Belteshazzar replied, My Lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you, to your adversaries. What? Daniel is there because he's been abducted. He probably saw his parents killed.
He could say to this king, look, your day's up. You destroyed our temple. You destroyed the city of Jerusalem.
You threw my only three friends in the furnace to roast them. Look, I've got to tell you something. Am I ever glad to see God finally getting around to chopping you down? Daniel understood an important reality. He knew the sovereignty of God, that God has complete control over the universe. Because of that, he knew that he was exactly where God wanted him to be. Because of those truths, Daniel was resolved to serve faithfully. Even though he was serving a king who abducted him, he served that king well. If you had to work for a man who conquered your people and took you from your home, what would you do? This is Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey.
Today, Stephen continues through the life of Daniel with this message called Heaven Rules. One of the universal traits of human nature, which is unfortunate, and the battle certainly is the unwillingness to listen to warnings, to keep on our way, and to find it difficult to change. The Associated Press ran a story some time ago of a man who simply refused to wear a seat belt, even though he'd been ticketed and fined 32 times in five years. Even though it cost him a minor fortune, he insisted that within his own car, he was his own authority, and he could do what he wanted. Finally, he tired of paying the fines, and instead of obeying the law, he made a fake seat belt that hung over his shoulder to make it appear that he was wearing one. He tied one end of the strap to his seat belt just behind his head by the door, and he'd sling the other bottom part over his waist to complete the deception. And you're thinking, well, why don't you just go ahead and spend about the same amount of time, just put your seat belt on. Never mind that. His trick worked, and he wasn't pulled over.
Then he had a head-on collision, one that he most likely would have survived, but it threw him into the steering wheel, the AP news recorded, and he was killed. The resistance to heed a warning is actually more commonplace than we'd like to admit. In fact, I came across one recent medical survey pointing out that around 600,000 people in America have had open heart surgery, and that isn't all Americans. They come from all over the world to have their surgeries here, right? But 600,000 people a year, a year, these patients are told that their bypass surgery is only a temporary fix, and they've survived. They've been given another chance, and the doctors, of course, tell them you've got to change some things. The report said doctors have delivered the message to millions of Americans, you've been brought back from the brink of death, you'd better change. Next time it might not work.
According to this medical survey, get this statistic, those they tracked, 90% of open heart surgery survivors change nothing. Why would that be? Well, probably for the same reason none of us want to change anything. Probably for the same reason we don't even like to pull over and ask for directions.
I do, I just want you to know I'm pretty quick to do that. One of the most remarkable, unfortunate things about human nature is we don't want to admit we are failing in some area, or that we made a mistake, that we've done something wrong, that it really was our fault. One of the most remarkable admissions of failure in the entire record of human history comes from the pen of one of the most powerful men who ruled one of the most powerful kingdoms on planet earth. His changed heart is going to bear witness to a remarkable conversion, but it isn't until after he has effectively had a head-on collision with the discipline, the unmovable truth of God's word. He survives though, to tell his story, it's found in Daniel chapter 4. Daniel chapter 4 is one of the most unique chapters in the Old Testament because it is an official autobiographical document written by someone other than the author of the book.
It's just tucked in by Daniel in his journal. It's an open letter by Nebuchadnezzar sent to his kingdom citizens. Now in a rather typical royal fashion of the day, the letter opens here in chapter 4 verse 1.
Nebuchadnezzar, the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth, may your peace abound. It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the most high God has done for me. Now basically what's happening here is that Nebuchadnezzar is about to deliver his personal testimony. If you've been through our greenhouse clash, you know you've written out your personal testimony. We've had now about 2,000 do that.
If you've done that on your own, perhaps you've shared it with somebody. Nebuchadnezzar is writing his testimony and he's delivering it to the kingdom. Notice verse 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. Now after this, most people are going to kind of yawn and say, oh, we got a letter from the king. He's going to talk about how great he is and how connected he is with the gods. What he does instead, however, that gets everybody's attention is that he begins to give a detailed account of a nightmare that he has been having.
