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Sunday, June 22, 2019

posted Jun 23, 2019, 6:29 PM by Site Administrator

UNTIL YOU ACKNOWLEDGE...

 

Daniel 4:1-37

Key Verse 4:32

 

You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.” 

 

First, “How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!” (1-3). Look at verse 1. Today's passage is Nebuchadnezzar, the king's public address to his people like the state of union delivered by the President of the USA at the beginning of each year. The king had something very special that he wanted to tell all his people about. He starts his public address with a kingly remark, saying, “King Nebuchadnezzar, To the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly!” Then, in verse 2, he writes: “It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.” The key point of his address to the people was about the miraculous signs and wonders God had performed for him. Originally, he didn't know God. But he experienced God, and it was miraculous and wondrous. In his eyes, what God had done for him was so marvelously great that he could not keep it to himself, but he had to speak out loudly so that everyone would know the greatness of God and marvelous grace and favor of God upon his life. What a happy person he was! He was indeed blessed and favored by God. 

 

By the way, what did God do for him? As today's passage describes, God stripped him off all wealth, power and glory, even his sanity; God made him insane, and he became like an animal, eating grass for seven years, and then, God restored him to his glory. Practically, it meant that, because of God’s intervention, he was bankrupt financially and he became a street bum for 7 years. Simply, it was a difficult struggle for seven years; it seemed that Nebuchadnezzar should complain about God or talk about what a hard time God had given him. But instead, he was happy with God and thankful to God for doing all these things – how God intervened into his life because he had a good plan for him, and how God arranged everything, controlling everyone, every situation so that his purpose could be fulfilled; God’s amazing wisdom and mighty power were launched into his life – it was indeed miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God had performed for him. Our life comes with a lot of challenges and difficulties; maybe, we were sad; we were humiliated, despised and lonely; simply, it was difficult. But strangely, things did not go in the worst scenario possible, but amazingly, at the critical moments, things went in the way that eventually we would not be destroyed, but we would be driven to the place where we came to meet God personally. There, as we look back, we can see that God has been with us in all the days of our life, protecting us and caring us and guiding us. There was no mistake, no accident, but everything happened so that eventually, we would open our hearts and meet God personally. There, we are marveled at the miraculous signs and wonders God has performed for us. Once we see that, all sense of bitterness or misery disappears, and our hearts are filled with thanks and praise to him. We want to talk about it. We shout to the world, “To the peoples, nations and men of every language. It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.” At that time, surely, we can understand what Ephesians 2:10 talks about, which reads, “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” 

 

Look at verse 3. "How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.” By experiencing God personally, his eyes were opened toward God; he realized that whatever God did was great and wondrous. What a great discovery it was that God, the Most High, made great signs for him; what a marvelous moment it was that he could see that the Most High revealed his mighty power for him. His testimony was full of thanks, happiness, praise to God, for he knew what great things God had done for him. When we think about our own life, we too can see what great things our God has done for each of us – indeed, God controlled the whole world and arranged everything perfectly so that we could recognize Him in our life and turn to Him – how he arranged things so that we could develop the deep sense of problem about our life, how he arranged things so that our shepherd could invite us to Bible study, how God arranged things so that we could accept that invitation, even though having Bible study with a strange was totally burdensome, and eventually, how he helped us open our hearts and respond to his word personally – all these things are indeed God’s great signs and wonders He has performed for us, controlling everything and everyone around us - God made great signs for us, and he revealed his mighty power to control the whole world for you and for me; as a result, today, we are here, studying his words, learning his laws and ways, and struggling to do what pleases him. Surely, this can be our testimony too. So, remembering the amazing work of God that changed hopelessly and wretched sinners like us to God's saints, let's read verse 3 together:

 

3How great are his signs, 

how mighty his wonders!

His kingdom is an eternal kingdom;

his dominion endures from generation to generation. 

 

  Second, “Until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men” (4-27). Look at verse 4. Nebuchadnezzar now starts how all things happened by sharing his personal testimony. It all began with a dream he had. One night, he had a dream, and it was terrifying. He trembled in fear; as soon as the morning came, he summoned all the wise men of Babylon, told them the dream he had had, but they didn't know what that dream was about; they could not interpret it. Finally, Daniel, the chief of all the wise men of Babylon, came in. Nebuchadnezzar was happy with him, because Daniel was no ordinary man; he knew that God's Spirit was with him and that he could interpret the dream for him. So, he told him the dream. He saw in his dream a huge tree in the middle of the land; its height was enormous; it grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the beasts of the field found shelter, and the birds of the air lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed. Then, while Nebuchadnezzar was watching this huge tree, a messenger, a holy one came down from heaven. 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. 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. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times- pass by for him. “‘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 the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.’ How scary Nebuchadnezzar was, when the holy messenger declared the verdict to him. Now, he said to Daniel, “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.” 

