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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Daniel 4

 

 

Verses 34-37

DISCOURSE: 1125

NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM VERIFIED AND IMPROVED

Daniel 4:34-37. And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me: and I blessed the Most High; and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? At the same time my reason returned unto me; and, for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was estabished in my kingdom; and excellent majesty was added unto me. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

A MORE remarkable history than this is not found in the annals of the world. Never was such a transition ever heard of, from such an elevation to a state of such extraordinary degradation, as that which is recorded in this chapter. The account is written by Nebuchadnezzar himself; and, doubtless by divine direction, it was incorporated with the writings of Daniel, and made a part of the inspired volume. Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest monarch then living in the world: he had subjugated many countries to his yoke; and he ruled over them with despotic sway. But on account of his excessive pride, God determined to humble him, and to make him an example to all future ages. Previously however to the execution of the judgment which he had decreed to inflict upon him, it pleased God to reveal to him, in a dream or vision, the judgment that should be executed. The vision was of a large and fruitful tree cut down; but the stump thereof was left in the ground: that stump however being intended to represent a man, who should be left exposed, like the beasts of the earth, to all varieties of weather, for the space of seven years, when he should again be restored to his former state of magniflcence and power. The Chaldean magicians being unable to interpret this dream, Daniel was sent for; and he interpreted it to the king, in all its parts. The import of it was, that the king was to be reduced to the state of a beast for seven years; and then, being brought to a just knowledge of the one true God, he was to be restored with augmented power and splendour to his throne. Whatever impression was made by the dream, and the interpretation of it, at the time, it soon wore off; and the haughty monarch swelled with pride as much as ever. At the end of twelve months, when walking in his palace and surveying the extent and grandeur of the city Babylon, he exclaimed, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty [Note: ver. 29, 30.]?” And instantly, while the words were yet in his mouth, the wrath of God fell upon him, and he was reduced to the state of a beast, according to the vision that he had before seen. At the end of seven years the vision was yet further verified, in his restoration: and, in the words which we have read, we see the improvement which he made of the dispensation.

I. He acknowledges God as the Sovereign Disposer of all events—

[He had throughout all his former life left out of his contemplation the thoughts of an over-ruling Providence, and had ascribed all his victories to his own wisdom and prowess. If he had given any honour to another, it was to his idol, Bel. But now he saw, that Jehovah was the God of all the earth: that, however men might appear to effect great changes upon earth, they were in reality “nothing;” they were mere instruments in God’s hands; the axe, or saw, with which he executed his own designs [Note: Isaiah 10:15.]. This was clearly proved to him in the dispensation that had taken place; for, both in the judgment that he had suffered, and in the mercy he had experienced, God alone had wrought; “nor could any stay his liand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”

Now it would be well if all the professed worshippcrs of Jehovah acknowledged his uncontrollable sovereignty, and his universal agency, in like manner. But we, almost like the heathen themselves, are ready to ascribe every thing, whether great or small, to the wisdom and power of man. We lose sight of the first great cause, and fix our minds only on the second causes; and rather than speak of Jehovah as determining events, we will ascribe them to luck, or chance, or accident; and will thus run into atheism itself, rather than give the glory to Him to whom it is due. But let it be remembered, that there is not any thing in the universe which is not done by the express permission of God, and in accordance with his eternal comiseis. Men indeed are free agents in all that they do; but still they “do only what God’s hand and counsel have determined before to be done [Note: Acts 4:28.]:” not the falling of a sparrow takes place but “according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” This, whilst it does not in the least diminish the responsibility of men as moral agents [Note: Acts 2:23.], tends greatly to compose the mind under all the variety of dispensations that succeed each other; and to impress us with the idea, that whatever may be designed or done by men, God will “get himself honour,” as he did on Pharaoh, and will eventually be glorified.]

II. He adores God for his dispensations towards himself—

[These had been beyond measure humiliating: yet he speaks of them in the beginning of this chapter with wonder and admiration: “I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the High God hath wrought toward me: how great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders [Note: Daniel 4:2-3.]!” So also at the close of the chapter; “I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment [Note: The text.].” Here he shews indeed that he was restored, not only to the possession of his throne, but to the best possible use of his faculties. The end of the dispensation was now completely answered. In truth, painful as the dispensation was, it was richly compensated, yea, infinitely overbalanced, by the effect it produced. No suffering can be accounted great, that is over-ruled for such good to the soul. To bless and adore God for our afflictions is one of the highest exercises of faith and love. Who does not admire Job, when, under the pressure of his accumulated calamities, he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord?” This is to be done, not merely when, as in Nebuchadnezzar’s case, we see the termination of them; but in the very midst of them all, while they are yet lying heavy upon us, and we see no way for our escape: then, I say, we should give glory unto our God, convinced that “He doeth all things well,” and saying, with Hezekiah, “Good is the word of the Lord concerning me.” To kiss the rod in this manner, “O! how lovely a spirit does it manifest!” How much better is it than murmuring, and complaining, and fretting under our troubles “like a wild bull in a net!” Let us imitate Nebuchadnezzar then, in this respect; and however afflictive the dispensation with which we are visited may be, let us say, “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.”]

