The Most High Rules.
Daniel 3-4, Revelation 18
…and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.. – Daniel 4:32 ESV
During the time period recorded in the book of Daniel, Babylon was the post powerful nation in the world. It was a pagan nation that had experienced tremendous success militarily. Its armies had conquered many nations and its influence could be seen throughout the Middle East. Nebuchadnezzar ruled over a vast kingdom and was a force to be reckoned with. But the book of Daniel is all about a much more powerful, sovereign and almighty King than the one who sat on a throne in the great city of Babylon. From the familiar story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace to the shocking case of Nebuchadnezzar’s bout with insanity, the greatness of God is the resounding theme. Repeatedly we see Nebuchadnezzar struggling with pride and attempting to set himself up as the sovereign ruler of the world. His decision to erect a giant idol and demand its worship stands in direct opposition to the sovereign power revealed in chapter two. When the three young Jews refused to bow down before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, he arrogantly responded, “who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15 ESV). But when God miraculously preserved the lives of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Nebuchadnezzar changed his tune, exclaiming, “How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:3 ESV). But apparently, Nebuchadnezzar’s awareness of God’s dominion and rule was short lived. Given enough time to consider his own greatness and all that he had accomplished, Nebuchadnezzar would end up putting himself back on the pedestal of his own mind. “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about God?
Nebuchadnezzar arrogantly and sarcastically asked Daniel’s three young friends, “And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15 ESV0. God would provide him with the answer. Three different times in the passage God made it clear that He was going to do something so that there would be no doubt about who was in control. “…that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17 ESV). “…till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:25 ESV). “…until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:32 ESV). The story found in Daniel is not about the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but about the God in whom they placed their faith. The real message of these chapters is God’s sovereignty and rule over the affairs of men. Nebuchadnezzar, as great as he may have thought himself to be, was nothing more than “the lowliest of men” in God’s eyes. He was simply another creation formed from nothing by the hand of the Creator. His very life and the throne on which he sat were the work of God, not himself. God had the power to remove not only Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, but his sanity as well. God could control the king’s dreams. He could alter the king’s behavior. He could do with His creation whatever He chose to do. And the ultimate goal is that all men will some day know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men.
What does this passage reveal about man?
There has been a power struggle taking place ever since Adam and Eve decided to reject God’s will for them, and buy the lie of the enemy that promised them, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5 ESV). Ever since that fateful day, men and women have been at war with the God of the universe, attempting to wrest control from His hands so that they might be the arbiters of their own fate and the masters of their own domains. Acceptance of God’s sovereign rule and willing submission to His control over the lives of men continues to be an epic, ongoing struggle. Even in the lives of the godly, submission to God’s rule can be difficult to live out. Our sin natures continue to tempt us to demand our own way and to fight for what we believe to be our rights. Our pride rises up within us, causing us to wrongfully assume that we are responsible for our successes and the best determiners of our own fate. In other words, we know what is best for us and we will do whatever we have to in order to get what we want. But God would have us know “that the Most High rules over the kingdom of men.” And that includes our own petty kingdoms and personal domains. Interestingly enough, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego seemed to have come to grips with the sovereignty of their God. When confronted with the choice to worship the king’s statue or remain faithful to their God, they didn’t flinch. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18 ESV). They were willing to put their lives in the hands of God. They were wiling to face death rather than put someone or something else in His place as the Most High. And their faith wasn’t academic or intellectual. It was real, taking the form of an actual commitment to face death in a fiery furnace rather than turn their back on God.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
The entire Bible, from beginning to end, is about the Most High God. It starts with His miraculous creation of the entire universe. It contains His sovereign interactions with mankind that spans the centuries and influences the lives of countless generations. It peaks with the coming of His Son as the divine solution to man’s inherent problem of sin. And it culminates with a depiction of God’s final plan for the restoration of His creation and His victory over Satan, sin and death. Even in the book of Revelation, we see the return of the image of Babylon. This once great pagan nation returns to the scene, but now as a representative picture of the satanic system of evil that will dominate the world scene in the end times. Whether or not the Babylon spoken of in chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation is a literal city is not clear. But there is no doubt that it symbolizes all that is evil with the world. Babylonianism is makred by pride, idolatry, injustice, immorality, greed, avarice, lust, materialism, and human glory. It is the attitude found in the life of Nebuchadnezzar, but on steroids. During the time of the Great Tribulation, pictured for us in the book of Revelation, the moral decline of man will reach its apex. The decadence and debauchery for which Babylon was famous will be worldwide and will impact everything from religion to commerce. Sinful, pride-filled, arrogant man will literally go to war with God Himself. “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is the Lord of lords and the King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14 ESV). Babylon will fall, “for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her” (Revelation 18:8 ESV). When all is said and done, God will once again prove that He is the Most High God and rules over the kingdom of men. He will put to rest any debate regarding His sovereignty and defeat once and for all any rebellion to His rule and attempt to usurp His throne or His glory.
Father, You rule and reign, not just in heaven, but over all the earth. You are the sovereign God over all men, all kingdoms, and the entire universe. Your desire is that we might recognize You are the Most High and live as if we truly believe You are in control. Give us the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, so that we might be willing to submit to Your rule and even suffer death out of reverence for Your name and respect for Your righteous reign over our lives. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men