Daniel: Being a stand up person in a bow down world (week 7)

Daniel: a tree chopped down in order to truly thrive.
Daniel 4:4-36


King Nebuchadnezzar has been on a journey.  A journey in which the Almighty God has been steadily pursuing and provoking him to wake up to the reality of who really has the power and authority over the earth. First there was a dream of an immense statue, then there was the witness of God’s power to deliver and now there is another dream of an immense tree that is cut off followed by temporary insanity.   As we come to Daniel 4 there is a distinct theme that keeps reoccurring throughout the passage and it is Nebuchadnezzar’s own realisation, “that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to whoever He wishes.” (v3, v17, v25, v32, v34b-35) However, Nebuchadnezzar had to arrive at the end of himself before he was ready to accept God’s sovereignty and rule not merely as one of many gods but as the only true God.But isn’t it remarkable how persistent God is with Nebuchadnezzar. In this chapter God gives him yet another dream and again the dream invokes fear within him.  Instead of lashing out at the wise men of the land; this time, he tells them his dream seeking their interpretation and again no-one is able to give it.  No-one, that is, except for Daniel. One commentator writes “Daniel is the kindness of God to Nebuchadnezzar in giving him truth and clarity in his dilemma.”  And yet even for Daniel giving the interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar is not an easy one.  Daniel has grown to care for the King and knows that this dream does not entail good news for the King.  Nevertheless he speaks the truth to the King with clarity and conviction. God is giving Nebuchadnezzar an opportunity to wake up to himself but Nebuchadnezzar is suffering from a little condition called “pride.”  His love of himself and the desire for power had made him foolish in his own thinking.  The irony is that it takes for him to be struck with temporary insanity before He actually comes to His senses.  Unfortunately one of the key characteristics of pride is that it distorts our understanding of reality and it often takes us to hit rock bottom before we wake up to it.  The assuring thing about Nebuchadnezzar’s story is that the moment we hit rock bottom and turn our gaze towards heaven, God is right there ready to restore us.

Listen to the sermon here

For discussion in communities:

Question to open discussion:

Share with each other your story about how you came to recognize and receive Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.  What were some of the key events that led to your decision?

Read together Daniel 4:4-36.

Q1.   Consider Nebuchadnezzar’s story so far, how has God been working in his life? What has God been trying to show Him?  How does God get through to Him?
Q2.  Consider Daniel as a role model for witnessing and speaking truth to others, what could we learn from him?
Q3. What does this passage tell you about God and what does it tell you about the nature of us as human beings?
Q4.  What do you think the significance is of Nebuchadnezzar driven to act like an animal?
Q5. When his sanity is restored what do you notice about his realisation and testimony?
Q6. What do you think the change would have been in Nebuchadnezzar as a king?
Q7. Share a time when you hit rock bottom, what was that like for you?  What did you realize about yourself and how did you experience God’s grace?

For accountability + prayer:

You can use these discussion questions either in smaller prayer and accountability groups or as a part of your own individual devotional life.

Q1. Share with each other  areas of your life where you are tempted to be proud.
Q2. How are you being humbled by God at the moment?
Q3. How might God be wanting to develop your character?

Pray for greater humility in your heart and life.  Pray that the Holy Spirit might help you to grow more dependant upon God.

For personal devotion + study:

Monday:  Philippians 2:5-11

This week we are going to meditate upon one of the oldest hymns of the Christian church as recorded for us by Paul in the book of Philippians, Phil 2:5-11.  Take a moment to read the words, reread it and invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you through them.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Tuesday: have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…

v 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. 

I was reading an author this week who talked about that we often as christians want thecapacities of Christ i.e the gifts of the spirit but are not so concerned with having the character of Christ.  We want to be able to perform miracles, signs and wonders but we are not as concerned with developing patience, kindness, servant-heartedness, gentleness and self-control.  The author made the interesting point that the gifts of the spirit exist to bless other people but the development of christ-like character is for our benefit.  Sadly we often reverse this order.  I wonder what would it mean for you to have the mindset of Christ Jesus this week in your relationships?

Wednesday: though He was God he did not use it to His own advantage….

v 6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

This is such a humbling and counter-intuitive attitude.  Reflect for a moment on the reality that Jesus was God but that he did not use that fact  to his own advantage.  For instance he could have saved himself the pain and suffering of the cross in the blink of an eye, he could have smited down all who mocked him with one word, he could have established himself in a palace while on earth…but he didn’t.  He didn’t use his power to his own advantage instead he used it for others.  Each of us have power.  We might not be aware of it but nevertheless we do, and we can either use it to our own advantage or use it to bless others.  How might you use your power to bless others today? 

Thursday: instead he took the very nature of a servant.

v 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness.

How would you define servant-hood? It is interesting language used in this hymn; notice how it says not by “being a servant or by serving others”, rather by “taking the very nature of a servant.”  It relates back to how Jesus related to His Father here on earth and is a role model for how we are to relate to God.  The nature of a servant is to serve their Master. They do not belong to themselves but to their Master.  They listen for the Master’s voice and are quick to respond.  What might the Father be asking you to do today?

Friday: And he obeyed His Father to the point of death. 

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

What are the limits of your obedience to God?  How far would we go to obey Him?  It is a sobering question for us in the West to ask ourselves.  All over the world we have Christians brother’s and sister’s who are experiencing obedience to death as their reality. Let us pray for them to have the courage to remain faithful and let us pray for ourselves to be truly committed to Christ above all else.

Saturday: But now He has the highest place of honour.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
1that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

It was the Father’s delight to exalt Jesus to the highest place of honour.  Jesus’  humility leads not to greater humiliation but rather to honour.  A principle and promise that we see all throughout scripture is that God exalts the humble.  He lifts up the lowly. The first in this life come last in the next.  Those reduced to the least in this life because of their commitment to Christ are promoted to the greatest in God’s kingdom. Humility is an attribute that God delights in, in His people and though they may suffer for a time they will reap the benefits in eternity.  You might find yourself being humbled or experiencing humble circumstances, know that God is with the humble.