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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Glorify the King of Heaven!
Text:Daniel 4:1-37 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2016
Added:2022-03-15
Updated:2022-03-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Lord, Our Lord, Thy Glorious Name

My Faith Looks Up to Thee  

This Is My Father’s World

Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven

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


10/23/2016
Glorify the King of Heaven!”
Daniel 4:1-37
 
As we read through Chapter 4 did you notice how three times over the purpose for Daniel’s prophecy was mentioned?  Daniel has often been viewed as a prophecy only about the end times, but one of the main purposes of the book is to show God’s sovereignty over the rulers of nations. And that purpose is stated three times over in this chapter alone: Verse 17, verse 25, and verse 32 tell us these events took place “so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.”
 
This passage is of great comfort as we experience the instability and hostility of our nation and the nations of the world. This passage reminds us that behind the scenes, God is at work, allowing the leaders he will use – whether good or evil – to be put into power.
 
And Daniel is not alone in pointing this out. Consider Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” Likewise, Isaiah 40:15 describes how all the nations are like a drop in the bucket to the Lord. And Isaiah 40:23 adds, “He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.” That is why Romans 13:1 tells us to “be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” But Scripture is equally clear that when a government commands us to do what is evil, we must respond as the apostles – and these three men in the fiery furnace did – by saying, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
 
The truth that God is in control and sovereign over the kingdoms of men is exemplified by Nebuchadnezzar’s unique and unusual experience. God humbled him and caused him to eat grass like cattle and live with the wild animals until he acknowledged the sovereign rule of the Most High God.
 
God has the power to cause Nebuchadnezzar, or any other person, to act like an animal. In Nebuchadnezzar’s case, it appears that the Lord allowed Nebuchadnezzar to lose his sanity. As he lost his ability to think, he began to act like an animal. Verse 33 tells us: Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.”
 
Verse 34 tells us that later – after “seven times” which is a reference to the appointed time of God’s judgment – Nebuchadnezzar had his sanity restored. Verse 34: At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.”
 
Many commentators believe that Nebuchadnezzar’s loss of sanity was a form of lycanthropy. Linked with hydrophobia, this mental illness causes people to imitate animals. Regardless of the specific malady and regardless of how God brought it about, the Lord brought this condition on Nebuchadnezzar to prove to him the truth that “the living might know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
 
Where We Look Determines How We Live
 
How do we apply this highly unusual account of Nebuchadnezzar imitating an animal? What practical applications do we find for our lives today? One application is that where we look determines how we live. In verse 29 we find Nebuchadnezzar looking at the greatness of Babylon as he was walking on the roof of the royal palace. Nebuchadnezzar had built Babylon into one of the great wonders of the world: It was square, 14 miles on each side. A wide and deep moat surrounded the city. Eight massive gates led to the inner city and 100 more brass gates were within the city.
 
Babylon contained a statue of Baal made of solid gold, weighing over 50,000 pounds. There were over 50 temples erected to false gods; there were 180 alters erected to Ishtar, another false god. Nebuchadnezzar built a hanging garden, considered one of the seven wonders of the world. His palace was considered to be among the most magnificent buildings ever erected on earth, almost on par with Solomon’s splendor.
 
Nebuchadnezzar looked at all his accomplishments and took great pride in what he saw. Verse 30 describes how he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my Majesty?”
 
But the very next verse tells how "the words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, 'This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: your royal authority has been taken from you...'" (31)
 
Where we look determines how we act. That was true not only for Nebuchadnezzar, but it is true for us. When we look to ourselves and our own perceived accomplishments, we are filled with pride and God knows how to humble the proud.  And he will indeed humble the proud, if not in this life, then in the life to come.
 
But on the other hand, when we lift our eyes toward heaven and look to the Lord, he restores us. In verse 34, Nebuchadnezzar writes “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored.”  When he raised his eyes toward heaven, as he looked to the Lord in humility and acknowledged the greatness of God, he was restored.
 
Where we look has a great influence on how we live. As Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:22-23)
 
We must always ask ourselves, “Where am I looking? Am I looking to myself and to the things of this world with pride, trusting in human accomplishments?” Or do we raise our eyes toward heaven, and praise the Most High God, trusting in him and him alone? Is it our sincere endeavor to praise and glorify the King of heaven?
 
Ever Increasing Punishment for Unrepented Sin
 
Another truth that we see in this chapter is that sin must be renounced quickly. If it is not, God may use stronger measures to bring us to repentance. The meaning of the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had was clear. He was a great and powerful king by worldly standards, and Babylon was the world power of its day. His prominence and power were represented by a gigantic cosmic tree, visible to the distant parts of the world, a tree filled with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all.
 
But in the dream a messenger, a holy one, came down from heaven and gave the order to cut down the tree and destroy it, leaving only the stump. The meaning of the dream was clear and Daniel made it very clear to Nebuchadnezzar, there in verse 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.”
 
You see, a glimmer of hope was put before Nebuchadnezzar. If he would repent of his sinful pride, if he would renounce his sin by doing what was right, it may be that his prosperity would continue. If Nebuchadnezzar would have taken to heart Daniel’s admonition in verse 27, he would not have undergone the humiliation that God brought upon him.
 
But did he repent? Even after being greatly distressed by the dream did, he change his ways? Did he renounce his sins by doing what is right? Unfortunately, he did not. Instead, he waited, undoubtedly hoping that God would not act on the warning that had been given him in the dream. Verse 29 tells us that twelve months had passed. A full year was given to Nebuchadnezzar to consider the seriousness of the dream, a full twelve months to act on the admonition of Daniel to renounce his sin.
          
