Good evening. Great to be with you. Daniel chapter 5 and 6 tonight, which will end the historical section, so-called, of the book of Daniel, before, next week, we get into that great prophetic section.
There was a newly elected politician who went to Washington D.C. He wanted to get a feel for that town, so one of the older, wiser senators wanted to give that young man a feel for what the politics of Washington D.C. Was like. This senator had a home overlooking the Potomac River, and he pointed down at a log that was floating down the river and said to that young politician, "Do you see that log going down? There's probably about 100,000 bugs, ants, and worms crawling around on that log. And probably each one of them imagines that he is steering it.
"That's what it's like in this town, lots of politicians who think they're in charge; they're steering it, when they're not."
Nebuchadnezzar thought he was in control of his kingdom. He was the one who looked over Babylon. And he said, "Is this not the great Babylon, which I have built?" Now, time has passed; Daniel is much older. Nebuchadnezzar has died by this time, and his grandson Belshazzar has taken over. His heart is very prideful. He has not learned the lessons of history; he has not learned, though he knows, about what happened to his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar. He has not humbled his heart before God. Now, because Belshazzar is introduced here, I want to fill in the historical gap of how we got from Nebuchadnezzar to Belshazzar.
Suddenly, in chapter 5, verse 1, his name is mentioned first. "Belshazzar the King made a great feast for 1,000 of his lords and drank wine in the presence of the 1,000." After Nebuchadnezzar died, none of the successors that came to the throne ever reached the peak of the achievements that Nebuchadnezzar had achieved.
After Nebuchadnezzar died, his son, Amel-Marduk was his name, called in scripture Evil-Merodach, took over in Babylon. He didn't last long, only a couple of years. He was assassinated by his brother-in-law, Neriglissar, who reigned upon the throne for four years. He died. After he died, Labashi-Marduk took over and only lasted nine months. He was assassinated by a group of conspirators, one by the name of Nabonidus, who was the Father of Belshazzar. Nabonidus was the son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar. He married the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. She's the Queen Mother, and I think she appears in this chapter.
Nabonidus spent 13 of his 16 years as King of Babylon outside of Babylon. He didn't even live there most of the time. He had a home down in Arabia, in ancient Tayma of Arabia, so he was nonexistent. So, in his stead as a co-regent was his son Belshazzar. Now that explains why Belshazzar will promise Daniel to become third ruler in the kingdom, because two positions are already taken-- dad's and his.
Something else has gone on. There has already been a battle up north of the city of Babylon, where the troops, the armies of Cyrus, are attacking the borders. The Babylonians lost, and they retreat back to the city of Babylon, where things are a bit shaky. And Belshazzar wants to boost the morale of the people, especially his leadership, his lord, so he's going to throw them a huge party.
Chapter 5 opens in the midst of that party. And chapter 5 is best known for this heavenly graffiti that we know about. Where God writes in a man's-- with a man's fingers upon the wall, the message, "Mene mene tekel upharsin." So Belshazzar the king made a great feast for 1,000 of his lords and drank wine in the presence of 1,000.
Belshazzar is a bug on a log. He thinks he is controlling and steering Babylon. He has retreated back from this battle. And one of the reasons morale is so low is Nabonidus shows up for the battle and, after the defeat, goes back to Arabia. So, it would seem to the people, especially to his staff, hey, even the King doesn't think we're going to make this one.
Belshazzar is trusting in something that his grandfather once trusted in-- the city itself. Going back to Babylon. He may have thought, well, who could ever overtake this monumental place? After all, the walls are so thick; they're so high. Nobody has ever been able to take it. Little did he know, that at that very moment, on this very night, it would be his last night. It would be his last party. And Babylon would be taken.
I look at Chapter 5, and especially the situation that Belshazzar and his lords are in, very similar to our modern culture in America. We have become a culture addicted to partying. Eat, drink, and be merry! Oh, there's doomsday prophets; oh, the news is saying this could possibly happen. But let's just eat, drink, and be merry! Party the night away!
And so Belshazzar is drinking, and he's probably a little tipsy.
By the way, Americans spend upwards of $33 billion per year on alcohol. It's become a major problem. And unfortunately, people in the church don't seem to take it too seriously.
Did you know that for every one heroin addict, there are 15 hardcore alcoholics? That could have just started out real simply, oh, I just do it with my friends or family.
There was a meeting up in Los Angeles I read about. It was a meeting of concerned citizens and leaders dealing with the drug problem among our youth. Very interesting how this meeting started. They started it with a cocktail party.
Now, what kind of a message is that going to send our kids who are facing drug issues, when the adults are also facing drug issues, many of them?
Belshazzar opens the night up. The people are gathered, the lords, the princes, the wine comes out. But now he moves from that kind of behavior to absolute stupidity. While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels, which his Father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple, which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, his concubines, might drink from them. Then, they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God, which had been at Jerusalem. And the king and his lords, and wives, and concubines drank from them.
