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R/Dean Daniel Lesson 18

Arrogance and Suffering – Daniel 4:1-5

 

Every generation has its test; some generations face the test of prosperity, others the test of adversity.  Some generations pass with flying colors, others fail miserably.  Some generations just pass so-so; others fail but not so miserably.  What we're facing in our nation today is a crisis that particularly challenges a generation that's in their 20s because it will fall to them to be willing to volunteer for the armed services, it may be up to them to fight, to give the ultimate sacrifice in some foreign land in order to secure and maintain our freedoms for another generation.  In Daniel's time they faced a similar, yet different, type of crisis.  It was a crisis that was brought on because their parent's generation had failed miserably.  Their parent's generation had gone through the prosperity under King Josiah and in that prosperity they had failed to trust God, they had failed to be faithful to the Mosaic Covenant and as a result of that God was lowering the boom on the nation.  He was finally going to take them out under the fifth cycle of discipline. 

 

God had given them grace after grace after grace.  It was not something that God just suddenly, out of the blue, hammered them, and we looked at some of those passages in Jeremiah 23 and other passages in Jeremiah where God warned the nation of the coming judgment, but the nation refused to listen.  So God had to finally use the army of Nebuchadnezzar in order to judge that nation.  And it was a nation that as filled with wickedness, there were good people there, there were religious people there because the wickedness of Israel was, more than anything else, the wickedness of idolatry.  They had failed to worship God, they were caught up in all kinds of religion, it was all associated with the fertility religions of the cultures around them, just as occurred in the early days of the Judges.

 

Before we get into our section today I want to give you a hint as to what it was like at that time and the thinking of some of the people, some of the believers, the solid believers who lived at that time.  These were the contemporaries of Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael.  Turn to Habakkuk 1:1. I want to raise the question that Habakkuk raises in verse 2.  The first verse reads, "The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw.  [2] How long, O LORD, will I call for help, and Thou wilt not hear?"  He felt as if God did not answer his prayers.  He did not think that God was listening to him, that he continued to pray without an answer.  He said, "I cry out to Thee, 'Violence!'  Yet Thou dost not save."  He's talking about the violence that is in the land, the criminality that was taking place in Israel at that time and because of all of the immorality that was associated with it.  He says, "I cry out to Thee, 'Violence!'  Yet You do not deliver.  [3] Why do You make me see iniquity," what he means by that is why do you make me witness the iniquity and the sins of the people, "and cause me to look on wickedness?  Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises."  He's talking about the fragmentation that's taking place in the nation because of the failure of that generation to pass the prosperity test. 

 

Habakkuk 1:4 he says, "Therefore, the law is ignored and justice is never upheld.  For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore, justice comes out perverted."  And then God answers him in verse 5 and God says, "Look among the nations!  Observe!  Be astonished!  Wonder!  Because I am doing something in your days—you would not believe if you were told.  [6] For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs.  [7] They are dreaded and feared.  Their justice and authority originate with them selves," notice, God is raising up a pagan people, the Chaldeans, in order to discipline His own nation, in order to discipline the apostate unbelievers apostate believers in Israel.  He raises up the Chaldeans, they are described as fierce and impetuous, they are hostile, they are antagonistic, they were brutal in their practices of warfare, they went about seizing places that were not theirs.  That which we experienced last week was nothing compared to the horrors of siege warfare that the Jews went through during this time as Jerusalem was surrounded by the Chaldean army under Nebuchadnezzar and they would starve three times over a period of 20 years, they were besieged by the Chaldeans.  They starved during that time, there was tremendous famine, so much so that they were, at the end in 586 BC there was no food and they would eat their own children.  That's how desperate it became, it was a time of tremendous horror, and yet God was still involved in that. 

 

People today ask the question, how in the world can God be involved in what transpired last week?  Because God does indeed use the wicked and evil in the world in order to discipline His people, in order to get their attention, and that happens again and again in history.  I have heard on talk radio people question that after some comments that were made by some evangelical leaders, I think they were ill-timed, they were inappropriate and they focused on the wrong issue, but it got people talking about whether or not God can be involved in bringing about a horrendous act in history like that.  And the testimony throughout the Scripture, from beginning to end is yes He can, over and over again in the Old Testament we see a sovereign God who directs the affairs of men who promises that when nations and cultures are disobedient to Him, especially Israel, then God will discipline them.

