Daniel 4: Kings and kingdoms

Ancient Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar was the capital city of Babylonia and was the focus of a building program under King Nebuchadnezzar that was the marvel of its time. We will see the king was extremely proud of his accomplishments. The Hanging Gardens were considered one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.”  The walls which surrounded the city of over two million people, were wide enough for a four-horse chariot to ride upon. There was also a staged-temple tower which reached over 275 feet as well as 90 cubits gold plated structure on the plains of Dura, previously mentioned.

What a strange combination of leaders, King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel (aka Beltehsazzar) made. Daniel a godly man who was the epitome of humbleness while King Nebuchadnezzar was the “poster-boy” for the puffed up pride of self -accomplishment.   The king was a talented leader, but flawed. His main flaw was his pride which was combined with a “thin-skin personality” which led to a quick and furious temper. Nebuchadnezzar was a boastful man who could not stand for anyone not to bow down to him and recognize his greatness. Traits often shared by leaders.

This chapter recorded in the book of Daniel is unique in that it is an official Babylonia document prepared by none other than King Nebuchadnezzar.  We could consider it, his testimony of how he got saved, as it appears he did.  This is about the sovereignty of God and also about His ongoing work of restoration.

KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S TRIBUTE TO GOD’S EVERLASTING KINGDOM

The first three verses of the king’s testimony which are written by him are first of all the testimony of a changed man. His accomplishments have been amazing. He has conquered other kingdoms, there is peace in the land. The story he is about to share with all the people is the story of a proud, vain man humbled.  In this opening statement, Nebuchadnezzar declares the wonderous miracle which has taken place in his life as he quotes, “…that the Most High God has worked for me.”

A king who had reached the heights of greatness, few mortal reach only to fall to depths few mortals do. He had been reduced to a beast, living as a wild animal.  He wanted as all empire builders and vain men wanted to build a kingdom which would be everlasting. He wanted what Lucifer wanted he wanted to take the throne and be worshipped.

Like those who centuries before had built a tower in Babylon, we refer to as the Tower of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar wanted to build a kingdom which reached to heaven. He wanted to make a name for himself. Now having defeated other armies, brought peace to the land, and accomplished amazing building projects of which he was enormously proud.

His pride and vanity are captured in the last statement he makes before his fall. He will be driven from men and dwell in the fields for seven years as a wild animal.  Listen to the words which come from his mouth: “Is not this great Babylon that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”  No sooner had he spoke these words, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you.”  Kings and kingdoms shall all pass away. This is why the Lord Jesus taught us to pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This is a story of God’s sovereignty and God’s restoring work. He is not only the Revealer of Mystery; He is also the Restorer of all things. “Behold I make all things new.”

THE DREAM WHICH BECAME A NIGHTMARE

Notice in verse 4, this is Nebuchadnezzar who is telling and recording this story as he begins with, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house, flourishing in my palace.”  Things were going great, yet the king had a dream which became a nightmare and frightened the commander-in-chief of a great and vast army.

Once again, his magicians, and all his wise men could not interpret the dream, so Daniel is called in to do so. The dream is about a tree. Trees are used from symbols in the Bible. A godly man is compared to be ‘like a tree planted by the rivers of water.’ (Psalm 1)  Trees can represent nations, as Israel was compared to an olive tree.

Here are the elements of the troubling dream: a great tree which grew to touch the heavens. Its leaves were lovely, its fruit abundant. Beasts rested in its shade. Birds nested in its limbs.  Then in the dream, a messenger, called a ‘watcher’ in the KJV, a holy one came down from heaven with a message.

“Chop down the tree and cut off its branches. Strip off the leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts get out from under it and the birds from its branches.”  

But the messenger tells the king to bind the stump and its roots be bound with iron and bronze and remain in the grass of the field. This implies restoration may be possible and the tree revived later. Notice then the change of pronouns, let him be drenched with the dew of the heaven, and let him live the animals, among the animals. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of animal, till seven years pass by. “(Daniel 4: 15, 1 6) the change of pronouns lets us know this tree is a person, as we will see the king himself.

The final words of the messenger, the watchman from heaven is important: “ 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 the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes and set them over them the lowliest of men.”

THREE TRUTHS

  1. The Most High rules over the kingdoms of men. Psalm 2 tells us “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His Anointed One. Let us break the chains, they say and throw off their fetters. The One enthroned in heaven laughs and the Lord scoffs at them. Then He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath saying “I have installed My King on Zion, My holy hill.”  Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there is something about that name, the name of Jesus the Anointed One. Nations rise and fall to teach men God rules and overrules kingdoms. Every great nation has thought they would last forever, but none have.
  2. This messenger from heaven tells us God will give to whoever He wishes to give. Paul writes in Romans 13: 1: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. “ Now we also know we are to obey God when to obey the authority would cause us to disobey God.
  3. God sometimes sets the lowest of men, those who are debased and flawed over us.

