By Simon ManchesterSunday 24 Oct 2021Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute
For more in this series and other series presented by Simon Manchester, visit the Christian Growth podcast page.
Good morning, everybody. Let’s pray a short prayer before we turn to God’s word. Let’s bow our heads.
Father, as we look to your word this morning, we pray that it would be our rule and our guide. We pray that your holy spirit would be our teacher, and that your honour would be our great concern. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
C.S. Lewis has a very interesting test to see if you are a proud person. And he asks you, “How you cope when somebody ignores you, or somebody patronizes you, or somebody does better than you.” And I must say, I find that a very convicting test of how proud I am. He goes on to say that, “Pride is actually a lot more sinister than we think.” He says, “It’s the central vice and other vices are flea bites in comparison.” He says, “It inflates us so that we compete with others and it separates us from friends. It separates us even from God.” Other sins, he says, “Like money or drink or sex can actually bring people together, but pride destroys company.”
In the book of Daniel, and we’re now in the fourth of a little series of six, we see today a very proud king, an insanely proud king, and God must humble him. We also see that God continues to protect his people who humble themselves and regard him as the king of Kings. So, the proud must eventually come down and the humble must eventually be lifted up. I’ve tried to point out in this series so far that the book of Daniel is presenting the kingdom of God, which is the rule of God, as a perfect and a permanent kingdom. The other kingdoms, which set themselves up ignoring God or rivalling God must eventually come crashing down, whether the kingdom is just one proud person walking the streets of Sydney, or whether the kingdom is a nation, which is attempting to rule God out.
You may remember that Mary in her famous song in Luke chapter one says that, “God is the God who brings the rulers down from their thrones and lifts up the humble and the meek.” It’s reported that when Louis the 14th died, he insisted on having one lit candle on his coffin in the midst of a dark chapel, and the reason he was thinking of course, was that he would be showing that he was the light of France about to be snuffed out. Well, the preacher on that occasion went up and deliberately snuffed out the candle and said to the congregation, who’d gathered, “This belongs to Jesus Christ. This position of the light of the world belongs to Jesus Christ.” So we’ve seen God’s people have been carried into Babylon in exile. Daniel and his friends are among them, but they are convinced that God is the king. They trust him, and they used by him very wonderfully, and I want to divide chapter four to two brief points this morning.
The first is humbled by God. That’s what happens to Nebuchadnezzar, and the second point is humble yourself. So first of all, humbled by God, this is what God does to the proud Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was the pagan king of the pagan country of Babylon. And it’s a shock to see at the beginning of chapter four, that after all he has heard and all he has experienced of Yahweh, he is an unchanged man. He’d met some believers in Daniel chapter one and discovered that they were better and smarter than his own people, but that didn’t change him. In chapter two, he experienced the miracle of revelation where Daniel was able to not only explain, but tell the dream. That didn’t change Nebuchadnezzar either.
Then he experienced the miracle of salvation where the three men having been thrown into the furnace were rescued completely unharmed, and that didn’t change Nebuchadnezzar in the slightest. I want to remind you that if a person’s heart is set in opposition to God that a miracle or even 10 miracles will do nothing for them. If the heart is open to the reality of God, then miracles of course are a great help. Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was set in opposition to God. But so patient is God, even to Nebuchadnezzar, even to a rat bag like Nebuchadnezzar, that he brought Nebuchadnezzar a brand new opportunity. We read in chapter four, verse four, that he was content, and he was prosperous. Please notice that. He was not unhappy. He was not desperate. He was not in the gutters. He was content and prosperous.
One of my friends often gives his testimony saying that “Before he became a Christian, he was about the happiest person in the world, but the truth of Christ made him realize that he was on the wrong track.” In chapter four, verse five of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that changed everything. It frightened him. How kind of God to persevere with this man Nebuchadnezzar. After these two miracles had been completely ignored, god is still working on people. And Nebuchadnezzar had this frightening dream, gathered his wise men together and this time he told them the dream. Last time you remember, he told them, you must tell me the dream before you interpret. This time he told them the dream in order that they might interpret. And the dream went like this, it was a big tree and a heavenly messenger said, “Cut it down.”
