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The Sovereign King
Happy Mother’s Day! I went from celebrating one mother to now celebrating three, in just one year! In this picture, my mom is on the left, my new mother-in-law on the far right, and my wife in the middle, who is due on June 16th. Mother’s Day also got a bit more expensive (which I didn’t know was part of the package). No, they deserve to be blessed today and every day–I’m thankful for them.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Morgan Maitland, the high school pastor here at Faith Bible Church. It is a privilege to preach–I’m thankful for the opportunity. I also got a text from Chris last week that said, “Miss you bro,” and had a picture of a beach in Hawaii. At first I thought, “Aw that’s sweet he’s thinking of me on his sabbatical.” Then last week Shawn said he got the same text–I feel a little less special. Then he sent us this video a couple of days ago.
Well, as the high school pastor here at FBC, I have to fulfill my duties and give the shameless Summer Camp plug. Summer Camp 2016 is rapidly approaching. The dates are June 27th to July 1st, Monday to Friday. We are bringing some exciting new elements to this camp–new facility, new competition format, new games, new catering (Chipotle, Panda Express, and Calhoun’s BBQ).
We are also bringing back some nostalgic elements from our old camp–tent camping, classic games, great race, Stead showers, the MAD Crew, The Jets leading worship, Bobby Blakey as our speaker. Do not miss it–sign-ups start on the 22nd, two Sundays from today. And I believe that this year we have the cheapest student price that we’ve had in the past ten years of Summer Camps–$350 per student.
Have you ever trusted somebody that you shouldn’t? I have. When I was young–a couple years ago. I pulled into my local Albertson’s parking lot, and when I got out of the car a man pulled in behind me and said, “Hey, did you know that you have a big scrape on the back of your car?” I said, “Yes, yes I did.”
He replied, “I can fix it for you right now if you want–I work for a local body shop and I have some of my tools in the back. I could clean that up in 15 minutes for $60.” I said, “Oh sorry bro, I don’t have any cash on me.” (It’s a great excuse–it’s also the excuse I use for the Girl Scouts. I never have cash on me.) He replied, “There’s an ATM right there. You can just go in and shop around for a bit, get some cash out, and I’ll be done.”
Now I started getting suspicious–“Don’t you need to like match up the paint or something?” He assured me, “Dude, I just so happen to have your color silver in the back with me.” . . . “Okay . . . “ I went in, shopped a bit, got cash, came back out and there he was putting his tools away in his trunk.
I walked up to my car and there was this big blob of blue clay on the bumper. I said, “Is it supposed to look like that?” He’s all, “Oh, ya ya–that is just the mold on the outside. The silver paint is drying underneath. After you drive home, wait about an hour, and then rinse it off with water—it’s going to look brand new.” . . . “Okay” . . . so I gave him $60 cash and drove home.
When I went to rinse off the blue mold an hour later, it was not coming off. It was then that I realized–I had been bamboozled. This guy totally took advantage of a smart, educated, 21-year-old young man. Surprisingly, I’ve done more foolish things. But I learned a valuable lesson that day–do not trust someone you don’t know.
Today, I want to show you someone you can trust–someone worthy of your faith. Oswald Chambers (a Scottish Baptist) famously said, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” It’s not that we can’t know God. He reveals Himself in Scripture. He describes Himself in this book. But sometimes in life, we just don’t see or understand what He is doing. That’s where faith comes in. Genuine faith is having confidence in the character of God, whose ways we may not understand at the time.
Too often we put our faith in the character of men who fail us. Whether it is strangers, bosses, friends, or presidents, too often we turn to our own strength in hardship. Whether it is financial trouble, sickness, or wayward children–too often we lose hope in chaos. Whether it is worldliness, terrorism, or political confusion, we need to put our faith in the God whose character stands–the God who has proven Himself faithful and good, the God who reveals Himself in this book . . . even when circumstances or events seem out of control.
