Fearsome Goodness

The heart of grace.

Daniel 4:34–37

And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever:

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom is from generation to generation.
All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;
He does according to His will in the army of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, “What have You done?”

At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.

Of all the miracles recorded in the book of Daniel, the restoration of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom might be the greatest. The Lord taketh away and the Lord giveth.

But the key isn’t how amazing and improbable his restoration is; it’s the purpose. It taught the king grace.

This passage is written in the first person; Nebuchadnezzar wrote it. That means he has learned his lesson and is interested in teaching it to others. That’s a lot of progress.

Nebuchadnezzar has finally learned the proper respect for God. God is awesome. God is fearsome. God is good. Those things do go together. CS Lewis teaches this beautifully in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver is telling you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king I tell you.”

Nebuchadnezzar has learned that God isn’t “safe” because He is good and Nebuchadnezzar isn’t.

Christians often call themselves “God-fearing.” That’s easily misinterpreted. Fear is usually of something bad, or at least of something to be avoided. But our fear of God is not a sense of revulsion at something harmful; it’s a sense of awe. It’s a pleasant emotion.

This is explained more fully in this article by Michael Reeves. It’s only a few pages and worth your time.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.