There are times when the Bible seems to preach itself, and I wonder if instead of hearing a sermon from me it wouldn't be better simply to read the passage through a couple of times.
The big idea of Daniel 4 is incredibly clear isn't it? We see it in v./17 and again in v.25 and then again in v.32. Look at v.17
I want to suggest just one thing we should learn from the passage this evening
We must all bow the knee before the God who reigns
It's called Lycanthropy. The dictionary definition is "a rare psychiatric syndrome that involves a delusion that the affected person can transform into, has transformed into, or is a non-human animal." And when Nebuchadnezzar was at the height of his power and at the height of his glory, as the words of his own praise were still on his lips, God afflicted lycanthropy upon him, v.33
And the king remained like that until he raised his eyes towards heaven and acknowledged that he was nothing and that the God who is in Heaven reigns over him.
And the question that this passage asks each of us tonight is quite simply, have we?
Have you understood that God rules over your life? Have you understood not only that you are not in control, but that there is someone else who is? Have you understood not only that you are not in charge of your own life, but that there is a God in Heaven who made you and sustains you and who owns you? Have you understood that? Have we really understood that?
And the book of Daniel doesn't let us get away with just an easy answer or a quick response. Look back at chapter 2 v.47. Do you remember what Nebuchadnezzar said after Daniel had interpreted his first dream for him? Nebuchadnezzar recognizes that Daniel's God, the God of the Bible is the one true God. And then what did he do? In chapter 3 he set up a gold statue of himself, 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide and orders everyone to bow down and worship it! Nebuchadnezzar praised the God of heaven with his words, and then he threw the only people in his empire who worshipped that God and would not bow down to his golden statue into an oven to be burned alive!
But God saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as we saw last week, and look at what Nebuchadnezzar said when he did, 3 v.28 Nebuchadnezzar praised the God of Heaven again! And then what did he do? He went for a walk on the roof of his palace, and as he looked at the city of Babylon, he said to himself, 4 v.30
Again and again Nebuchadnezzar looked as he realised that God reigns, and the things he said made it soundas if he bowed the knee to the God who reigns. But he didn't change. His heart hadn't changed. He said the right things but he never really believed them. He never really bowed his knee.
And it begs the question this evening. Have you and have I…really?
When we pray our prayers and sing our songs, are they just words? Or have we really bowed our knee? It's a question we need to ask. And I think Daniel 4 gives us three diagnostic question to help us know the answer.
First of all, you need to ask yourself
1) How do you treat other people?
When Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream and warns him about the judgement that is coming upon him, he says in v.27,
Therefore, O King, be pleased to accept my advice: Repent of your sins and obey the word of the Lord.
Actually that's not what he says, look at v.27
When Daniel pleads with the king to humble himself and bow his knee before God he tells him to turn away from wickedness and start being kind to the oppressed. Why? Well, because the evidence that Nebuchadnezzar thought that he was in charge and that he ruled his own life was seen in the way he treated others.
And it's the same for you and me.
If you bow the knee before the God who reigns and you recognize that he has authority over your life and that you are not in charge, well then you won't mistreat others. If you recognize God's authority over you and recognize that every day you disobey him and every day deserve his punishment, but also know that every day he chooses to forgive you… Well then, you will forgive others when they sin against you. If you bow the knee to God and you know how much he chooses to love you even though you don't deserve to be loved…
Well then, that is how you will choose to love others. If you have really humbled yourself before God and you know his kindness and his patience and his generosity and his care… Then that is how you will treat other people. And the more you recognize God's rule in your life, the more you will reflect that love to others.
Second question to ask yourself
2) Do you exalt his name and trust his ways?
Look at v.37
Now ask yourself, is that true of you? Could you put your name in v.37? Do you praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven? What do you put on Facebook, or write on Twitter? When people ask you what your news is, what do you say?
We exalt our families and our friends. We exalt our favourite author or TV programme. We exalt our holiday destinations and our shopping purchases and our bargains. We exalt our shampoos and our washing powders!! Every time you say something like 'oh, you should try…' or, 'wow, this was amazing… or that was incredible…' you're exalting it.
But do we ever exalt the Lord? Do we ever tell people how amazing it is to know Him? Do you ever tell people that they should try reading the Bible and praying to God because you find it so fantastic? If you bow the knee to the God who reigns then you will give him praise and glory and honour. And the more you bow the knee and the more often you bow the knee, the more you will exalt and praise and glorify Him.
And do you believe that everything He does is right and that all his ways are just? Or do you question God, and challenge Him?
It's ok to ask questions, in fact it's good to…but only if you're humbly seeking the answer. If you doubt God's love and secretly think it's wrong that some people will be punished in hell, or think that it's wrong that the Bible teaches against sex outside marriage, for example…well then you're not bowing your knee to the God who reigns.
But when you confess that God knows better than you do, and you trust that he is love… When you believe that everything he does is right and that all his ways are just, even if you don't understand them at times… Well then you are bowing your knee before the God who reigns.
Finally then, we need to ask yourself
3) Are you telling other people about him?
Look at v.1-3
It's easy to miss but Daniel chapter 4 is a letter. It's a letter written by King Nebuchadnezzar to everyone on earth! When Nebuchadnezzar finally comes to realise that he does not reign but that there is a God in heaven who does…he tells everyone he can. And when you're the king of the only Superpower on earth, you can tell everyone!
Now I know we don't have quite the same opportunity as Nebuchadnezzar, but the question is, do we have the same desire? I've got a friend called Andrew. Andrew is very good at his job, in fact he wins national awards for doing his job, so when he speaks people listen. Andrew knows that, so a couple of years ago when he was being honoured for yet another successful year he invited as many people as he could to come to the awards party. And when the time came for Andrew to collect his award, he stood up and told everyone about his love for the Lord Jesus and he gave everyone a copy of an evangelistic book by Rico Tice!
If you and I have really bowed our knees before the God who reigns, then we will tell other people about him.
When King Louis XIV of France died he left instructions that his funeral was to be held in Notre Dame Cathedral. And he also left instructions that there should be a single light in the entire cathedral except for one candle, placed on top of his coffin. The message was clear…he wanted all of France to know that he had been the source of light in their world. And when the time came for Masillon, the court preacher, to deliver his sermon, he stood up…walked over to the coffin…blew out the candle and started his sermon with these words…"Only God is great!"
The question that Daniel 4 asks you and me this evening is simply this… Have you recognized that yet? You and I need to examine our hearts… And perhaps, for some of you here, you need to realise that you may have said it with your lips, but you've never believed it with you heart. And you need to bow you knee before the God who reigns over you. And for others here this evening, well, we need to stay on our knees and remember again and again that God reigns over us. He holds our lives in His hands. He loves us. And he demands our worship. And we need to pray that he might help us…
To love others as we have been loved… To exalt his name and trust his ways… And to tell other people about him.