Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Sometimes the circumstances and difficulties of life feel pretty major. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds us:

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: God is bigger. God is greater. God is more real than anything that is pressing into my life this week, and He’s more real than anything that’s pressing into your life in this season. 

Dannah: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, coauthor of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, for September 28, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh.

When do you feel the most stressed or overwhelmed? Is it when you turn on the news? Or when you scroll through social media? Is it when you think about your unfinished chores or projects? Is it when a certain relationship flits across the screen in your mind? Nancy is starting a new teaching series to help us know how to respond. Here she is with a further introduction.

Nancy: Over the past few years, there’s a simple two-word phrase that has become a mega-theme in my life and in the life of Revive Our Hearts. In these two words we find a world of comfort and help and hope and encouragement and perspective, and sometimes even, when we need it, fear. Because sometimes we need fear to keep us from going in the wrong direction and redirect our steps. This is a theme that we see woven all the way through the Scripture, from cover to cover.

What are the two words? If you’ve followed anything from me or from Revive Our Hearts in recent years, you know what those two words are: Heaven rules. You’re going to hear that a lot today, and you’re going to hear it a lot throughout this entire series.

This is a little quiz at the beginning of our lesson: Is there anybody here who can tell me where this phrase actually appears in the Bible? It’s just one time, as that phrase. Anybody know where this is? It’s the book of Daniel. Open your Bible to Daniel if you can find that, just toward the end of the Old Testament. It’s in the book of Daniel—Daniel 4:26. 

Here is the Bible I’ve been journaling through for the last three-and-a-half years, so it’s kind of a weightlifter version. Daniel came alive to me in a whole new way as I journaled through it some months ago.

In Daniel 4:26, Daniel is speaking to King Nebuchadnezzar, and he says, “Your kingdom will be restored to you as soon as you acknowledge that heaven rules.” Heaven rules. I have that phrase highlighted in that Bible. I have it in brackets; I have it in pink marker. It’s highlighted. “Heaven rules.”

This message, even though you only see the phrase one time in Daniel, is a message that’s prominent throughout the book of Daniel. Now, the events in this book took place more than 2700 years ago, but the message of Daniel is timeless, and it is incredibly timely for much of what we are experiencing in our world today.

Over the next few weeks, I want to walk through the book of Daniel together. Now, there are a lot of difficult passages in Daniel. In fact, I remember when I went to Bible college there was a course called Dan-Rev. That’s Daniel and Revelation. The Old Testament apocalyptic, prophetic book of Daniel; the New Testament apocalypse, the book of Revelation. I didn’t ever take that course there, but it was supposed to be one of the hardest courses, because there are all these images and pictures and visions and things in this apocalyptic literature. 

And you’re like, “Is this real? Is this literal? What does this mean?” Theologians have spent a lot of time and effort and spilled a lot of ink trying to explain what all those things mean. So we could spend months boring down into the details of the book of Daniel, but we’re not going to do that in this series.

What I want to do is give you a 30,000-foot overview, looking at the book of Daniel through just this one lens: Heaven rules. We’re going to spend about one program or one day on each chapter; we may vary that. I may go a couple days on some of these chapters as it unfolds.

As you listen to this series, I want to encourage you to follow along in the book of Daniel, and maybe read the whole book through in one or two settings as we begin this series. Just in your quiet time, pull out the book of Daniel; read through it. But then as you listen to each episode, read the chapter. We’re going to read those chapters, out loud, almost the entire text, in these sessions, because I want us to be looking for evidences that Heaven rules.

You may want to mark these in your Bible as you read, maybe just an HR in the margin. What evidence do you see in each of these chapters that Heaven rules? That’s what we’re going to be looking for: God sightings, sightings of Heaven rules. 

  • How do you see the sovereignty of God? 
  • How do you see the providence of God at work here on earth as these chapters unfold? 
  • How do you see that Heaven rules in the lives of God’s people? 
  • How do you see that Heaven rules in the lives of nonbelievers, people who don’t believe anything about God or Heaven? 
  • How do you see that Heaven rules in government and politics and civil affairs? 
  • How do you see that Heaven rules in the mega-issues of our world? 
  • How do you see that Heaven rules in the little, itty, bitty details of our lives?

