Daniel 016: To Whom Much is Given Much is Required!

Daniel 016: To Whom Much is Given Much is Required!
Daniel 5:13-23 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 19, 2017 • Daniel


Andy Woods                                                                                                                                                                                                                         SUGAR LAND BIBLE CHURCH                                                                                                                                                                                      Lesson 16, To Whom Much is Given Much is Required! Daniel 5:13-23                                                                                                                           March 19 2017

Good morning everybody.  If we could take our Bibles and open them to Daniel 5:13 and the title of our message this morning is To Whom Much is Given Much is Required!  As you’re turning there K.C. was telling people about a VBS planning session following the service at 1:00 and she failed to articulate the most powerful incentive for showing up to this session.  You say what is that, eternal rewards?  No!  It’s this incentive—lunch is provided.

Daniel 5:13, making it possibly through verse 23 today, maybe even beyond that.  The title of our message, as I said before is To Whom Much is Given Much is Required.  Coming to a church where there’s a lot of information given we have a tendency to just sort of sit, soak and sour, forgetting the fact that the more light a person receives from God the more God expects a person to respond to that light.  Belshazzar, as I’ll be showing you today, the final king of Neo-Babylonia had light; he had truth.  Everything was accessible, even things that happened to his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, were available to him, at his fingertips and yet he chose to live a life in conflict with that knowledge.  He chose to ignore the knowledge and consequently we discover God dealing very aggressively with this man, Belshazzar.  He becomes sort of a prototype, if you will, or a test case if you will, of the human being that receives light and knowledge but simply doesn’t respond to it.

God, of course, has raised up this prophet, Daniel, at a strategic time in the nation’s history during captivity.  His ministry largely focuses on the fact that God is still in control; God is working out history in an ordered way even though the nation of Israel has gone through the great discomfort of being uprooted from their own land, being exported about 350 miles to the east in a place called Babylon (modern day Iraq), where they will spend 70 years in captivity.

Chapter 1 introduced the Book of Daniel to us; chapters 2-7, as I have been seeking to explain, are not written in Hebrew like most of the rest of the Old Testament is; they’re written in Aramaic, the language of the day.  And so consequently God is speaking to the Gentile nations in this section as well as His own people with a reminder that He is still in authority and in control.

Chapter 2 was the great vision of the giant statue that Nebuchadnezzar saw and what that meant.  Chapter 3 is the divine rescue operation where God rescued Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego from the fiery furnace.  Chapter 4 was God’s revelation to a Gentile king, a man named Nebuchadnezzar.  His story is actually going to be referred to in chapter 5, as we shall see.  Nebuchadnezzar, being the first king of the empire of Babylon, while Babylon was trampling down the nation of Israel.  And then we move into chapter 5 where God is virtually doing the same thing He did in chapter 4, revealing Himself to a Gentile king but here’s the basic difference: in chapter 4 God revealed Himself in grace to a rebellious Gentile king, yet in chapter 5 we discover God is revealing Himself in judgment in holiness to this Gentile king.  So Nebuchadnezzar is no longer the central antagonist as he was in the first four chapters of the book; that “honor” goes to a man named Belshazzar, the last reigning king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

Scholars tell us that the events of chapter 5 took place on a particular night, Saturday night, according to the chronology of Dr. Harold Hoehner, Saturday night, October 12, 539 B.C.  This was an actual historical event that transpired in history; this is not Jack and the Beanstalk, this is not some kind of tall tale, this is history as it unfolded on that particular evening.

Daniel, by this time is no longer a teenager, he’s in his early 80’s and one of the things  you’ll discover is the Lord wants to use you as long as you’re still alive.   Somehow in American Christianity we get the idea that well, I’ve done my time, I’ve served the Lord and now it’s time for me to retire.  I don’t really find retirement in the Bible.  Maybe we should change the word “retire” into “re-fire” re-fire people up because when you retire from your job all that does is free your time to be used elsewhere.  So spiritual gifts are forever with us; the gifts and the calling of God are without revocation the Apostle Paul says, so whatever spiritual gifts you had as a new Christian you still have.  And God wants to keep using those until your dying day.   As long as there is breath in your lungs and your heart is beating someway, somehow God wants to keep using your life.

