“These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” (1 Cor. 10:11-12) Belshazzar did not learn the lesson God taught his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar: ‘”But when his (Nebuchadnezzar) heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken away from him. He was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes. Yet you, his son (grandson), Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and all your ways, you have not glorified. “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain.” (Dan. 5:20-23; 30-31)
As I said last week, many Christian leaders think America has passed the point of a national revival but like Daniel, who lived in the godless nation of Babylon, we as individual believers can remain devoted to the Lord and have salt and light influence on those around us even if our nation continues to reject God. (See Matthew 5:13-16) This week we will look at the many lessons the Lord has for us and seek to apply them to our lives. The following points were gleaned from teachings and sermons on the book of Daniel (see web sites below).
1. The sin of idolatry – this heads the list because it leads to the other sins as seen so clearly in Romans 1:18-32. Daniel indicts Belshazzar of idolatry in verses 22-23. Today we don’t worship idols made of gold, stone or wood as seen in pagan worship in the OT and secular historical records but, as Tim Keller and other writers teach us, idol worship is very real today. In other, words when we fear or love something or someone more than God, that is idolatry.
2. The sin of pride – “And you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart and mind, though you knew all this [knew it and were defiant]. And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven.” (vv. 22-23; also see Prov. 16:8; Isa. 1+4:11-14) Pride is first seen in Lucifer and then in Adam and Eve and it has infected all of mankind. We did a two-week study on pride versus humility so no more needs to be said.
3. The sin of drunkenness – vv. 1-4 –“ In Babylon, in the very same palace, 200 years later, Alexander the Great, undefeated by all the armies of the world, died in his own vomit in a drunken stupor. It wasn’t just Belshazzar. Alcohol has destroyed many rulers. It’s destroying some in our own country. Our leaders are drunken, as well as our people. In the United States, there’s a death from auto accidents due to alcohol every 11 minutes and an injury every 18 seconds.” (John MacArthur; see website link above) God gives a clear and precise commandment against drunkenness: “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with (under the control of – submitted to) the Holy Spirit.” (Eph. 5:18; also see Rom. 14:21)
4. The sin of sexual immorality/sinful pleasures – Though this sin is not mentioned, it is implied with the inclusion of concubines and even the wives being invited to the feast (vv. 2-3). It was not customary in that culture for the king to invite women to leadership meetings. Sexual immorality is not just adultery but includes sexual acts outside of marriage. (1 Thess. 4:3-8; Col. 3:5-6) As Belshazzar defiled the holy vessels from the temple of Jerusalem and dishonored God, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to use them to honor God. “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Cor. 6:18-20) And Moses denied himself “the fleeting pleasure of sin” (Heb. 11:25) as he focused his time and energy on serving God and His people.
5. The sin of false gods – “They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone.” (v. 4) “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15) Freedom of religion in America is a good thing for we are called to choose to serve the One true God; He doesn’t want robots that have to serve Him. Watchman Fellowship has listed and outlines the beliefs of 1,200 religions in America and some estimate there are twice as many as those listed here: http://www.watchman.org/index-of-cults-and-religions/
6. The sin of mocking God – vv. 2-3 – Movies, plays, art, and even “Christian” TV preachers as well as unknown charlatans, dare to mock God and to use His Holy Name to deceive others for personal gain. Like Belshazzar, their day of reckoning will surely come. We are not to use the Lord’s Name in vain – from swearing in His Name to using His Name for personal gain. If we put the fish symbol or cross on our business card or car bumper we need to be careful that our actions and even our motives honor the God our symbols represent. (Gal. 6:7-8; Numbers 32:23)
7. The sin of willful rejection of truth – “And you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart and mind, though you knew all this [knew it and were defiant].” “I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.” (Luke 10:12) As seen in this passage, God judges nations based on the amount of light and opportunity they are given. What nation has had more opportunity than America to hear God’s Word? Yet the majority of Americans have rejected that light even as our recent election demonstrated.
8. The sin of unrelieved guilt due to the refusal to repent before God – “Then the king’s face grew pale and his thoughts alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together.” (v. 6) When he was confronted with his sin by the handwriting on the wall, Belshazzar did not repent. “Our nation is so guilt ridden it’s unbelievable. We’re literally ridden with guilt. Never have there been so many psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, mental illness, alcohol, drugs, misery, sorrow, suicide. It’s all over the place; because we are totally unrelieved in our guilt.” (John MacArthur; see website link above) “When he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.” (John 16:8-11)
9. The sin of materialism –“Any man who can read this inscription and explain its interpretation to me shall be clothed with purple and have a necklace of gold around his neck, and have authority as third ruler in the kingdom.” (v. 7) Daniel said, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else.” (v. 17) Daniel could not be bought with money and power. That seems to be too rare a quality for the majority of Americans. “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:14-15)
10. The sin of humanism – self-confidence versus trusting God alone – Belshazzar planned a feast, knowing the Medes and Persians were just outside the walls of Babylon, feeling secure behind man-made walls of protection. How wrong he was as God (through the Medes and Persians) destroyed his kingdom and had him slain that very night. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7) May we as Americans not trust in government and military power more than our God.
“And this is the inscription that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN—numbered, numbered, weighed, divisions.” (v. 25) That very night God weighed Belshazzar and “found him lacking” (v.27). And the Bible says this is true of all mankind: “Lowborn men are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie; if weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath.” (Psalm 69:2) “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (God’s perfect righteousness/weight of glory- Rom. 3:10, 23). “Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.” (Rom. 3:24-25) “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Cor. 5:21) Make sure Jesus is standing on the scales with you when you “weigh in” with God.
Daniel is our example of how to live and glorify God in a godless nation. He was humble before God and faithfully served the kings (Nebuchadnezzar, and later on Darius (Cyrus?)) without compromising his faith. He always spoke God’s truth in spite of what it might cost him. He couldn’t be bought. He remained faithful to God for 70 plus years in the midst of two godless nations.
There is another lesson we are to learn from this message. It is a picture of God’s final judgment on the Gentile nations that persecuted the nation of Israel and we see this in Revelation 18. “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.” (Rev. 18:2, 20) This is the rebuilt city of Babylon and the headquarters of Antichrist and represents all those who are against God and shows His ultimate judgment against them. Likewise Jesus tells us to rejoice as we, like Daniel, faithfully serve Him to the end in a godless world that hates Him and His followers: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:10-16)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. Bad Examples – “These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” (1 Cor. 10:11-12) What are the lessons we can learn from the bad examples seen in this account?
2. Good Examples – List some of the godly qualities seen in Daniel’s life and his three friends seen in this chapter and the other chapters we have studied.
3. How does the ultimate destruction of Babylon by God encourage you? (Revelation 18) How does this relate to Matthew 5:10-16 in your day-to-day life?
4. What does it mean to know you have Jesus standing on God’s scale with you when you “weigh in”? (1 John 5:11-13)
Ken Boa (http://www.kenboa.org/search/?q=DANIEL),
David Jeremiah (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3SLWEUeXaY&feature=youtube_gdata_player)
and John MacArthur (http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/27-13/divine-graffiti-the-end-of-an-empire).