Now, in chapter one—and let me encourage you to turn to the book of Daniel, if you haven’t already—chapter one. We’re not going to actually talk through chapter one until the next session. But I just by way of this overview today, I want you to see that we’re introduced to the main characters in the whole drama in chapter one. 

Daniel 1:1 refers to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He’s one of the main characters in this story. Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful man. He ruled over the vast, powerful Babylonian empire for more than forty years, one of the longest-reigning monarchs in that part of the world. He was world-renowned as a builder, a designer, a warrior, a monarch. He was a somebody on the world’s stage, and he knew it.

Now, by contrast, in this first chapter we’re introduced to four Hebrew captives. Commentators tell us these were probably young teenagers, maybe fourteen years of age. Think about that as we’re studying the book of Daniel together. In the eyes of Babylon and on the world stage of that day, these four young men were not somebodies, but nobodies. From earth’s perspective, contrasted to King Nebuchadnezzar, these four young men had no power, no influence, and no control. To the contrary, they were under the iron fist of pagan, godless rulers. Nobodies.

Now, I’ll just point out that you don’t hear people naming their kids Nebuchadnezzar today, so the man who was the somebody in the whole span of human history is actually pretty much a nobody. But you have a lot of people naming their kids Daniel, because that nobody, in God’s perspective, from heaven’s point of view, was actually somebody used by God.

There’s another contrast in characters here, and you see them introduced in chapter one. Look in verse one of Daniel one. This is a contrast between two more characters: the gods of Babylon versus the God of Israel. These were pitted against each other, and there was a battle for control. Look at verse one. 

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it . . . he carried [some of the vessels from the house of God in Jerusalem] to the land of Babylon, to the house of his god, and put the vessels in the treasury of his god. (vv. 1–2) 

You have the house of God, the God of Israel, the temple in Jerusalem; and you have the house of Nebuchadnezzar’s god.

Here comes Nebuchadnezzar. He captures, he confiscates, he steals, he takes these vessels from the house of God, the temple in Jerusalem. He takes them away from Jerusalem, from Israel, and he takes them to the house of his god in Babylon.

Now, this is highly significant, because people believed that if a king conquered another nation’s gods, he proved that his god was more powerful than the god whose goods he had captured. So Nebuchadnezzar was saying in effect, “My god is better than your God.” In a sense, he was daring the God of Israel to vindicate Himself, to speak up for Himself.

In the book of Daniel, God (the God of Israel) is repeatedly referred to as the Most High God or the Most High. But was He really the Most High God? You might wonder when you see Nebuchadnezzar taking the articles from the house of God and taking them out of Israel to the house of his pagan god. Was God really sovereign? Was He really the Most High God? Was He really sovereign over every other deity, every other king, every other ruler?

It looks in this verse like King Nebuchadnezzar and his gods are more powerful. I mean, doesn’t it, if you just read that verse? Why can’t God keep His own goods intact in His own house?

To the point of our lives today, is God more powerful? Is He the Most High God? Is He more powerful than any false gods or religions or ideologies of our day? This is what we’re going to see being hotly contested in the book of Daniel, as it is being contested in our world today.

Throughout the book of Daniel, we’re going to see how God orchestrated and used various circumstances and various conflicts, various hard places that God’s people faced. God used these. God orchestrated them. God used these circumstances as a showdown to demonstrate His greatness and His power over His enemies and to let everyone—believers and nonbelievers alike—know that Heaven rules

You see, God works through these circumstances where it looks like He’s losing and the false gods are winning. God uses those to demonstrate His power and to declare, “You don’t know it, but the truth is, Heaven really does rule.”

Now, as I’ve been soaking in Daniel and preparing for this series, I’ve been struck by the numerous different names and titles given to God in this book. It’s quite different from the book of Esther, for example, found in the Old Testament, which is also about the fact that Heaven rules. But in the book of Esther there’s not a single clear reference to God, explicitly. There’s one that people think may be an implicit one, but you don’t see the name of God in the book of Esther. In the book of Daniel, it’s exactly the opposite. You see God’s name everywhere in the book of Daniel.

I think that says to us that whether we can see God or not, whether we can see that He’s at work or not, God is always at work—sometimes revealing Himself as He does in the book of Daniel, and sometimes in much more quiet and subtle ways. Nonetheless, whether you’re seeing His name emblazoned across the environment or not, Heaven still rules. Now, names are important in Scripture, and they have significant meanings. The names and titles of God are God revealing Himself to us. He’s showing us who He is, what He’s like, and what He does.