The chapter divisions of this Bible can be organized according to various contributions to this feast that is happening on this particular evening.  We have Belshazzar’s contribution to the feast, verses 1-4; God’s contribution to the feast, the handwriting on the wall, verses 5-6; Daniel’s contribution to the feast, an announcement of impending judgment, verses 7-29, and finally we’ll run into somebody that’s very difficult to identify exactly in history, a man named Darius the Mede, and his contribution to the feast will take place in the final two verses where he will actually conquer Neo-Babylonia in a single night without even so much as a war or a battle.  That’s how vulnerable Neo-Babylonia was to conquest, at a time when they thought that they were invincible.

We’ve studied Belshazzar’s contribution to the feast, verses 1-4; his contribution is simply unrestrained sensuality; sensuality which really knows no limits or respects things that are holy or of God.  In fact, Belshazzar’s brashness and boldness in verses 1-4 is so radical, it’s so extreme that he actually retrieves the vessels from the  temple of God that Nebuchadnezzar had brought with him when he took the Jews into captivity and he begins to disseminate these vessels, which were used for holy purposes in God’s temple, for this drunken bash that is taking place in verses 1-4.

You know, God has limits to rebellion. I’m reminded of the Scripture that is given during the days of Noah in Genesis 6:3 where God says, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he is mortal; his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”  And when you study what that world was like prior to the Noahic flood you discover the level of sin and depravity was probably unmatched.  And God allowed it to go on for a time period and finally God said you know what, My patience has exhausted.  Isn’t it interesting that you can exhaust even the patience of God Himself and God, by virtue of His character as holy must intervene in judgment.  That’s why the great deluge came that we call the Noahic flood.

And we have a similar occurrence here in Daniel 5, God finally says that’s enough!  It’s not going to go on any more, and thus God contributes to the feast through this mysterious handwriting on the wall, verses 5-6.  You have a generic description of the writing; the specific writing is not going to be described until later, verses 24-25, we just know that there is writing on the wall by a divine hand and we see the reaction of Belshazzar and his cohorts in verse 6.  They naturally, as one might expect, fall into fear.  You know, it’s a scary thing to discover that you are accountable to the God that made you when you’ve lived your whole life as if He has never existed.   And so this fear grips Belshazzar as this handwriting on the wall appears.

And then verses 7-29 we have Daniel’s contribution to the feast which is the announcement of doom.  He will explain exactly what this handwriting represents.  Of course, Belshazzar’s wise men, so-called, could not interpret the handwriting on the wall, verses 7-9.  [Daniel 5:7-9, “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 shall be clothed with purple and have a necklace of gold around his neck, and have authority as third ruler in the kingdom.’ [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.”]   That’s sort of common.

These people that Belshazzar turned to as reservoirs of knowledge were bankrupt as they have been all the way through this book.  Only God has the knowledge to understand these mysteries.  Then Daniel himself is summoned, and that’s where we left off, I believe, around verses 10-16.  [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.”]

We’ve already studied the queen; the queen most people believe is Belshazzar’s mother, Nabonidus, Belshazzar’s father, this would be Nabonidus’ wife, and she recalls this man who was once very active in the affairs of going back to the days of Nebuchadnezzar, a man that God had gifted to interpret visions and dreams.  And so this queen reminds Belshazzar that there is somebody in this kingdom that can understand this obscure handwriting on the wall.  And consequently the king himself, that would be Belshazzar, requests now that Daniel be brought forward.

And notice, if you will, verses 13-16 of Daniel 5.  “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.”

It’s interesting to me that paganism itself, although it misinterprets the Holy Spirit, understands the power of the Holy Spirit in a person.  You look at some of these descriptors here, Belshazzar acknowledges “that a spirit of the gods is in you” that gives you “illumination” or the capacity to understand, that gives you “insight,” that gives you, this Holy Spirit, “extraordinary wisdom.”  It allows you to see things, this Holy Spirit inside of you, that all of the wise men of Babylon cannot see.  It allows you to interpret; it allows you to solve difficult problems.  It allows you to read the strange inscription and make known to me what it actually says.

