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Repentance Is the Answer for Nebuchadnezzar: Daniel Series #5

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Repentance is the Answer for Nebuchadnezzar

Daniel Series #5

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Repentance Is the Answer for Nebuchadnezzar: Daniel Series #5

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The 4th chapter of Daniel is unique... it is the personal testimony of one of the great Gentile kings about his personal encounter with the living God. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had an intense experience that changed his way of thinking and he wants you to know about it.

Transcript

Repentance is Always the Right Answer

The 4th chapter of Daniel is unique... it is the personal testimony of one of the great Gentile kings about his personal encounter with the living God. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had an intense experience that changed his way of thinking and he wants you to know about it.

Daniel 4:1-3 Daniel 4:1-3 [1] Nebuchadnezzar the king, to all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied to you. [2] I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God has worked toward me. [3] How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.
American King James Version×
 - no date is provided but internal clues point to the final 9 years of Nebuchadnezzar's rule:

  1. there was peace throughout the empire [verse 4]
  2. his major building works were concluded [verse 30]

If so then these events happened about 571 B.C. since Neb reigned from 605 B.C. to 562 B.C. Babylonian history does not record a 7 year stint of madness for Nebuchadnezzar. What doe sthis say about biblical accuracy? Two points to consider:

  1. Babylonian court records purpose was to present positive propaganda for whatever regime was in place. So, being humbled by the living God is unlikely to make it into the archives.
  2. There are still mountains of Babylonian court records written on clay tablets which have been discovered but not translated [probably because of lack of funding].

Overall, the bible has proven itself highly accurate with regards to dates, kings, rulers etc. Over the past few centuries skeptics have often assumed the scriptures where simply making up kingdoms and kings... because there was no archaeological evidence etc. ... and then some archaeologist discovers evidence that the bible was correct [ex. Assyrian kingdom].

Verse 3 tells us why Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, is having Daniel record this personal account. He comes to an important realization about YHWH, the most high God based on a traumatic 7 year trial… and he wants everyone to know about it. 

YHWH is Judge

This is the third and final encounter Nebuchadnezzar has with the true living God:

  1. With his first dream of the giant statue, and its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar had encountered a supreme God who knew stuff... Daniel's God could reveal the inner workings of the mind, tell the future. GOD OF REVELATION
  2. He next encountered the living God when he witnessed Shadrach, Meshek, and Abednego saved from the fire. He had to acknowledge this God of Israel had power to intervene in human affairs... their God was powerful, but He was not Nebuchadnezzar's god. GOD OF POWER
  3. Nebuchadnezzar's final encounter with the living God will add an important truth. The living God is not only all knowing... not only all powerful... but also a God of judgment... who judges not only Israel but Babylon... who judges not only kingdoms but individual human beings. A God who knows our thoughts…knows our actions... who evaluates and dispenses punishment and reward.

Nebuchadnezzar the great king, is also a human being who stands personally accountable before God.

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream & Interpretation

Daniel 1:4-8 Daniel 1:4-8 [4] Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. [5] And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. [6] Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: [7] To whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave to Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego. [8] But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
American King James Version×
 the Babylonian wise men could probably tell the dream was not good news for Nebuchadnezzar. They may have wanted to stay quiet and not suffer his wrath. Notice that Nebuchadnezzar goes to the wisdom of Babylon first... but ends up having to turn to the man of God... Daniel. At this stage Neb still references Bel as his god. Daniel has his god, Neb has his.

Daniel 4:9-18 Daniel 4:9-18 [9] O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no secret troubles you, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof. [10] Thus were the visions of my head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the middle of the earth, and the height thereof was great. [11] The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached to heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: [12] The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelled in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. [13] I saw in the visions of my head on my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; [14] He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: [15] Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: [16] Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given to him; and let seven times pass over him. [17] This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will, and sets up over it the basest of men. [18] This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now you, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, for as much as 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.
American King James Version×
 the tree is enormous and dominates the whole earth. A being assigned by God as a "holy one who is assigned to watch" relays God's decree to cut the tree down. Based on the use of the word sheh-ah-lah, this should be understood as a judicial decree. This God of Israel would pass judgment upon the king of Babylon.