He had it seven years earlier and he's going to give the details. Look at the next verse, verse 4. I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace. Now stop for just a moment. In the margin of your Bibles, I suggested it back at chapter 3. If you haven't done it, I would recommend that you write into the margin of your Bibles the words 15 to 20 years later. 15 to 20 years later. In other words, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went through that fiery trial 15 to 20 years after they had arrived in chapter 1. Now you might want to write next to the opening lines here of this letter in chapter 4 the words 20 to 25 years later. And that's because chapter 4 will take place some 20 years after the events of chapter 3. And by the way, the diary of Daniel covers 75 years of Daniel's life.
So right now, in chapter 4, he is in his early 50s. And the reason I went through that whole thing here, that exercise, is because I want you to understand that Daniel's testimony has sort of weaved its way in and around that kingdom and the heart of that king for some 35 years. Nebuchadnezzar has heard the gospel. He's about to hear it again. He's heard it from his prime minister.
These are not surprising words that you'll read in a little bit. This individual in his kingdom who was abducted as a teenager rose to prominence and now for 30-some years has been leading with integrity. He's considered the wisest man in the kingdom. Now verse 4 just opens by telling us that Nebuchadnezzar is enjoying a time of peace and prosperity. He says, I was at rest and flourishing. That Aramaic word, flourishing, can be translated literally, I was growing green. That's what it means. I was growing green. That doesn't mean he started planting trees and recycling aluminum cans. What it means is that everything was just working out wonderfully.
It was a luxuriant, prosperous time under my rule. Now it's during this time of luxury that he begins to have these recurring nightmares. Now let me summarize this for the sake of time.
We're going to actually make it through the entire chapter. So he brings in all his conjurers. He brings in his diviners. He brings in all the other magi and as usual they don't have a clue.
You wonder, why are they on the payroll? This dream is from God. That's part of the reason. True to form, Nebuchadnezzar brings in Daniel last. We're not told why he's brought in last. Maybe it's because Nebuchadnezzar wants to give his own boys another chance. They keep flunking the dream test.
Here's another one. Maybe it's because he has the suspicion that this dream isn't going to go his way. So finally verse 8 says, Daniel came in before me. His name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my God.
Now let me stop again. In this open letter to the kingdom he referred, did you notice, to Daniel's Hebrew name. He calls him Daniel.
That hints something's going on in this man's heart. Something happened. And now because no one in the kingdom who reads the letter would know who Daniel is. It's been 35 years since that name's been bannered around. He adds, you notice, this is Belteshazzar and everybody probably went, oh yeah, that guy, we know him.
Now let me pause a moment here again. Verse 9, there are a couple of more observations I want to make. Nebuchadnezzar makes the comment that Daniel has a spirit connected to the gods.
He's reporting, by the way, what he said seven years earlier. At the beginning of this ordeal where he's still confused in his polytheism, that will straighten out by the end of the chapter. But you notice here he calls Daniel in verse 9, the chief of magicians. Just for the sake of biography as we set up the scene for what will happen later, you could actually translate this the master of the magi. And we'll deal with the magi in detail on Christmas Sunday, the Lord willing. But for now, here's the nightmare. Let me just read through it without any more interruptions from me.
Okay, here we go. Look at verse 10. Now these were the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed. I was looking and behold, there was a tree in the midst of the earth and its height was great. The tree grew large and became strong and its height reached to the sky and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant and in it was food for all. The beast of the field found shade under it. The birds of the sky dwelt in its branches and all living creatures fed themselves from it. And I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed.
And behold, an angelic being, a watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven. He shouted out and spoke as follows. Chop down the tree, cut off its branches, strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches.
Yet, leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field. Time for an interruption. Now up to this point, you've noticed that everything is in reference to it. It. It's referring to a tree.
That's obviously pretty obvious. It says it's a tree. It's going to be cut down. In fact, all of the wise men knew this was a reference to something great, something mighty, a tree. It's possible that the Magi and conjurers didn't want to give the meaning, at least the obvious part of it, that would have gone against job security.
The king had a temper. Remember, there's a furnace and lions. The tree is used in the Old Testament. It's used all the way back in the days of Nebuchadnezzar to speak of a kingdom. It's a common metaphor. The bigger the tree, the more powerful the kingdom. And in this dream, you notice, as I read it, the roots reach to the ends of the earth. It's visible. This thing rules, as it were, the world.