This, of course, is the great work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian, how he enlightens the mind and allows a human being to think in a spiritual manner that he could not think in without his presence.  Jesus, of the Holy Spirit, says this: [John 6:12] “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now,  [13] But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into” 95% of the truth… sorry,  it doesn’t say that, “He will guide you into all the truth;” and you see, this is the great problem that Jesus had with Nicodemus.  Nicodemus could not understand spiritual lessons that Jesus was drawing and so Jesus said to Nicodemus, here’s the root of the problem, [John 3:3]  “truly, truly I say to you unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  “See” has the idea to perceive, it has the idea to grasp; it has the idea to comprehend.  And without the light of the Spirit of God in your life you cannot grasp nor see nor understand the elementary principles I’m seeking to communicate to you.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 writes this: “But a natural man” that would be the man without the Holy Spirit, “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.  [15] But he who is spiritual appraises all things ….”

I’m reminded of that famous story of the missionary; a missionary was out on his evangelistic endeavors and he ran across a person that said I’ll trust in your Christ if you answer ten questions.  The missionary looked at his watch, he saw that he had a prior engagement and he said I’ll tell you what, I don’t have time to answer your ten questions right now but why don’t you trust Christ right now and I’ll come back tomorrow at the same time and answer your ten questions.  And the man said agreed.  The man at that moment trusted in Christ and the missionary, as promised, came back 24 hours later and said okay, I’m ready to answer your ten questions.  And the man simply said oh, I don’t have those questions any more, they’ve all been answered.

What happened to that man exactly?  Did his intelligence suddenly go up?  Not necessarily.  What happened is something greater than himself entered him at the point of personal faith in Christ and allowed him to under­stand and think in a way that he could not think before.  He was no longer thinking in just a soulish way but he began to think in an spiritual way and he began to understand the elementary and perhaps even some of the deeper things of God.

See, we use this expression a lot “seeing is believing.”  Actually it’s the exact opposite, believing is seeing; a person believes and receives the Spirit of God and suddenly they can see the things of the Spirit and the things that God seeks to communicate.  This is what put Daniel a cut above every­body else in the entire kingdom of Neo-Babylonia and it’s what puts you a cut above your unsaved family, friends and co-workers, just by virtue of the Spirit of God inside of you, you have the capacity to grasp and discern spiritual things.  That’s why they’re always coming to you (in private usually) for an answer to their life’s problems.  They understand there’s something unique about you, something different about you and it’s really related to your vantage point; it’s not related to you in and of yourself, it’s related to the fact that an omniscient God is now living inside of you and consequently He gives us the capacity for sight.

We go down to verse 17 after Daniel is summoned and we begin to have a rebuke by Daniel.  The rebuke starts in verse 17 as he’s now rebuking Belshazzar, and goes all the way through verse 23. Notice verse 17 were Daniel rejects the king’s gifts that the king promised to bestow upon Daniel had Daniel properly interpreted the handwriting on the wall.  It’s a foreboding rebuke.  Look, if you will, at verse 17, “Then Daniel answered and said before the king, ‘Keep your gifts” what gifts would those be?  Those are the gifts described in verse 16, “necklace of gold around your neck” authority as the third ruler in the kingdom, being clothed with purple.”

“Then Daniel answered and said” verse 17, “before the king, ‘Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him.”  In other words, your money is not good any more.  Why would he say that?  Because part of  the interpretation of the handwriting on the wall is the Neo-Babylonian Empire is going to end this very night.  Now if the Neo-Babylonian Empire is going to end this very night and be conquered by the Persians what good are these Babylonian gifts.  I mean, what good is it to offer someone the next highest position in the kingdom when your kingdom is about to be taken away?

I remember… I’m not necessarily recommending this movie, maybe I am a little bit, but the Titanic, I remember that incredible movie that was done and I remember as the Titanic was sinking I remembered the rich individual in the book, who was a bad guy, was trying to buy his way out of his problems, offering money for a prize seat on the boat.  And I started to think to myself well, what good is his money—the whole boat is sinking, the money is not going to be good for anything.