But here again Nebuchadnezzar is but a reflection of ourselves. Isn't it true that often we are slow to repent? Isn't it true that often we hope that God will not act on the warnings that he has given? It has been pointed out that we can see the sincerity of our heart, at least to a degree, by how quickly we repent when we are confronted with any particular sin. Do we live with that sin for a period of time? Do we live with it for a month, or two, or twelve? Or do we immediately renounce the sin and ask God to enable us, by the Holy Spirit’s power within us, to overcome that sin and to turn from it as we are called to “continue to work out (our) salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in (us) to will and to act according to his good purpose”? (Phil. 2:12-13)
 
When we do not renounce our sin, and renounce it quickly, God will use increasingly strong measures to deal with our sin problem so that we are brought to repentance. Scripture is clear that God disciplines those whom he loves. And when we don’t respond to his warnings, he uses stronger measures to turn us from our sin as he conforms after the likeness of his Son. That is why the author of Hebrews, quoting Proverbs 3, writes:
 
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”
 
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:5b-11, ESV)
 
No matter what type of sin you are struggling with in your life – and we all struggle with sin – learn to renounce it and turn from it as soon as you are convicted by the Holy Spirit. We know right from wrong, just as Nebuchadnezzar knew right from wrong. But may we learn from his negative example to turn from our sin, to renounce it immediately, and to do what is right in the sight of our Lord.
 
Stability in an Instable World
 
Another application: Since God is sovereign over the kingdoms of this world, we need not fear the turbulence we see around us. The name “God Most High” is used six times in this chapter, even though it has not been used previously in Daniel. The designation for God as being “Most High” goes back to Genesis 14, where that descriptive name for God is first recorded in Scripture.
 
The context of that chapter is Abram’s rescue of his nephew Lot, after Lot had been kidnapped by four kings and their armies. Abram pursued those four kings, and although he only had 318 trained men with him, he and his men defeated the kings and rescued Lot. It was then that Melchizedek blessed Abram and said:
 
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
     Possessor of heaven and earth;
  and blessed be God Most High,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
 
Whenever Scripture uses that designation of God Most High”, whether in Genesis, Daniel or elsewhere, it is emphasizing to us the sovereign rule of our God. It is reminding us that he who created the world possesses and rules the world which he created. He can give 318 men victory over four kings and their armies. He can subdue a mighty king like Nebuchadnezzar and cause him to eat grass like a lowly beast of the field.
 
The Most High God is the exalted One, possessing all power. He is supreme – the ruler of heaven and earth. Therefore, precisely because God is sovereign, we need not fear the political ineptitude, instability, and cultural turbulence we see around us.
  
Our world is a turbulent world. In many ways it reflects all the evil, immorality, and corruption of ancient Babylon and other evil societies in Biblical times. Yet even as we see the great turmoil all around us, we need not fear because God is in control. As the Lord says in Psalm 75:3, “When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars.”
 
That was certainly the case with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, as we saw in Chapter 3. Why were they not afraid while facing the turbulence and hostility all around them? They were not afraid because they knew God was in control, that he is indeed sovereign, that he is always with his people, even in the most fiery trials and circumstances of life.
 
Psalm 46:1-3 puts it beautifully:
 
God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth
        give way
 and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
 though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.
 
And, a fourth application: We are to glorify the King of heaven, not only for His sovereign rule, but also for his redeeming love and divine excellence in all things. Because God is sovereign – Most High – we are to praise him. We are to glorify the King of heaven for all his works: creation, providence, and redemption. In all his ways he alone is worthy of praise.
 
Nebuchadnezzar finally came to realize that. The closing verses of this chapter contain a beautiful sonnet of praise as Nebuchadnezzar writes:
 
At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
 
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
   his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
   are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
   with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
  No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?” (34-35)
 
   …Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (37)
 
Our entire purpose in life is to praise our Lord. Not just because he is sovereign over the kingdoms of men, but we are to praise him even more for his redeeming love. As 1 Peter 2:9 puts it: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” No wonder the Westminster Catechism points out, in its first question and answer, that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
____
 
Nebuchadnezzar didn’t learn his lessons quickly. He was given twelve months to renounce his sin and acknowledge the sovereign reign of God Most High, yet he did not acknowledge God in that time frame. But what about you? And what about me? Have we learned to renounce our sin? Have we come to grips with the greatness and might of God Most High? Are we comforted knowing that he reigns, even in the instability and hostility that we see in the world around us? Have we committed our lives to him with true saving faith in his Son, Jesus Christ?
 
If so, then we need not fear the instability of our nation and the nations of the world. We need not fear our circumstances, even when they are bitter, hard, and painful. Instead, in all the fiery trials of life, we are to live to the praise of God’s glorious grace, now and forevermore! Amen.
 
 
Sermon Outline:
 
“...Praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything
He does is right and all His ways are just...”  - Daniel 4:37
 
                             “Glorify the King of Heaven!”
                                            Daniel 4:1-37
 
I.  One purpose for the prophecy of Daniel is so that “the living may
     know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and
     gives them to anyone He wishes and sets over them the lowliest of
     men” (17, 25, 32). 
     1) This truth was exemplified by Nebuchadnezzar’s experience as
          he realized God’s signs and wonders are great and mighty (2-3)
 
 
 
II. Applications:
      1) Where we look determines how we live (29-30, 34). Those who
           look to themselves in pride will be humbled (30-31)
 
 
 
 
      2) Sin must be renounced quickly (27, 29), or God may use stronger
           measures to bring us to repentance (31-32)
 
 
 
 
      3) Since God is sovereign over the kingdoms of this world (3, 34-35),
          we need not fear the turbulence and instability we see around us
          (Psalm 46:1-3; 75:3)
 
 
 
 
      4) We are to glorify the King of heaven (34-35), not only for His
           sovereign rule, but also for His redeeming love (1 Peter 2:9) and
           divine excellence in all things (37; Romans 11:33-36)
 
 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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