 

Immediately, Daniel understood what the dream was about. At this, he 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! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air— you, O king, 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.” 

 

After telling Nebuchadnezzar about the tree, Daniel now told him about the messenger and his message. “You, O king, saw a messenger, a holy one, 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 like the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’ “This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle 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 the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. 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.” 

 

God decreed that Nebuchadnezzar must be stripped off of his power, wealth, even human sanity, and be driven away from people and live with the wild animals for 7 years, until he acknowledged that the Most High was sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gave them to anyone he wished. So, the purpose of this trial was very clear. It was to teach him that the Most High God had given him such a vast empire and set him over all others. Most likely, the king thought that he had built up the great Empire with his brilliance, courage and great military strategy, because he had worked hard, trying to figure out how to train his army and how to conquer other nations. It was him who had come up with great military strategy; it was him who had gone out to the battle fields and fought. When the king thought this way, God's trial came that stripped him off all his wealth, power and glory, and made him the lowliest of all, making him like a wild animal so that he could really recognize that he was nothing and that it was God who had established him and set him over all others out of his own choice.

 

Here, the key point is: “Until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.” This passage is talking about God's sovereignty upon human history and upon each individual. When things go well academically that you get good grades or great degrees, it is very easy to think that such a great success is the result of your brilliance and your hard work. When they are successful materially that they get a good job, or their business goes very well and they become rich, people think that they have good luck or that they are smart. When we have successful disciple-making or successful pioneering work, or church planting, it is very easy to think that such a great success came because of our own merits – because of my own deep understanding of the Bible, or because of my excellent teaching skills, or because of my own powerful prayer life. When we do so, we become proud and self-conceited that we think of ourselves greatly; we raise our own voice and expect others to pay attention to our opinion, and when they don't, we get angry thinking that they are wrong. This is how people invite God's training, and God's training is thorough and scary – woe to those who fall into the hands of God. That's why we must humble ourselves all the more. The more we climb up the mountain, the lower we must keep our posture and even crawl so that we may not be blown away or fall off. Such humility comes from acknowledging God's sovereignty upon our life – where he placed us, what position he has given us, and how he has blessed us – not by my own strength and talent or struggle, but by God's own choice and blessing upon us. When we acknowledge God's Sovereignty upon our life, we can be thankful even in suffering because we know that God has a good purpose for us, and we can remain thankful and humble in the time of success and blessing as well – such people bear God's blessings well and God can bless them and use them continually.

 

Look at verse 27. “Therefore, O king, 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.” Daniel understood the characteristics of this trial – why it was coming, what purpose it had and how it would end. It was coming because of Nebuchadnezzar's pride and vain-conceit, thinking that he had built the Empire with his might and good military strategy. So, he advised the king to humble himself and live with a fearful and trembling heart before God – don't do whatever you feel like doing, but do all things with great sincerity and humility before God; don't do anything in anger or pride; don't be mean to others. If he did so, God's trial wouldn't come, and his prosperity would continue. In Israel's history, there was an evil king, named Ahab. Incited and strengthened by his wicked wife, he did so much evil before God that God pronounced his judgment on Ahab and his household through Elijah. When Ahab heard this, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly, walking in fear, sensing the burden of God's wrath upon him. God was so touched and in amazement that even this kind of evil person could be so humble like this, God spoke to Elijah, his servant, “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me?” Then, God changed his mind that he would not bring the disaster in his day, but in the days of his son.” (1Kings 21:20-27)

 

When we humble ourselves before God, He can bless us and use us continually. The more God blesses us, the more we lower ourselves before Him and before others; the more God pours out his blessings upon us, the more we consider others better than ourselves, humbly taking the positions of servants. God honors those people and exalts them highly as his servants to reveal the glory of God to the world. We must renounce any hint of pride or self-conceit; we must leave all wickedness. Then, God's blessing will be on us and our church continually.

 

Third, “I raised my eyes toward heaven” (28-37). All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. How did it happen? Look at verses 29 and 30. For the twelve months, God's message through his dream and Daniel's interpretation was so vivid that he was careful. But now as twelve months passed, the message became dim in his heart and he lowered his guard. Then, one day as he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he saw the great city of Babylon – how vast, how great; he was so content that 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?” The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.” When he was alert, when he controlled himself, he would say, “The Most High God enabled me to build this empire.” But now, his guard was lowered, and he was just entertaining himself that way, inviting God's training on himself. 

