Monday, October 3, 2016

Gifts from the Giver

He believed in American values.  He was hard-working and understood that this was the only path to wealth and power.  He told it like it is, and he never understated his achievements.  He knew how to get ahead, how to self-promote and how to be a world class administrator.  He built an empire; he was the envy of all.

Who was this mysterious powerhouse?

John D. Rockefeller?  Andrew Carnegie?  Donald Trump? 

Nope.  Nebuchadnezzar.

Twice in Nebuchadnezzar's life God breaks into his self-absorption with a dream.  The first dream was such a mystery that he nearly has a kingdom's worth of wise men slaughtered trying to figure it out (read more here).  The second dream is a personal warning.  Nebuchadnezzar's life and reign are compared to an enormous tree. 

The tree grew large and became strong

            And its height reached to the sky,

            And it was visible to the end of the whole earth.

 Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant,

            And in it was food for all.

            The beasts of the field found shade under it,

            And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches,
            And all living creatures fed themselves from it. 
                                                                 (Daniel 4:11-12)

Beautiful, abundant, nurturing with shade, homes and food.  I feel like we are reading a description from "The Giving Tree!"  Nebuchadnezzar was in fact everything he thought he was!

The second half of the dream is less positive. The tree will be cut off at the stump. Nebuchadnezzar's rule is about to be curtailed.  Not ended by death or a palace coup but by losing his mind.  Daniel warns him that if he repents (and does works worthy of such) he may be able to hold off the punishment. 

19th Century Engraving
Attributed: Wikimedia Commons
Unfortunately a year later, it seems that the dream is all but forgotten.  Standing on his balcony, looking out from the palace that held one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, Nebuchadnezzar couldn't resist a bit of self-congratulation.  

 ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?

What is wrong with this sentence?  Its true, isn't it?  Nebuchadnezzar had built Babylon.  He was the driving force behind the city and the empire.  What's wrong are the four personal pronouns.

I,myself, my power, my majesty.

The ruins of Babylon as seen by Marines at the beginning of the Iraq War.
Attributed: Public Domain- Wikimedia Commons

The King had no room to honor the one he calls, "the Most High God."  He can't see that he is king because God allowed him to be. His time, energy, health, and mental stability (especially in this case mental stability) are gifts.  He did nothing to earn them and can do nothing to protest when they are snatched away.  Nebuchadnezzar is the steward of God's gifts.

This is the point of today's devotional. After you read it with your kids, encourage them to think of their own gifts and accomplishments.  Let them make a list.  Ask them where those gifts originate.  Remember like Nebuchadnezzar we are likely to point to our work and our success and congratulate ourselves.  Also like Nebuchadnezzar we have to acknowledge that we are simply the stewards of the gifts God gave us, not only our physical resources but our time, health, brains and skills. Thus we are compelled not only to use these gifts to the Giver's advantage but in all things to affirm that they are from Him and to His glory.


  1. I so appreciate your telling of Bible stories like this. Thank you for highlighting truth about who God is! Humbling. Thanks, blessings on your week!

  2. I enjoyed your post! Great tips about remembering who gave us our gifts!
    #FMTM neighbor,

  3. Thank you both for your kind words. Finding ways to help our kids center themselves in God is one of my passions!

  4. It always amazes me when God uses pagan kings and even His own enemies to bring about His plans. Thanks for this great study/story!

    1. Yes! And in this dangerous world we live in it is a great comfort to me to look at world leaders and know that they only reign because God put them on their thrones and He can use even their evil to further His plans!

  5. This was really good! I've studied this story before, but I've not heard this angle that I can remember. And I love how easily you applied it to kids. Glad to be your neighbor today!

    1. Kelly, so glad you stopped by! I hope you get a chance to share them with your kids!

  6. This is a super great devotional! I love that you told a less well known story. And you told it wodnderfully!

    Thank you so much for linking up at Grace + Lace!


  7. Ooooh, I liked your relation to American values! Thanks for joining us at #FridayFrivolity