Before a Fall
(Download Power Point File)
Scripture Reading: Daniel 4:34–37
Review: Daniel Chapters 1-3
Our lesson today comes from the fourth chapter of Daniel. To fully understand this chapter, we need to keep in mind the events that have happened in earlier chapters.
In the first chapter we are introduced to four men who were taken in the captivity: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were among the Jews who lived during the time that the Babylonians attacked Judea and were carried away into captivity. They are given new names. Daniel, Belteshazzar, to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego. They are selected to become the king’s servants and undergo three years of training. They were given portions of the king’s delicacies to eat but the food was unlawful for them to eat so they convince the chief eunuch to allow them to eat only vegetables. At the end of a ten-day trial period their complexion was better than others proving that obedience to God’s laws were best.
In the second chapter, King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and sends for the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans not just to tell him the meaning of the dream but to tell him the dream itself. Unable to do so, the king gives a command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel asks the king for time, prays to God and Daniel and his companions pray. The secret is revealed to Daniel in a night vision. He is able to interpret the dream and Daniel’s faith results in saving the lives of all of the wise men of Babylon and proving to King Nebuchadnezzar that the God that Daniel serves is the “God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets” (Dan. 2:47).
Then the king sets up an enormous idol of gold…90 feet tall and 9 feet wide and issues a command that all were to worship it when the sound of music was played. Anyone who refused to do so would suffer a horrifying death by being thrown into a fiery furnace. Because of their faith, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to worship the idol and were thrown into the furnace. While in the furnace one like the Son of God was with them and the men and their clothes were not burned. Nebuchadnezzar is so amazed at the miracle that he not only allows the men to worship their God but makes “a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.” (Dan. 3:29).
One would think that these events would have convinced the king that the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego was the one true God. But Nebuchadnezzar is proud, stubborn and quickly forgets the lessons he has learned. That leads us to our story this morning.
Sedgwick: “They Couldn’t Hit an Elephant”
During the Battle of Spotsylvania in the Civil War, Union general John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. At one point he came to some troops, who were stationed in a trench, with a short wall that extended above the trench. He stood up above the short wall and gazed out in the direction of the enemy. His officers suggested that this was unwise and perhaps he ought to duck. “Nonsense,” snapped the general. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” As soon as those words left his mouth, General Sedgwick fell to the ground, mortally wounded.
While there are times when we need to speak out, more frequently we find ourselves in trouble because we talk too much.
"18 Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall."
- Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)
"28 Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive."
- Proverbs 17:28 (NKJV)
In Muhammad Ali’s heyday as the heavy weight champion in boxing, he had taken his seat on a 747 which was starting to taxi down the runway for take off. The flight attendant walked by and noticed Ali did not have on his seatbelt, and said, “Please fasten your seatbelt, sir.”
He looked up proudly and snapped, “Superman don’t need no seatbelt.”
Without hesitation she stared at him and said, “Superman don’t need no plane.”
In one form or another, I suppose we’ve all struggled with pride.
In the fourth chapter of Daniel four Nebuchadnezzar’s pride causes him to stumble yet again. The king has yet another dream. This time the dream is of a tree that grows tall and strong – a tree so large that it could be seen by the whole world. It has beautiful leaves, abundant fruit, the birds dwelt in its branches and animals found shade underneath it.
A holy one comes down from heaven and cries out calling for its branches to be cut off, its leaves stripped, its fruit scattered, the beasts and birds leave it while only the stump and its roots remain, bound with a band of iron and bronze. And then these words are spoken:
In the tender grass of the field.
Let it be wet with the dew of heaven,
And let him graze with the beasts
On the grass of the earth.
Let his heart be changed from that of a man,
Let him be given the heart of a beast,
And let seven times pass over him.
And then Daniel offers the interpretation of the dream to the king…
He tells the king that this great tree represents him and the vastly-reaching dominion that he has over all the earth.
Then he tells the king that the instructions to cut the tree down represent that the king would be driven from among the people and that he would live among the wild animals, eating the grass of the fields and be drenched because of the dew.