And you see, people are like that with this world’s goods; they think they have money and perhaps they do in the world’s eyes and they think it’s good to help them buy their way out of their problems or their predicaments, but what is the Bible telling us about this world system?  It’s like the Titanic, the whole thing is sinking.  What good will be human currency as this ship (called the planet earth) comes into the judgment of God?  Money is not good for anything.  And this is a great warning to people in this world that happen to have money.  God, for whatever reason, chooses to bless some individuals with more of this world’s goods than others and Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:17, “Instruct those who are rich” and by the way, it’s not necessarily a sin to be rich, the issue is not do you own money but does your money own you?  But the problem with worldly wealth is we think that it’s permanent. “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”

The Bible is telling us that worldly wealth is very transitory; it’s very ephemeral, it’s not lasting.  And when you have money and you’re able to do certain things with money and buy your way out of certain problems you sort of, as the Bible predicts, become somewhat conceited with it and think that it’s permanent.  And we have to understand that whatever purchasing power we have is very, very temporal.  It’s easy to forget that.  Belshazzar had no concept of that; he thought that these positions of influence and resources and power that he possessed are things that would be there forever and he’s trying to offer Daniel this and offer Daniel that and the fact of the matter is Daniel turns down the gifts abruptly because the gifts will have no purchasing power at the end of this evening, is what Daniel is saying.

What a great warning for us as we look for, not the gold of this world but the streets of gold that God Himself will bring into existence in the New Jerusalem and the eternal state.

Now one of the things that’s very interesting here, verses 18-21, is now in the process of this rebuke Daniel give Belshazzar a history lesson.  He reminds him of history which was accessible or knowable or he should have known it.  Notice, if you will, verses 18-21 as he begins to describe what happened and how God dealt with his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar.

Verse 18, “O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father. [19] Because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated and whomever he wished he humbled.  [20] But when his 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. [21] 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.”

The value of history!  The value of going back into the historical annals and remembering what happened to somebody whose heart was lifted up with pride, just like your heart, Belshazzar, is currently being lifted up with pride.  One of the things that we have lost in our culture and one of the things that we have lost largely within evangelical history is the value of history, the significance of history, remembering how God acted and behaved and moved in other similar circumstances in the past.  That’s why on the Fourth of July I love to talk about American history; I love to talk about the fact that this nation that we are in is not some kind of accident, it’s not a bunch of atheists that got together and read a bunch of Greek philosophers and brainstormed and this country miraculously popped out.  What a perversion of history.

This country wouldn’t exist had it not been for the hand of God.  I love to document that through historical sources because only when you discover things in the present through the perspective of history can you see how badly we’ve fallen.  One man put it this way: an ounce of history is like a pound of logic, you can argue logically but a little bit of history can be substituted for logic and it removes all the necessity of longwinded logical arguments.  I’m reminded of what God did with Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4, that’s a history lesson that Daniel is bringing to Belshazzar’s attention.  Of course, these things with Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 4, happened about forty years ago, three or four decades ago.  Belshazzar had decided to push that history lesson out of his mind.

What does Jesus say to the churches, I believe this is the church at Ephesus, the church that lost its first love?  What does He say to them exactly?  “Therefore, remember from where you have fallen,”  See, he accuses them, in Revelation 2:4 of the fact that they have forgotten their first love.  He says in verse 4, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”  Now what you do in that case?  “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place– unless you repent.”  [Romans 2:5]

He’s saying go back into history, go back to our first relationship when we first came together, go back to the things  you used to do and remember those things and compare it to your condition today and only through an analysis of history will you see how far you’ve fallen.  You know, it’s one thing to say that the United States of America has fallen; it’s something completely different to prove it through historical sources.  That’s the value of history.

