Daniel 014: The School of Hard KnocksDaniel 4:34-37 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 5, 2017 • Daniel
Andy Woods SUGAR LAND BIBLE CHURCH Lesson 14, The School of Hard Knocks, Daniel 4:34-37, March 5 2017
Good evening everybody. If we could take our Bibles and open them to the book of Daniel, chapter 4 and verse 34, trying to finish the chapter this morning. The title of our message this morning is The School of Hard Knocks. I want to thank Gabe Morris for filling in last week; I trust you’re enjoying his ongoing presentations of a very important issue, replacement theology. And as you’re turning to Daniel 4 I want to talk about something you’re never supposed to talk about in church; I want to talk about money. Everybody is saying oh no, we know what’s coming! You might be pleasantly surprised. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
The basic ministry philosophy of this church is really not to make money the centerpiece. The reason for that is so many ministries talk about how much money they need. You kind of get the impression that the ministry is no longer a ministry that ministers to people, the ministry is people are there for the ministry, not the other way around. So we simply teach the Word of God, we don’t even pass a collection plate in this church and we just trust the work of the Holy Spirit to touch God’s people’s hearts and they give as they’ve been blessed.
So let me tell you what happened at Sugar Land Bible Church in the year 2016. We started with a deficit of $90,000 due to capital expenses, which would include the parking lot, playground, roof repair. Beyond that we had our normal operating expenses; beyond that in August I was laid off from my job at the College of Biblical Studies so this church picked me up full time. After that we increased Casey Cunningham’s part-time status, part-time to full time. And then we brought on yet another staff member, Dr. Jim McGowan who is a full time associate pastor. And when you make moves like this you kind of have to step out in faith, like Lord You’d better come through for us or we’re in a lot of trouble…
And I just want to report to you, and if didn’t say anything about it you would never know about this because it’s in-house discussion amongst the elders and I said this is so great I just want the people to know what God is doing through them. Through 2016, with all of the changes and deficits and increase in staff every single financial need was met with a $4,000 surplus even above and beyond. [Clapping] And we did all this without even going into reserve income, everything was paid for. And the reason I wanted to tell you about this is because this is how the Lord used you; this is an actual example because you may come to this church saying how is the Lord going to use me? The Lord used this congregation mightily in the year 2016. And we trust the Lord He even wants to do more and money is not the issue but the reality is, we can do more (ministry wise) depending on how the Lord touches your hearts.
We don’t give as Christians to get blessed; we give as Christians because we’re blessed. We’re not Baptists so we don’t teach tithing (we teach tithing is found in the Old Testament Law), we teach the principles of grace giving. And so you just give as you’ve been blessed by the Lord and we just trust the Lord to meet the needs of this church. And so I want to thank you and I want to praise God for how the Lord used you in 2016. So let’s give an applause to the Lord, [clapping] and His work through His own people. And that’s my speech on money. That was pretty painless, wasn’t it? That was good news.
Let’s take our Bibles and go to the Book of Daniel, chapter 4, looking this morning at verses 34-37. It’s talking about the school of hard knocks. Of course, as you know Daniel is a very special prophet of God. He was raised up by the Lord to explain a very difficult period of time that the nation of Israel was going through at the time of captivity, a time when they would be trampled down by various Gentile powers. And God wants His people to understand that through this dark and difficult time God is still very much in control.
Chapter 1, as we have studied, basically gives you the groundwork for the entire book. And then we move into chapters 2-7 and as I’ve tried to explain these are chiastically structured. In other words, the information in chapter 2 is repeated in chapter 7; the information in chapter 3 is sort of restated in chapter 6; the information in chapter 4 you’ll see that same theme in chapter 5. It’s an interesting literary device called a chiasm.
