Daniel 013: The Perils of Pride

Daniel 013: The Perils of Pride
Daniel 4:19-33 • Dr. Andy Woods • February 19, 2017 • Daniel


Andy Woods

The Perils of Pride

2-19-17     Daniel 4:19-33    Lesson 13

Good morning everybody.  If we could take our Bibles and open them to Daniel, chapter 4 and verse 19.  The title of our message this morning is The Perils of Pride.   I really appreciate it what Kristen and company did with the youth room.  The only problem now is the rest of the church doesn’t look very good by way of comparison.  The youth room is like the New Jerusalem.  [laughter] And the rest of the church is still in the tribulation period.  Maybe we could get her to do another award somewhere and fix the whole church up.

Daniel 4:19, the title of this message is the perils of pride.  Anybody ever struggle with pride?  Someone said no.  [Laughter]  That’s the sin of lying, isn’t it?  Of course we’ve been working our way through the book of Daniel.  Daniel is a voice of God; he spells out prophetically what’s going to happen during a very difficult time of Israel’s history and he also is a role model regarding how to live in hostile territory.  Chapters 1-7 is historical; chapters 8-12 is prophetic.  We are just in chapter 4.  Chapter 1 sort of laid out the setting of the book and then we moved into a section which is all written in Aramaic that’s chiastically structured.  In other words, the information in chapter 2 is restated in chapter 7 in different word.  The information in chapter 3 is restated in chapter 6 and the information in chapter 4 is restated in chapter 5.

We have already seen chapter 2 which is a panorama, if you will, of Gentile history in the form of a beautiful stature.   And then we moved in to chapter 3 which is God’s rescue operation of three Hebrew youths, how they were rescued in the midst of the fiery furnace.  And we move now into the internal part of the chiasm; in both of these chapters, chapter 4 and chapter 5, God is revealing Himself to Gentile kings.  He reveals Himself to the first king during the times of the Gentiles, the first Babylonian king, a man named Nebuchadnezzar.  And as we’re going to see God reveals Himself to this man through grace.  And the same theme will recur in chapter 5 when God reveals Himself to the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, a man named Belshazzar.  And God will reveal Himself to that man in judgment.  So the question is how do you want God to reveal Himself to you?  Grace or judgment?  And that largely is based on the responses that we give to God when He calls us into account.

The antagonist, all the way through chapters 1-4 is this man, Nebuchadnezzar, an unbeliever that I think becomes a believer, ultimately, in this chapter.  Many seeds have been planted in his heart that are being brought to fruition as God aggressively deals with this man in chapter 4.  Daniel is probably about age 45-50, we would guess, around this time; he is no longer a teenager and God is still working through him now in middle age.

Verses 1-3, as we look at just a very fast outline of chapter 4, is introductory.  Verses 4-18 is a dream,  yet another dream Nebuchadnezzar had and he describes it.  Verses 19-27, which we’re going to start getting into this morning, is the dream is interpreted by Daniel.  And then finally in verses 28-37, at the end of the chapter God, as he always does, makes good on His prophecies in this man’s life, Nebuchadnezzar.

You will recall last time we looked at verses 1-3; we noted that this chapter is unique amongst any chapter that Daniel wrote because Daniel apparently did not write this chapter.  These are the words of Nebuchadnezzar; it has to do with a public decree that he made over his kingdom wanting to describe an experience that he had with God that was so personal, so life-changing that he wanted to describe it himself, in the form of a decree.  And apparently Daniel took that decree and included it in his book.

Nebuchadnezzar, as we saw last time, had a dream, yet another dream, verses 4-18.  As is common he narrates the dream to his so-called wise men who cannot interpret it for him but Daniel, who has been gifted, we know all the way back from Daniel 1:20, Daniel 1:17, was gifted by God in interpreting dreams, and is able to successfully decipher what paganism cannot decipher. [Daniel 1:17, “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, “As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.”]

What did Nebuchadnezzar see?  He saw a giant tree; he saw the tree being cut down by an angel.  He heard in this dream a command to not uproot the stump that remains and then he saw a glimpse of somebody that’s described as a person, with a personal pronoun him or he, turned into a beast given the mind of an animal for seven years.  And then he awoke and he requested, what does this mean.  And Daniel is able to explain what Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men could not explain, let alone understand.

