February 28th, 1971 @ 10:50 AM

Daniel 4:1-29

Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation. I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace: I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream. Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof. But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying, O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof. Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men. This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee. Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies. The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth. And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him; This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule. Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity. All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Daniel 4:1-29

2-28-71    10:50 a.m.


On the radio and on the television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Lycanthropy.  I do not know how many times I have been asked this week, “Where in the earth did you get that word?  It is not in the dictionary.”  Well, you do not have a good dictionary.  And if you will look in the Encyclopedia Britannica, there is a long involved article about lycanthropy.

What I am doing is, after two years, I am returning to preach through the rest of the Book of Daniel.  The first group of messages that I delivered in this pulpit were on the historicity and the historical background of the Book of Daniel, and that was the first volume that was published.  Then the second volume published was a collection of the sermons that I preached on the first three chapters of the Book of Daniel [Daniel 1-3].  Now today, we begin with chapter 4 [Daniel 4:1-29], and then through the succeeding Lord’s Days at this hour, I shall be preaching from the Book of Daniel.  And these sermons will be published in volume three.  Then after that, we will begin on volume four.

Now, the chapter is number 4.  Let me summarize briefly the heart of the message and that word “lycanthropy.”  The fourth chapter of Daniel is a tract written by Daniel as it was dictated by the king [Daniel 4:1].  That is why you find those heathen mythological conceptions in the tract, and at the same time, you find those Hebraisms and spiritual representations of God, according as a prophet of Israel would describe Him.  You have it both here in this tract; you have Babylonian mythology and heathen terms; and at the same time you have descriptions of the true God, according as a prophet would present it.  The reason for that is; the tract was written by Nebuchadnezzar by/through Daniel.

Now, the tract is a delineation, a description of the marvelous conversion of the king.  And he is writing it in Aramaic, the language of his kingdom and the language of world commerce.  He is writing it in Aramaic and addresses it to all of the people of the world, every nation, every language that dwelt in all the earth [Daniel 4:1].  Now, as he writes of this regeneration, this introduction to the great high and true God, he says it came about because of a traumatic experience that is known in psychology and psychiatry and in medicine as lycanthropy; that is, a monomania, an insanity whereby a man thinks of himself as an animal and acts like it.  Now that is the tract that you know as the fourth chapter of the Book of Daniel.

As we begin, first, we look at the goodness and mercy of God to this heathen king.  “I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the High God hath wrought toward me” [Daniel 4:2].  Then He is not the God only of Israel, He is also the God of the Gentiles.  And He is not only the God of one nation or one people, but He is also the Lord God, the mighty Sovereign and King of all the nations and of all the peoples of the world.  This man, this cruel, ruthless, bitter, hasty, tempestuous, tumultuous, volative Nebuchadnezzar, he is a heathen!  He is a Gentile.  He is outside the pale of the covenant of Israel, yet the Lord is showing grace and mercy toward him.  He is the God of all the peoples of the world—even as you see, he sent Jonah to Nineveh! [Jonah 3:1-2].  Nineveh was a bitter enemy of Israel; destroyed the northern ten tribes [2 Kings 17:5-6].  And yet, God is sending the prophet to Nineveh! [Jonah 3:1-2].  So it is with Nebuchadnezzar; this hasty Chaldean destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed Judah, destroyed the temple of Solomon, took the people into captivity [Daniel 1:1-6], yet the Lord is showing grace and mercy to Nebuchadnezzar [Daniel 4:1].  So, he sets himself down, and through his amanuensis, Daniel, he writes to the whole earth of that marvelous confrontation with God [Daniel 4:1].

Now, as we begin to read what he says, I would think that anybody would be interested in it.  What does Nebuchadnezzar say?  Why, this man is the first king of the times of the Gentiles.  He is that golden head of prophecy [Daniel 2:38].  He is the absolute monarch of the civilized world.  And he is speaking!   What does he say?  We’re interested in what he would have to say.

As he starts off, you first observe that he is no member of that so-called silent, religious community.  He is vocal.  He has something to proclaim and to publish to all creation!  He has seen a light from heaven.  And he’s going to tell us about it.  He means for the Elamites to know about it; and the Armenians, and the Syrians, and the Egyptians, and all of those who live around the Mediterranean Sea, and all of those who live around the Persian Gulf, and all of those who live in the Mesopotamian Valley, the whole creation!  He addresses his word to all people and all nations and all languages that inhabit the entire earth [Daniel 4:1].

