Sermon: “He Humbles the Proud” (Daniel 4:1-37)
Listen to the Sermon:
4 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.
3 How great are his signs,
how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and his dominion endures from generation to generation.
4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. 8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, 9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it.
13 “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. 14 He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’ 18 This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.
Daniel 4:1-18, ESV
What is justifying or saving faith? This is a question and it’s an important question that is pulled verbatim from the Westminster Larger Catechism, one of our confessional standards. It is a question that gets at the heart of the Christian life.
What we believe about this question and its answer affects how we think about the nature of faith in the Christian life. It’s affects how we conceive of our own walk with Christ. It affects how we minister the gospel to those God, in his providence, has placed before us.
So, what is justifying or saving faith? Here’s how our confession answers that.
A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner, by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation. Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 72
Now of course that is a mouth full. If you would like to look back on that I believe we have a larger catechism in the Trinity Hymnals. Feel free to look back on that.
During the Protestant reformation it was rightly taught, in unison with this question and answer, that justifying faith consists in three things. First, you have to know the content of the faith which God requires us to believe about Christ for salvation. After all, if you don’t know the claims of the gospel, how can you believe in them?
Second, after you know the claims of the gospel you have to believe that those claims of who Christ is and what he has done are true. In the words of the confession, you have to assent to the truths of the promise of the gospel.
But a simple cognitive acknowledgement of those truths as true isn’t enough. You also have to personally trust, receive and rest on Christ alone and his righteousness. That requires not just a cognitive acknowledgement that Christ died for the sins of his people, but also a heart acknowledgement of repentance and faith wrought by the Holy Spirit that Christ Jesus is Lord.
Now the reason I raise this whole topic of saving faith in light of our text is because I think this is a helpful grid for understanding what we see in King Nebuchadnezzar thus far. In Daniel we have come across two major events in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar. By the end of each of these miraculous events, we heard the king confess something about Daniel’s God. Remember in 2:47, after Daniel was able to interpret this troubling dream that consumed Nebuchadnezzar with anxiety, we head Nebuchadnezzar confess to Daniel that truly your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries.
Then at the end of chapter three, after God save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace, we heard Nebuchadnezzar confess, “Blessed by the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who has sent his angel and delivered his servants.”
So, we have heard Nebuchadnezzar acknowledge two times now in some sense the wisdom of God, the sovereignty of God and the power of God. Yet while he is clearly seeing God at work for his people and he now knows in some sense that this is a great God who saves. Yet Nebuchadnezzar, it seems, still hasn’t been brought to a place of repentance and faith, the heart acknowledgement required of saving faith.
In this passage we learn in part why. Despite all he’s experienced in these miraculous events that have taken place thus far in his life, his pride still rages. Unless he is humbled by a conviction of this sin of pride, he will never confess with the personal faith required for saving faith that God’s works are right, his ways are just and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
Our big idea is this, The Lord humbles the proud that they would know who reigns.
We are going to work through this rather large text in four parts. That’s right, a four-part outline.
1. The Lord Exposes Human Pride
2. The Lord Warns Against Human Pride
3. The Lord Humbles Human Pride
4. The Lord Restores Those Who Repent of Human Pride
The Lord Exposes Human Pride
Immediately when our passage opens, right off the bat we see something strikingly different than something we have seen thus far. Remember when chapter two opened, Nebuchadnezzar was anxious, erratic and furious. Then when chapter three opened we heard Nebuchadnezzar issue a decree, after he set up this golden image, that everyone should come and worship this image that he set up on the Plain of Durma. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego politely refused, he once again became erratic and furious.
When chapter four opens and Nebuchadnezzar addresses all peoples, nations and languages, he doesn’t do that with a command to worship some idol. No, he does that to tell the people what the Lord has done for him. It seems that Nebuchadnezzar has become an evangelist of sorts. This is a stunning reversal of what we have seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s life thus far.
We can’t be 100% sure that this is a sign that Nebuchadnezzar came to saving faith through the events he proceeds to narrate. I kind of think that he did, along with every single commentator that I read. But whatever we make of that question, something has fundamentally shifted in his life and way of thinking.
Understand how this apparent change materialized. Nebuchadnezzar takes us back to an event where God took him from self-absorbed pride to a place of utter humility. Once we move past this three-verse introduction that’s what the rest of this text is about.
