God’s Sovereign Choice of Nebuchadnezzar
November 5th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
GOD’S SOVEREIGN CHOICE OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Daniel 5: 18
11-5-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled God’s Sovereign Choice of Nebuchadnezzar – the conquests of Nebuchadnezzar. It is a sermon on the sovereignty of God, the great Lord who presides over our lives and over the destiny of all the nations of the world. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel beginning at verse 18, as Daniel addresses the king Belshazzar, "O thou king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom and majesty, and glory, and honor" [Daniel 5:18].
Now the rest of the passage is a presentation on the part of the prophet, Daniel, of the judgment of God upon the house of Nebuchadnezzar, upon the kingdom of Babylon, and the interpretation of the handwriting on the wall, and that God had given the kingdom to another nation, the Medes and the Persians. The sermon this morning is not an exposition of this passage, but it is a message on the sovereign choice of God in all human life and in all human history. "O thou king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom." God did it.
It has been said that a great institution or a great business house is but the shadow of the family who heads it. This is true in the building of a political empire, and especially is that true as we look at the neo-Babylonian kingdom under which the Book of Daniel was written, and to which Judah was carried away captive. The neo-Babylonian kingdom is a reflection and a shadow of one gifted, illustrious, Chaldean family; Nabopolassar, the father, and his son, Nebuchadnezzar. For a little while that family, like a meteor, flashed across the horizon of history in glory, in the days of Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar, only to degenerate in the weak and compromised Belshazzar.
Another thing: that family left behind it more witnesses to its greatness than any other ancient family in human history. And another thing: that family, and Nebuchadnezzar, is mentioned more in the Bible than any other heathen monarch. And were we not interested for any other reason, that would be reason enough for us carefully to look at this family of Nebuchadnezzar. There is none other that compares with it in the Bible; no other pagan monarch is spoken of the beginning as much as Nebuchadnezzar is. So we’re going to look at this family, and as we do, out of it came this message and this study. I was so deeply impressed most so in the sovereign choice of God as He rules over human life and over human history.
All right, first: God knows the future, and God controls the future, and He presides over the destiny of nations, and families, and individual lives; the sovereign God of this universe. Sometimes He will reveal a part of that foreknowledge and sovereign choice to His people here below. For example, in about 712 BC, when Hezekiah, the king of Judah, had recovered from his illness, the king of the Chaldeans, and the king of Babylon, Merodach-baladan; sent a letter, and ambassadors to Hezekiah, ostensibly to congratulate him upon his recovery. But really Merodach-baladan, the king of Babylon, was seeking to cultivate the friendship of Hezekiah in order to form a conspiracy of all the nations around them to revolt against Assyria.
And in the thirty-ninth chapter of Isaiah, verses 5 through 8, the prophet Isaiah comes before Hezekiah the king, and asks him about the emissaries and what they wanted. And Hezekiah was most flattered that the king of Babylon should have thus sent to him. And having shown in vainglory all of the treasures of the kingdom and all of the treasures of the house of Judah [Isaiah 39:1-4]; Isaiah laid before Hezekiah a stinging rebuke from God and said, "The day will come when every treasure in this house shall be carried away to the heathen temples of Babylon, and your family, and your sons, shall be eunuchs in the palace of the Babylonian king" [Isaiah 39:5-7]. Now this was in 712 BC, and of course the Babylonian captivity was dated more than hundred years later. We are looking at God’s knowledge and God’s sovereignty over the future.
You have another instance of this in the life of Abraham. God revealed to Abraham that his seed should be slaves in Egypt, four hundred years [Genesis 15:13, 16]. And when God revealed this to Abraham, it was five hundred years, half a millennium, before the prophecy came to pass. God knows the future and God presides over the future. He is the Lord God of every life, and of every nation.
This last week I was preaching in an encounter crusade in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and in one of the messages I referred to Romans 11:25, where Paul says that when the plērōma of the Gentiles be come in, then the consummation of the age and God’s dealing with Israel shall begin. Now the word plērōma, the Greek word, plērōma, translated "fullness" – the word plērōma actually means, "the full number" – and I said there is a number known to God whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life who are going to be saved. And when that final one comes in – comes down the aisle, accepts Jesus, when that full number known to God and in the Lamb’s Book of Life; when that last soul comes in – then we shall come to the consummation of the age [Romans 11:25].
