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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Our God rules over the kings of this world
Text:Daniel 4:1-37 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Providence
 
Added:2015-06-08
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Old Book of Praise

Ps. 145: 1, 2

Ps. 78: 3

Ps. 145: 3 – 5  

Ps. 75: 1, 3, 4, 6

Ps. 47: 1 – 3

 

Scripture reading:       Daniel 4 

Text:                          Daniel 4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Our sovereign God reigns forever

Ps. 145: 1, 2

Ps. 78: 3

Baptism: Hymn 13: 1, 3, 6

Ps. 145: 3 – 5  

Ps. 75: 1, 3, 4, 6

Ps. 47: 1 – 3

 

Scripture reading:       Daniel 4 

Text:                          Daniel 4

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

There is a clear theme that runs through the book Daniel.   It is the coming of Christ’s kingdom.

But note the context. 

The gospel of Christ’s kingdom is proclaimed in the midst of much suffering.

When we look at the historical context of our text this morning, the events in chapter 4 took place towards the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.   There is not much left of God’s people Israel; only a small remnant.

By this time Jerusalem is totally destroyed.   Jerusalem has been burned with fire and lays in ruins.   Also the temple of the LORD and the service of the LORD, which the LORD Himself had established there, is gone.

Nothing is left.

It almost seemed to be the end of God’s church here on earth.

 

But, in the midst of this dark history, God reveals more clearly than ever before the coming of Christ, our eternal King, who will reign forever.

This gospel of the coming of Christ’s kingdom is proclaimed at a critical point in history.   The time of the world empires has started.   From now on Israel will no longer be an independent nation with their own king, but will be thrown into the melting pot of the power struggles of mighty nations and political turmoil until the coming of Christ.

 

What hope could God’s people have in this time, now that the throne of David had been wiped away?   What has happened to the prophecies of the Son of David who will reign on the throne of David forever?   And what chance did God’s people have of surviving, now that they are absorbed into this great and ungodly city Babylon with its heathen culture and idolatry?

 

The future indeed seemed very dark for God’s trampled people in the midst of a powerful and ungodly world.  

 

What a comfort then when God, their God, reveals in a most majestic way His sovereign power over the kings of this world!    There, even in the midst of Babylon, He proclaims and demonstrates His almighty and sovereign rule under which the king of Babylon has to bow.   Nebuchadnezzar is forced to acknowledge before the eyes of the whole world, that he is nothing before God, and that God can do with him as He wishes!  

 

God reveals His sovereign power and kingship not only in heaven, but also here on earth in the concrete political situation of the day.

He has His kingship and sovereign rule proclaimed even by the mouth of that mighty heathen emperor, whom He brings down on all fours to eat grass like an ox, until, in the greatest humiliation, he finally lifts up his head to heaven and acknowledges and confesses that the Most High God, yes, the God of Israel, lives and reigns forever:

 

“…His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.   All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.   No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’” – verses 34, 35

 

And then king Nebuchadnezzar has this confession published: “…To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth…” – verse 1

 

The whole world saw and heard.

 

What a comfort to God’s people!   This is our God!

Our God, who made His covenant with us, has not changed, and He has not abdicated His throne.   The heathen nations may rage and plot against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us”.   But He who sits in the heavens laughs at them; He holds them in derision. 

 

Yes, He holds them in derision.   There stands Nebuchadnezzar, on all fours, eating grass!

He, the great and majestic king of Babylon, the builder and ruler of a world empire, will not establish the eternal golden empire on earth as he intends to do.   But the God of heaven will establish His kingdom forever.   His Anointed will come and grind to powder all the kingdoms of this world, and blow them away like chaff, as proclaimed in chapter 2.

 

Dear congregation, this is our God.   This history becomes even more amazing when we look at it in the light of the New Testament, for now we see our Lord Jesus Christ seated at God’s right hand, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, before whom every knee shall bow and confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.  

Christ will crush all His enemies under His feet, and even His fiercest enemies will have to bow the knee and confess His sovereign rule – if need be, on all fours, eating grass!

 

Congregation, in the midst of a secular world and the rise and fall of various world powers and political turmoil, we are comforted by the power and sovereign rule of our almighty God, with our Lord Jesus Christ, the promised King, seated at His right hand.

 

I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme…

Our God rules over the kings of this world

 

We will note…

  1. Nebuchadnezzar’s prosperity
  2. Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation
  3. Nebuchadnezzar’s confession

We note in the first place…

Nebuchadnezzar’s prosperity

 

Nebuchadnezzar says in verse 4:

“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace.”

He was enjoying peace and prosperity.

Jerusalem in ruins, while Babylon flourishes!

 

We read something similar in Zechariah chapter 1 where it is reported that the whole earth was resting quietly, while Jerusalem was laying in ruins.   The world was enjoying rest and peace while the church was being trampled down.   But then the Lord said to Zechariah:

 

“I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal.   I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease…” – Zech. 1: 14

 

Things are not what they seem to be.   

While the world is at ease, enjoying prosperity, God is exceedingly angry with them.   And while Jerusalem lays in ruins, God actually loves Jerusalem with great zeal!

 

We find the same here in our text.  

King Nebuchadnezzar is enjoying great prosperity and peace, but God is terribly displeased with him.  

From chapter 1 up to chapter 4 God has now already made His power known in Babylon.   Every time Nebuchadnezzar was brought to the point where he had to confess that Daniel and his companions served the living God, the God of heaven; but he refused to subject himself to this God.  

 

The coming of Christ’s eternal kingdom was announced to him.  At first he was amazed about the miraculous way in which this was revealed and made clear, but in spite of this he rejected God’s revelation.   He erected an immense image of gold, representing his own kingdom, which may not be followed by other kingdoms.   He erected an image of his own dream, of a golden kingdom that will last forever.   And before this image all had to bow the knee.  

However, the outcome was unexpected.   Three men did not bow before this image, and the whole crowd of rulers and governors from all over the kingdom all went home with the King’s own command to fear the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego!  

 

Yet, Nebuchadnezzar continued to pursue the glory of his own golden empire.   And he indeed had great success.   The height and glory of Babylon reached to the heavens!

 

“The tree that you saw, which grew and became strong, whose height reaches to the heavens…it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong; for your greatness has grown and reaches to the heavens…” – verses 20 – 22.

 

He built Babylon to the glory of his own majesty:  

 

“…Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honour of my majesty?” – verse 30

 

Do you hear the words of Gen. 11 echoing?

Was that not man’s slogan when they built the Tower of Babel?

 

“…Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” – Gen. 11: 4

 

All men had to unite to build a mighty city and a kingdom which power reaches to the heavens, in order to make a name for themselves, and to unite them in one kingdom – the kingdom of man without God; the kingdom of Babylon over against the kingdom of Christ.

 

Yes, that theme returns here in Babylon in the same valley where the Tower of Babel once stood.   And we hear the same words:  

Your height, O king, reaches to the heavens.  Your greatness has grown and reaches to the heavens.  I have built this city, Babylon, by my mighty power and for the honour of my majesty!

Nebuchadnezzar continued building the Tower of Babel in the same spirit that its foundations were laid.

 

And he prospers.   Babylon flourishes.   The tower reaches to the heavens.  

 

Babylon was not just any city.   Its splendour was indeed breathtaking.  Various inscriptions were found that testify of this.  Some inscriptions also mention that although Nebuchadnezzar had amazing military success, he was first of all famous for all the majestic building projects which he started and completed.  

Nebuchadnezzar – the great builder of Babylon, whose glory and splendour reached to the heavens!  

 

We do not need extra-Biblical information to come to this conclusion.  

In chapter 2 we were told that Nebuchadnezzar, king of kings, was the head of gold, and that all the other empires after him would be lesser kingdoms.   No empire would ever again reach the splendour of the golden Babylon.  

And here in chapter 4 Nebuchadnezzar would not have boasted that he has built this majestic city, if it was not he who built it.  

His works, his skills and abilities, his success, his glory, were amazing.   Add to it the power of the greatest empire ever, and the riches of all the nations; gather it all in Babylon and you might get some impression of the glory and the splendour of this city – the great Babylon!

 

But now someone may say: “Was Nebuchadnezzar not simply fulfilling the cultural mandate of Genesis 1, subduing the earth and having dominion?”

What is wrong with building a city, or building a kingdom?   Is there anything wrong with centralising power or with building such a royal dwelling? 

Was it not simply the flourishing of culture?

 

Well, it was indeed a flourishing of culture, but a culture separated from God; a culture in enmity against God.   It remains the culture of this world also in our day, where man seeks his own glory without God.

Man is able to do many things.  Look at our technology.   Look at our achievements.  

Listen to the media and you will hear the same words echoing:  “Is it not man who has invented all these things to the glory of man?”   Has man not grown independent of God, boasting in his own abilities and potential?    Look at our scientific achievements – do our knowledge and dominion not reach to the heavens?

Also in our day man is erecting the tower of Babel, building the city of Babylon.

 

But God suddenly intervened, and chopped the tree down.  

We note that in the second place…

Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation

 

“…Chop down the tree…let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him…” (verse 23)

 

The “seven times” may refer to seven years.   It lasted at least so long that his hair grew very long, and his nails became like bird’s claws.   The seven times refer to a fixed time determined by God.   Nebuchadnezzar would suffer this humiliation for the complete period which God has determined beforehand.  

This mighty heathen emperor would graze with the beasts of the field until God decides to put him back on the throne.  

 

This great and brilliant man, this builder of the great world kingdom, God removes from his mighty throne, puts him down on all fours, and makes him eat grass like and ox!

 

Yes, God mocks him.   He holds him in derision – this king who destroyed Jerusalem and trampled God’s people under foot, who took the holy articles of the LORD’s temple as trophies for his gods, who dared to rebel against Christ and His kingdom, who erected a golden image of his own kingdom, who decreed that all shall bow and worship his power and glory, whose boasting and rebellion against God reached the heavens – God holds him in derision.

 

It is a fulfilment of Psalm 2.  

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?    The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed.   They refuse to bow their necks, or to be bound by God’s rule.   But He who sits in heaven laughs at them.   He mocks them; He holds them in derision.

And it will have its final fulfilment on the day when Christ appears in glory.

 

We see the truth and reality of Psalm 2 powerfully portrayed before our eyes in the history of Babylon.  Even the greatest king on earth has to step down at once and eat grass on God’s command!

Finally, all who rise against Christ shall come to utter disgrace. 

 

But before Nebuchadnezzar came to this deep humiliation and disgrace, he received a warning by the mouth of Daniel:

 

“…O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.   Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.” – verse 27

 

Daniel called king Nebuchadnezzar to repent of his evil ways.   This mighty emperor was not only proud, but cruel and wicked.   We think for example of Isaiah 14 where the prophet speaks about the fall of the king of Babylon, and says:

 

“How the oppressor has ceased, the golden city ceased!   The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the sceptre of the rulers; he who struck the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he who ruled the nations in anger…” – Isaiah 14: 4 – 6

 

There Nebuchadnezzar is called a great oppressor, ruling the nations in anger, beating them with a continual stroke.   He showed no mercy to those in need – as Daniel points out in verse 27.  

Does God not appoint rulers so that they may serve and protect the people?  But the rulers of this world and their kingdoms are described as ravenous beasts – Daniel 7.   They do not fulfil their God-given task, but rule with injustice and cruelty.  

And thus Daniel took the opportunity to call this heathen king to repentance.  

 

It again reminds us of Psalm 2:

 

“…be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth.   Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.   Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.”

 

Yes, Nebuchadnezzar was not totally ignorant about the coming of Christ’s kingdom.   It was already proclaimed to him:

 

“…the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” – chapter 2: 44.

