This morning we find ourselves in the second part of this great series called Stories of Courage. And I assure you that I call it a great series not because of what I have to say, but because of the great stories of our great God and the history that we’re looking at in this Old Testament book of Daniel. Now if you missed last week I encourage you to catch the message online at cccemmitsburg.org, but today were going to talk about how to stand up for what is right and this is so important, because it doesn’t matter who you are, at some point in your life someone you know and love is going to make poor decisions. Someone you know is going to determine that they are going to do such and such and the consequences of that decision may cause them great pain or hardship… the results of that decision may have ramifications for yourself or others whom you know and love, and so God may prompt you to stand up for what is right and help guide them back to the right path. And so this message is really about confrontation, it’s really a dangerous message, so I want to try to be as careful as possible as we look here in Daniel chapter 4 at the confrontation of one man and his King.
Now this is a narrative passage so we’re going to read it in large chunks. It’s a story, a historical account, and so we’re just going to flow with the story and keep moving along as we see Daniel confronting his King; and specifically addressing the king’s pride. You see, pride is likely the most damning feeling or emotion that there ever was. It was pride that damned Satan and the fallen angels, and its pride that has damned man since the beginning of time, because pride violates the first and greatest commandment. We are to have no other gods before God himself, He is to be first, He alone is to be worshiped, He alone is to be praised, and He alone is to be served as Lord and God. You see, what pride does is that it elevates a person to a place of authority or superiority over God. Pride is what caused Satan to attempt to assert himself to a place of supremacy over God. So the very essence of pride is to place oneself above God; to attempt to rule over God, and to rebel against the will of God. Our God who said, “My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:11, NASU), meaning that he will not tolerate anyone who would attempt to elevate himself to such a position.
Listen to what God said about pride in the book of Proverbs; here we can gain great insight into how God feels about pride. For example in Proverbs 21:4, “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked are sin!” Proverbs chapter 6 says there are things the Lord hates; and one of those in verse 17, is “A proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others]” (AMP). Proverbs 16:5 says, “The Lord detests all the proud of heart.” Proverbs 8:13, “I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 29:23, “A man's pride brings him low…” And Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace...”
You see, pride is a serious sin, it’s an abomination, it blasphemes the name of God and the rightful place that he has. Therefore, it brings about destruction, judgment, and leads to shame. James sums it up saying, “That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). And this is the great theme of Daniel chapter 4 and here in verse 1, King Nebuchadnezzar tells his story illustrating this very point, that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Let’s get into it at verse one: it begins really official, with a Royal proclamation: “King Nebuchadnezzar, To the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly! It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.”
So what we see here is that King Nebuchadnezzar wants to tell his story to the whole world. You see, because Nebuchadnezzar actually saw God work so powerfully that he got his attention. He saw the hand of God in his life and leaned toward God like many of us do. You know most of us, at some point in our lives are drawn to the things of God and then like Nebuchadnezzar our pride kicks in and we pull back. So much of our lives have been lived out with this spiritual tension; where you’re kind of going for God and then you pull back and do your own thing. That’s what’s going on with King Nebuchadnezzar… that’s what he’s talking about.
You see Nebuchadnezzar, the king of a Babylonian Empire, was a proud man. He was the monarch of the four empires that ruled that part of the world. He was the monarch of monarchs, the king of kings, ruling all the world that he perceived and therefore had become proud, self-centered, and even had set himself up as God in chapter 3. Yet in this chapter, we’ll see that God brings this man low and then gives grace to him in his humility. He resists him in his pride but gives him grace in humility.
So let’s dig into this story. What happened was that God gave him this crazy dream, a dream that caused him great consternation. Now consternation is just a big word for what caused him great anxiety, what scared him, and even terrified him. He was so freaked out by this dream that he couldn’t even sleep. So let’s look at this historical account as he shares with us in verse four.
“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. 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.)
I said, "Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. 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.
"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.
"'Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him.
"'The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, 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” (Daniel 4:4-17).
So the king was greatly concerned and went to his advisers and asked them, “What does this mean?” And one by one the reply was the same, “O King we don’t know!” Now it’s possible that they may have known that this was bad news and they were fearful for their lives. But whatever the case, the king eventually went and asked Daniel, because Daniel had interpreted dreams for the king before… Daniel had a relationship with the king… the respect of the king and therefore Daniel stood out…. So let’s continue in verse 18…
"This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you."
“Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, "Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you."
“Belteshazzar answered, "My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air— you, O king, are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.
"You, O king, saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, 'Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live like the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him” (Daniel 4:18-23).
Now Daniel gets real quiet. Verse 19 says, “He was greatly perplexed.” “His thoughts terrified him.” He may have thought like the other advisors, now is a good time to retire, to give up the interpretation business. Or maybe he would just claim not to understand. Maybe he would inquire what the king had for dinner the night before. You know, “Don’t worry… it’s just your stomach.” But instead what we’re going to see is that Daniel lovingly stands up to the king and helps to try to point him in the right direction.
So the first thing that Daniel says is, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries!” In other words, this consternation, the terror and anxiety that both he and the king were feeling was because of the truth behind this dream. And Daniel was genuinely concerned for the king and says, “I wish this were not true.” So in verse 24 he begins with the interpretation, which he knew and probably the other advisors knew would result in a confrontation.