 

And that's the background to Daniel and his generation, but you see where his parent's generation failed for the most part.  There were some who did not fail; there were the parents of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego who were originally named Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, and the parents of Daniel.  So we have come in our study of Daniel to realize that it is because of those parents, it is because of the fact that they were faithful as parents in drilling the Word of God into their children, they did not have their children for long remember, they just had them for a few years.  By the time they were 14 or 15 years of age Nebuchadnezzar and his army was outside the gates of Jerusalem and those children were taken as hostages to Babylon and they spent the rest of their days in Babylon, along with many other Jews that had been taken away and transported and removed to a foreign culture. 

 

So Daniel is a book that tells us several different things.  I have emphasized the fact that it is a wisdom book.  In the Old Testament, there are three divisions in the Old Testament canon; there is the Torah, the Law, "Torah" means instruction, how to live before God.  Then there are the prophets, the prophets in many cases are bringing a lawsuit against the nation for God because they have violated the Law.  Much of the Bible, it's amazing, is built on a legal framework; if you don't understand the court system of the day, if you don't understand legal practices, you'll miss a lot of what's going on in the Scripture, but the prophets in many cases are bringing a lawsuit against the nation because the nation has failed in their responsibilities in the Mosaic Law.  And then we have the wisdom literature and the wisdom literature teaches how to live, how to apply the Law in everyday circumstances of life so that we can create a life that is of beauty, something that glorifies God, so that the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ can have a life that is transformed.  And in the Old Testament, of course, they did not know Jesus Christ as He came in the incarnation of Bethlehem, that was yet future, but they had a promise of a Messiah and salvation was based on belief that God would fulfill His promise of a Messiah. 

 

So the generation that grew up under Josiah that had the prosperity failed.  And God disciplined the nation, He warned them again and again through the attacks of their enemies, and they refused to listen, they refused to turn back to God and to make Bible doctrine the number one priority in their life.  But there were a few; there were a few who were faithful and they drilled it into their children and it was through their children that a remarkable chain of events took place.  You may think that you live in obscurity in southeastern Connecticut and that perhaps your children may not have any impact, but you don't know where your children are going to go and you don't know who they may win to the Lord and who that person may win to the Lord. 

 

We never know how these things work out but what happens in Daniel 4 is a remarkable event because one of the greatest rulers of all history, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Babylonians, one of the wealthiest men of all time, one of the greatest architectural geniuses of all time, a man who led the armies of the Chaldeans against the Assyrians, against the Egyptians, and defeated both of those great empires, who consolidated a phenomenal empire that stretched from Egypt to India, all of the area that we now look at on a map that is so popular and when we focus in, and everybody looks at Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran and all of that part of the world, what we used to cal the Ancient Near East, all of that was under the authority of Nebuchadnezzar.  He was the greatest king, perhaps, of the ancient world.  And he finally becomes a believer. 

 

He finally turns to the one true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel, the God who would send His Son, the second person of the Trinity, the Eternal God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to become a true human so that He was eternal God who took on flesh and became true humanity and went to the cross, and He came to earth for the purpose of dying on the cross as a substitute for our sins so that the sins of all humanity would be poured out upon Him and He would pay that penalty so that we could have eternal life.  Salvation is a free gift, it's not something we work for, it's not something we earn, it's not something that's the result of religious observance or ritual or going through all kinds of different religious activities, it is simply an act of trusting in Jesus Christ and Christ alone for our salvation. 

 

Nebuchadnezzar took a long time to get there, but Nebuchadnezzar ultimately was saved because of the witness of these four young men; these four teenagers that were taken to Babylon in 605 BC who had a faithful and consistent witness throughout their lives, until finally God used that witness and then He took a 2x4 and He hauled back and hit Nebuchadnezzar as hard as He could to get his attention, and Daniel 4 is the story, Nebuchadnezzar's own words.  It's interesting; there are two passages in the Bible, one short, one long, in the Scripture that are related to Gentiles.  The Old Testament was written by Jews, except for Daniel 4.  Daniel 4 is written by a Gentile, it's written by Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel 4 is Nebuchadnezzar's testimony of his salvation.  It's written as a gospel tract that went out through the whole world, the whole earth, the entire empire; no one was without an excuse after this.  It was publicly proclaimed throughout Babylon; there was a greater witness throughout the Ancient Near East at that time than probably in America today because of the way they promoted and proclaimed these imperial decrees.  The other interesting thing is that Ruth focuses on one Gentile woman, Ruth, and if focuses primarily on the problem of her mother-in-law, a Bethlehemite woman by the name of Naomi. 