This is one of the great advantages that you’ll have as a child of God; you’ll be able to understand life in a way that the unsaved cannot understand life.  And they may whisper about you in the office, they may say all kinds of nasty things about you, they may call you names, but one of the things you’ll discover about people is when the chips are down they know who to go to for advice.  When they’re going through a divorce, a bankruptcy, a financial problem, a health problem, you’ll discover that you are suddenly the person that they’re seeking out because there’s something different about you.  And what is different about you is the Holy Spirit is inside of you and you have the Word of God and you have the capacity to grasp the things of the Spirit in a way that the unsaved mind simply cannot understand.  This was the predicament that Daniel found himself in as the spotlight of attention and all of Neo-Babylonia now moves upon Daniel .  And he receives this explanation of the dream from Nebuchadnezzar, its contents, and he begins to interpret it in verses 19-27.

Notice, if you will, Daniel’s reluctance, his unwillingness, his reticence, to interpret this dream.  It says, “Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him.  The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries!

Notice first of all in verse 19 the two-fold repetition of the word “interpretation.”  As you drop down to verse 24 you’ll see again the word “interpretation.  [Verse 24, “this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king:”]  The reason I bring this up is many people come to the Bible with what I called a sanctified imagination; they can come up with some of the craziest interpretations of difficult imagery like this and the problem with us, many times, is we are impatient with the interpretation God gives.  Remember the giant statue that Nebuchadnezzar saw.  When we got to Daniel 2:36 we read, “This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king.”  God has not left me to my own devices to under­stand these images and prophecies.  He typically will provide an interpretation, sometimes… most of the time, within the same context.

The book of Revelation is probably one of the hardest books of the Bible to understand unless you understand this, that God interprets Himself in the book, 26 times.  John Walvoord in his commentary of Revelation actually has a list of the number of times the visions are given by God and interpreted by God and that is just basic good Bible study habits, letting the Lord interpret Himself, the Bible being a self-interpreting instrument.

You’ll notice that Daniel was appalled, he was alarmed, he said I wish this vision, Nebuchadnezzar, concerned someone that hated you or your adversaries because it’s something that’s going to come into your life that’s going to be difficult.  You know, it’s never fun to be the bearer of bad news because many people want to shoot the messenger, and yet Daniel is always faithful to his calling.  No matter what the pressure is he is faithful to disclose what God has given.

A question for us to ask about ourselves is are we that way in conversations, when people ask the hard questions, when we know that telling them the truth is going to perhaps hurt feelings or alienate are we the type of people that speak truth in love.  You know, it’s easy to speak the truth if you don’t care about love and it’s easy to speak love if you don’t care about truth.  But Ephesians 4:15 tell us that we are to speak the truth “in love.”  [Ephesians 4:15, “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”]   That is the calling of the Christian.  We are not called to shrink back, to leave out, but at the same time we are not called to be so rude and belligerent and obnoxious that we add an offense that God has never added.  What a difficult balancing act this is and yet God wants to guide us by His Spirit and in empower us so that we can do just that.

We go down to verses 20-22 and we start seeing how this tree that Nebuchadnezzar saw is interpreted. Verse 20, it says, “‘The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth [21] and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged—“  Verses 20-21 is just a description of that tree, it’s repeating information we already know; it’s a growing tree, a large tree.  The tree provided shade; the tree provided nourishment, the tree provided rest for the birds of the air.  This was a tree that was meeting the needs, really, of the whole world.

As you look at verse 22, Daniel says, “it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.”  This reminds me of what Daniel said regarding the head of gold back in chapter 2.  He told Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:38, “…You are the head of gold.”  And now in Daniel 4, with the tree of awesome sight Daniel explains to Nebuchadnezzar, that the tree Nebuchadnezzar, represents you; it represents the Neo-Babylonian Empire which was the known empire of that day, a worldwide empire with no rivals.

It goes in verses 23-25 and describes the cutting down of the tree.  Verse 23 says, “‘In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it; 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, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,’” so an angel is going to come and chop the tree down and yet the stump, as I mentioned before, is not to be uprooted.  Somebody called “he” or “him” here, which apparently is Nebuchadnezzar, is turned into what we would call an insane person for seven periods, which I believe is speaking of seven years.

