R/Dean Daniel Lesson 19
Nebuchadnezzar's Salvation – Daniel 4:8
Throughout history as God changes the dynamic from one era to another He always seems to do something special to show how He is going to work in history. He always seems to start off each change, each era shift, with something dramatic in order to bring out or emphasize the main principle that he will emphasize during that era of history. One example would be at Sinai; at Sinai God set forth the Ten Commandments which would be the rule for the dispensation of Israel. His authority was revealed in the Mosaic Law, and He emphasized that by making an issue out of the minutia of the Law; during the wanderings of the Exodus generation when they were in the wilderness, when they were disobedient, if they picked up sticks on the Sabbath they died. If they kept manna overnight then it rotted and they were ill the next day. He used some dramatic means to emphasize that the principle was divine authority, and that was manifested in the Mosaic Law and the people had to listen or something drastic would happen.
Now that didn't continue throughout Israel's history but just at the initial stage God had to do something dramatic in order to make a point. The same thing happened when God phased in the Church Age. The principle in the Church Age was going to be grace, God was going to demonstrate grace and grace meant that man had a level of freedom, not known under the Law. That's the whole point of Galatians. But in the initial stage of the Church you had two individuals who tried to pull the wool over everybody else's eyes to emphasize their own spirituality and that was Ananias and Sapphira. Ananias and Sapphira were the first people who were ever slain in the Spirit… you're slow but you got it. Ananias and Sapphira lied, they made it seem as if they had given all the money from the sale of the property instead of just a portion of it to the local church and for that they died instantly. Now if God still operated on that principle there wouldn't be too many people in too many churches. But He doesn't, He just did that at the starting point in order to emphasize that there was a change in the dispensation, a change in the way God was working and he was bringing home the point.
Now the same thing can be applied to the situation in Daniel 4. In this episode God is demonstrating through a remarkable means, something that He never did any other time in history, that God was going to function differently, God was going to deal with man on a slightly different basis during the times of the Gentiles. Now the times of the Gentiles is defined as that period of time starting with the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, or really starting with Israel going out under the fifth cycle of discipline in 568 BC and from that point to the present Jerusalem has been under the heel of Gentile powers. Gentile powers have been in the ascendancy and when there has been a state in Israel they have only been there at the pleasure of Gentile powers. Even now Israel exists primarily because of a U.N. mandate and because of the protection of the United States. If the United States were to withdraw its protection, the state of Israel would probably collapse very soon. So the times of the Gentiles is that time period from 586 BC and it will end with the rapture of the Church at which time God returns the emphasis to Israel during the seven year period of the Tribulation.
So we are now in the times of the Gentiles and that starts with Nebuchadnezzar and God is going to emphasize something different during the times of the Gentiles. Before that, under Israel, the issue was the Mosaic Law; the issue was the Torah, but that is not the issue when God deals with Gentiles. When God deals with Gentiles there's another issue at stake and that has to do with His essence and that plugs into the whole concept of the angelic conflict, that the issue in the angelic conflict is divine authority and that is the broader issue in God's dealing with Gentiles. He never once judges any of the Gentile nations on the basis of the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law was just for Israel. Read through the prophets some time and look at the basis for God's condemnation, condemnation of Egypt, of Assyria, of Babylon, of Tyre and Sidon, of all the Gentile powers, the basis is their rejection of God at God-consciousness, their substitution of the worship of God by the worship of something in the creation and their hostility to Israel. That's the issue, it's not the Mosaic Law. So God has to make this very clear at this time and He is going to demonstrate this specifically in the life of Nebuchadnezzar.
To illustrate this principle turn to Romans 2:12. Romans 2:12 comes in at the end of a chapter that has been focusing on Gentiles and what God expects of Gentiles. And in Romans 1-12 he is dealing with the Gentiles as men who do not have the Bible, yet nevertheless, they still have a conscience which tells them that there is something right and something wrong. Verse 12, "For all who have sinned without the Law" that is outside of the Law, "For all who have sinned outside of the Law," not without the Law but outside of the Law, that means the Law did not apply to them, "will also perish outside of the Law; and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law," God has made a distinction with the way in which He holds Gentiles accountable and that is distinct from the way He holds accountability for Israel. Accountability for Israel is on the basis of the Torah.