Now we're focusing on Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuchadnezzar's salvation in Daniel 4.  Chrono­logically we have to recognize when this takes place.  It comes near the end of Nebuchadnezzar's life, not at the absolute end because he ruled until 563 BC, so this probably occurs sometime around 570 BC or 571 BC by the time these events are over with he was pretty close to the end of his life, he perhaps had a year or two to live.  So chronologically we're told by the Septuagint that the events in Daniel 3, which had to do with the fiery furnace, took place in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, which places that at approximately 586 BC.  So that means that the events in Daniel 3 took place the year after that, in 585 BC and then these events would come some time later, probably in about 572-570 BC.

 

The events of Daniel 3 focused on Nebuchadnezzar having set up this tremendous gold idol that everybody had to bow down and worship.  And what I want you to remember is the character study we saw when we first got into this, that Nebuchadnezzar, after having seen his first dream in Daniel 2 and being told by Daniel that "you are the head of gold," it began to go to Nebuchadnez­zar's head, he began to be overwhelmed by arrogance.  And this is evidence in Daniel 3, 18 years has gone by between Daniel 2 and Daniel 3, and he is just impressed with himself, so much so that he's establishing his own religion and his own worship and this idol, this gold idol probably represented himself, and what we see is that arrogance and rejection of God, even though at the end of Daniel 2 he has seemed to recognize God, he recognizes Him as a god among gods, he hasn't completely rejected his polytheism and so he is still rejecting God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The consequence of that is he is in arrogance, he is in idolatry and so in idolatry and the vacuum of his soul more and more religious concepts of his day begin to pour in. 

 

So as a result of that he begins to fragment in his soul.  Mental attitude sins always pile upon other mental attitude sins, and we saw his reaction.  As soon as he is opposed by Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael, as soon as he is opposed by them he immediately loses his temper, he just gets incredibly irate with them, and he's going to throw them into the fiery furnace and has it heated up seven times greater heat, which is the wrong thing to do because that would just incinerate them rapidly and they would not suffer, which was really his intention.  So he's had many opportunities to hear the gospel and even at that time he looks inside the furnace and he sees "one like the son of God," who is the second person of the Trinity in there with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.  He sees the fourth, who is like the son of God, the angel of God, and once again he has another witness.  God is witnessing to him again and again and again and again through all of this, through the dreams, through this miracle, and yet he continues to reject the gospel. 

 

He had had many other opportunities to listen to the gospel; he had been exposed to Jeremiah, he's the one who let Jeremiah out of jail in 586 BC when he conquered Jerusalem.  Jeremiah had been thrown in jail because he taught the truth, and Zedekiah the king had put him in jail because he didn't want to hear the truth, he didn't want to hear doctrine, and Nebuchadnezzar let Jeremiah out.  And Jeremiah witnessed to Nebuchadnezzar.  Ezekiel was also a captive in the land; he had an opportunity to witness to Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel and these three young men had witnessed to Nebuchadnezzar again and again and again, so that he had heard the gospel but he continued to reject it.  So now God is going to take him from this position of incredible prosperity, He's going to take it all away from him in in incredible adversity.  So one of the principles that we're going to see here is how God uses suffering, undeserved suffering sometimes and other times deserved suffering in the life of people in order to bring them to the realization that they need salvation, that they are incomplete on their own, that they do not have the resources on their own to solve their problems or to face life and this is what is going to happen with Nebuchadnezzar. 

 

When we look at the evil that takes place here, when we look at the suffering, we need to be reminded of three principles related to suffering and evil.  The first is that as long as we live in the devil's world this world will be dominated by evil.  This is an important thing for us to remember us at this time because there are those are going to be asking us questions.  Why is it that there is such suffering, how could God allow something like last week to take place?  Many people will ask questions like that out of the misery and the loss that they've experienced and it's not always a good time to give them a nice theological or philosophical answer at that point because they're not ready, you have to wait.  But we have to know what the answers are, and the answer is that we live in the devil's world and people who respond like that are absorbed with their own pain and their own misery and they are in arrogance at that point. 

