By Simon ManchesterSunday 21 Jul 2013Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
Daniel – High King of Heaven
This week I met two very brave Christians one was in the bank on Wednesday,I was standing at the counter there were many other staff around. She walked straight over to me,recognised me,I recognised her,she told me in a loud voice that she had moved home. Did I know a good church which would teach the scriptures and tell people to face up to Jesus before it was too late? I never saw the staff in the bank work so hard on their pens and their pieces of paper while she talked like this! I was hoping she would lower her voice but off she went,and very bold. And then I had lunch on Friday with a man who goes to the 8am service,he is now in his eighties. He catches the bus to tennis 2 or 3 times a week,and when the bus is full and going up the hill a little more slowly he tells me that he stands up at the front of the bus and calls out in a loud voice,”Has anybody heard any good news lately?” and then he begins to sing an old gospel hymn in a very rich baritone voice. I tell you this,well get his timetable from me afterwards so you know what bus to catch or to avoid,but it is a very brave thing. To announce your faith in God is a courageous,and a risky and a wonderful thing. And what we come to today in Daniel 4 is a man declaring his faith in God and he’s the king of Babylon – Daniel chapter 4.
When an average person comes to realise that God is the king it is very wonderful,but when a king or a president announces that they have come to recognise that God is their king it is very significant indeed. King Nebuchadnezzar,the king of Babylon makes an international broadcast,you see it in chapter 4 verse 1,”To the peoples,nations and men of every language,” you can be sure that he got his message around,and his message is that God is the only king and he has come to learn the hard way. Well maybe you are a visitor today,you may be interested to know how God reaches a very difficult person with the good news. Maybe you are a regular member here today and you are interested to know what are the key things that made Nebuchadnezzar become humble and happy. And maybe you are really weighed down with the burdens of this world and you are wondering today again whether God is kind at all and whether He will do what is right,and this chapter has some very great answers. Two points this morning,first of all: When God’s kingdom gets personal and the second: How God’s kingdom gets personal.
First of all – When God’s kingdom gets personal. This is a very,very important and wonderful thing that God is a person interested in you,a person,so that you and He,two persons,would know each other. This Nebuchadnezzar was a very brilliant and successful but pagan king in Babylon and when he begins to speak in chapter 4 he is vastly different from 1-3. In chapter 4 he says,verse 1,”To the peoples,nations and men of every language…May you prosper greatly!” and then he says,”It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs,how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.” It is personal says Nebuchadnezzar. When we say to a friend ‘Did you ever meet Don Bradman?’ Their answer will either be very personal,they will say in an excited way ‘yes,and this is how it happened’,or they will say something that is obviously quite impersonal and disconnected. When we say to a person much more significantly,’Do you know Jesus Christ?’ The answer that comes back is either a very personal ‘yes and this is how it’s happened’,or it is an impersonal,vague unsure type of answer. Now up until now Nebuchadnezzar had nothing personal to say about God. In chapter 1 we read that he had brought some Jews into Babylon and they worshipped God but that was just of moderate interest to Nebuchadnezzar. God was just a concept,he was one of many as far as Nebuchadnezzar was concerned. In chapter 2 you may remember that God suddenly became quite impressive to Nebuchadnezzar because he had a dream and nobody could explain it except the God of the Jews,and that was quite humbling for Nebuchadnezzar. And then in chapter 3 God and His kingdom became,as far as Nebuchadnezzar was concerned,superior because he threw some Jews,Nebuchadnezzar threw some Jews,into a fiery furnace but the God of the Jews brought them out easily without a hair being burned. And so this for Nebuchadnezzar had some impact but it was still impersonal,it was God up there. Here in chapter 4 Nebuchadnezzar speaks of God personally. Suddenly God for Nebuchadnezzar has become everything. The kingdom is supreme and eternal. The concept of God had become a reality for Nebuchadnezzar. If Don Bradman had ever come and knocked on your door,car broken down outside,knocks on your door,it is the sort of story that would come up again and again at dinner conversation. But if Jesus Christ comes and knocks on the door of your life and you welcome him into your very life you’re a brand new person,you are transformed forever. And that is really what Nebuchadnezzar is talking about,welcoming the kingdom,that’s what he is talking about. Now this may sound all very strange to you.
