The Beast Heart
March 7th, 1971 @ 8:15 AM
THE BEAST HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-07-71 8:15 a.m.
The title of the sermon is A Beast Heart and a man heart; or The Conversion of a King. It is the second part of the sermon delivered last Sunday morning. In our preaching now through the Book of Daniel, we are in the fourth chapter. Now not one, but several people have said to me, “You say that the fourth chapter of Daniel is a tract written by the king through the prophet Daniel. If the fourth chapter of Daniel is a tract written by a heathen king, then how is it the word of God?” [Daniel 4:1-37]. Is Nebuchadnezzar a prophet, and is this the inspired word of the Lord?
The answer lies in what is the inerrant, infallible, eternal word of God. What is inspiration? Inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility refers to the record that is in the Bible. That is, what is written here is correct; it happened just that way. It does not mean that all the people who spoke in the Bible speak the word of God inspirationally, infallibly, inerrantly; for in the Bible, Satan talks. In the Bible, Job’s false comforters speak pages. In the Bible, blasphemers, unbelievers, Christ rejecters speak. But the infallibility of the Scriptures, the inerrancy of the word of God refers to the fact that it is recorded exactly as it happens. There is no error in it [2 Timothy 3:16-17]. As God put it here in the Book, so it happened; what Satan says, God wrote it here in the Book just as he spoke. And all the other things that happened, they’re here just as God’s infinite, marvelous, directive Spirit had it recorded [2 Peter 1:20-21]. And I open the Bible and I read it, and it is exactly as it happened and as God reveals it to us.
So it is in the fourth chapter of the Book of Daniel. This is what happened. The conversion of a king, and the tract that he wrote describing that incomparable experience and confrontation with God, here it is, exactly written down as it happened back yonder, six hundred years before Jesus [Daniel 4:1-37].
Now, by way of summary, Nebuchadnezzar, the golden head of the first great kingdom of the times of the Gentiles [Daniel 2:38], is at rest in his house. His wars of conquest have finished, and he is consolidating the strength of his kingdom. He is at rest in his house [Daniel 4:4]. And as the totalitarian and absolute authoritarian ruler of the whole civilized world, he lies down; but instead of visions of wealth and affluence and luxury, he sees a terrible dream of a towering tree [Daniel 4:10]. When Daniel is brought in to interpret that dream [Daniel 4:8], he tells the king that the dream pertains to him [Daniel 4:22]: he shall be cut down, and for seven years he shall be a monomaniac, that is, he shall be insane in just one area of his life; all the rest of the areas of his life he’ll be full of remembrance, have all of his faculties and emotions, but in one area of his life he shall be a monomaniac. He shall be a beast; he shall have the heart of an ox, and he shall eat grass like an ox, until he learns that there is a true God, and we are to be humble suppliants before Him [Daniel 4:25].
Now none of the decrees of God are absolute when God threatens His recalcitrant people with a smiting and correcting rod. After Daniel has delivered that message to the king, he pleads with him; and here we begin. “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee. Break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; it may be that God, in His mercy and grace, will lengthen thy tranquility” [Daniel 4:27].
Now first, why that terrible judgment upon Nebuchadnezzar? Think of it, to be insane for seven years; the greatest monarch in the earth, and possibly in history, to lose his mind for seven years, and to live like a wild beast [Daniel 4:25]. Why that awesome judgment? There are several reasons. First, he was personally a cruel, a tempestuous and a violent man. Just look in the book. In the second chapter of the Book of Daniel, he threatens to butcher, and intended to butcher, a whole class of men in Babylon because they could not recall a dream he had forgotten [Daniel 2:5, 10-13]. Look again in the third chapter of the Book of Daniel: he intends, cruelly, to burn in the fire three noble young Hebrew men because they refused to bow before his golden image [Daniel 3:12-20]. In the twenty-ninth chapter of the prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah names two Jews he roasted in the fire [Jeremiah 29:22]. He was vindictive, and cruel, and tempestuous, and violent. Not only personally so, look at him politically: he learned from the Assyrians the bitterest way of rapine and plunder, and pillage, and misery that the world has ever seen. When he conquered a kingdom and conquered a nation, instead of placing it under tribute, he violently wrested the people from their homes and deported them to strange and foreign lands. Can you imagine the corpses that mark the path of the victorious army, led by Nebuchadnezzar, as the women and the children and the old and the feeble who were unable to keep pace with the march of their victors were left to die in the desert? And the misery that accompanied that uprooting and deportation is unthinkable to us: an enslaved people, settled in a strange land among strangers, living without hope, in dismay and despair. That is the hundred thirty-seventh Psalm:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion—home
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For they that wasted us required of us a song, and they that carried us into captivity required of us mirth.
How can you sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
Just something there of the misery and the hopelessness of the political aggrandizement of Nebuchadnezzar.
