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God Reigns (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 10, 2021 4:00 am

God Reigns (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 10, 2021 4:00 am

As king over a great empire, Nebuchadnezzar enjoyed an easy, prosperous life—until a dream led to a lesson in humility. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg explains why we must swallow our pride before we can acknowledge God’s sovereign authority.



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Nebuchadnezzar was the powerful king of Babylon when he had an alarming dream, and ultimately his stubbornness led him to a lesson in humility.

What does it take for someone to swallow their pride and acknowledge that God is the sovereign authority in the universe? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains the extreme circumstances that offered salvation to a king, or in Daniel chapter 4. So the dream is told, and in verse 19 and following, the interpretation is about to be given. Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. Now we've got a real problem here, don't we?

Because now the two of them are completely out to lunch. Nebuchadnezzar is terrified because he doesn't understand, and Daniel is getting pretty terrified because he does understand. And in an ironic sort of juxtaposition, the king now is counseling Daniel and telling him, I don't want you to be afraid, he says. Belteshazzar, let not a dream or the interpretation alarm you.

I wish I could hear what was going on. Daniel said, that's easy for you to say. But if you just hang on a minute, you're going to realize that you're not so smart. Belteshazzar answered and said, my lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies. And then he goes on to tell him, this tree that you saw, that you, you are the man, this is a description of God's judgment.

It will be seven times, which is an indefinite period, but a complete period. He says, but there's a possibility of a reprieve if you will break off, if you will discontinue your sins. You'll notice how he says it there.

And he is very, very pointed. Nebuchadnezzar was a vindictive and merciless oppressor. And he says, perhaps your prosperity will be prolonged if only you will let my counsel be acceptable to you, verse 27, break off your sins by practicing righteousness and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity. Now, we have to understand the Bible in light of the Bible. Daniel is not saying there that you can, by your own practicing of righteousness, put yourself in the right position by God. I think perhaps the cross-reference that I scribbled down for myself is when Paul is before Agrippa, and he tells him of his preaching, and he says, I preach that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. So he's saying, Nebuchadnezzar, if you really get serious about this, then your life will declare the reality of your change of heart.

But he didn't listen. Verse 28, and all this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar at the end of twelve months. He had twelve months, and God in his mercy had sent him a dream to disturb him and sent Daniel to instruct him and gave him an opportunity to turn and enjoy a reprieve. You remember Paul in Romans 2? He says, Would you show disrespect for the kindness of God, not realizing that it is his kindness that leads you to repentance? Are you here tonight with an unrepentant heart?

Would you besmirch the kindness of God that he has called out to you in his word, that he has reached you through members of your family, that he has been gracious to you and preserved your life and prolonged your days? I was talking to somebody in the last couple of days, and I said to him, You know, what you should be praying, my friend, is God be merciful to me a sinner. And the major reply was, Well, I've been very lucky.

I don't know about that. And I said, You haven't been very lucky at all. God has been very good to you. By his providence, you're still sitting here beside me, and you still can understand the gospel, and you still can trust in Jesus. And Nebuchadnezzar blew it all off.

And so the curse was fulfilled. And at the end of twelve months, he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. And the king answered and said, Is not this the great Babylon which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty? It's all my, I, me, and mine.

That's what he said. Verse thirty-one, what did he hear? And while the words were still in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven. O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken. The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and so on.

And immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar, and he was driven from among men. And he ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws. Now, some of you are psychiatrists, and so you know that this condition is lycanthropy, or lycanthropy.

Lukos, wolf, anthropos, man. King George III apparently suffered from this very condition. It is rare but it is real. Dr. Barker from England, a consultant psychiatrist, writes of it in this way. As far as Nebuchadnezzar's illness is concerned, the features are of a fairly acute onset of insanity, with the apparent delusional idea that he was an animal. The length of time that he was unwell is not clear, but he also seems to have had a spontaneous remission, which of course he didn't have. There's cause and effect. It wasn't just, oh, he's not crazy anymore.

No, it wasn't. He says a spontaneous remission, and returned to sanity, and changed his way of life subsequently. This kind of history is much more typical of depressive illness, with relatively acute onset, delusional beliefs of a morbid nature. And in the days before drugs and ECT, most such illnesses had a spontaneous remission within a period of one, two, and occasionally more years. The person who recovered would recover complete insight, as did Nebuchadnezzar apparently. So when you read this, and you read that, and then you read of the Restoration, you see that Barker helps us, but only in part, because this is not a spontaneous remission.

In fact, the remission comes about, we're told, by Nebuchadnezzar himself. At the end of the days—what days? The seven times.

