Daniel Chapter Four Daniel Sermon #5 March 6, 2016
Sermon Series: “The Lord is King”
Title: “Deflect the Glory to God, or Be Deflated”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
The key verse is 37b: “And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.”
[You can capture the meaning of the chapter with one picture. Blow up a balloon with the word “ego” written on it, and then let it go, deflating as it falls to the ground.]
- The King’s Praise of the Most High God (1-3)
This chapter opens and closes with a universal declaration of God’s sovereign power (1-3, 34-37). Notice that the term “The most High (God)” occurs 6 times in this chapter, and it is a title for God that focuses on His complete sovereignty over all the earth.
Therefore the key question in Dan. 4 is this: “Who is sovereign? Who is King? Who gets all the glory? Who really rules the world?”
We are given the answer three times in the chapter (vv. 17, 25, and 32): “The most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men, and gives them to anyone He wishes.”
Did you also notice that this chapter is an open letter; it is a public, world-wide declaration of a mighty king who has been humbled by the sovereign power of God the most high! Can you imagine if this happened to President Obama or Vladimir Putin, and they addressed the UN, in every language, with such a testimony of being humbled and of exalting Jesus Christ as Lord?
Therefore this chapter has global implications. (Daniel is actually a great book on the theme of global missions, because it shows the Lord God as King over all the nations and all the peoples!)
What an awesome God we worship, that even the most egotistical rulers can be transformed into humble people who will declare God’s glory and power! May it happen in 2016!
2. The King’s Narration of His Terrifying Dream (4-18)
One day King Nebuchadnezzar is “contented and prosperous” both at home and at the palace (v. 4), and then the next night, one dream ruins all his peace. This dream terrifies him, and he doesn’t know what it means.
Perhaps the king did have an idea of what the dream meant, but he didn’t want to understand it, as it seemed like terrible news for him. Perhaps his trouble was that he was rebelling against what he already understood of God’s Word, as Romans 1:18-32 tells us. Perhaps this dream of a great tree hit very close to home. For when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Lebanon, he became enamored with the huge cedar trees there. He even boasted that he had cut down some of the cedar trees with his own hands! (Think about how some people fantasize and brag about their exploits, in order to boost their fragile egos and bolster their insecurities.) So this dream of a mighty tree being cut down definitely hit a nerve for the king.
3. Daniel’s Interpretation of the King’s Dream (19-27)
God once (see Chapter 2) again uses Daniel to interpret the king’s dream, and it has three aspects to it:
First, Daniel tells the king that he is the great tree, under which everyone else finds their protection and nurture. (v. 22)
Second, Daniel tells the king that the cutting down of the tree means that Nebuchadnezzar will be cut down from his lofty position, and made to live like a wild animal, until he acknowledges that the Most High God is sovereign over all the kingdoms of earth. (vv. 23-26). While before the beasts of the field had found shade under Nebuchadnezzar, the tree, now God would reduce him to being one of those beasts who needed shelter and provision.
Third, Daniel exhorts the king to repentance. (v. 27) “Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and (renounce) your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed.” If the king had heeded Daniel’s warning, he may have avoided this great fall from power and humbling experience.
Please remember that in Daniel chapters one, two, and three, God had already given Nebuchadnezzar clear signs of God’s power and glory, but because the king failed to really humble himself and repent, God needed to deal with him in a much more serious manner.
4. The Fulfillment of the King’s Terrifying Dream (28-33)
God was very patient with King Nebuchadnezzar after Daniel challenged him to repent. God gave him a whole year (v. 29) to humble himself and repent, but he ignored God’s warning. In fact, not only did he continue in his pride, but he continued to ignore the needs of the oppressed and was wicked toward them.
(Rom. 2:4-5 “Do you not know that the goodness of God is meant to lead you to repentance?”)
Note what God did here. God graciously gave the king (1) a dream to disturb him; (2) Daniel to warn him; and (3) an extended period to respond. Yet he continued in his old self-centered ways. He wrongly assumed that God’s silence and inactivity meant that he was off the hook and that he could go on without repenting. (See 2 Peter 3:3-10 “Where is the promise of his coming?”)
