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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Testimony of a King

Robert Jeffress - Testimony of a King

Robert Jeffress - Testimony of a King
TOPICS: Courageous Living In A Pagan World, Daniel, Pride

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. It's perfectly natural to take pride in your work or to be proud of your child's accomplishments, but if we're not careful, our modest self-esteem can escalate into something much more dangerous. Today, we'll turn to Daniel chapter four for a powerful lesson on the dangers of pride. It features a bizarre story in which a man devolves into an animal. My message is titled "Testimony of a King" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Back in the 1960s, there was a very popular movie that was remade a couple of years ago. By the way, one way you know you're getting older is when your favorite movies are being remade, but it was a movie called "Planet of the Apes". Remember "Planet of the Apes"? Originally it started Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall, and it was a story of a group of astronauts who crash-landed on a planet that looked remarkably like planet earth, and this planet was inhabited by apes that acted like, spoke like, reasoned like human beings, and the astronauts were captured by the talking apes. They were placed in cages. And of course, there was great irony in the movie. Animals had become like men, and now men were being treated like animals.

As you saw Charlton Heston and his crew caged like animals, you couldn't help but feel sorry for animals that we see around us today. You could empathize with maybe what it's like to be caged, to lose your freedom, to be subject to the whims of someone superior to you, to be gawked at by spectators. Well, the fact is, 2.500 years ago, there was a man who experienced firsthand what it was like to live as an animal, and we find his remarkable story in the passage tonight.

If you have your Bibles, turn to Daniel, chapter four, as we look at the events that led to the conversion of king Nebuchadnezzar. Now, remember in our study of Daniel, Daniel has spent four chapters detailing not only his 70-year stay in Babylon along with the Jewish captives, but specifically the first four chapters deal with the spiritual Pilgrimage of this pagan king of Babylon named Nebuchadnezzar. You know, it's not enough just to believe in God to be saved. Somebody has said, "When you recognize God is Creator, you will admire him. When you recognize his wisdom, you'll learn from him. When you understand his strength, you'll rely upon him. But only when he saves you, will you worship him". And tonight, we're going to look at those events that cause Nebuchadnezzar to worship God. It all begins with an alarming dream.

Look at verse one. "Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live on all the earth: may your peace abound"! This chapter is actually a chapter that was written by king Nebuchadnezzar. Remember, I was talking about the inspiration of the scripture several Sunday mornings ago, and I said that the scriptures were written by a variety of men, 40 different men, more than 40 different men living in and countries far apart from one another over a period of 1.500 years. God's word even includes a chapter written by a once-pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar. This is Nebuchadnezzar giving his personal testimony, the events that led him to understand that Jehovah was the one true God.

So this is coming from the pen of Nebuchadnezzar. He's going to share the most humiliating experience any king has ever experienced, but he wanted the whole world to know about it, because it would lead people to God. So he's going to use a flashback here to tell what happened. Look at verse two. "It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. How great are his signs, and how mighty are his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and his dominion is from generation to generation". See, Nebuchadnezzar in verse two recognizes God as the Most High God. He hasn't yet come to the place where he recognizes he's the only God, but he understands that he is the Most High God. I'll say more about that in a moment. Verse four. Now, here's the flashback. "I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace".

The story begins with Nebuchadnezzar trying to drift off to sleep once again, and as he was drifting off to sleep, he couldn't help but think about all that he had, all of his prosperity, all of his great accomplishments. What isn't said here, but is understood, Nebuchadnezzar was thinking to himself, "What a powerful and great king I am. Babylon has never had a ruler like I am. My father was nothing compared to what I have accomplished here". Verse five. "I saw a dream and it made me fearful, and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions of my mind kept alarming me". We don't know what those visions are yet, but in verses six and seven, in response to those visions, he did what he did in chapter two. He gave orders for all of the wise men, the scholars, the conjurers, the Chaldeans, the diviners all to come in and interpret these alarming dreams that Nebuchadnezzar had.

Look at verse eight. "But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my God". That's the name Nebuchadnezzar had given to Daniel. "And in whom is a spirit of a holy God: and I related the dream to him". Nebuchadnezzar had changed his name to Belteshazzar, literally meaning may Baal, that was the God of Babylon, protect him, and notice, even at this point, Nebuchadnezzar did not recognize that Belteshazzar was a false God. He didn't recognize that there is only one true God. What he came to recognize was that God is the supreme God. He didn't yet understand that he was the only God. Nebuchadnezzar wasn't there yet, but he did understand that God was the superior God, verse nine, he says, "O Belteshazzar," that is Daniel, "Chief of the magicians, since I know the spirit of the holy gods is in you, please tell me the visions of my dream, which I've seen along with its interpretation".

