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How Are the Mighty Fallen!

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
July 12, 2021 4:00 am

How Are the Mighty Fallen!

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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Nebuchadnezzar recognized as the years went by that the Spirit of the Holy God dwelt in this man. I think he got an idea of the holiness of God from the holiness of Daniel, don't you? Daniel lived a pure and a holy and a virtuous life and the conclusion of Nebuchadnezzar would be that he had a holy and a virtuous God.

Because a man worships a God and that worship will reflect what he believes that God to be. You hear about schools having it as well as sports teams and political groups. Psychologists even say it's important for individuals to have a good deal of this thing called pride. But what sort of consequences are there when we think more of ourselves than we should?

And do those consequences have implications for more than just individual people? Can entire nations suffer from too much pride? Questions that definitely relate to today's lesson on Grace to You. Stay here as John MacArthur continues his journey through the prophetic book of Daniel in a message titled, How Are the Mighty Fallen?

It's part of John's series called, The Rise and Fall of World Powers. Open your Bible to Daniel chapter 4 and here's John. Perhaps the most destructive word in any language is the word pride...pride. Pride damned Satan and his angels.

Pride has damned men throughout human history. Pride is destructive because it breaks that first and great command that we are to have no other gods before God Himself. God is to be the first and only God.

God is the only one to be worshiped, the only one to be praised, the only one to be served and His will is absolutely supreme. Pride asserts that man is to take a place of superiority over God or that an angel is to take a place of superiority over God. Pride places self above God. That's the essence of pride and in the Scripture through the prophets God said, My glory will I not give to another and He laid down a basic premise.

My glory will I not give to another means that He will not tolerate a usurper elevating Himself above God. Listen to what God said about pride. Proverbs 21, 4, He said, A proud heart is sin. Proverbs 6, He said, These things doth the Lord hate, a proud look. Proverbs 16, 5, Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord. Proverbs 8, 13, The fear of the Lord is to hate evil, pride and arrogance. Proverbs 16, 18, Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 29, 23 says, A man's pride shall bring him low. And Proverbs 11, 2 says, When pride comes, then comes shame. Now just from the book of Proverbs, we gain an insight into how God feels about the matter of pride. It is a serious and severe sin and condemned repeatedly throughout the Scripture. It leads to abomination because it desecrates the name of God and the rightful place that He has.

It brings about destruction for the end of pride is judgment and it leads to a fall and to shame. In Jeremiah chapter 49, there's a very interesting verse where the Lord gives a prophecy against Edom. I don't need to turn to it, but Edom was very, very proud because Edom was an area in east and south of Jerusalem, an area in the wilderness and the desert that had many natural fortresses and particularly the city of Petra, the great capital city of Edom, was a city fortified by virtue of the fact that it was in the midst of walls of great high cliffs. And the only entrance, and I've been through that entrance, is just one wide enough for a single individual to pass.

And so it was very easy for that city to be guarded by one soldier and almost invulnerable. In Jeremiah 49 and 16, Jeremiah gives a prophecy against Edom. Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the heights of the hill, thou, though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, watch this line, I will bring thee down from there, saith the Lord.

Also, Edom shall be a desolation, and everyone that goes by it shall be appalled and hiss at its plagues. If you were to go there today as I have, you would find that it is absolutely empty. There's no city there anymore.

You say, how could it ever happen? Well, Petra had water coming into the city and little troughs flowing down the sides of the cliffs. The troughs are still there. They cut off the water supply and pretty soon the people had to give up because they had no water. God brought them down. James 4.16 sums it up, and you ought to jot that scripture down.

It's a very important one. It sums up God's view toward pride. It says God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Now that is the lesson of Daniel chapter 4. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. If you ever were looking for an illustration for James 4.16, you'd find it in Daniel 4.

It is an apt and graphic illustration of that very basic truth. When you are proud, God fights against you. When you are humble, God gives you grace. Now a proper recognition of the sovereignty of God, a proper recognition of the supremacy of God, a proper recognition of the humility of man is what this chapter is all about. And the key phrase in the chapter, notice in verse 17, is that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men.

That's the key phrase. The whole chapter is set to teach that truth. That everybody may know that the Most High, that is God, rules in the kingdom of men. No man can set himself up above God. You'll notice in verse 25 again the same thing. Till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men. You'll notice in verse 32 that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men. In verse 34, I bless the Most High, praise and honor Him who liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion. His kingdom is from generation to generation. The theme then is to recognize that God is the ruler in the kingdom of men.

Now when you don't realize that, you're in trouble. It is a severe thing to set oneself up above God because God fights against the proud and spares His grace for the humble. Now in this chapter we meet a proud man, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Babylonian empire. The first of the great monarchs of the four empires that ruled that part of the world.

