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The Mad King

Awesome Bible Study – Daniel 4

The Book of Daniel is connected intimately to the book of Revelation. Beast.

Daniel 4:34-37

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)


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

You can read the story 2 ways.

  1. King – Goes Crazy One is just about this King who goes crazy and then finds his sanity again.
  2. A critique of Empire. The other is the way the New Testament church read it, and I would say the bible wants you to hear it: – As a critique of Empire.

Nebuchadnezzar is the personification of earthly empire.


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

Definition : A ‘superpower’ is a country that wields enough military, political and economic might to convince nations in all parts of the world to do things they otherwise wouldn’t.

Today, the worlds only superpower is the U.S.

Some consider china to be the NEXT superpower,

But b/c of various Economic, Military and Political reasons, it still remains VASTLY behind America in influence.

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)

Daniel 4:4-5

“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was living in my palace in comfort and prosperity. 5 But one night I had a dream that frightened me; I saw visions that terrified me as I lay in my bed. (Daniel 4:4-5)

Nebuchadnezzar is the King of Babylon. The Superpower.

He’s got a palace, he lives in luxury. Anything he wants, he gets.

But the cost of admission is anxiety.

Study after study tell us that the great the nation you belong to, the more likely you are to suffer from anxiety.

Americans suffer from far more anxiety than people who live in nations that actually have a reason to be anxious.

Places like Nigeria, India, Bangladesh, I would think they have more reason to be anxious than we do.

Yet every study shows, they suffer from far less.

Being Number 1 has a unique fear — Number 2

Imagine – 5 nations – more powerful – U.S.

Imagine with me, the idea let’s say 5 nations rising up and becoming more powerful than the U.S. So instead of being the MOST powerful, we’re the 6th most powerful.

Terrifying right? People in Nigeria don’t have that fear.

When life is a game of winning and losing, it produces incredible fear and incredible anxiety.

I’ve got to climb the corporate ladder!!!

Play the game. Stress & Anxiety.


Has dreams

Remember his first dream : This big statue, and it scared him.

Maybe I’ll do a message on that sometime.

This time :

Huge tree that comes from the ground, and it grows up up up, and it’s branches spread out.

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.”

Daniel 4:14-17

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. (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 interpret this dream. It seems pretty straightforward.

You could see how the King of the Superpower would be troubled by this right.

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

He’s scared, so he calls his counselors together, all the intelligence officers.

Tells Them Dream

Let the man have a mind of a wild animal. Until he learns that the Most High rules over the kingdoms.

“What does that mean?!”

“You’ve stumped us.”

So he calls Daniel – Which he calls Belteshazzar.

Daniel – “Ok, tell me the dream.”

Daniel – “I can tell you. But it’s not good news. At least not for you.”

Why can Daniel interpret this dream but the other interpreters can’t?

B/C Daniel was a jew.

Lived in captivity to the Babylonians.

All the other “interpreters” were babylonians.

Daniel was familiar with the idea of Babylon falling.

But Babylon couldn’t conceive of Babylon falling. They were the superpower.

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

Also, b/c Daniel (being a jew) knew his own heritage. And this wasn’t the first time they’ve seen a super power 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. Cuz where else am I gonna get all this cheap labor?!”

10 Plagues come and totally wrecks the economy of Egypt.

Finally released and they become the people of God.

God never lets them forget their roots as the poor and oppressed.

And they vow to be different – they vow to be committed to the poor and the oppressed.

Daniel knows all this. The jews are a people formed around this awareness of God and empire.

Egypt, syria, babylon, persia, greece, rome.

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


“‘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 identifies is ‘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.

“Wow – My own two hands!!!”

And a voice from heaven comes : “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.”

There’s an amazing connection in the bible with : The Beast and Empire.

He becomes the beast, but his empire has always been the beast.

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

“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. (Daniel 4:34)

Language – Symbolic –

(Interrupt with – “Looked up – 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.


All the people of the earth
are nothing compared to him.
He does as he pleases
among the angels of heaven
and among the people of the earth.
No one can stop him or say to him,
‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ (Daniel 4:35)

“When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. (Daniel 4:36)

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and (take it from me Neb) he is able to humble the proud.” (Daniel 4:37)

So after he loses his sanity for 7 years, and it’s restored to him. He understood the insanity of empire.

Let’s look again at the dream

Huge tree – reaches

Everyone – eat fruit.

But it’s fruit is bad.

Why? Because they’re not merciful to the poor.

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 said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? (Luke 13:18)

It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests 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.

Throughout the teachings of Jesus and the NT writers – make it very clear that you get to choose one.

Doesn’t mean you can’t be a patriot.

How does this story apply to our lives right now in 2016?

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. 2016.

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

What the world wants is for us to SPLIT our allegiance.

That we have contradictory beliefs and convictions in our heart and that’s not a problem b/c we just put on different hats.

  • Are we having a Christian conversation? No prob, put on love.
  • Are we having a work conversation? – Look out – Number 1.
  • Are we having a ‘global conversation’? No prob, I’ll put on my political parties hat.

Remember our friendly demon – Mr Screwtape?

Christianity AND

  • & Psychology
  • & Philosophy
  • & Empire
  • & Individualism
  • & Consumerism

Ultimately screwtape says that any allegiance that will compromise his allegiance to the kingdom of God is good]].

When you’re saying ‘Jesus is Lord’ that word Lord means ’emperor’.

The message that cost the apostles their lives is this: Jesus is emperor, and Cesar isn’t.

2. We must resist the temptation to think like the Empire.

The world will tell us it’s all about getting, achieving, winning.

Self Preservation above all else.

But we as people not of the empire, but of the Kingdom of God, we chase after HIS kingdom.

So we think with not the wisdom of world but the wisdom of God.

James 3:14-18

But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. (James 3:14)

Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. (James 3:15)

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3:16)

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:18)

John 18:36

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)

We’re a helpful part of our community – we contribute, we’re active, we serve.

But there’s also something inside us that says ‘I’m not from around here, and I’ll never totally think how you think.’

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

This is the story of Nebuchadnezzar

When he puts self and empire above God, he becomes a beast.

And when 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.

Jesus shows:

  • Love our enemies
  • Do good to our enemies.
  • Feed our enemies,
  • Serve our enemies,
  • Pray for our enemies,
  • Tell us – put down the sword, turn the other cheek when we’re hit.
  • Jesus teaches us to forgive even when the other person isn’t asking for forgiveness.
  • Jesus teach us that we love even when the love isn’t reciprocated.
  • Jesus teaches us to give freely to all who ask, even to the undeserving.
  • Jesus teaches us to only repay evil with good.

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.

(As we prepare for communion)

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

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

Stress – needing to be Number 1.

Jesus says “Consider the lilies of the field.” He doesn’t say “Consider the king and emperors and the super successful.”

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.

As we close

This is time for you to get right with him.

Ask yourself : In what areas of my life have I not yet made Christ the King?