June 2017

Courageous Faith: Arrogant Blindness

Arrogant Blindness sermon notes

Arrogant Blindness

Passage: Daniel 5

Sunday, June 11, 2017

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand our need to learn. (Feel) Desire to grow. (Do) Study the Word and God’s people.

Introduction: Arrogance, blasphemy and idolatry—those were the three dominant sins of Nebuchadnezzar. In his idolatry, he worshipped a stone image called Marduk. He blasphemed the God of the Bible by plundering the temple and taking all its treasures and putting them in Marduk’s temple. We saw his arrogance last week in Daniel 4 when he walked through his kingdom saying, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” But despite his sinfulness, he listened when God broke into his life, and he repented, humbling himself, worshiping and extoling the God of heaven. God blessed him with a long life and a great kingdom.

The first four chapters of the book of Daniel are a beautiful picture of God’s grace! YHWH God graciously revealed himself to an arrogant, idolatrous, unbelieving Nebuchadnezzar. The king listened and God’s grace broke through Nebuchadnezzar’s hard heart and he humbled himself, turned his heart toward the true king of the universe, and worshipped him. What a beautiful picture of transformation. But not everyone listens like Nebuchadnezzar. This morning, we are going to walk through Daniel 5, and if there is one word to describe this chapter it would be: beware. God will not shield people who willfully choose to sin from the consequences of their actions.

 

Background: Let me bring you up to speed with where we are. Just like chapter four, chapter five jumps several decades. Nebuchadnezzar was no longer the king of Babylon. Belshazzar was ruling as the son and coregent of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon. A number of archeological artifacts have been found that mention him by name—enough, in fact, that we know the events of this chapter took place in October 539 BC.[1] Darius the Mede, king of the Medes and Persians, had laid siege to Babylon. The city was surrounded and had been for two years. But the city was impenetrable. Chapter five begins with the king of Babylon mocking his enemy’s two-year siege by holding a party.

1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them… 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.[2]

Why would they do this? This was a battle strategy. We need to remember how ancient people thought. If two people with two different gods fought, the winner was always the one with the greater god. So, to rally his gods to victory over Persia, Belshazzar worshipped them with the spoils from past victories. The Nabonitus Cylinder tells us that by this time, all the idols from all the cities surrounding Babylon had been brought to the capital to protect them.[3] The king was mocking YHWH to gain favor with not just Marduk, but all the idols from the surrounding area. While this was going on, 5Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

 

God has a limit to how far he will allow people to go in their sin. The scary aspect of that truth is that we never know where that limit is. God is longsuffering and merciful, and may allow people to continue in sin for a long time. But God’s word is strikingly clear: a person will reap the harvest of whatever they sow. Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

 

There is time for grace and mercy if our God is loving, but there must also be times for judgment if our God is good, righteous, holy, and just. The king and his Babylonian dinner guests crossed a line that night in the banquet hall of Babylon. Judgment day had come, and the writing on the wall announced its arrival. Just like the dreams of chapters 2 & 4, none of the wise men or astrologers could understand the meaning of the words until the queen came in.

10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

 

This is important to catch here. Daniel and the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion to the God of the Bible was well-known information in the court of Belshazzar. The queen’s gracious words reveal that the events of Daniel 1-4 had not been forgotten. But when Daniel is brought before the king, he is belittled. Belshazzar is probably still drunk and he is most certainly showing off for his crowd of idol worshippers.13 …The king… said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah.” “That Daniel?” Daniel had loyally and with great renown served the kings of Babylon for 70 years. “That Daniel?” Belshazzar is mocking him.

 14 “I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

 

Daniel responds by telling the king he can keep his gifts. Then he does something really interesting. He proceeds to tell Belshazzar the story of his father’s conversion—how God had revealed himself to Nebuchadnezzar and how he brought him low and softened his hard heart, and especially how he was restored and blessed when he worshipped the Most High God. Verse 22 is where it gets serious. And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this… Belshazzar knew the whole story. Three times God had intervened in Nebuchadnezzar’s life, leaving him convinced that the God of the Bible was the Most High God. Belshazzar knew all of it! But he refused to follow Nebuchadnezzar’s example and humble himself.

