by Mike Ratliff
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: “May your peace abound! 2 It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.
3 “How great are His signs
And how mighty are His wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom
And His dominion is from generation to generation. Daniel 4:1-3 (NASB)
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 authoritative. 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 dumbed-down churches or they have been delivered from bondage to the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity deception, the NAR deception, the Emergent Church deception, the New Evangelism deception, et cetera. 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 period. 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 flourishing in my palace. 5 I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. 6 So I gave orders to bring into my presence all the wise men of Babylon, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners came in and I related the dream to them, but they could not make its interpretation known to me. 8 But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him, saying, 9 ‘O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, since I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell me the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation.
10 ‘Now these were the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed: I was looking, and behold, there was a tree in the midst of the earth and its height was great.
11 ‘The tree grew large and became strong
And its height reached to the sky,
And it was visible to the end of the whole earth.
12 ‘Its foliage was 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 sky dwelt in its branches,
And all living creatures fed themselves from it.
13 ‘I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.
14 ‘He shouted out and spoke as follows:
Chop down the tree and cut off its branches,
Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit;
Let the beasts flee from under it
And the birds from its branches.
15 “Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground,
But with a band of iron and bronze around it
In the new grass of the field;
And let him be drenched with the dew of heaven,
And let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth.
16 “Let his mind be changed from that of a man
And let a beast’s mind be given to him,
And let seven periods of time pass over him.
17 “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers
And the decision is a command of the holy ones,
In order that the living may know
That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind,
And bestows it on whom He wishes
And sets over it the lowliest of men.”
18 This is the dream which I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.’ Daniel 4:4-18 (NASB)
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 all the result of God’s judgment.
19 “Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries! 20 The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth 21 and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged— 22 it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth. 23 In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,” 24 this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25 that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. 26 And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules. 27 Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’ Daniel 4:19-27 (NASB)
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 happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29 Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, 32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ 33 Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. Daniel 4:28-33 (NASB)
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 “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward 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,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’
36 At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” Daniel 4:34-37 (NASB)
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!