Daniel 4 - Nebuchadnezzar Tells a Story

Turn in your Bibles to Daniel 4:1;

 

4 Nebuchadnezzar the king,

 

To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth:

 

Peace be multiplied to you.

 

2 I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me.

 

3 How great are His signs,

And how mighty His wonders!

His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

And His dominion is from generation to generation.

 

4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace. 5 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts on my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. 6 Therefore I issued a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers came in, and I told them the dream; but they did not make known to me its interpretation. 8 But at last Daniel came before me (his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the Spirit of the Holy God), and I told the dream before him, saying: 9 “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the Spirit of the Holy God is in you, and no secret troubles you, explain to me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and its interpretation.

 

10 “These were the visions of my head while on my bed:

 

I was looking, and behold,

A tree in the midst of the earth,

And its height was great.

11 The tree grew and became strong;

Its height reached to the heavens,

And it could be seen to the ends of all the earth.

12 Its leaves were lovely,

Its fruit abundant,

And in it was food for all.

The beasts of the field found shade under it,

The birds of the heavens dwelt in its branches,

And all flesh was fed from it.

 

13 “I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed, and there was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. 14 He cried aloud and said thus:

 

‘Chop down the tree and cut off its branches,

Strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit.

Let the beasts get out from under it,

And the birds from its branches.

15 Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth,

Bound with a band of iron and bronze,

In the tender grass of the field.

Let it be wet with the dew of heaven,

And let him graze with the beasts

On the grass of the earth.

16 Let his heart be changed from that of a man,

Let him be given the heart of a beast,

And let seven times[a] pass over him.

17 ‘This decision is by the decree of the watchers,

And the sentence by the word of the holy ones,

In order that the living may know

That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men,

Gives it to whomever He will,

And sets over it the lowest of men.’

 

18 “This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare its interpretation, since all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you.”

 

19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonished for a time, and his thoughts troubled him. So the king spoke, and said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation trouble you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream concern those who hate you, and its interpretation concern your enemies!

 

20 “The tree that you saw, which grew and became strong, whose height reached to the heavens and which could be seen by all the earth, 21 whose leaves were lovely and its fruit abundant, in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and in whose branches the birds of the heaven had their home— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong; for your greatness has grown and reaches to the heavens, and your dominion to the end of the earth.

 

23 “And inasmuch as the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave its stump and roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze in the tender grass of the field; let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him’; 24 this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25 They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.

 

26 “And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

 

28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”

 

31 While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! 32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.”

 

33 That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.

 

34 And at the end of the time[b] I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever:

 

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,

And His kingdom is from generation to generation.

35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;

He does according to His will in the army of heaven

And among the inhabitants of the earth.

No one can restrain His hand

Or say to Him, “What have You done?”

 

36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.

 

May God bless the reading of His word.

 

Let us pray.

 

Here in the fourth chapter of Daniel we have an extremely interesting occurrence. King Nebuchadnezzar himself has taken the pen and is relating to the reader a series of events which occurred to him.

 

We know that it is Nebuchadnezzar because he tells us as much. In verses four through eighteen Nebuchadnezzar uses the words I and me to make it clear that it is him who is telling the story as he relates the dream to Daniel. After verse eighteen he speaks about himself in the third person as he gives us both Daniel's interpretation of the dream and it's fulfillment 12 months after he had the dream and Daniel interpreted it.

 

Finally in verse 34 he comes back to the first person to relate the lessons to be learned from the story.

 

The dream itself and its interpretation point to the flourishing of Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom and Nebuchadnezzar's downfall in the midst of its success. Indeed the part that has to do with God's punishment upon Nebuchadnezzar is so bad that Daniel tells him;

 

“My lord, may the dream concern those who hate you, and its interpretation concern your enemies!

 

Daniel warns Nebuchadnezzar;

 

...O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25 They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.

 

26 “And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

 

Verse 28 fast forwards to 12 months after the dream and its interpretation we read in verse 30;

 

30 The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”

 

This is the same kind of pride that Nebuchadnezzar exhibited when he built the golden image. It's all about Nebuchadnezzar and not about God. As we hear these words come out of Nebuchadnezzar's mouth we can understand Daniel's warning to him that he would suffer until “you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.” So we should not be amazed at verses 31-32 which tell us;

 

31 While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! 32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.”

 

This whole story is fascinating for many reasons. One of the most interesting aspects of it though is that even though Nebuchadnezzar was forewarned about God's impending punishment, Nebuchadnezzar still exhibited the behavior that brought about God's wrath.

