Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’ “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my Lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. – Daniel 4:23-26
Well as Paul Harvey used to say here is the “rest of the story”. Daniel is explaining the King’s dream to him and what it means. The message in a nutshell is “grab a clue and acknowledge that God is God and you are not”. Of course he goes into a bit more details which it may be useful to explore so off we go.
The explanation that Daniel provides is pretty straightforward. The king will lose his position of power. He will be driven from the comfortable court he has lived in his entire life. His new home will be with away from people, with the wild animals. He will not be eating “court food“, but will eat “grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven”. It sounds like the dew being explained in this passage may have several layers of meaning.
On a spiritual level the dew still represents God’s spirit who will be hard at work softening the King’s heart for “seven times”. I did a little research into what this means and quickly found myself in deep water. Apparently there is much debate about the meaning of the Hebrew word for “times”. Without getting mired in these muddy waters suffice to say that the amount of time was somewhere between 7 years and infinity. I guess since God is ultimately outside of the flow of time so maybe it is not critical either way. I do not know.
The other way to view “the dew” is in a pragmatic way. God met the King’s physical needs for food and water just like he does for all the other “wild animals”. The way he did for the people of Israel when he provided Manna from heaven on the dew. God is the Shepard for his sheep, at least those who are willing to be “domesticated” and follow the Shepard. The king’s dream is really about domestication. What is the crucial difference between a wild animal and a domesticated one? A domesticated animal lives in a symbiotic relationship with its master, owner, or caretaker. I think what God is really calling on the king to do is allow himself to be “domesticated”.
The take-home message for me in this passage is that even though the king is an extreme example of a person who has become complacent in their comfortable position the reality is that we all need to become “domesticated”. Many rebel against this idea of allowing God to domesticate them fearing that it will in some way remove their “wildness”. This was one of the things that kept me from accepting Jesus as “the way” for my life. I like adventure and to be in control of things. Domestication seemed like a dungeon rather than freedom to me. Eventually God convinced me that following Him was not domestication in the way I was envisioning it. He did the same for His followers while we was walking the earth.
The Good News that Jesus was trying to get across to His disciples during their domestication process was that being a sheep is not a bad thing as long as the Shepard is good and He loves you more than His own life. I think in a spiritual context domestication is actually discipleship and learning to faithfully follow God now matter how hard it is or where it leads. It is being willing to say you are wrong and to ask for help from God, exactly what the king’s dream is calling on King Nebuchadnezzar to do. He has to acknowledge that God is God and he is not.
Prayer: God help us to submit to being domesticated by You so that you can lead us where we need to go.