Romans 12:14, "For when the Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law," that means there is an inherent sense of right and wrong, not that they will always have the same sense of right and wrong, but that there is an inherent sense that certain things are right and certain things are wrong, it may vary from culture to culture due to differences in their rejection of establishment principles but they still think that there is something right and something wrong and Paul's argument here is because they believe that there is absolute right and absolute wrong, something's right and something's wrong, that indicates that they are in the image of God and when they do that which goes against their conscience, that indicates they too are in rebellion. That is a sign to them that they are sinners.
So he says, "For when the Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,  in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them." And the key phrase is that they "became a law to themselves," that is the essence of sin, it is antinomianism. The idea of antinomianism is a rejection of law and they are their own final reference point. See, man has meaning only in terms of some ultimate reference point. Now if you take out that ultimate reference point, which is God and you remove that, then the only thing left is something in the finite universe, so man has to look to something else in the finite universe as that reference point that gives him meaning and it ends up being himself. So the point here is that they become a law to themselves and that's arrogance.
Now this is exactly the problem that we run into in Daniel 4 with Nebuchadnezzar. In Daniel 4 we see God finally pulling out the 2x4 and hitting Nebuchadnezzar soundly about the head, neck, face and shoulders to get his attention. He has tried again and again, He's given Nebuchadnezzar the prosperity test, He's blessed Nebuchadnezzar in incredible ways, he's the most powerful person in the world, he controls more property than any other person in the world, he has more wealth than any other person in the world, in terms of his own natural abilities he is a genius in many different areas, he was a military genius, an administrative genius, a political genius and an architectural genius. And he was proud of himself in all those areas and he dwelt on that, not realizing that he was who he was because of the grace of God, that he was who he was because God gave him every single ability, everything he had was not there because of who and what Nebuchadnezzar was, but because of who and what God was.
And that is the issue for many Gentiles and many unbelievers, is that they are operating on arrogance and it takes a crisis to get their attention off of themselves and off of ultimate realities. And that's generally what has happened in our nation in the last two weeks, is that we have been hit with this terrorist attack, and it should get everybody's attention and it should get people to think not in terms of their own self-absorbed details of life and all the problems they might have but a recognition that life is tenuous, a recognition there is no real security based on anything among the details of life. A national entity cannot provide real security, no matter how great our technology is, no matter how much money we have, no matter how great our education system is, no matter which political party is in the White House, security can't come from anything inside of creation. Security can only come from God and we can only have mental security and a relaxed mental attitude when we are in right relationship with God and understand and can apply doctrine.
So with Nebuchadnezzar God, at this initial stage of the times of the Gentiles, is going to show how he is going to work through the Gentiles, how He is going to bring about conviction of God-consciousness and make the gospel clear. So He is going to emphasize this operation and in this we see how God the Holy Spirit worked to bring Nebuchadnezzar to salvation. A major doctrine that this chapter explains is the sovereignty of God and in that we are going to see how God works within history, without violating human volition in order to bring about His plan and purposes. This is a fantastic chapter for understanding how the volition of man is not violated by a sovereign God, but the whole principle here that God is teaching Nebuchadnezzar is the principle that God is the one in authority, not man. It's not about us, it's about God's plan and God is the one who rules the universe, not man.
So what we see here is that Nebuchadnezzar is inside of the kingdom of man, he is the head of the kingdom of man and God is going to use an interesting approach in order to convert him. First, we see that He took a long period of time; He took over 30 years before Nebuchadnezzar finally responded with positive volition to the gospel and in that process God used multiple means to get his attention. And He did it through four young Jewish men who grew up and were administrators in his kingdom. We saw that it takes the Holy Spirit, He used different methods, it took Him over 20 years, and finally He has to zero in on the point of Nebuchadnezzar's weakness, his finiteness. Not the fact that Nebuchadnezzar is a sinner, now we're going to see a passage when we get down here where Daniel is going to make an issue out of sin, but it is not sin in a general sense, it's not Nebuchadnezzar's immorality, it focuses on one sin and that is his power lust, his arrogance. That's the issue, it doesn't have to do with all the other sins that everybody might focus on; it focuses on that one core sin which is Nebuchadnezzar's arrogance. He thinks that he has all that he has due to his own ability and God is going to make clear to him that he is limited, he's finite and he's incapable of being the source of his own happiness, prosperity and success.
