Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Humbled

Part 4 of Our God Reigns 

Text: Daniel 4:1-37




Now 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 (v. 37). 


You're Not in Control

How many things do you have control over each day? You could say that you’re in control over what time you wake up in the morning. But what if your house loses power in the night, and you’re alarm doesn’t go off to wake you up? The truth is, we really do have as much control as we think.

The theme of the book of Daniel is God’s sovereignty. Unlike us, God is in control of all things.


God Rules

For the second time in the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream—a dream that “made [him] afraid” (v. 5). In the dream, he sees a tree (v. 10). The tree grows and grows. It grows so tall that “its top reached to heaven” (v. 11). The tree provides shade for the animals, shelter for the birds, and food for all the people of the earth (v. 12). But then an angel (“a watcher,” v. 13) comes down from heaven and orders the tree to be chopped down (v. 14). So the tree is chopped down and all that’s left is the stump (v. 15). Then it’s announced that the stump—now a man—will live like an animal until “seven periods of time pass over him” (v. 16).

What does the dream mean? Nebuchadnezzar summons Daniel to give him the dream’s interpretation. Daniel reveals that the tree symbolizes the king (v. 22). There will come a time when Nebuchadnezzar will be “chopped down.” He will lose his sanity and act like an animal until he realizes that “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (v. 25).

One year later, Nebuchadnezzar is walking on the roof of his palace, admiring the city of Babylon. Babylon contained two of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the hanging gardens and the city walls. [1] The king says to himself, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (v. 30). Immediately (“While the words were still in the king’s mouth,” v. 31), what the dream foretold came to pass. He loses his mind and is removed as king and lives like an animal. Finally, Nebuchadnezzar “lift[s] [his] eyes to heaven, and his reason return[s] to [him]” (v. 34).

Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way that God is sovereign. He is “the Most High” God (vv. 2, 24, 25, 34). The story of this chapter is an example of the truth stated in 2:21: “he removes kings and sets up kings.” “Heaven rules” (v. 26). In the end, Nebuchadnezzar confessed, “All [God’s] works are right and his ways are just” (v. 37). He declared, “None can…say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (v. 35). The king was humbled.


God, What Have You Done?

Many people use the sovereignty of God to argue against the existence of God. They say, “If God is both sovereign and good, why do bad things happen in this world?” [2] Nebuchadnezzar declared, “None can…say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (v. 35). “All [God’s] works are right and his ways are just” (v. 37). But sometimes we might have doubts about God’s works and ways being right and just. Sometimes we might even get angry at God and say, “God, what have you done?”

But we must stop to consider the cross. The Most High God died on a cross for us! He humbled himself (Phil. 2:8)! [3] In amazement, we cry out, “God, what have you done?”


Humbling Truths

Two truths should cause us to be humble.

1. How small we are in comparison to the Most High God. Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man on earth, was nothing in comparison to God. The psalmist writes, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:3-4). [4]

2. How small the Most High God made himself so that he could save us. To receive salvation, we must humbly acknowledge our sin and our need of a Saviour.


The Cure for Pride

People get angry about all sorts of things—many of them relatively minor things: (1) having to watch a 30 second ad on YouTube, (2) stepping in something wet after you’ve just put on clean socks, (3) hearing someone chew their food loudly, (4) having to wait five minutes in a grocery store checkout line, (5) slow internet.

Do you ever get angry about your pride? The hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” says,

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

To “pour contempt” on our pride is to despise our pride. When we “survey” (i.e., think about) the cross, we should hate our pride. The Most High God died for us! The cross is the cure for pride.
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[1] The walls were wide enough for chariots driven by four horses to pass each other on the top of them (ESV Study Bible, 1594).
[2] All of the arguments against God used by people today (e.g., atheists) can be found in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t shy away from the tough questions. The prophet Habakkuk complained to God, “Why do you idly look at wrong?” (Hab. 1:3).
[3] “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
[4] “Brand new research suggests that the universe is actually a lot more crowded than previously thought. There are up 2 trillion galaxies in the visible universe, more than 10 times previously estimated” (source).