When somebody told the White House lawyer Charles Colson that he could have a personal relationship with God,Colson said he was totally baffled and he found this to be a mystical statement. When the same person explained to Colson that it was pride that would keep him from a relationship with God,Colson says that he sat in his car and he prayed until he wept. And he says in his autobiography,”alone in the dark,and yet for the first time in my life,not alone at all.” And that’s where Colson’s life turned around and that’s where he began by the goodness of God,a relationship with God which has transformed the lives of thousands and thousands of people. And that is what Nebuchadnezzar is telling in Daniel chapter 4,he is saying,’this was irrelevant to me and now it has become everything to me. God is no longer a concept but personal.’
Now did Nebuchadnezzar become a believer because his world completely crashed and therefore he looked to God as some kind of crutch on which he would lean? Look at verses 4 and 5 he says,”I,Nebuchadnezzar,was at home in my palace,contented and prosperous.” And then he says,”I had a dream that made me afraid.” So his life was terrific. He was happy,he was well,only a bad dream put a dent in it. And the story as you know is that he called in his magic men,what we would call the psychics of today,and he said to them,’Here’s the dream,would you interpret it for me?’ And none of them could once again and so he brought in again Daniel,and Daniel was able to explain the dream. Not that it was really a very tricky dream – it’s about a big tree that falls over. But Daniel had to explain the specifics – what does it actually mean? And Nebuchadnezzar says,’My dream was of a huge tree reaching up to the sky and it was providing fruit and shelter for everybody who wanted it,’ and that of course is a bit of a picture of Babylon. Babylon was the huge superpower of the day reaching up very high and providing some kind of shelter,and plenty for many,many people. And then says Nebuchadnezzar,’In my dream suddenly a messenger comes down from heaven,bigger than the tree,and orders the tree to be cut down,and then it’s to be turned into a stump. And then comes this very strange finish in verse 15 where it says,”‘Let him’,” let him,”‘be drenched with the dew of heaven,and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal,till seven times pass by.'” Well now Daniel has to explain the specifics of the dream and he is a bit nervous about it. He says to Nebuchadnezzar,’you are the tree,and you will be driven out with the animals until you acknowledge that God is the sovereign king.’ Daniel is concerned for Nebuchadnezzar. He says in verse 19 ‘I wish this was a dream for someone else,and I didn’t have to tell it to you.’ And he says in verse 27 ‘and I wish you would repent so that it never does happen to you.’ But do you see why God’s kingdom has now become personal for Nebuchadnezzar? Because Nebuchadnezzar has been hit hard. He never feared God like he does now. He never realised how low God could take a person.
This crashing tree is not that he is going to die one day and he is going to lose his kingdom,everybody knows that is around the corner. No,no,this crashing tree is a judgement. God is going to call Nebuchadnezzar to go lower than a person. He is going to cause Nebuchadnezzar to not just lose his life,or not just lose his kingdom,but he is going to lose his place as a human being,he is going to end up an animal. It is a very striking thing isn’t it. Because Nebuchadnezzar will not acknowledge that God is above him,God is going to cause Nebuchadnezzar to go lower than a human. There is a very sobering moment in the New Testament where Jesus says that he will one day divide the world into two,sheep and goats,and the issue is going to be whether these people have welcomed him. It’s not going to be on the basis of whether they’ve been good or bad,or churchy,or anything like that,it’s going to be on the basis of whether they’ve welcomed him. And He says that He will say to the goats on the left ‘Depart!’ and then He says this terrible thing,’Go to the fire that was prepared for the devil’. In other words,you must go to something which is worse than what I planned for you. And then He says to the sheep on His right,’Come. Welcome! You welcomed me,I welcome you. Come and take your place in the inheritance which was planned for you.’ And Nebuchadnezzar you see in Daniel 4 is realising that God is going to bring him lower than a person because he didn’t acknowledge God above him. And that’s what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. Immediately his destiny was that he was driven away and he ended up becoming like an animal. There is a vague and embarrassed reference to this in the Babylonian archives,they don’t go into detail but something happened to Nebuchadnezzar towards the end of his life which they describe as a sickness. But in God’s perfect timing,what the Bible calls seven times,the perfect piece of timing,God brought Nebuchadnezzar back to his senses and He caused Nebuchadnezzar to lift up his eyes to heaven and to recognise that God is God. And he began to honour God and God restored him. So this you see is a personal impact on Nebuchadnezzar,up until now all theory. ‘Yes it was a good sermon,I don’t know what he was talking about,but it was up there,it was out there.’ Nebuchadnezzar no longer talks like that! He says ‘I have been personally lowered and humbled until I came to recognise that God is the king.’ Now does it have to be so extreme,that is the question we want to ask you see. Why is Nebuchadnezzar telling his story? Does a person have to be reduced to an animal before they’ll become a believer? Well that is our second brief point this morning,How God’s kingdom gets personal.