Look with me at verse four. We will begin to see how this change in Nebuchadnezzar’s life transpired.
4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. Daniel 4:4, ESV
We don’t know when during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign these events took place. We do know that during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign he enjoyed some spectacular architectural and military achievements. He was responsible for The Hanging Hardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Apparently, he also had the option of presiding in any one of three grand palaces. So, you can imagine with all of those accomplishments and luxuries to fall back upon, how pride could easily grip someone’s heart.
Then one night Nebuchadnezzar had a second dream that is recorded in Daniel. Just like the first one, it terrifies and alarms him. In this dream, as he communicates it to Daniel, there is this great tree that reaches to the heaven. It’s just liked that image we read about in chapter three. We are hearing echoes once again of the Tower of Babel event from Genesis chapter eleven.
This tree provided food and shelter for the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Then in an instant a watcher, an angelic emissary of the most high God comes down from heaven and demands that the tree be cut down and only a stump remains. Also that the mind of the man that this tree represents be changed from a man’s mind to the mind of a beast and that he remain in this condition for seven periods of time until, “the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of man and sets over it the lowliest of men.”
While Daniel hasn’t entered in at this point in our text to offer an interpretation, we can kind of anticipate what is coming here. This is a dream that relates directly to Nebuchadnezzar. Through it the Lord is exposing two related problems in Nebuchadnezzar’s life.
First, he doesn’t really know that the Lord reigns. He may have assented to some true facts about the Lord’s reign in the previous chapters in Daniel, but in the words of verse seventeen, he needs to really and truly know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. He needs to know the supremacy of God’s kingdom and the relative insignificance of his own. He needs to know who is really calling the shots.
We will see this same phrase from verse seventeen three more times in this chapter, reinforcing the lesson that Nebuchadnezzar has to come to realize. The only way the he will come to really and truly learn that lesson is second, he sees his pride for what it is, that is the second problem that the Lord exposes in his dream.
Nebuchadnezzar, even after all that he has experienced in Daniel thus far, is still diluted with illusion of his own grandeur. He is still living out of a heart that is consumed by pride. Unless his eyes and heart are opened to see this self-absorbed pride as sin before a holy God, he’s never going to appraise God’s kingdom the way that he needs to appraise God’s kingdom.
Unchecked pride, both in his life and in our lives, will always be a barrier to grasping salvific realities. We are going to continue to see, as we work through other sections of our text, this unreserved brazenness of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride. Stay tuned for that.
But lest we think that the only people susceptible to such pride are people in positions of affluence and power, such as Nebuchadnezzar, I bet that if each of us were to search out our own hearts I’m certain we would find the struggle of pride is real in our own lives as well.
Pride is what C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity calls “the great sin”. Here’s how pride works. Whenever we measure ourselves against other people, even people in this community, on any number of factors with the goal of feeling superior to someone else, that is pride. In our pride we may focus on how our vocational or educational accomplishments are superior to others.
We may relish in the observation that our lives are morally cleaner or more socially honorable than that of our brothers and sisters. Then disapprovingly shake our heads at those who don’t measure up or don’t have their lives together as much as we do.
Pride also sneaks in from the other direction. On the other hand, sometimes we sulk in the observation that some people seem more intelligent or more prosperous or more put together than us. Lest we fool ourselves, that too is pride.
The very danger of pride is that when we are consumed by it, we are consumed with ourselves instead of God. C.S. Lewis writes this, “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people. And of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”
That is exactly Nebuchadnezzar’s problem in our text. He is so intoxicated with himself and his kingdom that he hasn’t grasped at a heart level that it’s the Most High who rules the kingdom of men.
Pride is one of those things that we often fail to see in ourselves. We see it in other quite well and we hate it when we see it in others. We are often blindly ignorant when it rages in our own hearts. That’s why this revelatory dream is given to Nebuchadnezzar. This is why this revelatory dream is actually an incredible mercy. Apart from divine revelation exposing Nebuchadnezzar’s pride, and apart from divine revelation, the Word of God, exposing our pride, both Nebuchadnezzar and we would remain hopelessly blind to the reality of our sin.
