God’s Sovereign Choice of Nebuchadnezzar
November 5th, 1967 @ 10:50 AM
GOD’S SOVEREIGN CHOICE OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Daniel 5: 18
11-5-67 10:50 a.m.
You who are listening on the radio and who are watching on television are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled, The Sovereignty of God, or God’s Sovereign Choice of Nebuchadnezzar. These sermons extended are messages from the Book of Daniel, and ten of them—of which this is the seventh—ten of them have to do with the background of God’s providence and elective purpose as it found fruition in the life of Daniel. I read as a verse, not for the purpose of expounding it, but as a background verse of the message of the morning. In the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel, when the prophet statesman stands before Belshazzar, he says in verse 18, “O thou king Belshazzar, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom and majesty, and honor, and glory” [Daniel 5:18]. Then the rest of the chapter is devoted to how Belshazzar prostituted that glorious inheritance, and how God had judged him and the nation, and how God had given it to the Medes and the Persians [Daniel 5:19-31].
Look at the word that I have read; “O thou king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father”—actually his grandfather—“a kingdom” [Daniel 5:18] God did it, just as all of destiny, and all of national life, and your life lie in the hands of God. And we live our days in the sovereign will of the Almighty. And all of history runs in the channels elected for it by Almighty God. It is said that any great institution or any great business house is but the shadow and the reflection of the great family that founded it. This is especially true with the kingdoms of the earth and the nations of history. And especially and particularly is it true of the great, scintillating, brilliant Neo- Babylonian Empire. The new Babylonian empire and the new and glorious city of Babel, of Babylon, was the creation of one gifted, illustrious, Chaldean family—Nabopolassar, his son Nebuchadnezzar, and the four known generations of the family group. Not in all history did there ever arise a family with a more glorious meteoric flash across the horizon of humanity than this Nebuchadnezzarian family. It had the most glorious remains testifying to its existence. More—and this is an amazing thing to me—more than any other pagan monarch in the world, there are more monuments to Nebuchadnezzar and his Neo-Babylonian kingdom than there are to any other pagan monarch. Again, there is more said about Nebuchadnezzar by far, there is more said about him in the Bible, than any other heathen-kingdom, monarch, emperor mentioned in history. That if nothing else would rivet our attention upon him; but how much more when we study his life and God’s judicial purposes of judgment in him.
So let’s begin. First: God knows the future, and God is sovereign of every development in history; He presides over it all. God knows it all, and God directs it all, and all history unfolds in His sovereign will. Once in a while the Lord God will make known to His servants what He is to do. For example, in the thirty-ninth chapter of Isaiah, there is told the story of the visit of the emissaries of Merodach-baladan, the king of the Chaldeans and the king of Babylonia, who sent an emissary, an embassage, to Hezekiah, ostensively, to congratulate him upon the recovery from his illness. Actually what Merodach-baladan was doing was, he was enticing Hezekiah, complimenting Hezekiah in order to persuade him to join a conspiracy of nations to throw off the yoke of Assyria. Well anyway, Hezekiah was so flattered by the presents of the emissaries that he showed them all the treasures of the temple and showed him all of the treasures of the king, and was vainglorious in displaying such wealth and such glorious accumulation [Isaiah 39:1-2]. And it evoked from Isaiah one of the most stinging rebukes of all of his prophetic ministry [Isaiah 39:3-4]. And in that stinging rebuke, in Isaiah 39:5-8, God said to Hezekiah that the day will come when all of these treasures and the family that is royal, your seed, all shall be taken to Babylon. And the members of your family will serve as eunuchs in the palace court of the king. That was a prophecy far beyond a hundred years, and it came to pass, as we shall see in the life of Daniel who belonged to the seed royal, and who himself was made a eunuch in the palace of the heathen monarch [Daniel 1:1-6]. And the whole nation and its treasures were carried into captivity into Babylon, according to the Word of God spoken by Isaiah more than a hundred years before.
