Well, we are in a series on the book of Daniel. Today is Daniel 4. The Royal Woodcutter. Do a lot of you like to cut wood? Hopefully your trees didn't blow down last night [We had winds up to 45 miles per hour]. We had quite a storm, didn't we. When I came to the church this morning all the little leaves and little branches had blown up against the church. The sidewalks were covered with leaves and branches. Here, Nat Halvorsen was out there sweeping them all off and cleaning it all up so that we could be here today and enjoy a beautiful experience worshiping God. I thank you Nat for doing that. That's just something that goes on behind the scenes here. It's very nice.
Daniel four is a unique autobiography. I like to read autobiographies of great people. This actually was written by the king of Babylonian Empire. (Daniel probably added verse 28-35). How do you feel about a heathen king writing a part of the Bible? God gave him a direct dream. This tells me that God does not just communicate with super holy people. God communicates with people, people that He loves, people that are like you and are like me. God communicates with you. God wants to work in your life no matter how far you are from Him. He's reaching out to you. That's the kind of awesome God that we serve.
In Daniel 4, we find that Nebuchadnezzar was dreaming again. This man was really a dreamer, wasn't he. Maybe God had to reach him in the night through dreams because he was too busy in the daytime thinking about his greatness. You know, that could be. We're so caught up in ourselves, sometimes God has to reach us when we're sleeping. That's an interesting concept.
The first dream was of a great statue and the second dream was about a great tree, and this is Daniel 4. The problem was, these dreams were scary nightmares. This one leaves him absolutely terrified. The king did remember the dream, though, and told it to all his wise men.
Reader's Digest, had a special on how you can recall your dreams. As if we would want to recall some of them.
But Nebuchadnezzar remembered this one. He told it to all the wise men, astrologers, and everybody, but even though they knew the actual dream they still could not interpret it. They were pretty bad, weren't they. Never surround yourself by losers. If you want to go forward, surround yourself by winners. Nebuchadnezzar made the mistake, and they couldn't interpret it. I think really they suspected what it was about and they were afraid to tell the meaning of the dream. Look at Daniel 4:8. Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)
Wouldn't you like to have that said of you? 'The spirit of the Holy God is in her. She works at the McKee library and you go there and you see the Spirit of God working out in this woman.' Or you see the Spirit of God working in this man. That's something wonderful to be said about anybody.
I think the Nebuchadnezzar kind of liked Daniel. He calls him by both his Hebrew name and his Babylonian name. When he called in the junior wise men and they failed him, then the king called in the CEO of the "Dream Interpretation Department" of Babylon. And in comes Daniel. You see, Daniel is the chief of the dream interpretation team. Look at Daniel 4:10-15. "These are the visions I saw while lying in my bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the beasts of the field found shelter, and the birds of the air lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.
What a tree! You know, trees are rare in desert lands. Babylon was quite an empire and I just don't think they had monster trees like that. I like monster trees. That's one of my things. I have quite a few books on trees. Unfortunately the books are huge. They hardly fit in my bookcase. But they are beautiful books. When I walk on the Greenway, here in Collegedale there is one particular tree that I really admire. I think it's an oak tree. It's right along the Greenway. Maybe you have seen it. It must be eight feet in diameter at its very base. It is just huge. It's older than about anybody in our church, probably. It's older than I am, I imagine. What a great tree that is! I admire big trees.
And Nebuchadnezzar's tree touched the sky. What a tree it was! In his dream it must have been a thousand feet in diameter in the trunk. He probably thought, 'That's impervious to the largest chani saw in the entire world. You couldn't cut that down. It's going to last forever. It's indestructible.' So he thought. And he thought maybe he was like that tree. I think he suspected that he was like that tree. I think he suspecte even the meaning of the dream. And king Nebuchadnezzar knew God. He knew Who the true God was. We found that out back there in Daniel 3. He strongly acknowledged the true God. But just a few years later, now, he forgot God. "In the visions I saw while lying in my bed, I looked, and there before me was a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He called in a loud voice: 'Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. "
Trees are rare in desert lands. Their shade was highly valued. Monster trees are one of my favorite things. I usually stop to admire an exceptionally large oak along our local greenway. It must be 8 feet in diameter at its base. Nebuchadnezzar's tree touched the sky and was so tall it could be seen hundreds of miles away. It may have been a thousand feet in diameter. What a tree! Impervious to the biggest chain saw in the world! Indestructible! (So he thought)
King Neb knew Who the true God was. In Daniel 3 he strongly acknowledged the true God. But just a few years later the king forgot God, and all this awesome experience with the furnace. and how God was so wonderful and so strong and how he had acknowledged God. He forgot all about that. You know, we pay heavily for our backsliding. We may be forgiven but the consequences for the king were seven years of senility, seven years of cold, seven years of living outdoors in the heat, seven years of having the dew fall on him al night long. That's what happened to him. Seven years of a one-item-diet on his menu. All he ate was grass. Seven years! What a punishment! You know, that seven year detour came all because he turned his back on known truth. Isn't that the basic reason? When you know something is right never leave it. If you once are convicted in your heart that the Sabbath is God's true day of worship, then keep it. Don't backslide away from it. Keep doing the truth. Keep worshiping God. The iron and bronze band were put around this stump as a promise of restoration someday, something would sprout from that stump, and again it would be great and become like it was before.
King Nebuchadnezzar had a problem; he was a slow learner. He would have been in the back seat of the classroom. He learned spiritual things the hard way. There were several roadblocks to his religious education:
Point #1. PRIDE. Nebuchadnezzar was a very proud man. Proverbs 16:18 says, Pride goes before destruction. Look at Daniel 4:29,30. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power..." Do you think he's a proud man?
How stupid the king really was. He thought that he was the big reason for his success of the whole Babylonian empire. He thought he was the reason for his greatness. So he took all the credit for himself. Are we much different today? Why do we almost always take the credit for our achievements and yet blame God for our failures? Shouldn't It be the other way around? That's what ought to happen.
God had given Nebuchadnezzar his power and God could take it away any time he so chose. Babylon extended from Egypt clear up to Iraq and over to Saudi Arabia. It was a huge kingdom in the then-known portion of the world. Wherever he went people bowed to him as the great king. They did homage to him. They recognized that he was the king of the greatest empire. He had been king for forty-three years. He had built Babylon up by adding new and larger walls, a new palace and greater defenses. Tons and tons of baked clay bricks survived in the ruins of ancient Babylon with Nebuchadnezzar's name inscribed on each and every one of them. He built the nation into a superpower.
The walls were so big that a four horse chariot could turn around atop the high hundred-gated walls. His throne room in the Southern Palace was 57 feet wide and 173 feet long and 66 feet high! I have seen his great Ishtar Gate in the big Museum in Berlin. It is 40 feet tall and 170 feet long. What a Gate! It is made of beautiful sky blue glazed bricks with lions in relief. He was a proud king. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world was his famous hanging gardens. He actually made them for his wife Amytis. She came from the mountains of Media.
I've met some of Nebuchadnezzars descendants. They spend their money like he did, based on dissatisfaction rather than need. They say: My old computer is only a Pentium 3 or 4. It is awfully slow. The new ones have so many bells and whistles. I want a new one. So off to the store they go. OR... My car has almost 60,000 miles on it and the battery went dead the other day and the new cars look so good. So they go and spend $30,000.
My wife and I both drive cars that have between 125,000 and 150,000 miles on them (each one). The air-conditioning works, almost everything works. If the car I now drive had existed in Nebuchadnezzar's day that 1992 car, in its current condition, would actually be one of the seven wonders of the world! Money is like manure. If you spread it around in the right place, it can do a lot of good. But when you pile it up on one place it begins to stink.
God took notice of the king who elevated himself to a quasi god-like status. He was following close behind Lucifer. Pride is basically the root of all sin. The middle letter of sin is "I". We humans love to brag. We tell, "Look what I did." One day I was invited to somebody's house. And I went in and they said, "Let me show an area of my house. So we took a tour of his home. I was ushered into a room which I would call, 'The Trophy Room.' There were all the plaques and all the awards, and each one was described. I was there an hour and a half. "I did this, I did that." He told a story a about each do-dad and all of his accomplishments were so wonderfuland so numerous. As I drove home I thought, 'We didn't even mention God. God wasn't thanked or praised for all this. Not once was God givn any credit. Not once did we have prayer until I was leaving the home at the door.
Matthew 23:12, Jesus said, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." If you are infected with an exalted ego, then humble yourself. James 4:10 says, Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. You don't have to take people into your trophy room. It's okay to have accomplishments, but give God the credit. God will lift you up. We need to recognize that we are human. Admit your mistakes. Eat humble pie. To be humble is not to think less of yourself, but to think of yourself less. The high and mighty king needed to be taken down a few notches. In fact, way down, way down to grass level. So far down he was eating grass. One of th folks here at McDonald Road said, "Maybe Nebuchadnezzar was the world's first hippy. He was on grass for seven years!"
First of all he was a proud man. Point #2- He was A PROCRASTOR.. Ther is not much hope for a dyed-in-the-wool procrastinator. Procrastination is a dangerous practice. Daniel begged the king to repent. Look at Dan 4:27. Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue." Maybe God will give you a second chance if you really humble yourself, O king, and you really do what is right, maybe God won't bring this judgment upon you. Daniel's advise went much further than just verbalizing repentance; "I'm sorry." It included a full 180 degree U turn by stopping doing wrong and actually doing what was right. His probation lasted one full year. God gave him plenty of time to repent;one full year. And he procrastinated, he put that off, he didn't do it, and finally judgment came upon him.
Maybe you have lived a long life. Maybe God has given you an extended life, an extended probation with which you can make your life right with God. Don't delay. Just because you have not reaped what you have sown does not mean that your day of reckoning is not coming. Today is the day of salvation. Repent today. Jesus said in Luke 13:3, unless you repent, you too will all perish.
