Looking Up to Heaven
God is in control and can soften the hardest of hearts.
A shattered Colossus
The poet Percy Bysshe Shelly tells of meeting a traveler from an "antique" land who describes the ruins of a great statue in the desert. The head, half sunk in the sand, lies apart from great stone legs still standing on their pedestal. The shattered face yet portrays a sneer of royal arrogance. Words on the nearby pedestal reflect the look on the statue's face:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
But beyond these words and relics the poet relates,
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
The words of Shelly's fabled Ozymandias echo in Nebuchadnezzar's prideful claims in this fourth chapter of Daniel. Like the king in Shelly's poem, Babylon's king forgot that time and circumstance erode all the accomplishments of men, making pride absurd. Thirty-two years had passed since Daniel's first interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dreams had burst the king's illusions about this greatness. Now Nebuchadnezzar needed a reminder about the limits of his greatness and glory. One day he walked atop his palace, surveyed his kingdom and said, "Is this not the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty" (Daniel 4:30). He was asking for trouble. And what the king asked for, he got.
Months earlier Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed of a majestic tree growing to wondrous heights. In the dream the tree was cut down and stripped of its branches at the command of a heavenly messenger. Only the stump remained, bound with metal bands and drenched with dew. Then, without further explanation, the mysterious messenger said, "Let him be drenched with dew ...
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Bryan Chapell is the senior pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois.