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God Reigns (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 9, 2021 4:00 am

God Reigns (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 9, 2021 4:00 am

“Where’s God in all of this?” Many of us have asked this question recently. Where do we turn when life seems out of control? Join us on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg examines a powerful king’s discovery of who’s ultimately in charge.



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Where is God in the midst of all of us? It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. How great are his signs! How mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed, the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. At last, Daniel came in before me, he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my God, and in whom is the Spirit of the Holy Gods. And I told them the dream, saying, O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the Spirit of the Holy Gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation.

The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these. I saw and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.

I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. He proclaimed aloud and said thus, Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. Let his mind be changed from a man's, and let a beast's mind be given to him, and let seven periods of time pass over him. The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end, that the living may know that the most high rules the kingdom of men, and gives it to whom he will, and sets over it the lowliest of men. This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw, and you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because 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.

And then it gets really exciting from that point on, but I'll leave you to read the rest. Father, we come to you at the end of this lovely day. In the evening hour, we read in the New Testament how often it was that Jesus gathered with his disciples, oftentimes on a hillside, and there he opened to them the mysteries of who you are and your purposes in the world. And we pray now that you will give to us minds that think and hearts that are ready to respond to your truth and wills that are submitted to your authority so that the things we have sung and the vision that has been set before us of a whole world in need of the gospel may be crystallized as we draw our evening to a close. We humbly pray this in Christ's name.

Amen. Well, the question that we aren't always to be asking as we read the Bible is, where is God in all of this? Or where is Jesus in all of this, insomuch as the Bible is a book about Jesus. And when we read in these prophecies here, we read in these prophecies here in Daniel, so often, as I've tried to point out to you in the first three chapters, it's not difficult for us to follow a line that takes us almost directly to Christ. I think too often, as we come to the Bible, many of us are starting from the wrong point. We're asking the question, where am I in this?

Or where do I fit into this? Turning our study of the Bible into a kind of self-preoccupation. And the answer, of course, is that you're not in this at all, and neither am I, because you weren't around in the sixth century BC, and none of us were. And this was written in that context to a historical environment, to people who lived then.

The fact that there is application beyond that goes without saying. But that's not the same thing as looking for ourselves, as it were, in the passage. And here again in chapter 4, it is God who is the hero of the story, God who is described as the Most High God all the way through. I just looked for them in verse 2, what the Most High has done for me, again in verse 17, verse 24, verse 25, verse 32, verse 34.

And again, on the basis of what we've said, the repetition of phraseology is there in order that we as the readers might get the point. And if there is a key verse in this chapter, and I believe there is, then I think it would be verse 17. The sentence of the decree of the Watcher, the holy messenger, the angel, if you like, is in order that people may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men. Now, the readers are learning, and I hope we are learning too, that despite all appearances, and the appearances in their lives are not particularly good, they have been taken away from their home, the Babylonian deities have apparently triumphed, many of them have lost loved ones in the process, and all appearances suggest that they are being beaten down. And in actual fact, here they are learning that God is sovereign over all of the earthly kingdoms, and he brings to nothing the proud assertions of man. And if you want just one passing application of it, let's just acknowledge that when our Supreme Court last week took to itself the jurisdiction of God to redefine that which God himself created, then many of us may have been distressed and trembled in our bonds.

But we need to remember what we're being told here, that even though the battle may seem to be tilting against us, still God reigns supreme. And the first verse of chapter 4 takes place about twenty years after the last verses of chapter 3. The king Nebuchadnezzar begins this letter with a doxology. He ends it, as we will see, with a doxology, and in between, we have the record of the dream, its interpretation, the fulfillment of the dream, and his restoration.

There is a lot to cover, and we'll go through it as directly as we can. Here he is, the king, as it were, was in his counting house, counting out his money, and the queen was not necessarily in the parlor. She was probably in the hanging gardens that her husband had created for her. He lived in a palace. He had prestige.