Please turn in your Bible to the book of Daniel–we are going to scour the book this morning. Daniel is going to show us a King that we can put our faith in. A sovereign King that we can trust. You have heard it said, “Don’t miss the forest for the trees.” In other words, don’t get so consumed in the details and miss the bigger picture.
We often do this when we read our Bibles. We get caught up in these amazing stories, the superhuman characters. We can easily read the Bible and miss the forest for the trees. We can easily read the Bible and miss the bigger story. We can easily miss the main character. The book of Daniel is more than a story about taming lions, or burning fire. The book is not about Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Nebuchadnezzar, or even Daniel.
The book of Daniel is about a King, the sovereign King, our God–this is His story. He demonstrates in this book that He reigns supreme. He raises kings and crushes them. He empowers nations and destroys them. He crowns the faithful and humbles the proud. He makes promises and keeps them. He brings redemption and hope to His people–a God that composes history by the sovereign decree of His word.
King Darius says it best in chapter 6, “For he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. 27 He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions” (verses 26 to 27). We can trust this King.
The application for us this morning is very simple–have faith. Trust Him when the future looks dim. Depend on Him when challenges come. Lean on Him through trial and tribulation. Stand firm in Him when the world turns against the truth. Have faith in the sovereign King who never fails, who has all the strength, who gives real hope.
The book of Daniel gives us four reasons to put our faith in the sovereign King—four encouragements to place our trust in the sovereign King, four convincing demonstrations from our sovereign King.
Reason 1 Have Faith in the King because He Controls History
Let me start with some history and a disclaimer–there is going to be a lot of history today, but it’s so important to know the history when studying the Bible. It puts everything in context, even though it may seem boring. My two worst subjects in high school were Spanish and history–I married a Mexican and became a Bible teacher. Go figure–God is sovereign.
Historical context–it is a little over 600 years B.C., and the Babylonian Empire is on the rise. Nebuchadnezzar, the most famous of the Babylonian kings, has had great success in his world conquest, destroying Ninevah, he has defeated the Egyptians, and now he turns his attention toward Israel (Jerusalem).
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles” (Daniel 1:1 to 3).
Stop right there–what’s happening here? Nebuchadnezzar comes in and takes over Jerusalem. He not only takes over, but he takes temple valuables and people to go back to Babylon. What’s significant here? Why am I reading this? Other than the fact that it gave me some good name ideas for my second child . . . Ashpenaz, Jehoiakim–let me show you something. Turn in your Bible to Isaiah 39:5–here is a warning from God 100 years before verse 1 of Daniel.
“Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord of hosts, 6 Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing will be left,’ says the Lord. 7 ‘And some of your sons who will issue from you, whom you will beget, will be taken away, and they will become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon’” (Isaiah 39:5 to 7).
Sound familiar? God speaks through his prophet, Isaiah, 100 years before this event and describes Israel’s impending captivity exactly how it would happen–to the “T”. He specified in his prophecy, “Certain men will become officials in the palace of Babylon” a century before it actually happened.
Who is really in control here? God is. He is fulfilling his plan, controlling history down to the very detail. Nebuchadnezzar might think that he has foiled the plans of God. He has conquered God’s favorites, he has taken over the great Jerusalem, he’s taken their most valuable possessions, he’s taken their highest prospects–all of Israel’s first round draft picks. But what foolishness to think that Nebuchadnezzar is in control here.
Let’s go back to a couple of words we may have skimmed over. In verse 1, “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.” Then in verse 2, “The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand.” God gives Israel over according to His plan, His story. And it’s not just the beginning of Daniel–this concept echoes throughout the book. The Lord giving/taking from kings, and the Lord giving/taking from nations–it’s evident that God is writing the story.
