Sermon on Daniel 4
This Sunday we are going to see that God is at work a long way from home in the conversion of a Pagan king.
As we have been going through the book of Daniel, and I have said a couple of times that Nebuchadnezzar has not become a believer in God.
In each chapter so far, we have seen Nebuchadnezzar have an experience of God’s people and the living God.
In chapter 1: We find the most tentative. When he interviews the young men who are being trained and prepared for service in his regime, He is impressed by the people of God.
In chapter 2,:He has a legitimate, God given spiritual experience, when Daniel and his friends are able to tell him prophetically what he dreamt and what it meant, and it becomes apparent that Nebuchadnezzar has had a dream that foretold the coming of Christ 600 years before it happened.
In chapter 3: Nebuchadnezzar erects a gigantic golden image and commands the whole nation to worship, and when Shadrach Meshach and Abednego refuse, he has them thrown into the fiery furnace and is astonished to see them survive this. He also sees a fourth figure in the furnace and he commands that nothing is to be spoken against the God of S, M and A and anyone who does will be torn limb from limb. He has had another Spiritual experience, but it is still incomplete.
But something has happened between the end of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4. Chapter 4 is actually a letter from Nebuchadnezzar himself, and he is a changed man. Here he writes to tell what has happened to bring about this change.
You know it is so important or us to distinguish between having a spiritual experience and conversion. Nebuchadnezzar has two significant spiritual experiences but he has not yet changed direction.
It’s important because there could be some here who have experienced something of God but have not yet experienced his life transforming grace.
This morning we are going to see two things really clearly. We are going to see human pride, and the danger that it keeps us from God, and we will also see God’s amazing grace in confronting human pride and bringing Nebuchadnezzar to repentance
Now at the beginning of chapter 4 we read:
Nebuchadnezzar is content but God is sovereign.
As far as Nebuchadnezzar was concerned and despite everything that he has seen of the living God he was at home in his palace “contented and prosperous”.
What a tragic text! How tragic it is that there are millions of Nebuchadnezzars For them life is just fine and they look at themselves and they are contented and prosperous and they have no sense that they need anything, and there is something about the way in which it is just written here that almost takes your breath away, and makes you think how foolish!
What Daniel has already shown us is that God reigns. It doesn’t matter how far you are from home he still reigns.
He reigns over the diet you eat, he reigns over the dreams of kings and he gives the interpretation and he reigns over seven times hotter fiery furnaces.
He reigns over nations and kings and over every life, whether he is acknowledged or unacknowledged.
And Nebuchadnezzar’s godless contentment is proud and arrogant and foolish.
You know this morning God is in heaven and reigning whether you respect that or not. He reigns over the nations whether you want him to or not, he reigns over kingdoms whether you want him to or not, and he reigns over you whether you want him to or not.
Nebuchadnezzar was “contented” and yet the reality is that he is hanging by a thread over eternity.
I am so glad this morning that there are two other points!
The breath taking grace of God
Verses 4-9 19-33
Now we need to put the grace of God to Nebuchadnezzar here into context. He was not a good man. Indeed you might read the first three chapters and wonder if smiting might be in order. He is an evil and cruel tyrant with a particularly cruel and tyrannical way of getting what he wants,. He is the inventor of a bogus state sponsored religion. He is a persecutor of God’s people, and he has had an experience of God’s power but has not bowed before God.
And God is gracious to this man. He deserved no kindness from God, and yet as we shall see, God was kind to him. That is what we mean by grace! We are so fortunate that God does not treat us as we deserve to be treated.
God is indeed breathtakingly gracious to him. Let me just show you some of God’s grace to this man:
God’s grace in a disturbing dream v5
One night Nebuchadnezzar has another dream, and he is terrified. And this terror is not a momentary thing. He goes through all the astrologers and wise men of Babylon and none of them can or will tell him them meaning of the dream.
You know sometimes God will disturb us in order that he might ultimately comfort us. Perhaps to stir us out of complacency or apathy, he will allow something disturbing to come into our lives. Perhaps to undermine our pride, he will allow inadequacy to come into our lives.
God’s grace in the provision of Daniel v8
Eventually Daniel comes to Nebuchadnezzar and he is able to tell him what the dream means, and we will come to that in a minute, but here is my point.