What happened to the church at Ephesus? What is the meaning here in Revelation 2:4 when it says, “You have left your first love.”  It’s talking about what happens to a couple when they meet and they fall in love and how the feelings of love are so strong that all you can think about is the other person, and all you want to do is spend time with that person.  And then what happens to any married couple is you get married and life happens, kids come, bills are due, careers take off, and what happens in marriages is what happens in our relationship with God; its activity starts to slowly but surely… by the way, this word “left” here, the way it reads in the Greek language is this was slowly happening to them.  Activity slowly happens upon a couple and it replaces intimacy and pretty soon they find themselves business partners rather than the romantic couple that they once were.

What is the solution to that?  It is history, go back and recall your first love.  Go back and remember your first love.  This is what Jesus is saying to the church at Ephesus, forget all this activity, and they had plenty of good activity in Ephesus, but your problem is not a lack of activity; your problem is a lack of intimacy and I want you to go back to the beginning and remember what it was like when I first entered into a relationship with you.  Remember what it was like when your first prayer request was answered as a Christian.  Recall the intimacy, the love, the fervor that you once had with Me and how activity has replaced that.  And how can you do that without remembering the heights from which you have fallen, the value of history, the value of journaling, the value of going back to written records that you yourself may have produced, either about your marriage or your walk with the Lord.  And this is what Belshazzar ignored.  The record of history was there if he had wanted to see it, because he was lifted up with pride as his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, had been and God dealt with that situation.

The last time I checked God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  God is not a respecter of persons and if God dealt aggressively with Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, if you had known history and studied history you would have known that God is not going to let you off the hook either because of your flagrant reveling and pride and taking the things of God that are supposed to be sacred and turning them into something profane.

You slip down there to verse 22 and Daniel, in this rebuke, begins to give Belshazzar a record of his sins.  Look, if you will, at verse 22, it says, “Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart,” now look at this last expression here in verse 22, “even though you knew all this,” that’s why I’ve entitled this message To Whom Much is Given Much is Required!  You knew what happened to Nebuchadnezzar, at least you should have known.  The record was there and yet you chose to ignore history, you chose to go down this path of arrogance and since God is not a respecter of persons, since God is the same yesterday, today and forever, how can the discipline of God, how can the judgment of God be withheld from you?

What you discover in Daniel 4 is before the judgment came Daniel gave Nebuchadnezzar a warning. Daniel 4:19 says this: “Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries!’”  Remember the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had in Daniel 4, of the tree being cut down and how that is a symbol of Nebuchadnezzar’s life and how his kingdom and his power is about to be taken away if he doesn’t humble himself and repent.  Before that judgment came God sent a warning.

In Daniel 4:27 it says, “Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.”  Before judgment came God used Daniel in a strategic way in Daniel 4 to give a warning.  What’s going on here in Daniel 5, as you read verse 22?  There is no warning!  Daniel is not dealing in grace with Belshazzar; he’s dealing in judgment.  There’s far more grace in Daniel 4 than there is in Daniel 5.  In Daniel 4 there’s a warning; in Daniel 5 there is no warning.  Now why is that?  Is it because forty years have passed and Daniel is older and a little bit more on the grumpy side?   That’s a possibility I guess.

But I think the answer to this issue is found right there in verse 22 where it says, [5:22] “even though you knew all” of these things.  End of verse 22, “even though you knew all this,” in other words, the warning has already been given.   It’s called history.  The Babylonians, we know from the Babylonian Chronicle and other documents, were very good at documenting history.  The historical lesson was there;  you should have gleaned a lesson from history, you should have been a good steward of history and the warning is there.  That’s why there is no warning given here in Daniel 5.  Nebuchadnezzar didn’t necessarily have the history because he was the first king of Neo Babylonia; now we’re at the end of the Neo Babylonian Empire where we have the last king of Neo Babylonia, a man named Belshazzar, and there’s a paper trail.  There’s a historical track record that you should have been aware of.

“To whom much is given much is” what? “required.”  In fact, did you know your Bible actually says that?  In the book of Luke, chapter 12 and verse 48 it says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”  In other words, the more light a person has the more knowledge a person has, the more God expects a response.  The person in this world that is in the biggest trouble before God is a person that sits in an orthodox Bible teaching church, like this one, and hears week after week after week the truth of God and yet chooses to not do anything with it, either not trusting Christ for salvation, not allow the work of the Scripture to change their life in any way, it’s just in one ear and out the other, there’s no change of life, there’s no change of behavior.  Let me tell you something, you’re on thin ice with God if that’s your posture today.

