Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
NEBUCHADNEZZAR – The Perishable And The Permanent
Daniel 4

 1. Our lesson examines a King of the Old Testament that is often mentioned in Scriptures. References to Nebuchadnezzar are found in 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc. He was one of the most powerful monarchs the world has ever seen. He reigned for more than forty years and when he died in 561 B.C. the city of Babylon was the symbol of glory and world domination. He was a victorious military leader, an amazing architect of world renown, and an absolute Monarch. 

 2. There is a danger of deception that few recognize. Often many are so engrossed in the affairs of this world that they forget how temporary this world really is. They are deceived into thinking that all they do will be permanent but it is actually perishable. Consequently they invest heaving in the perishables and sadly neglect the permanents. This tragedy is illustrated by Nebuchadnezzar, and other historical figures.

  a. Even though Nebuchadnezzar established Babylon as the kingdom of the world, it would vanish into nothing! In 538 B.C., less than a quarter of a century after Nebuchadnezzar died, the great city of Babylon fell to Cyrus, King of Persia.

  b. Alexander the Great, when he led his Grecian troops across the Hellespont to conquer kingdoms in Asia, did not know that in a few months he would be dead and his conquests would die with him.

  c. Rome in the time of Augustus Caesar, when its legions were masters of all the Western world, had no conception that before long the barbarians would burn its city gates.

  d. Philip of Spain, when his galleons were bringing back the plundered riches of the Americas, could not see the hand of judgment writing that his empire was at an end.

  e. These references only illustrate the common tendency of mankind – trust in the perishable, strive for the perishable and forget the permanent! How often has man sacrificed the permanent joys and happiness for the fleeting pleasures of the perishable?!

 3. The great King Nebuchadnezzar teaches us a fantastic lesson on the urgency of keeping the proper balance between the perishable and the permanent things of life. Daniel 4 offers Nebuchadnezzar’s personal insight to this point. The chapter is a blunt confession of the Babylonian Emperor that there is a significant difference between values in the world and that he had failed to keep the proper balance.

 NOTE: Often modern minds confuse the perishable and the permanent.

  a. Nebuchadnezzar’s struggle to balance the important with the trivial is faced by everyone. Earthly life is often chaotic because we confuse the true valuables. ASK – What are the true “valuables” of life? List those things that can be classified as the “perishable” and those that are the “permanent.”  Why are these often confused?  Why does this confusion lead to turmoil in our lives?

  b. Look at the King’s confession and learn from his mistake so you will not confuse the valuables of life and lose happiness. 

 2. Nebuchadnezzar’s confession (Da 4) stresses the difference that exists between that which is perishable and that which is permanent. 

  a. Nebuchadnezzar valued the “Perishables” of life. 
  In themselves these are not wrong but they are not to be the sole focus of our lives. Whenever we allow these to become imbalanced, they become detrimental to our hearts. Although highly valued by worldly standards these have serious problems. Nebuchadnezzar urges us to beware of the “perishables” because they . . . 

  1) Offer self-congratulations and fuel sinful pride.
   The standard of Babylon stressed success as measured by worldly standards. Hence Nebuchadnezzar could congratulate himself on accomplishing great feats – “I myself have built” (v. 30). Study 4:30 and notice how the King focused only upon himself. He never once considered that his success was attributable to another source.

  2) Provoke the praise of mankind.
   The glory and beauty of Babylon were envied by the world. It was known as “the great” (4:30). Such elicited the praise of all mankind, yet it did not bring God’s praise. Man delights in that which is perishable.

  3) Are often highly honored and sought.
   Babylon’s success was measured by perishables – gold, silver, human slaves, possessions, etc. This success made Babylon a very popular place (4:11-12). Those whose success is measured by perishable standards  are often blind to the permanent items that have eternal value. They are consumed with striving after “nothing” (the perishables) and losing the truly valuable.

  4) Will quickly perish.
   The King’s dream told of a massive tree. The order was given “Hew the tree down!” (4:13-14). The tree symbolized Nebuchadnezzar. The message was clear – in a moment the vast wealth and success of the King would be gone. Everything that Nebuchadnezzar possessed would instantly perish! All in which he placed trust and value would vanish!

  5) Promotes “forgetfulness” of danger.
   Even though Nebuchadnezzar was given an accurate interpretation of the dream and told to reform his pride so he would not suffer the fate, he quickly forgot the warning (4:27-29). When one measures success by the perishables of life s/he enjoys a false security. Nebuchadnezzar was “at ease” and he did not reckon the gravity of his state. Many today become complacent in life. Their ambitions, accomplishments, wealth, and general situations put them “at ease” as well. The focus is all on the outward and the inner-person is slowly dying. The concerns may be aroused one day but that concern will soon be forgotten.

