It is easy to see why Belshazzar might have thought it was a good idea to mock the God of the Hebrews. When one nation was conquered by another (Israel conquered by Babylon), it was commonly believed that the conquering nation’s god was more powerful than the other nation’s god. The concept that a powerful god would allow his people to lose was foreign to them. That a sovereign God would use another nation (pagan) to discipline His people and turn them back to Him just did not compute.
Have you ever heard the phrase or question, “Why would a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?” Wrong question…it should be a ‘what’ question. “What is God doing or teaching me through His activity?” The Sovereign God uses the events of our lives to draw us close to Him. A relationship with the personal, sovereign God is a prerequisite to understanding the truth of our circumstances. Are we asking the right questions?
Join us as Senior Pastor Chris Johnson, Associate Pastor Aaron Hufty and Associate Pastor Bryan Richardson walk us through Daniel 5:1-31 in our Spring Sermon Series: “Faith Under Fire” A Study in Daniel.
When God sees that a person can still hear him, he’s going to speak. And he spoke to Belshazzar. Actually, he sent the king an engraved invitation to pay attention to God, something Belshazzar had decidedly not done during his reign. As Aaron pointed out in yesterday’s post, Belshazzar had been keenly aware of God’s past activity, and of the particular necessity to wield power by God’s wise counsel. But Belshazzar didn’t steward power, he drank it. The kind of sophisticated and elegant communication such as dreams by which God spoke to Nebuchadnezzar apparently didn’t give Belshazzar pause, so finally God spelled it out plainly for him: Your kingdom is now at an end. Even when the news is bad, even when one has willfully rejected God, God will pursue until the last lamp goes out.
Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God which was in Jerusalem; and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. vs. 3
Yet you, his son, 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…vs. 22-23
We know little of Belshazzar as he grew up under his father Nebuchadnezzar, but we do know from Daniel that we has aware of his father’s rise and fall. His story should serve as a cautionary tale for all of us then in light of how we behave when given authority. It is one thing to witness someone abuse privilege and swear that we would never behave in a manner like that, only to be placed in power and fall into the same traps. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Will power is not enough to stave off the demons of our past or those we inherit. It is only complete reliance on Christ for strength and hope that we are able to put those tendencies to the side.
“Therefore […] break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.” vs 27
He had the advice. He knew what to do. All King Nebuchadnezzar had to do was repent and humble himself before the Lord. Instead, he attempted to raise himself up to the level of God and boast in his own accomplishments. He did not realize his errors until he had hit rock bottom. Once he finally realized his insignificance, he was able to humble himself and acknowledge that God was in control.
We know the advice. We know what to do. Even more than Nebuchadnezzar, we have all the tools and information to know that it is God who is in control, but we still seek our own power and our own accomplishments for selfish gain. We often wait until it is too late to set our pride aside. Repentance is freeing. Don’t wait until you hit rock bottom. We need to be a repentant people.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Psalm 67:4
Why bother telling Nebuchadnezzar’s story at all? I believe God is painting two pictures in these first four chapters, detailing a complex relationship between a king and four faithful Hebrew men. The first is of God’s providence in all of human history; there is no earthly kingdom or king greater than Daniel’s God. The second is of God guiding every nation, tribe and tongue into eternal gladness.
That’s what we begin to see in Nebuchadnezzar’s story, a glimmer of hope for every nation. His story will be their story.
In Babylon God used four Hebrew men, today He uses His church. What they did for Nebuchadnezzar, we now do for the whole world.
“All authority, in heaven and earth, has been given to me. Now go make disciples of every nation…” -Jesus
“Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him.”
We have seen (in previous chapters) Daniel’s devotion to God bear the fruit of courage, trust, discipline, and perseverance. In chapter 4 we see another evidence of a vibrant relationship with God- love. It is Daniel’s love for Nebuchadnezzar that caused the emotions of being perplexed and terrified. I don’t think he was terrified of the king. I think he was terrified for the king. It was love for the king that motivated Daniel to tell him the truth about his dream- hoping the king would repent and avoid consequences. It was Daniel’s love for God that fostered a genuine love and concern for the king (the king even recognizes it).
We would do well to have that same kind of love and regard for those who don’t have a relationship with God through Christ, even if they mistreat us or others. This goes for our leaders (no matter how good or bad we think they are). We should pray for them. We should care about their souls and their circumstances.
In Daniel’s day, there was a cultural possessiveness of gods. Nebuchadnezzar spoke of Daniel being renamed after his Babylonian god. The Jewish people considered the one true God, Jehovah, as their personal God. He was not the God for all peoples, only the Jews. Nebuchadnezzar was forging new ground when he had interaction with Daniel’s God. God spoke to him, God was working in his country, and God was directing his steps. Even the New Testament Jews did not accept that God would possibly use someone other than a Jew to carry out His work. When Jesus interacted with gentiles, the Jews reacted violently in opposition. Later, as the gospel began to spread to the gentiles, even the Jewish believers had to adjust their thinking.
Are there areas of your life that need to be ‘adjusted’ to God’s way of doing things? Has tradition or false teaching blurred or even corrupted the truth for you? Truth is always truth, even if we don’t always understand it. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
“The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”
God had been at work for some time revealing reality to Nebuchadnezzar. In the course of that instruction, the king had reached a sticking point at which he did not wish to comply with reality. God then let Nebuchadnezzar know that his behavior had endangered his mental and emotional health, and suffering would result. God further told the king that this time of suffering, though, would not be in vain. God did not intend to put the king in a headlock until he cried uncle, but instead to form him into the kind of person who understands that he will endanger his life and the lives of many when he attempts to live as an authority unto himself. Reality originates with God.