Pride tends to lose all perspective on reality. Just as Nebuchadnezzar needed his pride exposed through divine revelation, so too do we. Now that this problem of pride is exposed, at least to Daniel and to us, Nebuchadnezzar at this point is still blind to it, Daniel then gives an explicit warning to Nebuchadnezzar in view of his pride. This leads to the second point.
The Lord Warns Against Human pride
Follow along with me know as I read Daniel 4:19-27,
19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! 20 The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived— 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. 23 And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25 that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.” Daniel 4:19-27, ESV
Just as in Daniel chapter two, so too here Daniel steps in and he interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The interpretation is more or less what we suspected. Nebuchadnezzar is identified as this mighty tree teaming with life that reaches to the heavens, under whose branches the beasts of the field and bird of the air find sustenance. The dream portends seven periods of time when Nebuchadnezzar is cut down from his lofty position and transformed in mind and manner into this beastly kind of state.
At this point nothing yet has happened and from Nebuchadnezzar’s standpoint nothing yet has to happen if he repents. Right now, it’s a warning given by Daniel to signal that if he thinks his many successes and achievement in his reign are evidence that things are going well for him before God, he’s fooling himself. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Nebuchadnezzar thinks.
Notice that in verse nineteen, after Nebuchadnezzar describes his dream and Daniel was dismayed and alarmed by what the king reveals to him, Nebuchadnezzar actually tries to comfort Daniel. He says to Daniel, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.”
Remember when we opened up our passage we heard that Nebuchadnezzar was initially alarmed by the dream, but as one commentator suggests, maybe at this point he is already convinced himself that this was just a bad dream and nothing more than that. Things really aren’t as bad as they first seemed.
He tells Daniel, don’t worry about this. But here’s the thing, Daniel has every right to be alarmed. The problem is that Nebuchadnezzar has become deaf and dumb to divine revelation and desensitized towards the gravity of his pride and spiritual condition. He isn’t nearly as alarmed as he should be.
I’m sure many of us have been in similar situations before. Not where someone asks us to interpret their dream. Though yesterday Daisy did ask me to interpret her dream from the night before and I’m happy to report that I was unsuccessful at that. Not where we are called to interpret someone’s dream, but where we see someone so consumed with sin and pride who isn’t at all alarmed by it as they should be and who are deaf to the word of God.
What do we do when we encounter situations like that in our personal ministries? Do we shut our mouths with fear of offending, or do we immediately call out our family and friends on what they fail to see? Let’s us see how Daniel handles this situation.
Notice that Daniel’s first response, once he gets past this initial shock of what Nebuchadnezzar describes, is compassion. He says in verse nineteen, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!”. Even as someone who was carried away into exile by the Babylonian king, someone who heard reports that his hometown, the holy city of Jerusalem was set ablaze and destroyed by this king, Daniel still has compassion for the king. He doesn’t delight himself in the potential demise of this king like Jonah did at Nineveh. Instead, like Jesus he has compassion on this sheep, who despite all pretenses is really and truly helpless and without a shepherd.
Compassion doesn’t lead Daniel in any way to soften the warning that he knows Nebuchadnezzar needs to hear. Instead after offering his interpretation he concludes in verse twenty-seven with a declaration and a warning. He says,
Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.” Daniel 4:27, ESV
Again, unlike the other counselors that Nebuchadnezzar so often calls to himself, Daniel doesn’t tickle his ears with what he thinks the king wants to hear. He tells him that his sin and unrepentant pride is a serious issue and in turn Nebuchadnezzar needs to head this warning with the solemnity and gravity that it deserves. He needs to see his sin and pride as an offense before the holy God.
Friends, the same goes for us too. Very often our pride is a sin that we relabel and explain away. We may deflect the accusation of pride by framing it as self-esteem or self-respect or self-love. The problem in all of those conceptions is that the self is still at the heart of the matter. Of course, it’s not wrong to acknowledge our dignity as people made in the image of God, nor to remember that in Christ we are dearly beloved children of God. But pride does something else, it puts us at the center of things and entices us into forming a God like conception of ourselves.
After all, our confession reminds us that pride and self-love are just two of the ways that we violate the first commandment. The antidote it would seem is to stop thinking so much about ourselves. To hear the word of God and to be humbled under the mighty hand of God. This leads to the third point.
