Explore the Bible Study: Humility Required

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We heard this week that Tom Brady is retiring from NFL Football and has been recognized as NFL's G.O.A.T. (Greatest of all Time) because of his amazing accomplishments. Most will admit that he truly is a great quarterback who is well-deserving of this honor. Anyone who is recognized as the G.O.A.T. should be careful not to let the recognition lead to an unfounded sense of greatness and entitlement. The Explore the Bible Study: Humility Required, will examine what happens when one allows personal accomplishments to create an unhealthy sense of pride and arrogance.

Daniel 4 reminds us that King Nebuchadnezzar was the G.O.A.T. as a world leader during this time period, but he let his greatness go to his head. He thought so much of himself that he didn’t think he needed God, or he possibly thought that he was greater than God.  While Nebuchadnezzar had become exceedingly great (Daniel 4:22), he would experience great humiliation until he recognized God’s sovereignty (Daniel 4:23-25). 

As our culture continues to reflect a narcissistic or self-centered view of life, you should be reminded that humility is required for anyone to recognize the greatness of God and the brokenness of man. As you examine the steps God took to humble Nebuchadnezzar, let it serve as a reminder that one must come to Jesus with a humble heart and live for Him with a humble heart. If we don’t, God will get our attention.

Nebuchadnezzar expressed a narcissistic attitude – Daniel 4:28-30

This passage begins with the statement all this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Previously Daniel 4:4-27 describes a terrifying dream the king had that only Daniel was able to interpret. The dream contained a warning to the king: God’s blessing had made Nebuchadnezzar what he was, and if the king did not recognize this, God would humble him. Daniel had encouraged the king to pursue righteousness, lest the dream become reality (Daniel 4:27).  It’s now twelve months later and the king is walking on the roof of one of three beautiful palaces that he owned.

He is reflecting on all that he has accomplished. During his reign, historical records confirm that the Babylonian empire grew to its greatest heights. He built a magnificent palace adorned and surrounded by canals, gardens, walkways, and more. He had conquered, united, and rebuilt his nation into something that was both feared and respected throughout the world. Some of his accomplishments included an elaborate “hanging gardens."  He built an elaborate defense system around the city that included a moat system of several broad, deep canals, and dams. This moat system surrounded the outside of a double-wall fortification. The outer wall was 40 feet tall. Most historians believe he built or restored almost every city and temple in the entire country.

There is no doubt that he had truly become known in the ancient world as the G.O.A.T. He looked out from his roof, and saw a great kingdom, but his thoughts about his kingdom’s greatness quickly turned to thoughts of his own greatness.

Would our culture consider the king's attitudes in verse 30 as a normal response today? Why or why not? How can we remain humble when God does great things in us and through us?

The fact that it has been twelve months demonstrates God’s mercy. God waited to see how the king would respond. God demonstrates his mercy today as well. When we share the gospel with someone and they refuse to repent and turn to Christ, God will patiently wait for a response. Romans 12:4 reminds us that we should not despise the riches of His kindness, restraint, and patience because God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.

What should Romans 12:4 and the months of mercy God demonstrated to Nebuchadnezzar teach us about sharing the gospel with someone who doesn’t immediately respond? 

God will judge the proud – Daniel 4:31-33

The G.O.A.T. king was no match for Almighty God. Alistair Begg describes it this way:  His kingdom was no longer his own, and nor was his sanity. God brought him down low when his heart was most lifted up. (Brave by Faith, Alistair Begg)

When you read this account of God’s judgment what do you consider? How should this motivate you to continue to share and show the Good News of Jesus? What warning can you draw from this regarding your own pride?

Notice the length of time that the king would continue to be judged in verse 32: seven periods of time. We don’t know for certain about the time reference, most interpreters understand it as seven years. What we do know is this was not a brief period of time but a long period of time.

How would you have responded had you seen your king acting this way for seven years? How do you think Daniel responded? How should we respond when we observe others being judged for their arrogance?

God was showing the king that he was not a mighty, all sufficient, all-powerful ruler, but a lowly, needy dependent creature. God would send the most powerful man on earth to live among the animals, virtually as one of them. He would live as one of them, not merely alongside them. However, Nebuchadnezzar could experience restoration to his throne, but he would need to humble himself first.

God will restore the humble – Daniel 4:34-37

At the end of the seven-year period, Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself before God. He looked up to heaven. The king now recognized his place; the God of heaven had made him king, but God was able to humble him as well. Nebuchadnezzar joyfully affirmed, my sanity returned to me.

This king who once thought he was the G.O.A.T.  praised the Most High . . . who lives forever.  No one could compare with the vastness of His power, and no one could compare with the length of His reign. He recognized his own smallness in comparison to God’s greatness. 

While we don’t know exactly how Nebuchadnezzar was restored to his throne, we do know that his change was so dramatic that his advisers and nobles sought [him] out, indicating they recognized he was ready to rule as king again. 

This new phase of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign would feature the king’s new perspective. As he grew in power, he recognized God’s role in making him who he was. God provided the king a powerful witness to His greatness, and Nebuchadnezzar gained a new perspective on what God had given him.

How Should We Respond?

It took twelve months until God began the humbling process in the king's life and most likely an additional seven years before he truly repented and acknowledged God.

Do you believe God can humble people today? Do you really believe he could humble the most proud, arrogant, self-sufficient, God-denying individual you can think of? Do you believe he can humble a president or a ruler today? How does this passage change how you might answer those questions? What can we learn regarding how God works through His followers to bring someone to repentance?

Here was the greatest king of that time. His pride was great. But, in God’s time, he was humbled, and he responded with repentance. Likewise, God responded with restoration. We are invited, as Daniel was, to speak into the culture that glorifies self-centered living. But the gospel demands humbling oneself before a Holy God and turning to Christ for salvation, and he expects believers to live humble lives and to humbly share the message of repentance to those who have not yet humbled themselves before a mighty God.

Think of the person who, if you are honest, you simply cannot conceive of bending the knee to Jesus as Lord. What would it take for them to come to faith? It will take God’s humbling work and a godly person’s courageous words—just as it did for King Nebuchadnezzar

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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