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DANIEL, GOD'S MAN IN THE FIELD (PART VIII)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
20 AUGUST 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Exodus 10:3)
And Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me.’ ”
Last week in our study of the Book of Daniel, and in our look at part of the account of Simon the Samaritan, we saw the effect that our pride can have on our relationship with God.
God does not like the prideful state of any of us, and He gives us warnings, just as He did to Nebuchadnezzar and Simon; and if we do not heed those warnings, God will take action, as we shall see today.
Let's return to Daniel, beginning with verse 4:28, and remember that last week we saw that God had warned Nebuchadnezzar in a dream: that if he remained in his pride, He would make him like one of the grazing animals of the field.
28. "All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.
29. "Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon.
30. "The king reflected and said, 'Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?'
31. "While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you,
32. and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time 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.'
God has had enough.
Whatever staying grace was still with Nebuchadnezzar, from the previous warning, has now been removed.
The punishment is being executed.
33. "Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and 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.
As strange as it may seem to us today, there is a mental disease called boanthropy in which the affected person believes himself to be like a grazing animal and acts accordingly. This condition also has been observed in modern times.
However, the physical changes taking place in Nebuchadnezzar's body are proof of God's intervention.
God designed humans to eat fruit, nuts, seed, and soft vegetables.
Our bodies are not designed to eat animals or to graze like cattle, so God had to have made some internal physiological changes in Nebuchadnezzar's digestive system, too.
Another fact that we should observe is that part of Nebuchadnezzar's pride was caught up in the food that he ate, and in his utter disregard for the lives and well being of the animals who suffered and died to satisfy his lust and pride.
Now, he has been condemned to live and eat with these animals, and is a vegetarian/vegan like them.
And we have seen other similar examples in our study of God's Word, though not with this kind of diet change.
When King Saul failed to listen to God, He removed His Holy Spirit from him and gave him an evil spirit.
Do you remember a few weeks ago, when we were talking about our attitude when partaking in the Lord's Supper, that Paul wrote of many who had become sick or died from coming before the Lord with an arrogant and unrepentant attitude?
Such an affliction, like that which has befallen Nebuchadnezzar, is not unusual when viewed spiritually, and could also reflect a type of food poisoning for eating animal foods.
The type of disease might be unknown, but not the fact of being afflicted.
And as societies turn from God and become insensitive to His true word, they also become afflicted.
In the Middle Ages the people tried to blame everything that was wrong on cats; thus they killed them, and the rat and mouse populations became a plague upon them, and then the fleas on the rats and mice developed a plague known as the Black Death; and as we know, many thousands died.
Today, as a result of our immoral behavior, and saying that what is evil is good, we have been given the plague, as it were, of AIDS. For even if AIDS existed before, it would never have been transmitted to others, if we had followed a lifestyle consistent with God's will.
If we continually turn against God, we can most assuredly expect to get His wrath, the ultimate being eternal damnation in hell.
What happened to Nebuchadnezzar is not unusual, but it did have its results:
34a. "But at the end of that period I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;
Think about what Nebuchadnezzar just said. At the end of the seven year period, his reason, as a man, returned to him; but he nevertheless had full understanding of the term of his sentence, the events taking place, and the reason for it.
If he did not have this understanding, he would not have praised and honored God.
Nebuchadnezzar was brought to repentance.
Listen to his praise of God:
34b. For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35. "And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, 'What hast Thou done?'
36. "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; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me.
Nebuchadnezzar's reason returned to him after his repentance, not before.
In his animal reason, he repented.
We should be very careful not to discount God's relationship with all of His creation.
Just because we don't understand something doesn't mean that it isn't real or doesn't exist. God's ways are not our ways, and His understanding is way beyond ours.
And most times, when we truly repent, God will restore the things that were taken away, but not always right away. Sometimes it may even take years.
When we are truly repentant, we also are not really concerned about having things restored; we just want our relationship with God restored.
And that is when we seem to get the other as well.
37. "Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride."
Nebuchadnezzar is saying that his punishment was just, for it brought him to repentance.
We are not playing some game.
Our life relationship with God is for keeps.
