Let God be God – December 8, 2019

Let God be God – December 8, 2019

December 11, 2019
Benjamin Ehlers

Let God be God

Daniel 4:19-37

You’ve heard of Daniel – lions’ den and all that. You’ve even heard of Nebuchadnezzar – dreamer of dreams and fiery furnace. But what was that? What was that harsh account that we just read? A king is proud of his accomplishments and is struck with animalistic insanity? A king who once lived in palatial comfort, suddenly preferred to live outside in the dew, eat grass, and forget all hygienic principals. There’s actually a name for that type of insanity. It’s called Boanthropy. It’s a psychological disorder in which a person actually believes himself to be an animal – living outside and eating grass. Interestingly enough, there’s cases of the same thing today. And I think it’s going to become more widespread – as people tell themselves and force society to acknowledge that they are a different gender or race. There actually are even some who believe themselves to be a different species – to be animals. Really, it all boils down to humanism. It’s all an expression of what’s at the root of our sinfulness, and that’s me. Humanism is attaching prime importance to the human rather than the divine. Humanism says, I make my own rules, I make my own greatness, I don’t need God. And it’s infecting every one of us.

What was so wrong about being proud of his achievements anyway? I mean, yes, pride comes before the fall. But it doesn’t seem like Nebuchadnezzar had gotten there yet. All he said was “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan 4:30). And it would seem he was justified in it too. It cannot be denied that Nebuchadnezzar was clearly the most gifted and ambitious ruler of his day. Everything we read about the man in ancient records shows that he was an achiever. Even before he ascended the throne, Nebuchadnezzar led Babylon’s armies to a string of impressive victories. He crushed great Egypt, as well as what was left of the once great nation of Israel. While Nebuchadnezzar was famous as a warrior, he was even more famous as a builder. Babylon was the largest and most magnificent city of the ancient world. A claim made by ancient historians and supported by the spade of the archaeologist. Nebuchadnezzar’s capital was an excellent example of early city planning. The city was divided into a number of city blocks and sections with wide roads. Near the royal palace were the famous Hanging Gardens, considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. A system of canals regulated the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers for use in irrigation. Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of two huge walls that surrounded the city, each more than twenty feet thick. It cannot be denied that Nebuchadnezzar was gifted and ambitious.

Was he justified, then, in what he said about “great Babylon?” Was God just being a bully because they had conquered his special nation? No, God was not being a bully. And no, Nebuchadnezzar was not justified in his boast – building Babylon by “my power” and “for the glory of my majesty”. Rewind history just a bit farther and hear what God declared through his prophet Jeremiah, “Because you (Israel) have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations” (Jer 25:9). God is the one who builds up nations and God is the one who tears them down. God is the one determines how long they will last and how their end will come about.

In boasting, Nebuchadnezzar failed to acknowledge that his reign, his kingdom, his abilities and ambition were gifts from God. Gifts to be received gratefully and to be used responsibly in humble obedience to God. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t realize that he was only in such a position and could only claim such greatness because God had given it to him, and because God was moving nations to accomplish his plans.

We forget that sometimes. We forget that God is God and we are not. We think we know how the story will end, and like Nebuchadnezzar, sometimes we are quite wrong! We like to think that we have the lead role in the play, but really we don’t even know how close we are to the closing curtain. And we don’t realize, however big a role we seem to play, we don’t realize how small and short our scene really is. The only one who knows all this, it the author of the play. The only one who determines what goes on throughout life, is the author of life.

In Nebuchadnezzar’s case, we have a man who thought he had the lead role of his scene, of his act. But he failed to realize that he was only where he was and who he was, because the author of history determined it to be. So, his boast of “The great Babylon I have built… by my power and for the glory of my majesty” (Dan 4:30), wasn’t simply being proud of his accomplishments. It was claiming the role of author, when in reality he was merely an actor in this play of life. An important actor, but ultimately guided by the author of all history.

