Saturday, May 28, 2016

Daniel Evangelizes

A few weeks ago we discussed the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar's final dream before his conversion (Daniel 4).  This dream involved a tree that reached the heavens being cut down.  Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom was going to be taken from him.  He was going to be cast out.  More importantly, he was going to live like an animal for seven years.  Most importantly, he would be restored to his kingdom.  This "extreme discipline" finally converts Nebuchadnezzar fully to the one true God of Daniel's.

Also, we found Christ in the dream: he is the bronze and iron band that caps the stump in order to preserve it for restoration.  God may discipline his children, but Christ inhibits us from decay and restores us to an adoration of himself to our great profit.

This week, I want to look at how Daniel relays Christ to Nebuchadnezzar in the dream's interpretation.  This is is mini, evangelical sermon:

“My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived—it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.” (Daniel 4:19-27)

Daniel apologetically relays the horrendous news to the king, but then gives him hope when he says that Nebuchadnezzar will be restored when "you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will."  This is a difficult thing to know, for anyone.  It involves taking ourselves off of our personal thrones, no matter how swimmingly things are going in our lives, and turning our lives over to someone else.  This, of course is impossible, and God knows it is, because sin permeates our lives.  We have radical corruption flowing through our veins.  But this is the very reason God commands to leave and preserve the stump of the roots of the tree.  Because God knows, from the beginning, just as he has known all of his children from the beginning, who is going to be preserved, and he has kept the stumps of the roots of our trees.  He disciplines his children, and sometimes brings them to absolute rock bottom, but he keeps us tethered to life.  Daniel tells the king that his kingdom will be confirmed for him from the time that he knows that Heaven rules.  Jesus is not only the bronze and iron band over the stump but he is the ruler, Heaven itself.  In other words, Jesus keeps us safe, even when we are in the depths of the despair, and at the same time he is the one whom we are to acknowledge is our true ruler.  An earthly Lord would conquer his enemies to let them know he was the greatest.  Christ doesn't conquer us; he keeps us safe until we acknowledge him and then he brings us back and restores us.

Daniel finishes his sermon with a final exhortation: "Break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity." Having revealed Christ to Nebuchadnezzar, twice, Daniel tells him three things that are impossible without Christ: stop sinning, practice righteousness, show mercy to those beneath you (which is everyone else), so that he may stay king longer.  We know from the next verses that a year later the dream comes true.  He was unable to stop sinning, he did not practice righteousness, and had showed no mercy.

Christ does all three of these things.  First, he never sinned.  Only a sinless savior can save a sinful world.  Second, he practiced righteousness continually, without fail.  When we seek God, as believers (unbelievers don't seek God), we are seeking his Kingdom and his righteousness.  This is essentially what Daniel is telling Nebuchadnezzar to do.  Finally, Christ showed mercy, in while we were yet sinners, he died for us on the cross.  These three things Christ did.  These three things are impossible for Nebuchadnezzar--and us--to do.  But, because Christ puts his bronze and iron band about our stumps, we are preserved in a new covenant with him, where his Holy Spirit grants us mercy, grants us righteousness, and finally grants us the ability to no longer practice sin.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Christ's Glory Preached

The Banner of Truth conference happened this past week.  During Ian Hamilton's lecture on John Owen's treaties on the Glory of Christ, he drops this amazing bombshell that every preacher of the Word needs to hear:

