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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Daniel 4:20-27; King of Righteousness and Mercy

09/19_Daniel 04:20-27; King of Righteousness and Mercy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210919_dan04_20-27.mp3

Daniel 4:1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

This is Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony of what God had done for him.

Truth or Tickled Ears

Daniel 4:5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 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. 7 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.

Daniel was brought before the king after all the other magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers because although the king respected Daniel and knew Daniel was able to interpret his dream, he did not really want to hear what Daniel had to say. He knew that Daniel would speak the truth, but he would rather have his ears tickled than to be held accountable. He was not yet ready to listen to the one man who spoke on behalf of the Most High God, and he was not yet ready to come to terms with Daniel’s God.

Daniel 4:8 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 him the dream, saying, 9 “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. 9 “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. 18 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.”

True Forgiveness

We saw last time, that although Daniel had every reason to be hateful and bitter toward this wicked king, he genuinely cared for him. For what he had done to his nation, his family, his friends, himself, he had forgiven him from the heart. He wished nothing but good for him.

Daniel 4:19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “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!

One commentator writes:

“Daniel encourages us here to long for God to have compassion on world rulers, specifically the wicked ones, and he encourages the world to assume that judgment is never inevitable. If we bait the tyrants and dare them do their worst, they may. Daniel invites us to care about people in power, even people who abuse power, to appeal to their humanness not their sinfulness, and to treat them as people given a responsibility by God and people who may respond to an appeal to right and wrong.” [Goldingay, p.94]

Beastly King of Beasts

Daniel treats the king with compassion, and he tells him what others feared to tell him; he told him the truth

Daniel 4:20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth.

The tree is you. Daniel confirms the king’s fear. This dream, like the king’s dream in chapter 2, had good news and bad news. That dream affirmed the greatness of the king.

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

By the time of chapter 4 (around 30 years later) the glory of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom had been established. The tree whose top reached to heaven reminds us of the tower being built in Babylon back in Genesis 11

Genesis 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Nebuchadnezzar had been given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory. It had been given to him to rule over and provide for the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and all the children of man.

But the dream of chapter 2 also communicated that there would be an end to his kingdom. It would be succeeded by another, and ultimately crushed by the kingdom crushing stone, God’s kingdom that will endure forever. Here in chapter 4 the consequences are more immediate and personal.

Daniel 4:23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules.

Nebuchadnezzar, who provided for the beasts of the field, would live among the beasts of the field and be provided for by heaven. The one to whom it was given by God to provide for others would himself become dependent on God to provide for him.

Promised Restoration

But the most surprising part of this prediction was that there would be a positive outcome. This is simply unprecedented! Any sign of weakness in a powerful king and those around see it as an opportunity to seize power. David was on his death bed when his son Adonijah with the support of Joab and Abiathar sought to establish himself as king (1Ki.1). Ben Hadad king of Syria had fallen sick, and his servant Hazael smothered him with the bed cloth dipped in water, and became king in his place (2Ki.8). For a ruler like Nebuchadnezzar to go insane and leave a leadership vacuum for 7 years and then have his leadership restored is nothing short of miraculous. Nebuchadnezzar would be humbled, but through the experience he would come to know that ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ And ‘your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules.’ This is an amazing promise.

The Gift of Repentance

But even more amazing than the fact that God removes kings and sets up kings (2:21) is the fact that God gives the gift of repentance to those who don’t deserve it. In Acts we read

Acts 11:18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (cf. 2 Timothy 2:25)

Repentance is a gift from God. And Daniel assures the king that God will give him this gift. The purpose of his humbling is ‘till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ God gives his word that Nebuchadnezzar will know and that after 7 years his kingdom will be restored.

This sounds similar to what Jesus tells Peter, predicting that proud Peter is about to deny him three times.

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus doesn’t leave a shadow of doubt as to what will happen. Jesus prayed that his faith would not fail. When Jesus prays, the Father answers. There is complete confidence; it is not ‘if’ but ‘when’. Peter’s self confidence will be destroyed. Jesus even gives him the time it will happen. But Peter will turn again because God is the one who gives repentance to whom he will.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Nebuchadnezzar’s pride will be crushed. But it is for a redemptive purpose. It is so that he would come to know the Most High God.

Call to Repentance

Here Daniel stops interpreting and starts meddling. We saw in verse 19 how much Daniel cared for the king. He must have built a great amount of trust to be able to say what he says next, and even then, this must have required great courage. This verse, even more than verse 19 displays the selfless care Daniel had for the king, for confronting an absolute monarch over his sin would come at great personal risk.

Daniel 4:27 Therefore, O king, 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.”

Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that he is a guilty sinner, and he needs to repent. But he tells him this in a way that demonstrates both his personal concern for the king, and his confident hope in his merciful God. It is counsel meant for the king’s good, to prolong his prosperity. Daniel knows his God is ‘merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex.34:6). God often communicates the threat of his judgment to persuade us to turn from our sins and experience his compassion.

Sins of Omission

Daniel doesn’t confront the king over sins of lust or immorality or selfishness or greed. In fact he doesn’t confront him over anything he has done. Rather it is what he has left undone that is the subject of his rebuke. The way to break off his sins and iniquities is by beginning to do the good that is expected of him. As king, he had been entrusted by God with great responsibility. And ‘to whom much was given, of him much will be required’ (Lk.12:48). Nebuchadnezzar was made abundantly fruitful, and he was given the responsibility of caring for the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the children of man. Daniel instructs him to practice righteousness and show mercy.

Do Righteousness and Show Mercy

Four short years before Daniel and his friends were exiled to Babylon, the Lord sent Jeremiah to confront the king of Judah over his sins. He says in Jeremiah 22

Jeremiah 22:2 and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, who sits on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. 3 Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

God’s judgment is on his people

Jeremiah 22:9 …“Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God and worshiped other gods and served them.”’”

This failure to do justice and righteousness and to show mercy to the oppressed is ultimately a worship problem. They failed to do righteousness and show mercy because they were worshiping the wrong things. He goes on:

Jeremiah 22:13 “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages, 14 who says, ‘I will build myself a great house with spacious upper rooms,’ who cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar and painting it with vermilion. 15 Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. 16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the LORD. 17 But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.”

Josiah’s son Jehoahaz only reigned for three months, because he was worshiping and serving the wrong things. He was given authority to do what was right in God’s eyes and to extend mercy to the oppressed. But instead he oppressed the poor and did what was evil for his own personal gain.

Jesus is held up as the ideal ruler, he fulfills the role all kings were meant to serve.

Isaiah 11:3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The king was to use his position, power, and strength to defend the poor and needy, to protect the vulnerable, to do what is right. He is not to use people to achieve his own ends.

Jesus is the king who comes both to practice righteousness and to show mercy. It is easy to point the finger at leaders who fail to do what is right, but we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Our righteous deeds are as a polluted garment; our iniquities, like the wind, take us away (Is.64:6). We are the ones who are in need of mercy.

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

September 20, 2021 - Posted by | Daniel | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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