He had power. And as a result of his influence, he is able, if you like, to call a press conference that involves the entire world. If I called a press conference, I'm not sure even any of my elders would come. That's the extent of my influence. Probably my wife wouldn't come either. There probably would be nobody there at all.

It would be a futile exercise. But when Nebuchadnezzar decided that he was going to mail something out to all of the people on his Facebook page, to all of the people that he'd been tweeting to lately, he was able, by means of Instagram, to get the news out as directly as he could. And quite a contact list he had. He writes to all the peoples and all the nations and all the languages. That's how big and powerful a fellow he was. His kingdom at the time stretched from the Persian Gulf in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, from Egypt in the south to Iran in the north.

A huge area. And he was the big daddy of the whole place. In verses 2 and 3, as the people heard the letter read to them, they would have been caught off guard, because he says that it has seemed good to me to show—and if the person coughed at that point when he was reading it out, people would have nudged one another and said, Oh, here we go again. He's going to tell us about his great military achievements and the architectural triumphs and his horticultural genius and so on.

But no, hang on, that's not what he's about to say. It seemed good to me to show, notice, the signs and wonders that the most high God has done for me. What God has done for me. These signs and wonders that had convinced Nebuchadnezzar, in an apparently chaotic world, that this God actually ruled. When you fast forward, of course, as God becomes incarnate in Jesus, and as he announces the presence of the kingdom, he then goes out and he manifests the reality of the kingdom. And people say to one another, the disciples say to one another, what manner of man is this, that even the winds and the waves obey him?

Because they knew only God was in charge of the ebb and flow of the moons and the seas and the shorelands. And so here he is able to declare this. I want to tell you that his signs are fantastic, his wonders are mighty, his kingdom lasts forever, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Well, how in the world does this happen? There's a big change in him, isn't it? Well, he tells us in verse 4, I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. Well, that's jolly nice. He probably had us playing his music.

I've lived a life that's full, I've traveled each and every highway, and more, much more than this, I did it my way. That's him sitting up there just having something nice to drink and asking some of his folks to come in and survey the magnificence of what he's done. Like one of those of whom Jesus spoke later on, whose success and prosperity became the occasion of foolish self-confidence, the same was to prove true for Nebuchadnezzar.

I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my palace. I was prospering, and I saw a dream that made me afraid—to sleep or chance to dream. Aye, there's the rug. As he lies down on his bed, there wasn't a mattress that had been made that was better than his mattress. There wasn't a higher ceiling in anybody's bedroom higher than his ceiling.

The doorway must have been magnificent. But as I lay upon my bed, I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed, the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. So he is completely destabilized by this. He is terrified by what has happened. And so he does what he routinely does. He issues a decree.

You can imagine him calling for somebody who does this for him and says, I'm completely freaked out. I've had an unbelievable dream. I want you to issue a decree. Here we go again. Who do you want? Well, my usual group, please, if you could just bring them in. Why he's still doing this, I don't know, because they are reliably, consistently, magnificently incompetent.

And they prove that once again. The magicians and they all came in, and I told them the dream, but they couldn't make known to me the interpretation. And at last, Daniel appears. Where was Daniel? I don't know. Don't waste time in a Bible study pondering that kind of thing. It's none of our business. Otherwise, it would be in the Bible. He had gone to visit his daughter, perhaps, or something like that.

I don't know. At last, Daniel came in before me, he who was named Belteshazzar, after the name of my God. And so he says, I need to tell you this dream.

And he does, which kind of delays the process a little bit, but we need to know what it is. This amazing tree that grew up and touched its top, reached to heaven. You see that there in verse 11. The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven. I know you think I'm just repeating myself, but I think there is a definite link here with Genesis 11, where the tower, actually, of Babel is described there in Genesis 11 as having a top that reached to the heavens. This tree is of cosmic proportions, it's beautiful, it's fruitful, the picture is actually very pretty indeed. It was able to provide sustenance and shelter. And in many ways, it was a picture of the best of Nebuchadnezzar, in so much as he had built this amazing kingdom, which provided sustenance and shelter for those who were under his jurisdiction. So far, so good. What's the frightening part?

