There was hope, after all, for King Nebuchadnezzar. We see a crazy, prideful king. And we see him correctly. Nebuchadnezzar was both of those things. Crazy and prideful. He threw people who didn’t worship him into the fire. And he wanted people to worship him as a god.
But there was hope for him. His vision was of a tree chopped down. It was a mighty tree. Its top reached to heaven. It had beautiful leaves, good fruit, shade for the animals of the field. The whole world revolved around that tree. It was a tree that stood for a king. This was Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man on earth.
To cut down the tree and to de-limb it and to remove all of its leaves and to scatter its fruit would have been a shock to the world. No one would have seen that coming. And what would this earthly kingdom become without its king?
It’s a story of a kingdom – and a Kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar said of God, “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.”
Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was not. And God was teaching him that. God forced Nebuchadnezzar out of his mind and made him eat grass. Seven seasons of eating grass. God wanted to make sure every living person knew God rules earthly kingdoms and that he gives those kingdoms to whomever he wants – even to the “lowliest of men.”
Jesus preached a new kind of kingdom. Next week, we will begin reading in the Gospel of Mark. “The time is fulfilled,” Jesus said, “and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Nebuchadnezzar learned his own gospel. Daniel told him, “break off your sins.” That means to repent, to turn around, to put an eye on the Most High who rules the kingdoms of humanity. And Nebuchadnezzar ended up eating grass.
I was at the church the other day throwing dirt into holes where Roger had dug up the sprinkler lines, fixing leaks. I got the easy job, putting the dirt back into place. It didn’t look very good after I was done. There were clumps of turf, with yellow grass still rooted and clinging to life, mixed with dirt. I packed it in and stepped on it and pushed it down level.
There were sprinkler heads nearby, and I knew this ugliness only needed to be temporary. There was some good there. Given water, given sun, given time – that grass would grow. The green would return. New seed could be added. The grass could be thick and lush again.
But it would require patience. And tamping.
There was hope for Nebuchadnezzar just like there’s hope for us, crazy and prideful people. I think we’re a mixed up mess a lot of the time, dirt and yellow grass clinging to life. It’s not much to look at. And the gardner keeps stepping on us, and he’s not worried. He’s in charge, and he knows.
And Nebuchadnezzar ended up lifting his eyes to heaven. And he acknowledged there is a King in heaven. There’s a story here about grace and faith, in that order.
Jesus described the kingdom of heaven like a mustard seed, so tiny and yet so capable of growing to provide shade for the birds. And we look at the muddled, mixed up messes of our own lives – we’re not really who we want to be yet. And we see the crazy pride of people like Nebuchadnezzar and ourselves – and we wonder whether there’s any hope.