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THE CONVERSION OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR -
A PROTOTYPE FOR LOST SINNERS TODAY

by Dr. Robert Hymers

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, December 17, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (Daniel 4:37).


Here we see King Nebuchadnezzar in a converted state. He at last praises the God of heaven, acknowledges that God is true and righteous. Also, he recognizes that those who walk in pride, as he had done, who live their lives in proud defiance of God, will be abased, cast down, humbled and brought low, if not now, then at the Last Judgment.

It is most remarkable that the great king of Babylon became a converted man. To our human minds it seems impossible for a great heathen king like him to be brought to such a state of spiritual enlightenment. We must say, in the words of the New Testament, that he was born again - that he was now a new man in Christ.

But I want you to see how this came about, what methods God used to bring him to a true state of conversion.

I. First, the king was impressed by the testimonies of three godly men.

Three men named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego gave a remarkable and powerful sermon to the king, and did so with such earnestness and fearlessness that the king was deeply affected by it in his heart.

These young men believed in the true God. They would not bow down to the idol that the king raised up. When the king threatened to have them thrown into “a burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:15) if they did not worship his golden idol, they spoke up and gave a strong witness to him. Stand and read Daniel 3:17-18. Here is what these young men said boldly to the king. Read these two verses aloud.

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not,be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

You may be seated.

The king was filled with anger and rage at them. His face became fierce with anger. He commanded that the furnace be made seven times hotter than it was. And then he threw them into the burning flames.

After a while the king looked in through an opening in the furnace. Instead of seeing three men, there were four,

“and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God”
     (Daniel 3:25).

Jesus was with them to protect them in the flames.

Then Nebuchadnezzar called to them and they “came forth” out of the furnace alive and unburned (Daniel 3:26-27).

The king was thunderstruck with awe and amazement. He said,

“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him” (Daniel 3:28).

The first lesson we learn is that strong preaching often makes a remarkable impression on a lost person, leading him to see that God is powerful and holy and trustworthy. The king was angry at first when they did not worship his false religion - but they gained his respect by their stedfast loyalty to God at all costs. Will you be such a young person during the coming holiday season? Will you refuse to bow down to parents and friends who want you to miss church and join in their pagan revelry instead of being where God wants you, in church the night before Christmas, Christmas Day itself, and in prayer at church on New Year’s Eve? Will you go through the anger and rebukes of lost relatives who are upset that you are in church on the Lord’s birthday and New Year’s Eve, instead of joining them in their pagan festivities? If you want to win them to Christ, as these young men won the king, you must stand up, as did these young men, and let them know by your actions, with the Apostles,

“Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken [listen] unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

I say to you, stand up for Christ and be here where you belong, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Stand up and say, with kindly words, that it is better to obey God than man on these important things. Have the courage and faith to do just that! And may God help you!

Though they will not tell you so, they will be impressed by your zeal and faith - deeply impressed. And your witness may well lead them in years to come to think about their own need for God in Christ, as the witness of these young men did the king of Babylon. For I believe that it was the fearless faith of these young men that impressed the king so deeply that he began to think seriously about the true God himself, and his own need for salvation.

II. Second, the king had a spiritual awakening.

There can be no doubt of this. Look at what the king said when he made a decree, which he published throughout his land. Please stand and read Daniel 4:2-3. This is what the king said to all his people. Read these two verses aloud.

“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”
     (Daniel 4:2-3).

You may be seated.

The king had been an outright idol worshipper, not a worshipper of God in any sense of the word. But, as a result of the fearless witness of these three young men, the king was awakened to the glory of the true and living God.

But I am sorry to say that his awakening did not last long. Soon he pushed out of his mind the good thoughts he had experienced and went back to his proud, old God-rejecting ways.

III. Third, the king lost the conviction he had when he was awakened
and went back to his former state.

Turn to Daniel 4:30-31. Let us read these two verses aloud.

“The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built [he had once again forgotten God] for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee” (Daniel 4:30-31).

I wonder if something very similar hasn’t happened to you already? I wonder if you were once awakened to your sin, convinced that you were wrong outside and inside.

The king had seen what was wrong with his religion. He had humbled himself somewhat. He had seen that he was rebellious toward God. But now he forgot these convictions and went back to his former state.

This often happens. It may be that you once felt the pain of a convicted conscience. But you may have quieted your conscience by a false profession of faith. This seems to be what Nebuchadnezzar did. This is similar to what the Pharaoh did in the time of Moses. The Pharaoh said,

“I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked” (Exodus 9:27).

But even though Pharaoh was convinced of sin, he was not converted.

“And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart” (Exodus 9:34).

Pharaoh, like Nebuchadnezzar, lost his conviction and was not truly converted.

We see this also in the case of King Saul. When conviction came to him he did not repent and turn to the Lord. He was not converted, and died in sin.

Someone may say that these Old Testament examples of Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh and Saul should not be used as a warning against someone losing conviction today. But my answer is this - then why are the experiences of these men recorded in the Bible? The Apostle Paul told us,

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:16).

“All scripture” refers to the whole Bible. There are lessons of “reproof” and “correction” throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, which apply today. Regarding the children of Israel in the wilderness, the Apostle Paul wrote,

“But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples…” (I Corinthians 10:5-6).

“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples [for examples]: and they are written for our admonition [to warn us]” (I Corinthians 10:11).

Therefore we conclude that the examples of Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh and King Saul were given by inspiration of God in the Old Testament Scriptures as examples, to reprove, and correct, and warn people today, in this dispensation. Otherwise, why are they recorded in the Bible - if not to warn you against losing your conviction and falling short of true conversion in Christ Jesus?

The example of Felix is given in the New Testament, in the book of Acts, to warn against losing conviction. As Paul

“…reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee”
     (Acts 24:25).

