What would you say needs to change regarding the American church? How would you answer that question? I would like to make a strong biblical argument that what the American church needs the most is to repent of their sin and turn back to their first love.
Make no mistake about it, the primary problem for the Jews who were in exile in Babylon was that they had forgotten God and pursued after idols. God used the Babylonian Empire to bring judgment and hopefully to lead his people into repentance.
DA Carson, one of my professors from Trinity writes this, “People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” Repentance is a gift from our holy God and we desperately need it.
Passage: Daniel 4
19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and this 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, hand your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
God’s sovereignty is meant to encourage believers living in a Babylonian culture
I believe this is one of the main themes in the book of Daniel. It would have been completely understandable if the Jews who were in exile to have wondered what in the world God was up to. Truth be known, they should have figured out after all the prophets had warned Israel that they were in exile because of their rebellion against God. The Israelites were slow to learn. They are a lot like you and me.
How is God’s sovereignty being revealed in Daniel 4? King Nebuchadnezzar was absolutely filled with pride. He was responsible for building two ancient wonders of the world, the hanging gardens and the walls of Babylon. Both were massive and absolutely amazing. Nebuchadnezzar was the single most powerful man on earth and this point in time. In one second Nebuchadnezzar goes from being the most powerful man in the world to being humbled by living as if he were an ox. This demonstration of power by God reminded the Jews that their God was in control at all times.
It is also a reminder for you and me today that even though the pandemic is still raging, the political world is broken, that God is still in control. We should not be a people of fear, worry and anxiety. When people look at us they should see people who are hopeful and filled with joy because our God is good and he rules over the entire universe.
God will disturb our comfortable life to lead us to repentance
Nebuchadnezzar had the good life. He had all the money, power and fame that a person could ever hope for. Then God speaks to the king through a dream. Daniel must be brought in to interpret the dream. Basically God was warning Nebuchadnezzar that he is going to lose everything if he does not repent. 12 months go by and the king does not take the Word of God seriously. Nebuchadnezzar is humbled and made to live like an ox for seven years.
This reminds me of the story in Luke 12 where Jesus warns people about living for temporary pleasures by talking about the rich fool. In verse 19 we read this: Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays treasure up for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Are you pouring out your life for the good of others?
Are you tithing and giving generously?
How are you approaching retirement? The number one question you should be asking if you are thinking about retirement or if you are retired is this, how can I use these days for the good of others and for the glory of God?
God wants to use us in the lives of people who are in spiritual danger
God strategically placed Daniel in king Nebuchadnezzar’s life to point him to his great need for God. God has likewise placed each one of us where we are so that we can point people to Jesus.
Who are you reaching out to? Who are you discipling? (One of the most important questions Christians can ask and answer). Can we really say we are followers of Jesus if we are not obeying the Great Commission?
God’s people must be characterized by lives of deep worship
In verses 34-35 we find out how Nebuchadnezzar responds to his great humiliation.
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 she 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?”
Nebuchadnezzar’s understanding of the power and greatness of God led him to worship God. I believe this reveals that the king finally God it and embraced Yahweh as the one true God.
What are you worshipping these days? Are you drawing closer to Jesus or would you say that you have spiritually plateaued? Let’s all recommit to seeking after Jesus with all of our heart.