 

When you think about what happened last week, if you have historical perspective and you think in terms of how many have been lost in tremendous battles, battles that were fought during World War II, battles that were fought during the Civil War, you think about the battles that were fought during the American War for Independence, think about other calamities in history that have brought about the death of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people like the Black Death in the Middle Ages, we live in a world that is dominated by sin, a world that is dominated by evil and God has allowed that because God has allowed man free will.  And because man exercised free will, ultimately because Satan exercised free will as Lucifer in eternity past, he plunged the universe into sin and darkness, Genesis 1:2; and mankind, because Adam exercised negative volition in the Garden, he plunged the human race in human history into sin and evil, condem­nation and chaos.  And that is always the consequence and it is a continuous reminder to us, whenever we see events like last week that men are sinners, and because we live in a fallen world we can expect events like that.  And it's always tough when it strikes home in our own families or among our own friends because we realize how hard that is, but we have answers as believers. 

 

See, nobody else has an answer, they always try to throw that up to us and say well how can a loving God let something like that happen, and the fact is that if you throw out a loving God that allows bad things to happen for the reason of a higher good then you're left with no answer at all, other than these things just happen, there's no meaning, there's no rhyme or reason and everything is just basic evil and chaos and calamity are part of the natural way and so why not just go out and kill ourselves, and that's of course the nihilistic answer, and that's no answer at all, so the Christian answer is the only answer.

 

As we put these chapters together, looking at the flow of the argument of Daniel 2, 3 and 4 we are going to see how God works on a pagan individual and in a pagan culture.  Now remember I'm using the term "pagan" in a technical sense for non-Biblical thinking… non-Biblical thinking, it is a technical term, it is not a pejorative term, anyone who is thinking in a non-Biblical way is guilty of pagan thinking, and we are all guilty of that at some point or another when we operate on human viewpoint thinking. 

 

Now what we see in this chapter is how the Holy Spirit works circumstances together to bring the most powerful man in the world, the man who is the represent­ative king of the king of man to salvation.  There's an a fortiori argument here and that is all things being equal that the Holy Spirit can bring a man like Nebuchadnezzar to salvation, He can bring anyone to salvation, that ultimately evangelism is under the control of God the Holy Spirit and it is not up to us.  So we discover a few important principles related to evangelism.  First of all, sometimes it takes years of witnessing before somebody finally responds positively to the gospel.  Just because you sit down and you give them the four spiritual laws or some tract that presents the gospel clearly and they read it and they don't respond doesn't mean that they're not going to respond.  It doesn't mean that they are permanently negative.  Nebuchadnezzar went for years, heard the gospel again and again over a period of 20-30 years before he finally responds to the gospel.

 

Look at the Apostle Paul; the Apostle Paul was born Saul of Tarsus, he heard the gospel from Stephen in Acts 8, he rejected, Saul of Tarsus rejected the witness of Stephen and he began to kill Christians because he hated Christians.  As a Jew, he thought it was a perversion of Judaism and it was his personal agenda to wipe out Christianity before it could get started.  And yet he finally trusted the Lord, so he heard the gospel again and again and again and rejected it.  So we never know how long it may take before somebody finally responds.  So the first principle, sometimes it takes years of evangelism; we need to be patient, we need to be consistent. 

 

Point two; we need to realize that ultimately evangelism is not up to us, it is under the sovereign executive ministry of God the Holy Spirit, He is the one who is responsible to convict people of the truth and to make it clear to them.  It's not up to us to have winning arguments because the issue is not intellect; it's not up to us in order to be able to answer all of their objections, it up to us to answer them as best we can but to clearly focus on the gospel.  We've studied in the Gospel of John that Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would come to convict the world regarding sin because they have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son and regarding righteousness because they are not righteous and regarding judgment because sin has been judge don the cross.  That's what the Holy Spirit is convicting the unbeliever of and that needs to be the focus of our evangel­ism, to make those things clear.  We have a fantastic opportunity to be a witness for the gospel because there are going to be many in the days to come, many of our friends, may people who are deeply disturbed and troubled by the events that are going on and they are going to want to know answers, how can God let this happen, what's going on, what does the Bible say about prophecy. 

 

You may be interested to know that this last week I got a quick e-mail from Tommy Ice, he got stranded in southern California with Tim LaHaye last Tuesday, he was out there, they were working on some writing projects together and they were there along with Ed Hinson, they got a call from Time Warner and the folks at Time Warner, which is not a Christian publishing house, wanted them to do a book on these current events from a Biblical framework, from the view of Biblical prophecy and they have 30 days to have the manuscript in to Time Warner so that they can have it out by Thanksgiving so they're going to fast track this and that's going to be an interesting project so you might want to remember Tommy in your prayers and Tim LaHaye, as they write this, that this can be used to get the gospel to many people.