And then as you move down to verse 24 it says, “this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king:” this is a decree of God that is about to transpire in your life.  You may pretend like it’s not coming; you may choose to ignore what I am giving you today, Daniel says to Nebuchadnezzar, by way of prophetic utterance, but this is the interpretation.  Something is coming into your life that is of an adversarial nature.

Nebuchadnezzar had a problem; he had an “I” problem, he had a “me” problem.  Modern day psychologists probably would diagnose this as narcissism, but there’s a tendency for Nebuchad­nezzar to believe that the entire world revolved around him, and he himself was responsible for the advent of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Nebuchadnezzar forgot what Daniel said back in chapter 2, [verse 37]“You O king are the king of kings to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom.”  He goes on and he says, [38] “He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold.”  You, Nebuchadnezzar, are in the position you’re in because God put you there.  It has nothing to do with your resume, your agenda,  your intellect, as lofty as all of those things maybe you are in the position you are in because it’s the hand of God.  Heaven understand this, God understands this, the angelic realm understands this, probably most of your subjects understand this.

Everybody seems to understand this but you so I’m going to reach into my tool box and I’m going to pull out one of the greatest tools I have, called human suffering. There is nothing that empties us of ourselves more than the reality of human suffering.  When you walk through a valley you quickly figure out that you don’t have things figured out, that you don’t even have anything figured out.  In fact, you don’t even know where your car keys are half the time.  And we have to be reminded of this because of the innate sinfulness that’s inside of us, the “I” complex, the “me” complex.  And so this decree is coming for the purpose of pedagogy, for the purpose of teaching something that should be obvious to you.

Notice verse 25, he says, “that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you” what? “recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes” I like this expression here, “recognize.”  You’re going to be changed into an insane man for seven years until you “recognize” something.  That, in a sense, shows me a lot about the grace of God.  Nebuchad­nezzar could have gone into a trial that would go beyond seven  years, eight year, ten years, twenty-five years, forever.  But God, in grace, allowed it to continue until Nebuchadnezzar himself figured out something.

What a tremendous tool that God has in His disposal to wake us up to reality, to wake Nebuchad­nezzar up to the reality of Daniel 2:37-38, that Nebuchadnezzar was there because God put him there.  God uses many, many tools to get our attention.  One of His greatest tools is the reality of human suffering.  I don’t mean to imply that every trial you go through is to achieve the same result because when you get into the study or the doctrine of trials and tribulations in the Bible you’ll discover that there are many reasons God sends us into trials.  Sometimes it’s not even for some overt sin in your life; there are storms of correction, there are storms of perfection.  Sometimes God sends you into a storm to correct you, to correct me, much like He did with Jonah.  Jonah was told to go preach to Nineveh; Jonah got on a boat and went the opposite direction.  And we know how God dealt with Jonah; by the time he was vomited out on the dry land Jonah 3:1 says, “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah” what “a second time”  This time you have a different attitude in Jonah, don’t you.

So that would be a storm of correction; there are other storms that I just call storms of perfection where God just says it’s time to go to the next level of growth; I can’t take you there unless you become more dependent upon Me so let Me introduce a few problems into your life.  So not every trial you go through has to do with some overt sin.  We know that Job went through a series of trials and everybody thought they understood why Job was going through trials.  Job thought he knew.  Job’s three counsellors, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar thought they knew.  Another guy comes along late in the game, Elihu thought he knew; none of them had the foggiest idea.  Because we as the reader read the first two chapters of the book of Job where we learned that there was a conversation between God and the devil in heaven that Job knew nothing about.  And the book of Job is just an explanation on the finitude, the limitation of humans to understand the deep workings of God.

I wish I understood why everything that happens to you has happened to you; I can’t give you that explanation but I know at the end of the day God sifts it, He allows it to accomplish some purpose that apparently takes precedence beyond our immediate comfort.  Our number one goal is comfort and I don’t think God is against comfort but sometimes God has a goal beyond comfort and that goal cannot be achieved absent an interruption of comfort.  Storms of correction, storms of perfection, I think what Nebuchadnezzar is experiencing here or is about to experience is a storm of correction.  It’s something he brought upon himself that was avoidable.