We can see in v. 30 the thoughts that caused his “balloon” to burst: “Is this not the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” Because of this sinful pride, the king was immediately deflated and brought low by God (vv. 31-33).
Nebuchadnezzar’s fatal mistake was that he took the glory and honor that belonged to God alone, and tried to absorb it himself. He tried to absorb the glory and praise into himself, instead of deflecting it to God, where it belonged. (Like a black colored balloon filled with helium that rises higher and higher, yet as it absorbs the sun’s rays, becomes bigger and bigger, until it suddenly bursts and then falls to the ground!).
The Lesson: Deflect the Glory (to God) or Be Deflated.
Because Nebuchadnezzar failed to give the glory to the Lord, because he failed to listen to the Word of God, therefore God had to break him. God brought the king from the pinnacle to the pits, in order to both show him that God alone is sovereign, and to show him that he was a sinner, in need of repenting and of trusting God.
God reduced this mighty king to an animal-like creature, in order to get his full attention. (v. 33). Nebuchadnezzar becomes outwardly what his heart had been spiritually and inwardly – like a beast. He remained that way until God’s time for him was complete (seven times).
5. The King’s Praise of the Most High God (34-37)
Finally, at the end of the designated time, the King took his eyes off himself and lifted his eyes on high to the Lord, in total supplication, dependence, and worship, so that the Lord restored him. (v. 34). And how was the king restored? He looked to God’s grace to restore him, not based on anything that was in him, not even his newfound humility. His hope was in God’s mercy alone. He finally understood that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34; 1 Peter 5:6). This is the essence of true humility: to know that I am nothing, and that God is everything.
And the end result was that the king was brought to even greater exaltation (36), and confessed the truth of God and His ways (37)
For Israel in exile: This was an important message for the exiled nation of Israel to hear, because they too, had been cut down, and only a stump of them remained (see Isa. 6:11-13). But as God did with Nebuchadnezzar, He could do with His people, if they humbled themselves (2 Chron. 7:14). Therefore this dream and its fulfillment was very encouraging to these people!
For you and me: we learn that true conversion can only occur through a personal experience of our own weakness and wretchedness, against the backdrop of God’s power and grace. For Nebuchadnezzar, this transformation required that he be stripped of everything he once gloried in. God, in His mercy, took the king from contentedness and prosperity, and totally emptied him out, in order to re-make him in God’s image. Therefore, if someone as prideful and self-centered as Nebuchadnezzar can be humbled, restored, and transformed by God’s power, then no one is too hard for the Lord to reach! Not you, not me, not the loved ones you are praying for, not politicians with big egos, and not the leaders of ISIS.
We need to remember that the gospel is an intrinsically humbling message.” (Duguid) And that’s why so many reject it/ mock it/ suppress it; because people want to be king; they don’t want to be humbled, right?
When we stand before God, our problem is not merely our obvious sins. It is also our successes and our strengths, our abilities and our accomplishments, to the degree that these things lead us to take pride in ourselves. “Our goodness itself can be an obstacle to receiving the grace of the Gospel, because in our pride we do not see our need of God.” (Think of Jacob, or the Prodigal Son, Simon Peter, or Saul of Tarsus.)
A final and crucial matter to consider: why should God show such mercy to such egotistical and self-righteous people, like you and me? How can He forgive us and transform us?
To answer that question, we need to look at another King who was also brought down from the highest heights to the deepest depths…but this King voluntarily humbled Himself. (Phil. 2:6ff.)
He humbled himself of his own will, so that He could redeem us from our pride. The only One who could have legitimately exalted himself… instead humbled himself… in order to redeem a people for himself and to bring glory to God.
Jesus, having humbled himself at the cross, then was exalted in glory, with even more honor.
And that’s why the humble are exalted: because we fix our eyes on Him and by faith, are united to Him.
Like in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, it is the vision of the crucified and exalted Christ which is itself the cure for our sinful pride. He is the real tree of life, the true center of the universe, and One in whom all things exist and find their true meaning. He is the only one in whom we can find our shelter and refuge.
So take your eyes off yourself and your accomplishments, as well as your failures and disasters. Lift your eyes to Christ, the humbled and exalted King, who alone can save you and raise you up.