Nebuchadnezzar in his proclamation to his whole kingdom about his faith in God begins by explaining the dream he was given. At the time he received the dream he was not spiritually searching, he was not discontent, but (v4) he is ruling, seemingly untroubled “contented and prosperous” but opposed to God! Until v5 God unsettles “terrified” Nebuchadnezzar, and this is more than just a nightmare. He knows that this is more than just the adult equivalent of monsters under the bed and so he turns again to his diviners, magicians, enchanters and astrologers for answers.
One of telling things here is that Daniel is his last port of call “Finally”. Despite Daniel's track record, his wisdom, his godly service, his boldness and God given interpretation in chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar looks everywhere else first. It's worth pausing to ask why? Is it that he doesn't want to be confronted with Daniel's God again? Is it that he will search for any other answer rather than Yahweh? As we look around our world, our circles of friends and our families many of us know those who do exactly that.
The description that is given of Daniel in verse 8 and 9 is important “called Belteshazzar after the name of my God’s, and the spirit of the holy God’s is in him.” “chief of the magicians”. Again it's as if Nebuchadnezzar stubbornly refuses to recognise what Daniel himself has readily admitted, he has no power or wisdom of his own, only what God gives him. Nebuchadnezzar will not recognise what Daniel told him in chapter 2:27-8 “No wiseman, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries”. Yet Nebuchadnezzar has no choice but to appeal to Daniel, though tellingly he appeals to Daniel not to God despite his experiences in chapters 2-3.
The central issue in the dream is Kingship (as I think it is in the book), who rules? Nebuchadnezzar or God. The image of a tree was a common one in referring to a ruler or kingdom or dynasty. Then he sees “a holy one, a messenger” One who reveals God’s purposes, a supernatural watchman who command that the tree be chopped down. However, this is not a graceless or hopeless message because there is grace in the “But” or yet of v15. The tree will not be totally destroyed.
In v15b-16 the language changes from the tree to the person tree represents "him... his". The tree clearly represents a human though, until God determines, he will be like a wild animal v16. For 7 times – may be months, years, more likely 7 = perfection, God’s perfectly allotted time.
Why will this happen? Verse 17 tells us why as the messenger announces God’s verdict – his word is what matters. God is confronting man with his creatureliness and in contrast God’s sovereignty. Yet again God is teaching that He rules. It is no wonder Nebuchadnezzar is fearful of exactly what the dream is about. He’s told the purpose of the dream and its application seems quite obvious, especially as the tree imagery was common at time, though Neb is uncertain as to its exact interpretation hence his anxiety, terror and need to know.
We are confronted again with our creatureliness in contrast to our creators divinity, our limitations contrasted with his limitlessness, our dependence contrasted with his almighty sovereignty. How great is our God? Even the most powerful men on the planet are merely grass. Nebuchadnezzar as he reveals God's dealings with him reveals where we all stand before God. How amazing that this God wants to know us? How much more humbling that he stoops in the person of his son to veil himself in flesh and take our place for our sin?