I want you to know that the whole book of Daniel is about the kingdom of God. God being the king,great,gracious,powerful,wise,faithful,loving. And all the people in this book of Daniel,Daniel,Shadrach,Meshach and Abednego,His faithful people,they recognise that He is like that and that’s why they’re so confident. That’s way they can even look death in the face because they know that God is even greater than death. And we’re meant of course to recognise that God is greater than the greatest enemies as well,and we’re meant to have confidence in God,but how does this kingdom get personal? Well I want to suggest to you from the chapter 4 of Daniel some quick lessons.
First,God is going to make the kingdom personal to you because He is very patient. He has probably brought to your mind already,maybe you had a mum who prayed,maybe you had a Sunday school teacher,maybe you had a scripture teacher,maybe you had a Christian friend,maybe somewhere along the track you’ve read something of the Gospels,but God you see patiently brings to our attention the information about God,about Jesus. God was very patient with Nebuchadnezzar. He was a very proud man Nebuchadnezzar and God warned him. I don’t know about you but I love to see very proud people come down very quickly. God was very patient with Nebuchadnezzar. And then when He warned Nebuchadnezzar,you would expect Nebuchadnezzar to say at the end of the dream,’Great,that’s it,you’ve told me. This is a big tree that is going to come crashing down,I now bow my knee before you God,you’re the king.’ Not at all! Twelve months went by and Nebuchadnezzar did absolutely nothing,and God therefore waited very patiently and then God humbled him because he did not humble himself. And when He humbled him and sent him out to be an animal He preserved him,he guarded him,he protected him because He was going to restore him. He was very patient. And when He restored Nebuchadnezzar He not only restored him but He restored a great deal of his glory. He restored him to the dignity and the wonder of his position. God you see was incredibly patient. How patient God is. He patiently,patiently speaks to the city doesn’t he? This city of Sydney where so few people acknowledge Him or take any notice of Him,and he patiently speaks to them,he reminds them every year there is His Son who came into the world at Christmas,and there is His Son who died on the cross and rose again. Every year it comes around and more besides,and people don’t take any notice.
There may be some here who are listening and you know that Christ is king,you know that Christ is Lord,Christ is Saviour,but you can’t put the word ‘my’ in there. You can’t say Christ is my Lord,my king,my Saviour,and yet God has patiently,patiently,patiently told you that so many times. And the door is open for you to step in and say ‘Christ be my king,be my saviour.’ And how patient God has been with many of us here who are believers,putting up with us,you know we follow so poorly don’t we,so fearfully,so intermittently. He keeps forgiving us for the sins,He keeps forgiving us for the bad habits. He is so patient with us. He looks on us as His flock. All the way to heaven He is so patient with us. We can’t believe that God would be patient with Nebuchadnezzar but He is. Not only that,God is very kind. How is Nebuchadnezzar going to become a believer? Nebuchadnezzar is a rat bag! How can God allow Nebuchadnezzar to have a place in the kingdom? Nebuchadnezzar has been a ruthless,pagan killer of a king!
