From Top to Bottom

https://jimrenke.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/daniel-41.mp3

Several people requested a copy of the manuscript of yesterday’s message, so I posted it on my blog.  It is written as a first-person narrative message from the voice of King Nebuchadnezzar.

Introduction.

If Nebuchadnezzar was here today, he would have this to say…

In your Bibles, in the book of Daniel, one of my most trusted advisors and truly a man of God, there is recorded for you, my story. It’s not my whole story, just the big turning point of my life. It was at a time when everything was good and right. The world was revolving around me.

I fashioned myself as a special individual. Even Daniel’s god had revealed me as the gold-head in the statue of kingdoms. In my earlier years, I was seen as the favored son of Nebu, who is the Babylonian god of wisdom. And he is the son of Marduk, the god of vegetation, water, judgment and magic.

I had accomplished a great many things in my short career as king. We had conquered kingdoms and I built my own great Kingdom. I restored old temples. I built new ones to the many gods of our pantheon of gods. I completed the royal palace with “cedar-wood, bronze, gold, silver, rare and precious stones”. I constructed an underground passage and a stone bridge connected the two parts of the city separated by the Euphrates; the city itself was rendered impregnable by the construction of a triple line of walls.

Let me tell you about the bridge across the Euphrates. It was supported on asphalt covered brick piers that were streamlined to reduce the upstream resistance to flow, and the downstream turbulence that would otherwise undermine the foundations. My kingdom was filled with technological marvels that others took note of.

I went beyond the capital and restored the Lake of Sippar. I opened a port on the Persian Gulf, and built the Mede wall between the Tigris and the Euphrates to protect the country against incursions from the north. How did I do all this? By the strength of the captives I took from Asia.

One of my best known achievements was the construction of the Hanging Gardens, for my homesick wife Amyitis.
I lived the life, but now let me tell you my story. It is in your chapter 4.

4 King Nebuchadnezzar, To the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly!
2 It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.
3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.
4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. 5 I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. 6 So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. 7 When the magicians, enchanters, astrologersa and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. 8 Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)
9 I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. 10 These are the visions I saw while lying in my bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the beasts of the field found shelter, and the birds of the air lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed.
13 “In the visions I saw while lying in my bed, I looked, and there before me was a messenger,b a holy one, coming down from heaven. 14 He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field.
“‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven timesc pass by for him.
17 “‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.’
18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
Daniel Interprets the Dream
19 Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.”
Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! 20 The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, 21 with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air— 22 you, O king, are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.
23 “You, O king, saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live like the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’
24 “This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: 25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”
The Dream Is Fulfilled
28 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
31 The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
In my journey from the top to the bottom, I learned the danger of pride. And I learned, through my experience, the freedom and joy of humility.
Now you might think that this same fate couldn’t befall you. After all, you aren’t a king like I was. But, you don’t have to be a king to be filled with pride. You don’t have to be rich. You don’t have to be a success. You only need be a created being who supplants God’s will for your own. You only need be a human who is motivated by self, more than you are motivated by the desires of this God you worship.

1. There are patterns that emerge with pride.

[These are attitudes and actions that become patterns in our lives. Maybe one or two can be experienced with some balance, but when left unchecked, they grow to full-blown expressions of a haughty spirit.]

a. We steal God’s glory.

I have learned that when we take credit for our lives, we take something away from the God of heaven. We take away his glory.  In our pride, we choose to exalt ourselves. We try to rule our own lives and control our own world. And we fail to recognize and realize that all we have is a gift. The very existence of your being is given by the God of heaven. As the Creator, He knitted us together and as the Sustainer, He keeps us living and breathing.

In Isaiah 42, the prophet wrote, 5 This is what God the LORD says— he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:
6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand.

I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
8 “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.
Whenever we take his glory, we take his place. We elevate ourselves as creators of our own worlds. We proclaim our control over all our own circumstances. We define the world on our terms and declare the superiority of our wisdom.

[If we steal his glory and try to create our own realities, then in our hands, we hold onto a scepter that promises power but in effect is limited, mortal and defective.]

b. We grasp false security and contentment.