These were vessels that had been taken, about 50 years before this evening, from the temple in Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar had ordered that they be taken. But Nebuchadnezzar was different, in that he placed them, sort of like one would place objects in a museum, in the temple of his god. He never brought them out and partied with them. He just had them on display, because it was Nebuchadnezzar's practice to take particular items from cultures that he had overtaken and conquered and place them in the temples of the gods that he served and worshipped. That was bad enough, but Belshazzar tops that.
"They drank wine, " verse 4, "and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone," Now, this praising was usually done by songs that were chanted in unison, familiar songs of praise to false deities. You can picture them, can't you? You know, 99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer; take one down, pass it to Baal, 98 bottles of beer on the wall. They chanted some form of praise in that setting.
Grandpa Nebuchadnezzar never would have done that. And something you should know about Belshazzar, he knew his own history. Daniel will point that out. "You acted, " he will say, "in open defiance of God, though you knew what happened to your grandfather Nebuchadnezzar."
It is found in the annals of Babylon. They have found it in the caves of Qumran, in the annals of Babylon. There's different shards and documents that attest to the insanity of King Nebuchadnezzar. He reigned 43 years. Seven of them were spent, as we read last week, like an animal, insane. A form of psychotic hysteria known as insania zoanthropica. He acted like an animal. He thought he was an ox. He ate grass. His hair grew out like feathers. His fingernails grew out and never were trimmed, and for seven years, he lived outside.
Belshazzar knew about that. But it is as if he is acting in defiance, with his fist toward God, saying, I'm not intimidated by you. Bring it on! So God will. This open defiance is something that Daniel will point out. You know, people do say and-- they do and say dumb things when they're drunk.
They act stupid; they-- I remember trying to witness, when in my early Christian years, to drunks. And they weep, and they cry, and they say things like, you're my best friend. And you'd hear them pray the prayer and repent, and I'd walk away going, that was awesome. Next day, they never even knew who I was. They don't remember saying a thing.
Heard about a drunk who stumbled, down south, onto a baptism one Sunday afternoon. The pastor was baptizing different people in the community. The drunk found his way next to the preacher.
And so, the preacher turned to the drunk and said, "Are you ready to find Jesus?" The drunk said, "I sure am!" So, the preacher baptized him, held him under water, brought him back up, and said, "Did you find Jesus?" The drunk said, "I did not." The preacher grabbed him again, dunked him the second time, brought him back up. "Did you find Jesus?" "No, I didn't." Wide-eyed now--
--the preacher, in disgust, held him under the water the third time for about a minute. He wanted to make sure it was really well done. Brought him back up and said, "Have you found Jesus yet?" And the drunk, all he could say is, "Are you sure this is where he fell in?"
Just a stupid thing to say. He doesn't know what's going on.
Belshazzar is about to find out how utterly lame this action and this party with God's vessels from His temple were. "In that same hour, the fingers of a man's hand appeared and wrote, opposite the lamp stand, on the plaster of the wall of the King's palace. And the King saw the part of the hand that wrote." Now, this heavenly graffiti puts a damper on the party really quick. They sober up instantly, as we'll read.
"Then the King's countenance changed. His thoughts troubled him--" that's called a biblical understatement-- "--so that the joints of his hips were loosed, and his knees knocked against each other." Now, that's the New King James translation. There is no better translation of this than the King James, which reads, as some of you have it, "The joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another." That is so descriptive.
I remember standing in this very hall, in the ruins of Babylon several years ago. I was there for one day. And I was with an archaeologist who was there pointing out about the digs that they had uncovered, believing that hall, which was 55 feet by about 130 or 150 feet, I forget, was the very hall where Belshazzar and his lords feasted the night Babylon fell. It was the largest hall in a series of large rooms of the palace complex at Babylon, attached to several other large rooms. This was the largest.
Against one of the long walls was a niche cut out, where it is thought that the King's throne was located. And probably, the handwriting would have been in the brightest spot in the room. And the brightest spot was always where the King was. So, perhaps, right above the King's head, on the plaster, the hand appeared and started writing. As if-- everybody looked up. Belshazzar didn't know what was going on. And then, he turned his head, and there it was-- the writing of a man's hand.
Now, in verse 5, the word "appeared" literally means "came out." So, you can just picture that, as they look at the wall-- in relief, as if emerging from the wall, are the hands of a man. The fingers, literally of a man, that are writing. The king shakes. His knees smote one against another.
You know, again, this is a picture of the world. One day, the day is coming when God decides the handwriting of ordinances that is against the world has reached its pinnacle. The handwriting is on the wall, and God will judge in such a definitive way that the entire earth will shake as Belshazzar did.
