by Mike Ratliff
1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.
3 How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and his dominion endures from generation to generation. (Daniel 4:1-3 ESV)
The deepest, widest blind spot that most professing Christians have is that they are convinced their religion pleases God. Pride disguises itself in many different ways. One that I have noticed in most professing Christians is a form of self-righteousness that sees their religion as making them so well-pleasing to God that anyone who is not part of their denomination or church could not possibly be right with God. Pragmatism springs from a desire by spiritually blind Christian leaders to mimic what other “successful” preachers or pastors do to grow their congregations or baptize huge numbers of converts. When these manipulating processes seem to work the first result is actually a deepening of that spiritual blindness. Why? Idolatry always produces spiritual blindness. This blindness keeps those in it deceived into believing a lie. What lie? The lie is that God is not totally sovereign and needs their help to further the Kingdom. Their religious efforts may appear to “work,” but since the results are the fruit of fleshly methods and the works of men they only lead to cultivating pride. However, we must remember that God is Sovereign.
Any view of our relationship with God that draws attention to self is not rooted in humility. Instead, it is a fruit of pride. Preachers are called by God to do one thing well. That one thing is to exposit Holy Scripture to their congregations. If they do that one thing then all other parts of their ministries will flow from that. God’s Word needs no additions. It needs no help. It is sufficient, complete, and totally authoratative. It interprets itself. However, starting in the mid to late 19th Century, a trend began where preachers no longer exposited scripture alone to their congregations or whoever they were preaching to. Instead, they preached their own interpretations of bits of scripture that “lightened” both their load of having to work so hard in the Word and their congregation’s responsibility to conform to it. Now in our time, preachers have abandoned their role as expositors completely. Instead of studying the Word and preaching the messages God gave them from it, they preach sermons that are little more than morality plays. They do this so they can draw as many people into relationship with their church as possible. They know that if they preach as Charles Spurgeon or John A. Broadus or George Whitefield used to preach they would lose a large section of their congregations. What section is that? That section would be made up of those who cannot tolerate the truth from God’s Word.
Is God really Sovereign? Until we come to consciously view this existence through the lens of our Lord’s Sovereignty, we will never be at that place where we live for His glory alone. If we live as if we are sovereign over any part(s) of our lives rather than God then we are in rebellion against his sovereignty and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There is something common to all who have come to live their lives submitted and surrendered to God. That commonality is humility. Those humble before God have their hearts turned unto him and away from all other things that would divide their love and devotion. Anything that would come in between that love relationship with God is seen as a temptation to sin by seeking fulfillment from something other than God’s glory. When Christians turn their hearts away from God they are in pursuit of some form of Idolatry. That “god” could be self, another person, a spiritual leader, a religion, a church, a denomination, a writer, self-fulfillment in works, or entertainment. I’m sure we could come up with many more. Since our pastors have abandoned the expositional preaching of God’s Word we are rarely exposed to it’s sharp two-edged sword cutting into our hearts that would actually expose these things to us on a regular basis.
However, God is not mocked. He is still Sovereign and those who are leading the vast majority of professing Christians down the broad and easy path into apostasy are filling up the cup of God’s Wrath against them unless God intervenes. However, God is drawing more people out of the growing apostasy every day. It is amazing how many testimonies I receive from people who have left churches because of their move into the Purpose Driven Deception or the Willow Creek Association of dummied down churches or they have been delivered from bondage to the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity deception. When I left my old church several years ago because it went Purpose Driven I was convinced that God would put my wife and I back into another church very quickly because, after all, aren’t we supposed to be as heavily involved in “church” as possible? That happened in 2006 and it was not until God relocated us from Kansas to Oklahoma in December 2012 and put us into the same church where our daughter and son-in-law serve that that long journey of continually seeking a new fellowship ended. Why did this take so long? I confess to all reading this that my walk with my Lord only deepened during that time. Could it be that “church” can become, in our hearts, what it not supposed to be? Can it be that we are worshipping our religion rather than our God? If that is so then aren’t we really worshipping ourselves?
4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. 8 At last Daniel came in before me-he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods-and I told him the dream, saying, 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.
13 “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. 14 He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’ 18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” (Daniel 4:4-18 ESV)
King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream from God. In this dream, he is given a vision of a wonderful tree that is home and shelter to many. However, at its height It is chopped down and stripped of its branches. This happened by the word of a Heavenly “Watcher.” The vision then shifts from the tree being the sheltering and grand tree to a man whose mind is made into that of a beast of the field. This decree from the watcher will be for seven periods of time. The context here demands that the periods of time are years. The “Watcher” is a Heavenly Angel. The felling of the tree and the driving of the man into the field as he loses his reason are the result of God’s judgment.
19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belte-shazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! 20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived- 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. 23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. 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.” (Daniel 4:19-27 ESV)
Daniel interprets the dream for Nebuchadnezzar by God’s grace. Notice what Daniel’s advice is in v27. What was the King’s sin? Wasn’t it that he was taking pride in his prosperity? He was not humbling himself before God who had raised him up as King of the known world. Daniel tells him that his kingdom is in God’s hands. However, Nebuchadnezzar did not take Daniel’s advice.
28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws. (Daniel 4:28-33 ESV)
Daniel had warned the king about being prideful. He did not believe him or he did not take it to heart. Our Christian leaders in our time are being warned by those who have discernment to return to the Bible while turning away from manipulation and entertainment as means to build their churches into earthly kingdoms. In their pride they ignore this godly and sound advice to their own peril. I have not witnessed one of them repenting of what they have been doing, not one. On the other hand, God has opened the eyes of his sheep within those churches and so they have fled as my wife and I did.
34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (Daniel 4:34-37 ESV)
I know it’s not a popular thing to warn people. When we warn others that if they continue in their rebellion they will have to deal with God’s judgment, we are ridiculed and called un-Christlike or divisive. However, the sins of the Christian leaders who are taking their followers quickly into apostasy are crying out to God for judgment. What is their sin? It is idolatry, which is a fruit of pride and deception. It may be too late for many of them to repent. However, it is becoming more and more apparent every day that God is drawing His sheep out of the Scarlet Woman. The table is being set for the great falling away. When the restrainer moves out of the way, the lawless one will be revealed and the apostate church will fall away completely to follow hard after him. Let us pray for God to protect us from this deception and use us to proclaim the truth to those in darkness for His glory alone.
Soli Deo Gloria!