Chapter 2, of course, was the revelation that Nebuchadnezzar received and Daniel interpreted concerning the specific nations that would trample down Israel during the times of the Gentiles, this difficult period that Israel was now in. Chapter 3 I like to call God’s rescue operation where the angel of the Lord showed up at a time of greatest need in the lives of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and supernaturally rescued those three Hebrew youths. And then we moved into chapter 4 where God is specifically dealing with a Gentile pagan king. All the way through the background of chapters 1-4 you have to keep your eyes on this man, Nebuchadnezzar. Although he is a God-hater, although he is a Gentile, he is a soul for whom Christ died and God has been strategically at work in this man’s life. And I believe that there’s evidence, as I’ll show you today, that this man ultimately came to saving faith in Yahweh. I believe that when we get to heaven we will see Nebuchadnezzar there as well because that’s the nature of God; God loves people.
And you might be here today thinking to yourself I’m far away from God, and look at what I’ve done in my life and look at all of this sin and look at all my rebellion against God and the reality of the situation is the same truth for Nebuchadnezzar is the same truth for you—God loves you! God wants fellowship with you! God wants a relationship with you! Christ’s death and resurrection that we celebrated this morning is for you as an individual. God desires that all people be saved and come to a knowledge of saving faith.
Daniel, around this time, when he records the events of chapter 4, is probably in his late 40’s, early 50’s; he is no longer a teenager. And here is sort of an outline of chapter 4 that we’ve worked through. Verses 1-3 is an introduction and that’s where we learned that Nebuchadnezzar himself wrote this chapter. It was the form of a proclamation and Daniel apparently was so impressed with this proclamation that he included it in his own book, the Book of Daniel, chapter 4. Nebuchadnezzar in this chapter describes a dream of a beautiful tree being chopped down and he sees a man in this dream being change, his mind was changed to that of a beast or an animal for seven years.
And of course none of the “wise men” (I put that in quotation marks) in Babylon could interpret this dream and so consequently Nebuchadnezzar called upon the time and tested Daniel to interpret this dream, Daniel being given prophetic insights and gifts and understandings of how to interpret visions. And what Daniel reveals to Nebuchadnezzar is this tree being cut down is Nebuchadnezzar himself, and how Nebuchadnezzar is going to be changed into an insane person, a mind of a beast will be given to Nebuchadnezzar for seven years. But at the end of those seven years Nebuchadnezzar is going to be restored to his position of authority over Babylon. And when God said something is going to happen, it’s just a matter of time before it takes place, and that’s where we have verses 28-37, really verse 33, where twelve months later, one year later all of these things happened to Nebuchadnezzar.
We saw last time we were together Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity, verses 28-33. And as our chapter is winding down and concluding this morning insanity leads to humility in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. He looks back on the divine hand of God in his life and he begins to exhibit a… shall we say change of attitude. And these were the things that Nebuchadnezzar learned through this incredible ordeal or trial that he went through.
So let’s look at verses 34-37 today and learn about Nebuchadnezzar’s humility. We have his humiliation described in verses 34-35 and then what follows is his restoration and that’s described in verses 36 and 37. But notice if you will verse 34 of Daniel 4. It says, “By the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;” isn’t it interesting that a person’s reason returns to them when they turn back towards God? We have been hoodwinked today into believing that the path to enlightenment is to cut yourself off from God, to cut yourself off from the moorings of the Bible and from Jesus Christ and His church. And we have all of our youth today sitting in classrooms where professors are telling them to discard what their parents told them if they want true enlightenment. And in reality the opposite is true; a person’s mind only works correctly when that person is in right relationship with God.
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” Knowledge begins as a person deposits themselves in the presence of the Lord and says to the Lord not my will be done in my life but Thy will be done. And it is astonishing how God begins to clear up confusion in a person’s mind when they take that initial step towards God. But woe to the person who distances themselves from God. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart there is no” what? “there is not God.”
Romans 1:18-23 is a description of what happens to the mind when a person makes a decision to reject the revelation of God in creation. Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,  because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile” where? “in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became” what? “fools,” Nebuchadnezzar became a fool, someone that was insane for a number of years because he decided to reject the revelation of God in his life and it’s not just true with Nebuchadnezzar, it’s true for the whole human race.
You know, Solomon, perhaps the wisest man that’s ever lived other than Christ Himself, writes this in the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 9 and verse 3, “Furthermore, the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives.” I look back on my own life and I look at the times that I made the most foolish decisions and those were times when I was furthest away from God. Do you want insight? Do you want acumen? Do you want understanding? Then get back with God; get in close proximity to God and you will see, your mind will become reasonable in a relationship with God.