I looked at what I accomplished! I went far beyond my Dad. I conquered kingdoms and made people my servants. When I looked around that fateful night, I remember saying out loud, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power…” I had great confidence and felt strength because of what I accomplished. We were impenetrable. We were undefeatable. We were Babylon! My life and my accomplishments brought me my greatest happiness.

False security and contentment come when we set up new idols to worship. I worshiped statues and traditions and in the end, I worshiped my talents and abilities. These were idols of my making. The problem with idols of our making is that they are no greater than we are. So, when we worship the work of our hands and our security and contentment come from that, we discover that it is shallow and fleeting. It feels like security but it is an illusion. It feels like contentment until the next shoe (or sandal) drops.

Have you ever been tempted to hold onto false security? It happens when you trust in your abilities to create what you need or want!

[All my planning and building and conquering and controlling was to build something for me and all those who would admire and remember me.]

c. We exalt our agenda over God’s purpose.

Again and again, Daniel tried to tell me that my life was part of God’s purposes. That didn’t matter to me – that was secondary to anything I wanted. He explained that statue to me… I was the gold head; but when I crafted it I made the whole statue of gold. Daniel was telling me I was part of God’s story. But I was writing my own story and it was about me.
When I considered what to accomplish and who to conquer, I listened to others, but with a self-serving ear. I didn’t consider the bigger picture. Even after that statue dream, many years before, I thought I was the determiner of my own destiny.  And if I’m in control, then what I want matters.

It was Jesus who finally admonished his followers, to “seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and all these things (clothes, power, affluence and influence), would be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). Pride didn’t let me want God’s kingdom. It wanted a kingdom of its own. My pride didn’t let me enjoy what God gave. It wanted me to enjoy what I possessed and controlled.

[If you’ve ever lifted your agenda over God’s purposes, you, like me, have entered into the moral realm. If we’re seeking God’s purposes, we’re seeking His righteousness. If we’re seeking our agendas, we no longer consider the rightness of our decisions.]

d. We aren’t concerned with what’s right.

Daniel warned me after explaining that horrible dream, “do right.” I didn’t think I was all that wrong. After all, the gods of Babylon had blessed me. Things were going right. Okay, maybe I didn’t think about what was right or wrong. I wasn’t thinking about God-given boundaries, I wasn’t thinking about being responsible to anyone else but me.

I was the one with power. I lived without limitation, or so I thought. You’ve met people who have lived by their own sense of right-ness. It’s because they live without any other authority over them. They allow nothing and no one to speak into their lives. They receive no correction or rebuke. They respond to no discipline.

Rightness is defined by feelings, positive outcomes and seeming progress. I discovered that God has another definition! He is righteous. And He is our model of doing what is right. And it has to do with the eternal impact of our choices; the impact it has on others; the harmony it shares with the plan of God.

Micah the Hebrew prophet wrote: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

There is a way that is right. And the humbled life concerns itself with that. A pride-filled person defines his or her own sense of rightness and defies the righteousness of God.

[When we’re not concerned with righteousness, we are truly forgetting others who depend on us being the channels of God’s loving and gracious purposes.]

e. We diminish the needs of others.

A second thing that Daniel instructed me to do was, “renounce my wickedness by being kind to the oppressed.” People existed for me… at least the ones I controlled. The reason for their lives was to make my life a success, or my power complete.

The truth is they were oppressed because of me. My strength had overwhelmed their countries and cultures. I had won. They lost. I didn’t care about the needs of others, because they weren’t my peers. They were the vanquished, the defeated. If I am above others, my needs and desires trump the needs and desires of others.

The fact is, the more self-centered we are, the less we have room in our lives for people who are really people. That is why the Apostle Paul put the two commands together in his letter to the Romans in chapter 12; Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought… and then later in the chapter… Honor one another above yourselves.

Pride drives to ignore others, or see them as bit-players in our real-life drama. They are tools to be used, rather than beings who are vessels of the image of God. Humility, a real picture of our place in the plan of God helps us to see them, really see them. And it drives us to serve them.

