Andy E Mutton
Daniel 4: 28-37
Luke 17: 11-19
The great message in the glad tidings, dear friends, is that God should be glorified; and that is what I would like to speak about. You may have thought it was about salvation; the salvation of those who are lost; and of course, it includes that, and thank God for that; but the great end in the glad tidings is that God should be glorified: “Let my son go, that he may serve me”, Exod 4: 23. If you are under the bondage of sin and enchained in the grip of the enemy of your soul, Satan, you are never going to be able to serve God. In the glad tidings God presents you with the only way by which you might be released to glorify and to serve Him. It is a wonderful message. You may be a bit disappointed that it not all about what you can gain from of the gospel; but I know that if you think about it for not very long, you will find that there is no disappointment whatsoever in the glad tidings. God does not only bring you into the greatest favour, by bringing you into the place of greatest privilege, but He also brings you to a point in your life where you are able to glorify God. If you are weighed down with sin, you cannot do that, because if sin has its way with you, the enemy has control over you, and you will never do what God wants. You will never do what it is in the heart of God for His creature to do, and the way His creature should be.
I would like to use these two men that we have read of here to demonstrate this thought - and I chose these two deliberately because one was at the height of his power, and the other a leper. One was probably the greatest king at the time; he was at the height of his power and his dominion was great and he celebrates it. Where we have read he celebrates how great he was. Most of us here probably know of someone who spends most of the time telling you how great they are, and they are not necessarily a very nice person because of it. The man that we read of in Luke’s gospel was not able to tell anyone about himself because he was not allowed to go near anyone. He was a leper and the only company that he had was nine other lepers; and they would not want to hear about his problems; they had enough of their own.
So, the two men that we have read of are right at the top and right at the bottom of society. God brings them both to give Him glory; a great king and a leper - and you could say that is what God seeks from all of us in between. God would have us to come to give Him glory. God wants to give you many things in the gospel - what a God He is, a God with a heart of love, a giving God, One who has nothing in His heart for you but good. We spoke in the reading about the good seed; God has nothing bad to give you, it is all good, it is all rich, it is all for your blessing; and He has a whole array. Some of us were struck last week that you will never come to know any of them unless as hearing the glad tidings you deal with the matter of your sin first. What a thing that is. God tonight, then, wants to arrest you for a moment to deal with the matter of your sin, because even if it is not troubling you it troubles God. You may not be worried, you may be doing fine, but your case troubles God because He has His eye on you. We spoke of that again today; God can see the good harvest, and He can see all the darnel too, and He can see the difference between the two. He can see the saved and the unsaved here tonight. He wants to speak to the unsaved in particular, and He wants to encourage the saved and to share more of His heart for them. The gospel is for everybody, sinner and saved alike.
But let me just speak first with those who are yet in their sins. If there is anyone here who is yet in their sins, anyone - and I put it in the simplest language - anyone who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour, God would have you to do it tonight. It is a wonderful message proceeding from heaven tonight, the whole world over, and it is the same message. It announces that, if you are chained in the bondage of sin and the weight of your sins are entangling you, if you are tied down by these things, then God has the answer for you in Christ. He has the answer. It is not in anyone else, not in some kind of theology, not merely in a company of Christians; He has it in Jesus. There is the answer in the glad tidings, God’s answer. You may say that you do not believe in God. Well, there was a man here who did not own God either. There was a man here who believed in himself. It says that “he was walking upon the royal palace of Babylon”, what a picture it is. If you ever get an opportunity to look in a history book at what the royal palace of Babylon looked like, you will be amazed at what Nebuchadnezzar built. He says, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?”. Where was God in that? - “my power … my majesty”. What a man this was, totally taken up with himself. Now, you may not have a kingdom and a palace but you can be just as taken up with yourself as Nebuchadnezzar was, as I can be, completely consumed by our own circumstances and what we have done and what we might want to do, just as those lepers were at the other end of the scale. You may feel, quite rightly too, that they would be occupied with their condition as they suffered, but this king here appeared to have no need of God. It reminds us of when Saul was walking along the road to Damascus with others going to the city to imprison Christians. He was walking on when suddenly there was a voice, Acts 9. Maybe tonight that there will be suddenly a voice to you; not my voice, not some other preacher’s voice, not someone else in the room, not their voice - the voice of Jesus gently calling, ready to speak. Take note of the way that this word comes to the king. It is not said to be a great demanding voice. It is very interesting how scripture puts it, “While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from the heavens”. “There fell a voice from the heavens”: think of that. That is not exactly how the same voice was heard on the road to Damascus; it is described there in a different way, but here there was a man utterly consumed with himself and how great he was and “there fell a voice from the heavens”. There could have been no mistaking who was speaking. In the grace of God, He addresses him as “King Nebuchadnezzar”. He could have just struck him down where he was. That voice also came to Saul in a slightly different way but the same grace was behind it; the Lord says, “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?”, Acts 9: 4. The voice from the