Now I personally don’t think you need to be very smart to work out what that dream is all about. It’s a warning from God, not just that you’ll die one day, but that God is about to bring you low. No wonder the wise man, however said nothing. You can imagine them saying when they heard the dream big tree cut down. Well, that’s so complicated, we have no idea what death could possibly mean. And therefore Daniel is called in to explain, and God bless him. He’s very faithful. He tells Nebuchadnezzar the tree is you and you’re going to be horrendously humbled. He says in verse 25, you’re going to be driven away. There’ll be no more palace for you. No more power. You’ll live with the wild animals. You’ll eat grass like an ox until Nebuchadnezzar, you acknowledge that the most high God is the king of all Kings things will be restored Nebuchadnezzar when you acknowledge God, therefore says, Daniel, “Renounce your sins.”
Now what a faithful and brave sermon. He says to Nebuchadnezzar, you’re going to be horrendously reduced, so drop your sins before it happens. It’s inevitable that you’ll be humbled, if you keep going on the path you’re on. So respond and Nebuchadnezzar completely obeyed, is that what your Bible says? No, he completely ignored the message again. The miracles were ignored, the sermons were ignored, nothing penetrated his steely heart. And then we discover in chapter four, verse 28, that it all happened exactly as God said, because of course what God says will happen. 12 months later, again, God is being incredibly patient, Nebuchadnezzar is parading on the roof of the palace, he’s boasting about how great he is, and suddenly he’s reminded of the promises of God, and he’s driven out of Babylon. Now we don’t know how he was driven out of Babylon. We don’t know whether he was inwardly driven, that is, he became insane and ran away, or whether he was outwardly driven out of Babylon, people saw that he was insane and sent him away. We don’t know, but he left the city, the palace.
When Charles Colson was working for president Nixon quite a few decades ago now, he was very impressed by a man within the white house called Tom Phillips. Tom Phillips was a man who exhibited a real Christian faith and Colson was mystified when they talk together, and Tom Phillips told Colson that it was possible to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Carlson found that complete mystery.
Tom Phillips then read to Colson from the book by C.S Lewis, [inaudible 00:09:05] Christianity, and he read him the long section on pride and said to Colson, “This is what’s keeping you from Christ.” And Colson was very struck by the phrase. “Pride is your spiritual cancer.” Phillips then prayed for him, and Colson went his car. As he sat in his car, it was raining, but he said there was more water inside as he wept. He wept and wept and wept as he considered his emptiness and his pride, and what he’d been told of Christ. He says, “I sat alone in the dark and yet for the first time in my life, I was not alone at all.”
Well, before this, Colson was seeing God as a concept, not a person until he was humbled and prayed to Jesus and then a personal relationship began. And so it is for Nebuchadnezzar he saw God as a concept. In Daniel one, he found God moderately interesting in Daniel chapter two, after the dream, he found God quite impressive. In Daniel, chapter three, after the fire, he found God positively inspirational, but not personal.
And so it is for so many people today, secular people and even religious people who have no personal relationship with God and they will never have a personal relationship with God until their pride is reduced, and Christ is received. When Nebuchadnezzar was brought low and reduced to an animal, the conversion process began. We read in chapter four, verse 34, “He raised his eyes to heaven and his sanity was restored.” Notice that, “He raised his eyes to heaven and his sanity was restored.” We’re told that twice. He came to see that God is God eternal, powerful, personal. And that’s how the chapter begins with Nebuchadnezzar giving his testimony. He’s saying “Do you see that God who exists and is real broke into my arrogance?” God’s kingdom broke in. He’s so kind to me, and he brought me low in order to save me because I wouldn’t go low myself.
The Bible tells us that God is enthroned on the throne of heaven. In fact, his son is enthroned. Jesus, who came down to us and became a man, and then went down to the depths of the cross has been exalted high, so the Bible says “Every knee should bow, and every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord.” And I think the people of our country have enough information to know that there is a king of Kings and there is one on the throne, but will they ever be brought low until it’s forced upon them?
So my second point is humble yourself. We read in one Peter chapter five, verse six, “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that he may lift you up in due time.” That was the verse which I meditated on before I prayed my prayer to become a Christian, “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that in due time, he may lift you up,” and what we see in Daniel chapter four is the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar on fast-forward because every person and every kingdom will be brought low, either willingly or unwillingly, sometimes in his kindness, God brings a person undone in this world in order to bring them into the kingdom.
