Daniel 012: An Attitude Adjustment SeminarDaniel 4:1-18 • Dr. Andy Woods • February 12, 2017 • Daniel
An Attitude Adjustment Seminar
2-12-17 Daniel 4:1-18 Lesson 12
If we could take our Bibles this morning and open them to the book of Daniel, chapter 4 beginning at verse 1. The title of our message this morning is An Attitude Adjustment Seminar. Anybody here ever seen someone with a bad attitude? Have you ever had a bad attitude? Not you guys, but other people might be like that. God has a way of getting our attention and straightening us out in times of bad attitudes. The book of Daniel, as you know as we’ve been teaching through it verse by verse is about a unique period of time that the nation of Israel has entered into, called the times of the Gentiles, essentially a period of time where the nation of Israel is outside their land, really for the first time in about 800 years, and they’re being trampled down by various Gentile powers.
There is no king reigning on David’s throne and the temple is about to be destroyed. And there really isn’t a lot of prophecy that governs this time period and that’s why God raised Daniel up, to explain the program of God during this very severe time. And also it’s an ethical book in this sense, it furnishes a role model for God’s people about how to live on pagan territory as we watch the role model of Daniel and his four friends.
Chapters 1-7 is historical, chapters 8-12 is prophetic and we are still in that historical section; I’m hoping the rapture doesn’t come before we finish it. But chapter 1 is really the foundation of the book, it lays the groundwork, it explains the captivity, and then you move into chapters 2-7 which is orchestrated and organized chiastically. A chi in Greek looks like an X, so this whole unit is organized like an X in a sense. In other words, chapter 2, the information therein is sort of repeated in a different way in chapter 7, chapter 3 and chapter 6 are linked semantically and so are chapter 4 and chapter 5.
We’ve seen chapter 2 which is the revelation of events in Gentile history through a statue. And we’ve studied how the various body parts of the statue represent various Gentile or pagan kings that would trample Israel down during this difficult time. Chapter 3 is what I would call a rescue operation by God as Daniel’s three friends are thrown into a fiery furnace that Nebuchadnezzar set up because they would not compromise and so chapter 3 ends on a great note of victory with a complete miracle of God whereby these three Hebrew youths were protected in the midst of this fiery furnace.
And now, beginning in chapter 4, which we’re starting this week, we move into the interior section of the chiasm where we have a revelation to a Gentile king. God is revealing Himself to a person that by and large has been an antagonist to the program of God. And what we discover in chapter 4 is God is going to reveal Himself in judgment but also grace to this first king of the Neo Babylonia that began trampling Israel down during the times of the Gentiles.
And as we move out of chapter 4, down the road into chapter 5 God is doing the same thing with the last king of Neo Babylonia, a man named Belteshazzar. Chapter 4 God reveals Himself to Nebuchadnezzar; chapter 5 God reveals Himself to Belteshazzar but not with grace, just with judgment, chapter 5. And then when we move into chapter 6 it will start to sound like chapter 3 and chapter 7 will sort of start to sound like chapter 2. This is just kind of big picture stuff to get your arms around a book which can be very detailed. The antagonists all the way through chapters 1-4 is Nebuchadnezzar. God is dealing with this man. I believe that there’s evidence, we’ll see it today, that this man came to a saving knowledge of Yahweh.
There are no real chronological markers given in this chapter, chapter 4. Some have estimated that the material in chapter 4 would follow the information in chapter 3 by a few decades making Daniel, perhaps in his 40’s at this time, late 40’s; we can’t say that dogmatically. So he’s no longer a teenager as he was in chapters 1 and 2, and perhaps chapter 3. He’s now in the middle age of his life and yet God keeps being faithful.
And this is one of the great things about walking with God is the Lord, your God, never changes. The God that was faithful to you in your youth is faithful to you in your old age as we continue to walk with Him and trust Him. We may be changing, getting older, amen, but God is not. His character is immutable.