In scripture, YHWH is most active as the judge of Israel, but His eyes see everything that happens on earth. His judgments [and His punishments] will extend to all nations... and to all human beings.

Nebuchadnezzar will learn that this "God of Israel" is also the judge of Nebuchadnezzar the man.

Daniel 4:19-26 Daniel 4:19-26 [19] Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonished for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spoke, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble you. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate you, and the interpretation thereof to your enemies. [20] The tree that you saw, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached to the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; [21] Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelled, and on whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: [22] It is you, O king, that are grown and become strong: for your greatness is grown, and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the end of the earth. [23] And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him; [24] This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come on my lord the king: [25] That they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will. [26] And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; your kingdom shall be sure to you, after that you shall have known that the heavens do rule.
American King James Version×
 Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that this is a judgment from the most high God... the assessment is negative... and its directed toward you personally.

The translation "beasts of the field" is better than wild animals... it makes more sense to assume that he would become like the animals that were considered "livestock", oxen, sheep, cattle rather that some sort of wolf man running around in the forests. The phrase "eats grass" could include all herbs and vegetables. Later when he is restored the court advisers know where to find him... which they probably couldn't have done if he'd run off howling into the forest.

Verse 26 indicates that the kingdom will be preserved for him… IF … he decides to acknowledge the supreme authority of YHWH. Within this unpleasant news is a ray of hope.

Daniel's Advice

Daniel 4:27 Daniel 4:27Why, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you, and break off your sins by righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of your tranquility.
American King James Version×
 when Daniel had first heard the dream he was horrified/awestruck/grieved. He probably knew the meaning of the dream right away... the symbolism is somewhat self evident. In the old testament the tree figure is often used to speak of a man in his pride: Isaiah 2:12-13 Isaiah 2:12-13 [12] For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be on every one that is proud and lofty, and on every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: [13] And on all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and on all the oaks of Bashan,
American King James Version×
, 10:34, Ezekiel 31:3-7 Ezekiel 31:3-7 [3] Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs. [4] The waters made him great, the deep set him up on high with her rivers running round about his plants, and sent her little rivers to all the trees of the field. [5] Therefore his height was exalted above all the trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, and his branches became long because of the multitude of waters, when he shot forth. [6] All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelled all great nations. [7] Thus was he fair in his greatness, in the length of his branches: for his root was by great waters.
American King James Version×
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Daniel may also have developed some kind of personal connection with the man having worked closely with him on government affairs. Plus, on a practical level, Nebuchadnezzar had treated the Jews well during his reign. If he was overthrown was no guarantee that the new ruler would be so favorable.

Daniel puts himself forward man-to-man and offers Nebuchadnezzar sound spiritual advice. Daniel says "repent of your sins, and demonstrate the sincerity of your repentance through doing good"... Daniel probably also advised to do it quickly. There was oppression and wickedness in the land which God held Nebuchadnezzar personally responsible for.

Forgiveness & Restoration is Possible

The dream had indicated that a band of iron and bronze would be placed around the stump... meaning his kingdom would be held in escrow for him if he was willing to repent. God's proclamations of prophetic judgment always leave the door open for repentance and restoration [end time].

  • To hear God and make changes to your behavior is always possible
  • To be forgiven by Him should always be considered possible
  • Restoration and even blessed is God’s great desire

Ezekiel 18:21-2 Ezekiel 18:21-2
American King James Version×
3 vengeance, wrath, destruction, payback... God does not dispense these with any joy or pleasure. His joy comes when we choose to do what is good. Furthermore,  He is patient and long-suffering , even withholding punishment so that we have time to come to our senses... BUT we should never confuse that patience with God's approval... or lack of disapproval… He is patient so we might repent.

Judge yourself [and repent] so you do not have to be judged later by the living God. He is giving you time to clean up your act. But, if you won't do it yourself then He will act Hebrews 10:30-3 Hebrews 10:30-3
American King James Version×
1.

