God of all Nations
Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream
Good Morning Bangor Community Church! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel chapter 4. We are continuing through our series through Daniel, entitled “God of all Nations.”
This week, this chapter, we see a difference in format from the previous few chapters. We see the same focus and the same theme as we have seen so far that God is sovereign over all. Period. But this week, we are going to see things told through the perspective of King Nebuchadnezzar himself. And we are going to bring to a close the King Nebby part of our story.
We don’t know the exact time that this chapter was written, though it is obviously likely that it was towards the end, at least the latter half of Nebby’s 43-year reign. And this story, this chapter is told and written from His perspective instead of Daniels, and it is him looking back, from towards the end, in order to share what God has done for him and what he has learned from God.
In that sense, this has a feel similar to the book of Ecclesiastes to me. This is what I’ve learned, this is what God has shown me. And this I pass on to you. And he says that his audience of this story is to all people, all nations and all languages.
So, lets go ahead and read the first section of this chapter, Daniel chapter 4, verses 1-7. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to read and follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 4:1-7, Daniel records what Nebuchadnezzar wrote”
To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth:
May you prosper greatly!
2 It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.
3 How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom;
his dominion endures from generation to generation.
4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. 5 I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. 6 So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. 7 When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers[b] and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me.
May God Bless the Reading of his word.
We have seen leading up to this point some of the things that Nebby has seen and experienced as a witness and testimony of the Most High God. We have seen Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach and Abed-nego prosper and grow strong on a diet of water and vegetables. He had a dream that not only could no one interpret, but no one except Daniel could tell him what the dream even was. He saw Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refuse to worship him and his statue and get thrown into a super-hot fiery furnace, only for them to come out not even smelling like smoke. The man has seen some things.
And here he is going to share one more thing he has seen God do. In verse 3, along with what we are going to read in verses 34 & 35 are going to be the theme of this chapter, God and his absolute sovereignty, his eternal kingdom that endures from generation to generation.
Through those previous instances, we see that Nebby has acknowledged the power of the God of Daniel, and the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, but we haven’t seen him acknowledge Him as the God of Nebuchadnezzar. We haven’t seen him turn to the LORD as exclusively God. Will this one last story of Gods Work in his life be the one that changes Nebbys soul?
So, we immediately see from Nebby that he had another dream. He had it when he was comfortable, when he was prospering, when he was, from what we can tell, when he was complacent. This would have made him immediately think back to his other dream that we covered in chapter 2.
But this was different than the first. Nebby was different. His circumstances were different. The dream itself was different. And his reaction was different. This time he didn’t withhold his dream from the wise men that he brought together. HE told it to them straight up. But he hadn’t changed completely because he still expected them to be able to interpret his dream. And they still were not able to. We do see that Nebby has mellowed some because he is not threatening to tear them limb from limb and all that, but that still had to be hard for the wisemen to admit to him.
We pick the story up in verse 8 through verse 18:
8 Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)
9 I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. 10 These are the visions I saw while lying in bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.
13 “In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger,[c] coming down from heaven. 14 He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field.
“‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times[d] pass by for him.
17 “‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’
18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
So, Daniel finally shows up here and I notice a few things first. These are the things that tells me that Nebby has not fully accepted the God of Daniel as his own personal God. First, he says that Daniel is filled with the spirit of holy gods, not the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of the Holy God. Second, he insists on calling Daniel by his Babylonian name, Belteshazzar, which is a tribute to the Babylonian god, Marduk.
He tells Daniel his dream and tells him to interpret it for him and then we get to see what the dream is. A great big tree, reaching towards heaven. It was seen throughout the world, seen by all. It was fruitful and abundant. It was beautiful, it provided food, shelter and security for many.
Then came a message from heaven, Chop It Down! Chop it down and leave the stump and the roots as a sign to all. His mind will be made as a beast instead of a man. And the purpose of this dream is very specifically for the purpose of making the Most High God known to all.
So, Mr. Daniel, Mr. God is with you. Tell me what this dream means.
And so, Daniel responds to him in verses 19-27:
Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.”
Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! 20 The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, 21 with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds— 22 Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.
23 “Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’
24 “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: 25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”
Now, this dream kind of freaked Daniel out. The King tried to calm him down, but this dream was intense for Daniel to hear about and to think about. And the standard formality of that time is to wish that the dream is about the Kings enemies, as Daniel says here.
Then in verse 20, he starts his interpretation. The tree is about you, oh King. Your greatness reaches to the heavens and your dominion is to the ends of the earth.
But the messenger came down and said that you would be cut down and sent out into the fields to dwell with the beasts to eat grass. This time will last for 7 times. Now, there is no consensus about how long a time is. It could be 7 days, 7 weeks, 7 months or 7 years. No matter the assuredness that some may speak with, it is an unknown. But we know that God said that it would be for a specific and finite amount of time.