Or, take again, God revealed to Abraham in the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, said his seed, his descendents, should be slaves in a foreign country, Egypt, four hundred years until the iniquity of the Amorites should be full [Genesis 15:13, 16], until God should judge the Amorite. Then He would take out His people and use them as a chastening rod against the Canaanites [Deuteronomy 20:16-18]. This is God, He presides over history, and the unfolding of every day is in His hands.
This last week in an Encounter Crusade that I was conducing, holding, furthering in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in one of those messages, I happened to refer to Romans 11:25, where Paul says, when the plērōma of the Gentiles be come in, then shall be the consummation of the age; the plērōma of the Gentiles, the plērōma. Translated in the King James Version, “the fullness of the Gentiles”; the actual meaning of the word plērōma, when “the full number” of the Gentiles be come in. When the last one that God has ordained to eternal life whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, when that last one comes in, when that last soul that God has ordained to salvation walks down the aisle, then shall the consummation of the age be, and the end shall come. Well, after that I met in a preacher’s home for dinner, and some of his members had come to him and had strenuously objected to such a preachment, as though there were a certain number who were going to be saved, and as though these were known to God, and as though it was ordered in the sovereignty of the Almighty. I’d never said that, I was just quoting the Bible and that verse in Romans 11:25 when the plērōma, the full number of the Gentiles be come in; that is no different from any other verse in the Word of God.
For unanimously, and with great unanimity and with emphasis does God’s Word present God as the Sovereign of history. And to us things may happen day at a time, they happen piece at a time; and many times they happen by surprise, we’re overwhelmed by the thing that occurs, but not God, no thing that ever comes to pass surprises God. Nor do things happen in God’s purview day at a time, piece at time. The Lord looks upon all of history as the present, there is no past, there’s no future to God, everything is present. And the Lord looks at the end from the beginning and anywhere through it, and the Lord knows it all. And as it unfolds, it unfolds according to God’s sovereign grace. Don’t you ever persuade yourself that somebody else has the reins of this universe—no! They lie in the hands of the great, omnipotent Creator, the Lord God, Judge over all the earth [Genesis 18:25].
Again, God raises up men to do His judicial will; God does it. One of the most astonishing things you can find in the Bible is the reference to Nebuchadnezzar, and how the words are used describing him. For example, in Jeremiah chapter 25 beginning at verse 8; “Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts to His people; Because ye have not heard My words, Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant”—this heathen monarch, Nebuchadnezzar—“My servant!” [Jeremiah 25:8-9]. Nor is that peculiar or unique; when I turn the page to Jeremiah 27, sending word to all of the nations around, Jeremiah says to all of the nations around; “Thus saith the Lord now have I given all these lands into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant!” [Jeremiah 27:6]. That’s not unusual or peculiar. I turn again to the forty-third chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, and he is now a captive in Egypt, and at a certain place, Tahpanhes, at Tahpanhes in Egypt, he buried stones in the ground [Jeremiah 43:8-9], and then says:
Where these stones are buried, behold, saith the Lord I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and on this place he will erect his pavilion and set his throne as the king over Egypt. I have given Egypt and all the civilized nations of the world into his hands
Isn’t that an astonishing thing? Nebuchadnezzar, “My servant,” ebed, servant, ebed, servant. Why, that’s the same word that the psalmist and the prophets used for David, God’s ebed, servant [2 Samuel 7:5]. That is the same word used in Isaiah to describe the coming Christ, servant, ebed [Isaiah 52:13]. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? For example in the forty-fourth chapter of Isaiah and in the first verse of the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah, the Lord God refers to Cyrus, to Cyrus, as My anointed, the anointed of Jehovah, and refers to him as “the shepherd of God” [Isaiah 44:28-45]. This is an astonishing thing for these are pagan, heathen, idolaters! But they are the servants of God, and the Lord raised them up, and the Lord uses them to execute His purposes in the earth.