Oh! There was vigorous exception made to such a doctrine as that, and that night, in one of the pastor’s homes, I was accosted with it – and by the pastor, "As though God knew!" And I said, "To a man things may happen one at a time, day at a time, like a parade coming around the corner, and you see it one day at a time. And we’re surprised at things that happen and we’re overwhelmed by them, and sometimes we are swept off our feet. Do you think God is ever surprised? Do you think the events of human history take the great God of the universe by surprise?"
All history from beginning to end is present before the Lord. There is no "past" in God, there is no "future" before the Lord, everything is a great "I Am" [Exodus 3:14] – a present. And God looks at all human history from the beginning to the end, and it is all a "present" before Him. He sees it, and He knows it, and He presides over it. Any man who would say that God is taken by surprise, or that the universe has been wrested from the hands of the Almighty, does not know the Lord nor the revelation of God in this Holy Book. God knows the future and no thing ever surprises God, and the Lord presides over that future, the Sovereign of our lives and of the universe. Now that’s the sermon.
God raises up men to execute His sovereign will in the earth – look at these passages. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, verse 9: "Behold, I will send," the Lord God talking, "and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, My servant" [Jeremiah 25:9]. Isn’t that something? Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, "My servant." Well, that’s not peculiar or unusual. I turn the page to the twenty-seventh chapter of Jeremiah and the sixth verse: "And now have I given all these lands," see God talking, "now have I given, I have given all these lands in the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant" [Jeremiah 27:6].
I turn the page over here to the forty-third chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, here in the tenth verse. Jeremiah is now a captive down in the land of Egypt, and there in the land of Egypt he buries bricks; and he says, "In this very place where I bury these bricks shall the king Nebuchadnezzar build his pavilion and set his throne." In Egypt! God has given Egypt to him. In the tenth verse he says, "Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant" [Jeremiah 43:10]. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? That word "servant," that’s the same word used by the prophets and used by the psalmists to describe David, the great king of Israel [Psalm 36:1; Ezekiel 34:24]. "My servant," that is the same word that is used to describe the coming Christ, God’s Servant – ebed; "servant" [Isaiah 42:1]. And the last verse in the forty-fourth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, and the first verse of the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah describes Cyrus, the king of the Medes and the Persians, describes Cyrus as the anointed of Jehovah and the shepherd of God [Isaiah 44:28-45:1]. Isn’t that astonishing? These rulers of these great empires are men whom God has raised up to carry out His divine purposes. God does it. Not only that; not only does the Lord God choose and raise up these rulers of empires, but when God wills it, no man can interdict it or countermand it.
One of the astonishing things as we read the revelation of God’s will here in the Book of Jeremiah, one of the astonishing things that we read is this; Jeremiah here in the twenty-seventh chapter of his book, Jeremiah takes bonds, fetters, chains, bonds and yokes, and when the emissaries from all of the countries round about Israel, when they come to Judah and to the king according to the commandment of God, Jeremiah places in the hands of all the emissaries of those nations around, bonds, and yokes, fetters, stocks, and sends them back to their kings saying; this is a sign that God has delivered your nation and your king into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon. And Jeremiah went around Jerusalem with a heavy yoke on his neck. And Jeremiah was saying to the people of Jerusalem and Judah; "Thus saith the Lord, the great Lord God has given Jerusalem, and Judah, and these people, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar." And Jeremiah wore that yoke around his neck; heavy yoke, an ox yoke around his neck, walking up and down the streets of Jerusalem [Jeremiah 27:2-6].
