As weird as this might sound, God can use dreams about simple things like trees to teach people huge lessons in life.
We find this to be the case for an ancient king in Daniel 4. In verse 4, as King Nebuchadnezzar is relaxing in the comforts of his palace, he has a vision of a tree. Now, this tree is a massive tree at the center of the earth. Its height cannot be measured. In fact, it is so big that it can be seen anywhere on earth! Furthermore, the tree is the source of nourishment for birds and land animals. This is how utterly magnificent the tree is!
But what does this dream about trees mean? How does it relate to politics? And why would Nebuchadnezzar be so troubled by it?
Look at verses 20 through 22. There we see Daniel proceeding to explain that the tree refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom can be associated with a tree because so many people groups are under his provision and protection. In the ancient Near East, this is by far the greatest compliment you can offer to a nation, namely to describe them as a great and lush tree. For example, in Ezekiel 31:3–7, Assyria is characterized as a large tree. The idea is that the more nations and land an empire contains, the greater the tree. So for Nebuchadnezzar, up to this point, his kingdom was the biggest tree the world had known.
Now, what’s important to observe is that Nebuchadnezzar did not attain this kingdom on his own.
God Almighty wants Nebuchadnezzar to understand this. This is the point of the vision. Look at the end of verse 17. God has given this vision to Nebuchadnezzar to highlight His supremacy and sovereignty over all kingdoms and governments: “The Most High rules the kingdom and government of men and gives it whom He will.” Brothers and sisters, this statement has enormous weight. For both Nebuchadnezzar and the Israelites, the message is clear. Nebuchadnezzar reached his status because God willed it. It was God’s will and God’s plan alone that made it happen.
For further proof, let’s read Jeremiah 27:5–6. Did you catch the meaning of these verses? God raised Nebuchadnezzar to fulfill His own purposes. One such purpose was to act as God’s judgment against Judah. They were faithless to God; they broke covenant with Him. Thus, in His justice, God used (and is using) Nebuchadnezzar to punish God’s people. There were certainly many other reasons why God raised Nebuchadnezzar. But this was a major one. So again, God rules all kingdoms and governments on earth and gives it to whom He will. Jesus even said this when being interviewed by Pontius Pilate (cf. John 19:11). God rules all governments and gives it who whom He will.
What does this mean for us? We will deal with this in detail tomorrow, so stick around! But for now, we want this reality to sink in: God is the ultimate Sovereign King, and every earthly king that has or ever will live has been appointed by our Sovereign King.