Nebuchadnezzar would probably have told you that Daniel was in Babylon and in a position to help, because his armies had brought him to Babylon. But we know that Daniel was there because God’s hand was on him, and he is part of God’s grace to Nebuchadnezzar.
That is a precious thought folks. If you think about the people you know who are just like Nebuchadnezzar and they are contented and they don’t know God, and God’s grace could already be at work in their lives, and you don’t know it yet, but you could be part of God’s grace to that person.
Do you wonder if Daniel ever thought: “what am I doing here?”
It could be that there are some of you who have thought “Why am I in this office?” You could be there to point someone to Jesus, because you are part of God’s grace to someone who doesn’t yet know Jesus.
(You only have to be faithful – Daniel was unsuccessful)
Or maybe someone is Daniel to you. Listen to the Daniel
God’s grace in a prophetic warning to repent 19-27
And then there is God’s astonishing grace to Nebuchadnezzar in the dream and its interpretation as a call to repent.
God speaks specifically and directly to this man and tells him: You are like a great tree that will be cut down, and you will become a stump of what you were until you acknowledge that heaven rules. (v26)
And Daniel warns him to repent. (v27)
God’s grace despite a prophetic warning to repent v28
This man effectively takes no lasting notice. For a whole year, life just carries on! Now I wouldn’t want anyone here to think that if Nebuchadnezzar got away with that then they might.
It is in the nature of grace that it is undeserved. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t deserve a disturbing dream that might lead to knowing God, he didn’t deserve a Godly interpreter like Daniel, he didn’t deserve a warning to repent and he didn’t deserve God’s forbearance with him when he didn’t
God’s grace in the humbling of Nebuchadnezzar 30-33
You know, here is a humbling part of the account of God’s dealing with Nebuchadnezzar and it serves as a warning too.
If this man had not been humbled, his pride would have kept him from ever knowing God. He really thought he was something, and he was completely blind to the reality. Listen to his pride:
“Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (v30)
Nebuchadnezzar simply has no sense of the reality that he is where he is because God reigns, and he sees everything that he is as a product of his own hands for his own glory.
The sin of pride has astonishing power to keep us from God simply because when we think we are doing well we have no sense of any need of God and are totally blind to the reality that God is our greatest need.
1 Peter 5:5-7
All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1PE 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
God doesn’t respond to offers for contracts, or offers to make deals. He responds to cries for help.
Isn’t that last line wonderful? If you are like Nebuchadnezzar was, you would never do it!
Would God break a man like Nebuchadnezzar to humble him? Notice what happens! (vs33) Could God visit him with such an affliction?
Yes and it’s grace, and Nebuchadnezzar knows it’s grace
Here is the astonishing thing about Nebuchadnezzar. One of the things that convinces me that this is real, and in case you were wondering underline that all these events are God’s hand. Look at V2 as he introduces his letter and tells about what God has done for him.
Dan 4:2 It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.
Notice that incredible statement “for me.” Nebuchadnezzar does not accuse God of wrong doing, He is grateful for these wonderful signs of Grace
There is a kind of bitter sweet warning here for us. God will break our pride if we do not repent
The wonderful mercy of God
This proud and wicked man lifts his eyes to heaven, and he is restored. v34
My sanity – I was mad to think as I did
This man has a complete change of perspective. He goes from being the self appointed God of his own little world (see ch. 3) to being someone who sees and exalts in the goodness of the glory of the Sovereign God.
Conclusion – to the cross
God in his grace will confront human pride, and not just Nebuchadnezzar’s. You could see the story as a mini version of Israel’s situation.
There could be some here and you feel “I am doing just fine. I am contented and prosperous. A little spirituality helps (That’s what Nebuchadnezzar thought)
And yet the cross behind me reminds us that God is still in the business of challenging human pride.
To the idea “I’m doing just fine, I am contented and prosperous” Jesus Christ crucified says it’s not true, it is an illusion.
The cross insists that there is a need for:
Us to change our minds about ourselves and God. There is a need for confession of pride and other sin that we might receive the forgiveness of God. There is a need for trusting Christ for a new heart that will be centred in glorifying God.
Nebuchadnezzar has come so far, and the grace of God is so rich to him. Listen as we finish to one who has responded to the grace of God: