Pride of Man | Daniel 4:1-37
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Daniel 4:1–4:37
Good Morning! We are continuing our series on the book of Daniel. GOD in the Secular World. God’s people have been taken and placed in exile, some Daniel and his friends have been put in positions of leadership, but there are challenges. God is in control over the affairs of nations and in the lives of individual people. The pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar is given an image of a statue representing all earthly kingdoms coming to an end and an all-consuming mountain raises in its place. Nebuchadnezzar boldly declares “Your God is God of Gods.” However, even after seeing God’s power to save from the furnace, his allegiance has not changed. He marvels at the power of God but he is still consumed with his own pride.
Part I | v1-18 | He is greater than I, let me tell you why.
Daniel 4:1-18 | King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.
4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. 8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.
13 “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. 14 He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man's, and let a beast's mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’ 18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
This is the last chapter in Daniel for Nebuchadnezzar. He has been granted a victory over Israel, taken exiles, expanded his kingdom; had a troubling dream of God’s eternal kingdom. He has attempted to institute worship of his own image of gold in a field, even threating to burn those who do not. When resisted, Nebu is shown God’s saving power in keeping His people, even in the midst of the furnace. Now we’re 20 years later (maybe 35-40 years into his reign and Daniel’s service) and Nebu is making this royal decree about God. Last chapter he brought all people, nations, languages to come and see his work. Now he is sending word OUT let me tell you all about the work God has done! Specifically in my life!
God is good, let me tell everyone the amazing miracle the “most High god had done for me. This is Nebuchadnezzar giving a testimony. Let me tell you about God, His power, and His eternal kingdom.
God has used “Signs and wonders” in a specific way. God has done the mighty work of humbling Nebu. This is a dramatic turn around for a guy ruled by his emotions and intoxicated by his influence and achievements. How did it happen? First off, things are good. Really good! Nebu has arrived! His kingdom is great, there is relative peace. He has accomplished great things as a builder. Hanging gardens of Babylon were one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and the walls of Babylon were legendary in their size and splendor. He’s both at ease AND prospering, that’s the dream right?! He’s not discontent, but he is going to be distraught by a dream. Last time this was the case he threatened to kill all the wise men of the kingdom and refused to tell them the dream. Now he’s mellowed out a little bit. Not only is he not threatening, but he’s even telling them the contents of the dream and saying “you tell me what it means.”
He’s searching for an answer, but he’s looking at empty wells. These are the guys who haven’t exactly been good counselors in the past and here again “they could not make known to me its interpretation.” When we hear the dream it seems surprising they “could not” and more likely they “would not”. This dream does not seem like good news, but it also seems pretty simple. He has experienced firsthand where wisdom and power are found and now he has either forgotten or is just avoiding it. Finally he calls in Daniel. (named after his god, but empowered by the spirit of the holy God) He knows where he should go the whole time.
We hear the dream. There is this tree, it is attractive, protective, and provisional. It’s strong, beautiful, and provides for many. “food for all” The economy was strong, things look great and peaceful. Then a “watcher” from heaven comes down and proclaims judgement. Chop, lop, and strip this tree of all its beauty, power, and provision. The “tree kingdom” is ended, but the root isn’t torn out, the stump remains.
The dream gets weirder as now he talks about the stump’s mind be changed from a man’s to a beast’s and be like a wild animal for a complete period of time. What??! Why? To the end that the Living may know the Most High rules the kingdoms of men and gives it to whom he wills. Now you hear the dream, you have to wonder why he even needed an interpretation, and why the other “wise men” couldn’t figure it out. It seems so simple maybe he knows what it means but doesn’t want to acknowledge the consequences of it.
Part II | v19-27 | Compassionate Clarity
Daniel 4 19-27| 19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! 20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong.
Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. 23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
Daniel hears the dream and takes a big pause, he is actually shaken up quite a bit. Why would Daniel hesitate? He’s seen how Nebuchadnezzar had reacted to better (or at least not as bad) news with rage and fury. Nebuchadnezzar senses some of his hesitation and distress and tries to assure him “it’s ok really!”
Additionally, Daniel has great care and concern for this king. Wait this is the wicked king who destroyed God’s temple, took His people, and has been ruling with a reign of terror and an iron fist while flaunting his wealth and accomplishments. This has to be vengeance time. “King the dream is you’re gunna get cut down!” But instead Daniel has compassion. He has likely been praying for Nebu, for years. Daniel is completely faithful to God AND is able to have compassion and concern for this King. He even takes care to engage him in a tone and speech that would be easily acceptable. Daniel starts with the good news. You’re the great tree!! I know big stunner! God is good and has given good things to you. You have functioned like a tree of life for many in this world, providing and protecting them. God can and does allow and empower pagan kings and leaders to rule and build for the material blessing and protection of people in the world. Not usually concerned with the doctrinal statement of the guy who designed my iPhone. There is good news, but…. There is humiliation and there is exile. You’ll be driven from among men and made to live like an animal. (He skips over the part where he becomes insane.) for a simple purpose.
“til you know the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” The Bible starts with a garden, beautiful, protected, and provisional, where there is a tree of life, so that all people would know they are dependent on God for their very life. Because of the sin of pride, believing there is greater life apart from God and true independence is possible; “God I am the highest judge in the place, I can provide better for me because you’re holding out.” Man is cast out of the garden, and “true humanity” being made in the image an likeness of God is distorted. Man will not be allowed to eternally lie a lie that life comes from them and not from God. There is shame, toil, indignity, and difficulty, as man is divorced from God’s kingdom. In giving the interpretation of this dream Daniel is being clear that pride is sin and that sin does have consequences. Sin separated and your failure to acknowledge God for who He is (the one who granted your victory over Jerusalem, gave you vision, and who delivered people from your fiery hands) will lead to a place of humiliation. Gospel truth does not desire judgement, but it doesn’t deny it.
2 Peter 3:9 | The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
But God is merciful, loving, and gracious there is hope and promise of new and restored life. There is also hope in this dream, the stump remains and the roots haven’t been removed so there is a promise, there can be restoration and redirection of your life and work. Daniel does give some counsel, you cannot “save yourself” but you can turn from sin. And “perhaps” you can be spared the humiliation. He has be oppressing people, when he can be promoting freedom. You do not have to be humbled, but you have to be humble. Surely this was the turning point! Daniel tell me more, when can I get baptized? Can I join your small group with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Will you be my accountability partner?! Not so fast.
Part III | v27-33 | Pride and Fall
28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. 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.
All this happened to him! A year later, maybe he was focused for a while maybe he was prideful the whole time. Whatever the reason, he hasn’t had a full conversion and is still walking in his pride, literally.
Let’s not be too hard on him. How many of us have had a dramatic experience or felt our spirit moved only to forget or fall back into old habits easily. How many of us remember a sermon a year later? Or a week?
He’s on the roof, he sees his city all that has been accomplished and says “Isn’t this great!” What I did with MY power, and for MY glory!” And will the words are still in his mouth, and his pride on full display it’s humiliation time. Nebuchadnezzar has spoken about “his” accomplishments, but here is God coming in and having the last word. “All you have that you think you have done will be taken from you… Now. Moreover you will be driven from men….until…. you know the Most High rules. This was all immediately fulfilled.
When we walk in pride we are all a moment away from humiliation. Let’s be clear this is humiliation. Man was created unique and distinct (over animals) to be in relationship with God. Our pride is beastly before God so for Nebuchadnezzar to be treated like an animal, or less than human is a great indignity. We live is a world where if you don’t affirm the “glory” of everyone’s “majesty” you’re “denying their humanity.” Yet, we are so confused as to where the dignity of humanity comes from and so we easily invert the created order, it’s why everyone knows the name of the ape Harrambe, who was shot in the zoo so he wouldn’t harm a 4 year old, but not the 2 year old eaten by the Alligator at Disney World. Two men we profiled in the New Yorker for choosing to live like animals. We need a reset and so does Nebuchadnezzar. At this point God is immediate in fulfilling his word of humiliation. It’s similar to what happened to Saddam Hussein the opulent Iraqi dictator with gold toilet seats in his palaces, mistreated his people and had images and statues of himself everywhere. After the invasion he was found in a “spider cave”. For him the judgement was condemnation and he was executed. For Nebuchadnezzar, the purpose was not condemnation but conviction. Its seven periods of time, likely not a week because he had to have time for his hair and nails to grow out. This could be a case of clinical lycanthropy. He looks like revenant.
Part IV | v34-37| Humbled To Rise
34 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; 35 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?”
36 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. 37 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.
When this complete period of humiliation ended, there was a redirection of Nebuchadnezzar’s orientation. Previously he was been directed at all he had done, then he had his head down on the ground like a defeated animal. Finally, “I lifted my eyes,” but really God is the one that put him through this trial to humble him so he would repent.
All of our pride will eventually lead to humiliation in life or death; Humiliation can lead to shame, despair, and ultimately destruction. But it doesn’t have to. Gospel humiliation doesn’t lead to shame, it leads to worship of a God who loves us enough to humble us to the point where we stop looking at ourselves and turn our eyes to him. When we are in pride, we are so impressed with what we’ve done we cannot see past our accomplishments to the big things God is doing in the world and our lives. When we look to Him and see His glory and His power we are reoriented to what reality is. Our reason returns as we see God for who He is and ourselves in perspective to Him. Right reason and perspective leads to right worship.
Nebuchadnezzar praises God recognizing His Sovereignty and power (Everlasting dominion, no one can say “What have you done?” to God), His covenant with His people (from Generation to Generation). Nebuchadnezzar see himself and humanity rightly (all the inhabitants of earth are counted as nothing, compared to the greatness of God) He’s gone from functional atheist (I am glorious, I’ve done it all! I lack nothing!) to true worshiper (He is glorious and He’s done it all! I am dependent for everything!) He affirms God’s good character. God has been incredibly tough on Nebuchadnezzar, removal from the kingdom and made to live like an insane animal and yet he say “all his works are right and ways just.” When we are humbled and on our knees before God we don’t look up to the sky but we look up to Jesus on the Cross.
Philippines 2:6-11 | 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We confess Jesus Christ as Lord, who was humiliated in our place for our sin and pride on the Cross, so we don’t fear being driven from God’s Kingdom in shame but get to live restored lives when we Trust Jesus.