The Hand That Humbles Trinity
Daniel Chapter 4 14.10.18
Lots of people actually think that they make it to the top because they get the top job, or become boss at work or as a minister, prime mister or president or even Chairman.
In the year 6C BC Nebuchadnezzar was the absolute monarch over the kingdom of Babylon which at that time, covered the known world.
Those that think they are at the top of their area of influence are not even close to this man, Nebuchadnezzar. He was the real master of the world, Nebuchadnezzar was the absolute ruler of every part of the world that he knew of. Let that sink in for a moment, there was no part of the ancient world that was known to Nebuchadnezzar that wasn’t ruled by him directly or paid homage and tribute to him.
As part of his lordship over the known world he built what many consider to be the greatest city there has ever been on the earth, the city of Babylon. At its time it was the largest city the world had ever seen.
We have a translation of an ancient document from Babylon that spends 126 pages just describing the beauty of the city. There were three Palaces that the king could reside in. One was called the Marvel of Mankind. It towered above the city and was covered by the famous hanging gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. There was the outer wall of the city, which was 27 kms of double wall. Then there was the inner wall with its eight gates that enclosed the inner sanctuary of Babylon, 3km by 1km, with the river Euphrates running through the city.
There was a processional avenue that could be seen from the palace that Nebuchadnezzar paved with limestone and boarded with statues of great lions. As you followed along, it leads you to the Ishtar gate which towered above and was decorated with dragons and bulls. Then there was the great ziggurat … like a pyramid with a flat top upon which stood the temple to the god Marduk. It was an extraordinary city and an extraordinary empire.
“Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power?”
Here is a man of such supremacy, and he writes in vs 4
I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace.
It makes sense doesn’t it? If there was anyone in the world who would not be worried you think it would be this guy. What is there that could possible disturbed him?
No one is in a position to dethrone him. There is no army in the world that can take on his army.
There is no place in the world that he does not rule.
Yet … and yet … in the midst of all this … Nebuchadnezzar, the man, is deeply disturbed … by a dream.
How easily the peace of the king of the world can be shattered.
5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me.
terrified me. NIV
Terrified by a dream!
In the dream he saw a world tree that seemed to have universal scope. A tree that was so great that
… its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth.
More than that, all the creature of the earth and the birds of the air lived in the shadow of this mighty tree. Everything in the whole earth sheltered under this tree.
And in the dream a voice from the heavens comes and says:
‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches.
15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, … Let him be wet with the dew of heaven.
…16 Let his mind be changed from a man's, and let a beast's mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him.
This is a disturbing dream, and it deeply trouble Nebuchadnezzar and so eventually he seeks Daniel and asks him to interpret it. Daniel who, on more than one occasion, has turned out to be God’s surprising gift to Nebuchadnezzar, with a lovely mix of compassion and truthfulness, gives the king the interpretation of his dream.
22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth.
you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox.
Well twelve months pass, and Nebuchadnezzar is walking on the roof of his palace, looking down (something he did often I think) looking down upon all that is his and because he didn’t look up, he took to himself the glory that was not his to take.
30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you.
The pride of the hearts of humans of mere men, is really astonishing. Nebuchadnezzar failed to give glory to the God most high, and took to himself that which was not his.
“I did it and I am due the glory” … that is pride isn’t it?
Pride looks at the good things in life and says I did it, and I am owed these things. It always looks at life in terms of ‘what it is that I am owed for my achievements’.
We think we are responsible for what we do and achieve, and we do not recognise that even when we achieve great things it because God, the giver of all good gifts, has given us the ability and the position in life to achieve them.
Pride says, Life is by me and for me. It looks at the good things in my life and says, I work harder, smarter, and therefore it looks at life and says I deserve this.
I am owed, I earned, I deserve.
Pride is that which claims to be the author of what is really a gift. It is cosmic plagiarism.
Something has been brought into your life, something has been given to you and you say … “I did it, I made it”. You claim to be the author of what is a gift.
“Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
Humility is the very opposite of that, it looks up, it sees everything you have as a gift. A gift that you don’t deserve and could never deserve. Humility says, if God gave me what I deserve I would have less than nothing, but look at this, and this, all these things, all a gift. Humility sees everything given by God and to be used for him.
My abilities, my brain, my life, my possessions, all gifts given. My health, my friends, my church, my clothes, it is all mercy, all gift.
Everything is a good gift. I am owed nothing.
What is so bad about pride? Nebuchadnezzar was the most brilliant military leader of his time. He had a great mind for strategy. He was one of the smartest political leaders of his time.
Didn’t he do it, didn’t he bring it about, and didn’t he work hard? You only ever think like that if you never look up.