This man says, “There is more light in creation than I thought for.  And I want to show you and to describe to you the wizardry of its color and its shadow and its substance, the glory that I found in God, the true God!” [Daniel 4:2].  So, as he announces it, I begin to read, and I would have thought, oh, what words to follow.  Instead, he just bursts into exclamations; that’s all.  “How great are His signs!  and how mighty are His wonders!” [Daniel 4:3]

Now that is true and real religion.  You can’t describe it!  When you speak of a confrontation with God, you are entering the inexpressible, and you are touching the infinite, and words cannot bear it [Isaiah 55:8-9].  There is not syllable; there is not nomenclature in human speech or language to describe the soul’s meeting with God.  That same kind of a response I find in the apostle Paul as he is seeking to describe the greatness and the sovereignty of Almighty God; after he has labored with it with three chapters in Romans 9, 10, and 11, he finally just bogs down in the glory.  He’s overwhelmed with the infinitude, and he closes, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” [Romans 11:33].  So it is when a man tries to describe the glory of the Lord, he doesn’t have words adequate, and he just enters ejaculation and exclamation, “How great are His wonders!  And how mighty are His signs!” [Daniel 4:3].

The mischief of modern day religion is; “I can tell it to you like it is.  I’ve got it all compartmentalized.  I’ve got it outlined.  I’ve got it annotated.  I’ve got God in a book of theology and there He is.  I’ve put Him on the shelf.  And when I want Him, I take Him down, dust Him off, open the Book and there God is.”  As though the Almighty could be contained in a volume that you could place in a library, when the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him [2 Chronicles 2:6].  A man can’t describe the glory of a confrontation with the Lord.  Language will not carry it.  Isn’t it a shame and isn’t it a sight that we have come to the place in our culture and our society where for anything to be accepted, it must be logically demonstrated, expressed, proved, notated, annotated—as though the glory of God could be expressed in mathematical equations and scientific formulae!  Is there not something in this world beside what you could see in a test tube or under a microscope or in a telescope?  Is there not a glory and a grandeur that can sweep a man’s soul in God that it is indescribable?  There’s no logic in it at all.  It just is!  It’s the glory.  Isn’t it a strange thing that God should make us to reach for heaven and then feed our souls on a handful of moon dust?

The dull, dry, dreary statistics of physics and science, there’s something over and besides and you can’t describe it.  And you can’t logically say it.  And you can’t present it.  It’s the magnificent wondrousness of God’s presence that overwhelms the soul.  That is true religion.  And that is what Nebuchadnezzar is trying to describe.  He is entering the sanctuary of the unutterable and the inexpressible, the infinitude of the presence of the mighty God.  So when he starts off, he just, “How great are His signs!  and how mighty are His wonders!” [Daniel 4:3].  He can’t even say it.

So he turns to his dream:  “I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace” [Daniel 4:4], that is, his army is at peace.  He’s not a general anymore.  He’s not marching at the head of that ravenous, destructive, Chaldean horde.  His enemies on the outside are all vanquished.  And all of his fears on the inside are allayed.  He is at rest.  He has those great fortifications—one of the wonders of the world, they’re all built—and he has a mighty army ready to rise at the blast of the trumpet in his defense.  He is at rest in his house and flourishing in his palace.  There is nothing wanting.  Every goblet is filled with wine.  Every corner of every room echoes with music.  Every palace is a refuge from fear and terror.  And he lays his head down on a pillow of down, and expects to dream dreams of affluence, and wealth, and luxury, and splendor.  He is at rest in his house and flourishing in his palace [Daniel 4:4].  Monuments, cities, fortifications: the glory of the greatest golden city the world ever knew, Babylon.

And amazing, “I saw a dream which made me afraid” [Daniel 4:5].  What?  Well, first, let’s don’t tamper with the language.  Let’s let him say it.  “I saw a dream.”  It was a part of him, yet it was outside of him.  He looked at it as a man separate and apart.  He saw it.  He looked at it.  He looked upon it.  “I saw a dream and it made me afraid.”  I didn’t know that was in his vocabulary.  There never was a marching monarch like Nebuchadnezzar!  He never lost a battle in his life.  Against insuperable odds, he overthrew Nineveh and the whole Assyrian Empire—Nebuchadnezzar did, with Nabopolassar his father.  And Nebuchadnezzar the son did it.  Afraid?  Why, he has iron chariots, and he has cavalry and horsemen.  He has an army that’s never been defeated.  And he’s afraid? [Daniel 4:5].