I love how Tim Challies describes it in his new book, Visual Theology. “The world is but a stage for the great Story Teller.” He is the playwright, He is the author, He is in control–Nebuchadnezzar was but a pen in the hand of the Great Historian. Friends, we are foolish to think that nations rise and fall without a summons from Heaven. We are foolish to think that catastrophe happens without a gatekeeper. We are foolish to believe that presidents are elected without a Supreme Vote.
Men don’t have control in history, God does. He is engaged with creation to work out every event, every circumstance, every life story according to His will and His plan. Think about your life for a minute. Think about every historical event you have lived through–some of you more than others. Think about the presidents you’ve seen elected. Think about the different wars you’ve seen. Think about the rise and fall of the economy. Think even about the natural disasters. Do you believe that God was in sovereign control of every event and circumstance?
Let’s make it a little more personal. Think about your history. Think about the events that took place in your life to bring you here today, from early childhood to now. Think about the new births, think about the deaths, the joys. Think about the trials, the jobs, the relationships, the sicknesses, the moves. Do you believe that our King is in control over your life? Do you believe that every joy, every trial, every blessing, every hardship is in the hands of the sovereign King?
It’s easy to say that God is sovereign, and harder to actually believe it in the midst of a trial. I had one of those “why” moments a little less than a year ago. Have you ever had a “why” moment–one of those moments where you are honest before God and ask, “Why? Why me? Why right now? Why this?”?
About eight months ago, I had my backpack stolen out of my car. In that backpack was my laptop that had all of my school work, messages, tax info–everything on it. My IPad that I used regularly for preaching (which is why I’m using paper today), my wallet (with driver’s license, credit cards, cash, my Sea World pass)—and last but not least, my beloved lambskin ESV Bible that I got as a Christmas gift from my mother three years ago. All were in the backpack that was stolen out of my car.
I was pretty upset, broken–I got in my car and just started driving. And I remember asking God, “Why? Why me? Why right now? Why my favorite possessions?” In that trivial circumstance, I had a decision to make. Am I going to put my faith in myself and fix this problem on my own? Or am I going to have faith in the sovereign King who is in control of every circumstance, every event, and every trial of my life?
So much more comfort and rest is found in trusting the sovereign King who is in control of history–globally and personally. Don’t lose hope. Don’t turn and place your faith in another, or in yourself. Have faith in the King, because He controls history.
Reason 2 Have Faith in the King because He Employs His People
We hear it often at FBC–“God is sovereign and man is responsible.” We do not sit here on our hands expecting God to do all of the work around us. We are engaged, we are partakers, and we are employed in His work.
The stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are pretty incredible. There is a lot we can learn from their faithfulness–their firm stance on truth, their unwillingness to compromise even in the midst of incredible hardship. But what I would like to point out here is the bigger story. It is the sovereignty of God in using these ordinary men to accomplish His extraordinary purpose. Let’s skim through some of the stories in this book.
The four young men were taken captive, along with others, and placed into Nebuchadnezzar’s exclusive school–Babylon’s Harvard, all expenses covered. This is a brilliant move by Nebuchadnezzar. Take Jerusalem’s finest and make them your finest–teach them your culture, teach them your literature, make them servants in your courts.
This is old George Steinbrenner for the Yankees–go out and buy the best baseball players and make them play for your team. Why compete against them when you can hire them and have them play for you? Nebuchadnezzar brings in these bright young men in order to build his team, his legacy. But look at how God works through the story.
Daniel makes a bold decision for the group and resolves not to eat the king’s food, which should probably get him into trouble. But verse 9 says, “God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials.” You can see God working in the lives of His people from the very beginning.
The story goes on. The four men go full-blown vegetarian and after ten days they were “better in appearance and fatter in flesh” than everyone else. Ladies and gentlemen–vegetables and water don’t do that . . . skinnier and paler maybe, but not better and fatter. Verse 17, “As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom.” The sovereign King grew them, gifted them, blessed them. Let me ask you–who is really in control here? Are they employed by Nebuchadnezzar or someone else?