 

A terrifying fact is that anyone can be like him, doing exactly the same thing, being content of his own success and achievement. That's why we need to make all possible efforts to keep ourselves humble before God that such an idea of pride and vain-conceit may not even exist in our heart and mind. We must acknowledge God's blessing and God's sovereignty upon our life wholeheartedly, not just pretending to accept it but really. As Moses was thinking about how the Israel people would enjoy success and prosperity in the land of Canaan, he was so concerned about them - if they would be vain-conceited and not acknowledge God. So, he clarified with them about it, saying, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery...” “You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.” (Deu 8:10-18) When we think about our life carefully, we can see that all things came from God – our own life came from God; air we breathe came from God; water we drink came from God; our parents came from God; God's word that gave us a new birth and sustains our life came from God; the church came from God; our shepherds and shepherdesses came from God; money came from God; spiritual fruits came from God – all success and blessing have come from God. The Bible declares, “Every good gift comes from God.” 

 

At the same time, we must remember and acknowledge that nothing good resides in us. See what fruit you had borne in the world when you lived by yourself – sins, shame, isolation, sorrows, bitterness, anger, hatred, jealousy, destruction and pains on yourself and others around you; at that time, your life was meaningless, empty, and directionless, and you were dying - you were bearing the fruits of death - not good at all. So, don't think that you have produced these good fruits in God. God planned them, worked, fulfilled them and gave them to you. They are from God. With this in mind, let's humble ourselves all the more, considering others better than us, lowering ourselves as servants to all people around us.

 

Look at verse 33. “Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. 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.” Suddenly, one chemical in his brain worked strangely and his brain malfunctioned that he came to have the mind of an animal. Suddenly, he began to think of himself as a cow, and started having such great appetite for grass. He ran out of the palace, found some grass, and attacked it – he chewed it, and swallowed it – wow! It was great – so tasty that he became crazy for grass. When he looked herds of cattle, he was overjoyed – he felt like home with all his family members; he joined them, moving around together with them looking for grass. He slept out on the grass with them, behaving like a cow. Then, for the next seven years, he lived as a member of herds of cattle. During this whole time, he slept out with other cattle on the grass; what about haircut? He didn't care about it that in seven years, his hair grew so long into all direction, and since he had not done shampoo, it smelled so bad and oily that it became like the feathers of an eagle – so thick. He had not cut his nails for seven years that they grew so long that he became like the X-man, or Sabertooth

 

Once God started his training for Nebuchadnezzar, his training was thorough; it was not something people could try, but it was really horrifying – everything, including his royal throne, his wealth and even a human mind were taken away from him, and in one day, he was an insane homeless person on the street, behaving so strangely – no more dignity, but he was completely poor and miserable. The Bible declares, “Woe to those who fall into the hands of God.” People think of God's training casually, saying, “Yup, I want to be trained by God, not by humans.” They are really ignorant and blind. Human servants at least show sympathy in training them. But when they reject correction and training from human servants, God deals with them directly, and God's training is thorough. He does not show any sympathy in training them. Surely, it is not a good idea to be trained by God. God's training is like refining a lump of iron in the furnace, removing all impurity from it with the fire. It is scary. We must not harden our hearts in pride; we must not be stubborn, but be quick to repent and humble ourselves before God and before men. 

 

Look at verse 34. Let's read this verse together:

 

34At 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. 

 

“At the end of that time,” after living with the wild animals for seven years; after eating grass for seven years; after living such a miserable life for seven years. During this long period of time, many things happened in the palace and in his empire, but there was nothing he could do, except eating grass more. Yet, the empire was going on well without him – it didn't need his help or his power, because fundamentally, it was God who was operating the Empire for his purpose. 

 

He says, “I raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then, I praised the Most High.” Here, we see that raising his eyes toward heaven was the beginning of restoration, the beginning of all good things. Before, when he looked down on the grass, when he looked at other cows and competed with them for the grass, he was insane. But when he raised his eyes toward heaven, his sanity was restored. Then, he praised God, honored and glorified Him. That’s what sane people do. What about insane people? They look down at the grass, competing with other cows. They don’t know who they are; they think they are animals. 

 

Even Charles Darwin described people that way – survival of the fittest. As long as they look down at grass and struggle with other people to secure more grass, they are really insane. They don’t know who they are. Their perspective about themselves, about others, and about life is terrible. Their lifestyle is terrible. They have no dignity at all. But when they raise their eyes to heaven, their sanity is restored. Then, they begin to see things differently. Instead of competing and arguing, they begin to thank and praise God. They live as sane people. 

 

Here, we see the symbolic meaning of the expression, “I raised my eyes to heaven.” He recognized that God was real and that God was guiding his life. It means that he acknowledged God as the sovereign ruler over his life. When he found this, he was very happy and thankful, so he praised God. People need to raise their eyes to heaven. Don’t look down at the grass all the time. Life is more than survivalDon’t live as insane people like animals, but as sane people created in God’s imageRaise your eyes toward heaven and acknowledge that God is the sovereign Lord in your life. When you do so, you will be so thankful and happy to Him and praise God. 