One of the constant cries from congregations is for their ministers to provide more application. Now, a sermon without application is hardly a sermon at all.  Richard Baxter wrote in The Reformed Pastor, "it grieves me to the heart how so many sermons die for want of lively application." A sermon without application is barely, if at all, a sermon.  But are we helping our people to understand that the exposition of the Lord Jesus Christ revealed in the scriptures is itself heartwarming, mind-expanding, life-transforming application?  John Owen was absolutely persuaded of that. Listen to these words of Owen: "Let us live in the constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, and virtue will proceed from Him to repair all our decays, to renew a right spirit within us, and to cause us to abound in all duties of obedience." When we see people in our congregations struggling with obedience or drifting from obedience, the last thing we are to speak to them about is obedience! We need to speak to them about Christ! We need to bring them back to Christ! That's where the fundamental error lies. We drift from obedience because we have drifted from Jesus Christ and his glory. And so Owen continues, "when the mind is filled with thoughts of Christ and his glory, when the soul thereon cleaves unto him with intense affections, they will cast out, or not give admittance unto, those causes of spiritual weakness and indisposition. And," he concludes, "nothing will so much excite and encourage our souls here unto as a constant view of Christ and his Glory." That's the great application that we are to set before our people.  This is what will most repair their decays. This is what will most excite them to obedience: beholding the glory of Christ set forth before us in the Holy Scriptures and ministered to us by his servants.

Listen to the whole lecture here.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

In Things Hoped For

"And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them." (Daniel 3:27)

It's a miracle!  This kind of things happens all the time in the Old Testament.  Miracles happened to Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the other prophets.  They conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, shut lions' mouths, and in this case, they quenched the power of fire!  And Paul in his letter to the Hebrews claims that all this came about through faith!

Faith in what? We automatically assume that Paul is talking about faith in the miracles themselves.  It makes sense, doesn't it?  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went willingly into the fiery furnace, because they had faith that a miracle was going to happen.  Paul says at the beginning of chapter 11 that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen," and the miracle that took place in the fiery furnace was something hoped for and not seen, right?

Well, look at what the text says after that.  Here are verse two and three of Hebrews 11: "For by [faith] the people of old received their commendation.  By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible."  This hearkens back to John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God."  It also hearkens toward our Nicene Creed, "I believe in on God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible."  Our faith may be in things hoped for, which are unseen, but they are things which we already know are going to happen, things that God has promised.  If we go through the pantheon of faith, we see that it begins with Cain and Abel.  Abel had faith in the promise of the coming messiah (Genesis 3:15), and that was where his faith was focused.  So, we're not talking about faith in unforeseen miracles, but faith in God's Word, his word written, and in Jesus Christ himself.

So, Abel had faith in Jesus to come, and he was commended. Such is the case of the faith in all the saints. Hebrews 11:6 states, "And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."  Do you have to believe that God exists to believe in his miracles only?  Not really.  People who believe in karma as the ultimate force in the universe don't believe in an actual God, but in an impersonal force that is fueled by our own actions.  What goes in, comes out.  Essentially, if one is putting faith in the temporal blessings and miracles (or judgments), one is putting faith in him- or herself.  To believe in the God who exists is to seek not the "bread and fish" as Jesus so aptly puts it in John 6, but to seek the bread of life, which is Jesus himself.

Look at John 4:19-26:

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

The discussion between Jesus and the woman at the well is very relevant here.  She is pressing the issue of where to worship. In other words, what is important to her is if the worship itself is correct.  Am I doing it right? she is asking.  Jesus tells her that the question is wrong.  The issue is not where we worship but who we worship.  It doesn't matter where you worship.  It doesn't matter what clothes you are wearing.  It doesn't matter whether you pray first and sing second or sing first and pray second.  It doesn't matter if you collect money or distribute money.  It doesn't matter if you have a worship service at 9am or 5pm.  What matters is who you are worshiping.  Our faith is not in earthly things but in heavenly things.  Our faith is not in a God whom we don't know but in a God whom we know.  That God is Jesus Christ, the righteous, and he is the propitiation for all our sins.  That is the God whom we worship and none other.  When we worship the correct God, the one whom Abel worshiped, whom Daniel and his friends worshiped, when we seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all other things are added unto us.  When we seek Christ, we are spared from the fiery furnace.  Ours is not one fueled by the forests of Babylon.  Ours is the eternal fire fueled by God himself.  Seeking Christ spares us those flames, so that not one hair of our heads is singed, not one article of clothing is in flames, and no odor of damnation is found on us.

