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DANIEL, GOD'S MAN IN THE FIELD (PART IX)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
27 AUGUST 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Psalm 23:5)
Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
Thou hast anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Today we are going to several banquets or parties: one that Daniel tells us about and the others that Jesus tells us about.
And as we look at these gatherings, we are to judge for ourselves the lifestyle they present to us and how we would react if invited to them.
It's not so much an "if" we are invited, as it is a "when" we are invited.
The first feast we are going to look at took place during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar's grandson, Belshazzar, during the time when the Medes and Persians were fighting with him, as was predicted by God through Daniel.
Also, remember the very important message of Daniel's prophecy: human kingdoms rise and fall, and the only kingdom that stands forever is the kingdom of God where there is everlasting peace for all humans and animals.
With this in mind, let's look in on this gathering beginning at Daniel 5:1 –
1. Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand.
The reason why Belshazzar is doing this is only speculative. Perhaps he was trying to boost the morale of his nobles and guests in the face of the enemy, or perhaps he felt he was invincible. In any event, he was unrepentant and prideful.
In his arrogance, he boasted by drinking freely in the presence of all who were gathered before him and in the face of his enemy.
2. When Belshazzar tasted the wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, in order that the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.
Belshazzar must have known the effect that God had had upon Nebuchadnezzar, and he most likely read the same proclamations that we read; but he disregarded them and even defied what was told to him.
His reaction was very similar to the way people today react to the word of God. When they hear the truth and reject it, then they react even more arrogantly against it than they reacted before.
Thus he sought to drink out of the holy vessels of God's temple.
Not only was he defying his grandfather's word, but now he was openly challenging God.
Even Nebuchadnezzar, in all of his pride following the capture of Jerusalem, did not use these vessels, but placed them in the temple of his god.
3. 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.
4. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
They were living in the lust of the moment; they seemed to have no concern for the future, or what God might do to them.
They were acting like most of the people in the world today.
They had heard the truth, but rejected it. Thus God had had enough.
5. Suddenly the finger of a man's hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing.
6. Then the king's face grew pale, and his thoughts alarmed him; and his hip joints went slack, and his knees began knocking together.
So much for the king’s confidence and pride.
He was absolutely terrified.
What he was doing against God, in the so-called privacy of his own palace, was not hidden from God.
Thus the hand of the Lord was declaring His anger against Belshazzar, and his punishment; and the writing was not hidden away, for it was presented in the brightest place on the white wall where all could clearly see it.
The king may not have been able to interpret the inscription, but his fear indicated that he knew that it was against him.
We can only defy God for so long.
Yes, God is loving and forgiving, but He is also holy and righteous; a fact that we all too often forget.
This is one of the main reasons that you constantly hear me talking about living in the creation and heavenly will of God where there is no war, or killing, or pain, and where all humans and animals live together in perfect peace.
This is the kind of holy life we should be striving to live; a life that is set apart from the corruption of the world around us.
We don't want anyone to perish, because God's patience has a limit, just as ours does; but I am thankful that His lasts longer than ours.
But He nevertheless has His limit, and we are very foolish to think that we can continually test Him to that limit.
There will come a time when we will go to the wrong kind of party one time
too many, and it will be too late.
7. The king called aloud to bring in the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, "Any man who can read this inscription and explain its interpretation to me will be clothed with purple, and have a necklace of gold around his neck, and have authority as third ruler in the kingdom."
Once again we see that Belshazzar has not learned from his grandfather, but is entering into the same mistakes he made, by seeking his answers from the so-called wise men.
8. Then all the king's wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or make known its interpretation to the king.
9. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, his face grew even paler, and his nobles were perplexed.
No matter how hard we try to deny the truth about what God desires us to do, we always seem to know when we are really doing wrong.
This is why Belshazzar has such fear.
He knows he is defying God; and so does each and every one of us when we sin!
10. The queen entered the banquet hall because of the words of the king and his nobles; the queen spoke and said, "O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts alarm you or your face be pale.
11. "There is a man in your kingdom in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father, illumination, insight, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him. And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans, and diviners.
