The last time: how are we living? Are we living in these last times as humble children of God, who ascribe all the glory, might, and honor to God? Or are we living as proud boastful people, who ascribe all the glory, might, and honor to ourselves? If the former is true, then we are living in these last times as we should. But if the latter is true, then we had better give heed to the vivid warning of Scripture as that is found in Daniel chapter 4.
We read in that chapter, “I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace: I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed, and the visions of my head troubled me. ” “I saw a dream.” Another dream did Nebuchadnezzar see. That is, for the second time in his life Nebuchadnezzar had received a dream sent to him by God. God sent that dream to him, when, to use Nebuchadnezzar’s own words, “I was at rest in my house and flourishing in my palace.” What those words of Nebuchadnezzar mean is that there came a time in his life, undoubtedly somewhere towards the end of it, when all his wars and when all his fightings and when all his conquests had come to an end. There were no more peoples to fight or nations to conquer. He had conquered them all. And now Nebuchadnezzar was at rest and flourishing. And that word “rest” simply means that he was at ease. There came a time in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar when he thought that he had absolutely nothing to worry about. He had done it all. He had accomplished everything that he had set out to accomplish. And now he was, so to speak, taking it easy and basking in the luxury of all that he had done.
But how wrong he was! He thought that he had nothing to worry about. But then God came. God spoke to him in a dream, and Nebuchadnezzar was “troubled.” Once again, as he had done before, he called all his wisemen before him. He recounted his dream to them; but no interpretation could his wisemen give him. And then Nebuchadnezzar called Daniel. Oh, yes, when it became apparent that his heathen, godless wisemen could not interpret the dream, then, to use the words of this chapter, “at the last” Nebuchadnezzar called Daniel. Daniel was a last resort. If his own wisemen could not satisfy Nebuchadnezzar, then he would call on Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar reminds one of King Ahab who would not seek counsel from a prophet of God until King Jehoshaphat demanded it of him. And the reason King Ahab would not seek counsel from a prophet of God was that, in Ahab’s words, “he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil.” So also was that the case here. Nebuchadnezzar waited until the very last to call Daniel, exactly because he knew from past experience that Daniel never prophesied good unto him, but always evil. And indeed he did!
To Daniel Nebuchadnezzar recounted his dream, a dream which had to do with a tree — a great tree, a strong tree, a tree the height whereof reached to heaven; a tree the sight thereof to the end of the earth; a tree whose leaves were beautiful and the fruit thereof abundant. The fowls of the heaven gathered in its branches. The beasts of the field received shade from its boughs. And all together received food therefrom. That tremendous tree Nebuchadnezzar saw. And then, having seen that tremendous tree, Nebuchadnezzar saw and heard something else that was tremendous. He saw and heard “a watcher and an holy one come down from heaven.” That is, he saw in his dream an angel sent from God who cried with a loud voice: Hew down the tree! Cut off his branches! Shake off his leaves! Scatter his fruit! But leave the stump and his roots in the earth. Do not touch that. But rather, let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts of the field. Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him until seven times pass over him!
That was the dream which Nebuchadnezzar recounted to Daniel. And we read that Daniel, when he heard the telling of that dream, was astonished and troubled. And the reason why he was astonished and troubled was that he was simply amazed at the awesome word of judgment which God would now bring upon Nebuchadnezzar. Having recovered from his state of astonishment, Daniel interpreted that dream. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar: that tree, Nebuchadnezzar, which thou didst see, that great tree, that strong tree, that tree the height thereof that reached to heaven, and the sight thereof that reached to the end of the earth, is thou, O King! You, Nebuchadnezzar, are that tree! And you are that tree which God has determined according to His decree to cut down! You will fall Nebuchadnezzar! Your mighty kingdom which you ascribe to your own efforts, will be taken away from you! You will be driven from among men! You will eat grass as the oxen! And you will do that until you recognize that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever He will! Repent Nebuchadnezzar! Put away your sins and iniquities! Show mercy to the poor! Repent before the judgment of God comes upon you!
