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.