How many people I’ve seen in my life, in the church whose life did not begin with Christ until everything fell apart. And we could multiply this millions of times, think of the apostle Paul being brought low after fighting Christ and brought wonderfully low before he was brought into relationship and usefulness, or think of Colson being brought low or think of Colson’s biographer, Jonathan Aiken, who was a British politician convicted of perjury, sent to jail for 18 months. Now, wonderfully converted in the Anglican ministry, serving the Lord in prison ministry. We could multiply this millions and millions of times. Brought low before brought high.
“Humble yourself,” says the Bible, “Before you are forced to humble yourself,” and that’s why this chapter of Daniel four is a two-edged sword. It shows us that God is the king of Kings and he must triumph over his enemies, but it also invites us as readers to humble ourselves, to learn the lesson of Nebuchadnezzar. Now, can you imagine seven people appearing on television this evening? Let’s imagine that one of them is the queen. One of them is the U.S President, one of them is the prime minister of Australia, one of them is Bill Gates, one of them is the founder of Amazon, whose name escapes me, Jeff Bezos, let’s imagine that one of them is Peter FitzSimons, and let’s imagine that one of them is Mark Zuckerberg, and the seven of them appear as a panel on the television, and they say, “We have been stupid.” We’ve not acknowledged Christ the king. We’ve learned our lesson. It’s time for you to humble yourself. This Nebuchadnezzar was like those seven people all rolled into one and he’s making his appeal at the beginning of the chapter to say, I the world to know what an idiot I was and that God had to bring me low and he’s become an evangelist.
Now my friends, there are two ways you can humble yourself. The first is obviously to become a disciple of Jesus, and the other is to be a disciple of Jesus. If you want to become a disciple, then you need to take seriously what Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar, which is to renounce your sins, and then of course, you need to respond to the God who welcomes. If you’re to be his child, his forgiven child, his servant, you need to renounce your sins and you need to receive him wonderfully into your life.
Jesus called this repenting and believing in Mark chapter one, we might call it turning and trusting. And the reason that millions who believe in God as a concept, notice the census that’s about to take place where many will either tick the box that they don’t believe or tick the box that they do, but many know him as a concept, but many don’t know him personally, nor are they ready to meet him, and they’re in the sad condition because they don’t drop their sins, their pride, their practices, they don’t grasp the gospel, the good news. They don’t grasp Christ himself. So my friends, is there anything that’s keeping you from Christ? That’s what must be renounced. Do you know that he’s opened the door into the kingdom and the family? That’s what must be received. You remember how Zacchaeus in the new Testament was challenged by Jesus? And he decided that he would renounce his sins and he would receive Jesus. That’s what every person is to do.
So we humble ourselves to become a Christian. We also humble ourselves if we want to be a disciple, not to become a disciple, that’s already happened for many, but to be a disciple. This means that we learn each day to follow the saviour. We bring ourselves to his feet, so to speak. We say to him, “Rule my life today.” We say, “Please may my thoughts, words, and deeds seek your will, and not mine today.” That’s what it means to humble ourselves. I often feel that my own Christian life is like walking around a swimming pool. I feel as though I’m just one step of falling, one step away from falling into sin and I need to ask his help in moving me to want his will and to do his will, and the wonderful thing about Jesus is that he not only welcomes the sinner, who’s ready to renounce sin and receive him, but he’s also willing to strengthen the disciple who wants to follow him. He regularly forgives us and restores us.
So Daniel, four tells the historical event of a very great and worldly man being brought low, being brought to his senses and then urging everybody to learn from him. He was very calm, but he became thankfully fearful. He was very proud, but thankfully he became humble. He was very great, but thankfully he became small. He was insane, but thankfully he became sane. He was very lost, but thankfully he became found. He was very dumb in talking about God, and thankfully he became a praiser of God and God will bring all rivals low, and therefore we are wise to humble ourselves. He will also raise up his people one day to glory, and there is great prospect of that and proof in the resurrection. We must remember that Jesus came very low and has been raised very high. Every knee will bow and we must bow in order to become a disciple, and then each day to be a disciple. As Daniel says in chapter four, verse 17 “May all living people know that God is most high and he honours the lowly.”