February 28th, 1971 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-28-71 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Lycanthropy. And many people that I have stumbled into this week have said, “I cannot even find that word in the dictionary.” Well, it is a meaningful message, I pray, and one that God will bless to our souls. After the passing of two years, I am returning now to preaching through the Book of the prophet Daniel. The first volume of sermons published that were delivered here on Daniel were by way of introduction. They concerned the historical background and the higher critical problems involved in the book. Then the second volume that was published, sermons that were delivered here, covered the first three chapters of the prophecy. Now today, and for the Sundays following, we shall begin at the fourth chapter of the Book of Daniel.
Now I shall give a little brief, one or two sentence summary of the message from the fourth chapter of the Book of Daniel. This chapter is a tract that the king wrote through Daniel. It has in it his heathen expressions and ideas, as well as his experience in coming to the true God. It is a tract describing his conversion. And in the tract he presents this unusual experience, a judgment of God upon his sins, called lycanthropy; that is, where a man afflicted with monomania, with insanity, thinks of himself as an animal. And out of that traumatic experience came his conversion to the true God. He writes the tract in Aramaic, and he addresses it to all of the inhabited earth. Now that is a little summary of the message in the chapter. Now let’s begin.
First: we have in this passage an illustration of the longsuffering and mercy of God to a cruel Gentile king. He is not a member of the covenant family of Israel, he is a heathen; which brings to us the knowledge again that God is not only the God of Israel, but He is the God of all the families and kingdoms and nations of the earth. This great king begins his address, “Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, and nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth” [Daniel 4:1].
The mercy of God is not only confined in the pale of the nation Israel but also reaches out to the pale of all the nations of the earth. You have a marvelous illustration of that in God’s mercy toward Nineveh: He sent a prophet to heathen Assyria to proclaim the mercies and to demonstrate the salvation of the Lord [Jonah 3:1-10].
Now it is interesting to us to see what this man has to say. Why, Nebuchadnezzar is the first great king of the times of the Gentiles; he is that golden head [Daniel 2:38]. When Nebuchadnezzar talks, how does he talk? What does he say that would interest anybody, and most of all to us who are interested in a man’s salvation? Now, he begins, and as he starts his words of testimony, he is baffled and overwhelmed by the glory. “I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the High God hath wrought toward me” [Daniel 4:2]. Then you expect him to tell you all about the signs and wonders; but floods of overwhelming glory fill his soul, and what he says is just exclamations: “How great are His signs! And how mighty are His wonders!” [Daniel 4:3]
I find that same overwhelming inability to speak of the religious experience here in the life of the apostle Paul. After he struggles seeking to describe the sovereignty and the elective purposes of God, finally he just ends in an exclamation. He can’t say it: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways pass finding out!” [Romans 11:33] That is true and real religion.
There’s a mischief in religion. When the fellow stands up and says, “I’m going to tell you like it is,” he’s got it all set, it’s compartmentalized, and it’s outlined, and here it is; he’s got God locked up in theology, and [will] write it in a book and put it on a shelf, and any time he wants it, just take it down from the shelf and read it. There is God; as though God could be measured, when the heaven of the heavens cannot contain Him [1 Kings 8:27]. No man could accurately and definitely place in words and syllables his religious experience; it goes beyond us. We are reaching out toward the inexpressible and the infinitude of the Almighty. Sometimes our creed can be expressed only in tears, and sometimes our prayers can only be uttered in agonies of the soul.
That’s what Nebuchadnezzar found when he sought to describe the glorious experience and confrontation with God; he just burst into exclamations! [Daniel 4:3]. The glory overwhelmed his soul! After all, wouldn’t it be tragic if all there was to religion is cold, correct theology? And our very souls cry out against, that all there is of this life is the logic and the reason by which we can understand it, there’s nothing over and beyond what our finite minds can encompass, and there are so many who are persuaded that all there is of life is just what we see, what we can put in a test tube, and what we can reduce to mathematical formulae. Wouldn’t that be a tragedy, that God put in our souls and gave us life to grasp the heavens, and we feed it on a handful of moon dust, as though life could be defined and delineated in terms of scientific, physical mathematical discoveries? Ah, there’s a wonder beyond! There’s a glory beyond. It is the infinite God; and when a man meets it, he can’t describe it. You can’t put religion in mere human speech; the speech won’t bear it.
