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Lowell Brueckner

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A Kingly Conversion


The Book of the Prophet Daniel

“… some stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire!” Hebrews 11:33, 34

Chapter 4:19-37                               A Kingly Conversion

19.  Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, 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."

God’s providential ways are unique and not according to the patterns of men. He sent Daniel as His ambassador to Babylon and to King Nebuchadnezzar, as a captive, supernaturally equipped with wisdom and a gift for interpreting spiritual messages. The enemy tried desperately to thwart the Lord’s purpose and neutralize His elected vessel in this godless society.

We have seen how the devil attempted to compromise his testimony by placing him under a pagan education, and even wanted to compromise his eating habits. For most of the time up to this point, he managed to keep this most useful servant for the king, potentially, ignored in the background. The chief of the eunuchs changed his name, Daniel, “judgment of God” to Belteshazzar, “the prince or treasure of Bel or Baal”, and thereby marred his godly identity.

The sovereign God, however, had a most faithful man prepared and nothing would stand in His way. He is not just a step above the other pagan officials, but “ten times better” (1:20). In the proper time, Daniel is brought out of the shadows to stand before the emperor. In verse 19, we learn that Nebuchadnezzar has not forgotten his original name, which in itself is a personal testimony and particularly relative to the message that he now brings to the king. The king is ripe for God’s judgment.

That which God has prepared for Nebuchadnezzar is very severe, but no more than what is absolutely necessary. We have already seen his hardness of heart in the first chapters. When we learn the depravity and extreme arrogance of the human heart, particularly evident in one, who has savored such power, we should not be surprised at the level of judgment dealt to him. Even hell is too good for a fallen, mutinous human race. That must be the doctrinal position of every true Christian and, if we understand that, we will see wonderful mercy in what He has in store for this king.

A prophet is only a prophet of God, if his heart is intricately involved with his message. He must have compassion for his hearers or readers. Only in this way can he properly lay God’s word before them and cause it to penetrate deeply. Isaiah called these prophesies oracles, meaning burdens, which weighed upon the bearer. Daniel’s feelings for his emperor are very touching: He was “dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him.”  When Nebuchadnezzar urged and encouraged him to relay the message, Daniel exclaims, "My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!” There are reasons that Jesus taught us to love our enemies and in this paragraph we are learning of one reason, as we look at the captive, loving his captor.

You, Daniel interprets, are this beautiful, fruitful tree. Its height has “grown and become strong”, reaching to the heavens and influencing the entire world. Daniel turns to the message of the “watcher” and we see that this angelic messenger is declaring a decree from the Most High. God Himself has declared judgment against the emperor. The prophet quotes the message almost verbatim, emphasizing the significance of each detail.

Insanity, he tells the king, will drive you and separate you even from the lowest of human companionship. It will make you like an animal, living in the open country, unprotected from the morning dew, eating grass like an ox. Seven full cycles of time means that his condition will remain for seven years. Everything in the prophecy is literal.

One of the signs that distinguish a convicting warning of the Holy Spirit from a condemning temptation of Satan is that the Spirit of God leaves light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, Daniel offers the king an immediate remedy: “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."

The king is not yet ready to receive the Good News of repentance and faith. Remember this, if you intend to be a God-called evangelist (And evangelism is something that every Christian is called to do.). We encounter the same spiritual condition in the person on the street in the 21st Century. The natural man by himself, can never respond positively to the gospel… he cannot. It is not just difficult for him; it is impossible! Please learn this!

The Apostle Paul makes that crystal clear in his letter to the Romans (3:10-18). Why is this fact so often ignored? Why have we forgotten the ways of Scripture, of Christ, Paul, the reformers, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, C. H. Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and every other God-taught evangelist?

Paul continues to teach that God gave the law to define sin and give the sinner conviction of his own sin. He learns that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). The commandments show that sin is sinful beyond measure (7:13). The law, under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit (Jn.16:8; Ac.24:25), must do its work first to prepare the heart to receive the gospel. Therefore, Jesus said, “All the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John” (Mt.11:13). John was the forerunner: the gospel must have a forerunner.

The prevenient grace of God breaks, molds and softens the hard heart of the sinner. Invariably, he must see his proud attitude against God and humbly surrender, trusting only in the Lord. Daniel would have him repent now and he gives him the opportunity, but Nebuchadnezzar’s breaking will take seven years… not a day more or less. He must first learn “that heaven rules”. The old trunk will be cut down, stripped of its branches and leaves, and all his old confidences will flee from him. The old tree is left to rot, but new life springs from the roots. This is the gospel and the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Hope, makes it known through Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar! 

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. 
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. 

“All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar.” One of the proofs that God has given us, concerning the veracity of the Bible and of its divine authorship, is the fulfillment of prophecy. Jesus said, “I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he” (Jn.13:19). In this chapter, it only took 12 months for the word to come to pass, but we have hundreds of prophecies concerning the Messiah, given many centuries before, that literally were fulfilled. Prophecies are becoming realities right up to this 21st Century and many more will come to pass in the future… perhaps a very near future. We await them!

The unregenerate man sheds divine truth like the proverbial water off a duck’s back. Nebuchadnezzar has let truth fade and disappear repeatedly, but the Lord is in the truth and, regardless how men handle it, it will unfailingly hold its position: “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Ro.3:4). We don’t know, whether or not he did anything at all with Daniel’s plea for him to repent, but in verse 29 and 30, it is very clear that he is not a repentant man and is obsessed with pride.

Jesus said, “Truly (Amen), I say to you, unless you turn (repent or convert) and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt.18:3). He is speaking in terms of the humility of children (18:4). Humility is a necessary condition of the heart before anyone can be saved. No one can truly repent, unless he is first humbled. God will not tolerate pride, therefore seven years of insanity have been decreed, in order to deal with the emperor’s arrogance. All his former contact with the Lord and His people have not changed his heart, but now we will see a marked difference.

“While the words were still in his mouth” judgment fell and the prophetic word that he heard one year previously is repeated. Nebuchadnezzar has reached a point, which is not humanly discernible, but marks a time, when the cup of divine wrath fills to the brim and sentence is immediately carried out. He lost his reason and became insane and like the demoniacs in Gadarene, he left human companionship and behaved as an animal. Seven years of judgment were applied to his life; seven years speaks of God’s perfection and God’s righteousness is perfect. He will fulfill His righteous judgment in the case of every unrepentant sinner. Another description is added; “his hair grew as long as eagles' feathers, and his nails were like birds' claws”. 

He finally came to the end of himself, or better yet, as Luke states concerning the prodigal, “he came to himself” (Lk.15:17). The prodigal was as irrational as the king and, let it be understood, that everyone, who walks in pride and self-will is in the same spiritual condition as the king and the prodigal. The only people, who are in their right mind are those, who surrender to their Creator and find their place at the foot of Christ’s cross.

The moment that someone humbly lifts his eyes to heaven is the moment that their reason returns to them. They begin to think righteously and start to bless, praise and honor the eternal God. The insane returns to govern, the leper begins to live among society, and the demon-possessed comes home to his loved ones.

Oh, people, God is good! He has good news for the repentant heart and heaven’s courts ring with praise, when one of earth’s inhabitants turns back to His Creator. The Lord lovingly “will restore the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). Trust is restored with former acquaintances and “still more greatness was added to me,” said the emperor. How positively wonderful is the statement that the restored emperor makes: They “sought me.” A human resolution or self-effort cannot make this happen; only spiritual rebirth will convince and restore confidence to the disillusioned or betrayed government official, the business associate or the family member. It is new life that Christ gives and He gives it abundantly. “The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it” (Pr.10:22).

How rich and powerful is the grace of God! What a mighty conversion it is, when a man, sitting in the seat of the antichrist, is reconciled to God! (I had better state immediately, the Scripture makes it clear that the final antichrist will not be reconciled.) I believe we will meet Nebuchadnezzar in heaven and he will still be telling the old, old story that we all love so well. He humbly told it to his generation and left a written record to be handed down to ours.

Let’s read it once more: “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.” Amen, Brother Nebuchadnezzar!


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