I remember when I was telling the story of Charles Colson many years ago to the evening congregation,how Charles Colson had become a Christian,and one man was absolutely outraged that Colson could even become a Christian,that God would have anything to do with him. I think this guy in the church felt that Colson had somehow polluted the club. This guy had never really grasped the gospel for himself and so he thought of it as being a club for superior people,and the fact that somebody like Colson would come in would just sort of dirty the place. But God you see is a God who welcomes the sinner. And there is an interesting answer to how God does this and it has got to do with the tree. The tree in Daniel chapter 4 is a picture of something very great and something very secure. The Babylonian kingdom is compared to a great and welcoming tree,and Babylon was a great and welcoming tree,it provided a place of safety,and security and plenty for the person who would come. But the Babylonian tree had one great problem,one fatal flaw and that is that it did not recognise God above,and so God brought it down.
When Jesus came proclaiming the kingdom,he said in Matthew chapter 13,’The kingdom of God is a tree.’ He actually said ‘the kingdom of God is a small seed that will become a tree,but the kingdom of God,’ he said,’is a tree and the birds of the air will come and find rest in the branches. In the kingdom of God,’ said Jesus,’you will find your shelter,you’ll find your security and you’ll find your plenty.’ The tree of course is a loaded symbol in the bible,the whole bible is about trees,I don’t know if you realise this – but at the beginning of the bible you’ve got a tree of life,and the man and the woman you remember are cut off from the tree of life because they disobey God,they have no access to life,they cannot live forever. And then you get to the very end of the bible and then suddenly there is this tree of life in Revelation 21,22,wonderful access,how did that happen? Well because right in the middle of the bible Jesus died on a tree,the righteous for the unrighteous to bring you to God,and everybody who knows that they have turned their back on God,but puts their faith in the son of God,will one day share in the glory of God. The tree you see is really the story of the bible.
Well,Nebuchadnezzar experiences the patience and the kindness of God,he doesn’t know anything about Jesus of course. He is pre-Jesus but he puts his faith in God and if he is a converted man as I suspect he is in Daniel chapter 4,he is going to discover that his salvation is because of Jesus.
And the last way in which God helps the kingdom to become personal for us is that He communicates,He communicates in words. He says things plainly,and simply,and gently and powerfully. And he uses even a person like Nebuchadnezzar,so Nebuchadnezzar stands up at the beginning of Daniel chapter 4 and he says,’I want to say something to the whole world,and that is this – I’ve been a king,I’ve been a very successful king,and I’ve been a foolish king,and I had to learn the hard way’ says Nebuchadnezzar,’that God is the king and everybody needs to bow down to Him.’ Look at his invitation in verse 2,’It is my pleasure to tell you about God.’ Up until now Nebuchadnezzar always had a threat associated with his messages didn’t he? ‘All peoples of the world,’ said Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 3,’you must bow down to my idol,to my statue,to my image and if you don’t I’ll throw you into the burning furnace. And now Nebuchadnezzar stands up and he says ‘I don’t have any threat at all,I just tell you something with pleasure,that God is the king and I have come to learn.’
God’s kingdom is good news and that is why Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners – paying for our sins Himself. And He invites the world to enter. And you’ll see Nebuchadnezzar’s grasp of the kingdom at the very end he says this very significant phrase to end the chapter,’Those who walk in pride,God is able to humble.’
Well now we say God is up there and that is wonderful He’s up there. Do you believe God is up there? Yes I suspect you do. But I also want to remind you that God rules down here. God rules the floor that we walk on. God rules the streets that we walk on. God rules up there,and God rules down here,and a person of course is a believer who recognises not only that God rules up there but God rules down here and they have bowed down to Him,and taken hold of His salvation. And then they discover of course that God rules their house,and God rules their work,and God rules their diary,and God rules their wallet. Because people who learn this lesson that God rules,find that everything fits well under His rule. And Jesus said when He came into the world,’The kingdom of God is a step away. The kingdom of God is one step away,repent believe the gospel.
Let’s pray. Let’s bow our heads. We thank you our gracious God for recording for us this remarkable testimony to your personal work,even in the life of a Babylonian king. We thank you for your patience with him and with us. We thank you for your kindness to him and to us. We thank you for your communication to him and to us. And we pray that you would help us,as people who have been privileged to hear the good news,to believe it,and to belong,and to behave as those who are in your blessed kingdom. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.