Title
The Mad King
Date
February 6, 2022
Authors
David Eiffert
Topics
Bible References
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The Mad King

And so my hope for the morning and that you would be able to relax and focus your attention and enter into the story. Not that I tell, but that scripture tells. And that you wouldn’t be too distracted by your phone, or what you’re going to eat, but that you would let the narrative of scripture teach you.

Title: The Mad King

The Book of Daniel is connected intimately to the book of Revelation. In fact, some people would say that the 2 books are almost like a part 1 and a part 2.

Both books feature prominently, a Beast.

Daniel 4:34-37

I’d like to start by reading the CONCLUSION of the story, and then we’ll go back in time and look at the story.

At 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. (Daniel 4:34)

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?” (Daniel 4:35)

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. (Daniel 4:36)

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. (Daniel 4:37)


Nebuchadnezzar

Is the King who loses his mind, and then finds it again.


Superpower

I wonder if you've ever heard the phrase: Superpower

From Wikipedia:

A superpower is a state or nation with a dominant position characterized by its extensive ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale. This is done through the combined means of economic, military, technological, political and cultural strength as well as diplomatic and soft power influence. Currently, only the United States fulfills the criteria to be considered a superpower.

However, if you do a little reading, you will find that there are numerous “Potential Superpowers”: China, The European Union, India, and Russia.


Well today, the U.S. is the only real superpower, but it's not the only superpower that has ever been.

Of course the NT (Matt-Rev) speaks much of the superpower of their day : Rome.

But 600 years earlier - the world had another superpower with the name : Babylon. - MODERN DAY IRAQ (Map)


And when we pick up the story, the King of the great Babylonian superpower was a man named Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel 2

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. (Daniel 2:1)

So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, (Daniel 2:2)

So the King brings all the wisemen to him and says “I had a dream that has troubled me and I can’t sleep. So I need you to interpret the dream. And if you can’t interpret the dream, I’ll have you cut into little pieces, and you homes torn down.”

So they say to the King “Uhh.. Yeah no problem. Just tell us the dream and we’ll interpret it.”

And the King says “Well now I think you’re just gonna make up an interpretation so I don’t send you to the wood chipper. So now I want you to tell me what my dream WAS and then interpret it for me or I’ll chop you up into tiny pieces"

Tarot Card Reader This would be a great test for a Tarot card reader, wouldn’t it. You say “Instead of flipping the cards and then tell me what they mean. How about I shuffle the cards and you tell me what the cards are gonna be, and THEN interpret them.”

And they say “Uhhh…. Well, why don’t you tell us the dream first and then we’ll interpret it.”

The King says “No. You’re just trying to buy time because you know I’m serious.”

The wise men say “King, no one on this earth can do what you’re asking!”

So the King is furious and he orders ALL the wise men of Babylon to be put to death. And this included our man Daniel and his friends. So guards were sent out to find Daniel and his friends so they could be killed.

So when the found Daniel, Daniel asked “Whoa, we’re to be put to death why? What happened?” The guard explained it to him, and Daniel went to the King and asked for some time for God to reveal the dream and interpretation to Daniel.

And that night, God revealed the dream to Daniel IN a dream. There’s lots of dreams in this story.

And so Daniel goes to the King and says ‘Don’t kill anyone. I know your dream and what it means.’

And he tells the King his dream. And this was the dream:

“Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. (Daniel 2:31)

The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, (Daniel 2:32)

its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. (Daniel 2:33)

While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. (Daniel 2:34)

Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:35)

Daniel said that was your dream and now I’ll interpret it.

Daniel says “You, Nebuchadnezzar, are the King of Kings, God has given you power over all mankind and animalkind. You are the head of Gold.” And he explains that all the different layers of the statue represent different earthly kingdoms with varying levels of strength. But another kind of Kingdom, one that isn’t built by human hands is the rock that comes and smashes all the other kingdoms to bits. And that Kingdom will have no end. Let’s read it:

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. (Daniel 2:44)

And at this, King Nebuchadnezzar fell at Daniels feet and said ‘Surely your God is the Lord of Lords.’ And he appoints Daniel to this high position in the government.

Daniel 3

Is the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego where Nebuchadnezzar creates a statue that is 90 feet high and 9 feet thick, but instead of being different levels of different materials, it’s solid gold. Now remember that gold represented Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. So essentially he’s saying “MY kingdom will rule forever.” which seems to me like it’s a defiance of the dream.

Being number 1 has a unique fear — Number 2. Nebuchadnezzar is constantly battling the fear of NOT being the greatest. And he’s dealing with the dream he had about a rock coming and smashing his kingdom to bits. So he makes this statue to reassure himself. My kingdom will rule forever. And he forces everyone in the kingdom to bow down to the statue that represents his kingdom.