All right, a second thing: not only does God raise them up, but when God wills it, when God wills it, there is no man or nation or group of nations that can countermand or that can interdict God’s sovereign purposes through them. Look in this passage for example, in the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Jeremiah;
Thus saith the Lord to Jeremiah; Make bonds and yokes, and put them upon your neck; manacles, fetters, stocks, chains, yokes, and it shall be that when the emissaries come, the ambassadors come from all of the nations round about, you place in their hands these manacles, and these fetters, and these chains, and these yokes. And you tell them to go back to their government, and back to their king, and back to their capital, and back to their lands. And announce to the king and to the people that I have given them as captives into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar My servant.
[A summary of Jeremiah 27:2-6]
Isn’t that something? And Jeremiah walked around Jerusalem with his neck bowed under a heavy yoke [Jeremiah 27:2, 28:10]. And Jeremiah was telling the people of Judah and of Jerusalem that they should go into captivity under the hand of Nebuchadnezzar [Jeremiah 27:8-9]. And he wore that heavy yoke around his neck. And here in the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, you have the story of Hananiah, a false prophet, of Hananiah who met Jeremiah on the street with that yoke around his neck. And Hananiah said to Jerusalem, and to the king, and to the people of Judah; “This is not true! Nebuchadnezzar is not coming to this place, and he’s not going to besiege the city, and he’s not going to take these people captive” [Jeremiah 28:1-4]. And Hananiah broke the yoke from off of Jeremiah’s neck [Jeremiah 28:10]. And Jeremiah said to Hananiah, “God grant it, may it be.” Then he went to a silent, secret place, and while Jeremiah waited on the Lord, the Word of the Lord came to him, and Jeremiah came back and said, “Hananiah has broken this yoke of wood from off of my neck, but God will make it a yoke of iron, and this city and these people shall surely go into captivity” [Jeremiah 28:11-14]. Then turning to Hananiah, he said, “And before this year is out thou shalt surely die.” And the last verse says, “So Hananiah the prophet died in the seventh month of that year” [Jeremiah 28:15-17]. When God wills it, when God wills it, no collection, or formation, or coalition of men or nations can interdict what God wills!
While Jeremiah was carrying that yoke in Jerusalem, the Lord God spake to Ezekiel in Tel Abib on the banks of the River Chebar, the great canal in Babylon, and said to Ezekiel, “Dig through the house—dig through the wall of your house, and through that aperture, carry out all of your household stuff.” And Ezekiel dug through the wall of his house and carried out all of his stuff, and when he did, the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel and said, “Say to the people, thus will they be carried out of Jerusalem, and out of Judah, and out of Palestine; everything that belongs to the chosen family of God, and they shall surely go into captivity in Babylon under the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, My servant” [Ezekiel 12:1-13].
It reminds me of Isaiah, who in the little short twentieth chapter of the book, Isaiah walked naked and barefoot three solid years through the streets of Jerusalem as a sign that the Assyrians, in his day, as a sign that the Assyrians would come and would take away everything that the people possessed [Isaiah 20:1-4]. This is God, and the sovereign purposes of the Almighty are carried through the lives and work of these men, however they are personally.
Why, look at Nebuchadnezzar; he is an idol worshiper of the grossest kind. Look at him again; he is a king, autocratic, contumacious, imperious, impetuous. In the second chapter of the Book Daniel, because the Chaldean wise men could not tell him his dream, he gave commandment that they all should be slain [Daniel 2:12]. And in the next chapter the third chapter, of the Book of Daniel, when those three sons of the Hebrews refused to bow down before his golden image, it says he was filled with wrath, and the form of his visage changed [Daniel 3:19]; that’s Nebuchadnezzar! And he threw them into the fiery furnace [Daniel 3:19-20]. Not only that, but in the next chapter, the fourth chapter, he stands there in his palace and looks over the great, wondrous city of Babylon, and he is filled with vanity and vainglory, and his spirit is lifted up in false pride [Daniel 4:29-30]. That’s Nebuchadnezzar, but the Book calls him “God’s servant” [Jeremiah 27:6, 43:10]. How could such a thing be? How can God choose these men to carry out His purposes in the earth?
