In Psalms 8:4-5 (Hebrews 2:6-7) there is a description of man that reads, “What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor.” These verses fix man in an interesting place in God’s created order: lower than the angels, but higher than the beasts – somewhere between. It is the glory of men and women in that position that, as God speaks to them and reveals Himself to them, they can look up to God and the angels, rather than down. But you see, if you will not look up, you will inevitably look down, and you will become like the one to whom you are looking. If you look to God, you will become like God. If you will not look to God and worship God, you will not become like God; you will become like beasts.
We have an evolutionary naturalistic philosophy in our day, and part of this philosophy, we are to understand, is that men and women are only well-developed animals. Therefore, when we want to justify what used to be called “perversions,” the way to do it is to show that animals do it too. After all, it is in our nature, our background, our DNA.
But, human beings are not animals. Humans are made in the image of God and have the opportunity of looking up to Him and becoming increasingly like Him through His grace in Jesus Christ. But if we will not look up, if we will not become like God, we will inevitably look down and increasingly become like the animals.
Indeed, we will become worse than the animals, which is what Nebuchadnezzar’s fall indicates. If you say, “Look how good I am; look at what I have done,” if you do not give God the glory, you will bring ruin upon yourself because God rules in the affairs of men and has ordained that this should be so.
I have spoken individually. But let me say that this happens nationally as well. I am interested to follow the moral tone of our nation, and in my opinion, it is going down so quickly it is hard to keep up. As I read the papers week after week, I ask at what point, if any, in the moral decline of our time, people will pull back and say, “This is just terrible! We will not go this far.” The point is certainly not adultery; we have plenty of that. It is not even prostitution; we have movements to recognize prostitution, even legalize it, if possible. The point is not even pornography. But I have noticed in recent years that there has been an attempt to say, “Well, the point at which we will draw the line is child pornography. Adults can do what they want; we must not be intolerant. Grown-ups can go to hell if they want to go to hell. But not children.”
Well, that sounds good. At least there is a point beyond which we will not go. But is that the case? If we will not have God, there is no point at which we can stop in the moral decline. God is the only one who can hold His creatures up and remold them by grace into the image of Jesus Christ. Therefore, if we will not have Him and instead turn to our own way, we will go down, down, down individually and nationally as well. That is happening. It is happening here and elsewhere in the world.
Let me suggest our proper role by this contrast. When I was talking about Satan last time and his rebellion, I pointed out that his sin was taking God’s glory to himself. If we want to see the role that we should have, we need only go back before the fall of Satan to what he was doing for God before he sinned. In Ezekiel 28 the prophet describes Satan as standing upon the holy mount of God directing the worship of the creation to God and interpreting the demands of God to the creation. His name was Lucifer then. It meant “light bearer”. He was the one who bore the worship of the creation up to God and then reflected God’s image back to the creation.
That is our role as Christian people – not to take the glory to ourselves but rather to achieve everything we possibly can achieve, to do as well as we possibly can do, to be as moral as we possibly can be, and then when we are as moral and as successful as we possibly can be, to point to God and say, “It is not I, but Christ who works in me.”
Nebuchadnezzar, I think, finally got the message, because at the very end of Daniel 4 he confesses that the God whom earlier he had called Daniel’s God is now his God as well. Notice v.34: “My reason returned to me, and I blessed [praised] the Most High, and praised [glorified] and honored him who lives forever.” Then v.37, which contains the very last words we hear from Nebuchadnezzar: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor [glorify] the King of heaven, for all his works are right and all his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
God is not only able to humble them; He does humble them. But as we humble ourselves, we find ourselves exalted in the role God has called us to fill, that of light bearers, reflectors of the glory of God. We find that God uses people as inconspicuous and unimpressive as ourselves to bring people, even like Nebuchadnezzar, to the knowledge of Himself.