Daniels friends refuse to bow Daniel’s friends refuse to bow down to it, so they’re thrown into the furnace, but a fourth man is seen in the furnace and they’re not burned and Nebuchadnezzar says the 4th man “Looks like the son of a God” which of course is a foreshadowing of Jesus.

And he says a similar thing: “Your God is the one true God.” So he is once again humbled, that he’s not as great as he thinks he is. That his kingdom is not as great as he thinks it is.

Daniel 4

Well a little time passes and Nebuchadnezzar has another dream.

I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. (Daniel 4:4)

I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. (Daniel 4:5)


So deja vu here. He has another dream that terrifies him.

He calls for his wise men, tells them the dream and no one can interpret it. “You’ve stumped us.” Which seems like a risky level of honestly from these wise men. Remember last time he threatened to kill them. If I was one of the wise men, I would have just made something up, but they were honest and said they couldn’t interpret it.

So the King remembers last time and calls for Daniel. And he says “I’m sure you can interpret my dream just like last time.” This time he tells Daniel his dream and it’s this:

  • There’s a huge tree that comes from the ground, and it grows up up up, and it's branches spread out.
  • The tree covers the whole earth. And the whole earth has to get it's fruit from this one tree.
  • All the animals of the earth hide under the shade of this one tree.
  • All the birds build nests in the beaches of this one tree.
  • In the dream : He see's the 'Watchers' look down from the heavens and their seeing this one big tree, and all it's dominance.
  • The watchers know the the fruit of this tree is bad.
  • So the watchers - give a decree - "Chop Down the Tree."

He (a watcher) 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. (Daniel 4:14)

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. (Daniel 4:15)

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. (Daniel 4:16)

“ ‘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 all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’ (Daniel 4:17)

That's the dream. I wonder if you can interpret this dream. It seems pretty straightforward.

You could see how King Nebuchadnezzar would be troubled by this right?

A great a powerful tree is cut down by the Gods and the Gods say “We rule over the kingdoms of the world and give them to anyone we want even the lowliest of people.”

Daniel listens to the kings dream and he says "I can tell you what the dream means, but it's not good news. At least not for you."


Something that’s important to recognize here is all the other interpreters were Babylonians, but Daniel was a jew.

So that’s why I think Daniel could understand this dream while the babylonians couldn’t.

Daniel was familiar with the idea of Babylon falling. But Babylon couldn't conceive of Babylon falling.

Heritage Also, b/c Daniel (being a jew) knew his own heritage. And this wasn't the first time they've seen a superpower fall. Who can think of the first? - Egypt.

Egypt - exploited and oppressed the jews.

In fact, they used them to produce the bricks, with which they built their empire.

God heard their bitter cries - raised up a deliverer - MOSES.

Daniel knows all this. This was his favorite bedtime story.

Moses says to Pharaoh - “Let my people go!” - Pharaoh says "No. I need the cheap labor!"

10 Plagues come and totally wrecks the economy of Egypt.

Finally released and they become the people of God. Daniel knew this story well, so he had no trouble interpreting the dream.

So Daniel says to Nebuchadnezzar "This dream is all about you." And by "You" I mean all of this.

Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t imagine his empire ever falling.

David could imagine Goliath falling. But Goliath couldn't imagine Goliath falling.

V27

“‘King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.’ (Daniel 4:27)

That's the only sin identified - 'not being merciful to the poor’. And he says unless you fix that, this vision is gonna happen.

Daniel says - "Don't be like Pharaoh, or you'll fall like Pharaoh fell."


Nebuchadnezzar - thinks about it - Forgets.

Nebuchadnezzar - maybe he thinks about it for a couple weeks, and then forgets all about it. He stops being troubled. 12 months go by.


One night - on roof

One night he's up on his roof - the roof of his palace in the center of the babylonian empire, the superpower of the world. He's the King.

Looks out and sees the great temples and buildings. So proud of himself and everything he's built.

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?” (Daniel 4:30)

"Wow - My own two hands!!!"

And the moment he says this a voice from heaven comes and says, basically : _"Chop down the tree. - Neb, you're not gonna be King for awhile. You're going to lose your sanity. For awhile. You will live in the wild as a wild beast. You hair will grow out long and be matted, your fingernails will grow out like the claws of a beast."

And this is what happens. He loses his mind. His hair grows out, his nails grow into claws. For 7 years, he's out of his mind, he thinks he's an animal - he eats grass like a cow.

(Painting - 18th Century - William Blake)

Then, God has mercy.

