship his idol.
Nebuchadnezzar proclaims, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30, ESV) You cannot find a more blatant act of a human ruler trying to claim the glory due to God and God alone.
While we will never rise to the status of Nebuchadnezzar or make a reckless decree like his, you and I are more like this man than is comfortable to admit.
Perhaps we commit vertical larceny much more than we realize. Perhaps we quest for personal glory more than we think. Perhaps, in some way, we stand on our balcony and take credit for what only God can produce.
Perhaps we’re not too far from Nebuchadnezzar’s sin.
This Old Testament story is a warning to us today, and in the story, God uses Daniel to warn Nebuchadnezzar (see 4:24-27). Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream and pleads with him to “break off your sins by practicing righteousness.”
When you read this story, you must meditate on how incredible God’s mercy is. In the face of the arrogance and murderous self-glory of Nebuchadnezzar, God has every holy reason to rise in righteous intolerance and wipe this man from the face of the earth. Everything this worldly ruler stood for was an abomination to the Lord Almighty. It should stun you that God stooped first to warn him.
Again, we find ourselves in the shoes of Nebuchadnezzar. If you’re God’s child, you are blessed with the convicting, warning, merciful ministry of the Holy Spirit.
The question is: are you listening?
When the Holy Spirit blesses you with convicting grace, it will be tempting to harden your heart and argue for your righteousness. It will be tempting to claim your biblical literacy and theological knowledge as evidence of your spiritual maturity.
When the Holy Spirit visits you with a merciful warning, it will be tempting to compare yourself to others and argue that you are surely more righteous than they are. It will be tempting to ignore these warnings if God chooses to use people who you think are unqualified or less mature than you.
Yes, it’s a struggle for us all: it will be tempting to resist the convicting, warning, merciful ministry of the Holy Spirit.
The story of Nebuchadnezzar is a warning, but more than that, it’s a comfort. You can rest knowing that you serve a dissatisfied Redeemer who will not turn from his work of redemption, even when you fail to esteem it and work to resist it.
With patience and daily grace, God invites you to listen. With love and mercy, he offers you protection from the glory thievery that continually threatens us this side of eternity.
Will you listen? Will you run to him and not from him?
1. What accomplishments or achievements are you tempted to take credit for?
2. How have these been a gift from God, made possible only by his grace and sovereignty?
3. What are some of the dangers that accompany you stealing credit? Think specifically.
4. When was the last time you received a merciful, convicting warning from the Holy Spirit?
5. How did you respond to this warning?
6. The next time you receive a merciful, convicting warning from the Holy Spirit, how can you respond more biblically?