for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
Nebuchadnezzar is hardly a bastion of good theology, yet even he—if only for a moment, and if only in a skewed fashion—understands when he has been put in his place by God. After spending time as a madman in the wilderness in accordance with God's prophecy and judgment (Daniel 4:4-33), he here recognizes one of the irreducable truths of the universe: God does according to His will and is not subject to review from His creations.
Last night at Community Group, we talked about The Fall (Genesis 3), and how, from John's sermon, it is the beginning of an ongoing struggle in which creature tries to overthrow Creator. Micah recalled C.S. Lewis' proposition: "The Fall is simply and solely Disobedience—doing what you have been told not to do: and it results from Pride—from being too big for your boots, forgetting your place, thinking that you are God." If anything has changed from Daniel's time and culture to ours, it may simply be that more of us are willing and able to delude ourselves to Nebuchadnezzarian levels. So many of us live with such personal and societal privilege and power that we cannot imagine any will taking precedence over our own—certainly not the will of an unseen God.
A disaster like Hurricane Katrina is a good example. Certainly, there has been a great outpouring of genuine compassion and legitimate sorrow—if we look, we can see God's image being expressed in these responses. Yet there is also a stunning measure of foot-stamping disbelief, whether it be directed toward failings of government or at the situation as a whole. "How can this be allowed to happen?" We forget our place in the universe, and we balk when the inevitable rude awakening comes.
Nebuchadnezzar seems an unlikely model, but in this moment, he understands what so many of us spend our lives running from. God is frustrating us on purpose, to remind us of the difference between creature and Creator, to put us in our place. Only under His authority can we accept His forgiveness and learn to abide in His love.