Ha!  Isn’t that a strange thing, the resources of God?  He reaches, God reaches into His bag of terrors and what He can pull out.  Well, He can send lightning.  But we can deflect it.  We have devices to detonate it.  He sends whirlwind.  We can put up masonry of heavy granite, not affect it at all.  The Lord can reach in that bag of terrors, and He can send earthquake.  And we can build buildings that will move with the seismograph.  He can send fire!  Why, we can build buildings incombustible.  You couldn’t burn them down with a torch.  But ah, the resources of God.  He reaches in that bag of terrors, and a dream, a dream.  “I saw a dream that made me afraid” [Daniel 4:5].  Why, the greatest monarch of all time turns into a craven, cowardly knave.  He is afraid!

 Had it been an army pounding at the gates, he would have enjoyed the confrontation.  He would have called his soldiers into array.  In no time, he would have dissolved them like melting snow under a torrid sun.  But he’s afraid.  A dream; how would you fight against a dream?  Just exactly how would you war against a dream?  He’s afraid.  You know, back yonder in the days before the revelation and the prophetic presentation was complete, God spoke so many times to them in dreams.  He spoke to Abimelech in a dream and said to him, “Thou art a dead man, Abimelech” [Genesis 20:3].  He spoke to the baker and the butler of Pharaoh in a dream [Genesis 40:5].  He spoke to Pharaoh himself in a dream [Genesis 41:15-16].  You remember the story of Gideon?  God sent Gideon down to look at that horde of Midianites that were like the sands of the sea in number and said, “Just stand here” [Judges 7:9-12].   And there in the night, he heard a man, a Midianite soldier describe a dream, a great barley loaf came down and crushed the host and the hordes of Midian, a dream [Judges 7:13-14].  You remember Pilate sitting there in judgment on Christ?  His wife sent word to him and said, “I saw a dream tonight, and I have suffered it because of this Man” [Matthew 27:19].

A dream made him afraid; a dream [Daniel 4:5].  And he recounts the dream.  “It is a great tree, a great tree.  And it grows, and the sight of it was to the end of the earth.  It was so great, so tall, so towering that the whole earth could see it” [Daniel 4:10-11].  Now that’s good Assyrian, Babylonian culture.  On their gems they carved the tree of Paradise; on their ornaments, the tree of Paradise; on their great buildings, the tree of Paradise.  It was everywhere.  “And he saw that great, towering tree.  And the leaves were fair, and the fruit much and the shadow was for the refuge of the fowls and the beasts of the field” [Daniel 4:12].  And then as you looked upon it, that great, towering tree, that monarch of the forest, as he looked upon it, growing, growing, growing, until the whole earth could see it; there was a watcher and a holy one from heaven.  Now, remember this is something that he wrote.  This is Babylonian mythology, which we don’t have time to enter into.  A watcher and an holy one came down from heaven and cried aloud and said, “Hew it down, cut it down, and cut off the branches, and shake off the leaves, and scatter the fruit.  And the tree was utterly destroyed: all except a stump for the roots.  And they put a band of iron and brass around it to protect the roots” [Daniel 4:13-15].  You see, there are some trees cut down that do not grow again, like a cedar, like a cypress, like a fur tree, but most trees cut down, there will be a shoot from the stump that remains, and it will grow again.  Protect that stump.  Put a band of iron and brass around it until seven times pass over it.  Seven years.  And then changes from an “it” to a “he.”  “And let a beast’s heart be given to him, in order that he might learn that God in heaven lives and that God reigns, and He is the true Lord of all of the earth” [Daniel 4:16-17].

His college of counselors came in, and those astrologers, and those magicians, and those sorcerers, and those Chaldean priests had no idea what it meant.  And at last, Daniel was called in [Daniel 4:18].  That is, had some of the subservient lower orders of his counselors been able to tell him what it was, why, it would have been settled there.  But none could describe or delineate or interpret the meaning.  And finally, he called in his golden counselor, Daniel himself, and told Daniel that dream and his fear of it.  “And when Daniel heard it, he was astonied” –that’s an old English archaic word – “he was astonied for an hour” [Daniel 4:19].  That is, he sat there troubled, and dazed, and bewildered, and full of fear.  His speech altered and his countenance changed.  And when Nebuchadnezzar the king looked upon him, it brought terror to his own heart.  “Speak, Daniel, speak.  What is it?  What does it say?  What does it mean?”

