Hope in a Heart of Repentance


1. What’s wrong
The essence of sin is that "I make myself, in a host of ways, the centre of the universe."  Nebuchadnezzar is simply a macrocosmic version of the kind of situation everyone encounters from time to time. Individuals who have lived for themselves, built their own kingdoms, and have "made it" will boast that they have accomplished so much because they did it "their" way. Yet in one terrible moment—a phone call, a letter, some words spoken by a doctor—the foundations may begin to tremble and the former securities begin to crumble.

There is a common theme in moments like this: God’s person, not the person of the world, is truly free and grows to full stature while the person of the world shrinks.

  1.  Insensitivity to God. "I have no one else like [Timothy], who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 21For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ" (Phil 2:20-21).          

  2.  Disobedience of God (v6 and 17).  The theme of the kingdom of God is central to the entire Bible.  All men must come to know that "Heaven rules" and that it is God who decrees what comes to pass (Eph 1:11).

  3.  Living under the judgment of God.  Experiences of God’s Spirit are not necessarily indications of the presence of God’s grace (Matt 7:22-23). God regularly co-operates with our personalities in order to reveal Himself.

  4.  No mercy for others. The divine decree was not arbitrary. Nebuchadnezzar believed he was free,  in actual fact he was a slave to his sinful passions. That was the yoke he had to break (Gen. 27:40). He had little or no mercy to the poor. Remarkably, N was offered a ray of hope. There was a divine "perhaps".

“Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?  But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed (Rom 2:4-5).

2. Don’t wait
There was no sign of the punishment of God. Relieved, Nebuchadnezzar continued in his old ways. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night”. The day of the Lord did come.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, They labour in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.—Psalm 127:1

It is a tragic and pathetic scene; Superman has become Subman. The one who refused to honour God’s glory loses his own glory. Refusing to share what he has with the poor, he becomes poorer than the poor. He becomes outwardly what his heart had been spiritually and inwardly—bestial. Disorders of the mind are surely one of the saddest of all maladies in human experience. Sometimes these disorders appear to have a significant physical factor in their cause, and consequently physical means may be employed as part of the restorative process. Clearly there was a deep moral and spiritual significance in Nebuchadnezzar’s experience. His delusion that he was an animal is significant—the prophecy of his dream was thus fulfilled.

God’s word of judgment was fulfilled on Nebuchadnezzar; however, it was tempered with a promise of mercy: "seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses" (v 32).

3. Get right
Nebuchadnezzar’s sin is, of course, a life-size model of all sin, and the consequence of his guilt is equally a case study in the havoc sin wreaks in our lives—we are cast down from the glory for which we were created; we distort the image of the glory of God. Thus Nebuchadnezzar’s repentance and restoration to former glory is a vivid illustration of the benefits God bestows. He begins to restore his image to us; touches of His glory appear again; we  begin to function again as the royal children of God. Repentance, as Calvin says,

"is the true-turning of our life to God.  In a word, I interpret repentance as regeneration, whose sole end is to restore to us the image of God that has been disfigured and all but obliterated."

What was it that lay at the heart of repentance?

  1. He confesses the sovereignty of God. (v 34)

  2. He confesses the creatureliness of humankind. (v35)

  3. He confesses the truthfulness and righteousness of God (v37; 1 John 1:9).

  4. He confesses that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (v37; Prov 3:34; 1 Pet 5:6; Psalm 18:25-27, 35, 46, 50)

Cell Outline

Read Daniel 4:4-18
1. What are some of the reasons people can feel self-secure, overconfident, and prideful in our world today?

2. When pride begins to creep into your heart and life, what is it that drives and grows this attitude?

Read Daniel 4:19-27

On a journey with his wife, the CEO of a huge corporation pulls their car into a service station to fill-up. When he returns from paying, he notices his wife engaged in an animated conversation with a service station attendant. It turns out that his wife had dated the attendant years ago when they were in school. After a moment of silence as they resume their trip, the CEO smugly says to his wife, "I’ll bet I know what you’re thinking. You’re pretty lucky that you married me, the CEO of a big corporation, and not a service station attendant." His wife says, "No, actually I was thinking if I had married him and not you, he’d be the CEO of a great corporation, and you’d be a service station attendant."

3. Name someone in your life who has a "Daniel" role of speaking the truth to you. How has God used this person to make you a stronger, more devoted follower of Christ?

4. Why is it so difficult to speak the truth to others when we see pride and sin growing in their lives?

5. Why is it important to press through these reasons and commit to be a Daniel to those we love?

Read Daniel 4:28-34

God’s plan A for Nebuchadnezzar and for each of us is simple … humble yourself. If we follow his plan, flee from pride, give him glory, and renounce our sinful ways, grace flows!

God’s plan B for Nebuchadnezzar and for us is much more painful. If we refuse to humble ourselves, God is perfectly able and willing to humble us. If we persist in prideful and arrogant rebellion, God can bring us down from our "high place."

6. What consequences did Nebuchadnezzar face because he refused to humble himself and ended up taking the plan B route?

7. How do a person’s responses to daily interruptions act as indicators of their levels of pride and humility?

8. What are some of the daily interruptions God typically sends your way and how do you tend to respond to them? How could you respond with a more humble spirit the next time one of these?

Read Daniel 4:1-3, 34-37

When Nebuchadnezzar finally hit bottom, he looked up and his sanity was restored. And when that happened, his immediate response was to praise God. What a striking picture.

9. What did Nebuchadnezzar learn about God through his experiences captured in this chapter?

10. In the times of life when you have chosen to humble yourself, or when God has lovingly humbled you, what have you learned about God? How have you seen humility lead to hope?

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