Some of us have a love affair with trees. We love them for their height, strength, sheer presence, and many other reasons. In Scripture tree imagery is rich as well. Cedars of Lebanon, oaks, juniper, terebinth, you name it, there are lots of species. One of the most powerful images attached to tree is pride and humility (aka reverence). As a person (usually a king) grows from small beginnings to a powerful dominion, they grow tall and proud and essentially forget their humble roots. This is precisely what happens to Nebuchadnezzar, one of the most powerful kings in the ancient world. The ruler of a vast empire, he grew proud of his accomplishments (see Daniel 4). His reign is equated to an enormous tree (Daniel 4:10-12). However, he didn’t know “that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17). At the end of a harrowing ordeal that lasted seven years, ‘Nebi’ learned his lesson: “those who walk in pride, he is able to humble.” He had his ‘take down’ moment.
The lesson for us is a simple one: we can’t forget our humble roots (1 Cor 1:26) and any measure of success in our lives ultimately goes back to God and His Spirit of ‘wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1-2). When we go through our own ‘take down times,’ or support those who are going through it, we remember that after the humbling, the cutting down of the tree, comes a shoot and a new life! (Isaiah 11:1). “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up” (James 4:10)