David Jeremiah - The Wolf-Man
If I were to take all of the scripture and lay it all out on a table and say, "Here is the chapter that tells you about pride and what happens to those who get involved in it," the chapter I would have to pick is the one we have opened our Bibles to today.
Daniel 4 is God's exposé on a proud heart. This chapter tells us of King Nebuchadnezzar's second dream. Almost three decades have passed since the first one that is recorded in the second chapter of Daniel. And it is apparent from our study that God has been dealing with Nebuchadnezzar. The story begins, first of all, with the reason for the story, verses 1 through 3. Nebuchadnezzar is going to make a statement of introduction. This is sort of a preamble to the chapter.
Daniel 4:1-3 - Nebuchadnezzar the king, to all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: peace be multiplied to you. I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. How great are His signs, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.
So the reason for the story is for Nebuchadnezzar to tell us how God has worked in his life. I would dare say that Daniel 4 is Nebuchadnezzar's testimony. "Here's what God did in my life". Now, he begins his story with the reception of this dream. And he tells us that in verses 4 through 9.
Daniel 4:4-8 — I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace. I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts on my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. Therefore I issued a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream... I told them the dream; but they did not make known to me its interpretation. But at last Daniel came before me.
The reason Daniel is called by Nebuchadnezzar is because Nebuchadnezzar recognized that in Daniel was the Spirit of the Holy God. That's three times mentioned in this chapter. Now, watch this, here is the world's greatest pagan king, ungodly to the core, and here is Daniel, a spirit-filled Jew. And this pagan king notices there's something different about Daniel, that Daniel is a person who has a quality about his life, an integrity about his walk. And it's interesting that he wants to talk with Daniel.
Let me just give you what I've observed about this in my own life. When things are prosperous and everything's cool, you've got no issues, you could care less if there's a spirit-filled man around. But when you're going through stuff, you're gonna find somebody who you look at and say, "That guy, maybe he knows God". And you're gonna be drawn to the people who know the Lord. That's what was going on with Nebuchadnezzar. He had all these counselors who didn't know anything to help him. But he knew that Daniel was different, because in Daniel, he perceived, in Daniel was the Spirit of the Holy God. All of us crave to be spirit-filled believers who are available to those in trouble when trouble comes.
The reason for the story is in the first three verses, the reception of the dream is in verses 4 through 9, and then there's a repetition of the dream in verses 10 through 18. Nebuchadnezzar tells Daniel the dream that he had. And let me just tell you, the dream is divided into two sections. They're really easy to follow. First of all, he tells him about this magnificent tree that he sees in his dream. And then he tells him about a messenger from Heaven who comes down in the dream and helps him understand what the tree means. So let's look, first of all, at the magnificent tree, verses 10 through 12. Nebuchadnezzar is speaking, and he says.
Daniel 4:10-12 — ...I was looking, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong; its height reached to the heavens, and it could be seen to the ends of all the earth. Its leaves were lovely, its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, the birds of the heavens dwelt in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.
Now you say, "Well, what does that mean"? You don't have to worry about it, because this is a self-interpreting prophecy and we're gonna learn what it means. But notice, first of all, what was the picture? Nebuchadnezzar dreams this dream, and he sees this humongous tree. And every characteristic that is given about the tree is given in the superlative. For instance, it was strategically located in the midst of the Earth. It was strong. It was seen by the entire world. It was superbly productive. It supplied nourishment for everyone. It sheltered the animals. And it sustained the birds. This tree was this all-encompassing picture of power and influence and providence. And this is what the tree was. That's what he saw.
Now, notice at verse 13, there is the second part of this dream and a message from heaven. And he identified the messenger as a watcher. He called him a "holy one". Nebuchadnezzar saw this great angel, intangible form, and he delivered a decree from the Most High. Here was the decree: "The tree in the dream was to be cut down, leaving only the to be stump, which would be surrounded by a band of iron. The stump would be wet with dew every morning". And then, with the shift in imagery, signified by the use of the personal pronoun "he," the stump is personified as being that person who would lose his reasoning and graze in the field like an animal for seven years.
In other words, the stump is Nebuchadnezzar. Even when the tree has been cut down, the stump is there and left in the ground as a picture of the fact that this isn't without possibility of restoration. As long as the stump is there, it can be restored. And in Daniel 4:17, we are given the reason for this decree. This is a key verse in the chapter, read it in your Bibles with me.
