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Enemies & Friends: King Nebuchadnezzar & Apostle Paul

Matthew 5:44

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.


As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to a life of love, compassion, and forgiveness. This is not just for those who care for us, but also for those who persecute us. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus presented a radical teaching, unlike anything the world had ever known.


Praying for our persecutors may seem like an uphill task. It is not instinctive to pray for someone who causes us harm or distress. However, as Christians, we are called to a higher standard of love and forgiveness, patterned after Jesus Himself. His call to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors is not just a moral command; it is an opportunity for us to witness the transformative power of Christ's love.


Our persecutors can also become proponents of God’s glory if they open their hearts to His transformative love. Such is the case with King Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of Babylon in the Old Testament, and Apostle Paul from the New Testament. While at first glance these two figures might seem disparate, a closer examination reveals striking similarities in their spiritual journeys that ultimately lead to the humbling recognition of God's sovereignty.


Nebuchadnezzar's story, found in the Book of Daniel, portrays him as a powerful king of immense pride and arrogance, he destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple, and forced everyone to bow to his statue by threat of death, following this he even saw Jesus and praised God in Daniel 3His downfall came when he failed to acknowledge God’s power, instead attributing his successes to his own abilities. This hubris led to his punishment by God, in which he was driven out of his kingdom and made to live as a beast for seven years.


In contrast, we see in the Book of Acts the story of Paul - initially known as Saul, a powerful Jew from Rome, who was a zealous persecutor. He was notorious among Christians and would go door-to-door searching out believers to attack, not unlike what the evil Gestapo would later do to Jews. His pride lay in his strict adherence to the Mosaic Law and his Pharisaic status. Like Nebuchadnezzar, Saul experienced a dramatic humbling experience on the road to Damascus, where Jesus Christ intervened, blinding him temporarily and leading to his conversion.


Both stories involve a divine intervention that forced these men to reassess their prideful attitudes. Nebuchadnezzar, after living like an animal, lifted his eyes towards heaven and his sanity was restored, acknowledging and praising God's kingdom as everlasting. Similarly, Paul, after his encounter with Christ, committed his life to serving God, spreading the Gospel and contributing significantly to the early Christian Church.


Through their stories, we are reminded of the danger of pride and the transformative power of humility before God. Just as Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and his sanity restored, so too was Paul transformed from a persecutor of Christians to one of its most influential apostles. They went from powerful enemies to even more powerful disciples.


Yet, it is also important to note the differences between these two figures. While Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was rooted in his worldly power, Paul’s pride was religious. Their stories serve as a reminder that pride can infiltrate any aspect of our lives, whether it be professional, personal or spiritual. Nebuchadnezzar and the Apostle Paul therefore serve as powerful reminders of God's dealing with human pride. They remind us that God's grace is sufficient in leading us out of our self-serving driven lives towards a humble recognition of His Sovereignty.


In conclusion, while separated by several centuries and vastly different circumstances, the stories of Nebuchadnezzar and Paul share a common theme of transformation from pride to humility before God. Their stories serve as a cautionary tale and an inspiration for all seekers of the Christian faith.  Praying for our persecutors to turn to Jesus and be used for His glory is not just a calling, it is a privilege. It allows us to participate in God's redemptive work in the world, bringing light to the darkest of places.


As we continue to pray fervently and faithfully for our persecutors, we can trust that God is at work, softening hearts, transforming lives, and bringing glory to His name. The journey from arrogance to humility, from self-glorification to God-glorification, is a path that all Christians are called to walk, reminding us of our place in the grand scheme of God’s divine plan.