Point #3. The third roadb-lock was POWER. Nebuchadnezzar was the king of all the known earth. To attain this mighty power, the king exploited the poor. You take an employer who has a high degree of status and wealth and pays the employees practically nothing. That's what Nebuchadnezzar was doing. Only worse; he was exploiting the poor. His construction was largely done by slave labor. The gold and wealth of Babylon was not used to better the lives of the people but to build palaces and to build fortifications and build hanging gardens for his wife. While the king ate sumptuous rich food at an expensive table, many in his kingdom lacked food. His power went to his head. His worldly power blocked his view of God's power.
How do we treat the poor? I think most people discriminate when it comes to the poor. We will treat them quite well if we think they got that way by some disaster like hurricane Katrina. We will donate largely to things like that. But we will not help much if any if we think in our mind that they got that way from poor choices like alcohol or drugs, then we'll just drive on by. Where in the Bible does it say to help the worthy poor? Does the bible say that? Jesus said in Mark 10:21, ....give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. No mention is made of the worthy poor. Just the admonition to help the poor. Don't mistreat or take advantage of them. Help them. Be as concerned about their welfare as you are about your stock portfolio. Nebuchadnezzar got a failing grade in respect to the poor, so God made him one of the poor.
Saddam Hussein was a fan of Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was Saddam Hussein's idol. He too built his empire in Iraq at the expense of the poor. He too built Babylon at the expense of the poor. Finally he ended up hiding in a hole like a wild animal. Always use your God-given power and wealth to advance God's agenda and not for self gain.
Number 4. Another road-block in the religious education of Nebuchadnezzar was POOR CHOICES. He did not know how to get good advice. When you don't have the answer yourself, at least get good council. He sought advise from the same firm that failed him in Daniel 2. The same group of advisors. He still had them. And they still let him down and failed him. He was going to execute them one time, but he didn't. Get good sound advice. Where do you get good advice? Do you go to the chat-room? The bartender? From your favorite beautician? Proverbs 11:14. Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Seek a seasoned Christian councilor to get good sound advice.
Finally one day the voice of the royal woodcutter of heaven, announced the king's doom. Ecclesiastes 9:12 says, No man knows when his hour will come. Nebuchadnezzar became insane and like an animal. The medical name is 'lycanthropy.' They say today, that insanity is caused by reverse heredity, you get it from your kids! I don't know.
Back in those days they believed insanity was caused by demons. That's what they thought. Demons. And if anybody killed the insane person his insanity would come upon the murderer. Maybe this explains why nobody took Nebuchadnezzar's life for seven years, why they preserved him for seven years, why they sent him off to a back corner of the pasture and kept him secure in some hidden place. I think the knowledge of his illness was a secret. I wonder who kept his kingdom together. I wonder if Daniel and the others kept the kingdom together during the seven year sabbatical leave. We will find out when we get to heaven.
Daniel 4:34 says that "I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored." When he looked up to God, his sanity came back. That's interesting. Like the Prodigal son, he finally regained his senses. Only When we look to Jesus do we get answers. I think Nebuchadnezzar was truly converted. I think that's why he was allowed to write one chapter of the Bible because he was a truly converted man. He became a humble grateful believer in the true God. I think that true Christians need to be humble. James 4:6 says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." As a converted believer, I think Nebuchadnezzar may be in heaven some day.
When his right mind returned his kingdom returned. He learned a lesson the hard way. It seems to me that if he had humbled himself during his one year probation that God might have spared him seven years of drudgery. He should have repented. Maybe if we would do right, maybe if we would put Christ first we would be spared an awful of trouble in this world. Doesn't that make sense? I must point out that repentance does not always remove the consequences of our sin. David lusted and took Bathsheba and committed adultery, but he repented. God did forgive him. But David suffered many awful consequences of that sin the rest of his life. He was in constant trouble and his child was taken in death. I don't want my children and grandchildren to suffer the consequences of my sins. You don't want that to happen to your children. We need to stop sinning. We need to fall in love wit Jesus enough so that sin is loathsome to us, where we would love to be holy, wher3 we would love to be like Jesus, and where Jesus Christ Himself would be modeled in our life and reflected in our character. That's what I want. I want to be like Jesus. I want to stop playing around with sin. I want to humble myself, and I want to seek Jesus today while He can be found. Don't you? Let's put Jesus first in our lives. And let's glorify Him.
Next week we're going to be speaking about "God's Final Answer."
Daniel, by William Shea, Pacific Press, 2005.
Be Resolute, by Warren W. Wiersbe, 2000.
Daniel, Verse by Verse, by Henry Feyerabend 1990
Let Daniel Speak, by Arthur Keouch, 1986.
Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary.
Prophets and Kings by Ellen White
Hymn of Praise: #12, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee Scripture: Daniel 4:13-16 Hymn of Response: #416, The Judgment Has Set 060722#221
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last updated 22/07/06 by Bob Beckett and Paul Burns.