Daniel 4:17 — This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men.
In other words, Nebuchadnezzar, get off your high horse. Get away from telling everybody how great you are. You are only who you are and what you are because almighty God has allowed you to be there, and he's put you in that place. And He is not necessarily restricting his promotion to those who are of highest integrity. Because it says right here, He promotes the lowest of men. And that surely did qualify Nebuchadnezzar for this prophecy. Now, the revelation of the dream is in verses 19 through 27. And before the interpretation of the dream is revealed, we are told that Daniel is perplexed for a while.
Let me just explain that. He's not perplexed 'cause he doesn't know what the dream means. He's perplexed because he does know what the dream means. He knows that his friend, Nebuchadnezzar, who he's hung out with for three decades, is about to be judged by almighty God. And he says to Nebuchadnezzar: "I wish this prophecy were about your enemies instead of about you". But you need to know that God, He's up to here with you, Nebuchadnezzar. He's given you all these chances, all these opportunities. And you have spurned every one of them. And now it's time for Daniel to drive home the point.
Daniel 4:22 — It is you, O king, who have grown and become strong; for your greatness has grown and reaches to the heavens, and your dominion to the end of the earth.
All of a sudden, in the middle of his conversation with the most powerful man in the world, Daniel sticks his boney finger in his nose and says, "Nebuchadnezzar, this is you. You are the tree. You are about to be cut down. You are about to be humbled. You are about to be humiliated. I wish I didn't have to tell you this, Nebuchadnezzar, but you are the man. You're the man". And yet, in the midst of this judgment, verse 26.
Daniel 4:26 — And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules.
In other words, "Nebuchadnezzar, you're gonna be judged. You're gonna be punished. You're gonna go away for seven years". But the stump in the vision was in the vision to remind him that if he went away for seven years and learned his lesson, when he came back, God was gonna preserve his kingdom for him and allow him to rule and reign again. The judgment was also proposed with a remedy. Notice verse 27.
Daniel 4:27 — ...break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.
In other words, Nebuchadnezzar wasn't unfairly judged. God gave him a long, long leash before He judged him. And then when He judged him, He warned him. And then when He warned him, He gave him another opportunity for 12 more months if he would get things right. But Nebuchadnezzar is like so many people you and I know. The more God does for them, the greater opportunities He gives to them, the more hardened they become against God.
You know, grace and mercy does not always melt the heart of a cold-hearted person. And you will see this in the Bible, especially in the book of Revelation. One of the great marvels to me of the last book of the Bible is in this judgments that happen between the fourth chapter and the 19th chapter. There are several parentheses between the judgments where God offers mercy to those if they will just receive it, and nobody ever does. They reject the mercy, and a judgment that's more fierce than the one before comes.
Somebody said, "Well, if someone would just say, you know, you can be forgiven, or you have mercy, or God's grace is sufficient, they'll be saved". No, they won't, not always. Nebuchadnezzar is a testimony to the fact that even the great mercy and grace of God does not break the heart of some stone-hearted people. It was gonna take a lot more than that to break down Nebuchadnezzar. So we have the reason for the story in verses 1 through 3, and the reception of the dream in verses 4 through 9, the repetition of the dream in verses 10 through 18, the revelation of the dream in verses 19 through 27, and now, the realization of the dream in verses 28 to 33. Notice, first of all, the king's pride beginning at verse 28.
Daniel 4:28-29a — All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of the twelve months...
What 12 months? The 12 months God gave him to repent if he would do right.
Daniel 4:29b — ...and he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon.
The king's story convenes in this narrative one year later, after the 12 months have gone by. And the Bible says he is in his Babylonian city. He is in his palace. And he is surveying the city of Babylon. And I need to tell you, that was some survey to take. Because Babylon was the greatest city of its time. Nothing had ever been constructed or built like the city of Babylon. As Nebuchadnezzar walked across the palace that night, looking out at all of this, and seeing this incredible, magnificent cityscape, he was overcome with pride. And here is what he said:
Daniel 4:30 — ...Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?
The personal pronouns, every syllable drips with glory and pride and arrogance and self-glorification. Nebuchadnezzar was like Lucifer, and he was about to learn that God resists the proud. The king's pride... Now, notice his punishment:
Daniel 4:33 — That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.