I’ll just tell you that Robert and I have had a challenging past week. On my side, I’ve had a ton of deadlines and projects that are stacked up. I’ve been battling technology issues. You know what that’s like when you’re trying to get your research done and the wifi is going out! In fact, my laptop is at our IT department right now. They’re trying to fix some of this stuff. We’ve had some unexpected health issues with Robert this week. Not to worry, we believe that we’re getting some good reports, but we’ve had a lot of appointments.

In the middle of all this, two of my brother’s grandsons, ages six and eight, were attacked by Rottweiler dogs as they were bicycling in their neighborhood. Had the Lord not sent a man who was working on a pool at a house next to where they were crying out . . . The man came, socked one of the dogs in the face, pulled the child out of the dog’s teeth. I mean, those kids would not be alive today, very possibly, if God had not intervened in their lives. So they’re in the hospital with all kinds of . . . They’re not in the hospital any longer, but it was a scary thing happening in the middle of everything else that was going on this week.

Well, a few days ago, in the midst of some of the craziness, I just took some time to read through the book of Daniel (which I’ve been doing a lot recently) and to highlight every reference to God. There are approximately (if I counted right) seventy-eight references in the book of Daniel—twelve chapters, seventy-eight references. But here’s what’s interesting: there are twenty-eight different names, titles, and descriptions of God among them. Twenty-eight!

This was a great exercise for me. It did something just to settle my heart, because that’s what happens when we get in the presence of God.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

When you have your eyes fixed on the circumstances of the people or the craziness or the news around you, you start to go crazy, right? God seems so small. But you lift your eyes up and you fix them on Him, and realize all this stuff is just stuff. It’s not permanent, it’s not going to last.

My heart was so encouraged by this. As I went through and just noted these names in my Bible, I made a list of them. It was a powerful, encouraging reminder that God is bigger; God is greater; God is more real than anything that is pressing into my life this week. He’s more real than anything that’s pressing into your life in this season.

I learned a few days ago about a mom who lives in our area who was supposed to deliver a baby tomorrow. Due to unexpected complications a few days ago, her child died in the womb four days before her due date. So today this couple is having a funeral, instead of the birth of the baby tomorrow.

Now, I’m going to ask you a hard question. What does the fact that Heaven rules mean to that precious couple today?

You watch the news these days; the world is coming apart at the seams. There’s so much contention and anger and violence—overt, in-your-face rejection of God and His Word and His truth. The conflict between good and evil is becoming more intense on every front imaginable. What does the fact that Heaven rules mean in our world today as we process all of that?

Well, tomorrow we’re going to start going through Daniel chapter by chapter, looking for evidences that Heaven rules and unpacking what that means. But today, I want to just take our remaining time to look at some of those names and titles for God in the book of Daniel; how God reveals himself. That’s going to frame how we see everything that takes place in this book.

Now, we don’t have time to go through all twenty-eight of those titles. I’ve just picked some that I thought were particularly meaningful. The book of Daniel is saturated with God, and the conclusion you can’t escape is that there is a God. 

  • He is real. 
  • He is high. 
  • He is lifted up. 
  • He is powerful! 
  • But He is also near. 
  • He is also personal. 
  • He is also kind. 
  • There’s nothing that is unknown to Him—nothing that is outside of His control. 
  • He’s intricately, personally, powerfully involved in the biggest events of our world and in the tiniest details of our lives.

Let me just highlight several of those names. Three of the most common Hebrew names for God are found in the book of Daniel. 

The word “God” is the Hebrew word Elohim. “In the beginning God . . . ” It’s the first name for God we read in the Scriptures. You find it forty-something times, maybe forty-six times, in the book of Daniel. Elohim, the supreme one, the mighty one. Elohim speaks of the strength and power and might of God.

Then you see the Hebrew name Jehovah. In our Bibles it’s translated LORD, large L with O-R-D in small caps. In almost all of our translations, when you see the small caps, LORD, that’s for the Hebrew word Yahweh. That’s the personal name of God that He revealed to Moses and to the ancient Hebrews. It speaks of His self-existence, His eternality. He is unchanging. He is the covenant-keeping God. We meet Yahweh in the book of Daniel.