And this, of course, is the whole problem with the current trajectory of the United States of America. I’ve used this chart many times, but you’ll notice that that’s a record of SAT scores and you’ll notice that dark line when they begin to plummet? That’s the year 1963. And you say well, what happened in 1963? Did the water get poisoned? Did a meteor hit the earth? That was the year the Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom (I say that sarcastically of course) threw out Bible reading and prayer out of the schools. If you want to come to the public school with an open Bible you are no longer welcome; teachers aren’t welcome to teach from it. And you’ll notice that what has happened since then is a decline in the reasonableness and understanding of the youth; it just took a huge fall and plummeted aggressively at that time. This is what Nebuchadnezzar experienced; he experienced insanity, he lived like an animal.
And isn’t it interesting today that the young people, what do we say about them? They’re acting like animals. Well, what do we teach them? We teach them they are animals, don’t we? Because after all, they emerged over billions of years from the goo to the zoo to you in what Darwin calls the theory of evolution; the idea that they are a special creation of God is removed from their minds. And then we’re so shocked when they act like animals. Well why wouldn’t they act like animals when we teach them that they are animals. Nebuchadnezzar acted and behaved like an animal because he was removed from God Himself. Reason came back to him when he turned towards God. You’ll notice the order here, “I got smart” in other words, reason returned to me when I first “raised my eyes towards heaven.” Are there things in your life that aren’t working out? Is your life like a puzzle that can’t be put together? It may be the problem is you need to turn your “eyes towards heaven” and watch the Lord begin to enlighten and illuminate.
What did Nebuchadnezzar learn? You’ll notice in the second half of verse 34 and verse 35 he begins to describe what I call very good theology. He talks here about the sovereignty of God, how God is in control. He says, “‘For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation.”  All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’”
What did Nebuchadnezzar learn? He learned that he wasn’t God. I know two things about the Bible: number 1, there is a God, and number 2, I’m not God. God is the one that’s in control. God is the one that’s in charge. Nebuchadnezzar should have known this because of what Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar back in chapter 2, verses 37-38 where Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, “You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, …  He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold.” In other words Nebuchadnezzar, you are in the position that you’re in because God put you there. You had very little to do with it; it was the sovereign hand of God that put you there. But how Nebuchadnezzar forgot that lesson in chapter 4, for he began to take credit for the great Neo-Babylonian Empire, the empire which existed over the known earth at this time. It says “the king reflected and said, ‘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?’”
And Nebuchadnezzar began to act and behave in such a way that he felt that he was God, he was in charge. In fact, you might remember that when he threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego into the fiery furnace he says at the end of verse 15 of chapter 3, “what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” I’m the boss, I’m in charge. In fact, Nebuchadnezzar was so bold in his arrogance that he took these Hebrew youths and renamed them in Daniel 1:6-7, indicating that Nebuchadnezzar thought he had authority over these youths. [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 did not experience a change of thinking until he himself went through the school of hard knocks. Suffering is one of the greatest tools and it’s one of the greatest devices that God has at his disposal to awaken us to the fact that we are not in control like we so frequently think we are. The book of Jonah, chapter 2, verse 7 says this of Jonah: “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, And my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple.” You remember the story of Jonah: God told Jonah to preach to Nineveh in Assyria, which is in the east—Jonah got on a boat and went west to Tarshish, which is modern day Spain. You could not get more directly out of the will of God than what Jonah did there. And Jonah, had God not intervened, interrupted his life, probably would have lived and died in rebellion against God. And we know the story of Jonah, how God got Jonah’s attention by having him swallowed into a giant fish, an ordeal that was so intense I believe that Jonah almost died through that experience, some even argue that he did die. [Jonah 2:10, “Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.” Jonah 3:1,] “And he was vomited out onto dry land, and the Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time,” and now you see a more compliant prophet.