And there arose a false prophet named Hananiah – you can read all this in the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah. Hananiah, and Hananiah stood up and said, "That is not so! God is not going to deliver this people into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar!’ And Hananiah went to Jeremiah and broke the yoke from off of his neck, and said, "Thus saith the Lord God, God is going to break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, and our people are going to be free!" [Jeremiah 27:10-11]. And Jeremiah said, "I wish what you say were true." And Jeremiah went to himself, to a silent place, a quiet place, and while Jeremiah was silent before the Lord, the Word of the Lord came to him. And he came back and delivered God’s message and said, "You have broken this yoke of wood off of my neck, but God is going to place, on the neck of these people, a yoke of iron by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar" [Jeremiah 28:12-14]. Then turning to Hananiah and he said, "Before this year shall pass, Hananiah, you shall surely die." And seven months later, Hananiah died [Jeremiah 28:15-17].
When God wills it, no man can interdict it, or countermand it, or change it. You know those prophets had a tremendous way of vividly portraying God’s message. While Jeremiah was wearing that yoke in Jerusalem, in captivity in Tel Abib, the Lord God told Ezekiel to dig through the wall of his house, tear a great aperture in his house, dig through the wall of his house and take all of his household stuff out. And Ezekiel the prophet dug through the wall of his house and carried all of his stuff out. And Ezekiel says, "Thus saith the Lord, Thus shall God do to Jerusalem and to Judah. They shall go into captivity then all of their things shall be taken away, all of it" [Ezekiel 12:1-15]. What vivid things these prophets did! Declaring the sovereign choice of God. The prophet Isaiah, for three years, walked through Jerusalem naked and barefoot – for three years announcing to the people that the Assyrians surely would devour and destroy the nations around on which Judah was leaning instead of the Lord God [Isaiah 20:1-4].
And those sovereign purposes of God reached down to the choice of these men; however those men are personally. Nebuchadnezzar was a heathen idolater. And not only that, but he was personally impetuous, imperious, contumacious, autocratic, full of fury at the slightest provocation. When the Chaldean wise men couldn’t tell him his dream [Daniel 2:3-11], he gave commandment for all of them to be slain [Daniel 2:12]. And when those three Hebrew children wouldn’t bow down before his golden image [Daniel 3:12-18], the Bible says he was filled with fury; and the countenance of his visage, and the form of his visage, was changed as he commanded to throw them in the fiery furnace [Daniel 3:19]. And not only that but in the fourth chapter of the Book of Daniel, you can see there the pride and vain glory of this heathen monarch [Daniel 4:29-30] – yet God calls him, "My servant" [Jeremiah 43:10]. Well, how is it that God raises up these men? And how is that God calls them, "My servants?" Because God uses them in judicial judgment, in carrying out His chastening decrees to those who violate His will.
For example, when Assyria – that bitter and ruthless winged bull of Asshur – when Assyria came down and destroyed Israel, took the ten tribes away, and the nation never came back; destroyed Israel forever [2 Kings 17:5-23], and when the Assyrian came down to besiege Jerusalem and held it in a vise, Isaiah asked God, "How is it that these blaspheming, uncircumcised, idolatrous Assyrians prevail as our people suffer under their iron hand?" The Lord God sent word back to Isaiah and said, "Assyria is the rod of Mine anger and the staff of Mine indignation" [Isaiah 10:5]. And with them He chastened and flailed His people. And the same identical thing happened when the Chaldeans came against Judah, when Nebuchadnezzar came against Judah and Jerusalem. Habakkuk, the prophet, asked God, "However it is we have sinned, yet are we not as vile as these idolaters and blaspheming Chaldeans? Why is it, O God, that they come to destroy us?" And God answered Habakkuk and said, "I have ordained them for correction, I have established them for judgment" [Habakkuk 1:12]. And when a people sin away their day of grace, judgment comes, and no man can interdict it.
Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
[from "Recessional," Rudyard Kipling]
Whether we live or die does not lie in the hands of our armies, or of our navies, or of our air force, or of our missiles and entire missile system. But whether we live or die lies in the sovereign choice of Almighty God. And when a people sin away their day of grace, in the sovereign purposes of God no man, or army, or people, can interdict God’s judgment. "The rod of Mine anger, and staff of Mine indignation; I have ordained them for judgment and established them for correction" [Habakkuk 1:12]. And America is no more precious in God’s sight than Judah; and Washington is no more precious in God’s sight than Jerusalem. There is a sovereign Judge who presides over life and over the nations of the earth. And when we do violence to God’s will, judgment comes, judgment comes; "The rod of Mine anger, and the staff of Mine indignation" [Isaiah 10:5].