Not only that, personally, politically, but he was proud; pridefully did he view the whole earth around him. Every conquest and every victory—and he never lost a battle—made him more arrogant, and more vainglorious. In the great image, in the second chapter of Daniel, Daniel said, “Thou art that golden head” [Daniel 2:38], but he wanted the whole image to be of gold, and he to represent that image. Why, in the third chapter of the Book of Daniel, he sets himself above the gods [Daniel 3:1-7]. And as I studied his life, one of these authors said that Nebuchadnezzar so elevated himself above his gods, that if a god displeased him he burnt their priests, and he leveled, razed the temple even with the ground; the cruelty of Nebuchadnezzar.
All right, why did God bring this judgment upon him? Because he refused to repent, he refused to turn. “O king, break off thy sins by righteousness” [Daniel 4:27]. Though he was a world successful monarch, righteousness was no part of his program. When I turn to the Book of Habakkuk, Habakkuk describes the bitter army of Nebuchadnezzar. By prophecy Habakkuk says, quoting the Lord:
Lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, that bitter and hasty nation, that shall march through the breadth of the land . . .
They are terrible and vicious . . .
Their horses are like leopards . . . and their faces are set to victory; and they shall gather the captives as the sand.
Righteousness had never been any part of the program of Nebuchadnezzar. And the prophet pleads, “And break off thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor” [Daniel 4:27]. That was strange to the ears of that vicious dictator. The poor? Why, he had built his city with slave labor. The poor? He had populated his kingdom with enforced deportations. Mercy to the poor? They have no rights, they have no standing, they have no self-respect. Mercy? To us, it is a second nature to think of it; to Nebuchadnezzar, he’d never seen it and never practiced it.
Then, the day of judgment and disaster: you know the Lord is somebody, it’s well for us to know. He seeks to direct us with loving appeals and gentle whispers. But if we won’t listen, and if we won’t repent, and if we won’t get right, the Lord has terrors, the Lord has a rod that smites; oh, what God has in His bags of damnations and judgments! Nebuchadnezzar wouldn’t listen, and he wouldn’t turn. And God waited, and He waited, and He waited, and He waited twelve months, a whole year [Daniel 4:29]. Why, by that time Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten Daniel’s plea! [Daniel 4:27]. He doesn’t forget:
The mills of the gods grind slow,
But they grind exceeding small
And though He may tarry long,
With exactness grinds He on.
[adapted from “Retribution,” H.W. Longfellow]
If you don’t get right, if you don’t repent, there is a judgment day for you; the chastening rod of God. And at the end of twelve months, in the patient waiting and pleading and appealing of the Lord, at the end of twelve months Nebuchadnezzar is at the very zenith of his glory [Daniel 4:29]. He is in his palace, and as he walks in the midst of his lords and counselors, they respectfully follow behind him. As he comes to the end of the terrace, he turns around; when he does so his council is enlarged, bow, and open away on either side for him to pass through. He does not think of them, he’s not even mindful that they live, for his head is filled with his own self. And as he walks from the top of his palace, he views the horizon of his golden city, and he says, “This is the great Babylon, that I have built for the house of my kingdom, and by the power of my might, and for the honor of my majesty!” [Daniel 4:30].
And just like that, the judgment fell. His mind snapped. He was insane [Daniel 4:31]. A moment before, he stood there, the monarch of all the earth [Daniel 4:29-30]; and now, he is a beast [Daniel 4:32-33]. He is filled with illusions and fears, and in dismay and despair, he rushes away to hide himself in the thickets along the river. The abasement was complete and remorseless. The scepter fell from his hand and shattered on the marble floor. The general who had led the conquering armies that swept over the world is furtively, surreptitiously, fearfully hiding in the thickets and in the fields and the forests. And he, who had tasted delicately of the dainties of the earth, now eats grass like an ox; debased, deposed, dethroned [Daniel 4:31-33].
In those days, after seven years, Daniel so presents the purpose, loving, of God. When the Lord chastens, it is not because He hates us, despises us. “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” [Ezekiel 33:11]. When the Lord threatens with a correcting rod, it is for our salvation and our prosperity. “To the intent,” Daniel says to him, “that the king and all living may know that the great High God ruleth” [Daniel 4:17]. And again, “Until you know that the Most High reigns and gives the kingdom to whom He will and that thou may know that there is a God who reigns in heaven” [Daniel 4:25]: it is for a holy purpose that God corrects us and chastens us: “Whom the Lord loveth He chastens” [Hebrews 12:6].
“And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven” [Daniel 4:34]. After seven years, “I lifted up mine eyes unto God.” Does that remind you of the one hundred twenty-first Psalm? “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” [Psalm 121:1-2]. In his insanity and depravity, he lifted up his eyes to God [Daniel 4:34]. Does that remind you of the story of the prodigal son, out, away from home in the hog pen? [Luke 15:13-16]. “He came to himself” [Luke 15:17]. Does that remind you of the Gadarene demoniac, when Jesus healed him [Luke 8:26-33], sitting, clothed, and in his right mind? [Luke 8:35]. “I lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and I blessed the Most High God, and I praised the Lord who liveth forever and ever” [Daniel 4:34].