And here is the problem that every pastor in life faces—and every man of God and every prophet and every apostle.  Shall you deliver the truth of God or not?  Can you say it or not?  Can you tell it or not?  What shall you do?  For the message was one of threatening doom for that king!  And Daniel is a slave.  He is a servitor.  He could be crushed with the frown of the monarch.  He’s a captive in the court.  And he stands before the mightiest king the world has ever known, an absolute despot and dictator.  But the message is one of doom.  It is one of judgment.  It is one of damnation!  And shall he deliver it?  What shall he do?  What shall he say?  Ah, the course of practically every preacher is to hide it.   “Empty the penal out of the Word of God!  Don’t you threaten with judgment.  Don’t you speak of damnation and hell.  Don’t you talk about the fires that are never quenched.  Don’t you speak of the day of the wicked.  Make it soft, and syrupy, and smooth, and palliative.  Pander their vanity.  Congratulate and compliment their wretched living!  Don’t tell that half-damned man if he doesn’t turn and doesn’t repent the process will proceed, but tell him he’ll be saved anyway.  Why, he’ll be taken to heaven and be a seraph, or at least an angel.  The pit of hell, fill it with beautiful flowers.  But don’t deliver a message of damnation and judgment.  Don’t describe the end of the wicked and the ultimate consummation of sin.  Hide it away under beautiful language and lie and deceitful words.”

When Paul stands before Felix and Drusilla [Acts 24:24-25]—two of the most reprehensible, reprobate couples in the story of the Roman Empire—as he stands before them, his life is in Felix’s hands.  He’s the procurator of Judah, appointed personally by the Roman Caesar himself.  Shall he speak of righteousness and temperance and judgment to come?  Shall he?  And when Jesus appears to the people, shall He speak those unpopular words that bring them to wrath and indignation, and finally effect His death on the cross?  Ah, make it soft.  Make it syrupy.  Hide that judgment and that awful day of the wrath of Almighty God.  Don’t speak of it.

So Daniel stands in the presence of the great king.  And he looks the king in the face.  It may mean the lion’s den [Daniel 6].  It may mean the fiery furnace [Daniel 3].  But he stands there, and he delivers God’s message.  “It is thou, O king” [Daniel 4:22].  Does that remind you of anything?  Do you remember Nathan the prophet who stood in the presence of David and said, “Thou art the man.  It is you” [2 Samuel 12:7].

“It is thou, O king” [Daniel 4:22].  Then he delivered that message of damnation [Daniel 4:23-28].  You call it lycanthropy.  That’s the way it’s written in the books.  Lycanthropy.  That is a monomania, a monomania; wherein a man loses his equilibrium, his mental balance in just one area of his life.  He’s a monomaniac.  He has all his other sensibilities.  He has all of his other remembrances and the background of his life.  Everything remains unchanged except just one thing.  He’s a monomaniac.  He is afflicted with an insanity that reaches just one area of his life.  All of his intellectual processes are just the same, except one.  And this one that God threatens the great monarch is lycanthropy.

For seven years his insanity shall drive him from men as he thinks of himself as an animal, as a beast [Daniel 4:25].  In your study of that monomania, that psychological illusion, aberration, sometimes you’ll find it called it “boanthropy,” boanthropy.  There is a side of it called boanthropy.  Bos, the Latin word for cow or bull, and anthrōpos, the Greek word for man; the first time I’ve run across it, maybe often, but I haven’t seen it before.  Usually a word will be a Latin word or it will be a Greek word.  Here, they put a Latin word and a Greek word together.  Boanthropy, that is, the man feels himself to be a cow or a bull, and he acts like it.  Another is avianthropy, avianthropy—avi, is the Latin word for bird and anthrōpos, for man—avianthropy.  In that, the man feels himself to be a bird, and he acts like it.  In my study this week, I came across an instance where a man thought that he was a cock pheasant, and he roosted in the tree every night instead of sleeping in a bed; avianthropy.

Now the word lycanthropy:  and usually, the word lycanthropy is used to refer to all of those psychological aberrations, that derangement of mind.  The Greek word lycus, wolf, and the word anthrōpos, lucusanthropy, ly, the letter “u” in Greek comes out “y” in English; lycanthropy—”wolf-like.”  And that word “lycanthropy” is used to refer to all of those psychological illusions where the man feels himself to be a beast.  Now, this is not unusual in the history of the race.  As far back as the record of history goes, there have been those instances.  It’s rare.  It’s not everywhere, but there have been those instances through the years and the years of the lycanthropic illusion.  The man feels himself to be an animal.

