The unique name for God that we find six times in Daniel four is “the Most High.” What does this name signify? If you get out a concordance and look to see where else it occurs in the Old Testament, you find that the first time the name appears is in Genesis in connection with the story of Abraham’s return from the battle against the kings and his meeting with Melchizedek. Melchizedek was the priest of the Most High God, ruler of heaven and earth. It is not referring to God’s role as Redeemer or to his wisdom. It relates to God’s sovereignty. “The Most High God” is the God who rules, not only in heaven but on earth.
In Isaiah 14, we have a description of the thoughts that went through the mind of Satan in the moment of his rebellion against God. One of the things Satan said is that he wished to be like the Most High. He said, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds: I will make myself like the Most High” (vv.13–14).
Why didn’t Satan say, “I will be like the Redeemer”? Why didn’t he say, “I will be like the most wise God”? Why not one of God’s other names? It is because he was not interested in those aspects of God’s character. He wanted to be like God in His sovereign rule. In other words, he said, “I am going to take God down from His throne and put myself upon the throne, and I am going to rule in God’s place.”
That is the meaning of “the Most High.” And here is Nebuchadnezzar saying, with all the foolishness human beings are capable of, “Look at this great Babylon that I, Nebuchadnezzar, have built.” God replied, “That is the sin I will not tolerate,” and He brings him down.
Of course, this is not just Satan’s sin. This is not just Nebuchadnezzar’s sin. This is our sin, and it is ours both individually and collectively as a nation. The greatest sin of all is that we take glory to ourselves instead of giving credit to God. When we do well we think it is our achievement. When we do badly we think it is somebody else’s fault. It is the perspective of fallen humanity, and what we do as individuals in the leading of our daily lives we do nationally. America has known real greatness. It has been greatly blessed financially, culturally, spiritually, and in many other ways. But instead of giving glory to God, from whom such blessing comes, we boast of our achievement, assuming that it is because we are the kind of people we intrinsically are.
God says, “I will not tolerate that, in either individuals or nations.” The history of humanity is (1) the raising up of a nation by the blessing of God, (2) men and women taking glory to themselves, and (3) God tearing them down in order to show that He is the Most High God and not mankind. That will happen in America. I believe it is happening already. It will happen to a greater extent unless we repent.
The next part of the story is about Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment, and it is significant. It is not a case of God merely going down a list of the various punishments available and saying, “Let’s see now … Nebuchadnezzar. Eeny, meeny, miney, moe – let’s take this one: insanity.” God does not operate that way. Everything God does is significant. So when God caused Nebuchadnezzar to be lowered from the pinnacle of pride to the baseness of insanity and to be associated with the beasts and behave like a beast, God was saying by that punishment that this is the result when men give the glory of God to themselves. They become beastlike. In fact, they become even worse than beasts. Because beasts, when they are beastlike, are at least behaving the way beasts should behave. But we, when we become beastlike, behave not only like beasts, which is below where we should behave and is therefore bad enough, but even worse than beasts.
John Gerstner was teaching on one occasion about the depravity of man and compared men and women to rats. After he had finished his address, there was a question-and-answer period, and somebody who was greatly offended by the comparison stood up and asked him to apologize. The questioner said it was “insulting” to compare men and women to rats. Dr. Gerstner apologized. “I do apologize,” he said. “I apologize profusely. The comparison was terribly unfair … to the rats.” He then went on to show that what a rat does, it does by the gifts of God that make it ratlike. But when we behave like rats, we behave worse than we should and even worse than rats.
Look what happens when men and women take the glory of God to themselves. You have it in Romans 1, where God says He gives men up. When He gives them up, He does not give them up to nothing. Rather, He gives them up to the working out of the moral laws of the universe that He has established, and these laws decree that if you will not have God and therefore will not have truth, holiness, justice, righteousness, and all the other good gifts that have come from Him, you will inevitably have the opposite. The first chapter of Romans shows that when men turned from God, God turned from men and they inevitably went downhill.
God gave them up to impurity, dishonoring their bodies, first of all (v.24). Paul has in mind all kinds of uncleanness but especially sexual impurity. Second, He gave them up to dishonorable passions (v.26). This means sexual perversions. Third, He gave them up to a debased mind (v.28).
Would you not think that a debased mind should come first? However, this is the way depravity progresses: First there is impurity – for example, fornication and adultery. After this come sexual perversions: prostitution, pornography and homosexuality. Then what? What follows is a debased mind, whereby men and women, who should be ashamed of the things they are doing, say instead, “Not only are we doing these things and will continue to do them, but we consider that these things are right and demand that you recognize that they are right.” That is the progression in Romans 1.
It is exactly what we have happening in our own time – not just in our culture but also in our Churches. What is the significance of the movement in our day in which the gay community is demanding ordination to the Christian ministry? Is it a question of minority rights? Not at all! Not in the slightest! Rather, it is the gay community coming to the Churches as the only recognized moral authority in the land (though they are scarcely that) to say, “We want you to declare before your people and the world that what we do is right.” It is the expression of the reprobate mind.
If Romans 1 is the Word of God and if it is trustworthy (which it is), then what we are witnessing in our day in the Churches is God giving them up to this kind of thing. It is bad enough to be given up to sexual uncleanness. It is worse to be given up to sexual perversion. But it is worst of all to be given up to that kind of mind that says, “I demand that you, God, recognize that what I in my depravity want to do is right.”
Understand that I am not just talking about homosexuality as if this is the most terrible sin there is. There are all kinds of sins, and who is to say which sin is most terrible? It is just that this is the clearest illustration of the principle in our time. If you are an adulterer and are asking God to justify your adultery, you are just as bad. If you are a thief and are asking God to justify your stealing, you are just as bad. That is the lowest point to which God can give us up. When He does, we become by virtue of that judgment even worse than the thing to which we are compared.