The Lord Humbles Human Pride
We see in the third point that Nebuchadnezzar, even after having his sin exposed, even after being warned in his pride, still doesn’t get it. So now, by an act of God he is humbled in his pride.
Look with me at Daniel 4:28-33,
28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws. Daniel 4:28-33, ESV
We don’t know what happened in the intervening twelve months since Daniel provided an interpretation for Nebuchadnezzar. It’s possible that after Daniel provided this interpretation and his counsel in verse twenty-seven, Nebuchadnezzar was jolted in some sense and amended his ways for a time.
It’s also possible, and I think maybe even more likely, that he never did. He persisted in his pride and God had been patient with him up until now. Either way, the warning that was mediated through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream never produced the heart change that needed to take place. Now the desires of Nebuchadnezzar’s heart are made manifest in the brazen words of pride that he speaks at the end of twelve months.
Nebuchadnezzar is going for a stroll one day, looks out at all his accomplishments and says in verse thirty, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”
Do you hear, as some commentators point out, that there are all the personal pronouns that come to his lips; “I have built,” “My mighty power”, “My majesty”. Nebuchadnezzar here is vocalizing the musings of his heart without any restraints and just like that, the Lord acts in the most gracious way that he could. He humbles Nebuchadnezzar.
In an instant Nebuchadnezzar is driven from the highest of highs, a king with all of the luxuries one could imagine, to the lowest of lows. Into a beast like, subhuman state until he knows and comes to learn the lesson that the Most High rules the kingdom of men.
For Nebuchadnezzar to learn this lesson and for Nebuchadnezzar to be a true worshipper of God, he needs to be convicted of his guilt, corruptions and the dishonor of his sin. Friends, the same is true for us too. For us to receive the gospel, for us to receive and rest upon Christ alone as he is freely offered in the gospel, we need our prideful hearts to be humbled by the Holy Spirit. Wee need to see that Nebuchadnezzar’s animal like state is really just a parable of sorts to the nature of our sin and what sin does to us.
How does God humble us? Clearly, we shouldn’t expect to be humbled in the same way the Nebuchadnezzar is humbled in this text. Anytime we encounter, by the Spirit, the law of God through the ministry of the word, God is so faithful to expose our pride and to lead us to a conviction of our sin.
When we sit under the word of God, his Spirit so often humbles us in our delusions of grandeur and by God’s grace and mercy exposes the pride that we are hopeless to see on our own. So that we can begin to see with clarity the glory and grace of God. The law of God in the ministry of the word is that mirror that offers us the humbling that we need.
Notice that this humbling that Nebuchadnezzar experiences isn’t the end of the story. Remember that in the dream that Nebuchadnezzar saw that Daniel interpreted, even as this tree was chopped down, there was a stump of its roots that was left in the earth. This signals that hope remains even in his humility.
Now we learn when by the grace and power of God, Nebuchadnezzar is finally restored.
The Lord Restores Those Who Repent of Human pride
Look with me now at Daniel 4:34-37,
34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. Daniel 4:34-37, ESV
However long Nebuchadnezzar remained in this animal like state, we are not told apart from these seven periods of time that have to pass over him. That is more of a designation of completeness than it is a definitive span of time. Nonetheless, at the end of this God ordained span of time, however long that was, Nebuchadnezzar lifts his eyes to heaven, and he is restored both in mind and in manner.
Remember, before his humiliation, where were his eyes consistently set? They were set on his glory and his kingdom and he couldn’t see past either. Now by the grace of God he looks to the only one who could restore him out of his misery. By God’s grace he repents, which is always an act of God’s grace. He recognizes at last who he is and who God is. He knows that he can’t save himself and so he sets his eyes on the only one who can.
Friends, when the Lord humbles us in our pride and we by the grace of God see the disgrace of our sin, our only hope for restoration and life with God is that we fix our eyes on repentance and faith on King Jesus.
We hear in this movement in Nebuchadnezzar’s life this move from humiliation to exaltation and as Christian readers, we know whose story that sounds a lot like. It sounds like Jesus who was humbled to a far greater extent than Nebuchadnezzar ever was. As Paul tells us,
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8, ESV
Friends, pride tells us and the gospel tells us that the sinless Son of God, who didn’t require the humbling that Nebuchadnezzar required or that we required, nonetheless willingly humbled himself and took upon himself the shame and indignity of our sin. Though he knew no sin, he became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.