Isaiah asked God that question in the days when the bitter and ruthless Assyrian came and destroyed Israel and Samaria, and carried away into captivity and forever destroyed the kingdom—the northern ten tribes [2 Kings 17:5-23]. And when Sennacherib came down to Judah and held Jerusalem in a vise, and had it not been for the intervention of the angel of God, would have destroyed it! [2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36]. In those days, in those days, Isaiah turned to the Lord God and said, “I do not see, and I do not understand. How is it that these merciless, blaspheming Assyrians come against us? However we have sinned, we have not sinned as they sin! And why do You deliver our people into their hands?” And God answered Isaiah—chapter 10, verse 5, “O Assyria, Assyria, Assyria is the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of Mine indignation” [Isaiah 10:5]. God chose and God used Assyria to chasten and to punish the idolatry and the disobedience of His people, Israel, and carried them away into captivity and scattered them over the face of the earth [Jeremiah 50:17]. And they’ve been scattered ever since [Deuteronomy 4:27, 28:64], “Assyria, the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of Mine indignation” [Isaiah 10:5].
And the same thing happened when Babylon came and carried Judah away [Jeremiah 39:8-9]. The prophet, Habakkuk, took it to God. And Habakkuk cried unto the Lord and said, “I do not understand, the Chaldeans, blasphemy, idolatrous, they come and they destroy God’s people and God’s house and carry away the chosen into captivity. However we may have sin in Israel, yet are we not as vile and blasphemous as the bitter Chaldean, I do not understand.” And the Lord God returned word to Habakkuk, “I have established them for judgment and I have chosen them for correction; the rod of Mine anger and the staff of Mine indignation” [Habakkuk 1:12-13].
And do not persuade yourself that America is more precious in God’s sight than Judah and Israel. And don’t’ you ever think that Washington is more precious in His sight than was Jerusalem. And the same Lord God that judged Israel and Judah through the chastening rod of Assyria and of Babylon; the same Lord God will chasten America. And all the combinations of allies and men can not defer, dissuade, countermand, or interdict the judgment of God if God so judges.
“Yeah, but pastor you don’t understand, we have an anti-anti missile system. And these bombs that are going to swing around in orbit over this earth, we have ways of detecting them. And not only that but we rule the seas, and not only that but we are ahead in spacecraft, and not only that but we have economic strength, and not only that but we have armies, air force.”
Yes, yes but the verdict lies not in armies, navies, and ballistic missiles, but the verdict lies in the imponderables of Almighty God. And whether we live or whether we die lies in His sovereign, elective purpose. And America cannot survive in villainy, and in desecration, and in drunkenness, and in wantonness, and in revelry, and in rejection of the overviewers of the mercies and grace of God.
Far called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Though all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!
[“Recessional,” by Rudyard Kipling]
Whether we live or die lies in the imponderables of Almighty God. And as the Lord used Assyria and Babylon to chasten His people, God can also use a Soviet Russia and a heathen China to chasten America. Whom shall we tremble before? Mao Tse-tung? No. A Brezhnev? No. Whom shall we tremble before; we shall tremble before the great God of the universe. The beginning of wisdom is the fear, the trembling before God [Proverbs 9:10].
Now, to speak of Nebuchadnezzar, the invincible conquests of Nebuchadnezzar; some time in this series of sermons on Daniel, I hope I have opportunity to speak of Babylon. It was founded by Nimrod; in the tenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, Nimrod, on the plain of Shinar, called Babel, Babylon [Genesis 10:8-10]. And the old Babylonian empire came to its glorious height, its zenith, its glory, the halcyon days under Hammurabi, the Amorite, a Semite; a Semitic family like the Jewish family. And Hammurabi, in the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries BC, made Babylon one of the wondrous cities of the world. Then it fell into eclipse, and the Neo-Babylonian kingdom came to its glory over a thousand years later under the illustrious leadership of this one family; Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadnezzar [Daniel 2:37, 5:18]. Now, when the old Babylonian Empire fell into decay, its place was filled by the Assyrians. And for centuries and centuries and centuries, Assyria, the most warlike scourge of mankind on the pages of history, Assyria ruled the civilized world. One after another of their rulers were gloriously gifted military men, marvelously gifted strategists and national leaders, organizers. Assyria had a whole succession of tremendous men; Tiglath-pileser, who lived over a thousand years BC, Shalmaneser, the Sargon, Sennacherib, Ashurbanipal; tremendous men. But when Ashurbanipal died in 625 BC, his son was weak.