III. He warns others to avoid that sin which brought this calamity upon him—

[He had “walked in pride,” and been abased for it below the meanest of the children of men. Secure as he had fancied himself from any calamity, God had inflicted in a moment a punishment, which might well deter all who heard of it from the commission of a similar offence. God is never at a loss for means to accomplish his righteous will: in the judgment inflicted on this haughty monarch, he has sufficiently shewn, that He is both able and determined to “abase all who walk in pride.”

Now this consideration is of infinite importance, not to kings only, but to all the human race. Pride is natural to man: there is not a more powerful principle in our fallen nature than pride. The ungodly world are full of it. There is not any distinction, natural or acquired, which is not made an occasion of self-preference and self-complacency. If a man be born of high parentage, or have acquired rank or fortune by his own exertions, how will he be puffed up with his honours, and almost conceive himself to be made of a finer clay than his less-distinguished neighbour! ‘My might and my wisdom have procured me all these things:’ and on the same endowments they rest for a continued enjoyment of them. Thus “they sacrifice to their own net, and burn incense to their own drag.” Nor is this confined to the ungodly world: there are amongst those who profess godliness, many, who are as full of pride and conceit as those who are altogether ignorant of religion: the object in which they pride themselves is changed; but the principle is the same as ever. Some, like the Pharisee in the Gospel, “trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others:” they say in their hearts, “Stand by thyself; come not near to me; I am holier than thou.” Of these says God, “They are a smoke in my nose [Note: Isaiah 65:5.].” Others, like Diotrephes, “love to have the pre-eminence;” and are never so happy as when they are setting forth their gifts, and passing judgment upon all that they see and hear. Self-sufficiency and self-conceit, self-seeking, and self-applause, are their characteristic features; and so far from adorning the Gospel as they would be thought to do, they actually make it stink in the nostrils of all who have judgment to discriminate between good and evil. Not a few of such “novices,” it is to be feared, “being lifted up with pride, fall into the condemnation of the devil.” Even truly good men are by no means so holy, but that they are in continual danger of being drawn into the indulgence of this evil principle. Hezekiah, even after his most extraordinary deliverances from enemies without, and illness within, so far forgot himself as to be lifted up with pride; and thereby provoked God to withdraw from his descendants the mercies that had been vouchsafed to him. And Paul himself was visited with a thorn in his flesh, to keep him low, “lest he should be exalted above measure [Note: Twice mentioned, 2 Corinthians 12:7.].”

Be it known then to all, that they need to watch and pray against this malignant evil; for God will most abase all in whom it is found. Man cannot abase them: to do this is a work far above the power of any created being [Note: Job 40:11-12,]: but God is able to do it; and he will do it. He is at no loss for means whereby to effect it [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:30.]. Some, like Manasseh, he will take among the thorns: others, like Peter, he will leave to fall, and to disgrace their holy profession: and others, like Pharaoh, or Herod, he will plunge into the bottomless abyss of hell. “Whereinsoever they deal proudly, he will shew himself above them.” Let us never then forget, that “the proud in heart are an abomination to the Lord:” that “whilst he gives grace to the humble, he will resist them:” and whilst he filleth the hungry with good things, he will scatter the proud in the imagination of their hearts.”]

We exhort all, then,

1. To search their hearts, in reference to this sin—

[Men who are under the influence of this sin, always find means to hide it from their own eyes. But it is to no purpose to deceive ourselves: God will not be imposed upon by specious names: he sees the evil, wherever it exists; and he hates it with a perfect hatred. Let us then endeavour to find out even the most hidden workings of this abominable evil, and implore help from God to mortify and subdue it.]

2. To be thankful for that fidelity that strives to put them on their guard against it—

[Nebuchadnezzar, though be did not reform his life, was not angry with Daniel for interpreting to him faithfully the vision he had seen. This is not always the case, especially when the sin of pride is pointed out: we are then in danger of being accounted “enemies for telling men the truth.” But “let our counsel be acceptable unto you.” We are constrained to “speak God’s word faithfully,” even if we were speaking to the greatest monarchs upon earth. Let none then, of whatever rank or class, be offended. Indeed, to take offence at a faithful ministration of the word, would prove the very point which it was a man’s object to deny, namely, that he was under the dominion of pride. The humble will be thankful for every hint that can be afforded them for the discovery of their most secret sins, because they will be led thereby to a deeper humiliation before God, and to a more simple affiance in the Lord Jesus Christ.]

3. To humble themselves for it as Nebuchadnezzar did—

[Nebuchadnezzar not only wrote this whole account, but circulated it throughout the whole extent of his dominions. He thought he could never take shame enough to himself for all his former pride! What a glorious evidence was this of the transforming efficacy of Divine grace! It is no easy matter for any man to acknowledge and confess his pride: but to confess it openly, to take shame to himself for it publicly before all, this is a work of grace indeed! and it is the true and proper operation of grace upon the soul. We do not mean that it is necessary to publish our sins to all the world; but it is necessary to confess our faults unto those who have been more particularly affected by them. At all events, we must make confession before our God; for on that depends our present and everlasting acceptance with him: it is impossible, “if we harden ourselves against him, to prosper:” yea, “we shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” “Whoso exalteth himself shall be abased; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Daniel 4:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/daniel-4.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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