Now I want us to take special note of why God said He would do this to King Nebuchadnezzar:
"25 They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses."
- Daniel 4:25 (NKJV)
He was told that seven periods of time would pass as he lived that way so that he would learn that the Most High God (the God Daniel served) was the God who rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.
Daniel explains that the stump and roots being left in the ground were to signify that Nebuchadnezzar would eventually receive his kingdom back again, but not before he learned that heaven rules.
Daniel begs the king to stop sinning and do what was right because if he would stop sinning and do what was right, perhaps God would have mercy on him and he would continue to prosper.
The king did not heed the dream or Daniel’s warning. Twelve months later he seems to dismiss the dream. While he is taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace he looks across the city and he makes this statement:
"30 The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”"
- Daniel 4:30 (NKJV)
The text tells us that, while these words were still in his mouth a voice came from heaven, removing the king, reminding him about what had been prophesied about him. We are told that he was driven from living among men and lost his sanity. He ate grass, just like the oxen of the field and that his body was wet with the dew until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. (Daniel 4:33)
After it was over, Nebuchadnezzar emerges a changed man. Verse thirty-four tells us that his sanity returned and when it did, look at what the king did:
"34 And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. "35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?” "36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. "37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down."
- Daniel 4:34–37 (NKJV)
It took a lot to teach this lesson to Nebuchadnezzar. But pride became his downfall.
Have you ever stumbled because of pride?
How many of you have ever been in an argument?
If you have then you know how pride can hinder us from hearing each other.
That’s because, even though you and I might be standing face-to-face with each other, we are both talking the same language but we’re not hearing a single thing that the other person is saying. Do you know why? Pride.
Pride makes us think to ourselves, “I am right, and you can’t tell me anything.”
Pride can actually make you unteachable.
It will blind you from your own faults.
It can make reconciliation impossible and cause you to refuse to admit when we are wrong.
It can make us stall and wait for the other person to make the first move.
So, if pride has the power to disconnect us from others, what can reconnect us with them?
Pride robs us from our ability to serve as an example before others.
Pride prevents us from having insight and holding ourselves accountable for our own actions.
Pride makes us feel entitled.
Pride lies to us we tell ourselves that we are better than we really are.
Pride allows us to give ourselves permission to lose restraint.
The only way to get rid of pride in your life is to replace it with humility.
There is nothing good that comes when we allow pride to influence us.
So what do we do with pride?
Container of colored water (2/3 full)
Container represents life
Colored water represents humility, empty portion represents pride.
Question: How do we get rid of pride?
Answer: We must be filled with humility. (Pour pitcher full of colored water.)
And that is exactly what the scriptures say:
"2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."
- Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)
Even moreso than pride, the lesson Nebuchadnezzar really needed to learn about was about the sovereignty of God.
Sovereignty: The definition of God’s sovereignty carries with it the idea of acknowledging that His power, His right, His rule over all is absolute.
Nebuchadnezzar’s pilgrimage with God is a major theme of Daniel. In 2:47 he acknowledged God had revealed his dreams to Daniel and was able to give him their interpretation. In chapter 3 he praises the God who delivered three Hebrew men from the fire. But, despite the fact that Nebuchadnezzar recognized that God exists and works great miracles, He still refused to acknowledge God as His Lord.
And I wonder…Is it a coincidence that the story illustrates this type of person as a person who has lost their mind?
You can always tell when God’s sovereignty is acknowledged in someone’s life. Their words and their actions demonstrate that God is supreme, unlimited, unrestricted in every aspect of our lives. That means He is the absolute ruler over all, including their will.
Consideration of God comes when we make decisions regarding our home.
It comes when we make decisions that affect our family.
We consider it as we consider how our lives can affect our ability to influence others.
It comes when we make decisions surrounding our job.
It comes when we decide what priority spiritual opportunities take in our lives.
It infiltrates and saturates every aspect of our lives when we’ve truly understood the sovereignty of God.