14. Hopeful Insanity

By John Thiel, Lessons from the Life of Nebuchadnezzar Conference, Study 14, mp3

The lessons from the life of Nebuchadnezzar have taken us to a very climactic point. Is there such a thing as hopeful insanity? There is because there is also a hopeless insanity as well. In the repeated awakening and reverses of Nebuchadnezzar’s life and the discovery of the same in us, we are learning lessons from Nebuchadnezzar that pertain to our own experience.

I am not sharing anything to have a go at anybody. I am sharing the truth which has affected me and I have had to struggle and am struggling with the things that you all struggle with no differently. But I thank God that He has been merciful to me and I know He can be merciful to you too as we open our hearts to this seesawing experience in us between the natural heart and the inroads of God in our life as we see them in exemplified in Nebuchadnezzar’s life.

This repeated awakening and reverse of our experience comes to a point where we ask ourselves, Is there any hope for me? Am I ever going to make it? There is this interplay of the convictions that come from God’s word in contrast with the dictates of the natural heart and these dictates come like an avalanche on top of you don’t they? You know you shouldn’t be doing something or acting in a certain way, but in comes this impulse. And this interplay of the convictions from God and the dictates of the natural heart repeated again and again, drives an intelligent mind to distraction.

In the years of my observation in the medical and in the psychiatric world, I have seen that with this repeated distraction through the ups and downs of our spiritual or emotional life that happen to people around us and that happen to us in the church, there are some people that end up with dementia because of that. There are some people who have exactly the same experience but do not end up with dementia because they had answers that helped them out of that. We are looking at a story of King Nebuchadnezzar when he ended up with dementia but God was working with him and he came out of it.

Nebuchadnezzar slipped back one more final time from the convictions that God had given him in the second dream and in the counsel that Daniel gave him. He was touched, he was affected, however within twelve months he had slipped back again and even ridiculed the convictions he had. He was going through experiences of conflict between the Spirit of God that was working in him and his natural heart, his flesh.

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

We see a living example of this in Nebuchadnezzar. He praised and honoured and glorified God and then he turned against that. Then he praised Him again, then he turned against that. He was playing out the inward battles of every human being who comes under the convictions of God. Apostle Paul, as he expressed it here, described it also in his own life:

Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

His intelligent mind was bewildered by the conflict that was taking place within his being.

The Christian will feel the promptings of sin, for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit; but the Spirit striveth against the flesh, keeping up a constant warfare. {LHU 144.4}

Keeping up a constant warfare – and after a while that gets too much for us.

The life of the Christian is not all smooth. He has stern conflicts to meet. Severe temptations assail him. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” The nearer we come to the close of this earth’s history, the more delusive and ensnaring will be the attacks of the enemy. His attacks will grow fiercer and more frequent. Those who resist light and truth will become more hardened and unimpressible, and more bitter against those who love God and keep His commandments (MS 33, 1911). {6BC 1111.7}

The Spirit of Prophecy talks about gospel-hardened Christians, that is what happens. It happens because of the conflict between the Spirit and the flesh. It happens because of what we have been watching with Nebuchadnezzar; and it happens to the people who are coming through the time of Jacob’s trouble. Jacob was going to be redeemed totally, and we are to be totally redeemed if we continue under this message. We will meet the time of Jacob’s trouble. But when Jacob met the angel, what did he think? He thought it was an enemy. But it was God. Nebuchadnezzar could have regarded the experience of God making inroads upon his life the way He did, as an enemy. But no, both Jacob and even Nebuchadnezzar had their heart set in a right direction. When Jacob recognised that it was a divine being that he was fighting, instead of saying, leave me alone, he grabbed Him and wouldn’t let Him go.

We are heading into an insane condition of the world, and unless we have this message, we will go insane hopelessly. But if we take hold of this message, we will survive. Have you ever experienced these ups and downs, these glorious revelations of God and then the negatives that come upon you and you have been driven to mental exhaustion in the experience? Have you ever met that? I have. I really thought it was over and done for me. Ups, downs, then up, then down, then up! Then down! I can look back at my history to that particular point where I thought it was over, where mental exhaustion takes over, and insanity is at the door, especially if you are an intense person; especially if you are a person who wears his nerves on the outside. If you have a nervous disposition that is very intense, this becomes more severe in your experience. There is something written about people who feel too deeply, people who are so intense.

The Lord would have you, my brother, reform in your method of labor, that you may have a well-balanced mind, a symmetrical character, and spiritual strength to counsel wisely. Men who have experience in the knowledge of the truth are too few for you to be sacrificed. {Ev 658.6}

She is writing to this minister, and here is a man that she knows to be a man who has experience in the knowledge of the truth. She says to him, there are too few around (in those days already) for you to be sacrificed.

