HANDS THAT WRITE HISTORY Trinity
Daniel Chapter 5 21.10.18
When you are a child, being in the dark can frighten you. So can thunder, or mum and dad leaving the room. As we learn more, those things no longer make us afraid, but then other things do.
As we get older, we know what a particular medical diagnosis is likely to mean. We know what it may mean for our savings when a recession looms. We know how many good people so easily walk out on their families when life gets tough.
Even so, as often as not we get it the wrong way around, as we are fearful of things we ought not fear, and complacent about things that we should fear. I am hoping that Daniel chapter 5 will help us not be afraid of 3 things we often fear, but fear two things we should.
THREE THINGS NOT TO FEAR
1. Do not fear what happens politically
Last Sunday we heard God tell Nebuchadnezzar, the self-made king in his self-made kingdom of Babylon, “the Most High rules the kingdom of men, and gives it to whom he will” (4:25b).
Does that mean that the idea of Nebuchadnezzar ruling over the known world didn’t start with him? Or that his military victories were not simply the result of having a superior army? Or that his rule for more than 40 years wasn’t down to building an impregnable city?
Exactly. The reason Nebuchadnezzar is king in Babylon is because Jesus is King in heaven, and he gives the kingdom of men to whomever he wills.
Who will be Prime Minister this time next year? We will have the government that Jesus in his wisdom gives us, since “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”.
How about our laws? Whether they are about marriage destruction, or about the curtailing of religious freedom, or anything else? In 4:35 Nebuchadnezzar got it right when he said “the Most High … does according to his will among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand or say to him ‘What have you done?’”
Do all laws reflect God’s laws, or work equally for our good. Plainly, they don’t. Should we work and lobby to change them where we can? Yes. Do we always understand why Jesus would work this law and not that one? No.
What I am saying is that Jesus “does according to his will among the inhabitants of the earth”. In old Babylon, in our Babylon, anywhere and everywhere that people inhabit the earth.
The real future of Australia has never been in the hands of Bill Shorten, Scott Morrison or any other man. It’s always been in the hands of Jesus, Lord Most High. Rejoicing too much in this political result, or getting down in the dumps about that one might show that we have forgotten who really is Lord.
2. Do not fear the loud voices ‘out there’
By loud voices, I mean what we see or read in the media, the strong opinions advanced by lobby groups and opinion shapers and maybe what friends and family members say.
What have we learned so far about all those voices in the book of Daniel? In chapter 1, all the other voices were silenced when God’s man in Babylon stood apart from the rest, when he drew a line in the sand and said Babylon would not own him, and he won.
In chapter 2, the dream busting gurus of Babylon fell at the first hurdle when they couldn’t tell the king what his dream was, let alone what it meant. Only God’s man in Babylon got it right.
In chapter 3 when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the brick kiln to be burnt to a crisp, they walked out alive. God’s man was with them in the fire.
The gurus are back on the scene in chapter 4, when the King has another dream. They have no more to say than the first time around. Except for God’s man in Babylon.
Fast forward 25 years and 5 kings later. (The rapid turnover in the top job sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) To Belshazzar.
It’s a drunken orgy in the palace ballroom. Out of nowhere a mysterious hand writes a message on the plaster wall. Have the gurus improved their game in the last 25 years? They couldn’t do it back there. They still can’t do it. They haven’t a clue what the message means, but God’s man in Babylon knows.
Who is God’s man in Babylon? Daniel shows us Jesus:
· Jesus stands apart and says that Babylon does not own him.
· Jesus knows what no one else knows, and explains what nobody else can explain.
· Jesus is the one with his children in the fire, who says “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Afraid of the smart gurus, pressure groups and other loud voices of Babylon? Why? Do they have truth God Jesus does not? Do they know what we need most to know that Jesus has not told us? They aren’t even in the game when it comes to the things that make for the deepest joy and meaning.
Let’s not be afraid of the political outcomes. Or of the loud voices.
3. Do not fear Satan.
Satan is evil and dangerous, but he is not God.
When Nebuchadnezzar said in 4:35 “The Most High … does according to his will among the host of heaven”, about whom was he speaking? Angels? Sure. Rebel angels? Satan? Yes! Jesus works out his good and sovereign purposes as much through what Satan does, as through those who govern us politically.
If that had ever been in doubt, all doubt was removed the day that Jesus died, and triumphed over Satan in the most spectacular way possible. Jesus is God Most High, not Satan.
Must we be alert to Satan’s evil prowling around, and to his cunning schemes? Must we determine and resolve to resist him? Of course – all of that. However, we do not fear him, or what he might do.
I hope you’re not afraid of what happens politically, or of anyone out there pushing Babylon’s line, or of Satan himself. Not when we know with absolute certainly that Jesus IS Lord.
Two things to fear
First, a sin. Then a certainty.