But Nebuchadnezzar refused to repent. It is the fool who says in his heart that there is no God, and Nebuchadnezzar was a fool! He should have known that all that Daniel had told him would surely come to pass. He should have known that God is, and that He accomplishes all His good pleasure. And he did know that! He had to have known that. The ungodly reprobate are never ignorant of all of that. God never leaves Himself without witness. God had taught him all of that with respect to the first dream that He had sent to him. God had taught him all of that when He preserved the three friends in the fiery furnace. God taught Nebuchadnezzar in and through all of that that God is, and that He accomplishes all His good pleasure. Why then, the question is, did not Nebuchadnezzar acknowledge that? And having acknowledged that, repent? The answer to that question is that, exactly that, Nebuchadnezzar was a fool! A wicked, godless fool! And most of all, a proud fool!
He was a proud fool! One year went by from the time that Nebuchadnezzar had his dream. Nebuchadnezzar is walking in his palace. He looks at all the things that he had done. And he exclaims: is not this Babylon the great? Is not this Babylon the great that I have built? And that I have built by my own might and my own power, and for my own majesty? Look at it! Isn’t it wonderful? I have done it all! It is all because of me! And it is all mine, mine, mine!
But it was not. Immediately, even as he boasted in his pride, a voice cried out from heaven. Immediately all that he thought was his was taken away from him. And immediately the proud boastful Nebuchadnezzar fell. The just and horrible judgment of God came upon him. He was driven from among men. He ate grass as the oxen. The dew from heaven fell upon him: His hair grew like eagle’s feathers, and his nails like bird’s claws. The just and horrible judgment which God brought upon that proud fool of a man was this: he became insane. And insanity is indeed a fit and just punishment for a proud fool.
There are many such proud fools today. We have them in the world around us — men who walk in their palaces and who say to themselves, even as Nebuchadnezzar: is not this Babylon the great that I have built? Look at it! I have done it all! It is all because of me! And it is all mine! By my own power and by my own might I have done what I have done! For my own praise and for my own glory I have done what I have done! Oh, yes, there are many such proud fools today. All of them without exception boast in their own strength. All of them without exception fill themselves with horrible, stinking pride. And all of them without exception either are now, or they surely will be, burning in the fires of everlasting hell!
You see, God is not mocked. You cannot mock God and get away with it. Your sins will find you out. If you boast in your strength, if you fill yourselves with stinking haughty pride, if you rob God of the glory which is due unto Him, you will experience the just judgment of God. God is God. God is supreme. God is all-glorious. God reigns over the kingdoms of man and gives them to whomsoever He will. That is God’s word to the proud fools of this world.
And that is also God’s word to the Church! To the Church today God gives a warning, a warning to which it had better pay attention. How often is it not the case today that the Church is filled with pride? That pride becomes manifest when it glories in the large and beautiful churches which it has built. That pride becomes manifest when it glories in its vast evangelism campaigns. And most of all that pride becomes manifest when it has the audacity to tamper with the Word of God. When it has the audacity to say that the Word of God is not God’s Word but man’s word; when it says that the precious, timehonored truths of the Word of God are not the truths of the Word of God, that is the height of stinking, haughty pride! And God is not mocked! Men who say such things are not shepherds of the sheep. They are proud fools who rob God of the glory which shines ever so brightly in His Word. Are they ignorant? Do not they know any better? No, they are not ignorant. God has not left Himself without witness. He has given His Word as the clearest witness imaginable. He that hath an ear, let him hear!
And that applies to you and me also. We must never be proud. But rather, we must always be humble. We must ascribe all the glory, might, and honor to God. We must! In humility we must do that. As Protestant Reformed Churches, to whom God has given so much and for whom God has done so much, we must do that. And we must do that as individuals who walk in the midst of this world. To us God has given so very much. For us God has done so very much. Why must we do that? Simply because it is all His. All that we have, all we call our own, all that has been given to us, has not been given to us because of our might or our power. But rather, it has been given to us by God, and by God’s might and by God’s power. To Him then be the glory.
Do we do that? Do we give all the glory to God, and do that in deepest humility? Remember, these are the last times. But the question is: how are we living?