So here is a big outline of chapter 4 which we won’t make it all the way through today obviously. Verses 1-3 we have an introduction. Verses 4-18 we have a dream described by Nebuchadnezzar. Verses 19-27 Daniel will interpret this dream. And then finally at the end of the chapter, verse 28-37 this dream that Nebuchadnezzar had will be fulfilled by God immediately, actually within a year, a 12 month period.
But notice if you will this introduction, it begins with a public decree. Notice, if you will, chapter 4:1, it says, “Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: ‘May your peace abound!”’ It’s a greeting; it’s a public decree, a public statement. What’s interesting about this is you’ll notice the name Nebuchadnezzar. Apparently Nebuchadnezzar authored this decree that he wanted to announce to his kingdom in Babylonia and Daniel actually apparently took this decree of Nebuchadnezzar, which spans all the way through chapter 4, and he inserted it into his book. So chapter 4 is the only chapter in the entire book which is not written by Daniel, the primary author apparently appears to be Nebuchadnezzar.
It’s interesting that he says there in verse 1, that there is something that happened in his life that had a personal impact on him; that’s the intimation he gives. And it was so profound that he had to talk about it; he had to write about it. He had to issue a public decree concerning it.
And then we move to verse 2 where we actually have Nebuchadnezzar’s personal testimony. Notice what he says here in verse 2, “It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.” He’s giving a testimony, if you will; he is speaking from personal experience and we know that this is highly personal because he say this is something that “the Most High God,” not the gods of Babylonia but the Hebrew God did “for me.”
And is that not what Christianity is all about. We talk about this frequently and we sometimes lose sight of it but it’s about a personal relationship with God. What Nebuchadnezzar discovered here is not just objective truths about God, which can be recited on an exam, but he is revealing something that was highly personal to him.
I’m reminded of Matthew 7:23, where Jesus declares this in the last days at the final judgment concerning unbelievers. “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’” What, then, separates the believer from the non-believer? It has little to do with church attendance; it has little to do with denomination loyalty, it has little to do… nothing to do with amount of information a person knows. What differentiates a believer from a non-believer, a Christian from a non-Christian is intimacy with God, which is the purpose for why we exist.
We know from Genesis 3 that God would stroll with our forbearers, Adam and Eve, in the cool of the garden. Man is created for intimacy with God, a personal relationship with God. And that’s what trusting in the gospel gives a person access to. This God is very personal in the sense that He wants to know us intimately. And there is a wide difference between knowing things about God versus knowing God. I can rattle off a lot of information about George Washington, he’s one of my favorite historical figures in American history. I can tell you about the Scripture verse on his tomb. I could talk to you about His Mount Vernon estate. I could tell you about his wife, Martha. I could talk about His Christianity. I could talk about His role as the father of the United States of America but it would be very strange if I said I know George Washington personally, wouldn’t it?
Knowing things about God is perhaps a first step but that doesn’t save anybody. A person has to trust in what Jesus has done and consequently enter into a personal relationship, a walk with God. This is why we, as the church, are called the what of Christ? The bride of Christ. Think of the personal intimacy between a married couple. That is God’s design for His people, and that only begins to happen in a person’s life when they trust in what Jesus has done for them. So Nebuchadnezzar is very clear here that God did something for me, not about me, but for me as a human being, for me as a person.
You go down to verse 3 and you discover a change of attitude that Nebuchadnezzar had. He says, verse 3, “How great are His signs and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.” You notice here that he is extolling, he is exalting the authority and the sovereignty of God. When we look at chapter 4, verse 30 we don’t see him doing that as he’s dialing back to his experience. In chapter 4, verse 30, which we’ll eventually get to he’s exalting himself. He says in chapter 4, verse 30, “‘‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’”
God wants this man to understand that he is in the position of power that he is in because God put him there. That’s why back in Daniel 3:37-38 Daniel is very clear to Nebuchadnezzar that the God of heaven has given the kingdom power and strength and glory to you, He has given them into your hand, He has caused you to rule. [Daniel 2:37, “Thou, O king, art king of kings, unto whom the God of heaven hath given the kingdom, the power, and the strength, and the glory;  and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold.”]
