Monday, March 13, 2006

God's Extraordinary Sense of Timing

Nebuchadnezzar has been told what is going to happen to him and what he might be able to do to avoid it.

And, then, God waits.

"Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, 'Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?'" (Daniel 4:29-30).

God waits for a full year before he does anything. He plants a seed in the king's heart and waits to see if it will take root and sprout a little. But at the end of a year, Nebuchadnezzar seems even more arrogant than before!

Think about Nebuchadnezzar during that year. What did he do? He knew what was coming. He knew what he could do to avoid it. He did nothing.

Did he think God was bluffing?

Did he think he could figure out a way around the whole mess?

I bet he avoided Daniel during that year.

Here's the thing about being convicted by God: if you fail to act on that conviction, it's easy to slip back into your old habits and patters. But God will still hold you accountable.

"The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, 'This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.'

"Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled" (Daniel 4:31-33a).

"The words were still on his lips...." God wants Nebuchadnezzar to make the connection between what is about to happen to him and what he has just said. Excellent timing on God's part.

"Seven times will pass...." Some people think this means seven years, but, in the Bible, the number seven stands for "a lot". Remember the king had the furnace heated "seven times hotter" than it was. And the Book of Proverbs says, "Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again" (Proverbs 24:16a).

Q: So, how long was Nebuchadnezzar insane?

A: As long as it took.

God is so amazingly patient. He waits to see if we'll take his warnings seriously. He waits patiently, hopefully, expectantly. He gives us sufficient time to make the necessary changes. When he decides to act, he can move very quickly, and his discipline lasts as long as it takes to make its point.