Now the invincible conquest of Nebuchadnezzar, "Nebuchadnezzar My servant" [Jeremiah 43:10]; and when a man is chosen of God to carry out God’s judicial decrees, he is invincible. I don’t know whether sometime along the way we’ll ever have time to speak of the city of Babylon. Babylon was founded by Nimrod on the plain of Shinar [Genesis 10:8-10]. They first called it Babel, the tower of Babel; Babylon and Babel are the same. The old Babylonian Empire, in the seventeenth or the eighteenth century, had a glorious and illustrious king by the name of Hammurabi. He was an Amorite, a Semite, belonged to the Semitic family. And the Chaldeans were Semites, they were Semitic. The Chaldeans and the Jews both belonged to the same family like the Arab and the Jew today; they’re all Semitic peoples. And the old Babylonian Empire rose to glory under Hammurabi. And Hammurabi made of Babylon one of the wonders of the world; a glorious city. After the days of Hammurabi, old Babylon fell into eclipse until it was brought back in that meteoric fashion by the illustrious family of Nabopolassar, and Nebuchadnezzar. And for just a short while, from 625 BC to 539 BC, that glorious kingdom of Babylon rose in grandeur again.
Now, when the old Babylonian Empire fell into eclipse, Assyria ruled the civilized world for centuries and centuries. The Assyrians were ruthless, and merciless, and war-like. They were the scourge of humanity. Their great capital city was Nineveh, on the eastern side of the Tigris River. But when Nineveh and Assyria controlled the world, under their bitter and merciless rulers, they created a vast hatred and antipathy against them such as you find in Judah and in Israel.
In 625 BC, Ashurbanipal, the last glorious, able ruler of Assyria died. And the son of Ashurbanipal was weak, and the kingdom began to falter. The viceroy of Ashurbanipal, the king of Assyria, the viceroy of the king of Assyria in Babylon was named Nabopolassar. And when Ashurbanipal died, Nabopolassar revolted against Assyria and wrested all of Babylonia from Assyrian control. The king of the Medes, Cyaxares, had been warring against Assyria for years. So Cyaxares the king of the Medes, and Nabopolassar the king of Babylonia, with the Scythians, stormed Nineveh. And in 612 BC, Nineveh fell according to the prophecy of Nahum, exactly as Nahum had said hundreds of years before [Nahum 2:1-3:19]. Nineveh fell, and so completely did the armies of Nabopolassar and Cyaxares destroy Nineveh until the very sight was forgotten in the earth. The armies of Alexander the Great marched over Nineveh and had no idea a great empire lay beneath their feet. But, the Assyrian army, the remnant, fled northward to the great city of Haran and there set up a temporary capital of the Assyrian empire. But Nabopolassar was relentless, and he followed the Assyrian army to Haran, and defeated them again. And the Assyrian army – this happened in 610 BC, and the Assyrian army, the remnant, fled to the great city of Carchemish, westward on the Euphrates River, to make their last stand.
Now, the battle of Carchemish, fought in 605 BC, is one of the great decisive battles of all history and of all mankind. For you see, when Pharaoh Necho, the ruler and the king of Egypt, the great Egyptian Empire, when he saw that the Assyrian Empire was beginning to degenerate and to disintegrate, Pharaoh Necho thought within himself, "If I can stop that Babylonian army and if I can conquer those Chaldeans, Pharaoh will be king and lord of all the civilized earth." So Pharaoh Necho took a tremendous army, a vast army, and marched northward; marched through Palestine and Syria, and occupied it all. And when the army of Judah under King Josiah sought to stop Pharaoh Necho at Armageddon – and I shall preach of that possibly the next time – why, King Josiah was slain and his little army swept aside as Pharaoh Necho marched northward [2 Kings 23:29]. And Pharaoh Necho came to Carchemish, to help the embattled and besieged Assyrians. Nabopolassar, the king of Babylon, was aging and ailing and could not accept the challenge himself. So he sent his son, Nebuchadnezzar, with the army of the Chaldeans to face the challenge of Pharaoh Necho and the Assyrian remnant at Carchemish. And in that battle was decided the destiny of the world. Once again, that age-old conflict between the civilization that centered in the Nile, and the civilization that centered in the Euphrates and the Tigris. And the battle of Carchemish was joined in 605 BC [2 Chronicles 35:20], what did I say about Nebuchadnezzar? God said, "He is My servant and I have ordained him for this judicial judgment" [Jeremiah 43:10]. And when God chooses, no man can interdict or group of nations. And Nebuchadnezzar inflicted a tragic loss and defeat upon Pharaoh Necho.