You compare what God did to Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude of I, I, I, me, me, me, me, my, my, my, and you see that this man had a revolution in his thought pattern. You look at verse 3, he’s not talking about me, he says Him, His, and he extols the authority of God in terms of His sovereignty. Something happened to this man to change his attitude, and what we’re going to discover is God uses one of the greatest tools that He has in his arsenal to change people in terms of their heart and their attitude… it’s called suffering.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is the book of Jonah, chapter 2 and verse 7, where Jonah says, “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD….” Jonah had an attitude problem too, didn’t he? God said go to Nineveh, Jonah went the opposite direction on a map, to Tarshish which is modern day Spain. The man could not have been more out of the will of God. So God reached into his tool box, brought forth the greatest instrument that He has, the instrument of human suffering, incarcerated Jonah in the belly of the fish, vomited him out on dry land, and Jonah 3:1 says, “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah a” what? “a second time,” and now you see a more compliant prophet.
As we move into verses 4-18 the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had, he’s going to make reference to a dream as he begins to explain this process of attitude adjustment; the whole thing started with a dream. And the dream starts getting described there in verses 4-18. Nebuchadnezzar will recite a dream and describe a dream; first he will describe it to his so-called (wise men) and I put the term (wise men) in parenthesis because these people aren’t wise at all. They don’t have any relationship to God; they have no power to interpret what Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is about. But he’ll try to describe it to them and then he will describe it to Daniel in verses 8-18.
Notice, if you will chapter 4 and verse 4, it says, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace.” Well there’s the problem. It is very interesting that we, in times of prosperity, do not have a tendency to seek God. I know from personal experience that when things are rolling along fine and I’m on the mountain top I don’t really concern myself that much with God at all. God, I’ve got this one covered, I’ll connect with You when I need You kind of attitude. And it’s a delusion that we’re under. We forget that we are finite people living in a fallen world. What an easy lesson to forget, so God has to send us a wakeup call, if you will, a reminder.
This is why I love Proverbs 30:8-9, it says, “Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion,  That I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.” That proverb says I don’t want to become so rich that I am deluded into thinking I don’t need You anymore. I mean, it’s hard to pray for your daily bread when you own your own bakery. I don’t want to be so wealthy that I don’t need You but at the same time I don’t want to become so poor that I might discredit You by being tempted to steal. I just want to be right there in the middle.
Jesus spoke over and over again about the difficulty, how difficult it is if not impossible to praise God; with God all things are possible but how difficult if not impossible it is for the rich in this world , because the rich are used to relying upon their resources to buy their way out of their problems. Well, if you’re not rich who you do you trust? You’ve got to trust God. That’s why I like the fact that I’m not rich, although sometimes I wish I were rich. I mean being rich doesn’t buy happiness; it does make you more comfortable, at least I can be comfortable while I’m miserable kind of thing.
But there is a curse associated with prosperity, not that God doesn’t grant prosperity to people. And we talk often about how God, I want to be bless, I want to be blessed, I want more money, I want material goods, and they promote this doctrine on so-called Christian television. And we act like that’s some kind of blessing, to have all of these fabulous resources and God says well, be careful what you ask for because if I give that to you I’m going to have to send accompanying problems into your life to keep you in a state of usability because wealth and riches delude us.
Nebuchadnezzar was minding his own business, flourishing in his palace, not thinking about God at all. The delusion that Nebuchadnezzar is under is so powerful when you consider how God revealed Himself to Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2, with the statue, and in chapter 3 with the rescue operation of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. And yet the prosperity that Nebuchadnezzar was experiencing caused him, over the span of several years, to just push those occurrences and experiences out of his mind.