Now Ashurbanipal had a viceroy in Babylon, by the name of Nabopolassar, a Chaldean, a Semite. And when Ashurbanipal died in 625 BC, Nabopolassar rebelled and took out of the orbit of the Assyrian kingdom, all of Babylonia. On the other side, to the north and to the east, was a kingdom of Medes, and they had an able leader by the name of Cyaxares. He’d been warring against Assyria for years. Nabopolassar to the south and Cyaxares king of the Meads to the west and the north, along with the Scythians, stormed Nineveh. And according to the prophecy of Nahum in 612 BC [Nahum 3], Nineveh fell. And so completely did they destroy Nineveh, that the very sight was lost to history and to the world.
Alexander the Great’s armies, marching eastward, passed over Nineveh and had no idea a great empire lay beneath their feet. The Assyrians, who were defeated in their capital city of Nineveh, on the east bank of the Tigris River, fled north and west to Haran and there built a temporary capital. But Nabopolassar was relentless, and he pursued the Assyrians, and, in 610 BC, he destroyed them again in Haran. The remnant of the Assyrians fled west to Carchemish, one of the great brilliant cities of all time on the banks of the Euphrates River to make their last stand. And in 605 BC, the great world decisive battle of Carchemish was fought.
Now this is how it came to pass. Pharaoh Necho, who was the king and leader of the great Egyptian empire, Pharaoh Necho saw in the weakening of the Assyrians, he saw an opportunity to establish himself as a ruler of all the earth. So Pharaoh Necho took a vast army and marched it northward to fight by the side of the remnant of Assyria. “For,” thought Pharaoh Necho, “if I can destroy the armies of Babylon and the armies of Nabopolassar, I will be the ruler of the whole civilized world.” And once again and for the last time, you have a confrontation between the civilization that centered on the Nile and the civilization that centered in the Tigris, Euphrates Valley. So Pharaoh Necho marched his army northward and occupied Palestine and Syria. And little Josiah, good King Josiah, took his little army of Judeans and at Armageddon confronted Necho, and Necho’s vast army ran over him like straw. And good King Josiah was slain [2 Chronicles 35:20-24]. We’ll speak of that later in Daniel. That happened when he was a boy and made an everlasting impression upon him. When Pharaoh slew good King Josiah and his great army marched northward having occupied Palestine, having occupied Syria, and now at Carchemish, Pharaoh faces the Chaldeans, and the destiny of the world, the supreme rulership of the world lies in the verdict [Jeremiah 46:2].
What did I say about Nebuchadnezzar? God said, “Nebuchadnezzar, My servant” [Jeremiah 27:6]. And what I’d say about Jeremiah in Tahpanhes? “Where these stones are buried, will Nebuchadnezzar fill his pavilion and his throne; he shall conquer the civilized world” [Jeremiah 43:8-13]. When Pharaoh Necho came to Carchemish with the remnants of the Assyrian army, the great battle was fought in 605 BC, and it changed the destiny of the world, and God gave Nebuchadnezzar an incomparable victory, and he crushed the armies of Assyria and of Pharaoh Necho.
And out of the battle of Carchemish, five great things ensued. First: out of the battle of Carchemish, Assyria never rose to power again. She was destroyed forever, and she passed from the pages of history forever, and Assyria ceased to be.
Second: the back of Egypt was broken in two, and Egypt never again, according to the Word of God, will be a great power—never. Now you think of that—this is in 605 BC, before Christ, 605 years before Christ—at the battle of Carchemish, God broke Egypt, and Egypt never survived, she never rose to be a first-rate power again; neither then, nor in the history that follows, nor today. And if Russia did not destroy the Bible and if Russia would read the Word of God, she would find on the pages that Egypt will never excel. Egypt will never prevail! In 605 BC, God broke Egypt at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. That is the sovereign choice of God.