So, when we, as “actors” so to speak on the stage of world history decide to rewrite our roles, we are really claiming authorship for ourselves. We are elevating ourselves to the position of God, rather than letting God be God – the author of all things. This can be as blatant and crass as declaring yourself to be something that is contrary to God’s clear design – a female when you are not, a male when you are not, an animal when you are clearly a human. Or, it could be as subtle as a boast in your own accomplishments – in your own ability to shape the world around you – I am where I am in life because of me!

Well, that all sounds very dull and dreary. That all sounds rather cruel and robotic. Like everything we accomplish has to be quickly followed up with a forced, “To God be the glory” – it wasn’t my doing, it was God’s. What kind of God demands such things? What kind of God is so jealous?

Or, is it exactly the opposite? Does God humble the proud so that he can exalt them to even greater heights? Did God humble Nebuchadnezzar so that he could really become great?

You need only look at history to see God humbling the proud so that he can exalt the humble. God promised that he would make Israel great – yes through the Messiah, but also as a nation. And Israel was powerful during the reigns of the early kings – even taking on nations seemingly more powerful. But soon they became proud. Soon they decided to claim authorship. Soon they decided that one God wasn’t good enough and they wrote other gods into their story. That’s when God stepped in with Babylon. After humbling Israel, he then gave them the greatest honor. In the words of Simeon, “My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (Lk 2:30-32).

You need only look at the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, it’s interpretation and fulfillment to see how God’s intention in humbling him was to exalt him in the right way. In the dream, although the tree – which was Nebuchadnezzar – was cut down, the order was also given to leave the stump. Because God intended to restore Nebuchadnezzar. God intended to exalt him again. And you see this to be true! After he lived out in the wild with matted hair like feathers and long, claw-like fingernails, after the set amount of time God gave the humbled king enough understanding to raise his eyes to heaven and pray a prayer acknowledging the Most High God. “I honored and glorified him who lives forever” (Dan 4:34). When he did, he was permitted to return to normalcy. Actually, restored to even better than normal. “My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before” (Dan 4:36). “Even greater than before” in authority and accomplishments, yes. But I would say it’s even more than that. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right, and all his ways are just” (Dan 4:37). It seems that after it all – after building an empire and a great city, after being humbled with insanity and restored – Nebuchadnezzar’s greatest boast is his faith and his God. He was happy to let God be God, giving the author of history proper glory.

Yes, God has given you many and varied gifts. Yes, you can be proud of your accomplishments. But let God be God. Give him the glory of penning those gifts and accomplishments into your script. Because then you will never lose sight of his greatest accomplishment in you – your faith in salvation through Christ.

It was Jesus who “though he was by nature God, he did not consider equality with God as a prize to be displayed, but he emptied himself by taking the nature of a servant… Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Php 2:6-7, 9-11 EHV).

It’s fascinating that the greatest person to ever walk onto the stage of history was a lowly servant. Though his role was shorter than most, it impacted history the most. He was easy to miss as he entered the stage – born in a stable, wrapped in cloths, placed in a manger. He was easy to mock as he left the stage – crucified as a criminal. But then, in a stunning plot twist, he reentered history. Not as a servant, but as a king. Lord over death. Defeating Satan. Dominion over sin. And guess who’s going to be back just before curtain close, just before the end of all history. It’s Jesus – Lord of all lords, King over all kings.

The only reason he is serious about not sharing his glory with another, the only reason he humbles the proud, is so that they would keep him front and center on the stage of history. So that all people could truly become great through him. Nebuchadnezzar refused to give God the honor due him, and failed to acknowledge God’s authority over him and so reduced himself to the level of an animal – driven only by his own desires. Yet look at the mercy of God! When Nebuchadnezzar repented and glorified God – putting him center stage – the Lord forgave him, renewed him, and restored him.

Put down the author’s pen and let God be God. Glorify him as the center of your life. Because it is he who knocks down the rule of sin and the reign of death. It is he who elevates you as the crown of all creation. It is he who glorifies you as sons and daughters of God himself!