The more we know about God and His heavenly will, the more we are responsible for.
Thus in our New Testament lesson for this morning we saw, and will see, that Jesus is much more stern and angry with the religious leaders, because they should know better.
Let's take another look at Matthew 23, beginning at verse 1:
1. Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples,
Notice the subtle distinction being made here. Many have gathered around Jesus, but only the disciples are the true believers and followers of Christ.
Similarly, not all who call themselves Christians, or who go to church, are true believers and followers of Jesus Christ.
2. saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;
By their outward actions, the religious leaders have placed themselves as equal to Moses in teaching and interpreting the Law, which is the role of a religious leader; but they were also to set an example through their lives.
3. therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them.
4. "And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.
These Pharisees required the people to follow every minute regulation and custom of their Law and tradition, but they themselves would violate them in secret.
Remember that nothing that is done in secret will remain secret forever. Sooner or later it will come to the light, and everyone will know what was done.
5. "But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments.
These phylacteries are small square leather boxes containing four pieces of parchment on which are written passages from the Law, and they are held upon the forehead and arm by leather straps.
All who were religious would wear them, but the Pharisees would make theirs very broad and conspicuous in order to attract attention to themselves, as if to say, "See how religious we are!"
And in similar manner they would lengthen the tassels on their garments. The tassels were there to remember and live by the 613 commandments in the Law. The length of the tassel added nothing.
All of this outward show was done because of their pride. Thus, Jesus was angry with them.
6. "And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7. and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi.
And this too is pride.
8. "But do not be called Rabbi, for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
This is why you have heard me say, "Call me Frank"; for I would much rather be called Frank and have you see me as your pastor because of my relationship with you and with God, than to be called Pastor and have you see me as a hypocrite.
This holds true for any other position as well.
9. "And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
10. "And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
11. "But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
12. "And whoever exults himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
People generally become prideful when they are not completely comfortable in their positions.
They need a title and notoriety in order to feel somewhat secure.
But true comfort and assurance doesn't come this way.
True comfort and assurance comes from believing and trusting in Jesus Christ.
And once we arrive in this relationship with our Lord, our former worldly desires will pass away and won't matter anymore.
But the Pharisees didn't understand, so Jesus has to bring them down from their prideful state.
Listen to what He said to them, and also consider if He may be speaking to us, even now.
13. "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourself, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
Not only were these leaders denying the truth themselves, but they prevented others from accepting it as well; for they knew that if they accepted the truth, they would also have to give up their prideful position.
A few Pharisees, such as Paul, Nicodemus, and Joseph, did accept the truth, and the whole world knows of them and their good works; but very few of the ones who rejected Jesus Christ are known by name.
So you be the judge; who was more honored: those who rejected the truth for fear of losing their honor, or those who gave up their pride to accept the truth?
14. ["Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation.]
For their own personal gain, they used their official position to take advantage of the widows.
15. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
The proselytes were essentially pagans who knew nothing of the Hebrew Law before encountering these religious leaders; thus they both heard what they said and observed how they acted, and followed in their footsteps, utilizing certain of their cultish practices to accomplish even more than the Pharisees for their personal gain.
16. "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.'
17. "You fools and blind men; which is more important, the gold, or the temple that sanctified the gold?
18. "And, 'Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering upon it, he is obligated.'
19. "You blind men, which is more important, the offering or the altar that sanctifies the offering?
20. "Therefore he who swears, swears both by the altar and by everything on it.
21. "And he who swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it.
22. "And he who swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
But when you know the truth and submit your will to the Lord, there is no longer any need to swear that you will do something; for you automatically do what God wants you to do.
It is only when we are hypocrites and untrustworthy that we are obligated to swear that we will do something.
Jesus Christ continues and pronounces four additional woes against these religious leaders because of their falseness.
If we would only learn to do God's will, He would never have to pronounce His woes against anyone.
Living in the world system of hypocrisy and pride only keeps us in bondage. In Jesus Christ we can live freely.
All He wants us to do is believe on Him, and repent, and live our new lives in Him forever and ever, as the truly loving, compassionate, and peacemaking children of God He has called us to be.