Then having accomplished salvation, God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every other name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow on Heaven and Earth and under the Earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.
Friends, Jesus is the only one who can offer us restoration and salvation when we are convicted by the burden of our own pride. Jesus is the only one that we look to when the sin of pride rages within ourselves. Jesus is the only one who makes our worship both possible and acceptable before God.
Notice that immediately after Nebuchadnezzar lifts his eyes to Heaven and he is restored. He worships. Whenever God brings his people to a conviction of their sins and he renews their hearts and minds by the power of the Holy Spirit and he draws them to himself.
Friends, worship is the inevitable fruit that follows. More than that, worship is also what the people of God continually engage in doing in part as the remedy for the continued temptations that we all face towards pride.
Afterall, as one commentator put it, “How can we exalt ourselves when we continue to fix our eyes upon Jesus in worship.” That’s what worship does. It confronts our pride in the ministry of the word and then draws our eyes by the same word ministry and sacrament away from ourselves and onto the King of Glory. That’s what word did for Nebuchadnezzar and that’s what word does for us.
So, may all of us learn to hate our pride as we continually sit under the ministry of the word and may all of us then set our eyes upon King Jesus and word.
As we prepare to draw to a close, let’s consider two short applications that arrive from this text.
1. Ask yourself a question; where has pride gripped your own heart? Pride, as C.S. Lewis puts it, is a sin that is essentially competitive. Meaning that in our pride, by its very nature we are constantly engaged in the process of comparing ourselves to other people in order to feel superior to other people.
We may post our achievements on social media in order to broadcast a certain image of ourselves as successful or affluent or clever. On the other hand, we may browse social media posting about their achievements and successes and be filled with jealousy and contempt. Remember that too is a form of pride.
Pride can even manifest itself in the life of our church. We can be filled with pride in the various ways we serve and loathe it when other people in the body don’t seem to be serving to the same extent that we are.
Pride can also manifest itself in the way that we relate intergenerationally, with younger families and parents looking down on older families and parents for their way of doing things, and vice versa.
As a pastor I can tell you that pride can also manifest itself in ministry whenever I compare my ministry to the ministry of another pastor. None of us are immune to this sin of pride. Even Puritans like Richard Baxter and and Richard Greenham wrote of the temptation towards pride in something as spiritual as gospel ministry. Richard Greenham wrote, “The more Godly a man is and the more graces and blessings of God are upon him, the more need he hath to pray because Satan is busiest against him and because he is readies to be puffed up with a conceited holiness.”
So, in what ways has pride griped your own heart? Even in the church. In the end, once again, the best antidote against pride is simply to stop thinking so much about ourselves. The frame of mind that all of us need to adopt and grown more and more in is the one that John the Baptist epitomizes when he says of Jesus in John 3:30, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”
As one author writes, “When pride threatens you, consider the contrast between a proud person and our humble savior, and sing with Isaac Watts, ‘When I survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died, my richest gain I count as lost, and pour contempt on all of my pride.'”
2. Have you trusted in Christ alone as he is freely offered in the gospel? As Christians, pride is a sin that none of us have immunity to. Maybe like Nebuchadnezzar, you have been so gripped by pride in your life that you have never been led to a true conviction of your sin and you’ve never really trusted in Jesus.
You may know the claims of the gospel and maybe even ascent to those claims. But as James tells us, even the demons ascent in some sense. So, if you have never really been humbled by your pride and never really received and rested on Christ alone, pray that the Spirit would show you your sin. Pray that he would lead you in the way of everlasting. Pray that you would know, as James says, that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
For all of us, be convicted by the sin of pride, but then recognize that we have an advocate Jesus Christ. Turn to him to be restored.
Let me pray.
Almighty God, we thank you for your word. Your word brings us so often to a conviction of our sin because it exposes our pride. It shows us your glory and your majesty and reminds us how far we fall short of the glory of God. Lord I pray that you would convict us not only now, but also as we live, move and have our being throughout the week and we are confronted or prone to praise ourselves throughout the week. I pray that you would bring us all to a conviction of our sin and that you would move our eyes more and more, day by day, off of ourselves and our accomplishments and turn us day by day to our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.