Well, after his exclamations, then he begins, and he describes the great vision of the towering tree. “I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace” [Daniel 4:4], at rest; that is, his wars of conquest were over. No longer was he marching at the head of his great army subduing the entire civilized world. He is at rest [Daniel 4:4]; all of his enemies on the outside have been subdued, and all of his fears on the inside have been allayed, he is at rest. And it is a complete and a fulsome tranquility that he enjoys, at rest. Every goblet is full of wine, the corner of every one of his palaces is filled with music, and every room in all of his great far-flung mansions, multiplied, is an escape and a refuge from the trials of this world. And he lays his head on a downy pillow, there to dream of the luxury and the wealth and the splendor of his vast golden dominion. “I was at rest in mine house, flourishing in my palace” [Daniel 4:4]. Those great fortifications, that mighty army stand to defend him at the blast of a trumpet; he is at rest.
You would think, there he was in peace, in strength, in quietness; “I saw a dream which made me afraid,” let’s don’t tamper with the language, let’s leave it just as he wrote it: “I saw a dream,” it was a part of him, and yet he stood as someone aside and looked at it. It was in him, but is also without him. “I saw a dream and it made me afraid” [Daniel 4:5]. What? “It made me afraid.” Nebuchadnezzar afraid? Why, he is the ruler of all the inhabited then known earth, afraid. Isn’t that like God? He reaches into His bag of terrors and what things God can take out of it; Nebuchadnezzar is afraid! This mighty monarch who conquered the civilized world, who’s in his palace, behind his fortifications, behind his walls that were the wonder of the world, behind his great mighty army, he’s afraid. What things God can send. He reaches into His bag of terrors and He sends lightning. And we can find conductors to deviate it, devices to deflect it. He reaches in His bag of terrors, and He sends the whirlwind! And we can built great, granite masonry walls, and be perfectly immune to it. He can reach in that bag, and He sends an earthquake, and we can build buildings that move with it. He can reach in that bag and send fire, we can make things incombustible. Then the Lord God reaches in that bag of terrors, and He sends a dream. And how do you build a fortification and how do you war against a dream, a dream? “I saw a dream, and was afraid” [Daniel 4:5].
This great monarch is a cowering knave; he’s afraid of a dream. Isn’t that a strange thing, how God back yonder in that day before the prophecy was completed, how God spoke to these people? A dream, he spoke to Abimelech in a dream; and in the dream the announcer said, “Thou art a dead man!” to Abimelech [Genesis 20:3]. He spoke to Pharaoh’s butler and baker in a dream [Genesis 40:5]; He spoke to Pharaoh himself in a dream [Genesis 41:1-7, 25-32]. Do you remember Gideon? God sent him down there, and a Midianite had a dream that a barley loaf had overthrown the whole army of the Midianites, in a dream [Judges 7:13]. Do you remember Pontius Pilate, sitting there in judgment on Christ, his wife sent him word and said, “I saw a dream tonight, I saw a dream about that Man, and I have suffered” [Matthew 27:19]. A dream, a dream. “I saw a dream, and was afraid” [Daniel 4:5].
Then the dream: a great towering tree, a mighty tree that could be seen from the ends of the earth, a great tree, and it grew and grew and grew [Daniel 4:10-11]. It was a mighty sight! See, that tree in Assyrian and Babylonian culture is the tree of paradise; they carved it on gems, on ornaments, on great buildings, it was everywhere, and it signified the power, the regal authority of the monarch himself, a great tree:
And the leaves of the tree were fair, and the fruit of the tree was multiplied…and under the shadow of it the beasts and animals of the earth did find refuge. And while I was looking at it, a watcher and a holy one from heaven,
Now he’s talking in his Babylonian language and mythology, and we don’t have time to enter into it:
a watcher and a holy one came down from heaven and said, Hew it down, cut off its branches, shake off its leaves, and scatter its fruit. And the great tree was hewn down, utterly destroyed; but the stump was left, and they put a band around it of brass and iron to protect it.