In my studing this week, I was reading through The Introduction to the Old Testament, by R. K. Harrison, the great professor at the University of Toronto in Canada.  And in 1946, he says, “I saw an instance of lycanthropy in a mental institution in Great Britain.”  And he describes how the man looked and how he acted.  He thought he was a cow, and he lived like a cow.  Slept out, the guards in the mental institution let him have the grounds, and he ate grass, hair grew long.  That’s where the hippies come from.  They are psychologically aberrative—they are not normal—hair grow long, fingernails grow long.  They live like beasts, like out there at Taos, New Mexico, get way out from somewhere—way out from society.  They want to exclude themselves from society; it’s a psychological aberration.  And it’s been through all history.  For example, way back yonder, you’ll find that practically all of the gods had the power to turn people into animals.  And then, as that thing continued infinite, you have this from the Encyclopedia Britannica.  The power of transforming others into wild beasts was attributed not only to malignant sorcerers, but also to Christian saints.  A Russian story tells how the apostle Peter and Paul turned an impious husband and wife into bears.  St. Patrick—the patron saint of Ireland—St. Patrick transformed Vereticus, king of Wales, into a wolf.  And St. Natalis cursed an illustrious Irish family with result that each member of it was doomed to be a wolf for seven years.  That was a common thing.

Now, this also gave rise to the legends of Europe of the werewolf.  There are men here, here, here, and every generation through these centuries, where the man feels himself to be an animal, and that gave rise to the legend of the werewolf.  That is, here’s a fellow who at will, and according to the legend—or under a curse; according to some legends, he turns himself into a wolf, and he eats human flesh and drinks human blood, and he lives in dens; the werewolf!

And it’s in our culture today.  Why, every once in a while, I’ll see a movie, and it will be entitled, “The Beauty and the Beast.”  And there is some tremendous gorilla-like specimen, scare you to death to look at him, and in his hand is a beautiful, voluptuous girl.  Same thing!  It’s through all of human culture and human society—lycanthropy!  And I’m not going to take time to do it.  I had to cut this sermon one-half in two, but next Sunday morning, we’re going to see that in these mad dog rulers of the world, and in these nations that have beast hearts—lycanthropy: a curse, a psychological aberration.

Ah, seven years [Daniel 4:16, 25, 32-34]; nor is this unusual, the madness of a king.  I’ve just said it is not unusual, though rare—lycanthropy; psychological derangement.  Nor is it unusual for a king to be mad.  Reading through these history books, every once in a while, you come across a schizophrenic character.  He’s one thing one day and another, another day.  He’s one thing here and another thing there.  He has a split personality; a schizophrenic personality.

The madness, the insanity of a king; such as Charles VI of France, such as Christian VII of Denmark; such as George III of England that instigated the American Revolution.  He was insane, George III of England; and such as also the mad king of Bavaria, and the great close friend of the great opera writer Wagner, Richard Wagner:  madness in the monarch, and threatened judgment—seven years of lycanthropy, insanity. Ah, seven years an animal! [Daniel 4:16, 25, 32-34].

Last—and we must hastily conclude—there must have been a deep affection in Daniel, God’s servant and true prophet.  There must have been a deep affection in Daniel for King Nebuchadnezzar.  Look how he closes it.  After he pronounces that threatened judgment and that damnation, that awesome insanity [Daniel 4:24-26], listen how he pleads: “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee.”  And I can literally hear the tears drop on the marble floor as Daniel pleads with his captor.  “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee—let me plead—break off thy sins by righteousness.  Break off thy iniquities by showing mercy to the poor: it may be, it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility.  Turn, king, repent” [Daniel 4:27].

And I want to show you one of the great theological truths of time and eternity in that plea by the prophet Daniel.  Here has he just announced to the king that for seven interminable years, he will be insane!  He will be mad!  He’ll eat grass like an ox.  He’ll dwell with the herd out in the field.  The pasture will be his furtive home; afraid of men, wild, scared, insane; seven years [Daniel 4:25].  Then having pronounced it, Daniel says: “O king, let me plead.  May my words be acceptable in thy sight.  Turn, repent, forsake your sins, cut off your iniquities; for God is a forgiving God, and His name is compassion and mercy” [Daniel 4:27].

What is that great theological truth?  It is this.  There is no such thing as fate, as kismet in the world.  This world is not run by mechanics, nor is it run alone by mechanical laws, nor are decrees inevitable and inexorable.  It is in the hands of a loving God, and God can turn it.  This is the judgment, this is the damnation, this is the decree; but Nebuchadnezzar, if you’ll turn, if you’ll change, God will change.  Isn’t that the gospel of the Book?