You are almost constantly overtaxing both your physical and mental powers, because you allow yourself to feel too intensely. You have a vivid imagination, and put much intensity into your preaching, which keeps the mind on a constant strain, {Ev 658.6}

This man was going to be lost to the work because it would have driven him to insanity, and she warned him; she said, There are too few men like you around for you to be sacrificed. Why? “You are almost constantly overtaxing both your physical and mental powers, because you allow yourself to feel too intensely.”

The deepest and truest philosophy of life and faith is to bring ourselves into the most intimate relation with God. {UL 276.4}

A most intimate relation with God. That is so important.

God is giving you an experience, and if you do not grieve too much and feel too keenly, you will have physical strength. But sorrow and dissension and untruthfulness is to you a living death. But you must in faith commit your case to God. Truth will triumph and you will triumph with it. {UL 276.4}

You want to be part of the church triumphant? This is material that we need to take to heart. The beautiful and intimate relationship with God that is the truest philosophy of life and faith, we may have that experience if we do not grieve too much and feel too keenly. With our intensity we can overdo. That is what she was writing to this minister, Don’t let it happen to you because then you are going to be sacrificed and we won’t have your witness and experience anymore.

This is where Nebuchadnezzar found himself. He had been so powerfully influenced, and that last dream he had was such a powerful witness to him, but he had deviated back into his full pride condition of the colourful character that he was as the king of Babylon. Having had the dream, what happens now twelve months after?

Daniel 4:29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. 30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?

“Is not this that I have built by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” Wasn’t he exercising this intense attitude about himself? Look at me what I have done! Wow! And as he utters that with such glorious intensity:

Daniel 4:31 While the word [was] in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, [saying], O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. 32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling [shall be] with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.

At the intense moment of his glorifying of himself with the enormity of this man’s personality and character, he looked upon this glorious city that he had extended. Down comes upon him the very vision that he had twelve months before where the language that is now uttered to his mind and the voice from heaven both come with just the same intensity. The intensities meet in his brain. What happens?

Daniel 4:33 The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ [feathers], and his nails like birds’ [claws].

At the moment of uttering those words of pride, God’s voice struck home, and there came the momentary reminder upon his mind of what the dream was, and what Daniel had said to him. Can you picture the internal mind exercise remembering what he did in his mind and in the expression of his mind when he had the first dream? He was an intense person. What did he do when Daniel finally explained his dream to him? He fell on his face. That is an intense person. He didn’t just say, “Oh”. He went falling on his face. He was a demonstrative person. His mind was demonstrative in himself. The second time, when he saw those three young men walking in the fiery furnace and the Son of God with them, his face went pale. When pallor comes over your face, there is a mental exercise in there.

In the time of Jacob’s trouble every face gathers paleness. Exactly the same scenario. At this moment, having had all the mind experiences of the past, the mind does some fast things in a few seconds. Have you ever been in a situation where you came face to face with a serious dangerous moment, and your whole life comes up in front of you? This is what happened to Nebuchadnezzar; he was just saying those words, he was up in the crescendo of his imagination, Look at my glory, my majesty, look at my city! Then the words of God come from the intensity of his recognition of the past, and the brain is receiving at once all the solemn memories. Everything comes up before it and the mind goes into a state of freeze. His poor brain fell into a state of insanity.

What happened to this noble king whose heart had the two extremes lodged in it? What were the two extremes in his heart? An innate sense of justice and right, and a deep respect for God, and the other side of it; an idolater, a proud-spirited mind, at the same time resisting God’s inroads. He became insane. Because they didn’t have an insane asylum in those days, when somebody became insane or had leprosy or anything like that, he was sent out.

Daniel 4:33 The same hour … he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ [feathers], and his nails like birds’ [claws].

If you would have met him in the fields, you would have found a madman. We need to understand what insanity actually is. To most people, insanity is just somebody of who is non-cognito; who doesn’t think. But that is not true. An insane person still thinks. That was a big discovery for me when I was doing my nurse’s training, especially when I saw people who were unconscious. We had stories where the nurses were treating these unconscious patients like bags of potatoes because they thought they didn’t know anything. Then when they came back to, they singled out that nurse and said, You really treated me like a bag of potatoes, and I knew everything that was going on. Insanity is not unconsciousness. It is not a state where persons are not sensitive to the internal thoughts that run through the mind. They just can’t control them, that’s all. There was an example of this in the story of the demoniac:

Mark 5:1 And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. 2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 Who had [his] dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:

Here was a madman. He was also sent out, and he made his dwelling place in a cemetery among the tombs.

Mark 5:4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any [man] tame him.

He was really a madman, wasn’t he?

Mark 5:5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. 6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,

A madman?

Mark 5:7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, [thou] Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.