 

But king Nebuchadnezzar did not want anything to do with the Messiah and His kingdom; instead, he erected an image of his own golden empire, and commanded that all must worship this image of his power and glory!

It is his city which he has built by his mighty power to the glory of his majesty – verse 30.

 

Dear congregation, our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the eternal King whose coming has been foretold in the prophecies of Daniel.   Christ is the eternal King who will crush all His enemies under His feet.   He is the King of kings, to whom all the kings of the earth have to subject themselves.  

Woe to the king or ruler who dares to rise against God’s Anointed: Jesus Christ!

And woe to the Prime Minister who does not acknowledge the God of heaven, or the government that laughs in parliament when someone mentions God and His will.

 

That is what Nebuchadnezzar had to experience.

He built Babylon in the spirit of Babel, and in the idolatry of the golden image, but God put an end to his boasting and brought him down on all fours to graze like and ox, until he looked up to heaven to honour the Most High who rules in heaven and on earth.  

 

Dear congregation, how great is our God!

“How great are His signs, and how mighty His wonders!” – verse 3

 

Finally, this mighty king had to acknowledge his nothingness before God.   In deep humiliation and disgrace he had to confess that God sovereignly reigns over all.    

We note that in the last place…

Nebuchadnezzar’s confession

 

“…at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honoured Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.  

All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.  

No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’”

 

“Now, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice.   And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.”

 

What a confession from the mouth of such a heathen king!

 

Dear congregation, there will indeed come a day when all the enemies of Christ will bow the knee before Him and confess that He is Lord.

 

“…at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Phil. 2: 10, 11

 

Nebuchadnezzar was made an example of what will happen on judgment day.   This confession will come even from Christ’s fiercest enemies on earth when He appears in glory.  

But it often happens even in this life already.

Think of the time of the Reformation, when the Protestants were severely persecuted – how often did God come to their aid by removing a Romish ruler, and frustrated the plans of wicked kings, destroying their fleet in a storm, or removing them from the throne.

 

Let the kings of the earth fear, let the rulers tremble before our God.

Let the church rejoice, and say: our God is King over all.

 

What a comfort in the midst of oppression!

What a comfort for God’s trampled people in the midst of Babylon!
 

When we look at the words of Nebuchadnezzar’s confession, it is almost identical with Psalm 145: 13:

 

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations”.

 

And when Nebuchadnezzar confesses, “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing…”, it reminds us of Isaiah 40: 17 where the prophet says:

 

“All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.”

 

It is clear that God laid these very words in the mouth of Nebuchadnezzar to comfort His covenant people, to remind them of His Word which He spoke to them trough the prophets.  

It is as if God does not want us to miss the point.   He who once spoke through the mouth of a donkey, can also speak through the mouth of a man who ate grass like an ox.  

The LORD says as it were: Look how this heathen king, even the king of Babylon, confirms the words which I have spoken to you through My prophets!

 

Nebuchadnezzar becomes a living illustration of how God exercises His power on earth; how He counts even the highest among men less than nothing, and use them for His purpose.  

 

Dear congregation, our God rules in heaven; He also rules on earth.  

He will give the kingdom to “the lowest of men”.   Yes, also this word will find its glorious fulfilment on the new earth, when God will give the kingdom and the dominion to His lowly saints who were counted the lowest of men in this life.

 

Now the church may be a despised and trampled people, captives in Babylon, but God has given us the kingdom of His Son to reign with Him forever.

Let He be our boasting, and His glory our delight.

The kingdom and the dominion do not belong to the rulers of this world, but to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to His saints.

 

Let us rejoice in the Lord with the words of Psalm 145:

 

“All Your works shall praise You, O LORD, and Your saints shall bless You.   They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your power, to make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom.  

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion throughout all generations.”

 

This is our God.  

How great His signs!  How mighty His wonders!

 

Congregation, let us lift up our eyes to heaven and rejoice in the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who made Him, Jesus Christ, King of Zion to rule over all; yes, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords.

 

His is the kingdom, His is the power, and the glory, forever.

 

Amen.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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