So the issue that we see here, the principle we wrapped up with last time is that we see in this that man by man's efforts cannot solve man's problems. Nebuchadnezzar has a major problem here in terms of his response to this dream. It has left him fearful, anxious, he's having all sorts of other mental attitude sin and he can't solve his problem and none of the administrators in the kingdom can solve the problem, and we stopped at verse 8 where we see the solution coming in the door.
Daniel 4:8, "But finally Daniel came in before me," tells us that Daniel waited for the right time. Perhaps he was engaged in some other operation around, taking care of some other responsibility, we don't know why he was not called in, we can speculate that it's very possible that Nebuchadnezzar didn't wait for Daniel because he had an idea, based on previous experience, what Daniel was going to say, and like many unbelievers, the last thing they want to hear is divine viewpoint. They are going to do anything they can, they're going to exhaust every avenue possible in order to find someone, some where with some idea, some concept that is going to solve their problem and make life work without having to turn to God exhaustively, without having to put exclusive faith in God. So finally Daniel comes in. Now remember Nebuchadnezzar is writing this chapter; this is an after-action report as it were. He is telling the story of how he was saved and this went out as a decree that was proclaimed by his heralds throughout the empire so that everyone in the land heard the gospel.
So he has explained the problem, how no one could solve the problem, "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." Now he calls him Belteshazzar because that was the name that Nebuchadnezzar had initially given Daniel. When the Jewish boys were brought over as hostages in 605 BC they were going to be reeducated, that means their thinking was going to be completely renovated according to the system of thought that dominated in Babylon and they were going to be taught all about the gods and goddesses in the Babylonian pantheon and since their names all had something to do with the God of the Jews, their names were going to be replaced with names that had something to do with the gods of the Babylonians.
"Belteshazzar" means may Bel protect his life, so Nebuchadnezzar is reminding us subtly here that he had formerly been devoted to these gods, "whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god," and what he means by that is the former name of my god, my god at that time. He is not making a statement here that Bel or Marduk, who is the name of the God, Bel Marduk, is still his god, that becomes clear from what he says at the end of the chapter. He's referring to the fact that at that time that he had named Daniel, that was the god he worshipped. "…and in whom," that is in Daniel, "is a spirit of the holy gods," and this is the term ruach Elohim and it should be translated "in whom is the Spirit of the holy God." And he's talking about the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit was the one who enabled Daniel to be able to interpret the dreams. Daniel was one of the few people in the Old Testament who had the Holy Spirit.
Now it wasn't an indwelling of the Holy Spirit like we have today; it was different, we call it the enduement, it was an empowerment for a leadership purpose. Whatever the function of the individual was within the nation Israel, if they were a king then it was to enable them in their rulership capacity. If it was a priest it was to enable them in their priestly capacity. If their job was one of the craftsmen, goldsmith, silversmith, carpenters building the tabernacle, later the temple, then God the Holy Spirit gave them skill at producing in their arena of service in the temple or in the tabernacle. The Holy Spirit was not given for the spiritual life. The spiritual life in the Old Testament was based simply on the faith rest drill, simply trusting the promises of God; it was not energized by God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, because there is so much doctrine that they couldn't understand apart from the Holy Spirit, that's one reason that in the Old Testament there were so many picture references and that so much of the Old Testament was taught through physical objects. God does not have anything in the Old Testament quite comparable to the mechanics that are revealed through the Apostle Paul or through the Apostle John or Peter in the epistles of the New Testament, because they didn't possess the Holy Spirit. They just had a human spirit and therefore they could only understand doctrine to a certain level, but they didn't possess the Holy Spirit in a sanctifying ministry, in a sanctifying sense, only in relationship to the leadership of the nation. Therefore there were less than 100 people in the Old Testament that ever had any kind of relationship with God the Holy Spirit. Daniel was one of them and that's why he could prophesy and that's why he could explain and interpret these dreams.