You take, for example, the Apostle Paul, who at one time was not Paul, he was Saul, not advocating Christianity, murdering Christians, and how the Lord appeared to him in a vision that was so strong that it literally knocked Paul off his horse and he went from Saul to Paul, from the great opponent of Christianity to its greatest friend and it’s greatest advocate. I doubt that would have happened in Saul, who became Paul, had he not gone through a severe ordeal or a trial.
And one of the things that we do when we go through trials and we have a tendency to get angry at God when in reality we ought to be asking in response, Lord, You put me in this ditch, in this valley, You’re obviously trying to teach me something. These things are not happening by accident in my life; what are You trying to teach me? In other words, rather than trying to figure your way out of a problem, rather than becoming resentful of God for introducing the problem in your life maybe we should deposit ourselves before the Lord and say Lord, I’m teachable. I don’t understand why this happened or what it’s about but there’s obviously a teachable moment in here for me. Let me tell you something about suffering: suffering for the Christian always has a purpose in it. We don’t believe in random pain, random suffering, accidental events. We believe that God strategically introduces suffering into the life of the Christian for purposes of education.
Paul suffered from “a thorn in the flesh.” He pleaded three times that it be removed from him but the answer was no because there was something that Paul had to learn through that thorn in the flesh. He writes in 2 Corinthians 12:7, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, 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!” These things, Paul says, happened for a reason; God was teaching me things through this affliction that He could teach me no other way.
The book of James, chapter 1, verses 2-4 begins to reveal the great purpose behind trials and difficulties in the life of the believer. It says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James says “knowing” that these things have happened for a reason, for the testing of our faith.
And I believe this, that trials will last as long as it takes for us to learn the lesson that God has for us. You’ll notice in Daniel 4, verse 32, it says, “…seven periods of time will pass over you” now watch this, “until” … “until”, in other words, there was a limit put on Nebuchadnezzar’s ordeal, “until you” what? “until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’” The trial is going to last until you recognize something. And we’re always saying Lord, get me out of this and the Lord is saying to us maybe you should be teachable in the midst of it, because there’s something God has for us in terms of educating us. And this is what Nebuchadnezzar was going through, this is a description (verses 34-35) of his humiliation.
Now we move from verse 35 into verses 36 and 37 and here we learn of Nebuchadnezzar’s restoration, notice if you will, Daniel 4:36, it says: “At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; … surpassing greatness was added to me.” After this season or ordeal had run its course what did God do with Nebuchadnezzar? He didn’t demote him, he actually restored him and not only did He restore him to his place of authority, he actually gave him surpassing greatness. He gave him greatness that he had never encountered before prior to becoming an animal or an insane person for seven years.
And actually, it’s interesting that his own counselors began coming to him and asking his opinion on things? It’s this the same guy that was crawling around in the yard a few months ago? And yet the restoration was so complete that even the counsellors and the so-called wise men of Babylon began approaching Nebuchadnezzar to help them figure out issues and problems—the complete and total restoration of Nebuchadnezzar. This is the meaning of this tree that was chopped down. But then back in verse 15 we learn, “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.” The stump was never to be uprooted, speaking of the day when God would actually take Nebuchadnezzar and restore him to his place of glory and honor after this ordeal had been accomplished. Not only was he restored, he was given (it says there in verse 36) “surpassing greatness,” he received greatness beyond which he had experienced ever before.
What do we see in a passage like this? We see the discipline of God. We see the judgment of God. We see the justice of God. But what do we also see here? The grace of God. Paul, in the book of Ephesians, chapter 3, verses 18 and 19 prays that the Ephesians would grasp what? “the love of God for the saints.” Paul prays this in Ephesians 3:18, “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” What is he praying for, for these Ephesian Christians and all the saints? To understand the full ramifications, the full dimensions, the full depth of the grace of God.
You know, it’s easy to look at the Bible and see God’s judgment but do you see God’s grace? Do you see the fact that God’s grace is bottomless! God’s grace is eternal! And you run into so many people who say I don’t think God could ever use my life because of my past; these are people that simply do not understand the depth and the grace and the riches of God. “Look at what I’ve done with my life,” they say. Look at what Nebuchadnezzar did with his life. Look at what he became for seven years, and look at the complete and total restoration of this man, to such a degree that a man who was once insane is being sought out for counseling from other people.
