Here we are once again in the book of Daniel. I have heard from many of you the pleasurable experience we have taken through this wonderful book. I am sure many of you get distracted throughout the week like, so you are thinking about this book everyday. Therefore, let’s review where we are.
The book opens with Israel being conquered by the most powerful nation in the known world—the Babylonians. In Daniel 1 we see four specific Israelite young men were given the wisdom and foresight by God to see the need for them to renew their devotion to God in the midst of this turmoil. As we move into Daniel 2 the story escalates when the emperor has a nightmare that results in him seeing no need for his entire staff. So he decides to murder them. God intervenes through Daniel and helps the king understand the nightmare to ease his anxieties. Daniel 3 tells us about a story where Daniel’s three friends are unjustly being asked to practice the religion of the king. They express their desire for religious liberty and are threatened with death. They choose fidelity to God over religious oppression from a dictator. God saves them to show His sovereign majesty.
All throughout these narratives we have seen God time and time again reveal Himself to the king of Babylon. There are even times when the king acknowledges the God of Israel is real. But we see he is not a true believer because of his inconsistency. Daniel 4 show us what it looks like when God decides to remove His grace from us. My hope today is we will all leave here with this overarching thought…
Theme: We have been warned through Christ, at any moment, God can give us over to our pride.
1. The Concluding Introduction—Daniel 4.1-3
Sometimes in ancient Hebrew the author will give you his conclusion during the introduction. That is what he chooses to do here—READ Daniel 4.2-3. These two verses gives us the theme fueling the entire story. Today when we want to emphasize something in our writing we can use a “BOLD” or “ITALIC” feature. Ancient authors usually emphasized something through repetition. What we see in Daniel 4.2-3 is repeated throughout the narrative—READ Daniel 4.17, 25, 32. The author clearly wants us to know “the Most High rules” and does whatever He wants. It is tempting to recognize the sovereignty of God in these first three verses and miss the intimacy of God—“the Most High God has done for me.”
In 2005 the sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton released a book called Soul Searching. Christianity Today explains the thesis of the book this way:
Conducting the most comprehensive study of religion and teenagers to date, the sociologists discovered a newly dominant creed that they dubbed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Rather than transformative revelation from God, religion has become a utility for enhancing a teenager's life.
The author’s themselves, Smith and Denton, write:
“God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process.”—Smith and Denton
As a Christian for many years, this what I have observed as well. Not only do we treat God this way, but treat each other this way. We want God and community when it is convenient or when we are in some sort of personal crisis. Friends, this is not God’s design for our relationship with Him or each other. If I were to treat my wife and kids this way anyone would anyone say that is a healthy relationship? I cannot just spend time with them when it is convenient or when I am in a personal crisis. If we claim to have personal relationship with God then we all need to live like that is true.
2. A Purpose for Crisis—Daniel 4.4-18.
Many us know it is not uncommon for leaders to face sleepless nights or have a stressful lifestyles. Look at pictures of our presidents when they take office, and then look at them four or eight years later. We all can tell how much they look so different. They have more grey hair and look beat up by life. In Daniel 4.4-18 we see once again this world leader under immense stress—READ Daniel 4.4-5.
The king tells his counselors about the dream this time (Dan 4.6-18). Much like before Nebuchadnezzar wants to understand the purpose of his nightmare, but his counselors cannot interpret it for him. Therefore, Nebuchadnezzar specifically asks Daniel to interpret the dream for him (Dan 4.18).
We know from Daniel 1.17, and what took place in Daniel 2, that God has given Daniel a unique gift to understand dreams. That gift was given to help someone work through his deep anxieties. This is not just the call of Daniel, but all of God’s people have been given gifts to help people in the midst of their distress:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.—II Corinthians 1.3-4
But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.—I Peter 3.14-15
God has placed each one of us in the communities and relationships so we can help comfort the afflicted. God wants us to be able to offer each other reasonable hope.
3. The Tender Honest Faithful Witness—Daniel 4.19-27.
At the end of the I Peter 3 passage we see a subtle instruction—“yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Daniel models this so well to us in Daniel 4.19-27. Listen to the way he responds immediately to the king—READ Daniel 4.19. Daniel speaks with a tenderness, gentleness, and respect for the king. He wants what is best for his enemy, in fact, he would rather see this happen to the kings enemies. After all he has gone through, after all his friends have gone through, after all his family has gone through, as a result of this tyrannical king, Daniel still wants good for him.
But let’s take notice of how Daniel works out the goodness he desires for the king. We saw he understood the dream right away and was even hesitant to speak the truth. The king longs for an honest assessment. But I while that is helpful and important it is not the driving motivation for Daniel. We have seen through this book in the midst of adversity Daniel and his friends have sought to be humble faithful honest witnesses. Why all these attributes? Why the tenderness? Why the faithfulness? Why the honesty? Well, because of the consistent theme in Daniel 4—“the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Dan 4.25). Daniel longs for the king to treasure the God He knows. He longs for Nebuchadnezzar to experience the pleasures of God forever more (Ps 16.11). He not only reveals to Nebuchadnezzar the truth of his dream, he not only reveals the God of Israel once again, but this time he tells him how he can have an intimate relationship with the God he is describing to him—READ Daniel 4.27.
There is a temptation in all of us to let our enemies make costly mistakes. Many of us long to see justice—we long to see our wrongs made right. These desires are not wrong, but they can become confusing by the presence and power of sin. Therefore, being a tender faithful honest witness is not just about correcting our enemies, but lovingly and tenderly walking with them in the hopes they repent and be reconciled to God. If this is not our ultimate aim in the pursuit of our enemies then are motives are impure and we ourselves need to repent.
4. A True Relationship With God—Daniel 4.28-37.
God lovingly, faithfully, and honestly warned Nebuchadnezzar through Daniel, and yet then a year later the king showed no sign of true repentance. Therefore, God gave Nebuchadnezzar over to his sinful desires. Paul tells us this same truth in Romans 1:
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.—Romans 1.24
Nebuchadnezzar begins to experience what we now would identify as “boanthropy”—which is a mental disorder. People with this mental illness experience extreme isolation, they with not bathe, and eat like animals. Essentially he began to act like a cow—READ Daniel 4.33.
Now if we have been paying close attention to the story we could have seen this coming. Most mental breakdowns are not instantaneous, but have been slowly building. On several occasions we saw how Nebuchadnezzar was acting like mentally unstable person. It is implied in Dan 1.10, and then clearly seen in the highs and lows of Dan 2.1, 12, 46; 3.13, 19, and 28. He is all over the place mentally ill. God keep calling Him to repentance, but he fall back into the same temptations over and over. Not all mental illness works this way, but in ever case it never hurts to make sure there is not sin involved. Sometimes there is blatant rebellious sin, other times it unclear, and finally sometimes that is just that persons physical struggle—no fault of their own. But what we see in Nebuchadnezzar’s case is someone who refused to repent, so took away His protective hand. God lovingly humbled the king as the final way to call him to true repentance. We know this is a loving act because look what God’s action resulted in—READ Daniel 4.34-35. As far as we know from this king never turned from this proclamation.
What can we glean from this experience? Christ is our Daniel. God has tenderly and truthfully spoken to us through His Son. Everything Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar in Dan 4.27 Jesus has spoken to us. If we do not repent we will be given over to our true selves. But if we repent this is what it will feel and look like. In the words of CS Lewis reason will come riding in like a white horse. When we see God for Who He truly is we see reason to us and we bless the Most High. We bow down in humble adoration of God. We recognize His supremacy over all things.