   6) Must be judged properly, cautioned against, and avoided.
   Daniel exhorted Nebuchadnezzar to change so the disaster would not come upon him (4:27). In our modern day such exhortations are viewed as wrong – “Why should so-and-so be confronted since they find success?” Those who plead for brethren to cease pursuing the “perishables” are often portrayed as too rigid. What is forgotten is the fact Daniel urged upon Nebuchadnezzar – those who strive after the perishables will lose the permanent and greatly suffer! True love speaks as Daniel spoke and urges all to seek that which is permanent!

   7) A CASE STUDY: Luke 12:15-21. The rich farmer’s eyes were not on God, but upon Self. This “foolish one” had chosen to pursue the “perishables” of life; he was consumed by these. Even though this rich man’s material wealth was increasing, he was “empty.” In his obsession to get more and more, he lost the real purpose of life.

  b. Nebuchadnezzar discovered the “Permanent” values of life.
  Nebuchadnezzar experienced the full tragedy of that which Daniel tried to avert. One year later the King’s pride brought God’s discipline. Instantly the King was humbled. All he possessed and trusted were taken from him. For seven years he lived as a wild animal and then the Lord restored Nebuchadnezzar’s reason (4:31-34). When he returned to his senses, the King blessed God’s greatness. Nebuchadnezzar speaks of things that have permanent values!

  1) There is the permanent value of humility.
   The haughty King was now glad to recognize God’s dominion and the fact that worldly possessions have absolutely no intrinsic value (4:34b-35). Humbled by the majesty of God, Nebuchadnezzar is now willing to serve God without any questions (3:35b).

   2) There are rewards that are richer and more abiding than the treasures of the world.
   When Nebuchadnezzar came to understand the true values in life, he found abounding treasures (4:36).

   3) There is a rejoicing and celebration that surpass  the pleasures of the world (4:1-3, 37).
   Those who trust in the perishables of life for satisfaction are often disappointed. Life becomes futile for them. Nothing is rewarding. But those who trust in God discover an abundant joy and are excited to tell about it (4:2-3)! Such joyful happiness is found only in the hearts of those who strive for the permanent and forsake the perishable!

 3. Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was that which robbed the “permanent” of its eternal value but his humility restored the valuable. 

  a. He changed his evaluation of life’s valuables  – no longer “I myself”  but now “His dominion and kingdom” (Da 4:30, 34).

  b. He changed the object of his devotion – no longer “I” but now “the Most High” (4:30, 34).

  c. He changed the basis for security – no longer “my house and palace” but now “He does according to His will” (4:4, 35).

  d. He changed the reason for happiness – no longer “the might of my power” but now the “true, just works” of God (Da 4:30, 37).

  e. NOTE: All of these combined to help Nebuchadnezzar find joy in his life. He was convinced that true joy was not to be found in worldly standards of success but in humble service to the Almighty God. Whenever the King ceased trusting in his own strength, he found a wonderful reward. Could it be possible that many today are lonely, unhappy, and ill-content because they have not done as Nebuchadnezzar did – they are still pursuing the perishables!

 4. From this King’s frank confession, we are able to learn the following Truths!

  a. A troubling query – Am I striving after the perishable or the permanent?
  1) In the Lord’s Church? 
   Many are seeking a church that offers the “perishables.” They are under the proud assumption that prestige and power will endure; that marvelous building complexes will elevate holiness. They think that by so many numbers of members they will find “success”; by so much money given they will find “prosperity”; or, by so much popular acceptance by the world they will gain “favor.” It is difficult for some to see that they have built a church out of the perishables and have totally ignored the permanent!

   “There may be the perilous tendency to think in terms of size and quantity instead of asking the disturbing question: What quality of life is the church producing? Are figures and statistics and money and the favor of the well-to-do of any ultimate value in the development of souls? . . . Some who are entrenched in their selfish privileges and too much blinded by their own interests to see the Truth will not acknowledge the church’s true purpose. They want the church ‘to comfort the afflicted’ but emphatically not ‘to afflict the comfortable’” (Walter Russell Bowie, See Yourself In The Bible, 1967,  63-65).

  2) In my personal life?
   Some are so consumed with financial success, economic achievements, ladder-climbing, and status seeking that they are blinded to the fact they have neglected all of the permanents and have a family system based upon the perishables. Everything they have is false. They have absolutely nothing of any value.

  b. A troubling situation – Am I so “at ease” with the perishables of life that I have forgotten the somber warnings of God? How tragic that many today strive after worldly possessions/successes and find emptiness. They are “at ease”and “flourishing” but “troubled” and “alarmed.” (Cf Is 57:20-21).

  c. A troubling prospect – Will my future be filled with fear and alarm because I have pursued the perishable and neglected the permanent? Is it possible that you will be like the Rich Fool (Lk 12:20)?

Copyright 1999 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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