Take for example Matthew, the tax collector. Who was a tax collector in the first century world? Number 1, you were a traitor in your Jewish race because you were working for Rome, an occupier. And number 2, you were considered a thief because a tax collector could extract from the people money for Rome and anything else he wanted for himself. And so a tax collector in the first century world in the land of Israel is looked at as someone who is a low of the low, the scum of the earth, sort of like how we today would look at drug abusers, drug pushers, prostitutes, pornographers, abortionists, etc. That’s what a tax collector was like in the first century world and look at what the Lord did for this man, Matthew? He forgave him. The whole chapter of Matthew 9 is about the unmerited forgiveness that came into the life of this man, Matthew. And look at who the Lord chose to write the opening book of the New Testament featuring the majesty of Jesus Christ? He chose Matthew to do it despite Matthew’s background… the riches and the depth and the unlimited dimensions of the grace of God.
Who would have ever thought that this man, Paul, would write thirteen New Testament letters, and go on three missionary journeys, and take the gospel all the way to Rome and to do more for the cause of Christ, other than Jesus Himself, than any human instrument that has ever lived. Who would have thought that the Lord would use Paul in this way, considering the fact that Paul was the one shedding the blood of Christians, in Acts 8 and other places.
One of the things you can never run out of in your life is the unlimited grace of God. You should not disqualify yourself from service to God because of something that’s happened in your past. That is the devil’s tool to keep you neutralized; the Lord wants you to understand His grace and His love towards the saints, the height, the width, the length, the depth, Paul says I just pray that your eyes would be opened and you could see this. And we sure see this in Nebuchadnezzar’s life, his restoration. That would be enough, but then he’s restored even more, a surpassing restoration. And his mind. which was once insane, is now being used in a counseling role as people are seeking Him out. The Lord’s going to do that for you if you let Him. The Lord’s going to do that for all of us if we don’t disqualify ourselves on the grounds that we don’t understand the grace of God.
You’ll look there at verse 37, the closing verse in the chapter, it says, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” What happened to this man, Nebuchadnezzar, that took credit for Babylon back in Daniel 4:30? [Daniel 4:30, “The king reflected and said, ‘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?”’] He became one of the greatest glorifiers of God, perhaps in all of human history. Look at the words that he chooses here: praise, exalt, honor! He discovered through all of this the purpose of his life.
Have you ever asked yourself this question? Lord, why am I here? What is the significance, what is the purpose of my life? I’ll sum it up to you very simply: the purpose of your life is to glorify God. That’s why you exist. That’s why you were born. That’s why you were conceived. God had in mind a purpose for your life that He would somehow use us all in different ways, somehow radiate glory to God in a special way, in a unique way. How He uses me may be different than how He uses you and how He uses the person sitting next to you. But everything must be subsumed under the overarching purpose of life, which is to glorify God. That’s how God wants to work in your life strategically.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of” who? “God.” You know, a lot of times we put ourselves under rules, should I see this movie, should I not see this movie. Should I go to this church or should I go to that church? Should I have this conversation or should I have that conversation? Should I work at this business establishment over here or this one over there. The fact of the matter is the Bible is not going to give you a bunch of rules. It’s going to simply ask you a basic question: is your decision glorifying God, because that will inform you concerning the choices that you’re making. If your ultimate purpose is to glorify God you just ask yourself a very simple question: in all of life’s journeys– is what I’m doing here glorifying to God or not? And I think the church of Jesus Christ would be a different place if we all ask ourselves that same question every single day of our lives.
I love how the Westminster Confession puts this. It’s set up as a set of questions and answers and it says this: Question 1, what is the chief end of man? In other words, when you cut through all the minutia and try to figure out why does humanity exist what’s man’s purpose? And the Westminster Confession so simply puts it this way: “Man’s chief end,” in other words his ultimate purpose is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Why do you exist? Why do I exist? “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” And if that’s what God wants to do then that’s starts to control how I think and the choices that I make.