Seek Jesus, the one, true God.  Put your faith in him, and the miracle, the great miracle of salvation for eternity, will happen.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Abiding in Christ

When Daniel begins to reveal Nebuchadnezzar's dream to him (and its interpretation) in Chapter 2 of his book, he reveals a huge doctrine of Christianity, and God in general, that not only gets downplayed in the church, but when it is discussed it gets regularly misunderstood and even provokes great anger in other churchgoers.  It's a doctrine that suggests over and over in scripture that in seeking the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) we are to focus on Christ himself and not on ourselves or the apparent blessings God has bestowed upon us.  We are to seek the kingdom of God, yes, but Jesus pairs the kingdom with HIS righteousness.  We are not to seek a kingdom outside of Jesus Christ.  We are not to seek our own righteousness.

Before his revelation, Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:30, "This mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be known to the king..."  In other words, don't focus on me.  I'm going to reveal Christ to you.  Pay attention.  What happens?  Nebuchadnezzar tries to worship Daniel.  He missed Christ in the dream.  Likewise, we become so wowed by God's grace in our lives, we miss Christ and instead attempt to recapture the feeling over and over again.  That's why we will have revival tours traveling throughout America and the world, and those stadiums will fill up with young people (and older) to "experience" God.  Meanwhile, you can find Christ in the scriptures every day with your small, local church.

My minimally exposited reading of Acts 3 greatly offended an "experiential" Christian once.  I read the first part, where Peter heals the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate.  When I got to the end of verse 10, I told my congregation that this is usually where the readings end, but I went on in order to share the context:

While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” (Acts 3:11-26)

Do you see the similarity between Peter and Daniel?  The miracle is not the focus.  Peter shifts the focus away from the healing and gives a strongly worded message of faith and repentance, the people's focus needing to be on Christ himself, who restores all things.  What do modern Christians focus on?  The healing, never even bringing up faith and repentance, but turning the first part of Acts 3 into a template for how we can get some sort of healing for relationship, finances, or other opportunities--earthly happiness.  Remember, pointing this doctrine out actually makes people physically angry.  There must be something to it.

In John 6, Jesus has fed over 5000 people with a handful of food, and the crowd converges on him after that and attempts to make him king.  Jesus escapes but the crowd continues to follow him.  He then pulls out the big guns:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. (John 6:26-36)

His answer to them is to seek Jesus himself as the answer to their food problem.  This is not the expected answer.  In fact, we hate this answer today, because we want the bread that perishes.  It satisfies us NOW, and so we want it now.  We want the sign of the thing and not the thing itself.  The thing is Jesus.  We want the sign of Jesus.  We don't understand that the sign is fleeting.  It is solely to point to Christ, not to be sought as an end in itself, and yet we do that very thing.  This is, in fact, the BIG ISSUE in the church today.  Lines are drawn and sides are taken.  Jesus lost everyone after this discourse, and so we, too, lose many when we bring this biblical doctrine up. 

Nebuchadnezzar tries to worship Daniel.  In Acts 10, when Peter meets Cornelius, the latter falls to his face and worship Peter, who then has to get him up and remind him that he is "only a man."  In Acts 14, Paul and Barnabas heal a crippled man.  The town of Lystra suddenly call Paul and Barnabas gods and begin to worship them.  So, this is a theme that runs through all of scripture, and it's quite important, because it shows how CLOSE we can get to the truth of Christ himself without actually grasping hold of the savior but only gathering up handfuls of temporal graces that God has given us as signs that point to Christ.  We refuse to go to the beach because we are too busy admiring our photograph of the beach in our basement.