Isn’t this contrary? He came there to worship, yet what did he say? He couldn’t control himself. This is insanity. What you want to say in your mind you can’t perform because there is this conflict between the Spirit and the flesh which when there is a break down, makes people incapable to think straight,.

I will never forget the experience I made when I was nursing. Nursing is a very traumatic experience and some of the nurses had mental breakdowns. This particular nurse was a senior, a few years ahead of me, and he had a mental breakdown. I was on the ward at the time and he was on the same ward that I was working on and he was howling in his bed; so the doctor said, Go and give him an injection. So I took the injection and I had quite a pride about injections because most of the time they didn’t hurt, I gave some people injections and they said, I didn’t feel that. Therefore I prided myself that I was going to give him an injection. I came over to him and he was howling, he wasn’t responding to me; I made him turn over, and told him I was going to give him an injection. He just ignored me. He just howled. I put the needle into his thigh, and took it out. He just howled, he didn’t respond; nothing. I put him back down, then the drug worked, and he calmed down. Two or three weeks afterwards he was back on the wards again. Then one day he came to me and said, John, that needle you gave me hurt like crazy! I thought, What? I learned a lot when I did my nursing. Insanity is not unconsciousness. Insanity is consciousness with the inability to control yourself.

The mind of this wretched sufferer had been darkened by Satan, {DA 255.4} 

Wasn’t that the case with Nebuchadnezzar? Satan’s influence, and God trying to work upon him; it was all one big fuzz at the end.

…but in the Saviour’s presence a ray of light had pierced the gloom. He was roused to long for freedom from Satan’s control; but the demon resisted the power of Christ. When the man tried to appeal to Jesus for help, the evil spirit put words into his mouth, and he cried out in an agony of fear. The demoniac partially comprehended that he was in the presence of One who could set him free; but when he tried to come within reach of that mighty hand, another’s will held him, another’s words found utterance through him. The conflict between the power of Satan and his own desire for freedom was terrible. {DA 255.4} 

The conflict between the Spirit and the flesh was terrible, because the Spirit of God is one side of the experience, and the flesh, which is controlled by the devil, is another. In Nebuchadnezzar was the same scenario – a conflict between the power of Satan and his own desire for freedom which was illuminated by God. Here we have insanity with hope.

…the Saviour spoke with authority, and set the captive free. … The man praised God for his deliverance. The eye that had so lately glared with the fire of insanity, now beamed with intelligence, and overflowed with grateful tears. The people were dumb with amazement. {DA 256.1-2}

They saw this. People don’t understand insanity and they don’t understand hopeful insanity either. They don’t understand what is the actual scenario of activity in the brain. This is hopeful insanity. An insanity that comes from the conflict between the Spirit and the flesh is an insanity that has hope in it. There is another insanity however, one which is not hopeful insanity.

Men cannot depart from the counsel of God and still retain that calmness and wisdom which will enable them to act with justice and discretion. {CC 167.2}

Inside of Nebuchadnezzar there was an innate sense of justice and right, but “men cannot depart from the counsel of God and still retain that calmness and wisdom which will enable them to act with justice and discretion.” As Nebuchadnezzar departed from the counsel of the Lord he could no longer retain his sense of justice and right.

There is no insanity so dreadful, so hopeless, as that of following human wisdom, unguided by the wisdom of God. {CC 167.2}

That is hopeless insanity.

This is what [King] Saul could do under the control of Satan. When God had said that the iniquity of the Amalekites was full, and had commanded him to destroy them utterly, he thought himself too compassionate to execute the divine sentence, and he spared that which was devoted to destruction; but now, without a command from God, under the guidance of Satan, he could slay the priests of the Lord and bring ruin upon the inhabitants of Nob. Such is the perversity of the human heart that has refused the guidance of God. {CC 167.5}

King Saul had a hopeless insanity and he finally went to the witch of Endor. But with King Nebuchadnezzar there was still an internal struggle of wanting to follow the guidance of God and that is what caused his insanity. When the Lord said, Remember the dream, and He threw the whole dream back at him, there was this hopeful insanity because he still had that ingredient in him that he wanted to follow the counsel of the Lord. Nebuchadnezzar’s state of mind during his insanity, was as the demoniac’s, not as Saul’s. How do we know that that was the case? How do we know that he had a hopeful insanity like the demoniac who would recognise the God of the universe but wasn’t able to control himself because of the other one that made it so hard for him to control himself?

Daniel 4:34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom [is] from generation to generation:

All those seven years he was insane in the battles of mind, back and forth, and he could not get out of it. After seven years of this insanity he finally decided to look up. He could do that, just like the demoniac could see Christ and run to Him.