 

We need to remember that ultimately evangelism is not up to us, the Holy Spirit worked on Nebuchadnezzar in a number of different ways.  He used people and He used circumstances; He used people like Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Hananiah, Azariah, Mishael and he ultimately used circumstances.

And third, on the basis of that we need to realize we're part of a team operation.  As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians, Peter planted the seed, Apollos watered and I brought forth the fruit, so everybody has a different role and somebody may hear the gospel from 15 different people and each time gets another answer before they finally respond, so we need to be patient, we don't need to feel like it's a confrontation, we have to hurry up and get this person saved right now, we just have to make sure that the issue is clear. 

 

So these are some lessons we learn about evangelism from the flow of these passages.  Now as we get into Daniel 4 we see the crisis of Nebuchadnezzar's conversion; every chapter in Daniel relates to some crisis.  Daniel is a book about how to live in the midst of crisis by applying doctrine, and in the midst of chaos, in the midst of uncertainty there is certainty from God.  God is still on the throne, God is still in control of all of the events in human history, no matter how out of control things may appear to us.  Things seemed out of control in an extreme way for these four young men when they were taken as captives and hostages from their home and transported to Babylon.  Thinks seemed out of control when they were forced to eat the meat and go through the brain-washing reeducation school in chapter 1.  Things seem out of control when the execution squad was coming to arrest them and to execute them in Daniel 2 because none of the wise men could tell Nebuchadnezzar what the dream was.  Things seemed out of control in Daniel 3 when they were forced to bow down before the golden statue and the penalty would be being burned alive in the fiery furnace.  Things seemed out of control yet God was in control.

 

And now things are really going to seem out of control as the head of state is reduced to being a wild animal and living in the fields.  You can imagine the calamity that that must have brought upon the nation as a whole, and it's a tremendous testimony from history that little is said because the nation did not implode, probably because Nebuchadnezzar was such a fantastic administrator that the infrastructure in Babylon was under the control of people like Daniel, and Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, and even though the king is out in the field eating grass, and doesn't come in at night and his nails have grown long like eagle's claws and his hair is down to his knees and matted and he hasn't had a bath in months, the nation continued to go forward. 

 

In Daniel 4:1 we read, "Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: May your peace abound!"  Now immediately we're going to recognize that some things have happened to Nebuchadnezzar.  Notice the tone of his language here.  Verse 2, "It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.  [3] How great are His signs, and how mighty are His wonders!  His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation."  Immediately we can tell that something dramatic has taken place in Nebuchadnezzar's life.  He hasn't ever talked like this before.  This point is clear that there has been a complete change and that is that he has become a believer, he has become regenerate and he is a born again believer in the Old Testament.  Now we know that this took place late in his life.  From things inside this passage, for example, down in verse 30 we know that by this time his building operations had finished, verse 4 indicates that there was peace in his empire, there were no border skirmishes, there were no internal conflicts. 

 

There are also indications from various writers in the ancient world that something strange had happened to him.  For example, Eusebius quotes the writings of Abydenus, who wrote in the 2nd century BC, and Abydenus tells the following story.  He says, "afterwards the Chaldeans say, he," that is Nebuchadnezzar, "went up to his palace," the idea is he went up on the roof of his palace, so it's very similar to the situation in this passage, "and being possessed by some god or other" and that's how they would describe madness or insanity, he is "possessed by some god or other, and he utters the following speech: 'O men of Babylon, I, Nebuchadnezzar, here foretell to you the coming calamity, which neither Belus, my ancestor, nor Queen Beltis were able to persuade the Fates to avert.  There will come a Persian mule," of course he knows what Daniel's prophecy is, he is applying this.  He says, "There will come a Persian mule, aided by the alliance of your deities that will bring you into slavery.  The joint author of this will be a Mede in whom the Assyrians glory.  O would that before he gave up my citizens, some [?*] sounds like charibdis] or Sea might swallow him up utterly out of sight, or that turning in other directions he might be carried across the desert where there are neither cities nor foot of man, but where wild beasts of pasture and birds their haunts that he might wander alone among rocks and ravines and that before he took such thoughts into his mind, I myself have found a better end.  And then after uttering that prediction he disappeared and the curse that he had pronounced on the Persian came upon himself."