It's hard to believe that focusing on Christ himself will actually help us resolve our earthly problems.  If we focus on the problems themselves, we are missing the source of all goodness and love, Jesus Christ, and we will keep trying and failing, trying and failing, until we've lost sight of everything.  When we focus on Christ, we discover that our issues resolve.  The truth is so close to us, but we miss it and end up denying the Son.  If we deny the son, we lose everything heavenly.  We may gain earthly blessings, but our eternal blessings have evaporated.  As John says in his first letter, whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.  To put Jesus first in this way is to ABIDE in him.  As Psalm 91 states:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge2—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Abide in Christ. It is much more than a magic act, a miracle, an experience.  Abiding in Christ is salvation, it's eternal life.  It's the difference between death and life, between knowing about Christ and knowing Christ, between enjoying the blessings of Christ and glorifying and enjoying him forever.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Walking in Wisdom

After pulling back last time and looking at the whole scope of chapters 2-4 of Daniel and what the narrative does to Nebuchadnezzar's life, let's focus in closer to chapter 2 and look at some details that help in the sanctification of the church.  In the first part of this chapter, Nebuchadnezzar is threatening his enchanters with being torn limb from limb, if they do not tell him his dream and interpret it.  The enchanters and magicians hem and haw, and finally Nebuchadnezzar leans in and says, "I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm." (verse 8)

This is a great verse in showing us the difference between a believer and and unbeliever.  These enchanters are ungodly people.  They do not have faith in the one true God.  Much less do they know about Jesus Christ.  So, when their lives are threatened, they don't know what to do.  They buy time, hoping that some twist of fate will rescue them.  Think of the ungodly people you know.  How do they go through life?  Hoping that fortune will smile down on them at some point, but not knowing from where good fortune even comes.

Paul says to the godly in Ephesians 5 that we should be careful how we walk (or live our lives), using the wisdom of Christ as our guide.  We are to use the time we are given wisely, not just tread water and hope things work out for the best.  Today's popular songs tell us to "Move Along" when things are going wrong.  There's no rhyme or reason to that advice.  It sounds like the enchanters and magicians of Babylon.  Another popular tune tells its hearers to "Shake it Off," as if turning your back on your problems will just make them go away.  The ungodly have no idea what to do, but their advice is readily available for a host of wayward youths who don't know right from wrong.

Paul says that the world is an evil place.  The things that happen it are evil, and yet we Christians are exiles in this very land.  We are assaulted at every turn by non-Christian ideas.  The people we interact with are smart but they are lost.  They will unconsciously try to lead us astray.  Paul says that we must be careful and to walk wisely but to make the best use of the time.  What is the best use of the time?  Understanding what the will of the Lord is, and that means being in scripture as often as you can.  Don't get drunk and foggy in this world, but use the Holy Spirit that the Lord has given you to interpret scripture for your never-ending comfort.  We are to pray and sing, worshiping the Lord with all our hearts and giving thanks for everything in the name of Jesus.

The enchanters were left with only desperation.  They tell the king that doing what he wants is physically impossible.  Only the "gods" could reveal the dream, and they are not of the flesh.  When "flesh" or materialism is all there is in one's philosophy, some answers cannot be given.  Things seem impossible, but remember Christ said that "nothing is impossible with God."  Now, look at Daniel: his reaction to the king's news is different.  The text says that Daniel replied with "prudence" and "discretion."  Sounds like walking wisely through this fallen world to me.  Daniel does not try to gain time, he merely asks the king for a time in which to reveal the dream and interpretation to him, and then he goes about using his time wisely.

He makes his request known to his fellow Hebrews.  Together they ask of God, seeking his mercy concerning the mystery.  They know that they don't deserve the answer to the conundrum, but they approach their Lord in faith anyway.  Daniel doesn't ask God to save only his chosen people, his church, he asks for mercy on the unbelieving enchanters, too. God then reveals the mystery to Daniel in a dream, and Daniel doesn't just cut off communication with his Lord, now that he has what he wanted.  He then praises and worships God.  God came through and not only gave Daniel the information he needed, but, in the process, saved all of the wise men in Babylon, godly and ungodly.