Notice, if you will, verse 26, we have an interpretation of the preserved stump and roots of the tree.  “And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you” what? “recognize” the problem is not Me God says, Nebuchadnezzar, the problem is you, your blindness, pride.  Until “you recognize that it is Heaven that rules.”  Nebuchad­­­nezzar apparently is to be restored to his position of authority after this period of seven years elapses.

It’s interesting to me that this trial is not indefinite, it doesn’t go on forever.  It goes on to achieve a pedagogical point and then the trial stops.  One of the first things I did as a new Christian, and I don’t recommend this, I taught a Bible study through the book of Revelation.  And I was right here in Revelation 9:5 and it says this, “And they were not permitted to kill anyone, but to torment” that’s the demons, “for five months; and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings a man.”  I was up in front of my Sunday School class going on and on about how bad this is going to be, how terrible it’s going to be, and an elderly gentleman in the back of the church raises his hand and he says do you see the grace of God in this?  Grace of God???  In Revelation 9:5 the grace of God?  I said well how do you see the grace of God.  He says the term “five months.”  It doesn’t go on six months, it doesn’t go on seven months, it doesn’t go on for a year, it’s limited.  Suffering is limited, suffering is bound, suffering in God is finite.  In fact, the time is coming in human history when there won’t be any suffering at all; isn’t that great?  You can read about it in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.

The suffering would exist as long as it took for Nebuchadnezzar to learn his lesson.  That’s the grace of God.  Yes, it is the justice of God and the judgment of God but never forget the grace of God in the midst of it.  In fact, I would say that if you’re in any passage of the Bible and you’re not seeing the justice of God and the grace of God simultaneously you’re missing something in the passage.  You’ll see this all the way through the Bible, these two great attributes of God: holiness on one end of the stick and His love on the other.

And so consequently in verse 27 Daniel gives to Nebuchadnezzar an exhortation, notice what he says there in verse 27, “‘Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’”  Translation—the whole thing is avoidable.  You, by responding now to this warning can call the whole thing off; the power of choice and destiny is in your hands, Nebuchadnezzar.

One of the things I love about the Bible is it’s not a book of don’ts, don’t do this, don’t do that.  We have a tendency to look at the Bible that way.  That’s how the unsaved world looks at our belief system, don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with girls who do, don’t do this, don’t do that.  One of the things  you’ll discover about the Bible is it’s not a don’t book, it’s a book about better; stay away from this (whatever “this” may be) but I’ve got something better for you.  Do you see that there in verse 27?  Break away from your sins by doing, see that?  Break away from your sins by doing righteousness, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.

It reminds me very much of what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 6:11-13, he says, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but” what? “alive to God in Christ Jesus.  [12] Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, [13] and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness;” I’m so happy the verse doesn’t stop there, but it says, “but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”

The book of Ephesians, chapter 4, it talks about the hands that used to steal, take those same hands and produce, and become so prosperous with those hands that you’ll reach a point in your economic life where you’re giving away to the poor or to the needy.  What a different way of looking at the use of the body.  Probably one of the most sarcastic people on my college campus was myself; I had the ability to cut down and tear down just about anything and anyone I wanted to, and that was a recurring sin in my life that I had to hand over to God and it’s so interesting to me that the Lord made me a teacher of His Word, that the same mouth that was on fire to tear down can now be used as an instrument of building, can now be used as an instrument of edification.  Think of the area of  your greatest sin and think what that could become in God as you relinquish that to Him.  It’s not a book of don’t, it’s a book of better.

And it’s interesting to me here that Daniel gives to Nebuchadnezzar a warning, and I want you to see something about God; before He moves His hand into either judgment or discipline, I believe this, there is always a warning.  The problem is many times we’re not paying attention to the warning.  But if you’re honest with yourself and go back into your life you’ll discover that the warning is there.  We learn of a great flood in the book of Genesis.  Did you know that before that flood came there was a warning?  2 Peter 2:5 talks about “… Noah, a preacher of righteous-ness….”  Genesis 6:3 says that this warning went out for 120 years, half the length of the United States of America.   [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;”  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.’”]  That’s a long time, a hundred and twenty years.  But the warning was there; before judgment came, came the warning.

We read in Revelation 2:20, concerning the church at Thyatira, there were terrible sins happening there.  It says, “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.”  Jesus says this, [21] “’I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.  [22] Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.  [23] And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds,” and you read that and you say that is a horrific reference to coming discipline of a very severe nature into a congregation and yet people skip over verse 21, “I gave her time to repent.”

