Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

April 29, 1897

A Lesson from the King of Babylon

“And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams.” “And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.... Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can show me the interpretation thereof. The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can show the king's matter.” “It is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”

Upon hearing this, the king was very angry, and commanded that all the wise men should be slain. But God revealed the dream to Daniel in a night vision. “Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and said thus unto him: Destroy not the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show unto the king the interpretation.”

Daniel was taken in to the king, and said to him: “The secret which the king hath demanded can not the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show to the king. But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these: ...Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.”

After describing the image which the king had seen, Daniel said, “This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings; for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron.... And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”

This dream was given to the king of Babylon, the events of the future, reaching down to the end of time, were opened before him, that he might have light on this important subject. It was also given for the benefit of all future generations. The record was traced by the prophetic pen that the light might be shared by those kingdoms which should succeed the kingdom of Babylon.

Tho this wonderful dream caused a marked change to take place in the ideas and opinions of King Nebuchadnezzar, his soul was not cleansed from its pride, its worldly ambition, its desire for self-exaltation, by the converting power of God. The rise and fall of the kingdoms which were to succeed Babylon, were minutely described to him by the prophet; but instead of treasuring the conviction which had been made on his mind in regard to the fall of all earthly kingdoms, and the greatness and power of Jehovah's kingdom, the king, after the immediate impression wore away, thought only of his own greatness, and studied how he might make the dream turn to his own exaltation and honor.

He said much regarding the interpretation given by Daniel, but the words, “Thou art this head of gold,” produced the greatest effect upon his mind. These impressed him so much that his wise men, who had not been able to tell the dream, proposed that he make such an image as the one seen in his dream, and that he set it up, that all might see the head of gold, which was a representation of his kingdom.

This pleased the king. His pride and vanity found full scope in the thought that he could thus represent his importance; and he resolved that instead of merely copying the image he had seen, he would make an image that should excel the original. It was his design that the whole image should represent the greatness of Babylon. Therefore that which had been said regarding the kingdoms that were to follow, should be blotted from his mind, and from the minds of those who had heard the dream, by the splendor of the image he was about to make. This image should not deteriorate in value from the head to the feet, as had the one he had been shown, but should be composed throughout of the most precious metal.

God had spoken plainly to Nebuchadnezzar in regard to his kingdom. “In the days of these kings,” said Daniel, “shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.... The dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.”

The king had acknowledged the power of God, saying, “Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets;” but notwithstanding this acknowledgment, he now united with the men he had once sentenced to death, to dishonor God. He had purposed to destroy these men, because he had discerned their deceptions, and because he was convinced that their learning did not possess the power he had supposed; and they had been saved from a cruel death by the intercession of Daniel. Now he joins with them to frame a design for his image, and to make the light from heaven serve his pride, and forward his exaltation. The kingdom of Babylon was interpreted to be the kingdom that was to break in pieces all other kingdoms, and to stand forever; and they endeavored to make an image which would fitly represent Babylon as eternal, indestructible, and all-powerful,—a kingdom that would last forever.

“Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits; he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.” As an idol, an object of worship, the image was placed in the most favorable position; and a proclamation was issued that all should worship it.

Thus the grand lesson given by God to the heathen, and to all people, was misconstrued and misplaced. That which was designed by God to teach lessons of truth, and to give the world clear, distinct rays of light, Nebuchadnezzar turned from its purpose, making it minister to his pride and vanity. The prophetic illustration was made to serve for the glorification of humanity. The symbol designed to unfold important events was turned into a symbol which would hinder the spread of that knowledge which God designed the kingdoms of the earth should receive. By the height and beauty of his image, by the material of which it was formed, the king sought to make error and false doctrine magnificent and attractive, more powerful, seemingly, than anything God had given.

Those who are willing to be taught, may learn a lesson from the conduct of the king of Babylon. As the enemy sought to make God-given light serve his own purposes, by leading the king to work for his own glory instead of working for the glory of God, so he works today to pervert truth in order to hinder God's purposes. All false religion has its origin in a corruption of the true. When unmixed with evil, truth is a mighty power to save; but if we allow the enemy to work through us, if by the light given us we seek to exalt self, even this truth may become a power for evil.

So it was in Christ's day. In their pride the Jewish leaders perverted the meaning of their religious services. Those who sat in Moses’ seat could not bring their proud hearts to believe the prophecies, and they instilled into the minds of the people their false interpretation of Scripture. The truth was buried beneath their own doctrines, and maxims, and traditions. They taught the people that Christ was to appear as a great conqueror, to break the Roman yoke from the neck of the nation. They received that part of the prophecy which foretold one who was to shine before his ancients gloriously, who was to reign from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth; and they expected the Messiah to exalt Israel to universal dominion. When Christ did come, with no outward show of a conqueror, they turned their faces from him, resisting his words, and working by every conceivable means to counteract his influence.

The enemy would lead us all to use, as did Nebuchadnezzar, the light and knowledge of God for our own exaltation. But self-exaltation can find no place in the work of God. “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving- kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”

Mrs. E. G. White

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