Daniel 4:9, "O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians," this is Nebuchadnezzar addressing him, that was the role that Daniel had from the Aramaic word chartom, indicating that he was the chief of the astrologers, so it's like he is the chief of staff or head of what we would call the Presidential cabinet. Of all of his advisors, Daniel was the foremost. So that tells us that there must have been some sort of violation of protocol for Nebuchadnezzar to have started interrogating all the other astrologers and all the other Chaldeans before Daniel got there, because he bypassed Daniel in the chain of command. Finally when Daniel gets there, and that tells us that that was part of timing; timing is everything and so Daniel waited so that Nebuchadnezzar would realize the bankruptcy and emptiness of the human viewpoint system.
Once again he had to make that point clear; it was made clear back in Daniel 2 with the first dream; Nebuchadnezzar told the advisors, he said now you have to tell me the dream and its interpretation. Nobody could do it and that emphasized that human viewpoint is absolutely bankrupt when it comes to ultimately solving man's problem. So this time, because Nebuchadnezzar wasn't asking them to tell him the dream Daniel held back so that everybody else would have a chance and Nebuchadnezzar would once again realize that all the human viewpoint systems were empty, they couldn't do anything.
So now Nebuchadnezzar is flattering Daniel, he recognizes Daniel's testimony, and that God has exalted him in the past. "…I know that a Spirit of the Holy God is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell me the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation." So Daniel has been a faithful witness, he has been faithful to God, he has never compromised and so he has the respect of Nebuchadnezzar.
And that reminds us that we are not ever promoted in any position in life unless God first promotes us. That's the promotion that counts, not getting involved in something where we're into self-promotion. Daniel did not promote himself, he simply did and performed in his area of responsibility; he did it to the best of his ability and he was faithful to God and he let God give him the increase and let God promote him. Daniel 4:10, Nebuchadnezzar goes on to explain the dream. "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." Now let's read the whole description first.
Daniel 4:11, "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.  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 creature fed themselves from it." Now here we have the image of a tree with all of these creatures benefiting from it, it's foliage is beautiful, its fruit is abundant, it's productive, and there are various creatures, the birds, the beasts, all benefit from the shade and the produce of this tree. Now how do we know what this tree means? We live in an era when people get the idea and you'll often hear this objection that the Bible can mean just about anything, can't it. Isn't there always somebody that comes along and says well how do you know what the Bible means, there's 10, 15, 20 different interpretations; people can just make the Bible mean whatever they want it to mean.
The first point I want to show you is that you can't do that, there are definite rules, even within the Scripture, for interpreting the Scriptures and we have to compare Scripture with Scripture in order to understand how to interpret these symbols when symbols are used. For example, "tree" is often used of an individual, for example in Psalm 1 it talks about the one who meditates on God's Word is like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, but the tree here it not speaking of an individual. It's speaking of a kingdom. This is how it is used in such passages as Ezekiel 31:2-4. There we read: "Son of man, say to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and to his multitude: 'Whom are you like in greatness?  Behold, Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon with beautiful branches and forest shade, and very high; and its top was among the clouds.  The waters made it grow, the deep made it high. With its rivers it continually extended all around it planting place, and it sent out its channels to all the trees of the field." So the tree here is also used as a symbol for an empire, symbol of a monarchy, that a kingdom provides protection and sustenance and prosperity for its people. This is further illustrated in the New Testament.
Matthew 13:31-32, in the midst of the kingdom parables Jesus refers to a tree. Here Scripture says, "He presented another parable to them, saying, The kingdom o heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field,  and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." Notice, you have some of the same elements here that you have over in Daniel 4, you have a tree, it mentions about the birds of the air nesting in its branches, and it's providing protection. What we see in Matthew 13:31-32 is that the kingdom of God is presented as a geo-political kingdom on the earth, and the same thing is true in Daniel 4, and that makes a point, that is, that the kingdom of the Messiah is going to be just as much a physical geo-political kingdom as the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar was. It's not some spiritual kingdom where Jesus is reigning as an absentee landlord in heaven but it will be a literal physical kingdom.