Underneath its branches, everyone finds shade and security and abundance. This is obviously a reference to the kingdom of Babylon. But that's not the nightmare part. That's actually a good dream. Nebuchadnezzar could wake up from that and go, wow, this is a good dream. I hope I have it again tomorrow night.
No. The nightmare begins because of a change now in the pronouns. It moves from general to personal. Notice verse 15, again, the latter part. And let him, there's the shift, be drenched with the dew of heaven. Let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man. And let a beast's mind be given to him.
And let seven periods or seasons, literally seven years, pass over him. This isn't about a tree anymore, is it? Keep reading. This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers in the decision of the command of the holy ones. In order that, why is this nightmare happening? That the living may know that the most high is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whom he wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men.
Nebuchadnezzar would at that point be in a cold sweat. First of all, what do you mean? This is me, obviously. This is my kingdom. I don't need help.
I don't have to pay guys to tell me this is what this means. But what do you mean here? The lowliest wears the crown. I'm not the lowliest. I am the greatest. What do you mean the most high has put me on my throne? I'm the son of a king. I was born into this. And the kingdom stretches now because of my doing. Not lowly.
You should see my glory. No, Nebuchadnezzar's troubling nightmare informs him that the most high God crowns whomever he wishes and sometimes he places rulers all the way from the top down to civil leaders in place who are the least deserving, not the most deserving. That's been happening since Nimrod built his first city. Just read the world reports, by the way. It's going on in this day today. I don't get a newspaper, maybe you do.
They throw one in my driveway every three or four days to tempt me. Like the recent scandal in China in the life of one of their top administrators, somebody well-trusted, he was viewed as a benevolent man only to discover now that over the years he's been stealing and stashing millions of dollars for himself and his family. He's just on the page smiling. Read of African and South American dictators who lead their impoverished people into even greater poverty while they live like kings. Listen, God, according to this announcement, he's using even the lowliest of men to lead those nations, those kingdoms toward ultimately his end and his kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar, you're a great tree.
Not because you deserved it, but because I made you that way. And here's a newsflash. You're about to get chopped down and he would tremble in his bed at the thought of it. Really ironic to me in my study to discover, and I'll give you just a little bit of it, that this metaphor was well-known. In fact, archaeologists have uncovered inscriptions by Nebuchadnezzar where he actually used the language of a tree referring to his own kingdom. He talked about the branches of his kingdom giving shelter. I mean, this is right out of his own journal. He knew. He knew. That's why he was so troubled. Reynolds showers in his wonderful little commentary.
I'm trying to get him here for the summer series. He works for Friends of Israel, a great expositor. He points out in his commentary on Daniel recent findings that Nebuchadnezzar had an obsession with trees because of their strength and their might.
He's kind of obsessed with them. In fact, he would take tours through Lebanon, the great cedars there, and on one occasion in one of his tours they've discovered that Nebuchadnezzar actually chopped down one of those mighty cedars by himself. And he was so proud of himself that he had a picture of himself cutting that tree down, carved in stone. Nebuchadnezzar, let me give you, God says, another picture. Carve this one in stone.
You have been felled by the hand of God. Now he already had plenty of understanding. That's probably why he brought in Daniel last and the others feigned. We don't know what it means. And it was troubling to Daniel.
In fact, I want you to see this and I want to stop long enough to get it. Verse 19. Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while. He heard it. His thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, Belteshazzar, don't let the dream or its interpretation alarm you. In other words, come out with it.
Belteshazzar replied, My lord, which is tantamount to your highness, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries. What? That's not what Daniel should be saying here. I mean, this is your chance.
He ought to be saying something like, are you ever in for it? Think about it. Daniel is there because he's been abducted. He probably saw his parents killed. He could say to this king, Look, your day's up. You destroyed our temple. You destroyed the city of Jerusalem. You put my king's eyes out only after you killed all his children. You threw my only three friends in the furnace to roast them.
Look, I've got to tell you something. Am I ever glad to see God finally getting around to chopping you down? That's what it means, king.
That's what I would have done. I'll pray for you. This is amazing compassion for the lost. Pagan kings act like pagan kings. Sinners act like sinners.