23… you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

 

I like the way the NLT translates that last sentence. But you have not honored the God who gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny![4]

 

So, what did God write on the wall? 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. Daniel interprets the meaning of the words in the following verse. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

 

There is a lot of word play that happens in this sentence. I won’t bore you with all of it, but the words literally mean: numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.[5] I will point out one significant piece. The word for divided, parsin, had the same spelling as the word “Persian,” as in the Persian empire that would defeat the Babylonians. So, the kingdom was being divided or split away from the king and given to the Persians. Our story ends abruptly in verse 30…That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

 

Great story, but what are the lessons? Remember when I said the theme of this chapter was “beware”? We should walk away with two incredibly important lessons from Daniel 5.

 

1. Pay attention to how God is working in the people around you. Belshazzar’s kingdom and life ended tragically because he did not learn the lessons that God taught Nebuchadnezzar. He knew them. He heard all about the “holy God” and how he had revealed himself and humbled Nebuchadnezzar. Though he “knew all of it,” he did not change.

Let me speak for a moment to everyone 40 and under. God has given you family, friends, and a church with many people who have walked the path of wisdom ahead of you. Watch and learn from them. Learn from their mistakes and make better choices. Learn from their successes and follow their example. If I am honest, much of how I structure my life is either a reaction against or a copying of things I have seen. I work hard every week preparing a message, typing it out, even giving you my notes, and it is a reaction to having sat through many sermons where I knew the pastor had not prepared. But, I also pray over my message. I get up very early every Sunday and pray for you, the church, and I do it because of men of God who have shown me the power of prayer. Hebrews 13:7 Remember… those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

God has given us a gift in the church. We are a body of believers meant to grow together. Discipleship is encouraging and shaping each other, and teaching one another the lessons we have learned. Being discipled is far less complicated than you might think—it is paying attention to how God is working in the people around you.

 

2. Draw wisdom from the lives of people recorded in Scripture. Belshazzar is not the only person meant to learn from the stories in Daniel. The reason this book exists is so that you and I can learn the same lessons. Jesus told an interesting story in Luke 16. Two men died—a rich man who went to hell and a poor man, Lazarus, who went to heaven. In the story, Jesus says as the rich man was suffering in hell, he pleaded with heaven to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers to repent lest they end up in hell as well. The rich man is told “No.” Listen to why. Luke 16:29–31 “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” The rich man begs, “If someone would go to them from the dead, then they would repent.” The answer is still “No,” and we are told why. “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

Don’t go looking for some special sign or knowledge from God; he is not sending it. He has given us everything we need to know for life and godliness in his word. Study it. Join an Equipping U class, do a deep dive and let the Word of God do what it does best: transform your life. Belshazzar let his pride blind him from seeing the critical areas of his life he needed to change. Learn from Belshazzar.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Da 5:1.

[2] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Opis

[4] Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Da 5:23.

[5] Gleason L. Archer Jr., “Daniel,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel and the Minor Prophets, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 73.

Courageous Faith: Redemptive Distress

Redemptive Distress sermon notes

Redemptive Distress

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand God’s grace. (Feel) Feel love for God in difficulty. (Do) Stand firm in faith.

 

Introduction: 32 years is a lifetime. Lebron James is 32 years old. Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world, died when he was 32. This morning we are in Daniel 4. It is critical for us to realize that the action that takes place today in chapter 4 happened 32 years after Daniel first met Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel is now around 50 years old and has served the king for the majority of his life. If you have been with us for the last several weeks, you have heard me say that, for reasons we may never know, God was uniquely gracious in revealing himself to Nebuchadnezzar.

 

In Daniel 1: Daniel and his friends decided to honor God by not eating the king’s food. Because of their decision, God blessed them with great wisdom and King Nebuchadnezzar found the Israelites ten times wiser than all his other wise men. God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar that there is a difference in those who worship God.

 

In Daniel 2: While he was thinking about the future, the Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream that only Daniel could interpret. Daniel made it abundantly clear that the dream and the interpretation came from the “God of heaven.” In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar learned that only God’s kingdom will last forever—all others are temporary. As the chapter ended, Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed Daniel’s God as the “highest” of all the “gods.”

 

In Daniel 3: Nebuchadnezzar saw the faith of those who followed the Most High, the God of heaven. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had an objective and exclusive faith that led them to reject idol worship. Thinking no god could deliver these men from his wrath, Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into a fiery furnace. He watched as the God of heaven did what no other god could—rescue his people. Nebuchadnezzar watched the Lord step into a blazing furnace to be with those who followed him. Nebuchadnezzar blessed the Lord and made it a crime to speak against the God of heaven.

 

Nebuchadnezzar seems to have a growing understanding of the Lord, but was he a believer? He was close, but this morning we will find that he had one more very important lesson to learn. Chapter 4 is unique because it is either written or dictated as a proclamation by Nebuchadnezzar himself. Proclamations like this were common and were usually written on a “stele.”  