Daniel walked in wisdom toward the outsiders of Babylon.  He made the best use of his time.  His speech was gracious.  He did everything correctly as a member of God's chosen people.  Now, what are we supposed to get out of this comparison? Does this mean that we should start setting up our own dream interpretation business?  God was the interpreter of the dream, so we shouldn't trust in ourselves in this regard.  Being gracious and making the best use of our time as Christians in a fallen world applies to all things.  Daniel's was prophecy and the interpretation of dreams, but ours may be merely how we interact with people in our day-to-day vocations: our home life and our work life.

The important thing is the dream itself.  As we saw last week, the dream is about Christ.  What we walk away with from this passage is that in our interaction with the world, we find a way to share Christ with everyone who does not know him.  Daniel knows Christ.  You can see this in the words of his blessing to God in verse 22, when he hays of God, "he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him." The darkness is the fallen world, but the light is Christ himself.  He is the light of the world.  In him is life and this life is the light of men, shining in the darkness, and evil cannot overcome it.

Christ is also in the dream.  His kingdom is the mountain that crushes all previous kingdoms and can never be removed.  It will stand forever, and all believers will be a part of that kingdom.  It's not the behavior, the walking in wisdom, that makes us a part of this kingdom.  It's faith in Christ himself.  Only through faith will we be able to walk in wisdom, so the message we take away from this passage is not, "walk in wisdom and God will save you."  The message is, "God has saved you.  Look for the light, look for the mountain, there is the proof!  There lies hope!"  God gives his children the faith to repent and be forgiven of all our sins, past present and future.  He gives us the faith to submit ourselves to Christ.  The proof is in the scriptures.  As children of God, we have been given the wisdom to live as a citizen of Christ's kingdom.  If and when you doubt this, look to the light.  Look to the mountain.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Nebuchadnezzar's Conversion

When we look at Chapters 2-4 of the book of Daniel, we see something interesting.  We see Nebuchadnezzar's conversion to faith in the Christ that is to come.  Remember that people in the Old Testament are justified in the same manner as people in the New Testament dispensation we are currently in: by faith alone in Christ alone.

Nebuchadnezzar, like the rest of mankind, was born dead in trespasses.  He needs, like every one of us, to be born again.  All Christians on this earth were once in the other camp, the ungodly camp, following worldly ways, following--knowingly or unknowingly--the devil himself.  We all lived in sin, completely absorbed with ourselves and our fleshly lusts, by thought, word, and deed.  We deserved God's wrath for all eternity, just like every other person on earth. But God, the creator of everything, is a good God, and he loves his children, and although every single one of us was a corpse, he breathed life into us and made us born again through Christ.  He did the same thing with Nebuchadnezzar, and we can see this happen in Daniel 2-4.

First, Daniel interprets a dream for the king in chapter 2.  Nebuchadnezzar is so troubled by the dream that all he can remember of it is the terrible feeling it gave him.  He wakes, continues to have that feeling, and asks all of his enchanters to interpret the dream for him--AFTER telling him what the dream actually is.  Of course, no one can do that, and next week we will talk about why.  He is going to tear them limb from limb if they don't.  So, they go to Daniel, and he agrees to pray to God and find out what the dream is and its interpretation.  He goes to the king and does just that, tells the dream and interprets it, and Nebuchadnezzar is wowed.  Here is what happens next:

He fell on his face and paid homage to...Daniel.  He gives lip service to Daniel's "god," because this god has a special talent of revealing hidden dreams!  Maybe we will give your god a place in the pantheon. Daniel is given rewards and a position of honor.  Does Nebuchadnezzar believe in Christ to come?  Certainly not!