We so often forget that the issue is their soul. Daniel didn't pile on the table, you know, all the things that could have been eating away to making him bitter and resentful or frightened. You don't hear Daniel say, I think God's letting you off rather lightly. Seven years for you.
I've had 35 years here. No. He says, king, this is such bad news.
I really wish it was happening to your enemies. Which implies Daniel isn't one of them. How could Daniel feel this way? How could he talk this way? He can talk this way because he's believed the interpretation of this nightmare long before Nebuchadnezzar had it. That heaven rules.
The most high rules. The heart of the king is in the hand of the most high. He's moving earth. He's moving the nations of the world ultimately toward his final purposes and for us as believers the best is yet to come. But now Daniel provides the interpretation. Let me summarize it for you.
Basically, in a sentence, he says, king, there's trouble ahead. See, God has decided to change your mind. You go back to verse 16.
That word, mind, you could render it hard. It speaks of the seat of the moral reflection. It is the place where the will decides. It is out of that which patterns of behavior emanate. So what he's basically saying is, king, God is going to touch your mind and he's going to turn the dial and he's going to take away the majority of your sanity until you understand his sovereignty.
You're going to act and live like a brute animal. And by the way, that took a lot of courage even to compassionately give him the story. Eastern kings weren't in the practice of hearing bad news. In fact, we know from history that they didn't allow, many of them, bad news ever entered their palace grounds. There are some monarchs who wouldn't allow anybody to say the word death in their presence. Only good news.
Only that it's sunny and it's a great day. So what happens next is even going to require more courage. Look at verse 24. This is the interpretation, oh king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my Lord the King, that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven.
In other words, you're going to live outdoors. Seven years, seven seasons are going to pass until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever he wishes. And in that, it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, that is your kingdom be assured, return to you after you recognize, get this, you ought to underline this in your text, you get this, king, that heaven rules.
Heaven rules. Now that didn't take courage enough. What happens next is remarkable.
Daniel now kind of goes off script. He's not even going to be talking about the dream. He's going to make an application, which begins with the word therefore. I'm not finished, king. I've given you the news.
Now let me apply it to your life personally. He's no longer prophesying. He's preaching.
Look at verse 27. Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you. Break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.
Can you believe this? O king, here it is. Stop sinning. You're a sinner and you need to stop.
You need to repent. Stop doing iniquity. Show mercy to the poor.
In other words, stop treating your people as if they're chattel. Break away from your sins, the imagery of repentance. Acknowledge that heaven rules. And notice the end of verse 27. Maybe, perchance, God will withhold this nightmare from taking place.
You don't know. All you need to know is you need to repent. And maybe God will hold it off without Daniel walks out and leaves the king alone with his thoughts. God evidently gave Nebuchadnezzar a year to repent and to think it over. Verse 29 tells us that 12 months later, the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. Now, don't go too fast here.
Try to get this picture in your mind. From a human perspective, Nebuchadnezzar had every reason to believe his own press releases. He was probably the greatest builder of ancient times. In fact, already, or at this point, 49 different buildings with inscriptions on them point to their builder architect being none other than Nebuchadnezzar. In fact, most of the bricks being unearthed in Babylon, which is located in Iraq, modern-day Iraq, have stamped upon them the inscription, every brick with the inscription, I am Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. So you look at a building and every brick is stamped, I am Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
Don't want you to forget that. With every building you see. So here he is on top of the roof of the palace. We're not sure which building.
Maybe up there with the hanging gardens. He's up there in verse 30, the king reflected. He's looking around and he says, Is this not Babylon the Great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty? He's so humble. I just love the way he worded that.
Twelve months to think it over and no, I did this. Things are going to change regarding the king and his perspective, but we have to pause this message here because we're close to the end of our time for today. We'll bring you the second half of this message next time.
Stephen called it Heaven Rules. Our office is closed today, but you can interact with us on our website or communicate with us by email. You'll find us online at wisdomonline.org. If you have a comment or would like more information, you can send us an email if you address it to info at wisdomonline.org. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day and that you'll join us next time on Wisdom for the Heart. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-27 01:01:56 / 2022-11-27 01:12:30 / 11