The great Babylonian empire. This man, monarch of monarch, king of kings ruling all the world that he perceived, became proud and puffed up and bloated and inflated and self-centered and set himself up as God. And we saw in the last chapter he even built a great big 90 foot high idol out of gold as an image of himself and forced everybody to bow down and worship.

And when three didn't, they were thrown into a fiery furnace. So we understand a little about his ego. But in this chapter we see how God brings this man low and then gives grace to him in his humility. He resists him in his pride. He gives grace to him in his humility.

And if I can extrapolate a little bit, I'd like to do that. I think there's more in this chapter than just the story of Nebuchadnezzar. I think Nebuchadnezzar is a symbol of several things. First of all, I believe he is a symbol of any other individual in history who tries to do the same thing.

He is sort of a model or a pattern for how that works out. For all of the Shahs and the Ayatollahs and the Amins and the Hitlers and the Mussolinis and the whoever elses of the world who want to set up their petty, puny little kingdoms and rule as the monarch of their own self-designed empires and set themselves up in their egos as that which is beyond and above God, this is a warning to them as well. And Nebuchadnezzar stands as a symbol of what God does with all people like that. But beyond that, I think there is here a warning to us who may never rule any empire other than the little one we invent for ourselves and we who in our simplicity of a very uncomplex life and in our lack of public notoriety build an empire and crawl up on top and crown ourselves king, this is a warning to us also. And I think even in a broader vein, I think what we see with Nebuchadnezzar here is a symbol also of how God will deal with all of the proud empires of the times of the Gentiles. For he crushed the Babylonian empire, he crushed the Medo-Persian empire, he crushed the Greek empire, he crushed the Roman empire, he'll revive, he'll crush it again and establish the kingdom of Christ. So you see, this is not just Nebuchadnezzar, this is any other would-be monarch of the world and it is any man, woman or young person of the world who sets up his own little empire and crawls up on top and declares himself king and defies God and it is also a symbol of how God has dealt with the whole of the Gentile period known as the times of the Gentiles and so we learn much from it. A fitting symbol of how God judges pride and gives grace where there's humility.

Now, I have to tell you this so you'll know going in. This is the climax of the spiritual biography of Nebuchadnezzar. Now we know that in the first three chapters the Lord is working on Nebuchadnezzar, don't we?

He drops Daniel in his lap. Daniel first of all defies him by not being willing along with his friends, Mishael, Azariah and Hananiah, not being willing to eat the king's meat or drink the king's wine or do certain things that they do and so immediately he is forced to be confronted by these four young men as he confronts them and questions them and deals with them. He finds that they are far and away beyond anybody in his kingdom in terms of their integrity and their intelligence and their education and their wisdom, etc., etc. So beginningly then in chapter 1 God begins to build an affinity toward them and then we find in chapter 2 that Daniel is given the responsibility of solving an incredible problem. A man had a dream and nobody knew what it was and nobody could interpret it but Daniel could and we remember that Nebuchadnezzar was struck by the amazing capability of Daniel to read visions and dreams and rightly interpret them. And again God was driving a wedge as it were into the mind of Nebuchadnezzar. Then in the third chapter when the decree went out that they were to bow to the idol and they didn't, the three did not, Daniel must have been out of town somewhere. Immediately they were thrown in the fiery furnace and there appeared with them one like a son of the gods and they came out, there wasn't any burning, there wasn't any smell of smoke and Nebuchadnezzar again had seen God at work.

Once in every chapter. And now we come in the fourth chapter to the climax of his spiritual biography. I really believe in my heart and this is a, you can't be totally dogmatic about this, I'll try to show you why I believe it, but I believe at the end of this chapter Nebuchadnezzar truly comes to faith in the true God. Some have entitled the chapter the conversion of Nebuchadnezzar. I hate to let you in on the ending of the chapter.

Why did I do that? Anyway, I wanted you to know how exciting it's going to be as we progress through because I want you to know something wonderful is coming. Now, as we look at this chapter, we focus then on the spiritual biography of Nebuchadnezzar, an incredible, astounding, amazing man, one of the geniuses of all of human history, brilliant beyond those of his time, equipped in many, many ways in a human sense, puffed up and proud as the ruler of the world and how God literally crushes him into nothing and turns him around. And he does it, beloved, through another dream, another dream. Now, let's look at the introduction of the first three verses very quickly. Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations and languages, we said that that little triad simply encompasses everybody.

It's just a common phrase of the time to embody all the people who would be in sound of this decree or this testimony. Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations and languages that dwell in all the earth, peace be multiplied unto you. And by the way, peace as a greeting, shalom or whatever was not common only to Israel. It was used all over the ancient world.

We find it in multiple writings of multiple nations and it was the commonest form of greeting. So he says, peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. 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. Stop right there. Now this is really amazing.

This is amazing. You say, who wrote this chapter? Nebuchadnezzar did.