Chapter 3 proves this.  He immediately erects a false idol and commands everyone in Babylon to bow down and worship it.  This is not the behavior of someone who has faith in Christ.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse.  The king commands for them to be thrown into a furnace so hot that it actually kills the men who throw the three Hebrews in. The three are not harmed, and the king is wowed again!  Look at the last lines of this chapter:

When Nebuchadnezzar saw that the three were unharmed--even their hair and clothes--he brought them out and said, "Blessed be your God!"  Wow, this god not only reveals dreams but he shields his servants from fire.  What great faith these three men had!  They would rather be martyred than worship another god except their own God.  Nebuchadnezzar makes a decree that if anyone talks trash about this god, there will be hell to pay.  This amazing god has a special place in the pantheon now, because no other able to rescue in this way.  Does Nebuchadnezzar believe in Christ to come?  No.

Finally, the third event, chapter 4, involves another dream.  Nebuchadnezzar has a dream of a great tree cut down at the stump, and a voice telling him that a certain man will be sentenced to seven years of savagery, living like an animal.  Daniel interprets the dream, telling the king that he is not going to like the interpretation: the tree is the king himself and this is all going to happen to him.  Does this prophecy stir Nebuchadnezzar?  Nope.  A whole year later, the king arrogantly declares that all good things that have happened to him in his life have been the result of his own awesomeness, and immediately the kingdom is taken from him by God.  He is driven out into the wilderness where lives like an animal for seven years.

At the end of those years he is restored, and what happens?  Does Nebuchadnezzar have faith now in Christ?  Yes!  In his first-person testimony, the king claims that he praised and honored the one true God.  The kingdom was returned to him, and yet has still proclaimed 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."

And that's the last we see of Nebuchadnezzar.  He was given a vision of the future, and he did not believe.  He was given a miracle, and he did not believe, and finally God disciplined him, brought him physically low, and that was what brought him around.  Sometimes we have to be brought to rock bottom before we can truly put our faith in the only true God.

But these amazing things that happened to him would not necessarily bring him to faith in Jesus Christ.  And we all know that it is only by penitent faith in Christ himself that one is saved for eternity.  Is Nebuchadnezzar's faith in just another God, this one just more powerful than the others, or is it actual faith in Jesus Christ?

Let's look at the three events again and find out.  First, the dream.  What is it about?  It's about a giant statue with a gold head, a silver chest, a bronze waist, iron legs, and feet that were made of mixed iron and clay.  These parts of the statue represented the kingdoms that would follow Nebuchadnezzar's.  Finally the whole statue would be destroyed by a giant mountain.  This mountain represents a kingdom that will never be destroyed, that God himself sets up, and it shall stand for ever.  This mountain is Christ.  There's a the first evangelistic clue for the king, and it doesn't convert him, but it has been planted, like a seed, in his heart.

The second event is the rescue of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace.  What does the king witness here?  Although three men were thrown into the fire, they became unbound and free, not injured in the least, but there is a fourth person in the fire and his appearance is like "a son of the gods."  This is Christ, and this is the second seed planted in the king's subconscious.

The third event is a little more difficult. Where is Christ in this?  I think the clue here is the bronze band in the dream, the one wrapped around the trunk of the tree stump, to prevent it from disintegrating over the seven years.  This band is Christ, and this part of the dream is telling Nebuchadnezzar that even though he will be cut off from his kingdom as a disciplinary action, God has chosen the king as one of his children from the foundation of the world, and that Christ himself will prevent Nebuchadnezzar from being lost forever.   This is the ultimate seed, for the king understanding that without Jesus Christ he is lost forever would be the converting moment.

Read Psalm 121 and think of Nebuchadnezzar out in a field, looking like an animal, eating grass.  Then,

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Nebuchadnezzar is born again.  He is saved.  You can be, too.  Just realize that Christ's kingdom will crush all other kingdoms and his will reign forever.  Do you not want to be a part of that kingdom and not any other?  Christ rescues from the very fires of hell where you would be tormented for all eternity.  Do you not wish that?  Finally, Christ prevents you from falling completely away.  No matter how bad things get in this life, you are God's, and he chose you from the foundation of the world to be his, and he will not let one hair fall from your head. Repent and be forgiven.  Lift up your eyes to the hills and praise God forever and ever.