THE BAD NEWS FOR THE KING

The gospel is called the “good news”.  As we have observed there are always two choices: the Tree of life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; the broad way and the narrow way; the old man and the new man; the flesh and the spirit. There are two sources of news: the good news and the bad news. The bad news has been around since the Garden of Eden. The bad news calls good- evil; and evil – good. The bad news is a lie and comes from the father of all lies. He deceives us into believing there is happiness and fulfillment outside of God’s will. Sin is pleasurable for a season, but like the wine in the cup which sparkles, in the end it stings like the viper.

The king had the seed of pride planted in his heart. It is the condition which God hates. Pride goes before a fall. God gives grace to the humble, but resist the proud.  Daniel has the terrifying job of telling the king the truth of this dream. Daniel appears to be the bearer of bad news, but actually he is the bearer of the good news. For within this dream lies the message of the gospel. Daniel tells the king, “You are the tree.”  You will be driven away from people and will live with the animals for seven years  and then comes the good news : “ Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to whoever He wishes to give them to.  Now comes the good news imbedded in this dream:  “The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be RESTORED to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. Therefore, O King, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce (break off, NKJV) your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue. “From that time on, Jesus began to preach, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

SOVEREIGNTY AND RESTORATION

This great and powerful ruler will forget what Daniel told him and 12 months later we read his words as he boasted of his accomplishment as he walked on the rooftop of his royal palace: “ Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty.”  Like the anti-Christ in the end, he thinks he is a god-man, sovereign in his own eyes.

Isn’t it interesting to ignore and rebel against God’s sovereignty is to exalt human wisdom and power and in doing so we make ourselves our own gods, just like Lucifer did. We want to do what is right in our own eyes. We want to live by our own rules, self-autonomy, deciding for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. Sinners want to be free to live as they want to live and in doing so become enslaved to sin. God is Sovereign. He does as He pleases. Because everything was created by Him and for Him, He has the right to do with His creation what He wants to do. And He always, always does what is right. He is too wise to be mistaken.

God’s sovereignty is difficult for us to comprehend because our free will and old sinful nature living in a fallen world under the influence of the devil make us want to stiffen the necks of our self will and quarrel with God about right and wrong. Yet accepting God’s sovereignty completely, brings us blessed assurance and peace which is multiplied to us.

Restoration is defined as “to restore to its original condition; to renew or revive.” Now let’s tie together God’s Sovereignty with His miraculous work of restoration.

Jesus say when He comes to re-establish His kingdom, “Behold, I am making all things new!” Revelation 21: 5.  Notice He did not say, I am making all new things. He is taking us back to Eden, where when He finished His creation, He said all things are good. This is how God intended it to be, meant it to be good.

What is the Kingdom of God? What is it now and what will it be in the future?  A kingdom is a realm, where the king holds complete authority and his commands are obeyed. This is why Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Do you realize in heaven, things are not stained, soiled, broken and in need or repair. All things are as they were meant to be and created to be. Now think about it, everything that brings us worry, anxiety, fear and sorrows here on earth are because of one reason: THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY WERE MEANT TO BE. Even nature groans because of how polluted and unclean and foul it has become compared to the distant memory that pristine paradise called the Garden of Eden.

When Jesus came, He spoke of this kingdom and when we get saved we become part of His kingdom. The restoration project begins as we are being transformed to become more like Him. We were dead in sin and trespasses as surely as Lazarus dead and buried. He was restored to life and we were made spiritually alive. We were spiritually blind, but now we see. We were lame, paralyzed laying hopelessly by the pool at Bethesda when we were told to get up. The lepers were cleansed, the blind see, the dead rise to life, the lame walk and everything Jesus did on this earth during His ministry was a picture of the future restoration where all things will be made new.

If you are already saved, you are already God’s children. He is working all things to together and when we see Jesus, we will be completely restored- we will be like him.

NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S RESTORATION

Again, the very words of King Nebuchadnezzar: “At the end of time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my sanity was RESTORED. Then I praise the Most High God, I honored and glorified Him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation.

Nebuchadnezzar was restored as king.   Had he learned his lesson?  Listen to how he closes this remarkable restoration: “Now, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.

One great day we will hear these words of restoration:  “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who is seated at the throne says I am making everything new.”   God’s sovereignty and His restoring ability. ‘’ I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by Your side; I can only imagine what my eyes will see when Your face is before me. I can only imagine surrounded by Your glory what my heart will feel. Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of You be still. Or to my knees will I fall?  RESTORED BY THE LOVING HANDS OF MY SOVEREIGN GOD! I can only imagine.

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