thriving-in-babylon-edited

Scripture Text: Daniel 4:1-3

A Pagan’s Praise (MP3)

A Pagan’s Praise (Sermon Text)

Introduction

We started looking at the book of Daniel some time ago with the main idea of learning how to live faithfully in a world that is hostile to our faith. Through the book, we have read about several challenges to God’s faithful people and how they trusted God through it all. Chapter four of Daniel is unique as it seems to be a letter written by King Nebuchadnezzar for the purpose of telling of God’s greatness and power that he had experienced. It is unique in that it is the only chapter in the Bible that was composed under the authority of a pagan king. There are also doxologies, hymns of praise to God, at the beginning and the end of the chapter. Some have thought that verses one through three of chapter four belonged to the previous chapter where Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were rescued from the king’s fiery furnace. It almost seems to be a hymn of praise from the king after he witnessed God’s miraculous intervention. However, this doxology at the beginning may actually be the king’s praise concerning what happened later in his own life and what was about to be revealed in this letter.

The last time we were in the book of Daniel, we read about Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah’s experience in the fiery furnace. In that event, Nebuchadnezzar had created an enormous statue and commanded the people to bow down and worship it. Everyone except Daniel’s three friends complied with the king’s demand, and thus, they found themselves in grave danger. Nebuchadnezzar told them that if they did not worship the golden idol he had made, he would cast them into a fiery furnace, to which he said, “Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” God answered that question decisively when He saved Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, and Nebuchadnezzar was forced to acknowledge God. But, did Nebuchadnezzar trust in the one true God? Did he become a believer? Maybe he believed something, but it seems he was not totally on board. The God of whom Nebuchadnezzar spoke was still the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. God was their God, but not his own. That would change.

Praise God for What He Has Done for You

The events in this chapter probably occurred late in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. His power was at its height and his many building projects were completed. He may have had time to reflect upon all that he had accomplished, which he admitted later right before his humbling experience in the wilderness. He also had time to reflect upon all that God had done in his life and in His kingdom. This is probably no different from many people as they get older and look back upon their lives. Many people live much of their lives in rebellion to God, running from Him, and following their own selfish desires, and then toward the end of their lives, they change. They look back to see what has happened in their life. They may notice all that God has done for them, even when they did not follow Him faithfully. Maybe that is you? Have you followed God faithfully? Can you look at your life and see the times where God has blessed you or has rescued you from some trouble, even when you were running from Him? Look at Nebuchadnezzar’s praise.

Daniel 4:1-2 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.

Do you like to go to the end of a book to find out how it turns out before reading a story? Some people do. They cannot wait to read what happens in the end of a story. The same could be said of Nebuchadnezzar’s letter. This chapter seems to begin at the end of the story, with a hymn of praise to God that Nebuchadnezzar supposedly wrote after a particularly humbling experience. Nebuchadnezzar would pridefully praise himself for all that God had done for him, or had allowed him to have. Thus, God punished Nebuchadnezzar and humbled him. After that experience, when the king had come to his senses and God had restored him, Nebuchadnezzar praised God for all that He had done. This doxology recounts Nebuchadnezzar’s praise to God for all that God had done for him. The letter that Nebuchadnezzar wrote was addressed to all peoples, nations, and languages, the same group of people he had summoned earlier to bow down to the golden image in chapter three (Daniel 3:7). This time, Nebuchadnezzar summoned all the people to hear how great the one true God of the universe is.

It seems that Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude is somewhat different here from what we have seen or would expect from a pagan king. King Nebuchadnezzar was probably not a very nice man. He had attacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple of God, exiled the Jewish people, commanded pagan worship, and threatened to kill anyone who defied him. Now, he wished peace upon all his people. He wanted this peace to be richly imparted upon them. This shows an attitude of good will toward others. We should want our leaders to have that same kind of attitude, for them to wish peace and good will upon their people. We should have that same attitude for each other. Nebuchadnezzar also said that “it seemed good to [him]” to show the things God had done for him. Another way to say this is, “It is my pleasure to tell you all that God has done for me.” The “signs” and “wonders” the Lord had performed probably include the fiery furnace where God had saved Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; however, the key difference here is that now Nebuchadnezzar speaks of signs and wonders God had done for him, not what God had done for others. This was a personal statement of how God had helped him.

Nebuchadnezzar showed that it was a true joy for him to share what God had done for him — such as delivering him from his madness. Whereas he used to be a persecutor of the faithful, Nebuchadnezzar had now become a witness to the faith. From being prideful and claiming what he had personally done, Nebuchadnezzar now testified about the sovereignty of God and praised God for all that He had done for him. This should be how any believer is. There is no room for pride. We ought to praise God for who He is and what He has done for us. We should be delighted to share with others all of the wonderful things that God has done for us. We should want to tell the good news of God from the mountaintops. In fact, an abundant life in Christ is one that is lived with joy and pleasure to serve and worship God. How has God blessed you? Have you thanked Him for it? Have you shared what God has done for you with others?

Praise God for His Great Wonders

One thing to remember is that Nebuchadnezzar had exiled Daniel and his three friends to Babylon and had placed them in his court in order to teach them Babylonian ways. Nebuchadnezzar intended to train these Jewish men to be Babylonians and pagans and to assimilate them into a pagan way of life. By the end of his life, however, God had revealed Himself numerous times to Nebuchadnezzar and He had intervened in his affairs. Now, it was Nebuchadnezzar who was really the student. Nebuchadnezzar was instructed in the worship of the God of Israel, and he was compelled at the time to confess this and praise God. One thing we see in this passage is that Nebuchadnezzar praised God for His signs and wonders. These describe miraculous things that God had done in order to demonstrate His reality and power to Nebuchadnezzar. Not only the earlier fiery furnace episode, but more specifically, the king’s mental breakdown and restoration he tells us later was a wondrous sign to the king. Look at the following verse.