There are five things that came out of the great battle of Carchemish. One, first: the Assyrian empire was destroyed forever, buried forever. Second: the back of Egypt was broken forever. The power of Egypt never rose after Carchemish. It did not then, it has not since, it will not today nor forever. And as long as Russia backs Egypt, she is backing a lost cause, and a doomed nation. In 605 BC, the back of the Egyptian empire was broken, and Egypt never rose again to be a first rate power, nor will it ever.
This is in the sovereignty of God; He who presides over the nations of the earth [Psalm 82:8]. Third, the results of the battle of Carchemish, third: the brilliant and glorious city of Carchemish, one of the great cities of all time, was utterly destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s armies. And the very site of the city was forgotten until modern archeologists and excavators have begun unearthing its glorious monuments to the light of day. Fourth, the result of the battle of Carchemish: Palestine and Judah and Jerusalem became vassals to Nebuchadnezzar, according to the Word of God [2 Kings 24:1]. And fifth: out of the battle of Carchemish arose the great world ruler, and empire builder, Nebuchadnezzar, God’s servant, God’s servant [Jeremiah 43:10].
And Nebuchadnezzar, in pursuing after Pharaoh Necho and his armies as they fled panic-stricken back toward Egypt; Nebuchadnezzar followed the army of Pharaoh Necho down through Syria, and down through Palestine, and by Jerusalem and Judah. But when he came to Jerusalem and Judah he received word that Nabopolassar, his father, had died in Babylon. So Nebuchadnezzar left off pursuing Pharaoh Necho and the armies of Egypt, and left off besieging Jerusalem and Judah, and returned to Babylon in 605 BC in order to be crowned the king of the empire and to consolidate his victories at home. But when he returned to Babylon he did not go by himself, he carried with him a few of the royal family of Judah. It was not a mass deportation in 605 BC, nor was it an uprooting of a population as later, when they were transferred to a Tel Abib captivity, but it was the choice of a few who might grace and glorify his court and his empire [Daniel 1:3-6].
So in the providence of God, in the elective purpose of God, out of Carchemish, and the fleeing Egyptian army; out of Carchemish came Nebuchadnezzar, God’s judicial servant to carry out His will in the earth [Jeremiah 43:10]. And out of that battle came the Hebrew children, God’s representatives to stand before the king in his palace, representing the sovereign God of the earth. And the name of four of those members of the royal family, whom Nebuchadnezzar took back with him to Babylon were; Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah [Daniel 1:6]. And in the court of the mighty monarch, God has His prophet and His statesmen to stand before men and angels to witness to the sovereign grace and glory of the great God of the universe. We never escape Him, we never go beyond Him ever; He rules [Psalm 139:8]. And whether we live or whether we die lies in His sovereign grace and His kingly mercy. Oh, what things crowd on your soul as you read God’s Holy Book!
Now, Lee Roy, we must sing. And while we sing, a family you, to put your life in the fellowship of this precious church; a couple you, to give your life to Jesus, to dedicate your home together in the Lord; or one somebody you, looking to God in confession and in faith, while we sing the song, come now, make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, do it now, do it this morning, while we stand and while we sing.
GOD’S SOVEREIGN CHOICE OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. God knows and rules the future
II. God raises up men for His purpose
A. Nebuchadnezzar, "My servant"
B. The choice of Nebuchadnezzar made known to His prophets
C. Personal character of Nebuchadnezzar
D. Used of God for His judgment upon Judah
III. God presided over the invincible conquest of Nebuchadnezzar