As you’re listening to me right now, maybe none of these are your issues. But when they creep up into our hearts and minds, even in miniscule ways, we are on the path to pride. I was so far down the road that none of you can imagine. But most of us walk this path, step by step, on a daily basis. We steal God’s glory; We grasp onto false sources of security and contentment; We pursue our agendas over God’s plan; We lose sight of what’s right; and We devalue others by ignoring their needs.

It can be done in your home with Mom and Dad; it can be done at the workplace with your boss or your subordinates; it can be done in relationships here – even doing ministry together. Wherever it happens and however it shows itself, it is pride!

[Pride left unchecked, leads to a fall – either here by the hand of God – or before the face of God.]

2. There is one way to correct pride.

You saw what God did to me. I could say, “don’t let him do that to you.” But truthfully, my breaking is what freed me. In those 7 years, I became more and more like an animal. And then, humbled, in my limited understanding, I understood. I looked up!  As long as I was on top I never looked up! I never needed. I never longed for anything greater than myself.

[Don’t be afraid to let God push you to honesty. Honesty is the first step of freedom.]

a. Be honest about our pride.

Being honest about my pride came when I saw the difference between how I saw my life and how God saw my life. To me, I was a king. To him, I was a servant. To me, I was powerful. To him, I was a vapor. To me, I was vital to history. To him, I was an expendable part of the master plan. I lived in palaces, he made me live in the pasture.  I was great in my eyes. I was small in His eyes, loved and included, but small.

One of the great truths of history is, “it’s not about you.” How hard that was for me to grasp.  You live in a culture where you are told constantly that it is about you, your feelings, your happiness, your desires and dreams. You tell your children they can do nothing wrong. You set them up for failure because there will be a time when they realize; hopefully sooner than later; that the plan of God includes them, but it is not about them. It is about God.

In Psalm 79:9 even the salvation of God’s people is about God. 9 Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake. Even the gift of forgiveness for us is because it pleases Him.
How often do we mistake God’s invitation to be loved and forgiven as an invitation to self-importance?

Stop and be honest. Look at your reactions when things don’t go your way. How do you emote when someone crosses you or steps on you? If we do anything other than submit ourselves anew to the plan of God for our lives, it is pride.

[When we have the courage to be honest about ourselves, we come to grips with a new set of beliefs.]

b. Confess a new statement of faith.

This new statement of faith is what I confessed at the end of the story I wrote; “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (v.37)

i. God is just.

I could trust him. I must trust him. I must recognize his right to rule and reign over the kingdoms of the world and over the elements of my life. I can trust his goodness. I can trust his judgments. I can trust his wisdom. I can trust his power.
If he lifts me up, he is right. If he lowers me, he is right. If he uses me, he is right. If he sets me in the smallest corner of his world and leaves me there, he is right.

He is just.

I need not demand. I need not argue. I need not defend. I need not prove my worth. I need not fight for significance.

He is just.

ii. God can humble.

Another powerful confession I had to make was, God’s power takes down the powerful. You see, the powerful aren’t really powerful in and of themselves. It is only loaned to them by the One who holds all power. And because this power is his, he can remove it at any time it no longer serves his purpose.

The Hebrew sage had it right in his proverb 16:, 18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
If God has given you the ability, the gift, the talents… to stay at the center of your world and keep it together. Remember, it is only temporary. He is the source and center of all that is.

Conclusion.

It was along journey that God took me on. Everyone else thought it was a path to power, success, accomplishment, control and influence… a journey from bottom to top. But truly it was a journey from the top to the bottom. But instead of bringing frustration, anger, resentment and bitterness – – it brought joy and freedom!

I was free to live under the eternal leadership of a just and powerful king. I could be who I was. And I could taste and enjoy what he gave me.

If you are longing for the top this morning and have been pursuing that path, unlike me, listen now to the words of Daniel. Renounce your pride and live in submission to God. Or God will humble you.

If you have been humbled, stop eating grass for a moment… and look up! Let him restore sanity, peace and freedom as you accept His leadership in each arena of your life.

Where / How have you exhibited pride?
• Do you trust in the justness of God?

• Do you trust in the power of God to humble?

• Will you accept the freedom of humbly living the life He has given you, for Him and His purposes?

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