 

There are other indications, they are not definite, they are uncertain.  For example, Berosus, writing in the 3rd century BC says that, "after beginning the wall of which I have spoken, Nebuchad­­nezzar fell sick and died after a reign of forty-three years."  Now the point is that most people fall sick and die, and usually it's not mentioned, they usually say they died, usually it's preceded by some illness, so the fact that he mentions some illness preceding his death would indicate that something unusual had perhaps taken place. 

 

So Nebuchadnezzar begins, and he announces, he uses the language of a formal political governmental decree.  This would have gained tremendous weight in the ancient world, it would have been written out, it would have been read aloud on every street corner by his men who went forth who announced all the messages, all the decrees of the land.  It's an official government decree, and it was to go to everybody in the land, the phrase "peoples, nations, and men of every language" clarifies that it was to go to everyone in the land.  So these heralds went forth and announced the message.  It would have been written out so that there was no one in the land, no one in the entire empire of Babylon that did not hear the gospel from Nebuchadnezzar.  Think about that, he had a greater witness than Billy Graham to this nation at his time, all because of the witness of those three young men, four young men including Daniel, and because of the training that their parents gave them.  So you never know what impact your teaching as a parent is going to have in the angelic conflict and on the world around you. 

 

It also indicates that the Holy Spirit has lots of different ways to get the gospel out.  You know, in America in evangelistic campaigns have to be conducted a certain way.  We always think there has to be the stadium crusade and it always has to follow a certain formula, but that is not how it's done.  Look how the Holy Spirit evangelized the world in this generation by bringing to salvation the king of the Babylonian Empire.  And He did it all through four teenagers, very efficient operation, through these four teenagers he brought about the salvation of one man who proclaimed the gospel to the entire nation.  The problem is that Americans always face evangelism like its salesmanship.  Evangelism is not salesmanship, and yet so often we come up with these campaigns to try to win the whole country to Christ.  I remember back in the 70s it was the "I found it" campaign that Campus Crusade came out with, and it's wonderful, many people did come to Christ, but the set the whole thing up as an advertising campaign, and there bumper stickers and billboards and all of that and the goal was to reach everybody in America with the gospel within two years.  Then you have other campaigns that have come along that are built on, like a marketing plan, a multi-level marketing plan where if you tell two people and they'll tell two people, and they'll tell two people and if we follow that out to the end then in another six or eight months everybody in the world will hear the gospel and we all run into campaigns like that and those are just human efforts.  You know, a right thing done in a wrong way is still wrong, and even though God does use that and we've seen examples of that in the Scripture where God does override man's disobedience and man's silliness and superficiality, nevertheless it doesn't justify these kinds of evangelistic campaigns.

 

So we see a situation here that is extremely rare in history where you have the king or leader of an empire who proclaimed the gospel and it didn't just happen with Nebuchadnezzar, it happened again in the subsequent empire, in the Persian Empire.  Cyrus was brought to the Lord and we see the impact Daniel had there and again there was a witness to Alexander, when Alexander came into the Middle East and the priests of the temple in Jerusalem took Alexander the copies of Daniel and read him the prophecies of Daniel, made about Greece and how Greece would have a tremendous empire and Alexander was so impressed that he went to Jerusalem and bowed down to worship, not the high priest, but the God whom the high priest represented, because he was impressed by the truthfulness and the accuracy of the Scriptures.  I don't think that Alexander became a believer but he certainly honored Jews in his administration.

 

We read in verse 2 that Nebuchadnezzar says he's going "to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me," and the term "signs and wonders" is repeated again in verse 3, "How great are His signs, and how mighty are His wonders," these are technical terms for miracles.  "Signs" are something that signify something, they are to point to something, they just don't happen.  God does not just randomly perform miracles; in fact miracles are unusual.  If you look at the whole warp and woof of Scripture you will discover that miracles are abnormal; they take place in lump areas.  There are a lot of miracles that took place during the time of Moses, again at the time of Elijah and Elisha.  There were other miracles, you can't just isolate to those periods but they revolved around the ministry of Elijah and Elisha, not everybody in the land was involved with a miracle or saw a miracle.  The same thing at the time of the deliverance of Moses.  During the time that Christ was on the earth, in the early stage of the Church there were many miracles but even then they weren't normal, not everybody saw a miracle, not everybody experienced a miracle.  They were designed to signify who Jesus Christ was as a calling card to establish His credentials as Messiah.