And then God, He never fails. He is a God of mercy, and love, and forgiveness. When we turn, He turns. When we change, He changes [Jonah 3:4-10]. “And my kingdom was returned unto me; and my counselors and my lords sought me” [Daniel 4:36]. I want to show you what an astonishing thing this is; that’s almost unbelievable. For example, did you know that when Nebuchadnezzar died, having reigned forty years, Evil-Merodach, his son, ascended to the throne, and in three short years he was murdered, and a usurper took over the kingdom? And did you know that, within twenty-seven years after that, Babylon was destroyed forever? The kingdom was forever blotted out of history. Yet for seven long years the kingdom is maintained for Nebuchadnezzar in his insanity. Why, wouldn’t you not have thought that wild tribes would have over run the whole earth? Would you not have thought those kingdoms that he had subdued would have rebelled?
Somebody kept that kingdom for him. Wonder who? I guess two: I think one was his wife Amytis, that Median girl from Media, growing up in the mountains, for whom he lavished those wonderful things, building her those Hanging Gardens, building a mountain in the plain of Babylon, I think Amytis was one. And most of all, I think Daniel, his vizier did it. He guided the kingdom through those days when the king was a madman. And his genius and his statesmanship kept Babylon and the kingdom going.
And upon a day, known to Daniel, when the seven years were passed, and the judgment of God had run its course, and Nebuchadnezzar lifted up his eyes to heaven, at the end of the seven years Daniel said to the lords and the counselors [Daniel 4:31-36], “Let’s find him, let’s go seek him, let’s search out for him.” And somewhere in a field, or in a thicket, or in a forest, or in a wilderness and desert place, the lords and the counselors, led by God’s great statesman-prophet Daniel, found the king. How did they find him? Haughty? Recalcitrant? Incorrigible? Vainglorious? Blasphemous? They found him as a man ought to be found: humble, kneeling, looking up to God, like a man ought to do, and like a man ought to be, bowed before the great High God [Daniel 4:34-37].
And finally, he wrote this tract of testimony and praise: “That the whole world may know the grace of God has reached down to me, Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people and nations and languages that dwell in all the earth, I want you to know, I want you to know the goodness of God He hath shown toward me. How great are His signs, and how mighty are His wonders. I Nebuchadnezzar …” [Daniel 4:1-4] and then he writes how the Lord had been merciful to him [Daniel 4:4-37].
Tell me, my brothers and sisters in Jesus, ought we to lag behind a heathen king in our words of gratitude and testimony to what God hath done for us? Is there no gratitude and thankfulness on our part for what God has done for us? Don’t we have words of praise and thanksgiving to offer to Him? And cannot we speak to others of the grace that hath reached down, even to us: the cross that saved us [Matthew 27:32-50], the love and mercy of Jesus extended toward us [1 John 3:16], the blessings that like open windows of heaven He pours out upon us? [Malachi 3:10]. Are there no words of testimony and thanksgiving and gratitude from us? Why, bless us, we ought to be like this king, “That the whole world, everybody may know what God hath done for us.” In a private conversation, in the circle of the home, publicly in the church, in our business, wherever life’s pathway shall lead, there do we cover the way with words of testimony and thanksgiving and gratitude for what God hath done for us.
I’ll bet you that Decapolis never heard a preacher like that Gadarene demoniac who went around telling what Jesus had done for him [Luke 8:26-33, 38-39]. That’s all, that’s logic on wings; that’s theology that flames and burns! Don’t have all the answers, can’t answer all the questions, I’m no metaphysician and I’m no philosopher; but this I know: that one time I was blind, and now I can see [John 9:25]. I know what God has done for me. And that is philosophy and theology and logic enough; the personal testimony of us who love the blessed Jesus.
And that’s our appeal to you today. You, would you join us in that love, and admiration, and thanksgiving, and gratitude, and praise to God, would you? “Lord, reign in my heart, in my life, in my house, in my home, Lord, Lord, that my life might flow to Thee.” Come with your family, come with your wife, or just you. In a moment we’ll stand to sing, and while we sing that appeal, and the Spirit of God presses the word to your heart, come and stand by me. Here in the balcony round, down one of these stairways and here to the front, if you’re on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the pastor, “I give you my hand, pastor; I’ve given my heart to God. I’ve opened my heart heavenward, God-ward, I love Jesus for what He has done for me, and I am coming.” “Need strength and help; I’ll find it in Him, I will lift up mine eyes from whence cometh my help, even from God who made heaven and earth [Psalm 121:1-2]. Here I am; I’m coming now.” Do it. On the first note of the first stanza, do it. Make the decision now; “Lord, Lord,” then when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. We shall rejoice with you as you come and as we stand and sing.
THE BEAST HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Why the awesome judgment against Neuchadnezzar?
A. Cruel reign
B. Refusal to repent
II. The judgment that fell
A. God waited patiently for one year
B. Heavy hand was required
C. Day of disaster monomaniac
D. The curse of the Babylonian system
III. The conversion of the king
B. Day of repentance
C. Restoration of the kingdom
D. His testimony
E. Our testimony