And so God steps into the picture, verse 5, as Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. “I saw a dream” Nebuchadnezzar says, “and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.” Is this not the pattern of God with Nebuchadnezzar? Doesn’t God wake Nebuchadnezzar up, figuratively and literally, with these recurring dreams? As you study God’s dealings with Gentile pagan kings throughout the Bible you’ll discover that God does this quite frequently. That’s what He did with Abimelech in Old Testament times right up into the New Testament with Pilate’s wife and other examples.
It’s actually what God did with Nebuchadnezzar back in chapter 2, you recall. Daniel 2:1 says, “Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him.” God is working on this man, Nebuchadnezzar. Well, why would He work on him, he’s a pagan king, he’s spiritually insensitive. God is at work on him because God loves all people. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for” what? “all to come to repentance.”
God designed man and woman for relationship with Himself and He’s in this business of bothering, harassing, agitating people, even people in very high positions. There isn’t a higher position over the earth that a man can be in than Nebuchadnezzar was in here, and He’s bothering him because He wants a relationship with him. Just like He bothered you, He bothered me; this is the nature of God. Unfortunately for Nebuchadnezzar when he wants an answer he turns to the wrong sources.
We move away from Nebuchadnezzar’s fear to the failure, if you will, of the so-called wise men. Notice if you will verse 6, “So I gave orders to bring into my presence all the wise men of Babylon, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream.” He should have known better than this because when you go back to Daniel 2:2 they couldn’t furnish anything that he wanted. Daniel 2:2 says, “Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him.  Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king.”
And we went through that whole process of bankruptcy. It is amazing the things that people will seek truth in, other than the crucified Jesus Christ and His resurrection as revealed in His Holy Word. They’ll seek truth in psychology, maybe these sages of the past like Freud, Young and Skinner and look at their lives sometime, they couldn’t even fix themselves these guys are so messed up. And yet we think they’ve got some kind of kernel of truth that can help me. And people are like this, they seek truth in one source and another source and another source and it’s all so obvious that they’re just looking in the wrong place, they’re drinking out of the wrong well. God has revealed Himself.
Nebuchadnezzar, of course, should have known better. You go down to verse 7 and you see the absolute bankruptcy of these magicians. It says, “Then the magicians, the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners came in and I” Nebuchadnezzar, remember writing this chapter, “related the dream to them, but they could not make its interpretation known to me.” You remember chapter 2, verses 2-13? Nebuchadnezzar said tell me the dream, they came back and said well, you tell it to us first and we’ll interpret it, and he said no. They went back, same thing. They went back a third time, the same thing. Why is there a record of three times where this happened in chapter 2? He’s trying to point out the bankruptcy of the Babylonian system, the bankruptcy of man’s systems.
And yet there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, as we’re discovering in this book. God, of course, is unique, He’s different. He’s not just one further deity in a string of deities. He stands above and beyond everything as we studied last week; He is the incomparable God. This is why Daniel in Daniel 2:20-23, which we’ve already studied some weeks back, Daniel praises God because only God alone could reveal the mystery of the statue.
So given the bankruptcy of the wise men of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar remembers, well, isn’t there this guy that used to hang around here a few years ago, he was just a kid if I remember right, is he still here, is he around here anywhere? He had answers because of his God. And so now Daniel enters the pictures and Nebuchadnezzar reports this dream to Daniel.
Notice, if you will, verse 8, “But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him, saying,” so Daniel now enters the picture. It’s interesting to me that Nebuchadnezzar, although there’s a reference to Daniel’s original Hebrew name in verse 8, he calls him by his paganized name. You might remember going all the way back to Daniel chapter 1, verses 6-7, Daniel and his three friends had Hebrew names which reflected truths of God. They had obviously come from very godly families and backgrounds and were named accordingly. [Daniel 1:6-7, “Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego.”]
And Nebuchadnezzar, right out of the gate in Daniel 1:7, renamed them. Their names became what we know them as today, Belteshazzar, that’s Daniel’s new name, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, as we’ve studied all of them reflecting something about the Babylonian pantheon. And when we were in Daniel 1 I told you that this is highly significant because Nebuchadnezzar here is challenging God’s authority. In the Bible when you name something you’re asserting authority over what you named. That’s the whole significance of God in Genesis 2:19 allowing Adam to name the animals that the Lord brought to him because back in Genesis 1:26-28 we learn that Adam had authority over the animal kingdom and this is why God allowed Adam to name the animals.