 

So "signs and wonders" are wonderful, but as we studied in John we saw that signs and wonders do not always lead people to salvation, but in this case something miraculous and incredible took place, and I do not use that word lightly, that's one of the odd words that we use so frequently today, miracle, this is a miracle, that is a miracle, but a miracle is a technical term.  It is not a miracle when something happens that is extraordinary; there are many extraordinary things that happen that aren't usual.  But that doesn't make it a miracle.  What makes it a miracle is when God abrogates or God suspends the normal operation of physical laws…when God suspends the normal operation of physical laws.  Now there may be some interesting circumstances, you may be driving your car and not even notice the fact that you're running a stop sign and you go through an intersection, another car is coming the other way and he barely misses you, and we go whew, boy that was a miracle that just happened.  It wasn't a miracle, there is no natural law that was suspended, just by the way the circumstances worked out you weren't hit, God in His providential care took care of you, but that's not a miracle, that's not in the order of the Lord Jesus Christ giving sight to a man who was born blind.  It is not on the order of healing lepers, it is not on the order of giving someone hearing when they are completely deaf.  Those were miracles.  It's not on the order of parting the Red Sea or raising someone from the dead.  Those are miracles and when we use the term "miracle" just to refer to some extraordinary or unusual circumstance, then we are diluting the term and of course, that's one of the ways that Satan always attacks, is by destroying vocabulary.

 

So Nebuchadnezzar says I'm going to "declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me," and there he uses a term showing that he recognizes the uniqueness of God, the uniqueness of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He says "declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.  [3] How great are His signs, and how mighty are His wonders!  His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom," see, it's not about Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom any more, it is God's kingdom, he recognize the authority of God.  Nebuchadnezzar came face to face with the doctrine of the sovereignty of God and realized that there can only be one authority in the universe and that's God, and it wasn't Nebuchadnezzar.  "His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation." 

 

Let me show you how Nebuchadnezzar's thinking and vocabulary drastically changed at this time.  If you look at these verses, for example, in Daniel 3:14, when Nebuchadnezzar is reacting to the fact that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego won't bow down to the idol, he says, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?  [14] Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the orchestra, and fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well.  But if you will not worship, you will be immediately cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hand."  Notice how his vocabulary changed.  See, that's one of the things that happens in the life of a believer, is when someone is saved and as they learn the Word their vocabulary changes.  Now I don't mean it's a vocabulary that's peppered with "bless you" and "praise God" and "glory to Jesus" and "Hallelujah."  Sometimes you'll see that a lot, especially in some denominations there are people who seem to think that you talk with religious terminology.  That's what that means, but that's not at all what this means; that's a very superficial way.  Usually when somebody talks like that you can tell that they must be, in my experience, they are an immature believer, they don't know very much because they think that talking in these kind of clichés is somehow indicative of spirituality.  And that is not at all what I am talking about.

 

We see that Nebuchadnezzar has a new vocabulary; he has a vocabulary that is reminiscent of the praise vocabulary of the Psalms.  That tells us that he's been taught something, that he has been listening to Daniel.  He was saved and after he got back from his seven years out in the pasture, he came back and he said okay Daniel, you need to give me a crash course in Bible doctrine.  And so Daniel begins to teach him and as he learns doctrine, as he learns theology and he learns technical vocabulary he now incorporates it into every day language.  He's no longer surprised or left out in the dark when he hears terms like omniscience of God, or omnipresence or immutability or veracity or the Trinity, terms like redemption, propitiation, justification, he now understands those terms and he's using them, not those precise terms but he uses technical terms like the signs and wonders, Most High God, great are His signs, mighty are His wonders, His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, dominion is from generation to generation.  Those phrases are used again and again in the praise psalms so he picks up the verbiage of praise Psalms. 

 

Now one thing I want to warn you about, you have to be careful, just because somebody's vocabulary shifts doesn't mean they've necessarily become a believer and it doesn't mean that they really understand doctrine.  There are many religious groups that just sort of have a superficial religious vocabulary shift and that doesn't mean that there's any real change or understanding of doctrine.  And so you have to watch out for that, don't be taken in by superficial Christian verbiage.  That doesn't mean they understand the first thing about Scripture.

 

So Nebuchadnezzar uses profound verbiage here, he talks about the fact that His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation," at the end of verse 3.  That is not the vocabulary of a polytheistic worshiper.  It is not the vocabulary of someone who worships many gods; certainly he has gotten that vocabulary from Daniel and now he is talking in terms of the precise kingdom of God, he understands who the ultimate ruler in the universe is.  So this is a key to understanding that Nebuchadnezzar has truly been saved here and he recognizes that God is sovereign and unique.

