The messenger shouted,
“Cut down the tree and lop off its branches!
Shake off its leaves and scatter its fruit!
Chase the wild animals from its shade
and the birds from its branches.
But leave the stump and the roots in the ground,
bound with a band of iron and bronze
and surrounded by tender grass.
Now let him be drenched with the dew of heaven,
and let him live with the wild animals among the plants of the field.
For seven periods of time,
let him have the mind of a wild animal
instead of the mind of a human.
For this has been decreed by the messengers;
it is commanded by the holy ones,
so that everyone may know
that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world.
He gives them to anyone he chooses—
even to the lowliest of people.”
Daniel 4:14-17 New Living Translation
God’s warning to Nebuchadnezzar came in the form of another dream, which was interpreted by Daniel for him again. This dream centered on the image of a tree, which was common imagery in the ancient world of the connection between Heaven and earth and the source of protection and sustenance. The Comic Tree was often seen as being at the center of the world. This imagery may well harken back to the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden and have been passed on through many cultures by oral tradition. In this dream, though, Nebuchadnezzar is symbolized by the tree. In using this imagery, God was addressing Nebuchadnezzar’s ongoing pride in seeing himself as the center of the universe, instead of God.
It is at this point that messengers come to proclaim that the tree must be cut down. This was probably the part of the dream that troubled Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel the most. The idea that the Cosmic Tree was being cut down would have been disturbing to people with this worldview. What it meant for Nebuchadnezzar was also frightening. God was preparing to humble him for his prideful resistance in a dramatic way. Nebuchadnezzar would spend seven time periods (perhaps seven years) living like a wild animal. He was going to be humbled for everyone to see that God is the ultimate source of power.
There are many things that people tend to point to as the source and center of their lives instead of God. We may rely on those things to give us meaning or as the source of all that sustains us. God will not be replaced by other things, though. He will eventually remove those things that we exalt above Him. Our choice is to allow him to do it now, while we still have the opportunity for change, or to have them removed at the end of our lives when there is no opportunity to reconnect with Him as our source again.
Lord, help us to recognize those things we have put in your place at the center of our lives. Return to your rightful place as our source and sustainer.