Have you ever known someone whose life looked fabulous from the outside and then one day imploded?
Do you ever fear that will be you?
Why the concern? No one is immune.
Perhaps we become most susceptive when we think it can’t happen to us.
An everyday danger lurks for you and me. I’ll get to that but first…
Why the story of Nebuchadnezzar sends chills down my spine.
Daniel 4:4 describes:
“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace.”
Ahhh, that word flourishing. You know why that word caught my attention.
The brute who tossed Daniel & Co. into the lions’ den is now described as “flourishing.”
Pump the brakes, friend.
Flourishing here isn’t the blooming or blossoming or sprouting of so many other passages.
This flourishing means prosperous with the focus on contentment and adequacy of life. The word implies a life of wealth, riches, and luxury.
Nebuchadnezzar lives in the lap of 24-karat luxury with the world’s finest resource at his disposal. His opposition—including those fierce Egyptians, has subdued. He rests confident in his authority.
Why doesn’t the king enjoy the same definition of flourishing found in other Scriptures?
Because this isn’t wisdom from God. This is the perspective of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king.
The king sits content and secure, but the wordplay remains astute.
Flourishing in the Aramaic means “luxuriant,” which is often used to luxuriant or flourishing trees. This description prepares the reader for the tree imagery that soon appears in the king’s dream.
This flourishing of Nebuchadnezzar shatters with the vision of a tall, strong, beautiful, productive, and protective tree that is soon chopped down.
A sudden shift takes places. The thriving, lush image of Nebuchadnezzar’s monarchy will be reduced to a stump. The dream reveals the true fragile state of the kingdom—and the king.
The tree is…
Stripped of branches,
But God instructs: Leave its roots in the ground (Daniel 4:15).
The great tree, Nebuchadnezzar, must be leveled by God for seven years.
Why so long?
- Perhaps of agrarian interest: The roots of the stump of a tree take roughly that long to fully rot in the ground.
- Perhaps the time ensured none of the old Nebuchadnezzar rose up, taking on his old ways.
- Perhaps God willed a complete makeover, total root rot, so that he could bud anew in this king’s life.
Whatever the reason, in Daniel 4:36, a new Nebuchadnezzar emerges—a man who now praises, exalts and honors the King of heaven (4:37).
Why does this matter to you and me?
Because the story of Nebuchadnezzar reminds us:
God is far more concerned with our inward, Christ-like flourishing, than our outward, worldly flourishing.
After noting the sales success of my writing or recent books, I’ve had people comment:
“You must be living right.”
Somehow these well-meaning people equate some sort of perceived outward success for inward success with God.
Yet Nebuchadnezzar’s alerts us to the everyday danger of equating earthly success with divine favor. Whenever we fall into this kind of thinking we start mistaking puppet masters with good lighting with spiritual giants.
You or I will never truly know what’s going on inside someone. But we can know what’s going on inside ourselves.
We can spend time…
Planting ourselves in God’s love
Rooting ourselves in trust
Grounding ourselves in wisdom
Nourishing others in community
Springing with courage
Growing in grace
Budding with hope
Bursting with life
Cultivated by Christ
My prayer for us today, as you and I declare, “Yet I will flourish still!”, is that we learn this everyday danger from Nebuchadnezzar and will ground ourselves in God in such a way that we flourish in love, grace, joy and Christ-likeness every step of the way.