You cut down a cedar tree, never grow back; cut down a cypress tree, never grow back; cut down a fir tree, never grow back; but most trees will have a shoot from the stump. “Leave that stump, and guard it with a band of brass and iron,” then it changes from an “it” to a “he”:
And let seven times pass over it,
and let a beast’s heart be given it…
until he knows that God is God!”
Now that’s a dream! The king sent for his college of counselors, his magicians and astrologers, and the Chaldean hierarchy and priests, and they had no idea what it meant [Daniel 4:6-7]. And last of all, that is, if these subordinates could have answered the question, it would have settled it, but finally he sent for Daniel, his great golden counselor, and he told the dream to Daniel [Daniel 4:8-18]. “And when Daniel heard it he was astonied for an hour” [Daniel 4:19], it says. “Astonied”; that’s an archaic word: he was speechless! His countenance was altered, and he sat terrified before it. And the king said, “Do not be terrified, Daniel, but speak; what does this say, the dream that I saw?” [Daniel 4:19]. Now, what do you do? There is no preacher who ever lived, and there’s no messenger from God who ever spoke for Him, and there’s no prophet or apostle who was ever sent out to bear the tidings from heaven but that faces that dilemma: what shall he say? For if he delivers the truth, he is pronouncing the doom of a man’s life; and what shall he say?
When Paul stood before Felix and Drusilla, that abominable, unspeakable pair, shall he reason of righteousness and temperance and judgment to come, or shall he palliate, and compliment, and sycophant? What shall he do? [Acts 24:24-25]. And when the Lord stands before the stiff-necked, recalcitrant people, shall He say words of truth? What shall He do? Shall the preacher tell the people the truth of God, or shall he not? My observation is: he doesn’t do it, he doesn’t do it; he fills the pit of hell and damnation with flowers, and he stands to compliment, a good politician. Why, it’s not popular to denounce sin, and to threaten men with what God says, the almighty judgment to come! So we empty the Bible of its penal words. Ah, we say to this half-damned man, “Let it not trouble you, it will not be complete. Why, someday you’ll be taken to heaven no matter what, and you will be a seraph or at least an angel, no matter.” What shall the preacher do?
Why don’t we do as Daniel: he stood there in the front of the king, he was a slave, by the frown of the king his life could be snuffed out. He stood there in the presence of the king, whether there’s a den of lions waiting, whether there’s a fiery furnace waiting, Daniel stood there in the presence of the king and delivered faithfully God’s message. “It is thou, O king” [Daniel 4:22]. Does that remind you of anything? Isn’t that what Nathan said to David, the true prophet of God, “Thou art the man!” [2 Samuel 12:7-12]. You are it, you’re it. Isn’t that what Stephen said in the presence of the Sanhedrin? [Acts 7:51-54]. That’s what Daniel does in the presence of the king, “It is thou, O king” [Daniel 4:22]. Then he delivered the message [Daniel 4:23-27].
Dear me, what a message! And this is lycanthropy: for seven years, for seven years the king shall be insane, a madman; he shall think of himself as an animal and shall act like it. He shall be a monomaniac; that is, in just that one area will he be demented and deranged. In all other areas of his life he’ll have his entire faculties, except in that one. And for seven years will he live that horrible, deranged, insanity, with all the rest of his faculties, and just that, he’s an animal. He has the heart of a beast, and he acts like it [Daniel 4:23-26].