Daniel 4:34

At 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. (Daniel 4:34)

  • “Raised my eyes” - Whereas before he thoughts he was the highest
  • "The most High" - he looks to what is higher than him and his kingdom - the God who he ultimately must answer to.

If you think YOU'RE the most high, or WE'RE the most high, your sanity is leaving you. (Walter Brueggemann)

His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. Not Babylon.

V35

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?” (Daniel 4:35)

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. (Daniel 4:36)

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. (Daniel 4:37)

So after he loses his sanity for 7 years, and it's restored to him.


This is a living and breathing example of what Jesus said in Matthew 23:

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)


Luke 13

So much of Jesus's understanding of himself and his ministry comes from the book of daniel.

Keep this in mind : Jesus knew the book of Daniel really well.

Luke 13:18-19

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? (Luke 13:18)

It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” (Luke 13:19)

I'm sure the jews that were hearing that would say "You mean like Nebuchadnezzar's dream of Babylon?"

So God's kingdom is similar to man's kingdoms with birds building their nest, but it's fruit is good. Jesus is announcing the arrival of the eternal kingdom that will last forever.

How does this story apply to our lives right now in 2022?

4 Takeaways.

1. To be a Christian is to belong to a counter-culture in the middle of mass-insanity

Paul - Romans 12

"Do not be conformed to this world."

Here we are. 2022.

So many different cultures and camps trying to recruit you into their way of thinking.

And one of the great challenges of being a pastor in 2022 is to find ways to gently remind people that you are first and foremost a member of the Kingdom of God.

So when I'm faced with a question, I don't say “What would SO AND SO say" That's of little concern to me. The question is: "What does Jesus say?"

We must ALWAYS exalt the teachings of Jesus as the highest truth. I've said this before, but there's many of Jesus's teachings that I find impractical and unrealistic. Not "I used to", I still do. I still find the teachings of Jesus hard to swallow. And I'm not always sure how they play out for my life in 2022. But I recognize that in that exchange, I'M wrong. Not him. He's always right, and I'm only right to the degree that I agree with him.

2. True Christian faith causes you to become the BEST earthly citizen.

Daniel models something very important for us. What’s that?

Daniel models that his faith is God causes him not to forsake his earthly citizenship but to care for it.

What do I mean? Well Daniel was a God follower and lived in a corrupt nation. And what did he do about it? Well he did everything in his power to make it better. He didn’t say “Oh this government is so corrupt why would I ever help them?” No, he served the king, was kind to the King, he was respectful to the king. And he used his gifts to try to help the nation.

Understanding that your truest citizenship is in heaven does NOT mean that you don't care about this place. On the contrary, the Christ follower ought to be the BEST citizen. The BEST.

We ought to be the MOST kind, the MOST generous, the MOST self-sacrificial. Why? We learn the way of Jesus and we work to transform our lives to that.


So don't you dare say "Pastor David said I'm a citizen of heaven, so I don't have to care at all about my city, or my state, or my nation, or my world. That is absolutely wrong. As you follow the way of Jesus, he will call you to care deeply for those who share this planet with us.


3. We're healed from our beastly ways when we put Christ above all else.

This is the story of Nebuchadnezzar: When he puts himself above God, he becomes a beast.

And he is healed is when he says 'All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. All praise and glorify and honor to the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.”

So we honor Jesus above all else.

And I'll go into the world and learn all sorts of great things, but I will always reject things that goes against the teachings of Jesus.

B/C Above ALL else, I'm a Christian.


4. Life is not a game, life is a gift.

Here's some good news : Life is not a game, life is a gift.

Nebuchadnezzar shows us the stress of needing to be Number 1.

Jesus says "Consider the lilies of the field." He doesn't say "Consider the kings and emperors and the super successful. Try to be more like them.”

No Jesus doesn't push us towards competition, he pushes us towards gratitude. The world though, that's another story.

The world is constantly pressuring you to keep up.

Ever heard that phrase 'Keeping Up with the Jones's'

It mean, I need to keep buying nice things so that I'll look successful like the rest of the successful people. And we love it.

You ever been embarrassed of your car? Well then you my friend, are feeling pressure to keep up with the Jones's.

And Jesus's words are all the more important : Live like lilies. Life is not a game, life is a gift.


Closing Statement: The story of Nebuchadnezzar shows us that the way of happiness, peace and success is not in exalting yourself, but in humbling yourself. There is no lasting peace to be had by clawing your way to the top. On the contrary, the way to happiness, peace and success is by devoting yourself to the kingdom that has no end. Nations will rise and fall, but the Kingdom of God will reign forever.