Faithful in Exile: “God Restores the Humble”

Daniel Facing the Beasts

Passage: Daniel 4:28-37
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

Sermon Summary

To live faithfully in exile, we need to have the correct posture. We need to be a humble people who recognize that we live under the authority of God and in complete dependence on him.

To do this, we first need to recognize the insanity of pride. Because so much in our life is beyond our control, and because so much of what we have was simply given to us, living with humility is really the only sane way to live. In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar learned this lesson the hard way. In his dream, the glorious and growing tree that represented Babylon was chopped down, so that Nebuchadnezzar, who had taken credit for its growth, would learn that “the Most High rules over the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (4:32). Not only did his pride come to an end, but Nebuchadnezzar was driven into the fields like a beast—a physical representation of what he’d become on the inside. Like Nebuchadnezzar, we become ravenous and beastly—insane, really—when we refuse to recognize the hand of God in our lives. Living this way also leads to injustice and a lack of love for others, because we think that what we have in life has all been earned by our own merit.

Our sanity returns to us when we finally look to God again. At the end of his humbling, Nebuchadnezzar “lifted his eyes to heaven, and his reason returned to him” (4:34). Nebuchadnezzar’s ultimate lesson is that “those who walk in pride God is able to humble.” We, like Nebuchadnezzar, often have to be externally humbled to bring us to the inner humility we should have had all along. And yet, Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling was not only so that “the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men,” but that they may know “he sets over it the lowliest of men” (4:17). God ultimately set over his kingdom the “lowliest” of all men on earth, Jesus Christ, who described himself as “gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt. 11:28). Jesus is the true king, who, though he had every reason for pride, was humble internally, and served his own subjects. When we recognize the heart of this true king, and the “light yoke” he gives us, we can lay down every reason for pride, and serve him.

Sermon Outline

  • The Insanity of Pride (4:28-33)
  • How God Restores us to Humility (4:34-37)

Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide

Re-read the passage (Daniel 4:28-37)

The Insanity of Pride (4:28-33)

Q) INTRO QUESTION: This passage is all about humility—the humility of recognizing that God is king and we are not, and that all of life is contingent on him. Do you think the world generally views the church as a humble community? Why or why not?

Q) Re-read Daniel 4:28-30. What do these verses suggest about Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude around the time of his dream?

Q) Have you ever experienced a time in your life when you came to a greater realization of how little of who you are and what you have is due to your own merit? When was it and what made you realize this?

Q) Re-read Daniel 4:31-33. What do you think was the purpose of Nebuchadnezzar’s being “made to eat grass like an ox,” or his hair “growing as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails…like birds’ claws”? What lesson were these experiences meant to communicate to Nebuchadnezzar?

Q) Pastor Bobby said that Nebuchadnezzar had to be externally humbled so that God could bring him to the point of inner humility that he should have had all along. Have you ever had a time when God had to humble you externally—through your circumstances—in order to bring about inner humility in you?

Q) What are some ways that we resist God’s attempts to humble us—either individually or as a community? How do you/we personally do this?

Q) Read Daniel 4:27. This verse describes the counsel that Daniel gave to Nebuchadnezzar after Daniel interpreted his dream. Pastor Bobby highlighted how Nebuchadnezzar’s pride had apparently made him an unjust ruler. What do you think is the link between pride and injustice? How does pride help fuel injustice? Can you think of any practical examples of this dynamic today?

How God Restores us to Humility (4:34-37)

Q) Re-read Daniel 4:34-37. At what point did Nebuchadnezzar’s reason return to him? What does this suggest about the heart posture we need to have in order to think “reasonably”?

Q) In Daniel 4:34-37, Nebuchadnezzar praised God when his reason returned to him. According to these verses, what did Nebuchadnezzar learn about God’s nature, his character, and the way that God rules? How do you think this challenged Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier notions of who God was and who he himself was?

Q) Re-read Nebuchadnezzar’s praise once more in 4:34-35 (“For his dominion is an everlasting dominion…”). What do you think would be some characteristics of a whole church that really believed this was true? How would it impact their witness?

Q) Read Daniel 4:17, which comes at the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and describes the purpose of Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling, represented by the chopping down of the tree. What are “the living” (i.e. all people) supposed to learn from this? What does this verse mean when it says that God “sets over his kingdom the lowliest of men”? How does this anticipate King Jesus?

Q) Pastor Bobby said that ultimately Jesus is the “lowliest of men” whom God has set over his kingdom, because Jesus is “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:28-30). What does it mean that Jesus is “gentle and lowly in heart”? What does this teach us about the way that God rules? How does recognizing the heart of Jesus make us more humble people ourselves?

Q) CASE STUDY: You’re talking to a friend who is not a Christian. She brings up a recent news story about the president of a major Christian college who was recently terminated following a public sex scandal. “He finally got what was coming to him,” your friend says, noting that in her view, this person was arrogant and proud. “Why do so many Christian leaders seem so prideful?” she asks, adding, “I don’t know a lot about Christianity, but I bet Jesus would be so angry if he were alive today.” Based on this week’s passage and sermon, how would you have a gracious and winsome conversation with your friend?

Additional Application Questions

Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?

Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and
outside of the church?

Prayer

Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.

 
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