Daniel 4[1]

1 King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! 2 It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Nebuchadnezzar learned well what God had revealed to him at this point. You can almost hear the stories of chapters 1-3 behind this introduction.

4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 5 I saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6 So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. 8 At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying…

 

I want you to catch something. At this point in his narrative, Nebuchadnezzar talks of “his” god being the god that Daniel was named after. “His” god was Marduk. But Daniel had the spirit of the “holy gods.” It is interesting that Nebuchadnezzar uses the Aramaic word “holy.” Daniel’s God is different from the other gods by being unique in his moral purity.[2]

 

The Dream:

9“O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation. 10 The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it. 13 I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven.

 “Watcher” is the Aramaic word for angel. Biblically it is used only in Daniel, but there were entire books written about the good and evil watchers.[3]

 14 He (the watcher) proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. (The Babylonians believed that “dew from heaven” is what brought sickness and disease, so Nebuchadnezzar would have viewed this as an ominous warning.)[4] Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’”

 

While Nebuchadnezzar does not understand what the dream means, the watcher is very clear as to its purpose. The dream represents events that will happen so that the “living” may know that Most High rules the kingdom of men, gives it to whom he will, and sets over it the lowliest of men.

The Interpretation: Daniel is dismayed. He immediately understands that the dream is about Nebuchadnezzar and that it is not good.

25 “…you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

 

Nebuchadnezzar is going to go through a significant period of hardship, hardship that will teach him a powerful lesson about who is in charge and who isn’t.

 

Redemptive Distress: There are times in my life when I feel like I am in charge. I make decisions, my plans work out, and I feel good and powerful. If I am honest, there have been times in my life, especially when I was young, that I felt almost invincible. But I don’t feel like that today because of “redemptive distress.” What is it? Redemptive distress is the hard or painful circumstances in our lives that God uses to get our attention and draw us to him. Don’t waste your difficult times. Depression, anger, bitterness, lashing out—these are inappropriate and unbiblical ways to face hardship, but they often show up first. Instead, use your difficulty to soul-search: is there something I need repent of or change? Use your difficulty to pray. Use your difficulty to intensify your faith. Use your difficulty to strengthen your bond with those suffering around you. Use your difficulty to deepen your relationship with God. This was the advice Daniel gave the king.

27 “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

 

We don’t know whether the king listened or not. But we do know that twelve months later, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream became a reality. Nebuchadnezzar 29… was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”

 

You can just hear the arrogance dripping from his words. In his pride, Nebuchadnezzar took for himself the glory that rightly belonged to the Lord, inviting upon himself God’s judgment.

31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

 

The king who thought himself a god became subhuman. The key to redemptive distress is the redemption part. Nebuchadnezzar was graciously broken so he would look to the God who made him. Difficulty will draw us to the Lord if we think biblically. For example:

 

1. God designs our distress specifically for us. Paul had a “thorn in the flesh,” David had Goliath, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son. God did not give Nebuchadnezzar cancer; his distress was uniquely tailored to his pride that had to be broken. If you are going through difficulty, it is yours. It may not be to break you; it may be to mold you or to strengthen your faith. Whatever God is doing, he is doing for you not to you! God’s goal was to lovingly turn Nebuchadnezzar away from self-love and to him!

 2. Our distress opens our eyes to God’s closeness. God knew Nebuchadnezzar intimately. He knew exactly what it would take to get his attention—not because he is mean and capricious, but because he is loving and close! Remember Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

3. Our goal in distress must be intimacy with God, not relief. Watch what happens to Nebuchadnezzar’s heart.

34At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

 

What a powerful testimony! Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven.” It is hard for you and me to understand the significance of this statement. This is as clear a statement of faith as was ever given in scripture. To put it in New Testament language, Nebuchadnezzar “got saved.” Redemptive distress through the power of the Holy Spirit is what drew him to the Lord.

 

Jeremiah’s letter: Let me end with this thought. Before any of the stories of Daniel took place, the prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to all the people of Israel taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, every one of them ripped from home and family, every one of them in distress. In the letter, God specifically says that he was the one who caused their pain,[5] but then he says these famous words in Jeremiah 29:11–13 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

[2] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Aramaic (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[3] See the first three books of Enoch (there are 8) which discuss the fall and activities of the watchers.

[4] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Da 4:15.

[5] Jer 29:4