Now I want to speak of that; I wish we had an hour to look at it. Lycanthropy: it is a malady, a disease, an aberration that has been known through all of the centuries and the generations. Isn’t that a strange thing? Sometimes you’ll hear discussions of it under the term “boanthropy, boanthropy”: Bos, the Latin word for “cow or bull,” and anthropos, the Greek word for “man”; that’s an unusual thing to me. I didn’t know they ever put Latin and Greek words together. Usually it’s a Latin word or it’s a Greek word. But here, “boanthropy”: the man feels that he’s a cow or an ox, and acts like it. Sometimes you’ll run across the word “avianthropy,” from Latin avis, bird, and anthropos, the Greek word for man, “avianthropy”: the fellow feels himself that he’s a bird. For example, in my studying this week I came across an instance where a man thought that he was a cock-pheasant, and he roosted in a tree every night instead of sleeping in a bed; “avianthropy.”
But the word that is usually used to include all of those psychological, aberrational delusions is “lycanthropy”: the Greek word lycos and the Greek word anthropos—lycos, “wolf”, anthropos, “man”—“lycanthropy.” He thinks he’s a wolf. Now you can go back and back and back, and oh, you can just find how much, how that has entered into the culture of the race. For example, way back there in those days past when people believed in gods and saints and all of that, 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 of Ireland, St. Patrick transferred Vereticus, king of Wales, into a wolf. And St. Natalis cursed an illustrious Irish family, with the result that each member of it was doomed to be a wolf for seven years.
And that also enters into the tradition in Europe especially, and the legends of the werewolf, the werewolf, that is, either by curse or by volitive choice—he had the choice—he could turn himself into a wolf, and then he could eat human flesh, and drink human blood, and hide in dens. Also in our culture, “the beauty and the beast”; why, I’ve seen picture shows advertised with a wolf holding a beautiful girl in his arms. That tradition is very much in the cultural life of all humanity, and it comes from this disease, from this psychological illusion called lycanthropy. And this king was to be turned into a beast, insane for seven years [Daniel 4:23].
Now, nor is it unusual—first I’ve said, the disease, it is rare, but it’s known through the centuries and testified to through the millennia. Again, it is not unusual for a king to be insane. So many of them were schizophrenic; they were one thing this day, and another thing upon another day, and the madness of kings is a part of history. For example, Charles VI of France; for example, Christian VII of Denmark; for example, George III of England and the American Revolution that came out of his psychological aberrations; for example, Otho, the mad king of Bavaria; oh, you can write books on them. This is the judgment of God upon Nebuchadnezzar: lycanthropy. “And that will continue,” says the prophet, “until you repent, and until you get right, and until you acknowledge the true God of all the heavens” [Daniel 4:25-26].
Now, last, his appeal, his appeal: Daniel had an affection for that heathen king, and it comes out over and over again. And Daniel makes an appeal, “Wherefore, O king,” he says, let O king, my counsel be acceptable unto thee.” He talks like a true courtier:
O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility.
I want you to look at the great theological implication of that appeal of the prophet Daniel. Look at that. Then the decree is not kismet, it is not fate, this world is not run by fate; it’s run by God! There is nothing mechanical in it; it is God who superintends and supervises, and it is sovereignty that guides and decrees. This Nebuchadnezzar, the judgment pronounced, and the doom that is decreed, “Nebuchadnezzar, if you will break off thy sins, if you will repent, if you will turn from thy iniquities, Nebuchadnezzar, God is a loving God and a forgiving God.” Now isn’t that the truth of the Book?
There are no final decrees of damnation from the Lord God Almighty! If a man will turn, God will turn; if a man will change, God will change; if a man will repent, God will repent! Didn’t it say so? “The Lord God sent Jonah unto Nineveh and said, Forty days, and yet Nineveh shall be destroyed” [Jonah 3:1-4]. And the Lord God looked down from heaven, and there was the king sitting in sackcloth and ashes, and there were his nobles in contrition and repentance, and there was the whole city crying for mercy; and the Lord changed His mind, and He repented Him what He [had said that he would do], and He did not do it. When Nineveh changed, God changed; when Nineveh repented, God repented; and when Nineveh got right, the Lord showed Himself a God of mercy and longsuffering [Jonah 3:5-10]. That’s the Book. When God says, “Thou shalt surely die,” if a man will obey the Lord, he’ll live [Ezekiel 33:11]. When God says, “There is damnation and judgment,” God says, “If you will turn, you will be forgiven” [Ezekiel 18:27-28].