Daniel continues that the stump and the roots of the tree will be left. This is to show that Nebbys kingdom will be held for him during these 7 times and that once he “Knows that Heaven rules,” his kingdom will be returned. In other words, when he acknowledges Gods sovereignty and humbles himself, he will be allowed to return from the field and have his mind returned to him.
The message that Daniel ends with is a message that is delivered by men throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, including by Jesus Christ himself. Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of Mark are “Repent and believe the Gospel!” Jonah told the Assyrians in Nineveh something he didn’t want to tell them, repent or you will be destroyed!”
God is a holy God and has holy standards. We are an unholy people from before birth, at least we are since after the fall in Genesis 3. Repentance is when we turn away from our unholy behaviors, our sins. We turn from our sins and turn to God, putting out trust, our faith and our dependence on him. That is where salvation comes from. By the grace of God, through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, he saves us from the consequences of our sins, eternal torment and suffering in Hell.
Often times in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, we see more earthly examples, some practical examples of the need to repent. Often times, what we see in the Old Testament is that you are in a poor situation because of the sins you have committed. Not always of course. Job shows us clearly that this isn’t across the board true and it should not even be our theology. Jesus again addresses the misapplication of this idea as a rule with the blind man that is brought to him. He is asked, why is this man bling? Is it his sins or the sins of his parents? He answers them and says, Neither, this is the case so that the power and glory of God would be shown.
But as we saw with Jonah, as we see with many of the prophets, the message that God sends is to turn away from your sins, Repent! And I will save you from your situation. Repent and I will relent of your judgement. Repent and I will relent of your punishment. Here, we see, Repent and you may not have to spend 7 times as a beast in the field, eating grass and with the mind of a beast.
Daniel sees the message that God is sending to Nebby and he begs with him not to continue on the path he is on. God is going to humble you because your self-pride is too much. Repent and you may be spared this situation!
If Daniel is this passionate about saving his King from acting a fool for a period of time, how much more should we be passionate about saving everyone we know from Hell. How much should we try to show them how to escape the eternal torment that is waiting at the end of their path, that was waiting for each of us at the end of our paths before God intervened.
Ultimately, the power is in Gods hands. He and he alone is the one with the power to save. Jonah cries out, Salvation belongs to the Lord! Our job is to faithfully plat the seeds of the Gospel. Romans 10 says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Our job is to speak the words of the Bible, the Words of God into their lives. Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations. Our job is not to make converts, but to grow people in wisdom, knowledge and obedience of the LORD.
This should not be a secondary issue or a backburner issue. If we have unbelieving friends, unsaved family, it should consume our prayers. And I know for a lot of you it does. I know it does for me. As a church family it should be vital for is all together, for all of our families and friends, not just our own individually.
Charles Spurgeon puts into great words how passionate we should be about this, he says: If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
Now, we see that Nebby didn’t heed Daniels pleadings as we continue along with verses 28-37, finishing this chapter. It reads:
All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”
36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
1 year after the dream and its interpretation, Nebby was walking around his palace and thinking to himself, “I did this! I built the kingdom of Babylon! All of it! I did it!”
So, God essentially told him, “All right, your hubris has caught up with you. I am in charge here. I am in charge of the kingdoms of the world, and I am taking yours away from you!”
Immediately his dream came to fruition and he was made to act like and live like the beasts of the field. Usually we tend to think of Cattle in this story. That’s what I’m thinking about as we talk about this. Nebby spent 7 times living like the animals, eating grass, growing long hair and long nails. Exactly as his dream told him would happen.
And then, at Gods appointed time, he says, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praised God. I blessed him. I honored him. There is a balance in this. We both see, because of who Nebby is, that he is still taking partial credit for the end of his time as a beast. But we also see that one of the main balances, or tensions, that the Bible strikes is that God is completely sovereign, and nothing happens with him saying so, but also that we, Man, are responsible for our actions. We can’t blame God for our sins, for our problems and certainly not for us being sent to hell. We freely sin of our own volition.
So Nebby is both proud and truthful in his words. And when he praised God, in Gods timing, God restored him to his right mind. All of his kingdom, his power and his glory were restored, and he was actually given even more than he had before.
Again, a theme in the scriptures. Using Job as an example, once everything ended, his rewarded was even more than they understood God was going to give them. Everything that was taken from Job was restored plus some. Here, Nebby was not only restored but given more once he praised God.
We can make the parallel connection that if we trust in God, and we are saved by his grace, that our reward is going to be so much better than we are to expect. We are not only avoiding the punishment of hell; salvation is not just fire insurance. But we get to spend eternity in perfect communion, in perfect relationship with our LORD, the God. We get to spend eternity in perfect creation, worshipping him, praising him and full and perfectly complete.
I love the last line of this chapter and I’m going to leave you with that as we close for the week.
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.