the heart of Daniel

Heart-Centered Human_thumb

Daniel 4:34-37.   

The book of Daniel is kind of an odd bird.  Everyone recognizes it as a prophecy, or group of prophetic visions – centered around the person of Daniel.  But most of us first encounter Daniel in the Sunday School stories taken from the book. 

There’s Daniel, thrown into the lion’s den because he refused to pray to anyone but God – even though it had become illegal.  There’s the similar story of Daniel’s three friends – Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – rescued from the fiery furnace.  We know them better by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 

When the Jews got together to compile and categorize their Scriptures they chose to put the book of Daniel in the writings category – even though it has many prophecies.  It was obviously different enough from the Nevi’im (prophets) that the choice was justified.

But when the Greeks got together to compile and categorize the Scriptures, they placed Daniel in the category of Major Prophet.  That choice was also justified.  God is speaking through Daniel – not just in the apocalyptic visions – but also in the historical stories.

The text from Daniel that I want to highlight is the portion of the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation where the great king comes back to his senses.

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason 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 endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:34-37 ESV)

This was the great king who had built the neo-Babylonian empire.  His people thought he was so great that they literally worshipped him. Those who refused to do so were destroyed.  This was what Nebuchadnezzar had planned to do with those three Hebrew officials with his fiery furnace.  God rescued them, and the king was put in his place for a while.  But before long, he was full of himself again.

Next, God struck him with insanity.  “He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws” (4:33).  He stayed like that for “seven periods of time.”

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

and seven times shall pass over thee; which some understand of weeks, others of months, others of the seasons of winter and summer; but it is best to interpret it of seven whole years

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What I wanted to look at was the testimony that came out of Nebuchadnezzar’s mouth that day – the day his reason returned to him.  I think his words can give us the kind of perspective we are looking for.
 

PERSPECTIVE ON GOD (34c, 35b).

 
God is sovereign.  No, I really mean it.  He has both the right to choose what happens and doesn’t happen, and the ability to enforce his choice.  The buck doesn’t really stop at the white house.  It stops at God’s house.  Prayer doesn’t really change things – God does.  If God wants to do something, prayer is not going to change his mind.  I’m talking about absolute sovereignty here. 
 
Have you heard the story “Big John is coming” ?
 

[read the story here, then come back!]


That story reminds me of this incident with Nebuchadnezzar.  Nebuchadnezzar was everybody’s “Big John”  But God was Nebuchadnezzar’s “Big John.”  His sovereignty is absolute.  His power and authority are absolute.  That was the perspective that the great king learned by his time of humiliation. 

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation” (34c).

and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth” (35b).

You see, you might be under the mistaken notion that the most important question in life is “who am I?”  It is not.  The most important question in life is “who is he?”  — “Who is God?”  Your life is never going to get set in order until you have the right perspective on who God is.
 

PRAISE FOR GOD  (34b, 37a).

 
True praise of God emerges from that awareness of his sovereignty.  Until you and I come to grips with the reality that God exists and his sovereignty is absolute—our attempts at worship will be lacking something.
 
The very first thing that Nebuchadnezzar did after his sanity returned is …
 
I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever” (34b).
What had gotten Nebuchadnezzar in trouble was looking around at all the great marvels of his kingdom and saying “look what I did.”  We are always on dangerous ground when we focus on ourselves.  It took a major crisis in his life for Nebuchadnezzar to get his eyes off himself and see clearly where the greatness is.
 
His awareness of God extended beyond the realm of “God is great.”  It included the reality that this great God is also a good God.
 
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just” (37a).
 You see, this story could have ended differently.  Nebuchadnezzar could have been restored to sanity and still choose to judge God.  Many people are like that.  They go through some major crisis in their lives and because God did not do things the way they wanted – they turn their backs on him.  Don’t do that.  Learn the lesson that the great king did.  There is an even greater king, and he always does what is right   — even if we cannot understand it.  He deserves our praise.
 

PERSPECTIVE ON US (35b, 37b).

 
A final perspective I see in this story from the life of king Nebuchadnezzar is a reflection on humanity.  He learned something about himself and every other human being that has ever lived.
 
none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (35b).
We all need to learn this lesson.  I suspect that this is why God allows us to keep getting into impossible situations.  We have to learn that we cannot fix all our problems.
 
The analogy that Nebuchadnezzar uses is very helpful.  He pictures the hand of God raising to strike.  There is no hand that comes up to stop it.  None can stay his hand.  There is no voice raised in judgment asking God what he thinks he’s doing.  Nobody is qualified to do that.
 
If anyone dares to think she is qualified to judge God’s actions, she will soon learn otherwise.
 
those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (37b).
You have probably gone through several incidents like the one we read about here – probably not as drastic.  But you got the point.  It’s not about you. It’s about him.  There’s only room for one on the throne.
 
There was once a man who had everything  — and lost it all because he failed to look up and recognize that God had him.  What is it going to take for this generation of supermen to stop looking down and start looking up?
 
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