This is actually quite nice. Why is the king terrified? Well, because there was an angelic visitor. There was a holy one who came down from heaven, a watcher, and he proclaimed aloud and said thus. Now we find out what's happened. Chop down the tree, lop off its branches, strip its leaves, scatter its fruit, and so on. He proclaims a message of destruction, and only a stump is left. And then you will notice, if you have your Bible open, that in verse 15, the stump, its roots in the earth and bound with a band of iron and bronze amid the tender grass of the field, and then you will notice, full stop, new sentence begins, let him be wet with the dew. So there's a shift in the picture.

15a is a tree, 15b is a person. And so Nebuchadnezzar himself is beginning to put two and two together, and he's not sure that he likes the four that comes out as the answer. And that is the frightening part.

The image switches from the tree to the person. A great and powerful person is about to be taken down and will be left as a mere shadow of his former self. His mind will be changed.

He will revert to an animal's existence. And the decree of the watcher is the decree of God himself. You read that actually in verse 24.

You have to read on. And you find that the decree that was given by the watcher—this is the interpretation, O King—it is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my Lord the King. 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. 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 the dream or the interpretation alarm you. 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, it's you. It's you, King.

You are the man. This is a description of God's judgment. You will be driven away from human society. You will live with the wild animals. You will eat grass like the oxen. You will be bathed with the dew of heaven. In the morning, when people come and look out on the fields, they will see you there, and you will be all sulky as a result of the dew that has emerged in the morning hours. And your nails will all be grown in upon themselves, and you'll be hairy like a highland cow. And it's a dreadful, dreadful thing, O King. And this is what will happen to you until you learn your lesson.

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. 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, 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? By his providence, you still can understand the gospel, and you still can trust in Jesus.

God is merciful as he gives us the opportunity to look to him in faith. This is Truth for Life with an encouraging reminder today from Alistair Begg. Each day as you listen to Truth for Life and you benefit from learning what God's word has to say and what it means, you have a fellow listener to thank, someone else who has grown in their relationship with Christ by hearing the Bible taught on this program in a way that is clear and relevant to everyday life. That person has made this program possible. They want you to benefit in the same way. In fact, it is through their regular monthly giving that Truth for Life is made available each day online, on the radio, through many other channels.

That way you have unlimited free access to Alistair's teaching. These generous truth partners make this daily program possible. So today we'd like to ask you, if you have grown in your understanding of all that Jesus has done for you, will you consider paying it forward by joining the team that makes Truth for Life possible? We are praying that this month God will add to our team of truth partners.

So if you've considered becoming a truth partner but you've yet to take that step, we want to ask you to do that today. When you do, we'll invite you to request a copy of Alistair's most recent book titled Brave by Faith, God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World. In this book, Alistair dives deeper into the book of Daniel. He highlights the amazing similarities between the world Daniel lived in and our world today.

Both cultures refuse to honor God and his word. And like in Daniel's day, we need to be people who are willing and able by the power of God's Spirit to stand strong in our faith. Brave by Faith follows the story of Daniel and his friends while they were exiled in Babylon. But the focus isn't on Daniel's faith. The focus is on God's faithfulness to his people. That's what's at the heart of this story. We'd like to invite you to request your copy of the book Brave by Faith when you join the team of monthly truth partners today or when you give a gift of any amount. Visit us online at truthforlife.org slash donate or call 888-588-7884. I'm Bob Lapine.

Thanks for listening. In our day, a lot of people see themselves as the master of their own destiny, the captain of their own ship. That's how Nebuchadnezzar thought in the book of Daniel. But as we'll see tomorrow, he was about to experience a life-changing breakthrough. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-06 23:27:27 / 2023-11-06 23:36:46 / 9

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