The basic biblical principle is “to whom much is given, much is required.”  That’s why God is dealing differently with Belshazzar than he dealt with Nebuchadnezzar.  Jesus, in Matthew 11:20-24 said this:  “Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. [21] ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. [22] Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. [23] And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. [24] Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”

A very interesting set of verses.  Chorazin and Bethsaida are headed off into judgment just like Tyre and Sidon.  Chorazin and Bethsaida being New Testament cities, Tyre and Sidon being Old Testament cities but Christ says when the judgment hits Chorazin and Bethsaida, of the New Testament, are going to be judged more strictly.  Why is that?  Because Chorazin and Bethsaida saw something that Tyre and Sidon never saw; they saw the incarnate Christ, they saw His teachings, they saw His miracles and Christ said you know, if Tyre and Sidon had seen what you guys are seeing they would have repented a long time ago, yet your heart is unchanged, therefore it’s going to be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.

And he goes on and he starts talking about Capernaum, a New Testament city and He compares it to Sodom.  Sodom is a really bad Old Testament city, isn’t it?  And he says both Capernaum and Sodom are headed off into judgment but when judgment hits Capernaum herself will be judged more stringently than even Sodom and Gomorrah.  Why is that?   Because Capernaum saw something that Sodom never saw—the incarnate Christ with His teachings in their midst and His miracles and yet Capernaum had that insight and never repented; Sodom would have repented a long time ago, Christ says.

Be careful about the acquisition of spiritual knowledge because the acquisition of spiritual knowledge renders a person to a higher threshold of accountability on the day of judgment.  “To whom much is given, much is expected.  [Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”]  Many people look at this Bible almost like an encyclopedia; they can give you facts, figures, information, they’ve got all kinds of notes on this column and that column, they’ve gone to every Sunday School class, every midweek group, accumulating, accumulating, accumulating; what is God saying?  You better be careful about that because there’s an accountability.  To whom much is given much is expected.

Belshazzar had a lot but he volitionally made a decision to reject what knowledge was available; he chose not to live consistently with it.  This is why the human race before God…we talked about this in Sunday School this morning, is guilty before God.   Do we realize that, that the whole human race is guilty before God?  Why is that?  Because God has disclosed Himself in creation.  Paull writes in Romans 1:18 and following, “For the wrath of God is revealed” that’s the Greek noun apokalopsis, which means unveiling, it’s the same noun we find in the book of Reve, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteous­ness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, [19] because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. [20] For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through that which He has made,” look at that next clause, “so that they are without” what? “excuse.”

God has revealed Himself.  How has He revealed Himself exactly?  Through creation.  Every human being should instinctively know that God exists and should search for God because God has given the human race a disclosure called creation itself.  The fact of the matter is of the seven billion people on planet earth no two fingerprints are alike.  Of all of the snowflakes that have fallen throughout human history when examined under a microscope no two snowflakes are identical.

The world that we are living in is screaming with design.  In fact, in our heliocentric solar system as we travel around the sun, as the earth is moving around the sun isn’t it interesting that we are not so close to the sun that we burn up, or so far from the sun that we freeze to death.  Why is it that we travel exactly at the exact orbit that’s necessary to sustain life?  The world that we’re living in is screaming with design; you can’t have design without a what?  Designer.  And because of this disclosure of God in creation humanity is obligated under God to search for God, not to ignore Him the way Belteshazzar was doing, not to depress Him the way Belteshazzar was doing but to humble themselves before God.  God, I know You’re out there, there must be something for me.  And I believe when that’s the prayer of a person’s heart God moves heaven and earth to get that person the gospel.

But don’t let this last verse escape your attention, the end of verse 20, “so that men are without excuse.”  This is why you have a harsher, more aggressive Daniel in chapter 5 than you have in chapter 4.  Nebuchadnezzar, to a certain degree, could plead ignorance.  Belteshazzar with the whole Babylonian history available at his fingertips could not plead ignorance and make a similar excuse.