Now I think he probably had it edited a little by Daniel. You say, well, was Nebuchadnezzar an inspired writer? No, but God made sure that what Nebuchadnezzar said was accurately recorded. The Bible is accurate in this sense.

When the devil speaks something in the Bible, it isn't always true, is it? But it's truly recorded that that's what he said. And so here it isn't that Nebuchadnezzar is an inspired writer, it is that Nebuchadnezzar is giving his testimony and Daniel was able to record it exactly as it was given under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The wonderful thing about it is that it happens to be a wonderful testimony and I believe that's why the Spirit of God instructed Daniel to put it in.

Now I want you to notice that it's in the first person. Nebuchadnezzar, the king, unto all the people, etc. This is his personal testimony. This is kind of like Nebuchadnezzar giving his testimony of how he came to believe in the true God.

This is his personal, spiritual biography. Verse 2, I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. Now he has finally seen, and this is of course a recap really of what you're going to see in the story, he is saying I'm going to tell you the testimony of how I came to believe in the high God, the God above all of the deities of my own people. How great are his signs, he says in verse 3. Oh, he proved himself and how mighty are his wonders.

And by the way, signs and wonders are used together frequently in Hebrew in the Old Testament to indicate miracles. He says, I've seen enough miracles to know that his kingdom is beyond mine, it's everlasting. His dominion is beyond mine, it is from generation to generation. So you have here the personal testimony of a pagan king.

The first monarch of the times of the Gentiles giving you his spiritual biography. Alright, let's look at the dream. Point number 1, the reception of the dream. Verse 4, the reception of the dream.

This is his first-hand account. It begins in verse 4 with what word? What is the first word? I. I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in mine house and flourishing in my palace.

I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. Now the word for rest means free from apprehension and free from fear. His kingdom did not have any significant problems at the time. The empire was very settled at this time.

He was experiencing no serious attacks. He was prospering in a fantastic way. And by the way, the word flourishing there means to grow green, to grow green. Everything was greening in Babylon.

Everything was flourishing in Babylon. Now I would venture to say that this is likely between his 30th and 35th year of reigning because we're getting toward the end of his life. It's probably, get this, 25 to 30 years after the fiery furnace that this takes place. And by now Daniel would be 45 to 50 years of age.

So we have a tremendous time gap between 3 and 4 of 25 to 30 years. And God brings this second dream. It panicked him. It blew him right out of his comfort and his rest. And he was totally fearful. Now how did he react to this? Verse 6, Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me.

Boy, does he have a short memory. Those losers? The last time they came in they couldn't tell him anything and he said he was going to kill them all.

Well, 25 years, you know, and you've got to keep the system moving, I guess. So they are still around. So he made a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and they were the highest of the system of castes that they had, the soothsayers. And I told the dream to them but they did not make known to me its interpretation. Now he calls back these same bunch of losers who couldn't help him at all last time and he goes through this same routine. And in verse 18, the reason they didn't tell him the interpretation is it says they are not able to make known the interpretation. They couldn't tell him because they didn't know. But this time they didn't admit they didn't know. They just didn't tell him. And so he gives them the dream and they are incapacitated. And here we are right back at the folly of human wisdom.

The world doesn't have any answers. First Corinthians 2 14 says, the natural man understandeth not the things of God. Jesus said he'd hidden the things from the wise and prudent of the world and revealed them to babes. The world never knows they're ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. And so he's right back in the same pit again with the same guys who claim to know it all and don't know it at all.

Verse 8, I love this. I mean Daniel was cool. He had a sense of timing. Get this, but at the last Daniel came in.

Don't you like that? At the last Daniel came in. He just came in and saw the chaos, waited for the set up for his moment. And then it says whose name is Belteshazzar. And since this is a testimony made by Nebuchadnezzar to the Babylonians in chapter 4, he wants them to know who Daniel is so he uses his Babylonian name according to the name of my God. His God was Bell in whom, I like this, is the spirit of the holy God.

Now where did he get that information? I mean he said he was the most high God way back when the first dream was told, didn't he? And he said he was the most high God way back when the fiery furnace happened 25 or 30 years before. But where did he get the idea that God was a holy God?

I'll tell you where. In the 25 and 30 years intervening, do you think Daniel never told him anything? You better believe that in that 25 to 30 years Daniel, who was the prime minister in the whole empire of Babylon, was feeding everything he could feed into the mind of that man. He cared about him and we'll see that in a moment.

Now I don't know where Daniel had been when he came in at the right moment, but he had a great strategic sense of timing. And when all the chaos was going on and they were all standing there with a blank look on their faces and their mouths shut and the king was trying to get the answer, he just came in at the last and relieved all of the pressure by giving them the answer. Isn't it wonderful that Nebuchadnezzar recognized as the years went by that the spirit of the holy God dwelt in this man? And the deities you see of the Babylonians were not holy deities.