Last week I was encouraging a young pastor who will attend the Pastors Conference starting in Talibon tomorrow to speak up and minister to others, even when they are older than him. He wrote back on Friday, and asked “But what about their pride?”
Could he mean that they are likely to tell him to be quiet, because they are older, and have experience that he does not. Would pride stop them listening where they are ignorant, or where the other guy is younger? You bet it would. Pride is a killer.
Nebuchadnezzar had said in 4:30 “Is not this great Babylon which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of majesty?” But then God seriously humbled him.
King Belshazzar knew that history. But has he learned its lesson when he is king, 25 years later? Not even close.
At the royal party he gives to show off, from what are they drinking? “The vessels of gold and silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father (really his great, great, great grandfather) had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem” (5:2).
In his proud arrogance, he is rubbing the name of the Most High God in the dirt. What God said was sacred, they were now swigging from and then most likely vomiting into.
Belshazzar is not going to be accountable to anyone – and certainly not to some tin-pot deity in a kingdom that is of no consequence, and he is too proud to learn anything from history – even his own family’s history.
Pride makes you stupid, blind and arrogant. It leads you to grind what is sacred into the dirt. Things like life, and truth.
We saw this week what proud power does when Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in Turkey because he had raised his voice against the Saudi rulers.
We saw proud power working in the Queensland Parliament when it voted to change century old abortion laws that had made abortion a crime. A baby may now be killed inside his mother’s womb up until 22 weeks on the say so of one doctor, and from 22 to 40 weeks if a second doctor agrees with the first. That shouldn’t be hard in an abortion clinic where doctors make a killing in more ways than one.
The premier said “I have always believed a woman should be able to talk to her doctor about her own health and her own body without it being a crime.” My agenda, my wellbeing, my views, my agenda … all so important that it can make an intelligent person forget altogether about the sacred life and body of an unborn baby?
The Children by Choice group said, “We have been fighting for this important reform to cruel and archaic laws since 1972 and we are proud of all the people who have advocated on behalf of Queenslanders who couldn’t advocate for themselves.” Pride means I advocate for me, and not for the 26, 30, 36 week unborn baby?
Pride means we treat as rubbish what God calls sacred. Pride means we show how superior we are. Perhaps we give ourselves a score that God must approve, or decide that Jesus and his antiquated words have no place in modern Babylon.
Why haven’t we learned from history how deadly pride really is? Pride that has killed millions in wars and racial cleansings, or continues to take the lives of nearly 100,000 unborn babies annually? Pride that won’t allow us to say “We don’t know how” when we try to fix the plague of depression or youth suicide, or global warming or ….
Aren’t you afraid of the power of pride? Or has it already so blinded you that you can’t see its ugliness for what it is? No wonder the New Testament lists pride as something that is so deadly that we are meant to take to it with as big a club as we need to kill it. Not afraid of pride which will keep you away from Jesus and trash your relationships and your life? Don’t be a fool.
So there is a sin to be afraid of, with good reason.
2. A certainty
What was God’s message to Belshazzar? “Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.” (26, 27)
Great Babylon finished? Pride says: surely not!
What can you hear while Belshazzar’s party is in full swing? There are loud drinking songs and pagan hymns inside the party. What about outside? It’s really what you don’t hear. The people who lived in this city had become used to the sound of the River Euphrates running though the city, but during the loud party, it stopped.
Darius the Persian had diverted it upstream. And as the water level dropped under the gates that allowed it to flow past the city wall, his troops swarmed in and took the proud city that people said could never be taken.
God had spoken of the absolute certainty of judgment. In a few hours of the palace party, Belshazzar was dead, with the royal grog in his stomach, and perhaps the chicken bones still in his mouth. Proud Babylon was done! God had given the kingdom of men to someone else.
Belshazzar was a fool. He had not learned from his own family’s history. He had not learned that no kingdom is forever. He had not learned that the Lord Most High IS indeed the Lord Most High.
One day Jesus said “In those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away; so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:38, 39)
You’d need to be afraid of that absolutely certain day, don’t you think? When Jesus returns and you are stripped naked of all the things that made you proud, and all the excuses you made for not following Jesus.
Belshazzar had a few hours at most to repent to the Living God. How long do you have for turning in humility to Jesus? A week? A month? 20 years? 80 years? I don’t know.
But what I know is that if you had any idea how insidious and evil pride is in your heart, you wouldn’t wait a day. Because pride that wants independence, grows only stronger, not weaker.
I know that if you really believed that Jesus is Lord, now, this very moment in time, you wouldn’t wait.
Do you recall the story Jesus told of the rich man who was so proud of his achievements? His business expanded and his wealth grew to such an extent, that his pride killed him. One day God said to him “You fool. Tonight I’m taking your life.” “It’s all over.” Rich man, Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar.
What are you waiting for? Better answers out there? There aren’t any. Jesus to become Lord? He is that already. History to tell you more than it already tells you? Are you deaf?
Jesus said “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. (Kings, lobby groups, Satan.) Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)