But this time, unlike in chapter two, he doesn't test Daniel to say, "Okay, you tell me what the dream was, and then I'll let you know whether you're correct or not and can keep your head". No, this time he trusts Daniel, so in verse 10, he goes ahead and lays out what the vision was. Look at verse 10. "Now these were the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed: I was looking, and behold, there was a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew large and became strong, and its height reached to the sky, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beast of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the sky dwelled in its branches, and all living creatures fed themselves from it. I was looking in the visions in my mind, and as I lay on my bed, behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one descended from heaven.

Now, according to Babylonian culture, the angels were a part of a divine council. They watched what was going on, and they dictated what was happening on earth". So he says, "I saw this divine watcher," which we would call it an angel. Now, remember, this is all a dream. Verse 14. "And the divine watcher shouted out and spoke as follows: chop down the tree and cut off its branches, strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it, and the birds from its branches. Yet leave the stump with its root in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field: and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth". Verse 15. This band of iron that was to remain around the tree that had been chopped down. This band of iron was apparently to protect the stump so that it might grow again, and then look at verse 16. "Let his mind be changed".

Notice in verse 15, talking about the stump, Nebuchadnezzar said the angel said, "Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beast in the grass of the earth". Verse 16. "Let his mind be changed from that of a man, and let a beast's mind be given to him, and let seven periods of time pass over him". Again, this stump is referring to a person that suddenly becomes like a beast. Verse 17, "This sentence," and by the way, the seven periods of time is probably seven years. "This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers, and the decision of the command of the holy one, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on him who he wishes, and sets over the lowliest of men". Now, he concludes in verse 18, "This is the dream which I, king Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar," that is Daniel, "Tell me its interpretation, inasmuch as none of these wise men of my kingdom is able to make it known to me".

He wants help. And so Daniel was ready to interpret this alarming dream. Look at verse 19. "Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while, as his thoughts alarmed him". He couldn't speak. He was alarmed at what had been told to him. Why was Daniel alarmed? It's not because he couldn't interpret the dream. He knew exactly what the dream meant. God had given him the spirit of interpretation, but he was fearful of telling Nebuchadnezzar what it was. And in verse 19b, he says, "Oh, Nebuchadnezzar, if only what I could tell you were referring to somebody else. I would give anything, if this dream had to do with one of your enemies". But in verses 20 to 22, he recounts the dream, and in verse 22, he says, "It is you, o king".

This tree that is cut down and been left as a stump, that has been turned into an animal. I wish it were somebody else, but it is you. He understood that had to tell the truth to Nebuchadnezzar. And by the way, he told the truth because he loved Nebuchadnezzar. He was concerned about his spiritual wellbeing. Some people are so fearful about sharing their faith with a family member or a friend. What if they reject me? What if they get angry with me? But most hateful thing we can do when we're talking to a friend or family member is to put our own popularity with them above their own self-interest. If you truly love that family member, that friend, you will tell them the truth, no matter how unpopular it is.

Verse 25. He says, "That you may be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place, be with the beast of the field, and you will be given grass to eat like cattle, and drenched with dew in heaven, and seven periods of time," that is seven years, "Will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever he wishes".

Daniel said, "Nebuchadnezzar, you are going to be reduced to an animal, and it's going to last until you're willing to repent and recognize God as the only sovereign", verse 26, "And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is heaven that rules". That band of iron around the stump, that was God's way of saying to Nebuchadnezzar, "Yes, judgment is coming, but there is hope for the future. Your life is going to be saved so that the kingdom can be restored to you if you repent".

And then in verse 27, Daniel concludes with this word of unsolicited advice to Nebuchadnezzar. I mean, after all, after hearing such a devastating prophecy, Nebuchadnezzar was probably distraught, and look at what Daniel said. He said, "Therefore, o king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity". He said, "Nebuchadnezzar, if you will repent, you can spare yourself of this terrible judgment that is coming to you".

There are some of you here tonight, some of you listening to this message, who have no idea how very close you are to experiencing the judgment of God in your life. God has warned you and warned you and warned you. His bow is bent. The arrows are about to be released, the arrows of judgment into your life. But God has given you one last chance to repent. That was true of Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel said, "If you will only repent, you can be spared this judgment". God said through Ezekiel the prophet, "As I live, saith the Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but I desire that the wicked turn from his evil way. Turn, turn from your wickedness, for why will you perish"?