[Genesis 2:19, “Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.” Genesis 1: 26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’  So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”’]
That which you name you have authority over. That’s why we name our children, parents name children, not grandparents. I know we have some very controlling grandparents at times but that’s not the responsibility of a grandparent, it’s the responsibility of a parent to name a child because the parent has authority over that child.
So Nebuchadnezzar here is not referring to him by the name that Daniel originally had; he’s referring to him by his paganized name, which shows me that Nebuchadnezzar is still on the seat of authority in his own life. He’s still calling the shots. And it’s interesting to me that he takes Daniel’s gifting and reinterprets it through a polytheistic framework. “But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god,” see that? “my god” is in control here, not your God, and therefore how do you explain Daniel’s gifting if that’s your preconceived bias. He says, “and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods;” he misinterprets the role of the Spirit in Daniel’s life and simply refers to the Holy Spirit as “a spirit of the holy gods,” taking truth and re-packaging it according to your own worldview.
That shows me that Nebuchadnezzar had a massive, despite earlier revelations from God, attitude problem that God here, in this chapter, is about to rectify. It’s interesting that chapter 3 lines up with chapter 6 in our chiastic outline and it’s interesting to me in Daniel 6 and verse 3 the same thing is said about Daniel in the lion’s den concerning the role of the Holy Spirit inside of him. Daniel 6:3 says, “Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an excellent spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom.” There is something different about this man, Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar is saying. I don’t know what it is, I’m trying to understand it through the grid of my own Babylonian polytheism but there’s something unique about him.
We know what’s unique about him, it’s the Spirit of God inside of him. And may I just say that the Spirit of God that was in Daniel helping him with understanding, the Spirit of God that was in Daniel helping him with courage, is the same Spirit that’s inside of you, and it’s inside of me. You say well, wait a minute, I’m a Christian but I don’t have the Holy Spirit. Well then you’re not a Christian. I used to think, when I looked at Christianity, I said well, there’s the Presbyterian Christians over there, there’s the Methodist Christians over there, there’s the Baptist Christians over there, oh and by the way, there’s the born again Christians over there, thinking that being born again was just a sect within Christianity. The fact of the matter is there’s only one type of Christian, the born again Christian!
Romans 8:9 says, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” This is why Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, and he says, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but love, power and a sound mind.” So what the Holy Spirit did for Daniel in these chapters is what the Holy Spirit seeks to do with you. He seeks to make you stand out. He seeks to make you different. And your unsaved co-workers and family members look at your life and they see something different but they repackage it… I’m glad you found enlightenment with your guru, or whatever. But we know exactly what it is, it’s the Spirit of the living God that Jesus told us in the Upper Room that would reside in us forever. That’s what gives you spiritual life, that’s what gives you a relationship with God and that’s what gives you the capacity to understand the deep things of God.
Verse 9 he says, “‘O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, since I know that a spirit of the holy gods” see how he’s misconstruing, “is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell me the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation.” I remember when you interpreted for me, revealed and interpreted that statue back in chapter 2. And a few decades earlier this is what Nebuchadnezzar said, “The king answered Daniel and said, ‘Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.’” So surely you, Daniel, can help me with this terrifying dream that I’ve been having and what they mean.
And consequently now Nebuchadnezzar begins to describe this dream to Daniel that he had. Verse 10, it says, “‘Now these were the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed: I was looking, and behold, there was a tree in the midst of the earth and its height was great.’” Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and in the dream I saw a tree he talks about it here being tremendous in terms of size and this tree is actually residing in the midst of the earth.