The indefinite but complete period. At the end of the days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven. He did something that he had not done before. He had never lifted his eyes much beyond his proud creations to this point. When he was at ease on the roof of his palace, he was at ease on the roof of his palace. He was surveying everything, if you like, from a horizontal perspective.

He was, if you like, the archetypal nowhere man, living in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody, ultimately. But now he lifts his eyes to heaven. Says Leopold in his commentary, it is almost a touching detail to notice that the outward evidence of the return to reason is the upward look, the most notable feature, that differentiates man from beast. Which, of course, is another conversation about worldview, which is another rabbit trail that I haven't even touched right now as it comes across my mind. But it differentiates man from beast. In a pantheistic society such as ours, there is no such differentiation, which is why you can't deal with the deer when they're eating your hostas.

But that is not something I'm going to talk about right now. It differentiates man from beast. T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. I can't quote it right, but I know how it begins. The naming of cats is a difficult matter.

It isn't just one of your ordinary games. You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter when I tell you a cat must have three different names. First of all, there's a name that the family use daily, such as Billy, Augustus, Alonzo, or James, such as someone and someone and someone and someone, and all of them have everyday names. But then he goes on to say in a masterful little piece, he says, but when you see a cat and it's sitting by the fireplace and it is looking, he says, I can tell you what it's thinking. It's thinking about the name that only it knows.

It has a name that only it knows. That's what it's thinking about. Well, I don't know whether it is or it isn't, but I can tell you that it is not thinking about God. And neither is your Labrador.

How much you love it, I don't care. It is not when it gazes up. It's looking for food. It's not lifting his eyes. No, this is what differentiates man from beast, because God has said, eternity in the hearts of man, so that they might find out what he has done from the very beginning. That's what Ecclesiastes says.

And suddenly this man who had it all, who'd been down all of the streets, all of the dead-end streets, is reduced to animal status. And then with the psalmist, he says, I to the hills will lift mine eyes. From whenstoth come mine aid? My safety cometh from the Lord, who heaven and earth hath made. Thank God for the metrical psalms of the highlands of Scotland. Psalm 121, I lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from?

My help comes from God. That is the breakthrough moment, my friend. That is the moment of transformation. That is when we move from our time-bound, self-preoccupations to the wonder and grandeur of God's invading presence. And through the magnificence of his upbringing and the tragedy of his downfall, suddenly he lifts his eyes up. I think he would have been glad to sing the hymn, The Sands of Time Are Sinking, The Dawn of Heaven Breaks, and would have been perfectly at ease with the lines that read, With mercy and with judgment, my web of time he wove, and I, the dews of sorrow, are lustered with his love. Nebuchadnezzar has that story now to tell. Up until this point, he was just self-fulfilled, and so he ends as he began with a doxology. What an amazing thing he says! I lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me.

It appeared to be spontaneous, but it was cause and effect. Had he not lifted his eyes to heaven, he'd still be there till the day of his death. And I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him, who lives forever. Unlike me, he might have added, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion. His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing. And he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.

And none can stay his hand or say to him, What have you done? Oh, where did you get that from? Nebuchadnezzar, who wrote that for you?

No, I said, I can't really explain what I got it from. I think God must have just invaded my life and gave me a song to sing and a story to tell. Yes, and in his providential kindness, at the same time, verse 36, my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and my splendor returned to me, and my counselors and my Lord sought me. They came and looked for him, which is another story altogether, but it's, hey, it's good to have you back, Nebuchadnezzar. Good to have the old Nebuchadnezzar back. And he said, Guys, it's not the old Nebuchadnezzar.

This is the new Nebuchadnezzar. No, I'm a new man. God has sought me out. God has brought me down.

God has set me up. And so I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just, and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. What an encouragement that must have been to these exiles.

Well, what an encouragement it is to me, I'll tell you. And I hope to you too, because we live as exiles. We live as aliens and strangers. We are bewildered by what we see in the world. For me, that Supreme Court decision I wrote in my journal, this is the saddest day of my life in America.

That's what I wrote in my journal. I then said, But I do know that God is still in charge, so we proceed accordingly. But the fact is, we are buffeted. We are bewildered. We are increasingly ostracized. We are marginalized. Don't think that you're going to fix this by appealing to the elite. It has never happened in history, and it will not happen here. It's going to take an amazing intervention of God himself at a grassroots level, where those of us who say we believe things actually start living as if we do.

For some of us, our sanity needs to be restored, because we have been stuck on a horizontal plane as well. And we need to realize that what he says is true, that his kingdom is the kingdom that lasts. Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia are responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters.

Make no mistake about it. Every day in this world, Christians are martyred for their faith. Every day. How are we to understand that? Is God in control?