God sent Jonah to Nineveh, and he preached saying, “Forty days, forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed” [Jonah 3:1-4].  God said it!  And the Lord God looked down from heaven and on the king of Nineveh, and he was seated in sackcloth and ashes.  And God looked down from heaven, and the noblemen of Nineveh, their counselors, their aldermen, their leaders, they were in contrition and repentance and tears.  And God looked down on Nineveh, and even the animals were covered in sackcloth.  And God said, “I have changed.  I have changed.”  And He did it not.  He didn’t destroy the city.  For when Nineveh changed, God changed.  When Nineveh repented, God repented.  When Nineveh got right, the Lord forsook His wrath and His anger [Jonah 3:5-10].  There is no such thing as fate in this world.  God presides, and it’s in His merciful hands.  And when a man gets right, God changes.  And when a man repents, God repents.  And when a man cries for mercy and help, God bestows upon him the wonder of His infinite love and goodness [Psalm 145:18; Romans 10:13].

Now, before I close—I can’t cut the sermon off right there—here’s where I can cut it off.  And God gave Nebuchadnezzar twelve months, twelve months, verse 29, twelve months [Daniel 4:29].  The Lord never ever executes His judgments swiftly, immediately; always there is that period of probation.  He gives you time and opportunity to turn.  He never damns a man, He never destroys a man until first He gives him opportunity to turn.  Eden: ”You can have every tree in the garden, but this one” [Genesis 2:6-7], and gave Adam time to decide [Genesis 3:6].  The Flood: yet a hundred twenty years, a hundred twenty years, Noah preached, never had a convert, not one.  Not one in a hundred and twenty years.  Can you imagine my preaching here in this pulpit for one hundred twenty years, and there’s not one convert?  God gave them a hundred twenty years [Genesis 6:3; 7:21-23; 2 Peter 2:8].

God said to Eli of Hophni and Phinehas, “If you do not correct those boys, I will destroy this house forever” [1 Samuel 3:13-14].  And in the second chapter of 1 Samuel, He sent a prophet [1 Samuel 2:27-36].  And in the third chapter of 1 Samuel, He sent little Samuel [1 Samuel 3:4-18].  Eli didn’t turn.  God gave him years of probation.

God said to Judah, “Repent,” and sent Jeremiah to call the people to righteousness and repentance [Jeremiah 3:12-14].  And then Nebuchadnezzar came in 605 [Daniel 1:1-6].  Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried, “Repent!”  And Nebuchadnezzar came in 598, and Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried, “Repent, get right with God” [2 Kings 24:11-14].  And Nebuchadnezzar came in 587, and he didn’t need to come anymore.  He plowed the city, carried the people into captivity, destroyed the kingdom [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30; 2 chronicles 36:17-21].

God says, “Turn, and I will turn.”  He speaks to America today.  And if we don’t turn, there’s a judgment day coming; there’s a damnation coming.  There’s lurid death falling from the very heavens, and the skies will rain down atomic destruction if we don’t get right.

A period of probation and that’s true with us.  God doesn’t destroy a man immediately.  He gives him time.  He gives us time.  And we decide; twelve months, twelve months [Daniel 4:27-29].  And that’s why the Spirit always pleads today.  Let’s get right today.  Come to God today.  Come to Jesus now.  As the author of Hebrews said, “Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart”— today [Hebrews 4:7].  And as the apostle Paul wrote, “We beseech you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  For He saith, In a time accepted have I heard thee, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee:  behold, now is the accepted time;  behold, now is the day of salvation” [2 Corinthians 6:1-2].  Now, now.  And if we come now, God will save us now.  God will spare us now, and God will see us through.  Come.  Come.  Come [Romans 10:13].

In the balcony round, you; on this lower floor, you; a family, a couple, or just you; while we sing this hymn of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come.  Down that stairway, or into this aisle and here to the front, “Here I am, pastor, I make it today.”  As the Spirit of God shall whisper the appeal to your heart, come now, make it now, do it now.  Make the decision now, and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming.  “I’m coming to God, and I’m trusting Him to see me through, and here I am.”  Do it now.  Make it now, come now.  While we stand and sing.


Dr. W. A. Criswell

Daniel 4:1-29


Words of God’s goodness to a heathen king

The fearful dream of the towering tree

The fearful message of the faultless Daniel

Lycanthropy-manomaniacal belief that you are an animal

Plea of Daniel in Repentance