God Lowers the Boom

Daniel 4:28-33 Daniel 4:28-33 [28] All this came on the king Nebuchadnezzar. [29] At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. [30] The king spoke, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty? [31] While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from you. [32] And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make you to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will. [33] The same hour was the thing fulfilled on Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws.
American King James Version×
 God gave Nebuchadnezzar 12 whole months to consider and repent of his sins. Instead of repentance and humility we read of an outburst of pride.

Isaiah 55:6-11 Isaiah 55:6-11 [6] Seek you the LORD while he may be found, call you on him while he is near: [7] Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. [8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD. [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. [10] For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not thither, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: [11] So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
American King James Version×
... through His word God shows you what is good… Your response should be to take note of ways you are not meeting His high mark of holy righteous character and change. His word is in you and He is expecting results! ... that result could be condemnation… or it could be repentance, positive change, and the gift of eternal life.

The key concept here is "don't wait", "act now"!

Nebuchadnezzar was at the pinnacle of wealth and power… Jesus told us that it is hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Perhaps because it is hard for those who have experienced great success and wealth to be humble before God. People who are wealthy and powerful think differently:

  • Some might say “I've got money and power enough to protect me. I'm not worried... I do not need God, and I certainly don't need His rules... look at all I have accomplished on my own!”
  • Some might say “I've got money and power, and God has given them to me. Surely, all these blessings are a sign that He is pleased with me!”

Both are examples of faulty reasoning… From scripture you can find chapter and verse that directly address both views. But even from casual observation it is obvious that God provides rain and sunshine to both the just and the unjust. The fool sees all this and says in his heart: "therefore, justice is just a figment of our imagination"... the wise man looks and says "there is more to this than meets the eye".

Nebuchadnezzar was certainly rich and powerful... he may have entertained the spiritual fallacies I just mentioned... what we know for sure is that he responded to God's warning with an outburst of pride... I am rich, powerful, blessed by the gods.

Immediately, there is a audible proclamation from heaven which Nebuchadnezzar reports he heard. He had not responded to the warning or the good advice, and so, a great 7 year long trial came upon him.

What happened may have been a case of lychathropy, a known psychological disorder where people think they are some type of animal. During the sickness people can retain their sense of personal awareness even though they are exhibiting animal characteristics...

What was God looking for from Nebuchadnezzar?

Was he expecting him to root out all corruption, oppression, and idolatry from Babylon? Maybe, a program of social reform would be good, God always appreciates righteousness. But social reform without a change of heart wouldn't last. Kings like Hezekiah and Josiah tried to impose a revival of biblical righteousness from the top down... but it never lasted long… the heart never changed.

God was doing more than interacting with a great king who represented a mighty empire... the living God was interacting with Nebuchadnezzar… a man who needed a change of heart… who needed humility so that he could repent. To accept the living God as your judge is humbling.

If He is judge then show some respect, show fear of crossing Him, show Him honor, and do not be proud or arrogant before Him. For those who are in Christ we can add to that, thankfulness. Because through Christ we have a way to be redeemed from the punishment of death for sin... and we have hope. But even thankfulness circles back to a heart that is humble.

Nebuchadnezzar Repents

Daniel 4:34-37 Daniel 4:34-37 [34] And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that lives for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: [35] And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say to him, What do you? [36] At the same time my reason returned to me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and brightness returned to me; and my counsellors and my lords sought to me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. [37] Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
American King James Version×
 the final statement from Nebuchadnezzar tells us  .

I don't think Nebuchadnezzar became converted or to be counted among the saints at Christ’s return. Like the queen of Sheba, or the repentant people of Nineveh, he will rise up in the resurrection of the rest of the dead. And it will go better for him at that time because he has already learned the lesson of humility before God.

Takeaway:

You have God's word... you know the high level of holy righteousness God is seeking, you know the many ways you fail to meet that high mark. So:

  • Judge yourself that you be not judged... renounce your sins do what God wants
  • Humble yourself that you do not need to be humbled... you're not so great
  • Act now... use God's patience with you wisely

The judgments of God, the punishment, the tests and tribulations... these are God's love. He gets no joy from the suffering but He does get joy from knowing these have a purpose... so that you might lay hold of eternal life.