Now look at verse 28. It's very clear that Nebuchadnezzar hardened his heart and didn't repent. Look at verse 28. "All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king". One sentence. Everything that God prophesied came to pass. "All of this happened to Nebuchadnezzar". Look at verse 29. "12 months later, one day Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. And the king reflected and said to himself, 'is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my splendor and power for the glory of my majesty'"? Verse 31. "While the word was still in the king's mouth," while he was still bragging to himself about what he had done, "A voice came from heaven, saying, 'king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you'".

And immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled, and he was driven away from mankind and he began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws. More than likely, the king was kept within the palace grounds so that other people could not harm him. Perhaps even Daniel intervened to make sure this was done, because in that culture, if a king ever showed any weakness, he was immediately executed. Daniel had great concern for Nebuchadnezzar, and so he sought to have him protected. Look at Nebuchadnezzar's restoration, beginning in verse 34. "But at the end of that period," that is, at the end of the seven years, "Nebuchadnezzar, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and I honored him who lives forever: for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation".

I want you to notice here, the three steps that led to his restoration. First of all, he acknowledged the existence of God. "I raised my eyes toward heaven". Instead of looking down at the earth, the ground, he raised his eyes toward heaven and thereby recognized that there was a power that was greater than his own. Recognizing that there is a God is not the only step toward salvation, but it is the first step toward salvation. He acknowledged the existence of God. Secondly, he repented. He says, "My reason returned to me". Anyone who lives apart from God is living, in a sense, in a state of insanity. He is out of his mind. He is not thinking correctly when he believes there is no God, and for Nebuchadnezzar, repentance simply meant a silent acknowledgement of God's sovereignty over his life.

Ladies and gentlemen, repentance is not just being sorry for your sins. That word repent, metanoeo, means to turn around. Repentance means a change of thinking that leads to a change of direction. That was Nebuchadnezzar. He repented, he came to his senses, and finally he expressed gratitude to God. He praised, he honored the one who lives forever and ever. Now look at what happens in verses 36 and 37. "At that time, my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out. And so I was re-established in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me". But he recognized for that greatness came from, because look at verse 37. "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the king of heaven, for all his works are true and his ways are just, and he is able to humble those who walk in pride".

What in the world does this strange story have to do with us? Here's the application. There is an inseparable link between pride and anxiety, and between humility and peace. There's an inseparable link between pride and anxiety, humility and peace. First, the relationship with pride and anxiety. If you think you're responsible for every good thing in your life, then the natural result of that is going to be fear. For example, if I think I'm responsible for my financial success, then what happens if the economy turns bad? If I think I'm responsible alone for the success in my career, what happens if my company finds somebody who is younger, who will work harder and cheaper than I do? If I think it is my attractiveness that is responsible for the success of my marriage, what happens when my appearance begins to fade with old age?

As long as you think you are responsible for every good thing in your life, then you naturally assume you are responsible for holding on to those good things in your life as well. You know, the essence of pride is taking credit for the good things in my life. The result of pride is anxiety. It's fear. It was true in Nebuchadnezzar. It will be true in your life as well. You know, whenever you think that there is no God, most of us would never say there's no God. We're not theological atheists. Most of us are just practical atheists. That is, we make our plans, we live our lives with little or no thought at all about what God wants for us.

We live as practical atheists, but when you feel like you're responsible for the direction of your life, it places a burden on your shoulders that will make anyone buckle. I believe most mental illness in the world today, I'm not talking about that which is induced chemically, by chemical imbalance, but I'm talking to other than chemical imbalance, I think mental illness, most all of it can be traced to a belief that I am responsible for the direction of my life. Nobody can survive under that kind of pressure. Nebuchadnezzar couldn't. He cracked. He couldn't handle the pressure of believing he was responsible for his future. However, on the other side of it is there's a link between humility and peace.

When we understand that God is the one who controls the destiny of our life, that he's responsible for our wellbeing, it gives us an amazing supernatural peace. And you see that illustrated in 1 Peter 5, verses five to seven. Remember what Peter said? He said, "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders: and all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another". Now, look at this. "For God is opposed to the proud, but he gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he might exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you".

Life's pressures are too much to bear alone. Peter says humble yourselves, trust God, and the result will be a peace as you cast your anxiety upon him. I believe, ladies and gentlemen, this passage teaches us that God will use any means necessary, he will go to whatever extent necessary to humble us to the point that we have to depend upon him. The reason he does that in your life is not because he hates you. He will bring you to that point in your life because he truly does care for you.
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