 

God did not make Nebuchadnezzar act in pride. Nebuchadnezzar did this as a result of his own nature, his free will if you want to put it that way. Even though he had been warned that God would make him like a wild beast eating grass in the field because he did not acknowledge that his success was from God, 12 months after the prediction, Nebuchadnezzar shows his pride, and God immediately causes him to become like a wild animal.

 

There are a myriad of lessons to be learned here both for those who confess Jesus as Lord and those who have not yet done so. Nebuchadnezzar summarizes them for us in verse 34 and on, telling us;

 

34 And at the end of the time[b] I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever:

 

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,

And His kingdom is from generation to generation.

35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;

He does according to His will in the army of heaven

And among the inhabitants of the earth.

No one can restrain His hand

Or say to Him, “What have You done?”

 

36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.

 

Notice first that Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges God's sovereignty or dominion. Whenever you start to stress about things in your life being out of control, it's time to go back to the understanding that we aren't in control of anything.

 

If you confess Jesus as Lord though, you do know the One Who is in control of everything, and He has already proven His love for you, by giving His life for you.

 

Conversely, we are nothing. As Isaiah says; “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” This is not just true at the individual level but it is equally true at the social level.

 

Since the tower of Babel we have constantly tried to wrest our fate from the hands of God. We are absolutely certain that we can all get together in a circle and sing Kumbaya and eventually make the world into some super place where there is no evil.

 

The reality is that there will come a day like that, but it will not be because of our human efforts. It will be because of the return of our only true Lord and the establishment of His kingdom and throne in Jerusalem.

 

Nebuchadnezzar also reminds us that we can't stop God, and yet so many people today object to the idea that God has the absolute right to overrule our “free will.”

 

Not only can we not stop God, we have no right to question God about His actions. His sovereignty gives Him the absolute right to do what He wills without being questioned. That is a scary thought to many people who do not understand God's perfect nature and who want to attribute to Him the ability to make a bad choice or a mistake. People want to attribute human failings and faults to the Uncreated Creator of All.

 

By definition, the God of the Bible is without potential.

 

He is perfect in all His ways.

 

He doesn't have the ability to make mistakes.

 

So if He violates our free will, it's probably in our best interest, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, who represents a perfect model for God's salvation of man.

 

Here is a man who is full of pride and not seeking after the Creator who is reduced to the circumstances that are required to cause him to reject all reliance on himself, at which time God resurrects Nebuchadnezzar's spirit in order that he might truly know and worship his Creator.

 

Nebuchadnezzar doesn't have anything to say in the matter.

 

Of course, because Nebuchadnezzar was born before the cross, he would doubtless have to rely upon faith that God would provide a Savior. Such faith is seen in God's sheep both before and after the cross, as the writer of Hebrews so aptly points out in chapter 11.

 

If you confess Jesus as Lord, then I pray that the Holy Spirit will make these truths even more real and evident to you and that they will become real tenants which inform your daily actions, as well as your mental and spiritual well being.

 

God's in control, and that is more than ok.

 

And if you have never confessed Jesus as Lord then I urge you to consider the testimony of the king of one of the greatest civilizations ever to exist. Nebuchadnezzar had no need of anything, because God had given him this great kingdom and dominion. But, without a true knowledge of the Creator God and His sovereignty, Nebuchadnezzar became prideful, thinking that he had accomplished everything by himself.

 

Perhaps you are there today, thinking that you are in control of you destiny.

 

The reality is that God has dominion over everything, and He will redeem those whom He has foreknown and ordained to be His.

 

You cannot enter heaven, except through Jesus.

 

Your best works, your very righteousness is as filthy rags.

 

Only the blood of Jesus is able to pay the penalty for your sins and cleanse you white as snow.

 

If that truth is becoming real to you then I urge you to cry out to God to give you the faith to confess Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. Romans 10:9-10 tell us that this is all that is required to be saved.

 

Won't you cry out to God, wherever you are in you walk, to redeem you, to cleanse you and to let His will work through you to His glory and to your good?

 

 

Let us pray.

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