Verse 11 says, “The tree grew large and became strong and its height reached to the sky, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth.” So it’s strong, it’s high and its visible, this tree. Verse 12, “‘Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches, and all living creatures fed themselves from it.” This tree was not only in the midst of the earth, it not only was strong and high and visible but it actually met needs. We see words like abundant fruit, shade, folks or animals dwelt within its branches, people were fed by it. There’s a repetition there in verse 12 of the word “all.” This tree was meeting a need of virtually everybody in the known world at this time. That’s why in the missions moment Brent, when you read, when you talked about a tree saved your life this is the first verse that popped into my mind.
But then notice what happens in verses 13-14, suddenly this tree is cut down. “‘I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.” Who is this watcher, who is this holy one? It’s an angel. Did you know that angels are revealed all over the Bible. When I was teaching at the Bible College one of my classes, part of it dealt with angelology, the study of the angels. Have you ever tried to study that? If you try studying it you’re going to get tired looking up verses. It’s just mindboggling how God uses angels constantly. He’s used them in the past, they witnessed creation, they even brought judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, they brought forth the Law, they announced the birth of Christ, they strengthened Christ, they announced His resurrection, they observed His ascension, they brought messages. That’s an abbreviated list there.
What are they doing now? Protecting believers, delivering God’s answers to prayer. By the way, did you know, according to Luke 16:22 that when you die an angel comes and takes your soul to heaven. [Luke 16:22, “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.”] They’re even involved in human government … to that I say praise the Lord! And then there’s a future program for angels, the rapture with the voice of an archangel we learn. We are actually going to sit in judgment over angels, I would assume that’s the fallen angels in the millennial kingdom, they’re the ones bringing forth all of the tribulation judgments that we read about in the book of Revelation. They’re actually coming back with Jesus and they’re going to take Satan and incarcerate him in a place called the abyss for a thousand years.
God is dispatching and using angels constantly in His work and that’s what’s happening here. “… an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven” and what does this angel do in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream? Verse 14, “He” that’s the angel, “shouted out and spoke as follows: ‘Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit; let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches.” The angel comes in this dream and takes this tree and cuts it down which means all of the needs that this tree was meeting, in terms of birds and the branches, shade, provision, all of that is subsided.
And then fascinating there in verse 15, part of the tree remains. “Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field;” cut it down but don’t uproot it; cut it down but leave part of the stump. That’s why I was very fascinated when Bret talked about how a tree that he wanted to cut down saved his life. And what is this anticipating here in verse 15? Just to kind of dial forward a little bit it’s speaking of the momentary discipline of Nebuchadnezzar and his restoration. The remaining of the stub and the roots in the ground is anticipation, not just of the discipline of Nebuchadnezzar but ultimate his restoration because what we’re going to learn at the end of this chapter is after God dealt with Nebuchadnezzar and he went through his attitude adjustment seminar God not only put him back where He took him from originally but gave him greater and glory.
And I hope we see this in God, that God is a God of justice and judgment but He’s also a God of grace. I love those two attributes of God, how they work in harmony with one another. Yes, God can be very harsh (it seems from the human point of view, very severe), but He also is very gracious. And what we’re going to discover is this lesson that Nebuchadnezzar learned was not allowed to continue beyond the learning curve. In other words after his lesson was learned God called off the dogs, so to speak, and restored him.
Yes, He’s a God of judgment but He’s also a God of grace. And you’ll see that all the way through the Bible as you go through it, in virtually every story, Old Testament and New Testament. I think of the flood that engulfed the entire world the book of Genesis says and yet we read in Genesis 6:8 that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” We know that Noah preached the message of coming judgment for 120 years, Genesis 6:3 says. We know that Noah was a preacher of righteousness, 2 Peter 2:5. [Genesis 6:3, “Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’” 2 Peter 2:5, “and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;”]
In other words, even though the world and that generation experienced a horrific cataclysm, resulting in the destruction of every life other than eight, God was gracious in the midst of it, gave ample warning, and even saw fit to further and continue the human race through the preservation of Noah and his wife and their three sons and their respective wives in the ark. Or take, for example, the whole golden calf incident where God was getting ready to wipe out the whole nation of Israel and almost did it had it not been for Moses’ intercession… God, let me remind You of Your promises. God says those aren’t a problem, I’ll kill everybody else and fulfill it for you, problem solved. But then Moses began to plead on the basis of the grace of God and how the nation of Israel was spared from divine discipline when they were, in fact, building a golden calf. You manufacture a golden calf you’re only contradicting the first two of the Ten Commandments and God was about to bring justice and yet grace came forth. Judgment and grace!