Paul the apostle, when he was writing to the Corinthians and there was a bad scene there in Corinth, where they were drunk and disorderly at the Lord’s Table to the point where God began taking home saints early.  And Paul says this is that whole environment, 1 Corinthians 11:31-32, “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. [32] But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”  The fact of the matter is God knows the nature of sin; He knows what sin can do, He knows its destructive power.  We are deluded into thinking that we can contain sin, we can control sin.  Let me tell you something about sin—it is a fire out of control!  It is something destructive that is unleashed on a person’s life and God knows the only way, many times, to get us away from sinful habits is through discipline.  And yet the discipline itself can be severe and God sends a warning ahead of time.

What warnings have you received in your life lately that you are not listening to?  My exhortation to you is to listen to the hand of God, or the voice of God, or the Word of God. If God is saying something in your life right now that has to change follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit because I am convinced of this, many of our struggles today that we go through, not all but many are avoidable.  We bring bad circumstances on ourselves through our own bad choices.  It’s a lot like a parent; no parent enjoys disciplining their children and so the parent prior to discipline will send a warning hoping that the child will correct his or her ways so discipline can be avoided.  That’s the heart of a parent.

I remember when I was younger, we had a telephone pole right there in our back yard and I’d like to climb things so I just started climbing right up that telephone pole, grabbing those little spikes, I went right up to the top and of course you know what’s at the top, the live wire.  I remember my father shouting to me, “Andrew,” that meant I was in trouble, Andy was one thing, Andrew meant something different.  And I remember coming down from that pole and being severely disciplined by my father.  And yet what was he trying to do at the end of the day?  Destroy my life?  NO, he was trying to prevent me from destroying my own life by touching some wire that I had no awareness of its power.  You see?

This is how God works, “Whom the Lord loves the Lord” what? “chastens.”  You know, the book of Proverbs says if you don’t discipline your children you are actually a child abuser.  Today we’re so warped in terms of our value system we think that parents that implement discipline are abusive but the Bible says it’s the opposite, that the man that hates his child, the book of Proverbs says, who lets his child go unrestrained, God loves us too much to see that happen but the process of discipline, as painful as it can be, deserves a warning.  Nebuchad­nezzar was given a warning…. CHANGE so this circumstance will not overtake you.

Which moves us into the final part of the book, the dream is fulfilled.  Notice, if you will, verse 28, we have Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity and then later his humility.  Notice if you will verses 28-29,”All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.”  If I were you I would take that verse and underline it, or highlight it or draw stars around it; that is one of the most profound verse in the Bible, “All this happened” everything God said would happen happened to this man, Nebuchad­nezzar.  How long did it take?  Verse 29, “Twelve months later” that’s a year, “he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon.”  The process of discipline began to manifest in his life a  year after the warning was given.

Let me tell you something about God.  When God says something it’s going to happen.  If I were a betting man, and I’m not, I would bet on God every single time because the book of Hebrews, chapter 6 and verse 18 says, “…it is impossible for God to lie.”  Are there some things God can’t do?  Yes, He can’t violate His own character.  When He decrees something, when He predicts something, when He speaks something it’s just a matter of time before that happens.

Think about this prophecy here, Zechariah 12:10, written 500 years before the time of Christ, “…they will look on me, whom they pierced,” think about the improbability of that happening.  [Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”]

The Jews didn’t kill people by piercing them, they stoned them to death.  It was the Romans that pierced people.  The Roman Empire wasn’t even in existence at this time and  yet a prophecy was made 500 years in advance anticipating the rise of Rome, anticipating the incursion of Rome into the land of Israel, anticipating the removal from the Hebrew people, the power to execute their own criminals, shifting that into Roman hands, which explains why Jesus had to be turned over to the Romans by the Hebrews for execution, and lo and behold what happened?  Jesus Christ was pierced, exactly like Zechariah 12:10 says.  When God says something it will happen!  All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar and this is an example of what we would call a short term prophecy.  Well, my goodness, if God’s short term prophecies happened with such precision maybe I can trust His long term prophecies, which are evident all over the book of Daniel.