Nebuchadnezzar has a bad dream and wants it to be interpreted. None of his men can guess it much less interpret it. But we get to verse 19 and it says, “The mystery was revealed to Daniel.” God revealed the dream to Daniel. He goes before the king and interprets the dream, a prophecy about how God will one day establish an everlasting Kingdom. The sovereign King reveals mysteries and visions to His servant. Employed by Nebuchadnezzar or the sovereign King?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Benny, the three men who will not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue—and their punishment is burning to death in a flaming furnace. They say, “’O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up’” (Daniel 3:16 to 18).
Maybe He will, maybe He won’t–but regardless, He is our employer! We serve Him, not you, Nebuchadnezzar! Employed by Nebuchadnezzar or the sovereign King?
Daniel and the lions’ den–Daniel will not bow and worship idols either, and his punishment is a den of lions. Darius comes to the tomb and says, “Daniel, has the God whom you continually serve saved you?” Daniel replies in verse 22, “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths.” God shows up to deliver His servant and prove himself the sovereign King.
Four kings, two world empires, and God’s people remain not because of their wisdom, power, or might, but because of their great employer. God proves that He grows His people, gifts His people, uses His people, protects His people, and sustains His people. He is our sovereign King. Although we are called to submit to earthly authorities, we are ultimately employed by Him. He moves us, uses us, and places us according to His plan.
And that doesn’t always mean physical protection or safety. You could be misled into thinking that having faith in God means physical comfort, safety, and prosperity, just like it was for Daniel and his men. That is not the application to take away from this story or book. The application is for us to behold the sovereign King, and put our faith in Him no matter the circumstance or trial.
Remember the words of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. “Whether He delivers us or not, we will serve Him.” You may not be battling lions, tigers, or bears, “Oh my”. You may not be forced to bow down to a golden statue or burn in a furnace. But persecution may come–and the question will be, “Do you have faith in the King who employs His people?” The King that has you at this job for a purpose, the King that has you in this season of life for a reason, the King that knows exactly where He wants and places His people.
When the heat turns up and you are challenged in your faith, will you trust the sovereign King who is in control and serve Him alone? Have faith in the King because He controls history. Have faith in the King because He employs His people.
Reason 3 Have Faith in the King because He Rules over Kings
We see four earthly kings in the book of Daniel–Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar of Babylon, Darius and Cyrus of Medo-Persia. All four of these kings were humbled and used by the sovereign hand of God. But I’d like to focus on one of them specifically, Nebuchadnezzar–the greatest king of the Neo-Babylonian empire, a seasoned war veteran, conqueror of much of the known world.
He was a proud king–proud of his accomplishments, proud of his culture, and proud of his empire. He built a magnificent city. The goal was for the entire world to look at and covet the glory of Babylon. He had walls built 80 ft. thick and 320 ft. high. They were so wide that chariot races would take place on their tops. And just in case people forgot, the bricks of the wall bore the inscription, “I am Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon.”
The hanging gardens were majestic–one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, gardens that were compared to Eden, the world’s most exotic plants, the most technologically advanced watering system of its day. Herodotus, a Greek historian, said, “Babylon surpasses in splendor any city in the known world.”
Nebuchadnezzar thought so too. Nebuchadnezzar, walking on His roof, says this in Daniel 4:30 to 33, “’Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you,…and immediately when the words were spoken He became like a wild stupid beast eating grass, driven from men, diagnosed as insane.”
Nebuchadnezzar you fool, do you not know that God gave you this great empire? Nebuchadnezzar you fool, do you not know that God reigns in power and majesty? Nebuchadnezzar you fool, do you not know that I, God, distribute sovereignty? Sovereignty has been removed from you, oh Nebuchadnezzar–lift your head from the trees and look at the forest. This story is not about you, this kingdom is not yours, this throne is temporary.