"This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules.”
Now Daniel could’ve stopped right there, because he did what the king asked him to do. He could have said, “This is the interpretation…” and left it at that. But Daniel didn’t do that, Daniel had the courage to do something that literally risked his life. He stood up to the king, not because he was arrogant, not because he wanted to correct the king, not because he thought he was better than the king. He stood up to the king, because he was genuinely concerned about the king and he wanted the king to know the goodness of his God. And so this is what he said in verse 27… He lovingly confronts the king saying…
“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" (Daniel 4:24-27).
In other words, “O king, I care for you. I want what’s best for you. So please stop sinning and do what is right.” To bring it back into our language and our culture, loving correction begins, “Please stop spending your money so foolishly… please stop being so harsh to your spouse or children… please break away from that addiction… do what’s right, because I want what God wants for you. Please do the right thing.” And so for you and I, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we’re encouraging one another, we’re loving one another, we’re doing life together, we’re studying God’s Word together, and we’re praying for one another. Yet unfortunately, there’s going to be a time when God is going to call you to stand up to someone else who’s making poor decisions and help guide them back to God’s path. And whenever God calls you to be the one to stand up for someone it’s important to be very careful about how you do this.
There’s actually a verse in the New Testament which speaks of what we see happening here with Daniel and the king. In Galatians chapter 6, at verse one, the apostle Paul said, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself or you also may be tempted.” What he’s saying, is that we come to one another in love, as a brother or sister in Christ gently, not arrogantly or harshly, but gently, knowing that we’re no better than they are. So our goal or motivation is that we want to help them back on the right path, because they’re in a place where they could end up hurting themselves or others. But we need to watch ourselves… so that we’re not tempted… so that we don’t become prideful, coming across arrogantly, as if we were any better. So we just want to help them get back on the right path. We never confront because we are right, it’s only to help someone else be right with God. So Paul says, “You who are spiritual should restore him gently.” In other words, this isn’t a drive-by confrontation, it’s not angry posts on Facebook, and it’s not people that we don’t have a relationship with. It’s only in the context of relationship where we’re trying to bring about restoration.
That’s why it’s so important to have church fellowship… that’s why we eat together and hang out together… you know, because we’re doing life together. We’re able to open up our lives and our hearts, we’re able to be vulnerable with each other, allowing for the opportunity to speak into each other’s lives, and it’s amazing because then our relationships and marriages start working better, we help parent children together better, and we can really press into the deeper things of God. And that’s what we want… that’s our goal… we want to see others get closer to God. That’s what we’ve been called to do.
And so that’s exactly what Daniel does in verse 27, “O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right… so that “your prosperity will continue." Jeremiah tells us that the Lord has plans to prosper us, plans to give us a hope and a future. That we would call upon him, pray to him, seek him and find him (29:11-14), but Nebuchadnezzar didn’t. He didn’t ask for forgiveness. He continues to rebel against God and seven long years go by. And in the same way, today some of you are going to do the right thing, you’re going to lovingly confront a brother or sister, and sometimes they’re going to turn, and other times they aren’t. But the important thing to remember is that you’re not responsible for their response. You’re simply responsible to be obedient to what God has called you to do. You see we just need to do what’s right and trust God with the results.
And that’s what Daniel did. Let’s read the story in verse 28, “All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 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 and for the glory of my majesty?"
“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. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes."
“Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. 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.
“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?"
“At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 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” (Daniel 4:28-37).
Seven years later, at the end of that time, Nebuchadnezzar repents of his sin, turns to God, and God is glorified, all because Daniel had the courage to stand up to a king that had the power to take his life. And today you and I have similar opportunities. When the Holy Spirit works through you in God’s perfect timing and in God’s perfect way, we’re able to gently help people back on the right path. Not because we’re so good and they’re so bad, but because it’s our desire to help them get right with God. But you know we’re also willing to receive from others who want to help us get right with God. You see, we all want one another to experience God’s best in Christ.
As we close, we are going to take communion together, celebrating the Lord’s Supper, and it’s really an opportunity for us to examine ourselves, to make ourselves available for God to use, and to redirect our lives back to the way he intends for us. I am so grateful for this time, because there were many years when I went to church and didn’t understand the gospel. I thought I believed in God and that was enough. I had no idea how much I offended God by my sinful pride and rebellion. I did feel guilty and unworthy, but I didn’t know how to reconcile those feelings. It was during that time that I began to feel drawn toward the things of God even though I didn’t know what it was.
Now I know it was the Holy Spirit of God and I know that none of us are here by accident. You’re here because God loves you and he’s trying to reach you, just like he was trying to reach the king even though the king was resistant, even though the king kept fighting against it, and maybe today in your heart there’s a war going on for you. I would encourage you not to keep fighting, not to keep resisting, because God gives grace to the humble. When you call on the name of Jesus, God’s son, the one who was without sin, who died in your place, and rose again, when you call on him he will forgive every sin you’ve ever committed, He will make you brand-new. So today as we take a moment to quietly reflect, please seize the opportunity, and don’t leave without surrendering to Christ.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
July 26, 2015