Jesus, in John 13:19 made some short term prophecies in the Upper Room. He says, “From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.”  If that weren’t enough He says it again in the same Upper Room Discourse one chapter later, John 14:29, He says, “Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.” Christianity is not a lying faith, it is a faith build on a track record of God.  God, as we look at the prophesies for the future doesn’t just call  us to have some kind of blind faith that these prophecies will come to pass.  He gives us a track record of past fulfillments.  And when we study the past fulfillments it builds our confidence that the long term prophecies are just as precise, just as specific, just as ironclad and are exactly on schedule.  The most foolish thing a person can do is not take God at His Word.

So all of these things happened twelve months later, regarding the vision of the tree.  What was the culprit?  What was the cause?  The “P” word, pride!  Look at what Nebuchadnezzar says here in verse 30, “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which” what? “I” the guy has a bad case of the ‘I’s, “I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’”

What happened to Nebuchadnezzar?  He took credit for something that God did.  I’ve already shown you Daniel 2 where God is very clear that Nebuchadnezzar is in the position he’s in because God put him there; it says it four times there in Daniel 2:37-38, and yet Nebuchadnezzar uses “I” or “my,” what’s the count here, one, two, three, maybe four times.  Narcissism, taking credit for something God has done.

And you know, there are people that are like that; you can’t even get through a conversation without them interjecting themselves constantly, me, my, my plans, my goals, my accomplish­ments, my abilities.  And it’s so easy during times of prosperity to forget the hand of God.  This was one of the problems with Pontius Pilate; in John 19:10 “Pilate said to Him,” Jesus, “‘You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?’”  And I love Christ’s answer, verse 11, “Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; [for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.]’”

Romans 13:1 says, “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God, and those which exist are established by God.”  Are you a teacher in a school?  God put you there!  Are you a pastor of a church?  God put you there!  Are you the ruler in government?  God put you there!  Are you in a position of influence over employees as a manager of some kind?  God put you there!  And you got there because God put you there, and many times we just forget that, don’t we, and we start to take credit.  I’ve been to countless pastor’s conferences where I’ve heard people speak and to be completely honest with you I can’t tell who’s getting the credit… look at what I did to grow the church, look at my strategy, look at my tactics, forgetting that the church is the building project of Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “I will build My church.”  [Matthew 16:19, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”]   It has nothing to do with us, a strategy or a tactic or a way of speaking or a spiritual gift (as wonderful as spiritual gifts are), it’s the building project of God, the church is.   Just like human government is an institution of God, it wouldn’t exist without God.

But Nebuchadnezzar began to take credit for something that God had done, and let me tell you something, a person becomes ripe for discipline when they move into that mindset.  Why is that?  Because of Isaiah 42:8, God says, “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.”  I like what Billy Graham says on this; there are three things that tear down every ministry; every man of God or woman of God is torn down by one of three things, or sometimes they run in tandems, two of the three or three of three, it’s always the same, these all begin with the letter “G.”  Number in, don’t touch the Girls, sexual immorality.  I can’t tell you how many people I know that are now on the sidelines, people with gifts and talent that are unused because they transgressed the principles of God in the area of sexual immorality.

The second G is Gold, don’t touch the girls, don’t touch the gold.  How many ministers are pulled down because of embezzlement.  That’s why I love the way our accounting system works here.  I know absolutely nothing about it and I love it that way.  I don’t know who gives what, I don’t want to know.  Now I can defend everybody equally, it’s great.

And then number three, the third G is don’t touch the Glory, if you touch the glory of God you’re ripe for discipline.  If you start to take credit for what God has done you’re ripe for discipline.  This is why the Apostle Paul is so clear and this is instructive to us because we’re in the deacon/elder selection nomination process; we ought to remember what God says about who to make an elder and deacon over a local church.  1 Timothy 3;6 says, he shall “not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.”  What’s “the condemnation incurred by the devil”?  I’ll show it to you in just a minute.  First comes pride, then comes a fall.  The problem with the new convert is he’s in a position of authority and God is using him in that position and he gets confused about where the glory should go; he starts to take credit for what’s happening.

And Paul says you do that you’re putting man in a position of vulnerability if he doesn’t have the character to handle the work of God through Him he will, maybe not take all the glory but just a little bit off the top, just deflect a little bit my direction.  We’ve got history on that, it’s the fall of Lucifer.  And so you see in verse 30 this stubborn pride that God is working in our lives to empty us of.