For example, David got upset with Goliath. Did you know that? You read about that in the Bible. 1 Samuel 17:26, David, as you know from the Bible, won a great victory over Goliath. But if you ask yourself why is it that David made a decision to go out to war and to actually fight with Goliath. 1 Samuel 17:26 says this: ‘Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, ‘What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?’”
David, very young in his life said this uncircumcised Philistine, Goliath, is an encumbrance to the glory of God. He is subtracting, he is detracting from the glory of God, and I, as one of God’s people, I’m going to do something about it. David understood that his purpose was to attract glory to God. Maybe you’re facing a big decision, should I do this ministry, should I not do this ministry? Should I talk to this person or not talk to this person, and we’re always looking for God to give us some kind of extra instructions. The reality is you ask yourself is this going to glorify God? Is this going to fulfill my doxological purpose or not? This is what Nebuchadnezzar began to understand. And what you have to understand is that God has been faithfully working in Nebuchadnezzar’s life for four chapters to get him to this specific point.
Nebuchadnezzar speaks some truth back in Daniel chapter 2 and verse 47, he calls God a revealer of mysteries. [Daniel 2:47, “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.’”] He speaks some truth in Daniel 3:28-29 where he praises God for rescuing these three Hebrew youths. [Daniel 3:28-29, “Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.  Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.’”]
And finally, God has got Nebuchadnezzar to a point where he begins to understand his purpose in life is to glorify God. And I want you to see that this was not an easy journey that this man was on; this took multiple decades. And I bring this up because so many times we think of ourselves as a failure when the Lord opens the door for evangelism and we don’t have an immediate conversion. What did I do wrong? What did I say wrong? The fact of the matter is God many times is not working with people instantaneously and immediately; it’s seed planting.
1 Corinthians 3:6 says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” Paul says I did my thing, Apollos did his thing and God used the efforts of both men to produce a harvest. Maybe your harvest or your contribution to the harvest is just to plant a seed. Even on the plane ride back from the State of Washington last week I had the opportunity to get into a conversation, I saw the man crossing himself as the plane took off and the Holy Spirit told me that’s your clue, and so I just asked him a basic question. I said oh, are you Catholic? And that opened up a whole spiritual conversation which went on for about two hours. Now in the course of that two hour conversation I did not have an immediate conversion of an individual but I’ll tell you this much, I got the gospel in. How much he grasped, how much he understood I really don’t know. I have a tendency to think from the human response that not a lot was comprehended but I made an effort. And then leaving that situation you sort of look at yourself and you say well, what did I do wrong? What could I have said differently? And the Lord impressed upon my heart you did everything right; all I called you to do was to plant the seed in this man’s life. And now what I want you to do is I want you to start praying for him, that God is going to bring others into his life to water this seed. And who knows what the Lord will do with that effort, human effort on my part, because I took a step out and saw a soul in need and shared something from the Word of God with him.
Maybe God is God is calling you to do that same thing. Maybe there’s someone in your life and the Lord is encouraging you, just plant the seed, get the gospel in, speak truth. Yeah, he may ridicule you, call you a member of the flat earth society, but so what? If he receives that seed and doesn’t go into an eternal hell isn’t it worth it to have a little bit of temporary rejection? And I think a lot of times with our witnessing we’re more concerned about ourselves than we are about people. We’re more concerned about their reaction to us rather than being concerned that this is a soul for whom Christ died and if they die in this state they will go into a Christ-less eternity. Maybe we ought to think about that rather than how our feelings might be hurt in some minor way if this person rejects our message.
God has been working with Nebuchadnezzar’s heart over these chapters and He’s gotten him to a point where he understands his doxological purpose. I have very little doubt in my mind that Nebuchadnezzar is saved at this point. It’s difficult for me to understand how Nebuchadnezzar could be describing God with the titles that he uses and the names that he uses and the theological sophistication that he has if he did not come into a saving relationship. The praise and the titles to me are a giveaway that God worked in this man so strategically that Yahweh became not just something on a page academically but personal to him. And that’s what Christianity is all about, isn’t it? It’s not about just learning some objective truth; it’s about a personal walk, personal relationship with God, a God who personally reveals Himself to the lowest of the low, the lowest of sinners.