Pagan deities are not any better than the men that worship them. He had a fuller understanding of the nature of God now than he did before. I think it was not only what Daniel taught him, but I think it was probably what Daniel was like. I think he got an idea of the holiness of God from the holiness of Daniel, don't you? Daniel wouldn't defile himself with the king's meat and Daniel wouldn't drink the king's wine and Daniel wouldn't indulge in the immoralities and the excesses of behavior that are against God. Daniel lived a pure and a holy and a virtuous life and the conclusion of Nebuchadnezzar would be that he had a holy and a virtuous God.

Because a man worships a God and that worship will reflect what he believes that God to be. When Stanley found David Livingston in the heart of Africa, he stayed with him for six months. And Stanley was a professed skeptic when he found Livingston, but he came away from six months with David Livingston, a Christian. And someone asked what Livingston said that converted him, to which Stanley replied, it was not what Livingston said, it was what Livingston was that brought me to Christ. Livingston, according to Stanley's report, never asked Stanley if he were a Christian. He never preached to him nor seemed to pray for his conversion. But Livingston was so thoroughly a Christian that it dawned upon Stanley that one who was not a Christian was something less than a Christian.

Pretty simple. Livingston was a man of God who permitted the Lord to live through him and consequently his life was a life of victory and blessing. And by the sheer influence and impact of his virtue, he brought that man to Christ and that I think is probably, in Daniel's case, what may have happened. Daniel not only spoke of the character of God but manifested it as well. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

Thanks for being with us. John's been pastor of Grace Community Church in the Los Angeles area since 1969. His current study is titled The Rise and Fall of World Powers. John, in the few moments we have left, I want to ask you some questions about Bible prophecy. When I became a Christian 50 years ago, it seemed to me like everyone was talking about the end times and Bible prophecy and now almost nobody mentions it. Talk about why it's important to understand what Scripture says about the future.

And is there a happy medium between talking about it all the time and never talking about it at all? Well, yeah, the happy medium would be to talk about it the way the Bible talks about it. And the Bible is explicit about that. It isn't at all unclear.

In fact, I've said this a lot. The book of Revelation is one of the easiest books to follow chronologically because it sequentially takes you from the church age in the second and third chapter, first chapter as well, to the final new heaven and the new earth in chapters 21 and 22. So it's very chronological. And that's why Revelation begins with this. Blessed is the one who reads and understands this book. And that would have been given to seven churches in the first century that didn't have anywhere near the history of understanding dogma or even interpreting Old Testament prophecy that we would have. And yet it was clear to them by virtue of the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the first chapter.

So I think there are a couple of reasons why it's fallen on hard times. One reason is it was oversold and it was overstated for several generations. I think back to the late great planet Earth, when everybody had the pajamas on, they were on the roof, they're waiting for the rapture and it never happened. And prophecy, prophecy dominated.

You would know this. Prophecy actually had a greater role in the evangelical church for a number of decades than did the doctrines of salvation. In fact, the main seminary in America had a whole lot more to say accurately about the future than it did about the present concerning the gospel. And that's why I wrote the book The Gospel According to Jesus. They didn't get the gospel right, but they were going down to the nitty-gritty details in prophecy.

So I think that's one of the things that killed it. And the second thing is the surge of Reformed theology, and this modern generation looks at Reformed theology and they go back to Calvin, and we all know he didn't understand prophecy. He wrote commentaries in every book in the Bible, but Revelation.

So I think they sort of imported the Reformers eschatology, which was all over the map. But I think, like anything, you go back to the Word of God, and I want to help people with that, so I want to mention something to you. I've given a summary of the entire book of Revelation in one booklet. It'll take you through the whole book of Revelation.

Here's the good news. We'll send it to anyone who requests a copy free of charge. Yes, so this free resource will quickly take the mystery out of the Bible's final book. And again, it's yours free. Just ask for the booklet titled A Jet Tour Through Revelation when you contact us today.

Call our toll-free number, 800-55-GRACE, or go to A Jet Tour Through Revelation. It's a densely packed booklet that helps explain every chapter in this incredible section of Scripture. And it shows you where history is headed and what that means for you today.

It can also help you experience the profound blessing promised to those who read and obey the book of Revelation. To get your free copy, call 800-55-GRACE, or go to And now, as we close, a reminder that if you're regularly finding encouragement from this broadcast, please let us know when you contact us.

It encourages us more than you know, and it helps us measure our impact in your area. Send an email to letters at Again, that's letters at Or if you prefer regular mail, you can write to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California 91412. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Be here tomorrow when John looks at the amazing way God humbled a powerful king and what that can teach you about overcoming pride in your own life. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-23 05:03:14 / 2023-09-23 05:14:17 / 11

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