Then you’ll see the word Lord with lowercase o-r-d. That’s the word in Hebrew Adonai, the Lord. You’ll see that about eight times in the book of Daniel. It’s the word that means master, owner, Lord. It says that God is sovereign over us; He owns us. “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” He’s the Lord of it all. You’ll see that name.

Then, turn in the book of Daniel to chapter two. We’re going to just leaf through the book, as many as we can in the next few minutes. I want you to see in the text these different names and titles and descriptions of God. 

Daniel 2:18 says that Daniel urged his friends—we’ll talk when we get to chapter two about what this crisis was, but he urged his friends —in the midst of a crisis “to ask the God of the heavens for mercy concerning this mystery, so [they] would not be destroyed with the rest of Babylon’s wise men.” Verse 19, “The mystery was then revealed to Daniel in a vision at night, and Daniel praised the God of the heavens.” 

You’ll see this name throughout the book of Daniel—the King of the heavens, or the God of the heavens, or the God of heaven. This is just another way of saying that God rules. When we say Heaven rules, we mean God rules.

Somebody wrote me recently because I’d been saying a lot about Heaven rules. They said, “I don’t know why you say Heaven rules, because God rules!” Well, “Heaven rules” is a way of saying, “God in heaven rules,” because He is the God of the heavens. That’s one of His names in Daniel.

Look at verse 23. God revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its meaning to Daniel. Then Daniel prayed, “I offer thanks and praise to you, God of my fathers . . .” (2:23). There’s another one, “God of my fathers” “. . . because You have given me wisdom and power.” 

You see, Daniel recognized that he was part of a long line and legacy of faith. As he looked back and knew what he knew about his spiritual ancestors, he knew that God was faithful to those who had come before him, and God would be faithful to him. The fact that God was the God of Daniel, one of our spiritual fathers—He’s the God of our fathers. God was faithful to him in what we’re going to read and to those Hebrew young men. It reminds us that God will also be faithful to us, because He is the God of our fathers; the same God that was Daniel’s God, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph—that same God is our God.

Then, go to chapter three of the book of Daniel and the story about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being delivered from the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar sees what has happened and he says, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!” (3:28). He says the same thing again in verse 29: “The God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.”

Then in chapter six (I won’t ask you to turn there, because I don’t want you to lose your place here) a similar thing happens when Daniel is released from the lions’ den. Another king, King Darius, says in Daniel 6:26, “I issue a decree that in all my royal dominion people must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel.” The God of ____ put a name in there.

You see, the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel, in the midst of their trials, their faith in the midst of the fire and the lions demonstrated that God was real. That resulted in pagan kings giving praise to God.

How we would love to see this happen among the kings and rulers in our world today! Maybe they’re not giving praise to God and seeing how great He is because they’re not seeing it in the people of God exercising faith in hard circumstances. If you trust in God in the middle of hard circumstances, you can put your name in there, the God of ____ fill in the blank.

I was working on these notes a couple of days ago in a hospital recovery room with my sweet husband. Nurses were coming in and out, conversation was going on. I want others, whether it’s in a hospital or wherever, to see our responses to life’s challenges. I want them to say, “Praise to the God of Nancy and Robert Wolgemuth, for He is the living God.” That’s what Nebuchadnezzar said.

Do others look at how you handle pressure, and do they say, “Praise to the God of Monica, of Bonnie, of Hannah, of Grace, for He is the living God”? “Praise to the God of Nancy.” That’s what I want people to be able to say.

Look at Daniel 5:21. At God’s decree, mighty King Nebuchadnezzar “was driven away from people, his mind was like an animal’s, he lived with the wild donkeys, he was fed grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with dew from the sky.” We’re going to read about this when we get to Daniel 5, but he went crazy. He was afflicted with mental illness by God as a result of his pride and unrepentant heart. This was a severe case. 

All this happened “until he acknowledged that [here’s another name] the Most High God [El-Elyon] is ruler over human kingdoms and sets anyone He wants over them.” 

The Most High God—there are none higher, there are none equal, there are none who can compare with Him. He is bigger. He is greater. He is stronger. He is higher. He is more powerful than any other god. We’ll come to know the Most High God in the book of Daniel.