Now a point I want to make is that in interpretation you have to compare Scripture with Scripture, you can't just look at a symbol and then in some sort of independent autonomous method just go out and say well, I think this ought to mean such and so, and just assign some arbitrary meaning to that symbol. Whenever people do that what they're basically saying is that meaning in any kind of communication is purely relative and random. And see, that's at the core of the complaint. You're going to hear this, somebody who thinks they're an intellectual, they're really a pseudo-intellectual, is going to come along and say well the Bible has 20-30 different interpretations, I can read a hundred different interpretations, how can you say that your interpretation is right. And see, there's an inherent fallacy, don't even bother answering that question. Don't try to prove yourself. Remember I keep saying that there are certain questions that unbelievers are going to ask and if you answer them you're legitimatizing a false question and you're basically answering a question similar to the question, have you stopped beating your wife lately. If you answer yes then you're admitting you did or you stopped, you were beating her, and if you say no you're still beating her. However you answer it you're in trouble.
And see the problem is when somebody says well, the Bible can just be made to mean anything a person wants it to mean, they're making a statement about the meaning of language and fluidity of language. What they're basically saying is that any utterance, not just the Bible, any utterance can be made to mean anything somebody wants it to mean, and if that's true, then what they just said, you can twist it to make it mean the opposite. The problem is that to make a statement like that about the interpretation of the Bible being subjective and that anybody can make it mean anything they want to contains a subtle fallacy and that is the assumption that language is so malleable, so fluid that it can mean anything to anybody. But if that were true, then the very statement that you can't really know what the Bible means is subject to the same rule of interpretation. And therefore that statement could mean anything to anyone. So that statement is just as meaningless as that person wants to say the Bible is.
Do you understand what I'm saying? When somebody says that language can be made to mean anything you want it to mean, then why doesn't that apply to that statement that they're making. They can't live on that basis and what we have to do to respond to that is point out the fallacy inherent in that objection because if they really believe that any form of communication, whether it was written or whether it was verbal could be interpreted any number of ways then they wouldn't read anything, they wouldn't write anything and they would have to quit talking. But they can't live like that. So you do have controls in the Scripture which tell us how to interpret the Bible and so we look at other passages and we understand that a tree indicates a kingdom and a tree emphasize the blessing of that kingdom to those who are protected by it.
Back in Daniel 4:13, Nebuchadnezzar goes on to say something else that gives us some new information about angelology, "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." Now this will be repeated in verse 23, but the principle is the same. He uses a unique term here for "watcher." In Nebuchadnezzar's administrative organization of the kingdom, he was in some ways he foreshadowed what the Soviets would do whenever they would set up… when they would divide up the administration of the Soviet Union they would have a political head and then they would have a communist party head who was sort of their watcher, who would report on them to the authorities that they weren't good communists. And so Nebuchadnezzar had the same kind of thing, he had divided up his kingdom into various regions and each region was subdivided, and only did he have political leaders but he had watchers there in order to make sure that the people who he had placed in government positions were doing the job and were loyal to him.
So when he uses this word "watcher angels" it's going to come into play in Daniel 12 where we learn that there are certain angels related to certain kingdoms, that there are political subdivisions and for each political subdivision among the kingdom of man there are angels assigned who are responsible for carrying out God's commands related to that national entity or to that territory or to that subgroup. So we learn here that there are "watcher angels" who are God's intermediaries. Remember both the Hebrew term mal'ak and the Greek term aggelos refer to angels, refer to messengers, so that's their role, is to carry out God's plan and God's development in human history. So Nebuchadnezzar says he "was looking in the visions in his mind," which is interesting because he doesn't say in his heart but in his mind, one of the few places in the Old Testament which talks about thinking going on in the mind, which indicates they're not as primitive as people think, they understood that thought took place in the brain, not down in the chest; heart was just a figurative word for the center of the soul.
"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." Now another passage that relates to the "watcher angel" is in Zechariah 1:10-11, the term "watcher" isn't used there but it's the same idea, "And the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered and said, 'These are those whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth," these are angels who patrol the earth, carrying out the mission that God has assigned to them. Verse 11, "So they answered the angel of the LORD," who is the preincarnate Jesus Christ, "who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, 'We have patrolled the earth, and, behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet.'" So God has watcher angels who are patrolling the earth, who carry out His responsibilities toward man.
So any time you see major things taking place in human history there are angelic forces behind it. Now that doesn't mean that the angels are making it happen, but that means that there are certain plays that are taking place where the angels are involved in the process, and so this event that takes place in Nebuchadnezzar, here's the king of the most powerful state in the ancient world is going to be reduced to a psychotic state of an animal in a psychotic disease they call boanthropy where he acts like an animal, eats food, he has the mind of an animal, and he is going to be reduced to that state and that is going to be used by God in order to bring about his salvation and probably the salvation of many others. So this angelic watcher comes up and we see behind the scenes what takes place that influences the affairs of man.
Daniel 4:14, "He shouted," that means he cried out, it's a piel in the Aramaic, the angel cries out, he yells out, he shouts an order, and he says, "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," so it's indicating that protective aspect of the kingdom of Babylon was going to be destroyed. There would be a seven year period of national instability. There would be chaos inside the nation. But notice that even though this kingdom was going to be rent asunder and that there would be a period of instability there is still grace in action, God is not going to destroy it. It would have been very easy for someone to execute a civil war or a coup against Nebuchadnezzar during this, I mean, he's out in the yard eating grass and sleeping under the trees and he's not in the palace running the government, and it would have been very easy for someone to have gone out there and mistaken him for a buck on opening day and taken him out, but God is going to protect him and this is revealed in the next verse.
Daniel 4:15, "Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground," there's going to be something remain of this kingdom, "leave the stump with its roots in the ground," and life will come back into this stump, "but with a band of iron and bronze around it," that means it would be restrained, there would be no growth of the kingdom during this period of discipline, "with a brand 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." So this is what will happen, notice how it changes, "leave the stump" and then it shifts from talking about the tree to talking about him, it shifts using a third person masculine singular. "…let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth."
Now all of these are commands in the Aramaic. It starts off with a piel imperative, and then it's followed with imperfects which indicate a continuation of that imperative force of the verb, so these are commands that this watcher angel is giving. Daniel 4:16, "Let his mind" that is his thinking, "be changed from that of a man, and let a beast's mind be given to him," in other words, what's going to happen here, his rational faculties as a human being are going to be exchanged for that of an animal. He is going to think like an animal, because of his arrogance God is going to cause him to go through an extended period of psychosis that is part of his discipline in order to get his attention. See, God is involved in the lives of people; God judges people, He brings adversity into their lives in order to get their attention so that they can respond positively to grace.
For some reason, and especially in the last two weeks, I've heard people say I can't really believe in a God that would judge a nation, and they've said that in response to the fact that several pastors have made comments that perhaps the attack on America was part of divine judgment. People do not like the integrity of God and once again we see the integrity of God is being made an issue and people in this country are rejecting it, they don't want to think of God as a God who holds people accountable to absolutes. And so there is this tendency to reject that and to say well, that's not the kind of God I believe in. The kind of God I believe in doesn't judge people. But this isn't just some arbitrary mean-spirited judgment. This is designed to get Nebuchadnezzar's attention and to focus it on the real issue during the time of the Gentiles, which is the character of God, the integrity of God, the sovereignty of God, that God is the One who is in control of the affairs of all of our lives, it's not about our plan, it's about His plan, it's not about our agenda, it's about His agenda.
So Nebuchadnezzar is going to be given the thinking of a beast. And then in conclusion it says, "…and let seven periods of time pass over him." So that means that this is going to last for a period of seven years. So his daily routine is going to consist of wandering around the beautiful gardens that he's constructed, grazing off of all of the shrubs that he's planted, eating the grass on the beautifully manicured lawns and everybody is going to come by and talk about poor old Nebuchadnezzar, wonder what happened to him and they're going to all make fun of him as he's out there sleeping in the rain and groveling in the dirt and just grunting and groaning like an animal. There is a disease called boanthropy that is something like this, and there have been cases where people have done this and lived off of grass for several years so this is possible, there's nothing necessarily supernatural about what happens; what is supernatural is the timing of it and its coming upon Nebuchadnezzar, having been announced by God that if he would not turn to Him, respond to positive volition at God-consciousness, then God would judge him.
Daniel 4:17 "This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers, and the decision is a command of the holy ones," and here's the purpose, "in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind," that's the point, it's not God just randomly being mean to people, not just God randomly disciplining people but in order to demonstrate something about who God is and His character, "that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and He bestows it on whom He wishes, and sets over it the lowliest of man." The point is grace, the point is teaching that everything in life is grace, everything we have in life is grace, everything that is given to us, from our natural abilities and talents, whatever details of life we have, nothing ultimately comes for our own abilities. Nebuchadnezzar had great abilities but God's saying that's not what gave this to him, ultimately what made him wealthy, what made him powerful, what gave him everything he has, was God's grace, God's sovereign will.
Daniel 4:18, "This is the dream which I, King Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the wise men in my kingdom is able to make know to me the interpretation," human viewpoint is inadequate. Man, by man's efforts, cannot solve man's problems. "…none of the wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you."
Now look at Daniel's response, Daniel 4:19, "Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while," this is the hithpael perfect of shemam? Which means to be desolated, to be awestruck, to be overwhelmed by this situation. "…he was overwhelmed for a while as his thoughts alarmed him," and this second verb is behal, the piel imperfect which means to be disturbed, dismayed or terrified. Now notice these two words, one is to be appalled and one is to be terrified. The writer is emphasizing that Daniel almost goes into shock when he understands the import of this dream. Now here is a positive believer, here is a believer who is not out of fellowship and he sees something and it hits him like a ton of bricks emotionally, and he's not out of line, there is nothing wrong with having an emotional response to horrible events. Sometimes we get the idea that if you're a believer and you're on…[tape turns]
…when something terrible happens, you love a loved one, you lose your job, some crisis occurs, that it's not going to have a response negatively in your emotions. You're a human being, we're going to suffer sorrow, we're going to have grief, we're going to want to respond with anger, that's the test, we have those emotional responses and the test is how we handle them. Anybody who has half a sense of patriotism and compassion for people who witnessed the events of two weeks ago should be deeply disturbed emotionally, this should bother us. It's sad, it's horrible. We go through grief, but how we handle that as believers is radically different from how an unbeliever handles it. See Nebuchadnezzar tells a dream to Daniel and Daniel is shocked, he's appalled, he is disturbed, he's terrified. Now that doesn't mean he's got a sin of fear, because he knows God's in control and that's what it's all about, but he sees what a devastating crisis this is going to be for the nation. And now he's going to learn how God is going to respond because God's grace is going to be manifest in the next seven years in keeping the nation together.
So Daniel finally responds, it takes a while and the king has to prod him a little bit and says, "The king responded and said, Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you, [and its interpretation to your adversaries]," and here we have a lamed of reference which is like a dative of disadvantage in the Greek, and it's the idea if the dream only applied with reference to those that hate you and its interpretation was with reference to your adversaries, this is so horrible we would wish this on our enemies, but not on you, O king. And he's well mannered and he recognizes the authority of Nebuchadnezzar, even though Nebuchadnezzar is an unbeliever and out of line and in arrogance he still refers to him as "my lord." What we're going to see here is God's grace is still going to protect Nebuchadnezzar even in the midst of this crisis.
So Daniel explains, Daniel 4:20, "The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth,  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—,  it is you, O king," that reminds of what he said to Nebuchadnezzar about the head of gold, "you are the head of gold," this tree is "you O king" and your empire, "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." This doesn't mean that he literally ruled all the earth but his dominion extended to the known world at that time. So he makes this announcement and he identifies the king with the tree.
Then he goes on in verse 23, "And 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 period of time pass over him;  this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord, the king:  that you be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place be with the bests 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." See, this is the point, Nebuchadnezzar in God-consciousness has been rejecting the authority of God and before he can get to salvation he has to recognize the authority of God and that God exists. Up to this point he's just viewed the God of Daniel, the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego as one among all the other gods. But he has to be brought to this point and so God is going to put him through this adversity test and make the point.