All right, last: and God gave Nebuchadnezzar twelve months, twelve months, twelve months, a probation of twelve months [Daniel 4:29]. God never executes a sentence immediately, swiftly; He warns and He describes, and He delineates, and He pleads, and He begs; He never executes a sentence swiftly, always that period of probation! Adam and Eve: “You may have every tree in the garden; just this one, this one is interdicted” [Genesis 2:16-17], and gave Adam and Eve time to decide. In the days of the Flood, God said, “I shall destroy the world a hundred twenty years later—not now—a hundred twenty years” [Genesis 6:3], and Noah preached, the preacher of righteousness [2 Peter 2:5], Noah preached one hundred twenty years without a convert [Matthew 24:37-39; Hebrews 11:7]. Can you imagine a man doing that? Can you imagine my standing in this pulpit preaching one hundred twenty years and not a single man ever turned to God? Could you imagine that? That was the way it was in that day: a hundred twenty years probation, giving the people an opportunity to turn. That’s the Lord. That’s the Lord.
Hophni and Phinehas, those evil sons of Eli the high priest: God said to Eli, “If you do not correct those boys I will destroy your house forever” [1 Samuel 2:31-33]. And in the second chapter of 1 Samuel He sent a prophet, and the whole chapter warns Eli [1 Samuel 2:27-36], and in the third chapter and the next one He raised up little Samuel to warn Eli! [1 Samuel 3:10-18]. Eli didn’t change, and the judgment fell [1 Samuel 4:15-21].
The Lord God said to Samuel when he was mourning over Saul, “I have given him years and years to repent and to change; I have rejected him” [1 Samuel 16:1]. The Lord God said to Solomon, “All of these things will I give you, and I will give you length of life if you will obey Me” [1 Kings 3:12-14], and gave him a kingdom for forty years and then cut him down [1 Kings 11:42-43]. The Lord God said to Judah, “Turn,” and Jeremiah said, “Repent” [Jeremiah 3:12] and Nebuchadnezzar came in 605 [Daniel 1:1-6], and Jeremiah lifted up his voice and said, “Repent, get right with God!” And Nebuchadnezzar came back in 598 [2 Kings 24:11-14; Ezekiel 1:1], and Jeremiah lifted up his voice and said, “Repent, repent, get right with God!” And the third time Nebuchadnezzar came, the rod of His anger and the staff of His indignation, the next time Nebuchadnezzar came, 589 BC, he didn’t have to come again; he plowed it up and carried the people into captivity [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21].
God always gives that period of probation. He doesn’t execute the sentence willfully. That’s why the twenty-ninth Proverb, in the first verse:
He, that being oft reproved hardeneth his heart, shall be destroyed,
and that without remedy,
shall be destroyed immediately, suddenly, and that without remedy.
And that’s why the Holy Spirit pleads with a man, “Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Hebrews 3:15]; today, always today; God never pleads tomorrow; right now, today. And that’s why the apostle Paul quoted words of the Lord God when he said:
We beseech you that you receive not the grace of God in vain. For He saith, In a time of trouble have I heard thee, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is that day of salvation; behold, now is that accepted time.
[2 Corinthians 6:1-2]
If God looks down from heaven, and He does, then that same Lord God says, “If you will come, I will come. If you walk down that aisle, I will meet you. If you’ll open your heart, I will come in. If you will look to heaven, I will answer. If you give Me your life, I will take care of it, like a deposit. If you trust Me, I will see you through.” That’s the Lord, pleading, “Come,” pleading, “Now,” pleading, “Today.” And when a man answers with his life, God is there to see him through.
While we sing this hymn of appeal, you, a family you, a couple you, just one you, in the balcony round, on this lower floor, down one of these stairwells, into the aisle, here to the front: “I’m making that decision this morning, and here I am. I’m looking to God. I’m giving my heart to the Lord, I’m coming to Jesus.” As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your soul, make it now. Do it now. Come now. Whatever God shall whisper in your heart, answer, “Here I am, Lord, and here I come.” Do it, while we stand and while we sing.