heavens comes freighted with love and with divine grace, that it might draw you into the divine embrace and allow you to be relieved of the burden of your sins: “there fell a voice from the heavens”. God could not wait to have to do with this man: what was He going to do with this king? How was He going to turn Him? Well, what He says is, “The kingdom is departed from thee”; that was quite a thing, as this was everything that Nebuchadnezzar had, he had spent his whole time building it; he was the greatest king for far and wide. “The kingdom is departed from thee …”. What happens? - the scripture says, “The same hour was the word fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar; and he was driven from men, and ate grass as oxen; and his body was bathed with the dew of heaven, till his hair grew like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws”. This actually happened. We spoke of some things in the reading that were parables and stories that are used to explain things - this actually happened! God, the Creator of this king who thought he was so great, intervened and He drove him to become as the beasts of the field. God has not intervened in any one of our lives in quite that way - He can but He would prefer, in the dispensation in which we are, which is one of grace, to draw you in by the attractive love and power of the Lord Jesus. Hosea speaks of God saying, “I drew them with bands of a man”, Hos 11: 4. That is how divine Persons are acting today. You and I may think we are so great. I may think quite a lot of myself and what I can do, and my abilities, but God can see through all that. What He is interested in is not how great you are in this world, in whatever dimension it may be - intelligent, clever, smart, accumulating many things; He is not interested in that, what He is interested in is your soul, and He wants it for Himself. He wants your affections for Himself so that you will give Him glory. There was nothing returning to God from this man, and it may be that there are one or two, or even more, people in this room from whose lives nothing returns to God. What a thing that would be. We spoke in the reading about the claim that divine Persons have on us. The Creator God has a claim on you, He holds your breath in His hand, measures your way, knows your way; He has had it in His hand, even though you may have ignored Him throughout your whole life. Well, God knows you and He knows whether there is something going up to Him from your life. You may think you do not need God right at the moment. Do you think Nebuchadnezzar did not think that? What did he appear to have need of? Nothing. There are those in scripture who say that, they “have need of nothing”, Rev 3: 17. Oh that your heart may not be like that, dear friend. You do: you have need of a Saviour. You have need of a Saviour of God’s providing to deal with this matter of your sin and bring you to the realisation, as Nebuchadnezzar had, that there was only One who was great and most high; there was only One. He says here, “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of the heavens, all whose works are truth, and his paths judgment”. How perfect. His heart was turned to embrace the greatness of God and give Him glory. That can be the case in your life as it has been in mine, and for many of those sitting here. The person I was, who thought himself completely self-sufficient and having no need of God, can be turned to see the attractiveness of what has been presented in Christ and the glory of what is seen in God Himself. That is the message of the gospel; we will touch on a couple of other aspects in a moment but that is the kernel of it. How can God do that? How can He turn you? Why did the gospel become attractive to me and to you? It becomes attractive because it is all centred in the Person of Christ. There is nothing more attractive to a believer than the love and grace of God as expressed in Jesus. The attractiveness is beyond words to a believer, centred there in a Man who has done everything for God. I was thinking of these words, as someone quoted them in thanksgiving this morning, “not my will, but thine be done”, Luke 22: 42. What a thing. Even when we have been saved and come under the shelter of the precious blood of Jesus, we find that we still want to do our will, but there was a Man who never ever wanted to do His own will, “not my will, but thine be done”; He was someone whose life was utterly devoted to doing what it was that God His Father desired Him to do.
Another man who thought he could do things for himself was Peter, and in Luke’s gospel he says to the Lord Jesus, “Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death”, Luke 22: 33. No doubt he meant that but he was not able for it, neither was it his place, but as to the Lord Jesus saying, “not my will, but thine be done”, He was able. Thank God it was His place and He took it and He went into death. He went to the cross and suffered and died for you, I trust, and most certainly for me. He suffered and He died there, shed His precious blood that you - by trusting in it and repenting of the way that you have come and beginning to see your sins in the same light as God sees them - you may rid yourself of that past because Christ has done it for you. He has borne those sins and you may now come to trust upon Him both for now and for the future. There is the glory of the gospel and the simplicity of it all centred in Jesus.
Nebuchadnezzar lived long before Jesus came to the earth, and he came to know the glory of God in a different way than the way we know, but he came to acknowledge it with the whole of his heart. He says as to God, “none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”. None can do that; we cannot question God. We like to sometimes, we find that things come up in our lives and we question God, ’Why are You doing that, why is my life so awkward, why do all these problems come up, why is it so difficult?’. Nebuchadnezzar came to it that he could not ask God that sort of thing. He is so great and His ways are so perfect; His judgments are so perfect. I cannot question what He is doing. I simply accept it, and if He wants to bless you and to save you, as He does tonight, if He is speaking to your heart tonight, do not question Him. Allow the love of God and His grace to flood into your affections and accept the great privilege that God has chosen you for salvation. What could be greater? God having had it in His heart even from before time that you should be saved and should give Him glory. He wants you to do that.