Look at how Nebuchadnezzar describes God here, he calls Him “Just” and “True.” He says, “all his works are true and all his ways are just,” that reminds me an awful lot of how Jesus is described when He comes back to planet earth. In Revelation 19:11 it says, “I saw heaven opened and behold a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.” What is God at the end of the day? He is “True” and He is “Just.” That’s why we, as His people must be true and just in our dealings or else we misrepresent God.
John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth,” not a truth, “the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Let me ask you a question: are you a person of truth in your dealings with other people? If you’re not then you’re misrepresenting the God whom you claim to serve. Proverbs 11:1 says, “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.” Are you dealing, in your business relationships with integrity and truth or have you subscribed to the idea of the minor lie, or the white lie?
Matthew 5:33-37 puts it this way: “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’  But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,  or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING.  Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.  But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”
Jesus is confronting the deceptive practices of first century Jews who would say I swear I’ll do this by what? By Jerusalem itself; by the throne of David itself, by heaven itself. It’s like someone who says I swear on my mother’s grave I’ll do this. And Jesus is saying that our words should be so true, they should be so credible, they should be so trustworthy that we don’t have to swear by something greater than ourselves, like “my mother’s grave,” to get people to believe us. What comes out of our mouth ought to be accurate; it ought to be true. We ought to be people of dependability, reliability; if we are anything below that we are misrepresenting the God that we claim we serve because His ways, all His ways are just and true.
And let me tell you something else; there’s coming upon this earth a kingdom of God, that’s the “stone cut without human hands” that Daniel saw, a kingdom of God which will be manifested on the earth and in that kingdom there will be complete and accurate truth and righteousness and justice. Isaiah 2:4 says, “And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples….” And as we become people of truth and justice and righteousness today we are simply preparing our lives and our minds for the type of kingdom authority that we will wield one day.
And notice what else Nebuchadnezzar says here, “He” that is God, “is able to humble those who walk in pride.” [Daniel 4:37b] Would you not say that that’s a dominant theme of the Bible? If someone is lifted up in pride God knows how to deflate the ego; He typically does it through human suffering. We see that in the fall of Satan. We see that in Uzziah who was turned into a leper for the rest of his life because of a prideful action in 2 Chronicles 26. We see God dealing aggressively with Herod Agrippa, who was struck dead by an angel of the Lord and his body was consumed with worms. We see God even dealing with His own people this way.
God knew what Paul would become in terms of egotism if his revelations were not counterbalanced with suffering and so God knew how to provide the right combination in Paul’s life, revelation but enough suffering so the revelations wouldn’t go to his head and he wouldn’t become egotistical and he wouldn’t think that somehow he was doing God a favor. You know, a lot of us God has so blessed us we get this idea that well God, You’re sure lucky to have me and how did You get along for all these eons of eternity before I came along? And we forget that God could speak if He wanted to through a rock. That’s why Jesus said even the stones cry out. Don’t get too lofty of yourself, God even through spoke through a donkey in the book of Numbers.
But sometimes we need a wake up call, a reminder, because God is able to abase those who walk in pride. 1 Peter 5:5 puts it this way: “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Do you want to be in opposition to God? The be arrogant, like Nebuchadnezzar was? Do you want the grace of God? Then walk in humility and dependence upon God.
What would, this entire chapter, what would it teach the exiles? It would teach them that yes, they are being trampled down by various Gentile powers but guess what? God has not lost control of this universe. He just took the greatest pagan power of that day, this man Nebuchadnezzar, and he humbled himself for seven years. These powers that are trampling you down, be encouraged, they are just petty putty, play-dough if you will, in the hands of an all-powerful God. Maybe at your work place you’re in conflict with somebody that’s in authority over you, they’re treating you unfairly. God wants you to remember that that person is over you because God put them there and God can remove them in a second. Don’t get this idea that somehow because you’re going through struggles that God has lost control of this universe. Everything is within His sovereign control! This is the theology that Nebuchadnezzar is teaching.