Then, one of my favorites here, Daniel 5:22—it’s the next verse. Daniel says to the Persian king Belshazzar, “You . . . have not humbled your heart . . . . Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of the heavens. . . . You have not glorified [here’s the description] the God who holds your life-breath in His hand and who controls the whole course of your life.” 

That’s a long name for God, but it’s an amazing one. The God who holds your life-breath in His hand! Breath—that’s the most essential human need. You can’t live without breath, and you can’t breathe without God.

Job 12:10 says, “The life of every living thing is in His hand, as well as the breath of all humanity.” 

Then Daniel called Him the God who controls the whole source of your life. Proverbs 16:9 says it this way: “A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.” Heaven rules, right?

Look at Daniel 6. Just a couple more here. Daniel 6:20: “When [Darius] reached the den,” after the Daniel had spent the night in the den. Darius was anxious, “he cried out in anguish to Daniel. ‘Daniel, servant of [here’s another name] the living God,’ the king said, ‘has your God, whom you continually serve, been able to rescue from the lions?’” Then verse 26: “I issue a decree that in all my royal dominion people must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel, for He is the living God, and He endures forever.”

This is the opposite of the gods of the nations who are dead. They are nothing. They cannot see; they cannot hear; they cannot help; they cannot think. God is alive—not just for one era. He lived in Daniel’s day, but He still lives. He lives in our day. He will live forever.

That’s when we come to one more name I want to mention, Daniel 12:7. “[The angel] raised both his hands toward heaven and swore by Him who lives eternally . . . ” Him who lives eternally. There will never, ever be a time in time or eternity when God will not be God, when He will not be present, when He will not be in control, when He will not be sovereign over every detail of our lives.

In this study—and there are many more names in the book of Daniel; I’d encourage you to do that little exercise as you have opportunity—we’re going to see that God has everything to do with everything about our lives: What we eat (we’ll see that in Daniel 1 tomorrow). How we do our work. How we respond to unexpected crises. How we live as children of God in the world, in a culture that opposes God earnestly. How we respond to unreasonable or ungodly supervisors. 

I’m looking at the face of someone in this room who had to go through that in her workplace, in an extremely difficult situation where it looked like evil was winning. She had to keep counseling her heart, “Heaven rules. Heaven rules.”

We’ll see how we respond to laws that require us to violate biblical convictions, and we’re seeing more and more of that in our world today. In Daniel 11 there’s a difficult passage—we’ll talk more about it when we get there—speaking of an evil king in times yet to come. It’s a prophetic passage, and it says, “His forces will rise up and desecrate the temple fortress. They will abolish the regular sacrifice and set up the abomination of desolation. With flattery he will corrupt those who act wickedly toward the covenant . . .” There’s wholesale, widespread evil filling the earth. “. . . but the people who know their God will be strong and take action.” You have to know your God. You can’t make it in this world by yourself. You have to know your God.

Proverbs 18:10 reminds us, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe,” protected.

Dannah: No matter what is pressing in on you right now, those reminders from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth are the key, aren’t they? Know your God. Run to Him, your strong Tower, and be safe. Nancy will be right back to pray.

To mix the metaphors a little, not only is God your strong Tower, He’s also the perfect script-Writer of your life. If you and I wrote our own stories, we’d avoid all the negative parts, wouldn’t we? But God wisely includes hard things in just the right amounts. Submitting to those times is really just another way of saying, “Heaven rules.”

Nancy and her husband, Robert, make that point in their book You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. We’d love to send you a copy as a thank-you for your gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. To give, go to ReviveOurHearts.com, and click on the Donate button, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. Ask for your copy of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story when you make a donation. 

Tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts, Nancy will continue reminding us of the bigger picture: Heaven rules—even when we’re faced with hard choices. Now, she’s here to pray.

Nancy: Oh Lord, thank You for Your mighty name, that You are all these names, all these descriptors, and so much more. As we come to see You and know You through the book of Daniel over these next days, I pray that You would steady our hearts. I pray You would give us confidence and hope and perspective and wisdom and grace and peace in all that we need to live life in this broken, fallen, messed-up world; with the assurance that Heaven really does rule. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leading you to more freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to assure you: Heaven rules.

All Scripture is taken from the CSB unless otherwise noted.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

About the Host

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.