Third, out of the battle of Carchemish, not only was the Assyrian Empire destroyed forever, and not only was the back of Egypt broken and she will never be a great power again then, now, forever, third: the brilliant and glorious city of Carchemish was completely obliterated. The armies of Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it from the face of the earth. And Carchemish also, like Nineveh, was lost to history and its very sight forgotten until modern excavators and archeologists have begun to bring its great monuments to the light of day.
Fourth: out of the battle of Carchemish, Judah and Jerusalem and the people of God became vassals of the king in Babylon.
Five: and last, out of the battle of Carchemish when Pharaoh Necho lost the war, he and his soldiers, panic stricken, were fleeing before the Chaldeans back south down to Egypt, and Nebuchadnezzar was flying after them in hot pursuit. And as those Egyptians turned south going through Syria, then through Palestine, then through Judah and by Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar’s armies were following fast and furious.
Then something happened. Nabopolassar was old and ailing and could not go to Carchemish to meet the challenge of Pharaoh Necho; he sent his son Nebuchadnezzar. And when Nebuchadnezzar was following down through Palestine pursuing Necho, he received word from Babylon that his father Nabopolassar had died. He ceased his following, pursuing Necho, and turned around and went back to Babylon to receive the crown of the kingdom and to consolidate his victories at home: God preparing Nebuchadnezzar for the judicial purposes, in His sovereign will, He has chosen for that heathen monarch. But when Nebuchadnezzar went back to Babylon, he did not go alone. He carried with him, from Jerusalem; he carried some of the seed royal of the house of God. It was not a mass deportation, not in 605. It was not the uprooting of whole populations and colonizing them in a strange land as later when the kingdom was destroyed. But at this time, it was the choosing of a few of the seed royal to glorify his courts and his empire. And as God raised up Nebuchadnezzar to carry out His judicial purposes in the earth, and sent him back to Babylon, he carried with him a statesman and prophet who should stand before him, representing God’s people and the courts of heaven and the Almighty who sits above the circle of the earth. And four of them were named in the book out of which I’m preaching; Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah [Daniel 1:1-7]. And as God raised up that mighty monarch to do His will in the earth, God raised up before him the statesman prophet to plead for his people, to represent as an ambassador the courts of heaven and to deliver God’s message to men.
All of our lives, and the lives of our people, and the life of our nation, lies in the will of God. And blessed is that kingdom and prosperous is that land who loves the Lord and who place their trust in Him. Blessed is that home, blessed is that family, blessed is that life that finds in God, its alpha and omega; its beginning and its end, its mercies now and its promising grace forever tomorrow.
Oh, how in order it is to bow our knees before the great High God who rules above the heavens of the earth. Have you done that? Have you looked to God for grace, for the forgiveness of sins, for the blessings that can only be bestowed by His precious hands? Have you? Do you bow before the great Lord, do you? Do you call upon His name? Do you ask His help in all of the daily ways of your life, do you? Have you opened your heart to the God who can save us and keep us? And when you face this great and final trial the hour of your death, can you, with confidence and sweet assurance, commend your soul to the Jesus who died to save you? [1 Corinthians 15:3]. Do you know the Lord? Have you put your life in his care? Why don’t you do it now?
“Pastor, here I come, I give God my life, I take Jesus for all He has promised to do, and here I come.” A couple you, a family you; “Pastor my wife, my children, all of us are coming today.” As the Lord shall lead in the way, as the Savior shall press the appeal to your heart; He who is able to save us, come to Him. Give your life to Him; put your heart and soul and trust to Him [Romans 10:9-10, 13]. Come this morning, in the balcony round, on either side, in the aisle, down here at the front, “Here I am, preacher, here I come. I make it now, I’m coming now.” Do it, do it, while we stand and while we sing.