“I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace: I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.” — Daniel 4:4-5
Dreams are a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. Researchers tell us that dreams are a universal human experience — everyone dreams, though many dreams are insignificant and forgotten. However, at times God has used dreams to deliver a message. Sometimes the message was one of hope, and at other times it was of judgment.
Many years ago, Carl Wasara had a dream that impacted his life. He said, “I was born in Finland, and my father died when I was about eight years old. My mother and her aunt were very devout Christians. No doubt it was their prayers that followed me and gave me an inclination toward the Lord.
“In 1905 there was an insurrection in Finland against Russian rule. The Russian military rode through the streets on horses, trampling anyone in their path. I barely escaped by jumping into a coal bin in someone’s basement. I was so upset by this incident that I left Finland and moved to Sweden.
“While in Sweden, I had a dream that left a lasting impression. I was sinking in a river about to drown when I saw a woman standing on the bridge overhead. She reached down her hand and pulled me out of the water.
“In 1908, when I was thirty-two years old, I came to America with my brother, and we traveled to Portland, Oregon. One day while taking a walk, I met a Finnish minister. I told him I had a hunger in my heart to know God. He said to go to the Apostolic Faith people at Front and Burnside and they would tell me what to do. I followed his advice and went to the church. There, I saw the woman who had been in my dream. It was such a blessing. I thought she was God’s rescuing angel.
“As I sat in the service that night, tears streamed down my face. Though I didn’t understand the words being spoken, I understood the Spirit of God. The founder of the church, Florence Crawford, saw me sitting in the meeting and after the service, she came and led me to the altar. God’s people gathered around me and began to pray with me, and God wonderfully saved my soul.”
When Carl passed away, he had served God for sixty-five years. He had a dream that brought hope, and God led him to where the hope could become reality.
In our text today, King Nebuchadnezzar had a vivid dream that he could recount in detail. However, in contrast to Carl, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream troubled him, and rightly so (as can be seen in tomorrow’s text). While God does not speak to most of us by dreams, these accounts illustrate the Lord’s faithfulness to reach out to each person. He has given His Word and His Spirit to guide us into all truth. Whatever your situation is today, let your heart be encouraged to know that God cares about you, and He will help with every detail of your life if you will let Him.
Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream is recorded in today’s text. The interpretation, given in the latter portion of the chapter, is the text for tomorrow’s reading.
Verses 1-3 introduce the chapter and indicate it was written after the events recounted had transpired. The writing has the tone of an official document, and King Nebuchadnezzar addressed it “unto all people, nations, and languages.”
Nebuchadnezzar reigned over the Babylonian Empire from 605-562 B.C. During that time, he led his armies in conquering numerous kingdoms. Additionally, he was a builder, and his work included the expansion and fortification of the city of Babylon. Although the dates of the events in this chapter are unknown, scholars believe they took place toward the end of his reign, because verse 4 says he was at rest in his house and flourishing in his palace. The sense is that the wars were completed, the victories had been won, and he was enjoying his life.
Then he had this dream that troubled him. Perhaps he felt concern that it foretold evil and trouble for him. When the wise men of Babylon could not interpret the dream, Daniel was brought in. Nebuchadnezzar was sure Daniel would be able to give him the interpretation; the king had previous experience with Daniel and Daniel’s connection to the God of the universe.
In his dream the king saw a tree that was large, strong, and beautiful, and that provided shade, shelter, and food. “The height thereof reached unto heaven” was a common way for ancient writers to describe tall trees or towers. Also, the tree was visible to all people.
Then a “watcher,” which was a heavenly being, declared that the tree must be cut down. However, a band of iron and brass would be put around the stump. Some scholars believe this indicated that the tree would not die completely.
The analogy changed from a tree to a person when the heavenly being said “he” would be given the heart of a beast rather than that of a man. In other words, the person would think of himself as an animal and act like one. Most scholars believe that “let seven times pass over him” means his condition would exist for seven years.
The heavenly being gave the purpose of the declaration: “to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men.” Although the worship of heathen gods pervaded the culture of this time, the universal and timeless truth of God the Creator being in control would be unequivocally demonstrated.
II. The prophetic history of the Gentiles
C. The dream of Nebuchadnezzar (the pride of Gentile world powers)
1. The proclamation of the king (4:1-3)
2. The tree vision of the king (4:4-18)
a. The search for the interpretation (4:4-9)
b. The stating of the dream (4:10-18)
God wants to meet the needs of your life. If you look to Him and His Word, He will guide you.