Our God is the King over kings. You were but a temporary instrument in His hand. Oh may we not be proud like Nebuchadnezzar. May we not ascribe glory and praise to men. May we not put our faith in presidents or congressmen. I am less concerned with who is elected in November than I am concerned for our faith.
My concern is that we ascribe too much glory to men. My concern is that we place our hope in the conservative ideal. My concern is that we put all our faith in the American dream–and they will all fail us. We are missing the bigger picture. Get out of the trees and see the forest. The sovereign King elects and dethrones. The sovereign King raises and humbles. The sovereign King is in control. We need to put our faith in this King, not others.
There is incredible irony in the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar. Upon ascending to the throne, Nebuchadnezzar spoke to the gods in his inaugural address, saying, “O merciful Marduk, may the house that I have built endure forever, may I be satiated with its splendor, attain old age therein, with abundant offspring, and receive therein tribute of the kings of all regions, from all mankind.”
Now let’s read his final declaration before the one true God, “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (Daniel 4:34 to 37).
Pray that our leaders would be humbled like Nebuchadnezzar and see the true King. Have faith in the King of Heaven because He rules over kings. We can have faith in the King because He controls history, He employs His people, He rules over kings, and . . .
Reason 4 Have Faith in the King because He Keeps His Promise
This is my favorite part–so good. There is one promise that we cannot ignore when looking at the book of Daniel. Turn to Daniel 2, “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever” (verses 44 to 45).
God speaks through a dream, a vision given to Nebuchadnezzar, and says, “One day, after many nations and kings rise and fall, I will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, a kingdom for my people, and it will endure forever.” Then let’s look at Daniel 7.
“’I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. 14 And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed’” (verses 13 to 14).
A King is coming that will reign over this kingdom. He is like the Son of Man. Daniel 9 describes His first coming further and says, “He will finish transgression, make an end of sin, atone for iniquity, bring everlasting righteousness” (verses 24 to 25). The Old Testament leans in anticipation of one–One whose reign is everlasting, whose Kingdom will not be shaken, who is like the Son of Man, with an everlasting dominion, who will make an end of all sin, who will atone for our iniquity, who brings righteousness.
He is the King of kings, the Lord of lords–the One who crushed the head of the serpent, who is the seed of Abraham, Isaac, Judah, who was the spotless Lamb, a perfect sacrifice, a perfect priest, with pure blood that could atone for all sin. The salvation in which all who look are saved. A King in the line of David, Immanuel born of a virgin, a child who will uphold the Kingdom with righteousness and judgment.
The suffering Servant who will bear the sins of many. We know His name–He is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God. He was promised and He has come. This is our promised King. This is your promised King. In love, God sent His Son to die on the cross and pay for our sins. He exchanged His perfect righteousness for our rebellious sin.
Do you have faith in this King? Do you have faith in Jesus Christ this morning? Do you believe that He is the only way of salvation? There is no other–do you believe that He is Lord? There is no other. Repent from your sins today and put your faith in this King.
Child of God, be reminded this morning that our King keeps His promises–and it’s not over. There comes a day when our Savior will come back. He will reign forever, as promised. He will rule over His kingdom, as promised. He will gather all His people from every nation and tongue, as promised. Along with John in Revelation 22:20, we say, “Amen, come, Lord Jesus.”
There is not only hope for the future, but encouragement for today. Believer, He will keep you, as promised. He will bring you home, as promised. He will protect His children, as promised. “Let us run with endurance . . . 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1 to 2). Have faith in the King because He keeps His promise.
Get out of the trees and see the forest. God is sovereign and in control of all history. God is sovereign and employs His people. God is sovereign and rules over kings. God is sovereign in fulfilling His promise. What a King! What other King would leave His throne and die for His people? I can trust this King.
When men fail, when trials come, when I fail, I need someone that will come through. I need to put my faith in something that will stand. I need a promise that I can hold onto and never let go. I need a King that I can trust. Our God is that King! Let’s pray.