 

Now in Daniel 4:4 we read, "I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace."  This is where he begins his testimony.  I want you to watch how he does it, he starts off talking about how he was at peace, he was calm, he was in prosperity, everything was going great and he was filled with arrogance.  That's what he means when he says "I was at ease," this doesn't mean that he had attained inner peace or stability, but that life was going well, there were no external problems, there was no warfare going on in the land, there is no external pressure, everything was going great for him and he thought he had done it all on his own.  He has managed to convince himself that he is the one who has solved all of his problems.  So he's relaxing in his own home and he's enjoying all of his prosperity when all of a sudden, out of the blue something is going to happen which rocks him to the very core of his existence, but still in his arrogance he's going to fail to respond. 

 

There is a hint of coming problems here in the phrase, "flourishing in my palace" and it is the Aramaic word ra'nan, and ra'nan is usually used to describe trees and to describe the growth of greenery out in the pasture, luxuriant growth, flourishing growth, and it's a tip off that something is going to happen, it's also used of a tree that has reached full growth.  He's flourishing like a tree and that is a little bit of a tip off of what is going to come, an anticipation of the dream in 11-17 which is going to focus on a tree that is cut down. 

 

Daniel 4:5, "I saw a dream and it made me fearful;" dechal, is the Aramaic word there, "and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me," now notice that it takes place in his mind, in his thinking, when he's asleep.  This dream appears to him, he's fully aware of all the details of the dream, and we've studied how God at different times uses dreams to communicate revelation to both Gentiles and Jews.  Now notice the reaction, he's at peace, he's at ease, life is going well, he's going through the test of prosperity, he's failing it because he's still in arrogance and mental attitude sin, and because of that God is going to have to get his attention some other way.  Sometimes God brings people to salvation while they're in prosperity and other times He has to lower the boom.  That boom may be through natural disaster as it was with the parents of Daniel and Azariah, Mishael, and Hananiah, sometimes it can be through personal disaster and trauma.  And this is the result, he responds to this with soul turmoil.  The first word is the Aramaic word dechal, which means fear, to tremble, it means dread, terror or horror comes upon him, he is frightened to death, it's used in conjunction with a second word at the end of the verse, where it says "the visions in my mind kept alarming me," it made me fearful and kept alarming me, these are in parallelism, synonymous parallelism, and the second verb is behal which means to be terrified, to be horrified, to be scared witless.  He is scared to death, there is something that is happening here that has rocked the very core of his soul and now he is on the verge of fragmenting on the inside, because he has never been able to pass the test of prosperity, he has rejected doctrine which is the only thing that gets us through the hard times, because he has rejected doctrine again and again and set himself up as the one who can solve all the problems in his life, now when this comes he is scared to death and he has no answers and no solutions.

 

So he calls for his state department to come and give him the answers.  Now I want you to notice what happens in verse 6, "So I gave orders to bring into my presence all the wise men of Babylon, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream."  Now there seems to be some interesting things here, that Daniel is not among them, and the second thing is, this time he doesn't force them to tell him the dream.  Now why is that?  Well, I think that one reason he doesn't have them tell him the dream is he wants some simple solution.  I think that he is still shaking a little bit over what happened the first time, he's afraid that maybe this is that God of Daniel talking to him again and that was extremely unsettling the first time and he wants to try to avoid God.  See, that's typical of the unbeliever, he wants to avoid God, he wants to avoid God's solution as much as he can.  That's going to be the last option that he's going to try, and so he's going to try to solve this any way he can and see if he can solve his own problems without going to Daniel.  So they all gather together.

 

Daniel 4:7, "Then the magicians, the conjurers," the magicians aren't the magicians like we think of as magicians, this is an Aramaic word that refers to the astrologers; these were the leaders in the nation, this is his cabinet that gathered together, everybody but Daniel.  And none could make the interpretation known to him, and that tells us the principle that man by man's efforts cannot solve man's problems.  ["…the conjurers, the Chaldeans, and the diviners came in, and I related the dream to them, but they could not make its interpretation known to me."]

 

But then in Daniel 4:8 we have the solution, "But finally Daniel came in before me," and Daniel, speaking of the God of the Scripture, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is going to tell Nebuchadnezzar the meaning of the dream and we will get there next time.