Now watch this very carefully; if God can restore a Gentile pagan king to his throne after seven years then how much more is He going to restore the covenant people of the nation of Israel? The Jews being torn out of their land would think God has forgotten His promises. Wait a minute now, God just took a man and turned him into an insane person for seven years and brought him back to his own thrown. What do you think He’s going to do for you, the covenant people who have the covenants of God? And what a reminder this would be to them.
And God’s dealings with Nebuchadnezzar therefore become a prototype, if you will, a prefigurement if you will, for His dealings with the nation of Israel. What just happened here in chapter 4? Nebuchadnezzar was a man of pride and he went through a tribulation for seven years and through that time of seven year tribulation he came to his senses and he was restored back to his original position of glory.
That becomes a blueprint for the nation of Israel because you see, what we’re going to be getting to eventually, assuming the Lord doesn’t come back first, is Daniel 9 where we’re going to be getting information about Daniel 9:27, the seventieth week of the seventy weeks prophecy which is going to outline a seven year tribulation. In fact, John, in the book of Revelation is adding detail to that seven year period of time. It’s a time period not for the church; it’s a time period for the nation of Israel and through that seven year tribulation period, the exact same time of Nebuchadnezzar’s sufferings, Israel will come to her senses, recognize that their Messiah is none other than Jesus Christ and she will be restored to her full promises and covenantal glory. So Israel, God has not lost sight of you; He has not lost sight of His people. He has not forgotten His promises, He is in the business of restoration after a period of seven years.
Perhaps you’re here today and you have never trusted Christ personally. You say this is all interesting information, I want to know about the God that made me; I want to walk in fellowship with Him. And this why at this church we like to conclude all of our services with an invitation to come to know Christ. It’s not enough simply to know about Christ, you have to come to know Him personally and the only way to come to know Him personally is to fulfill the condition that He has given. That condition is faith alone. Faith is another way of saying reliance, it’s another way of saying dependence upon, it’s another way of saying confidence in.
In other words, as the Holy Spirit places a person under conviction they reach a point in their life where they say you know what, I’m going to trust in God’s promises, I’m going to trust in the promises of the gospel. The gospel is what we partook of this morning, in remembrance of it; we made reference to the death of Jesus Christ for our sins. We made reference to His resurrection from the grave to show His conquest over death and the grave.
Jesus is the real deal; He is who He claimed He is and He leaves humanity with a basic requirement that’s necessary to enter into a relationship with Him and that’s to trust in Him. You’re no longer trusting in self, you’re no longer trusting in your religiosity, you’re not longer trusting in your good deeds but you’re trusting in what Jesus Christ has done for you period. You’re no longer even trusting in the words of man. You’re trusting in the revelation of Jesus Christ and what He has done for you. Your confidence shifts away from other things directly into the promises of Christ who has promised I’ll never leave you nor forsake you. He promised to give you eternal life; He promised you spiritual birth. He promised you the hope of heaven and glory one day. All of it is yours for the taking, it’s just a matter of fulfilling the condition which is faith alone.
No doubt the Holy Spirit is placing some of you under conviction and you can respond right now the best you know how in the quietness of your own heart; it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord. It’s not necessary for you to raise a hand, it’s not necessary for you to fill out a card. It’s not necessary for you to obligate yourself to join a church. It’s not necessary for you to put money in the offering. The only thing that’s necessary is a heart that responds to the promises of Jesus Christ by trusting Him and Him alone. It’s something you can do right now even as I am speaking, in the privacy of your own mind, thoughts and heart as you’re before the Lord this morning. If it’s something you have done or are not doing then on the authority of the Word of God you’ve altered your eternal destiny. If it’s something you want more information on I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.
Father, we’re grateful for this ancient record of this man, Nebuchadnezzar, that you loved enough to annoy and interfere with his life. We’re so grateful for Your grace and we’re grateful, as we learn more next week, moving into chapter 5, how You chose once again to reveal Yourself to yet another Gentile king, a man named Belshazzar. We thank You, Lord, for the insight that we’re gleaning from these chapters as we depend upon the Holy Spirit for illumination and guidance. We ask all these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen.