DUNCAN/Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the tree
Please turn in your Bible to Daniel 4:1-37. In chapter 4, we see an outline of the process of repentance. Specifically, we see God pursuing a soul until it deals with the sins which are blocking confession and repentance towards God, and we see a soul captured and acknowledging repentance and confessing the Lordship of God. There is much we can learn from this passage. First, we learn that God will have every knee bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Secondly, we see that God pursues the root sin of pride that we might confess Him. Thirdly, we learn that God must break the sinner of pride and self-will before true confession can be made. Fourthly and finally, we see that a true confession of God's Lordship is always accompanied by true repentance.
I. God Will Have Every Knee Bow and Every Tongue Confess that He is Lord.
In verses 1-18, we see the confession that is to be made by all men regarding the sovereignty of God. In verses 2-3 Nebuchadnezzar makes an initial confession that the God of Israel is indeed sovereign over all the earth. After witnessing the failure of his magicians to provide him with an answer, Daniel comes before Nebuchadnezzar to provide him with an interpretation of his dream. In verses 8-9, we see both Nebuchadnezzar's trust in Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar's fear of Daniel. On the one hand, he is a little bit frightened of the kind of influence that Daniel may have over him. But at the same time, we see that Nebuchadnezzar knows that Daniel will tell him the truth. Then, in verses 10-18, we see that Nebuchadnezzar seems to be hoping that Daniel will give him an interpretation, which will explain away his fears.
There are two things in particular for us to learn in the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s confession and open letter about his dream. First, note that this dream is primarily designed to bring Nebuchadnezzar to his knees and bring about his confession of the Lord's sovereignty. This dream has a purpose which is to make Nebuchadnezzar bow his knee to the Lord God. Secondly, we see two entirely different reactions to God's providence in verses 1-18. It is possible that the reason that Nebuchadnezzar hoped for an interpretation for this dream from his own magicians was that he believed if he could understand what the dream meant that he could actually do things that would keep the truth of the dream from coming about. But as far as Daniel is concerned there are no questions about the fulfillment of God's providence. So we see a contrast between the pagan view and the Christian or biblical view of God’s providence. The pagan view asks, “How can I manipulate God's plan?” The Christian view asks, “How do I respond in accordance with the message of God's providence?” If God’s providential message is “you must repent”, then the believer asks, “How do I go about doing that in a way to honor God’s providence?” If God’s providential message is “you will be blessed”, then the Christian asks, “How do I go about believing that God will bless despite evidence to the contrary?”
II. God Pursues the Root Sin of Pride that We Might Confess Him.
In verses 19-27, we see an admonition from Daniel even as he explains this dream to Nebuchadnezzar. This confrontation between Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 is one of the great contests of biblical history. And we see a couple of things in this contest. First, we see Nebuchadnezzar's insensitivity to the spiritual gravity of God’s message in contrast to Daniel’s sensitivity and broken-heartedness to the same message. Daniel’s sensitivity to what God is saying in this dream is extremely heightened precisely because he is close to God. Secondly, we also witness Nebuchadnezzar's sense of self-importance contrasted with God’s judgment of him. The very picture of this gigantic tree with its branches spread throughout all the earth is a picture of Nebuchadnezzar’s own self-estimation. But in the cutting down of the tree, we see a picture of Nebuchadnezzar under God’s hand of judgment. Nothing breaks down pride like a view of God's sovereignty. God’s sovereignty brings those who are puffed up in pride and self-righteousness to the Lord so that they might be humble and cast their hope on the Lord. God's sovereignty is His great evangelistic tool.
III. God Must Break the Sinner of Pride and Self-will Before True Confession Can Be Made.
In verses 28-33, we see a picture of a broken sinner who has been humbled under the Lord's hand. Even after Daniel interpreted that dream, Nebuchadnezzar failed to repent, and many months later, he is walking in Babylon, and surveying all the wonderful things that he had built. But as he is speaking about these amazing things that he has done; a voice comes to him and he is humbled. When we fail to honor the Creator-creature distinction, when we fail to acknowledge that God is God and we are not, when we refuse to acknowledge that everything we have comes from the Lord and that apart from the Lord we would be nothing, we are setting ourselves up to be humbled, and that is precisely what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. You cannot receive grace if you spiritually do not think you need it. God must deal with us there first before we are in a state to embrace His grace.
IV. True Confession of God's Lordship is Always Accompanied By True Repentance.
Finally in verses 34-37, we see a picture of Nebuchadnezzar's repentance which reminds us that confessing God to be sovereign Lord is always accompanied by true repentance. Notice that there are four elements in Nebuchadnezzar's confession. In verses 34- 35, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges that God is the sovereign Lord. In verse 35, he also acknowledges that man is creaturely. In those very words, he is repenting of his pride. In verse 37, he confesses that God is truthful and righteous. God's penalty against Nebuchadnezzar had been severe. God had left him as a deranged man who lost the reins of power and Nebuchadnezzar, even in spite of that judgment, basically is saying in verse 37, “God, judgment against me was right.” Repentance always recognizes that God has done exactly what was right and good. And finally in verse 37, he states that refrain which we hear in the book of Proverbs 3:34 that “God resists the proud.” When a person repents, he acknowledges the sovereignty of God, the creatureliness of man, the rightness of God's judgment and God's resistance to the proud, and that He always gives grace to those who are humbled. Can we turn from our pride and humble ourselves before the Lord? God desires humble servants who have embraced God's sovereignty, not just in their head, but in their heart in the experience of life. May the Lord, by the power of his Holy Spirit, make it so with all of us.