Yes, he is. Satan is a defeated foe. He came out with all guns blazing against the Lord of glory.

He managed to have him killed, but he rose. As we sang tonight, death is crushed to death, and life is mine to live. But I don't know why it is that so many suffer so dreadfully.

I don't know why it is that the times are as daunting as they are. But I do know this, that God is sovereign over all the earthly kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar is long gone. Nero is dead. So, too, is Stalin, Hitler, Chairman Mao Tse-tung, and sadly, from my perspective, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

But they're all gone, and the wind blows over the place, and they're known relatively no more. When Eric Liddell took his life to China—since we're on a China theme, I will finish here—when he headed to China, he was an Olympic athlete, you will know. He won the gold in the 1924 Olympics, running in the 400 meters. He played rugby for Scotland. He was a significant hero, at least in the small country of Scotland and in the British Isles.

He had stood up to the king because of a conviction he had about Sunday. He then, in obedience to the call upon his life, left Edinburgh for China to teach there in a school. You remember, he contracted a disease and died there as a relatively young man.

When he left Edinburgh, the people of Edinburgh came to see him off at Waverley railway station down underneath the castle there by the Princess Street Gardens. History records that the people that were there were not just people from his small group, not just people who were interested folks from his church family, but the people of the city of Edinburgh were there and beyond, and many of them youngsters, many of them young boys and girls who were fascinated by this man who had been such an amazing athlete, and that he was going away to China of all places, apparently to teach children about Jesus. What a strange thing to do, unless, of course, you believe that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. When he got ready to leave, he let down the window in his carriage, and he silenced the crowd, and he shouted out, Christ for the world! For the world needs Christ!

That was his parting shot. And then he led them in the singing of the hymn, Jesus shall reign where'er the sun Doth his successive journeys run His kingdom stretched from shore to shore Till moon shall wax and wane no more. And if, by God's grace, you have been made one of the kids of that kingdom, bring your chin up, get out of the ruck of the old days and the glory days, get up and get out. If you're a banker, be a banker to the glory of God. If you're a teacher, teach to the glory of God.

If you're a scientist, research to the glory of God. If you're a salesman, sell to the glory of God. You don't have to become crazy like me and get stuck in this hot place on a night like tonight in order to serve God. I don't like it when pastors suggest, and if you want to get really serious, you can become like me. No, that's not a good idea.

No, that's not a good idea. Just you be who you are, where you are, in the conviction that God is accomplishing the eternal counsel of his will. And in the mystery of his purposes, he's drawn you into the story and given you a part to play. And I can think of no greater thing to do than to do medicine to the glory of God, to write novels to the glory of God, to tackle the injustices of our world in the legal systems to the glory of God. Whatever it is, let's get out and do what Beckold said.

He's a big man, and I like to pay attention to it. While I'm done, we'll pray. Well, Lord, what is of yourself? Seal it in our hearts. What is untrue, unnecessary, banish it from our recollection. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, tonight and every night until Jesus comes or calls us to himself, and then forevermore.

Amen. God sized confidence in a post-Christian world. It's all about God's sovereign power, even in a culture that refuses to honor him as Lord. In this study, we're seeing that trusting God and living according to his instruction is not something that was just ignored back in the pagan world where Daniel was living.

More and more, this is becoming the norm in our culture. True Christian beliefs are in the minority. So the question is, what does it look like to live as a Christian in a society that doesn't like what Christians believe or what we say or how we live?

How are you going to live in this new normal? It's tempting to become angry, to keep our heads down, to retreat, or just to give up altogether. The book Brave by Faith reminds us that the battle may seem to be tilting against the church, but God still reigns.

He is still in control. Alistair encourages us to look to him, the same God Daniel knew, so we can find out why and how we should live as his people. You'll be inspired by this book to stand firm in our generation, much as Daniel and his friends did in their generation.

But that's not ultimately the point of this book. Brave by Faith is written to help us believe in Daniel's God and rediscover our confidence in him. Be sure to request your copy of Alistair's book Brave by Faith when you give to Truth for Life. You'll find the book on our mobile app or online at truthforlife.org slash donate or you can request your copy when you call us at 888-588-7884. If you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book Brave by Faith, write to us at Truth for Life, P.O. Box 398000, Cleveland, Ohio. Our zip code is 44139. While you're online, look for the Brave by Faith audio book and the companion study guide.

Both are available for purchase or you can download the study guide for free. Simply visit truthforlife.org slash store. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us today. Can you see the handwriting on the wall? Where that strange phrase comes from tomorrow as we continue our study in the book of Daniel. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-06 09:43:07 / 2023-11-06 09:51:59 / 9

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