God has presented to me the case of Nebuchadnezzar. The Lord worked with power to bring the mightiest king on the earth to acknowledge Him as King over all kings. He moved upon the mind of the proud king until Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged Him as “the most high God,” “whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation.”–Letter 132, 1901. {Ev 88.1}

God had worked on his mind through the first dream, then through the burning fiery furnace, then through the second dream, and after twelve months God struck him to think again, and this time for the seven years of insanity. For the seven years he was fighting, back and forth, back and forth in his brain, and he could not even think straight; he could not reason outwardly; his sanity was not capable because he was overburdened with the to’s and fro’s in his head. As the Lord impressed him, the devil, the flesh, impressed him. Back and forth, back and forth, for seven years. God kept on working on his mind until he acknowledged Him. After those seven years he looked up to heaven. It wasn’t that God gave him his sanity back under some sort of arbitrary direction. He, Nebuchadnezzar, in the state of his insanity, came to a point where he decided to look up and he received his sanity; precisely the same as the demoniac who ran to Jesus and whom Jesus recovered.

Nebuchadnezzar’s mind had been prepared by God-given dreams and by the furnace experience. The memory of that was lodged in his mind. Your memory can play reels of experience back to you and your own responses according to the flesh can create this kind of problem. God worked on the mind of Nebuchadnezzar with the memories of his past of having seen the power of God, which caused him in his intensity to fall down and worship God, and to give God the glory, and to exonerate His servants. All this was playing in his mind. If he would not have been interested in God in the past, do you think he would have been in a hopeful insanity? Not at all. In the mind activities there is hope only for people who have already loved God and wanted to follow Him. King Saul had turned against the memory of those things, and it was a hopeless insanity. But here in Nebuchadnezzar’s experience was a hopeful one. When in memory of his past experiences with God he could look up to heaven, he remembered those words which had been spoken to him:

Daniel 4:24 This [is] the interpretation, O king, and this [is] the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: 25 That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee,

Until what?

Daniel 4:25 …till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. 26 And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.

In the state of his insanity, he was able to discern the battle that was going on inside of him. His flesh didn’t want to let go, Satan didn’t want to let go, and at the same time his heart was awestruck with God in the memory of his experiences and this went on until he knew that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men. Your mind, my mind, also, in our internal mind conflicts, has been touched by the hope of the gospel and when darkness and hopelessness wants to well over you, when the natural heart that you have discovered is so pronounced within you – you and I may be similarly intense, we are intense people, we feel deeply – and in that internal moment of darkest hopelessness within our thoughts, we are on the verge of hopelessness thinking, I am gone, I am lost; until memory is stirred by God and it is what you do with that memory that helps you back up. That was my own experience.

In the darkest moments of mind activity, if you have had memories of your conviction and your overwhelming belief that God is your personal helper and you have acknowledged Him, if that is there, then God will remind you until you will lift up your eyes to heaven. This reality we must understand not only for our own salvation, but as missionaries for Jesus. We must understand that for the souls that we are in touch with and trying to help.

There are souls who err, and who feel their shame and their folly. They are hungry for words of encouragement. They look upon their mistakes and errors until they are almost driven to desperation. Instead of … reproving and condemning and taking away the last ray of hope that the Sun of Righteousness sheds into their hearts, let your words fall as healing balm upon the bruised soul. Be not like desolating hail that beats down and destroys the tender hope springing up in the hearts. Leave not the hungry, starving soul in his helplessness to perish because you fail to speak words of tenderness and encouragement. {OHC 295.4}

The lessons that we have seen throughout these studies must sink deep, and this one for us as missionaries for Jesus, must sink in even deeper. Tenderness, meekness, humbleness, is essential that we, as Christians, may not extinguish in another person the little ray of hope that is still burning because God is working in the hearts of these people. How do we extinguish hope? By words like hail, words of judgmental condemnation.

Brother Magan and his wife were both devout Adventists and they loved the messages from Sister White. In their deep sense of doing what God wanted them to do, they wanted to fulfil what Sister White was saying, and they were very loyal. But Sister Magan was a very sensitive soul, and as she was waiting for Sister White to arrive over a particular situation that was in relation to what Sister White had said and which they wanted to follow, someone told Sister Magan that what she was doing Sister White was not in agreement with; and Sister Magan lost her sanity. She felt so deeply. Sister White wrote that whoever did that was denounced by the Lord and would have to meet the Lord in the judgment over that matter, but she did say that although Sister Magan lost her sanity and she died shortly after, she would be amongst the redeemed. But there are people when something is stated, when they have this last hope, if it is squashed by words of hail, they may be lost.

Let the lesson in regards to Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity sink in deep as we meet people in the struggles of the conflict that they have. May God bless us.


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Posted on 03/05/2015, in Divine Service Sermons, Nebuchadnezzar - Lessons from the Life of (2014 Conference). Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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