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How God Saves Sinners


Text: Daniel 4:24-37

Superficially, this account is about a dream, a bad dream, that came true. But the real lesson in the story, is about how God saves sinners!

1. God is ‘Long-suffering’ with Sinners 2 Peter 3:9  

Let’s look back over what we have learned about Nebuchadnezzar and see how gracious God has been with this man over the years of his kingly rule. Think first of all of his fallen character:-

  • Nebuchadnezzar’s Pagan Lifestyle. Nebuchadnezzar was a proud, haughty man. A tyrant, a despot and a dictator. And he worships pagan gods – false gods, – and he blasphemes the only true God, Jehovah, who created heaven and earth. BUT THIS IS ABOUT HOW GOD IS QUIETLY WORKING IN HIS LIFE, so let’s see…
  • Nebuchadnezzar’s Conviction. We can trace it over four chapters…
    • Chapter one. God brings the king under a godly influence.  Dan 1:19  A faithful godly influence – right inside the king’s inner circle. Is there a point of application here? Shouldn’t we be praying for Christian politicians, that they remain faithful?
    • Chapter two. Nebuchadnezzar discovers that Daniel’s God, the God of Heaven, the One True God, can see right into his heart, – can discern the very thoughts of his subconscious mind, and see into his heart. What a lesson! But he’s still not there… Dan 2:46-47   
    • Chapter three.  Nebuchadnezzar learns another lesson, that God is real, that he is far more powerful than the most powerful man on earth, that he is everywhere, that he walks with his people in times of difficulty and protects them from harm. Daniel 3:28  

Do you see how wonderfully patient God has been with Nebuchadnezzar – over a period of time he has been gradually revealing himself to this deeply sinful man, opening his eyes to his greatness and power but he still doesn’t KNOW Him, there’s no repentance, no turning from sin, no trust.  

2. God is Sovereign in Our SalvationJonah 2:9  Salvation is of the Lord

Think about Paul, on the road to Damascus. What a man, – he was never going to ‘invite Jesus into his heart.’ – he was going to persecute and arrest and murder believers, with a vengeance. He was kicking against the goads, remember what happened! The Lord appeared before him and blinded him with light, and knocked him off his horse, and completely humiliated him in front of his friends, who had to lead him like a child into Damascus. So, let’s see what God is going to do with Nebuchadnezzar, as he smashes his foolish pride and breaks his stubborn will.

  • Another really bad dream. V10-17 In this second dream, Nebuchadnezzar sees a tree! This ‘tree’ is symbolic of a person – of the king himself, – for Babylonian kings were often depicted as mighty trees, strong and tall and enduring, with the people of the lands dwelling under them and feeding from them. But it is a frightening prospect – this tree, Nebuchadnezzar’s tree, is to be felled!
  • A call to repent. As usual the King’s Counsel, his SPADs are unable to help, so he calls for Daniel for he knew that Daniel would tell him the truth. The king would be driven away from people, would be living in the fields, eating grass like the cows, – he would be brought to his knees, and humiliated and everything he loved and valued would be taken from him, until he bowed before Jahweh. Still, the dream was a warning. It had not happened yet – God was speaking to the king, and Daniel preached the gospel to him…  V26-27 
  • Pride before a fall. A year passed by and in V28, we find him walking on the roof of the palace, admiring his work, and inwardly boasting about his success. 29-30  Let’s be honest, he had much to boast about.   He was a proud man, but there is no room whatsoever for self esteem and pride in God’s kingdom, for there, all the honour and glory goes to Jesus. 
  • The humiliation. As he was speaking, a terrible thing happened. He heard a voice, just as Saul did, on that Damascus Road. V31. God would humble him, and so he did. V33  What a transformation. The proudest man, the most important man in the world, stricken with an illness that drove him mad, reduced him – from the finest food to eating grass, from the royal palace to the field, from the company of princes and advisors to a herd of cattle, from servants preening him and bathing him, to a filthy smelly outcast with nails like talons. And GOD DID IT TO HIM. Here’s why, to bring him into the depths of despair, to drive him to such a low place, that he would realise that no-one on this earth can help, and that his only hope is to cry out to God for mercy.
  • Out of the depths. Seven ‘times’ went by – we don’t know what those times were, weeks? Months? Years? Who knows. But out in the field, Nebuchadnezzar, in his madness, remembered something. There is a God in heaven, who is powerful, who knows his true condition, and who cares about his people so much that walks through fire with them. In despair, Nebuchadnezzar cried out to that God. V34. READ: Psalm 130:1-4, And when the king cried out of the depths of his humiliation and distress, God heard him! Romans 10:13 READ Nebuchadnezzar’s own testimony:  V34 

It had happened. Nebuchadnezzar, the proud king of the world, having been drawn by the Holy Spirit, to discover the reality of God, and his own sinful condition, had been struck down to the earth, brought low by God, so that from the depths of despair he could cast aside his dependence upon his own works, and in simple faith, trust in the Lord. He returned, as sane as he had ever been, to his throne, – a changed man, a believer!  V37  

And that’s the last we hear of Nebuchadnezzar. We’ll meet him in heaven! How could God save a man like Nebuchadnezzar?  But he did. He even saved John Newton, the filthy, wicked slave trader. That’s how his Amazing Grace works!

© Bob McEvoy

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