Felix trembled under conviction of sin, but he put off conversion. He said he would call for Paul to counsel him some other time. But that time never came. His conviction never returned. He died unconverted.

There comes a time when God gives up on you and conviction never again troubles you. When that happens, “It is impossible…to renew them again unto repentance” (Hebrews 6:4, 6).

If you have any conviction of sin, you should come to Christ immediately. Do not delay, for the next time it may be “impossible.” The next time you may have committed the unpardonable sin. God may give up on you altogether, as He gave up Pharaoh and Saul and Felix. If you feel convinced of your sin, repent and come to Jesus immediately. Delay can be fatal!

IV. Fourth, the king experienced another gracious awakening.

Please stand and read Daniel 4:32-34 aloud.

“And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever…” (Daniel 4:32-34).

You may be seated.

Here is a very strong example of God convincing a man of sin. God literally broke him, until his understanding returned and he “blessed the most High.”

We see conversions like this many times in Christian history. The Apostle Paul was struck blind under the power of convincing grace, before his conversion under the ministry of Ananias on a street called Straight in Damascus, “and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).

Luther, Whitefield, Wesley and Spurgeon went through a howling wilderness of conviction before they came to Christ. Our Baptist forefather, John Bunyan, went through a long period of horrible desperation. He said,

Now was I both a burden and a terror to myself, nor did I ever so know, as now, what it was to be weary of my life, and yet afraid to die. O, how gladly I would have been anybody but myself! Anything but a man! (John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, Penguin Books, 1987, page 38).

You cannot read Bunyan’s account of his own conviction without getting the sense that this man was driven to what modern people would call “insanity,” when he was under the convincing power of guilt. And, as I have said, this was also the experience of many other famous Christians, such as Luther, Whitefield, Wesley, and even, to a degree, Spurgeon. It should also be remembered that such experiences have often been endured by people during seasons of revival, especially in the three Great Awakenings.

The older commentators were more familiar with such occurrences. It should not surprise us, then, that John Calvin saw Nebuchadnezzar’s experience as a sign of his conversion. Calvin said,

He had recovered his soundness of mind, and thus commends God’s mercy in…temporary chastisement; and then he [God] stretched forth his hand, and out of a beast formed a man again!...Hence with very good reason Nebuchadnezzar celebrates this grace of God (John Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Daniel, volume I, Baker Book House, 1998, page 301).

Dr. John MacArthur, though wrong on the Blood of Christ, was, I think, correct when he said,

In Daniel 4 we will see what I believe is Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion to faith in the true God. Some commentators have appropriately entitled the chapter, “The Conversion of Nebuchadnezzar.” It relates how God broke his pride by humbling him and then turned his heart toward Him in faith (John MacArthur, D.D., “The Rise and Fall of World Powers: How the Mighty Have Fallen,” a sermon on Daniel 4:1-37, Tape GC 27-12).

God sometimes uses His sovereign power to break down a proud man and humble him very greatly before that man’s heart is turned to Christ.

What do we learn from King Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion? We learn that you can be impressed with the sermons and testimonies of Christians and, thus, be awakened. But if you do not repent when you are convinced of sin, a harsher time of convincing may fall upon you, as it did to the king. This may be a terrible time of conviction, as it was with Luther, Bunyan, Wesley, Spurgeon, and many others, especially in times of an outpouring of revival.

If God should grant such mercy here in our church, some of you may indeed see yourself as a ruined, mad beast, without hope. Then, no mere “decision” or “prayer” will give you any comfort. You will then say, as the Psalmist did,

“Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee”
     (Psalm 73:21-22).

What mercy! What grace! For a proud man, broken of his pride, and brought to evangelistic repentance and true faith in Christ, is surely a trophy of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. If that should be your experience, you could sing with Newton,

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
   That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
   Was blind, but now I see.
(“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, 1725-1807).

But I hope you do not have to be brought to the awful, grovelling madness of conviction that Nebuchadnezzar and others have experienced before you repent and turn to Christ. I hope that a smaller conviction from the Holy Spirit will be enough to convince you that you are one of Adam’s ruined race, hopeless without the mercy of Christ. I pray that you will be able to say, with Dr. Watts,

Lord, I am vile, conceived in sin,
And born unholy and unclean;
Sprung from the man whose guilty fall
Corrupts the race, and taints us all.

Behold, I fall before Thy face,
My only refuge is Thy grace;
No outward forms [decisions or works] can make me clean,
The leprosy lies deep within.

Jesus, my God! Thy blood alone
Hath power sufficient to atone;
Thy blood can make me white as snow;
No Jewish types could make us so.
   (“Psalm 51 - Lord, I Am Vile” by Isaac Watts, D.D., 1719).

Have you felt the power of sin and guilt within you? Are you a slave to your corrupted, sinful, Adamic nature? Do you feel that sin has such power over you that you cannot escape from it? Then flee to Christ. Be washed from your sins in the Blood Christ shed on the Cross!

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Daniel 4:27-34, 37.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Lord, I Am Vile, Conceived in Sin” (by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE CONVERSION OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR -
A PROTOTYPE FOR LOST SINNERS TODAY

by Dr. Robert Hymers


“Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (Daniel 4:37).

I.   The king was impressed by the testimonies of three godly men,
Daniel 3:15, 17-18, 25, 26-27, 28; Acts 4:19-20.

II.  The king had a spiritual awakening, Daniel 4:2-3.

III. The king lost the conviction he had when he was awakened and
went back to his former state, Daniel 4:30-31; Exodus 9:27;
Exodus 9:34; II Timothy 3:16; I Corinthians 10:5-6, 11;
Acts 24:25; Hebrews 6:4, 6.

IV.  The king experienced another gracious awakening, Daniel 4:32-34;
Acts 9:18; Psalm 73:21-22.