12. "This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas, and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Let Daniel now be summoned, and he will declare the interpretation."
Isn't it amazing how people long ago reacted in a similar way as we do today?
Nebuchadnezzar found his faith in God, and most likely was born again.
All those around him knew the truth. The queen mother knew it, as we just heard, but she didn't believe; and she must also have told her son, Belshazzar, but he likewise didn't believe.
What happens today when someone is born again, and they get excited in their faith and confess it to others?
Don’t many say to them, "I'm happy for you, that you have found something to believe in and comfort you"? But they themselves really do not hear what was said in their hearts, nor believe; and they continue going after what they know in their heart is wrong.
This is exactly what Belshazzar and his mother are doing.
13. Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke and said to Daniel. "Are you that Daniel who is one of the exiles from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah?
14. "Now I have heard about you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that illumination, insight, and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you.
15. "Just now the wise men and the conjurers were brought in before me that they might read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not declare the interpretation of the message.
16. "But I personally have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Now if you are able to read the inscription and make its interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple and wear a necklace of gold around your neck, and you will have authority as the third ruler in the kingdom."
How do you think God and Daniel are going to answer the king?
Next week we will find out; but in the meantime, think about how you would answer Belshazzar, just from what you have heard so far.
Now let's take a look at Luke 14:12-24, and hear what Jesus tells us about attending a party, as He was speaking to the host where He was invited.
12. And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you.
13. "But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,
14. and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
These sure aren't the kinds of people who were invited to Belshazzar's party.
But there is still the intent that we have when giving or attending a reception.
Do we invite someone to come to ours so that we will gain some advantage from them or be invited by them because we have obligated them?
Do we attend the reception with the attitude of wondering what they want from us, or with the feeling that we must reciprocate; and if we are not able or are unwilling, do we decline to go ourselves?
Or perhaps, we might go with an attitude of arrogance, thinking that they have invited us for some reason, and we will let them try to get an advantage.
And again, the reason for giving the party or attending one might be to show off, or give us an opportunity to pretend we are someone greater than we are.
Then sometimes it might be with a combination of reasons, as with Belshazzar.
Obviously one or a combination of reasons was the intent of the person who invited Jesus, or He would not have said what He did.
If we invite someone just because we love them, enjoy one another’s company, and wish to have a joyful time together, then it is okay to celebrate; and no one should feel obligated. And with such a gathering, we can also give the glory to God.
But let's return and listen to the conversation that Jesus is having with the
other invited guests.
15. And when one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, "Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!"
16. But He said to him, "A certain man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many;
17. and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, 'Come; for everything is ready now.'
18. "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, '1 have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.'
19. "And another one said, '1 have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.'
20. "And another one said, '1 have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.'
These sound like the kinds of excuses some people give as to why they cannot come to church.
And there is a similarity, for this dinner party is special; this one is being given by the Lord, and it is the one in which the free gift of salvation is being served.
From the way Jesus is answering the comment presented to Him, it is obvious that the one who asked Him this question was more intent on dueling with Him over His previous remarks, than agreeing with Him.
21. "And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.'
Most of Israel had rejected their Messiah, and the free gift He offered them; so His gift of salvation is being offered to the gentiles.
22. "And the slave said, 'Master, what you command has been done, and still there is room.'
Most of the gentiles also rejected the invitation, as we can still see to this day.
23. "And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
It is as if the Lord is saying, "There are people everywhere that may not understand; compel them to come, for once they are here, they might truly understand, for I desire all to be saved."
24. 'For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner."
What a sorry state of affairs.
Jesus Christ died. He gave His life freely, that we all might be able to come to His dinner in heaven, in His Father's house, and live with Him there forever and ever.
God has no ulterior motive for inviting us. He just loves us and wants us to return to Him with a repentant heart, that He can cleanse us so that we would be saved.
He offers us a free gift that none of us could ever hope to repay, or ever could.
We should all resolve in our hearts to quit playing our little worldly games of one-upmanship, leave our pride behind, and just come to the Lord with a joyful heart.
Then we can truly enjoy the party – a party that will never end - a party that is filled with everlasting love and peace for all humans and animals.