As we move into verse 23 what you start to discover is an articulation of Belteshazzar’s sin, his ultimate sin being a rejection of known truth, but when a person sets their posture to reject known truth other sins soon follow and we have those itemized for us in verse 23; there’s four sins that Daniel calls to Belteshazzar’s attention.  “But you” that’s Belteshazzar “have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels” that’s number two, “of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have” number three, “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 and breath and all your ways, you have not glorified.”  That’s number four.

What was the problem here with Belteshazzar?  Number 1, he, according to verse 23, exalted himself.  He did exactly what Nebuchadnezzar had done even though the record was available telling Belteshazzar he was on dangerous ground.  The second thing Belteshazzar did is he abused the sacred vessels, vessels which are designed for holy purposes he used them for common purposes, profane purposes, even idolatrous purposes.  He used them rather for religiously exalting reasons, he used them for a drunken bash.

It reminds me of what the Corinthians were doing.  You know the Corinthian church, they took the communion table, they took something that is supposed to be sacred, something that is supposed to be holy, something that is designed to call one’s attention to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and when you study 1 Corinthians 11 they took that holy institution that Christ gave to His church and they used it for profane purposes; they turned it into a common meal.  That’s why Paul says don’t you have homes to eat your meals in?  They turned it into a pay for play scenario where if you had resources you could participate at the Lord’s table but if you were poor you could not participate and consequently Paul says Christ has become divided by what you’re doing.  And if all of that weren’t enough there were people coming to the Lord’s table in a drunken inebriated condition.  I mean, how low can these people go?

And this is why 1 Corinthians 11: 30 says, “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number have fallen asleep.” God didn’t let them off the hook with this any more than He let Nebuchadnezzar off the hook; any more than He let Belteshazzar off the hook.  He moved in with discipline to the point where some of their lives were terminated prematurely.  You have exalted yourself, you have abused the sacred vessels.  Number 3, you have praised idols and yet what can these idols really do for you in the end?  They’re just made of iron and wood and stone, they don’t hear, they don’t understand, they don’t sacrifice for you, they don’t love you God says, the way I love you.  They don’t answer  your prayers, and yet you’ve substituted a relationship with me for this idol which has no power to help you at all.  It’s interesting that when you study idols in the Scripture  you’ll discover that this is what God brings up over and over again.  You’re worshipping something that has no life in it.

Revelation 9:20 says, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk;” isn’t it interesting how many people’s security is in their bank account, or the social security trust fund, or the prosperity of the United States of America, or the fact that there’s a Republican in the White House, or whatever the issue may be.  We’re trusting in all of these things yet when push comes to shove who’s going to come through for you?  God is.  The only thing you’re going to have left if push comes to shove is your relationship with God.  He’s the one that’s going to help you.  These idols, these things that we exaggerate in our own minds as some great savior, they’re not going to be able to help because they can neither hear, nor see, nor walk.

I love Isaiah 46:1 where God condemns the nation of Israel for idolatry.  He says, “Bel” that’s the Babylonian idol, “has bowed down, Nebo stoops over; their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle. The things that you carry are burdensome, a load for the weary beast.”   You’re so wrapped up in these idols that you’re carrying them around everywhere you go and yet the very act of you carrying them around is wearing you down.

Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you.”  You’re carrying around these idols and you’re exhausting yourself in the process, Isaiah 46:1.  Did you know, God says, that you’re not getting any  younger and the day is going to come where you’re not going to have the strength to carry these idols around anymore?  And guess what I’m going to do for you as you get old?  When you can’t carry your idols around any longer I will carry you.  How foolish it is to become idolatrous, worship things which are just exhausting us when the reality is God knows the day is coming where we’re not going to be able to carry anything, we’re going to have to be carried.  An idol won’t do that for you; God will do that for you because God is alive, He’s living, He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

So you’re exalted  yourself, you’ve abused the sacred vessels, you’ve praised idols and the last thing God says is you never glorified Me.  You never returned to Me the rightful glory that I deserve.  Did you know that God deserves glory.  Revelation 4:11 puts it this way, this is a worship song in heaven:  “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power;”  Why does God deserve glory, honor and power?  Revelation 4:11, “for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

Do you know what kids in the United States of America ought to be doing when they learn science?  They ought to be so overwhelmed at what God has made that they should be praising the Lord in class.  Do you know what we ought to be doing when we look at the complexity of the DNA molecules, the complexity of our solar system, the majesty of creation?  We ought to be praising the Lord because God has revealed Himself in creation, and yet what are we doing with these truths?  We’re saying they’re cosmic accidents; we’re saying that these are the product of billions of years from the goo to the zoo to you.

