The Book of Daniel, among many other things, gives us a clear picture of the upside-down (from our perspective) reality of the Kingdom of God–Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:12).
For in Daniel we see the most powerful ruler humbled, made to be like a beast, and the kingdom and glory given to the lowly Son of Man, the small stone of the vision in Chapter 2 that strikes down the kingdoms of this world and eventually becomes a great mountain that fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:35).
The Lowest Man: Daniel 4:17
Daniel records for us in chapter 4 that King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a tree that grew and provided food and protection for the whole earth. The description of the dream signifies almost universal dominion. But it was cut down, laid low.
And Daniel interpreted the dream as being about the king himself. Because of King Nebuchadnezzar’s pride about the fact that his kingdom was the greatest on earth, God would humble him to show that God was the one in control and that he gives power and takes it away. God raises up kingdoms and brings them down, and God will make sure that his kingdom reigns supreme over all. Not only that, but Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that God would set over the kingdoms of the earth the lowest man possible (4:7).
The dream came true when King Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man on earth, was driven from among men and humbled to the position of a beast–crawling on the ground, eating grass, and even looking like a beast.
In God’s economy, the prideful fall and the humble are exalted.
Daniel 4 encouraged God’s people that eventually he would flip the tables on the world’s kingdom and establish his kingdom. But who is this Son of Man?
The Son of Man: Daniel 7:13-14
The vision of Daniel 7 continues the point that God made here in Daniel 4. The powerful beasts (the empires of the world) would eventually fall, and the lowly “Son of Man” would be given an eternal kingdom. The Son of Man is the one that Daniel prophesies would come with the clouds of heaven and be given authority. Every language on the planet would worship him, and his kingdom would last forever. That was the promise of Daniel 7.
Fast forward to when Jesus the Messiah came on the scene. It was no coincidence that his favorite title for himself was “Son of Man” (cf. Mark 2:27-28; 8:11-13; 10:45; Luke 9:58; etc.). It’s used at least 30 times in Matthew’s gospel alone. And climactically at his trial, Jesus quoted from Daniel 7 to identify himself as the Son of Man, “you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). Boom!
This promise was initially fulfilled at the martyrdom of Stephen when he saw “heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” (Acts 7:56). And this promise will be fulfilled when Jesus returns at the end of the age to establish his eternal kingdom made up of some from every people and language on earth (cf. Rev. 7:9).
The Son of Man is ultimately the one who humbled himself and then was exalted (Philippians 2:8-9). He is the one who receives the kingdoms of the earth (Revelation 11:15). He is the lowest man of Daniel 4 that God sets over all kingdoms, power, and authority. He is our Savior and our King, Jesus the Christ.