“A Right Mind or a Cracked Head?”
Daniel 4:36, “At the same time my reason returned unto me’ and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.”
This morning, many people “chase their own tails” in their thoughts and actions. The modern world is littered with clichés that do not stand up to the Biblical test. Folks will declare, “I’m just not sure why I’m here and what my purpose is”, “I need to find myself”, “can we really know what truth is”, and “God wants me to be happy.” These and similar sentiments should be quickly abandoned from our mindset as Scripture plainly tells us our duty (Ecclesiastes 12:13), reminds us of who we are in relation to who God is (Romans 9:20-23), what truth is (John 14:6), and that God requires obedience as the goal of our state rather than happiness (Micah 6:8). These statements show rather that man will not think clearly or properly when he is following and worshipping something more than God. We will worship something. That fact is inescapable and undeniable. Man follows and worships something, even if it is himself.
Recently, I heard a minister say something from the pulpit that really grabbed my attention. He said, “Anyone that is not serving God with preeminence in their lives is cracked in the head.” The turn of his phrase really grabbed me and forced me to think about the idea he was talking about. While thinking about it, our study verse came brilliantly into view. The background for our verse is perhaps one of the most unique occurrences in Scriptural record that a man endured. He literally lived, looked, and was treated like a beast. The man is Nebuchadnezzar, and he ruled ancient Babylon. However, after being lifted up in pride, he was driven from men for 7 years while growing claws on his hands, feathers on his back, and eating grass in the field like an ox. What a remarkable circumstance!
During this time, this man was humbled and brought low as no other man (according to revelation) ever had been or has since. At the end of those days, however, he gives perhaps the clearest and most glorious discourse on the sovereignty of God that we have. Nebuchadnezzar’s words in Daniel 4:34-35 are often cited as prooftexts and touchstones of this grand subject. However, Nebuchadnezzar says about himself in Verse 34 that he had “understanding” returned to him, and our verse says that “reason” returned to him again. I think Nebuchadnezzar’s case shows validity to the minister’s statements about being cracked in the head.
When I meet people in life and the subject of God, the Bible, etc. comes up, it is generally easy to tell in a few minutes if a dialogue is desired or not. Some people may bring something up, but they really have no desire to learn or deepen their understanding. Maybe they are picking a fight, or something less sinister in nature. However, the attitude of the conversation shows what they are really after. This is one of the key differences between a debate and an argument. Today’s culture uses the terms interchangeably, but they are distinctly different. Argumentation is laying out the points and evidence to try to arrive at the truth of a subject. Debate is trying to “win the day” by burying your opponent. Dialogues are had through reasonable argumentation, while debates are mostly engaged by “cracked heads.”
What Nebuchadnezzar lost – he says – is reason. Reason may have many connotations, but the one that helps me the most is the combination of knowledge and understanding. To “reason through” something, someone must have knowledge of the subject matter. However, the process requires that understanding be present as well. Understanding is not just knowing the “what” of the matter, but most importantly the “why” of the matter. Therefore, reason gets to the heart of the “what” and the “why” behind it. Someone who fails to admit of the sovereignty of God has lost the ability to truly reason. Someone who fails to admit the fallen depravity of man has lost the ability to reason. Paul informs us in Romans 1 that God, His power, and some of His attributes should be clearly seen by all men from the creation alone. The fact that men can look at the creation and attribute some other means to its existence is utter rebellion and not being in a right mind. Anyone who has had children should be able to discern the depravity of man very quickly. Children come into this world needing to be taught manners, obedience, etc. However, no parent has had to “teach” their children defiance, lying, etc. Those things came naturally to them.
What was Nebuchadnezzar’s state before these 7 years? He thought he had built Babylon himself. (Daniel 4:30). He declared this though previously blessed by God to have his dreams revealed (Chapter 2), see the Son of God in a fiery furnace (Chapter 3), and have his kingdom strengthened by the hands of Daniel and his companions. He had prior experiences with God’s goodness, yet he still worshipped himself rather than the Creator. He worshipped the beauty of his kingdom instead of worshipping the source of true beauty. As a matter of fact, Nebuchadnezzar’s power over the kingdom of Judah was Divine chastisement against them. It was not that Nebuchadnezzar had earned this dominion. God simply blessed him to overcome them because of their transgressions, rather than his righteousness. Did Nebuchadnezzar see this? No. Why? He did not have a right mind due to looking at things through the lens of self rather than the majesty of the Almighty.
Putting this lesson in today’s terms, we see a culture that is driven by self and self-centeredness. I have said often in recent years that we are living in the most openly selfish time. Though different generations through history have had differing root problems, I sincerely believe that the problems of today center on selfish notions. What makes people happy, helps them get what they want, and gain comfort are the preeminent items of the day. A right mind sees self as being far inferior to what God requires and deserves. He has all power. He deserves preeminence in all things.
Consider the root problem for lack of attendance at the house of God, lack of attention to God’s word, or precious little time on bended knee in prayer. Those things are declarations (through action) that “my time” is not important enough for God. Whether we are following our jobs, family, recreation, or something else, it really makes no difference. As Joshua told the children of Israel (Joshua 24), if you pick a god other than God, it really does not matter which one you pick. They all amount to the same thing. The right mind that has reason chooses to elevate God above all else in life no matter the pain or sacrifice that it brings. While I do not expect God to bring people down the way He did to Nebuchadnezzar (though He still can), He has ways of leveling us. Let us try to follow after Him without having to gain a few scars to learn our lesson.
Friends, it is good that we should hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord (Lamentations 3:26). That is a mindset that is not cracked and following its own ways. Just the other day, I had a man tell me, “No matter what you say, it HAS to be this way.” That effectively ended the conversation as one cannot reason through such an obstacle. There are many things in God’s word that my flesh does not enjoy. However, for me to exercise a right mind through sound reasoning and good understanding, I need to be ready to avail myself of all that God would require of me. Why is this so good for us? To answer that question just ponder the answers to these two questions: 1. Who is He? and 2. Who are we? When we really probe the depths of those questions, the answer is unavoidable. The one with everything requires those with nothing of themselves to depend upon and honour Him for what He has already done, is doing, and will yet do for us. Is this right? Absolutely! May our minds and reasoning follow these paths so that we keep ourselves from being cracked in our thinking and actions.