And I want you to understand this theologically.  When you move into that way of thinking you deprive God of the glory that is rightfully His.  You know, when you read a Shakespearian masterpiece and you read how that author puts all of that information together and weaves all of those sub themes and sub plots together, you get to the end and you say wow, that Shakespeare is just a tremendous writer.  Shouldn’t it be that way with God?  I mean, shouldn’t we look at this world that we’re in and instead of pretending like God doesn’t exist shouldn’t we glorify the author and give Him majesty and praise and dominion.  And yet that’s not the natural posture of the human race.  At the very end, men are without excuse because they take the clear revelation of God and they suppress it.

I would say to you that this is exactly what Belshazzar has done.  This is why the disciplinary judgment hand of God at this point in his life cannot be averted.  And what a powerful lesson this is for  us in the godless, wicked, arrogant, prideful age in which we live, where we ought to be people of humility, we ought to be people glorifying God and we ought to have an understanding what the human race, as I speak today, is careening, literally careening for the judgment of God.  How can God be silent given the pride of humanity.  The deluge in Noah’s day came but you know what?  There was a way of escape.  The way of escape was made of wood, it was the ark.  By faith had a person entered the ark they would have been spared from the calamity and the judgment of God.  And isn’t it interesting today that God has designed things in such a way that there’s a way of escape made of wood… the cross of Christ, because in the crucifixion all of my sins and all of your sins have been atoned for, they’ve been taken care of.  The wrath of God has been satiated, it has been satisfied.  We call that propitiation and if I will simply receive a free gift, what Christ has done for me, the wrath of God is satisfied, I’m no longer a candidate for the imminent judgment of God, I’m declared a work of grace by His hand, not based on what I have done but based on what He has done.

The fact of the matter is Jesus Christ entered into history to pay a debt for us which we could never pay ourselves.  We call this the gospel which means good news because Jesus paid for it all.  And even as I am speaking right now you can be spared from the judgment of God by trusting, another word for believing, what Jesus has done.  What that simply means is your confidence for your future and the safekeeping of your soul rests totally in what Jesus has done.  You’re no longer trusting in  yourself, you’re no longer trusting in your own denomination, you’re no longer trusting in your own good works, you’re no longer trusting in your own press clippings or accolades, you’re trusting in Christ.  And as the Spirit of God places many of you, no doubt, under conviction even as I am speaking you can trust in what Jesus has done, no longer being a candidate for His wrath against pride the way Belshazzar was, but a candidate for His grace.  And as the holiness of God is satisfied there’s only one attribute left for God to manifest toward you throughout the days of your life, which is love and grace.  1 John 4:8 doesn’t tell us that God is loving because “God is love.”  As His wrath has been satisfied because of what Christ has done the only attribute left for Him to express towards me is His love.

The question is, are you like Belshazzar, headed for judgment?  Or are you a product of the grace of God having trusted in the gospel of God.  It’s something you can do right now even as I am speaking.  If it’s something that you need more information on I’m available after the service to talk.  And as we continue to move into Daniel 5 next week we’ll look at that very enigmatic writing on the wall, what it means to that generation and what it means to us as well.

Shall we pray.  Father, we are grateful for the truth of Your Word; some are harder to absorb than others.  We’re grateful for the historical record of Your dealings, not just with Nebuchadnezzar but with Belshazzar.  Make us people of humility, Father, recognizing Your right to rule sovereignly in our lives, helping us to recognize our need for Your grace.  We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory.  We lift these things up in Jesus name, and God’s people said… Amen.