There were these ten men in Luke’s gospel - these were different from Nebuchadnezzar, and they had a different attitude. In the modern world in which we live, we are well aware what people mean when they use the word ‘attitude’, we see it in many people. Nebuchadnezzar had ‘attitude’ in the modern sense of the word, but these men did not. They were ten leprous men and they met Jesus. They were those “who stood afar off”. Why did they stand afar off? Nobody would go near them. Nobody should really want to have to do with you in your sins. Nobody should want to have anything to do with you or me as still marked by sin, by the degradation of everything that is about it, but Jesus does. These men stood afar off. A leper had to cry “unclean, unclean” (Lev 13: 45); people could hear him coming and they could get out of the way when he came near. Imagine having to do that; no friends, no acquaintances, despised by everyone you came into contact with. Jesus took a place like that - “became poor, in order that ye by his poverty might be enriched”, 2 Cor 8: 9. He became poor that by that poverty, by what He became and what He made Himself, making Himself of no reputation, we might be enriched. Then there was what God made Him; that is, He made Him sin for us (2 Cor 5: 21); by that, and by going into death, and by going out of sight, by that poverty, “ye by his poverty might be enriched”. God is handing to you the greatest riches in the universe, what is available in the gospel; and it was available for these lepers. They did not know it; in fact it appears that only one of them really got to understand it to any degree. These ten men came up and, “lifted up their voice saying, Jesus, Master, have compassion on us” - that was a good start. Do you realise that you need the mercy and compassion of God? I can tell you that you do, but it is no good me just keeping telling you, you have to know it for yourself in your heart and open up your affections to God, allow Him to speak to you through Jesus. I could tell you until I was blue in the face but it would make no difference; the preacher cannot do it for you, no preacher can - open up your heart to Jesus. These ten men made a good start, they said, “Jesus, Master, have compassion on us”, and Jesus spoke to them and it says as they were going to the priest, “And it came to pass as they were going they were cleansed”. I expect they had wanted this their whole life; they had waited for this moment their whole life long.
Now, I come to the point where we are dealing with those who have been saved, who do know Jesus as their Saviour, because all of these ten were cleansed. They were all cleansed, they could mix now in society, they could go about their lives as normal, they could do all the things that normal people could do: they were rid of that horrible disease. As knowing Jesus and as accepting Him as your Saviour, as repenting of your sins and knowing how God loves to forgive the sinner, you can come into the same position as all of the ten of these lepers, but now what are you going to do? What am I going to do? God wants something more from those who are saved, and one of them understood that. He returned, he “seeing that he was cured, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice”. That is what God wants from forgiven sinners; He wants glory to return to Him. There are many things that He wants us to do and many things that He wants us to come into the privilege of. One of them is remembering the Lord in the breaking of bread, and a sister here did that this morning for the first time. That is one of the things, one of the ways to glorify God. Many of the rest of us here did it this morning not for the first time, but how real was it? Did we really glorify God or was it simply something that we did by habit that we do every Lord’s day? You see how much notice Jesus took of this man? This man, “fell on his face at his feet giving him thanks … And Jesus answering said, Were not the ten cleansed? but the nine, where are they? There have not been found to return and give glory to God save this stranger. And he said to him, Rise up and go thy way: thy faith has made thee well”. Jesus was identifying in that person the faith that God had placed there. This was a real moment of triumph for divine activity: the blessed Son of God upon the earth available to men, available for salvation, here doing the Father’s will, able to identify the work of God in a poor cleansed leper at His feet in front of Him. That brings rejoicing to God’s heart.
May that be the portion of our hearts today, that from those in whom God has worked by planting faith by the work of the Holy Spirit, and where that faith has answered to the message in the glad tidings, glory to God results . That may be in the taking of your privilege in breaking bread, it may be in your participation in the service of God, it may be something that none of your local brethren or your family ever see, it may be just something in your life that makes you rejoice, and returns to God something of what He has given to you. It is our privilege to be able to take that up until the Lord comes. Then we will glorify God forever, throughout the millennium and in eternity, but until the Lord comes, it is our privilege to take up glorifying God now. Nebuchadnezzar must have done that for the rest of his life; he would never have forgotten his experience. Would you forget such a moment, going from the greatest king in the world to eating the grass and growing your hair and your nails like the beasts in the field? Would you forget such a moment? This one leper would never have forgotten this moment when he was cleansed, and I suppose the other nine would not have either, but there was one who glorified God. May we each be another one, may all of us take up that privilege of being another who glorifies God in our life until Jesus comes; for His Name’s sake.
2nd March 2014