But something is about to happen to Nebuchadnezzar. What does this chopping down of the tree actually mean? You look at the second half of verse 15 and into verse 16 and this is what it says: “and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth.” Verse 16, “Let his mind be changed from that of a man, and let a beast’s mind be given to him, and let seven periods of time pass over him.” Nebuchadnezzar, your mind is about to be altered. Isn’t it sad when human beings act like animals? I was watching a show the other day and they were describing an argument that broke out in a governing group in another country and they showed these politicians literally physically hitting each other, have a full on melee when they’re supposed to be governing their nation.
The capacity for mankind to act like an animal is within all of us when we remove ourselves from the God that made us. If you are removed from the God that made you, you don’t understand your worth, you don’t understand your dignity, you don’t understand the authority that God has given to humanity and we become, in a certain sense, animalistic. And what are we telling everybody today in the American educational system? Well, you’re just a naked ape, you went from the goo to the zoo to you over billions of years. And we tell kids constantly that they are related to the animal kingdom and then when they act like animals we’re shocked.
When a speaker comes, as I saw this week on the news, to a college campus, a well-known college campus, and the students don’t want the message there they loot, they pillage, they burn, they destroy, they result to intimidation, and lo and behold on this very cable show I was watching, I don’t recommend you watch these cable shows unless your blood pressure is okay, there are the teachers who are supposed to be guiding these students giving excuse for them, egging them on, minimizing what the students are doing—they’re acting like animals. That’s what man becomes when he is removed from God, He descends into animalistic behavior. He does not understand any longer, devoid of the Scripture, that he was created to rule over the animals. He becomes just like that which he was originally given authority over.
There’s going to be an alteration in your mind and you’ll see the grace of God here because God could have allowed this alteration to continue on indefinitely. God is very clear that this is only going to last for seven periods or seven times, my understanding of seven times is it’s seven years. A time in Hebrew, which is somewhat connected to Aramaic, is a Jewish year, consisting of 360 days. So that’s why you see this expression in Daniel 7:25 of the antichrist’s empire at the end of the seven year tribulation period lasting for a time, times, and a half a time, which we know from other Scriptures is 42 months or 1,260 days or 3½ years. A “time” is a Jewish year, “times” is two Jewish years, and a “half a time” is half a Jewish year, and most of you are saying what time is it now so we can get out of here.
And Daniel 9:27 talks about how the nation of Israel is going to go through a season of testing for seven years. [Daniel 9:27, “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”] You see, what God is doing here with Nebuchadnezzar is a microcosm of what God is going to do with the nation of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar is sent into a seven year ordeal and then he’s restored. What’s going to happen to the nation of Israel in the seventy weeks prophecy, which we will at some point be getting to? We may never get out of that prophecy; you might say our pastor has been in Daniel’s seventy weeks longer than Daniel was. But according to that prophecy the nation of Israel goes through the exact same thing.
Right now they’re in a state of insanity. How can a nation, with the Hebrew Bible, not recognize Jesus? It’s a state of insanity. It’s a state of blindness. It’s a state of pride. God will send the whole nation of Israel into an attitude adjustment seminar for seven years. That’s exactly what God is doing here with Nebuchadnezzar. But at the end of the seven years it’s not to annihilate, it’s not to destroy, which God very easily could have done, but He’s not just a God of justice and judgment, He is a God of grace and He will restore the nation of Israel to her rightful place as head over the nations in the millennial kingdom… the head and not the tail. In other words, she is going to be given even things that go beyond the majesty of Solomon’s empire, which was glorious. Israel is going to be given things beyond that; her glory is going to be enhanced just like with Nebuchadnezzar, who goes through this ordeal and yet not only is he restored to his throne, he’s given greater things.