 

One more interesting thing is that he praised and thanked God, when outwardly nothing had changed. He was still among the cows; his hair was like the feathers of an eagle, and his nails like the claws of a bird; he was still a homeless person, so smelly and ugly looking. Yet, he praised God and glorified Him. This shows that what is important is not improving our condition, but meeting God personally and acknowledging His sovereignty upon our life – that makes you happy and thankful.

 

Look at verse 35. Let's read this verse together: 

 

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?”

 

Now in view of God's absolute sovereignty over all things in the world, Nebuchadnezzar realized this: All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. There are many great people, or powerful people politically; there are many talented people; there are many rich people. But they are considered as nothing, and God does everything according to his plan and purpose. It seems that these powerful, rich, and talented people are operating and leading the world. It seems that our professors or our bosses have authority over our life; it seems that they can give us promotion or good grades. But that's not the case at all. It is God who does everything according to his plan and purpose, whether against these people's ideas and desires or in accordance with their desires. Some people focus on visible humans and they are afraid if their lives will be ruined by the mistakes of these visible humans. But they must understand that all the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. God's will upon your life, God's sovereignty upon us, cannot be altered by the filthy mistakes of weak humans. No matter what they do – good works or mistakes, all the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing – despite all their works – successes or mistakes, whether they like it or not, still God does whatever He wantsand fulfills his purpose. God is sovereign over your life, but you need to accept it and entrust your life in God's hands.  

 

As a conclusion about God's sovereignty upon all things in the world, upon all the peoples on earth, Nebuchadnezzar says, “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?”” This is the ultimate expression of God's absolute sovereignty upon our life. God established Nebuchadnezzar as the king over such a vast Empire, and no one could say anything against Him, even if their own countries were destroyed, and their own family members were slaughtered – that's God's sovereignty. 

 

God is sovereign over our life. How he will lead our life, whether to be a nameless servant lifelong, or to be a pioneering shepherd; whether we live as the gatekeepers of our church in Gardena or we are sent out to pioneer a new chapter; whether we are to serve God's work in California or sent out to Africa, or Russia or China or in other countries as missionaries, or even who will be our marriage partner – all these are not our jobs, but God’s jobs. God decides, and our portion is to accept his will and obey it, saying, “Yes, Sir!” We just accept his will upon us and obey Him – we don’t talk backwe don’t say, “What have you done?” We never question of his choice. We simply raise our eyes toward heaven and acknowledge his sovereignty over our life, and live as children of God doing what He wants us to do. How happy we are that God is guiding our life! How thankful we are that God is working in our life to fulfill his purpose upon us! God does not make a mistake; he does not say, “Oops!” So, we can live with confidence and with thanks all the days of our life. And after fulfilling His purpose upon us, He will take us to His kingdom in heaven and we will enjoy life with Him forever. 

 

Look at verse 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. Surely, they had been looking for him since he suddenly disappeared from the palace. But strangely, they could not find him. Maybe, he was nearby the palace; or maybe, they passed by him, without recognizing him, because he was living among cows eating grass. But when he raised his eyes toward heaven, when he acknowledged God in his life, suddenly, they found him. How? Think about suddenly, a man standing up among the cows, and raising his hands toward heaven, praising and thanking God. Maybe, this caught the attention of his advisers and nobles. Raise your eyes toward heaven and praise God, and many good things will happen to you. Nebuchadnezzar was restored to his throne and became even greater than before. God was in complete control. Verse 37 is the conclusion of his testimony. Let's read this verse together:

 

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.

He was a happy man who had found God in his life; he was really blessed. Now it is God who is revealing Himself to us through today's passage – it is God's proclamation that He is the Sovereign Lord over our life – over your life and my life, over our church. When we look down on the grass, struggling and competing with others to secure a little more grass, we may not recognize Him in our life. But when we raise our eyes toward heaven, we can see that it is God who has guided our life to this moment. Indeed, it is never our plan or desire to become God’s servants; indeed, we did not even imagine that we would be in the real relationship with God; we thought that that kind of miraculous relationship with God was only possible for great people like Billy Graham. But God chose us, and He has established us as his servants. We have come to such a high place where we have never imagined. He has raised us up this much. What has happened to us has not been done by our choice, but God’s choice. He is the Sovereign Lord. And we are happy and thankful; we praise Him and we honor and glorify Him in all circumstances. God is guiding our life, and surely, when God's will upon our life is fulfilled, the whole world will be blessed through us and they will see the glory of God in our life. We praise and exalt and glorify our God in heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. 

 

One Word: Until You Acknowledge Him In Your Life

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