While the arrogant words were still in the king's mouth, a voice from Heaven pronounced his doom. And immediately, Nebuchadnezzar was struck with insanity. His mental disease is known as lycanthropy, from the Greek word lukos, which means "wolf," and the word anthropos, which means "man".
My title for my message today was "The Wolf-Man". Nebuchadnezzar became the quintessential wolf-man. The cause for his condition was the judgment of God. And the result of his condition was the humbling of a prideful man for seven long years. Interestingly enough, the one who had tempted Daniel and his three friends to eat the forbidden food from the king's table now is eating grass like an ox. But number six in our outline is the restoration of the king. And that's in verses 34 and following, reading from Bible.
Daniel 4:34,36,37 — And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever... At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.
The first 30 verses of Daniel are about God resisting the proud. The last 4 verses of Daniel are about God giving grace to the humble. When the king had lived out his seven-year sentence of insanity, he lifted his eyes to Heaven. His reason came back to him. And God's mercy and grace went on parade. He restored the king's reason. He restored the king to his throne. He restored his officials and administrators to him. He protected his kingdom, during the seven years, from being usurped by others. And he added to the king majesty and honor. By the end of the chapter, the proud man has been humbled, and the humble man has been exalted.
We can't miss the lessons. This process of humility happens in us, in my estimation, in three ways. First of all, it happens in our heart. Nebuchadnezzar was ultimately affected in his heart. Humility is not thinking less of yourself. Humility is thinking of yourself less. Don't forget that. Humility is not thinking less of yourself. "Oh, I am nothing". You are something. You are God's creation. And humility is not putting yourself down. Humility is just not thinking of yourself so much and thinking of others. In the story, Daniel was perplexed because he had to give a message of judgment to Nebuchadnezzar, whom he loved.
And oh, if we could get that message, men and women, this whole lesson would be worthwhile. Almighty God's not gonna turn any of us into a wolf-man. But the Bible does say this, that pride goes before a fall. And I have lived long enough on planet Earth to watch that happen more than I wish I could remember. Pride goes before a fall. When you see a man who is full of himself, you almost want to take him inside and say, "Look out, you're headed for trouble". When we put Christ on the throne of our heart, He helps us to be Christ-like. He helps us to see ourselves as we are, not only children of God's love, but also men and women who need to be reminded of where we stand before the Lord. This happens in our hearts. It happens in our deeds.
Let me tell you something that I think is important for us as we struggle with the whole ego issues of life. We help ourselves infinitely when we help others. Listen to this very powerful verse from Paul as he wrote it to the Philippians.
Philippians 2:3-4 — Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
So I would say to you, if you struggle with arrogance and pride in your life, find some time to get inside the life of another person who needs your help. Nothing will bring you down to the reality of life like putting your arm around a person who's going through a tough time and hanging in there with them during the throes of their challenges. And then here's the third thing, we battle this in our hearts. And we put Christ on the throne. We battle it in our actions or our deeds, and we find others to minister to. And then, we battle this in our words, do we not, in our conversation. You ever been around people who, when you are with them, it is just one sentence after another about themselves?
I had a friend once who said, "Oh, I was with somebody". And my other friend said, "Oh, you had a conversation with them". He said, "No, I listened to him". And that's where a lot of people are. You don't have a conversation with some people; you just listen to them. And it's so easy, if we're not careful, when we're with people, to think about all the great stuff that we've done that we want to share. And so we get going, and we start talking about ourselves. And I've learned that there's something really great about asking your friends, "How's it going with your family? How is it with your kids? How you doing in your health"? You know, get your eyes off of yourself and on to other people.
Remember, humility is not thinking less of yourself. It's thinking of yourself less. It's coming to grips with the fact that God put you in this world not to consume your attention upon yourself, but to be useful and profitable to others around you. Nebuchadnezzar was not humble in his heart. He was not humble in his works. He was not humble in his words. If he had been, he would not have caught the disease of "me" and had to spend seven years grazing in the field like a wild animal.
So let's humble ourselves before God. Let's ask God to help us see life through the eyes of our Savior who sits on the throne in our life. Let's ask Him to give us a vision for reaching out to help others who need our assistance. And let's ask God to help us put a watch before our mouths so that the words that come from our lips are not always about who we are, but about who He is.