Daniel 4:3a How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! 

Verse three is actually a hymn of praise. In this verse, King Nebuchadnezzar poetically praised God for His wonderful miracles. Upon the lips of a pagan monarch, these affirmations concerning Israel’s God are truly incredible. Yet it is understandable considering the many ways in which God had demonstrated His reality and power to Nebuchadnezzar and the frequent witness of Daniel in the court. Nebuchadnezzar had the privilege to experience first hand God’s miraculous intervention in human affairs. Nebuchadnezzar’s praise of how great God’s signs and wonders are is reminiscent of the central theme of Daniel — God is sovereign over history and empires. God is great and what He does is great. Nebuchadnezzar praised God for His greatness, His power, and His sovereignty. His miraculous deeds included Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the colossal statue which Daniel revealed and interpreted (chapter 2), Daniel’s three friends who were delivered from a fiery furnace (chapter 3), and the removal and restoration of both Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity and his kingdom (chapter 4), which we will see in chapter four. These were indeed “great” and “mighty” miracles.

Are those the only kinds of signs and wonders we can experience? Does God do signs and wonders today? Indeed He does! We experience God’s great signs and wonders today, although we may not notice them. We may not even believe them. When a baby is conceived and then born is a miracle of life. It is a wonder. When a person is healed of a debilitating infirmity or has the faith and strength to endure it is a wonder of God. When a person turns from sin and turns to the living Savior of the universe, Jesus Christ, that is a miracle of salvation. In fact, the Bible describes a person’s salvation as a “new life” and a “new creation” (Romans 6:4, 2 Corinthians 5:17). Salvation is also described as raising the dead (Romans 6:3-4, Ephesians 2:4-5, Colossians 2:12-14). It is a miracle that God draws a sinful person to Himself and recreates that person in the image of His perfect Son. Let us celebrate these wonders of God. Let us praise God for them and let us share these miracles with the whole world.

Praise God for His Everlasting Kingdom

Do you remember Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the large statue made of many kinds of material? God had already revealed through Nebuchadnezzar’s own dream that He was in charge and all earthly kingdoms were mere dust to Him. That had not changed Nebuchadnezzar’s heart, though. He still defied God, he still thought that he had supreme power, and he still believed that no human or god could defy his will and power. After all, Nebuchadnezzar had all but destroyed the Jewish people, God’s people, and he had exiled many of them to Babylon. Surely, he thought he and his gods were more powerful than the God of the Jews. What Nebuchadnezzar may not have realized was that God had allowed and used him to accomplish His will. God had used Nebuchadnezzar to punish His people’s sin and rebellion. God even revealed to Nebuchadnezzar through his dream that none of the human kingdoms would stand and God’s kingdom would crush the others and remain forever. Look at the following.

Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,

All of the kingdoms of this world will come to an end and will be replaced by the Lord’s kingdom, which will never pass away. Though trials and difficulties will continue for the saints up until the end, those who are faithful will be raised to glory, honor, and everlasting life in this final kingdom. Remember, the central theme of the book of Daniel is God’s sovereignty over history and empires, setting up and removing kings as he pleases. Daniel’s main statement to us is that God is in control, no matter what happens in the world! Nothing surprises Him. Nothing takes God off guard. God is sovereign, always! Apparently, later in his life, Nebuchadnezzar was ready to believe this. So now in verse three of Nebuchadnezzar’s poetic praise of God, he acknowledged not only God’s wondrous powers, but he also acknowledged God’s everlasting kingdom.

Daniel 4:3b His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

The king was probably now an old man and must have been acutely aware that soon death would bring an end to his life and thereby to his reign. Our own mortality has a way of causing us to reflect upon the shortness of life. Yet, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that God’s kingdom is eternal and it “endures from generation to generation.” Nebuchadnezzar said almost the exact same thing at the end of the chapter in verse thirty-four. What did it mean for Nebuchadnezzar to say that God’s kingdom is an “everlasting kingdom” and that God’s rule “endures from generation to generation”? It is difficult to say what was truly in Nebuchadnezzar’s heart, but he at least seems to have believed that God was in charge. He seems to have believed at this point that God is king and he has only the power that God allows for him to have. All leaders should have this attitude. All people should have this attitude. Many fret about the situations in the world. Many worry about what some president, governor, king or other leader will do. God’s Word comforts us and it reminds us that God is the one true King over all kings and His kingdom will never end. God is sovereign!

Conclusion

In closing, are we lacking in praise of God for who He is and what He has done? Does our worship of God pale in comparison to a pagan king’s praise? Do you adequately praise God for who He is and what He has done in your life? Do you acknowledge God’s many wonders? Do you believe that God is sovereign and that His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom? Do you believe God is in charge and in control regardless of what happens in the world or to you personally? Do we live our lives as if God is in control and that He is in authority, or do we live our lives as if we are in control and the masters of our own universe? No matter what situation we face, we should remember that God is always good, that is always sovereign. God has a plan, He is still working to accomplish His will, and those who are in Christ are still His children who are very much loved by Him. Trust God and have peace! Thanks be to God. Amen!


This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.

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