How did he do it, with his mind, his strategy, his skill? I trained hard, I worked hard.
Friends, how much of what you are was under your control? You did not choose your race, your gender, the century in which you were born.
You had nothing to do with whether you were born now or in Europe during the bubonic plague.
Do you think that has anything to do with what you are today?
Do you think things would be different if you were a slave in the 1st Century?
You might say, I have worked hard … what with?
The mind, the talent the abilities, the friends the family the connects that God alone gave you.
You didn’t choose your parents, you didn’t choose your siblings, you didn’t choose any of your childhood experiences. All of which people say are so informative and make us the people we are today. You didn’t choose your talents and abilities and the level you have at those abilities.
Do you want to know what humility is do you want to know what pride is? Paul says in 1 Cor 4:7
What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
If we believed that, Facebook would go out of business tomorrow.
Friends look up … and be sane.
34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored.
What is humility? It looks up and says everything I have, I have as a gift from the living God. It is all a gift. I am owed nothing.
I use it all for his glory.
Ok, where are we up to?
31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
The next part of the story is Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment. He becomes like an animal.
The behaviour is called Boanthropy, a person believes themselves to be a cow or a bull and acts accordingly.
Nebuchadnezzar became an animal … he went insane … for seven months or seven seasons or something else … we don’t know.
I think the punishment is significant, I don’t think it was just a random choice by God.
And so when God caused Nebuchadnezzar to be lowered from the pinnacle of pride to the baseness of insanity and be associated with the beasts and to be have like a beast, I think that God was saying by his punishment that this is the result when men give the glory of God to themselves.
They become beastlike … and even worse.
James Montgomery Boice tells the story of when John Gerstner was speaking at a conference on theology, on one occasion he was speaking on the total depravity of men and women and likened them to rats.
After he had finished speaking, there was a question and answer time, and a person was greatly offended that he should compare humans to rats. He found it a great insult.
Dr Gerstner apologised. He said, I apologise profusely, the comparison was terribly unfair … and I hope rats everywhere will forgive me.”
God is saying … “Because you sought to become more than I made you, you will become less than I made you”.
In Psalm 8
There is a description of man that reads
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings[b]
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field
God places man lower than the angels, but higher than the beasts.
It is in that position that we look up to God, and as we look to God and worship God we become like God.
If you will not look to God, you will not become like God, but you do you become like the beasts.
Some time ago in Newsweek there was an article that spoke about Baboons who from time to time will kill their young. The article said Infanticide is as normal as the Sex Drive.
Most animals including man practise it.
If there is no God in whom you look up to worship, no one greater than man, no one who made us in his image who gives us our position and value we do not rise to be like God. We reduce to be like the animals.
It is because you sought to become more than I made you, you will become less than I made you.
Well then we reach the end and that astonishing statement.
34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. What was the purpose of this passage?
Why is chapter 4 even here?
It is so we will not miss it we are told repeatedly.
17 “‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’
25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.
Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
God most High. It is a phrase used six times in this passage. That the Lord God rules, and the whole earth is for his glory.
It doesn’t always look like that does it? Sometimes, often it looks like a mess. So much sin. So many tragedies. So many bad things happening to good people. So many corruptions of God’s truth. So much opposition to God and what he says.
This passage wants to make it crystal clear that God, who is on the throne of heaven, is ruling this world so deliberately, that out of every single thing that happens, he will get glory for himself. Out of good things and bad things. Pleasant things and painful things.
The most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.
Do you think knowing that makes a difference?
To equip people to live a gospel life in an increasingly hostile, secular frame.
Do you remember when Jesus is before Pilate and Pilate says:
10 “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.
Friends you don’t need to know how God’s sovereign rules will be for Jesus’ great glory. All you need to know is that God is on the throne, and he will make it happen exactly the way he wants.
Friends you are not ignorant of God – you have seen he is majestic in power and abundant in mercy. You have seen Christ and the Cross. That’s why there are no proud demands for explanations, no boastful claims about his gifts, no bargains, and no deals.
In evangelical circles today, I am fearful we’ve lost sight of who God is. For every book or sermon about God there are a thousand about us. For every book of doctrine there are a thousand fiction and prophecy and ‘how-to’ manuals. The result is that we are ignorant, profoundly ignorant of who God is. We’ve lost sight of the holy God
Most High who sovereign over all kingdoms on earth.
Why else are we so quick to demand God explain himself, make bargains, and do as we think?
Brothers and sisters we need many things today, but the thing we need most of all - far and away ahead of anything and everything else - is a look at God’s throne. At Christ’s glory, and have our insanity removed.
Only then will we say with Nebuchadnezzar of all people:
Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”