In Daniel 4:26 Daniel is going to remind him of grace, you still have a chance Nebuchadnezzar, "And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, y our kingdom will e assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules." Now look at the appeal of Daniel in verse 27, "Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you, break away now from your sins by doing righteousness," see he's not calling him, "break away from your sins, your immorality, adultery," whatever it was, that's not the issue, it's made clear here that the sin has to do with his arrogant use of power, he thinks that he is the center of the universe and he has to become humble under the authority of God; those are the sins that are the issue. "…break away not 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." There's grace and there is the opportunity that if Nebuchadnezzar had responded to this command, then the dream would not have come true.
It's the same potential that happens in Genesis 6 when Noah is preaching for 120 years that if people will turn to God or else they will be judged in the flood. If all those people had turned to God, God would either not had to give the flood or he would have to let everybody start building boats. The point is that in the sovereignty of God there's not fatalism, God announces this but even in His prophecy that this is what will happen there is still the freedom for Nebuchadnezzar to turn to God and to stop the fulfillment of that prophecy. So God's sovereign reigns in human history but not at the expense of human volition and individual responsibility. But Nebuchadnezzar was negative, he was arrogant, he refused to respond to the crisis so that when he went through his crisis, instead of humbling himself to God and turning to the Lord and responding to grace, he continued in his arrogant actions just as if nothing had happened, and he does feel the consequences.
Daniel 2:28, "All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.  Twelve months later he is walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon.  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?" And just then,  "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,  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." And so this transpired.
Daniel 2:33, "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 eagle's feathers and his nails like bird claws," and he's just living out there with the sheep and the cattle in the field. And this went by for seven years and it is only due to the grace of God that there wasn't some palace coup that ripped the kingdom from him. But eventually, at the end of that period, God in His grace restored Nebuchadnezzar's rational faculties to him, and Nebuchadnezzar submitted to the authority of God, not because God forced his volition but because God brought to bear circumstances that would bring Nebuchadnezzar to a point of responding to grace, God knows what it takes for each and every person if and when they will respond positively to the gospel.
He is going to do whatever it takes to bring any person who will respond positively to the gospel to that point. If somebody doesn't respond positively to the gospel, then that means that under no condition would they ever respond positively to the gospel, no pressure would be great enough. See, some people you could beat them over the head with a 2x4 for the next 200 years and they would never accept the gospel; their heart is completely set against it, they're negative. But others, while they may seem negative, they will, under certain conditions respond, and if they're positive and if they would be positive, because God doesn't want anyone lost, God takes everybody through the situation that will bring them to salvation.
We read about Nebuchadnezzar's salvation in Daniel 3:43, "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.  And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will among the host" that is the armies, "of heaven," see, that's his admission that he's moved away from polytheism because in polytheism where you have all the many different gods, at any different year another god is in ascendancy, no god could be in complete control forever and ever, so here, by saying that God rules among "the host of heaven" he indicates that he has rejected his polytheism and he has accepted the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. "…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 hast Thou done?"  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 sovereign, and surpassing greatness was added to me." So he is restored to his position that he had at the beginning, and now he is a believer.
He says in Daniel 4:37, "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." So Nebuchadnezzar responded positively to the gospel. So over the scope of these first four chapters of Daniel we have seen how God works to bring a Gentile to salvation in the times of the Gentiles and how it takes time and how the Holy Spirit uses different means and different people in order to make that clear.
Now we might ask, why didn't Nebuchadnezzar seem to have a greater impact from his testimony? First of all, we don't know what that impact was. Secondly, we know that this occurred at the end of his reign and so he might not have had the time. But it certainly was not in God's plan or purpose in order to establish the kingdom of God at that time. Man cannot do it, and if we were to take the time to look at passages in Acts 17 and in 1 Timothy we recognize that God rules in the affairs of man and that it will not be until Jesus Christ returns that God's kingdom will be established, and during this dispensation the issue is the character of God, His integrity, and His authority.