And we move from Nebuchadnezzar’s pride to Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment, judgment, payday someday.  Look at verses 31 and 32.  “While the word was in the king’s mouth,” what’s “the word?”  Look at this beautiful Neo Babylonian Empire that I have created… the words hadn’t even come out of his mouth yet, “While the word was in the king’s mouth  a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you,” pride and its perils.  [32, “and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’”]

Proverbs 16:18 says what? “Pride goes before” what? “destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”  The ultimate example of pride is Lucifer who had a bad case of the I’s himself, “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God,” this is right out of Isaiah 14:12-15,”and I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north.’”  Sounds like Nebuchadnezzar.  [14]  “‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’  [15] Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.”

That’s what Paul means when he talks about “lest he fall into the condemnation of the devil.”   You have a parallel passage in Ezekiel 28, 12-17, I won’t read the whole thing to you but verse 17 of Lucifer says, “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.  I cast you to the ground….”

[Ezekiel 28:12-17, “Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  [13] You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the ruby, the topaz and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, was in you.   On the day that you were created they were prepared.  [14] You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire.  [15] You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteous­ness was found in you.  [16] By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence, and you sinned; therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God.  And I have destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.  [17] Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor.  I cast you to the ground; I put you before kings, that they may see you.”]

Acts 12:21-23 says this, “On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. [22] The people kept crying out, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!’ [23] And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.”

I don’t claim to know everything about God but I know this much, God hates pride.  Paul, the apostle, I believe, of all of the sins he could have struggled with I believe the issue that he struggled with so much in his life was the issue of pride.   2 Corinthians 12:7 says, Paul writes, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,” what is he talking about?  He is talking about how he was lifted into the third heaven and heard things that human beings aren’t fit to hear.  Paul, by virtue of his apostleship understood things about God from that heavenly experience or journey that your average person didn’t understand.  Think of what that would do to a person’s ego.  Think how it would be inflated, how it would cause you to sort of lord your authority over people.  “…for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me– to keep me from exalting myself!”

God  says Paul look, here’s the problem I have with you: I have so blessed you with knowledge and gifting that if I leave your life unchecked I can’t use you because of  your arrogance so I am going to empty you of your arrogance by giving you a thorn, which obviously hurts, I don’t know what the thorn was but I know it hurt, I know that much.  And that’s going to keep you in a place of dependence and humility because that thorn is God’s gift to you, because every time you experience that thorn you’re going to be reminded of your own humanity and that you’re not God, and I’m going to use you to bless the world.  I can’t do it though, without this thorn in the flesh.

Later on in that paragraph Paul pleads with the Lord three times, take it away, and this is what is so frustrating to watch so-called Christian television where they tell you that you can name and claim your diseases away.  What Bible are we reading?  Has anybody read 2 Corinthians 12:7 and following?  There’s the man that had, I would think if it’s not a disease it’s something that agitated him to the point where he pleaded with God take it away three times; each time God said I’m not going to take it away.  I will say this though, Paul, “my grace is sufficient for you.”

You have to understand something, we as elders see all the prayer requests in this church.  And it is overwhelming reading these, recognizing what people are going through.  If I had my way I would wave a magic wand and everybody’s sufferings would disappear, but I’m not God.  And so what we pray for constantly is for people to get well if they’re suffering from some kind of ailment.  However, Lord, You’re the boss,  You’re in the driver’s seat, if it’s not Your will to heal such and such a person we pray over them 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, that they would have the grace to sustain whatever it is they’re going through.  Give them the grace.   [2 Corinthians 12:8, Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.   [9] And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”]

Paul had to have this because of the issue of pride.  1 Peter 5:5 says, “for God is opposed to the proud; did you know that there are some people that God is working against?  That’s what the Bible says, “for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  Do you want to be opposed by God or have the grace of God?  It relates to the perils of pride and the issue of pride.  Satan is lifted up with pride and he fell.  Herod is lifted up with pride, he fell.  Paul is lifted up with pride, almost fell, had it not been for a corresponding trial that kept him humble.  Or think about Uzziah, in the Old Testament.  Do you know what Uzziah did?  He as the king went into what only the priests are supposed to do and it says this: “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.”  Do you know what happened to Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26?  He spent his entire life as a leper, covered with this disease from head to foot until his dying day because he did something that a king is not supposed to do, that only the priest is to do and what moved Uzziah in this direction is right here in verse 16 of 2 Chronicles 26, his heart became proud; the perils of pride, the hall of the humbled.

