Introduction: As we resume our sermon series this fall on Daniel, it is fitting to devote some of our Bible notes to the study of this book. We will alternate Daniel with the book of Exodus, praying as we do that God would enable us to follow Him wherever we are placed: whether the wilderness of Sinai or in the kingdom of Babylon!
Mon/Tues: read Daniel 4:22-32. We ought not be surprised that Nebuchadnezzar’s pride is his downfall in Daniel 4. This chapter is the last to deal with this Babylonian king, and in its description of this monarch, we see the very same arrogance that sinfully inspired the Babylonians to so cruelly destroy Jerusalem just a few years earlier.
Yes, God ordained that Israel, (for her sinful idolatry), should be “handed over” to the Babylonians. But the cruel pride with which Babylon destroyed God’s holy city and its inhabitants, sealed her doom. As Habakkuk points out, in chapter 1:5-11 depicting the destructive power and pride of Babylon, he then goes on to prophesy her downfall in 2:7-12:
“Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own—
for how long?—
and loads himself with pledges!”
7 Will not your debtors suddenly arise,
and those awake who will make you tremble?
Then you will be spoil for them.
8 Because you have plundered many nations,
all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you,
for the blood of man and violence to the earth,
to cities and all who dwell in them.
9 “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house,
to set his nest on high,
to be safe from the reach of harm!
10 You have devised shame for your house
by cutting off many peoples;
you have forfeited your life.
11 For the stone will cry out from the wall,
and the beam from the woodwork respond.
12 “Woe to him who builds a town with blood
and founds a city on iniquity!
Notice especially the root cause of God’s doom spoken against Babylon her rulers: It is because their great cities have been built on the blood of their victims! Is this not exactly what Nebuchadnezzar was like before God’s grace humbled him? Daniel in fact challenges the king to repent of such violent ways in Daniel 4:27:
“Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
Meditate and Pray: Let us give thanks that our God, even in His punishment of the wicked, is restrained, patient, judicious, under control and absolutely careful that justice should always serve His holy purposes – not like wicked violent mankind, in his extreme cruelty and vengeance! Sing about God’s holy and awesome justice, always coupled with patience, in hymn # 545:
When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.
When I hear the wicked call,
On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink
On the fiery deluge brink,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.
Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Savior’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
By my love, how much I owe.
Wednesday: read Daniel 4:33-34. The sentence of God against Nebuchadnezzar is swiftly carried out as his reason leaves him so that he goes out of his palace in order to find a pasture conducive to his behaving like a beast of the field. This is a fit judgment, for the same animalistic traits which Nebuchadnezzar shows for this season of humiliation are the chief attributes of the kingdoms which Daniel sees in his visions! When Daniel receives disclosures as to the characters of the powers of the world … he sees the nations of mankind as beasts: powerful but groveling on the level of the dirt, never raising their eyes to God’s abode! As one scholar puts it:
“So long as Nebuchadnezzar, in haughty pride, relied on his own strength, he forfeited the true dignity of man, and was degraded to be with the beasts. (Chap. 4:16): ‘Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given to him.’”
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His perceptive verdict against the godless kingdoms of mankind. Though they strut on the world’s stage as impressive images of power, (like Nebuchadnezzar’s great image in Daniel 2), the reality from God’s point of view is that man without God sinks to the level of the beasts. Sing hymn # 683 as your constant reminder of your need for daily, humble submission to God, (from Psalm 131):
Not haughty is my heart,
Not lofty is my pride;
I do not seek to know the things
God’s wisdom hath denied.
With childlike trust, O Lord,
In Thee I calmly rest,
Contented as a little child
Upon its mother’s breast.
Ye people of the Lord,
In Him alone confide;
From this time forth and evermore
His wisdom be your guide.
Thurs/Fri/Sat: read Daniel 4:34-37 & Daniel 7:1-9. Nebuchadnezzar’s exaltation of God after his humbling trial as a beast is a fitting way to end this book’s consideration of the once mighty kingdom of Babylon. Whereas Daniel 5 is simply a “mopping up operation”, as the kingdom of Babylon finally disintegrates under the wickedness of Nebuchadnezzar’s descendant, Belshazzar, Daniel 4 ends on the triumphal note of a converted Nebuchadnezzar who praises the one true God of Heaven. (Reread the wonderful words of praise in Daniel 4:34-37).
This same focus on God’s sovereignty continues in Daniel 7, (which in terms of chronology is to be set before Daniel 5 – since Daniel’s vision in the 7th chapter occurs while Belshazzar still reigns, before his death in chapter 5). Here Daniel once again sees the four kingdoms of his day as mighty beasts – terrible and threatening in Daniel 7:1-7! But the amazing thing about this vision is how God Almighty’s rule is described in Daniel 7:8-14, first by a description of God the Father and then the heavenly ascension of His Son. Let’s look today at the wonderfully comforting picture of the Father’s rule in Daniel 7:9-10, with the help of John Calvin’s comments on Daniel 7:9:
Daniel now relates how he saw another figure, namely, God sitting on his throne to exercise judgment (Daniel 7:9). We shall see afterwards a description concerning Christ, (Daniel 7:13-14), but Daniel now teaches only the appearance of God in his character of a judge …
… First it is worthwhile to consider here why Daniel says — The Ancient of days, meaning the eternal Deity himself, ascended the throne of judgment. This scene seems unnecessary, because it is the peculiar office of God to govern the world; and as we know this cannot be done without upright judgment, it follows that God has been a perpetual judge from the creation of the world.
Now, even a moderate acquaintance with the Scriptures shows how well this passage suits us by appealing to our senses; for unless God’s power is made conspicuous, we think it either abolished or interrupted. Hence those forms of expression which occur elsewhere; as, “How long art thou silent, O Lord; and how long wilt thou cease from us?” (Psalms 13:1; Psalms 9:7, and elsewhere,) and — God ascends his throne — for we should not acknowledge him as a judge, unless he really and experimentally proved himself such. This then is the reason why Daniel says God himself was seated in judgment.
Meditate and Pray: How good of God to constantly remind us that He is in control of our lives and that He ascends the Throne of Judgment for the good of His own! Our very breath is in his hands (Daniel 5:23)! Sing about God’s absolute control of all that you are and have, and His return one day to assert His sovereign right to judge, with hymn # 321:
Great God, what do I see and hear?
The end of things created!
The Judge of mankind doth appear,
On clouds of glory seated.
The trumpet sounds, the graves restore,
The dead which they contained before!
Prepare, my soul, to meet Him.
The dead in Christ shall first arise
At the last trumpet’s sounding.
Caught up to meet Him in the skies,
With joy their Lord surrounding.
No gloomy fears their souls dismay,
His presence sheds eternal day
On those prepared to meet Him.
But sinners, filled with guilty fears,
Behold His wrath prevailing.
In woe they rise, but all their tears
And sighs are unavailing.
The day of grace is past and gone;
Trembling they stand before His throne,
All unprepared to meet Him.
Great God, to Thee my spirit clings,
Thy boundless love declaring.
One wondrous sight my comfort brings,
The Judge my nature wearing.
Beneath His cross I view the day
When Heav’n and earth shall pass away,
And thus prepare to meet Him.