What a God this is. And the reason I had Ed Jones read verse 17 is because verse 17 is the chapter lesson. If you want to understand what is chapter 4 about it’s all contained there in verse 17. It says, “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and He bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men.” What’s the point of all of this? You are not in control, is the point, Nebuchadnezzar, you never have been in control. I understand it, all the angels understand it, it seems like Nebuchadnezzar everybody gets the picture but you; you are deluded because of your sinfulness into thinking that you are where you are because of something within you. So I will reach into my tool box and I will bring out the greatest tool I have to communicate this lesson to you that you have no control over your life at all.
In fact, you will say in Daniel 5 to Belteshazzar your very next breath is dependent upon me. Think about that. We wouldn’t even have the capacity to inhale and exhale the next breath if it’s not for the grace of God. The grace of God, Colossians 1 tells us that created the world, the grace of God that redeemed the world, is the same grace that’s keeping the whole world going. What is keeping the planets from revolving around the sun at just the right length so they don’t collide with each other? What’s keeping this little tiny earth in its perfect order around the sun, not so close to the sun that we burn to death, not so far away from the sun that we freeze to death but the orbit is kept perfect so life is sustained. Think of the mathematical improbabilities of that happening by chance and yet man can’t see the authority and sovereignty and the control of God in that? How insane have we become? Apparently very self-deluded and the only real cure for it is tribulation.
And yet the tribulation that we go through is not designed for our destruction, it’s designed for our improvement. It’s designed to bring us to our senses. And so Nebuchadnezzar then gives a request, which we’ll close with, here in verse 18. After he explains this dream he says, “This is the dream which I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for a spirit of the holy gods” plural, little g, “is in you.” Rehashing the familiar theme of the bankruptcy of Jeanne Dixon, the psychic network, the astrologers, the psychologists, the palm readers, all these people we think are endowed with such power, the bankruptcy of them to reveal fundamental questions like what is this dream and what does it mean.
Daniel, we learn from Daniel 1 and verse 17 was actually given a gift by God of interpreting dreams. Daniel 1:17 says, “As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.” Daniel 1:20 says, “As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he” that’s Nebuchadnezzar in relation to the four gifted Hebrew youths, “he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.”
Daniel has the answer, not because he graduated from the best seminary, not because he had the highest score on the SAT test, there was nothing in his natural self that gave him this ability. It was something that God gave him and that’s something very important to understand. As we move into our giftings we have a tendency to become somewhat inflated with ourselves and yet we call these spiritual gifts, don’t we? If it’s a gift that means it’s something God gave me that I didn’t earn, and thus the Apostle Paul says to the Corinthians, why do you boast as if you had earned this. And Nebuchadnezzar is not getting the picture here because he is continuing to assert his own authority, he continues to call Daniel by his paganized name and he continues to interpret Daniel’s gifting and the spirit within him through a worldview of polytheism. That’s why he keeps saying the spirit of the gods is in you.
And then Daniel has been given the information and now he’s about to interpret it. We’ll see his interpretation; it’s not going to be fun Nebuchadnezzar, in about a year all hell is about to break loose in your life. But at the end of that time period your sanity will be restored and you will be returned to your position of authority and given even greater things because God is not just a God of discipline and judgment, He’s a God of grace. Shall we pray.
Father, we are grateful for the things that this unit of material, although written back in the 6th century, reminds us of and we see the same pattern in our lives. Make us people, Father, that are breakable and then flexible and then usable, that we’re not so lifted with pride that we can’t even see the hand of Your work in our lives. Make us, through the tribulations that we go through, pliable, usable, flexible, dependent vessels. We invite You to do this work in our lives in our midst. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus, name. And God’s people said…..