Remember old Neb?
That would be Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon who besieged Jerusalem and took Israel into captivity. He was a bully extraordinaire!
He invaded another country, and took articles from the temple back to Babylon. ("Mom--he stole my stuff!")
He wanted to see if the brightest of the Israelite captives could be assimilated into the culture of the Babylonians.
His officials changed the names of these selected captives. ("Mom--now he's calling me names!")
Then he demanded of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers that they not just interpret a dream, but TELL HIM THE DREAM and interpret it. (And what a useless bunch they were--just as they are today!)
His next line puts him in a class by himself, the king of the bullies: "If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble." (Daniel 2:5) I always think that he could have added, "And furthermore, I command that everyone who passes the place where your house once was should kick your dog."
Isn't all this typical of a bully? They invade your territory, they take your stuff, they are pushy, they demand the impossible, and they make ridiculous threats. If you look closely enough, you can just see the insecurity oozing out of their pores!
In a later incident that underscores his inferiority complex, Neb had a huge statue built of himself--ninety feet high, which is about eight stories, and nine feet wide. He ordered that everyone must bow down to the statue when music was played--otherwise you would be put to death in a simple way. Not! Someone refusing to bow down to the statue would be thrown into a "blazing furnace." (...And people will kick your dog!...just kidding!)
As the story goes, Daniel's three friends refused to bow, and Neb, my favorite bully, had the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. When I read this passage, I always shake my head and think, with a smile, "Neb, dude, fire is fire. What's the point of making it 'hotter' fire?" But that's our Neb--always going the extra mile!
The Lord saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and for a time Nebuchadnezzar honored God.
The most important point to be made about Neb, though, is how God used him. God used him to punish Israel for all those generations of sin, and God used him to demonstrate His ability to be with those who trust in Him, to literally walk through the fire with them.
And God humbled Neb. In chapter four of Daniel, we read Neb's own account of how Daniel interpreted yet another dream for him, a warning to turn from his pride.
Did he take the warning and "shape up?" Of course not--he had to learn things the hard way. I would guess this is typical of bullies, too. They think they are invincible, and they are often the biggest kids around, but then comes the day when they meet up with a foe bigger than they are, stronger than they are, or someone just plain fed up with being picked on. When that happens, the bully becomes the bullied.
One day, Neb was strolling on the roof of his royal palace, and 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 4:30) Oops--wrong thing to say, wrong thought to have. Who gave Neb any might or glory that he had? Who had revealed His divine power to Neb time and again? God got fed up with Neb's ego then and there, and the dream came true. Neb lost it all: his kingdom, power, and wealth; his home, and even his sanity, living with wild animals and eating grass like cattle. Neb even says that his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. He stayed like this for seven years, until he finally acknowledged God as Lord. His statement:
"Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. ...Everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble." (Daniel 4:34, 37)
Neb learned his lesson, and shared it with the rest of the world.