Verse 32, “and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until” see that? “you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”  Verse 33, and with this we’ll close, “Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.”  And you say well gee, this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of, I can’t believe this any more than the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.  I mean, obviously the Bible is filled with errors in it; we know that Daniel was dated late, the liberals say, it’s filled with errors, it’s just fiction, errors.

Think again.  Roland Harrison in his Introduction to the Old Testament writes this: “A great many doctors spend an entire busy professional career without once encountering an instance of the kind of mania described in the book of Daniel.  The present writer, therefore, considers himself particularly fortunate to have actually observed a clinical case of boanthropy in a British mental institution in 1946.  The patient was in his early 20’s who reportedly had been hospitalized for about five years.  His symptoms were well developed on admission and diagnosis was immediately conclusive.  He was of average height and weight with a good physique and was in excellent bodily health.  His mental symptoms included pronounced antisocial tendencies and because of this he spent the entire day, from dawn till dusk, outdoors in the grounds of the institution.  His daily routine consisted of wandering around the magnificent lawns with which otherwise a dingy hospital scenario would have graced and it was his custom to pluck up and eat handfuls of grass as he went along.  On observation he was seen to discriminate carefully between the grass and weeds and on inquiry from the attendant the writer was told the diet of this patient consisted exclusively of grass from the hospital lawns.  He never ate institutional food with the other inmates and his only drink was water.  This writer was able to examine him cursorily and the only physical abnormality noted consisted of lengthening of hair and a course thickened condition of the fingernails.”

Isn’t that what we’re reading about here.  “Without institutional care the patient would have manifested precisely the same physical conditions as those mentioned in Daniel 4:33.  From the foregoing it seems evident that the author of the fourth chapter of Daniel was describing accurately an attestable, if rather rare, mental affliction.”

I think we judge the Word of God prematurely.  We say such and such could never happen and yet it can happen.  And God allows it to happen because of His love for creation, His desire for creation to not destroy itself with the perils of pride.

And maybe you’re here today and you’ve never trusted in Christ personally.  Let me tell you something, the greatest act of pride that you can commit against God is rejecting the gospel.  You say well, I’ll make my decision later.  Well you just made your decision.  The gospel, to receive it, requires humility because in the gospel is the recognition that you can’t fix yourself; you cannot climb up by your own bootstraps to God.  It doesn’t work that way.  And so humility is required to trust in a free gift, which we call the gospel, because it means good news; good news because Jesus did all the heavy lifting.  What we are to do is receive it as a gift and a lot of people don’t.  Why don’t they?  Because it goes against the grain of pride which says I want to earn something for God.  The fact of the matter is God has designed this whole thing in such a way that humanity gets no bragging rights so that, as Ephesians 2:8-9 says “no one can boast.”  [Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; [9] not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”]

And yet receiving this gift is your only ticket, it’s your only hope and so even as I’m speaking, as the Holy Spirit convicts people of their need to trust in Christ, you can respond to the gospel in humility by trusting in what Jesus did.  In the quietness of your own mind, in the quietness of your own heart, without having to raise a hand, walk an aisle, pledge to do better, as the Spirit places you under conviction our exhortation is to respond the best you know how to the promises of Jesus Christ.  You’re no longer in your heart of hearts trusting in self but trusting in what Jesus has done.  That enters you into the realm of humiliation before God and  yet those that are humbled God exalts.  Those that exalt themselves God abases.  It’s a simple lesson but I want us to think about it in terms of the gospel, I want people present that may be unclear about their relationship with God to respond in faith, in confidence, in a moment of privacy, to what Jesus has done for them, trusting in His work and His alone.  If it’s something that you need more explanation on I’m available after the service.

Shall we pray.  Father, we’re grateful for this story about pride and what Your Word reveals about it.  I pray, Father, that we would be people of humility allowing You to work in our lives sovereignly and I ask, Father, that as a result of that we would bring forth the fruit that You would have for each of our lives.  We ask You to do this great work.  We lift these things up in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.