The Book of Revelation tells us that man will say to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us, and hide us from the wrath of the Lamb."
That judgment that is coming, everyone will face.
The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. We've seen these guys before. The king spoke, saying to the wise men of Babylon, "Whoever reads this writing and tells its interpretation shall be clothed with purple, the royal color of the court, and have a chain of gold around his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom." Because Nabonidus, his dad, is down in Arabia. He is the vice commander, and so, there's only one position left. That's third.
"Now, all the king's wise men came, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king its interpretation. Then, king Belshazzar was greatly troubled. His countenance was changed, and his lords were astonished."
This supernatural graffiti was similar to modern graffiti. It was indiscernible. You knew it was there; you just had no idea what it means.
Now, what is interesting is that none of these wiseacres--
--these soothsayers and wise men of Babylon-- none of them could understand the writing. We would ask why? Because the interpretation will be given in Aramaic, "Mene mene tekel upharsin." It's Aramaic. Daniel will come up with the interpretation. We wonder, why couldn't they read it? It was their language.
It is thought that, perhaps, it was written in Hebrew. Daniel could read that. And they, perhaps, weren't able to read it. That's one take on this passage. Others say that it was written in Aramaic, but in an ancient Phoenician script. The letters weren't like what the soothsayers were used to reading. It was in a different style of writing, and Daniel would have been familiar with that. Others say it was such a weird positioning of the letters that even Daniel couldn't have understood it without some supernatural revelation from God.
Either way, all of this shows how inept these people in the court were and how qualified Daniel is. And again, it's a picture of the world. "The natural man," said Paul, "cannot understand the things of the Spirit. They are spiritually discerned." The world looks at the handwriting from God, the revelation from God, and says, I don't get it. I don't understand it. And so, Daniel will come now and interpret it.
By the way, there's another time when God wrote with the fingers of a man and got a message across. It's in John, chapter 8. Jesus bent down and wrote on the earth. We don't know what He wrote. He could have wrote the secret sins of those who were accusing the woman caught in adultery. Perhaps he wrote on the ground, "Mene mene tekel upharsin." They would have understood their text and their background and would have said, oh I remember that.
"The queen," verse 10, "because of the words of the king and his lords, came to the banquet hall. The queen spoke, saying, 'Oh, king, live forever. Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change. There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your Father--"
By the way, whenever you read father, it doesn't necessarily mean your immediate father. It can be a term for any number of your fathers, historically; grandfather, great grandfather etc. And this is referring to his grandfather.
"'And the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him. In king Nebuchadnezzar your father. Your father the king made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers."
This probably is not the wife of Belshazzar. It says the queen. It's probably referring to the Queen Mother. That would be the mother of Belshazzar, the wife of Nabonidus, whom he left at Babylon when he went to Arabia. Her name was Nitocris. She was the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, the wife of Nabonidus.
And I say it's probably her, and not the wife of Belshazzar, because back in verse three, the wives are already present in the banquet hall. And this woman knows of Daniel and knows of the affairs intimately with Nebuchadnezzar, as if she had been around. And if this was the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, she's been around. She knows the history. She knows about Daniel. She knows about her own Father.
"In as much as an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the King named Belteshazzar. Now, let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation."
So, we learned that Daniel is not at this feast. Lords are, princes are, soothsayers are, magicians are. Daniel was appointed the chief. Now, granted he's old. He's about 80 years of age, which would make him more valuable, not less, to the court. But he is not present, and obviously, Belshazzar has never taken young Daniel, now old Daniel, into his counsel; though this man has a reputation and a history and a legacy. Now he hears about him, though never before has he ever called upon him.
Now I don't know this for sure, but I kind of think that Daniel was looking for the right opportunity. He had had the opportunity with Nebuchadnezzar. He spoke to him during several key periods of his life. And I picture Daniel, as in his prayer life, saying, Lord nothing is impossible for You. Would You open up a door for me to come and speak to king Belshazzar and leave a witness, like I did for his grandfather? Now that door is open. Now those prayers are answered, and he goes into the court of the king.
So many times, people do not want to listen to a Christian's message. They want nothing to do with you, or your gospel, or your Jesus until there is a catastrophe, a war, a terrorist event, a death. Then, suddenly, they are interested in what you have to say. They are especially interested that you would pray for them and support them.
And so, you find that a war breaks out and people pour into churches. Suddenly, they are interested in what God might have to say to them. And after seeing those fingers writing a message on the wall, and the emotional response that he had, he is now open to hear anything. And fortunately, Daniel is ready.
You know, I love these kind of setups. I had a friend who actually used to be here for many years, Tom Stipe on staff of this church years ago. Pastors now in Denver. And he was working with several of the musical groups way back when, at Calvary Chapel. And everybody had heard of, at that time, John Lennon and the Beatles. And yet, not many had the opportunity to witness to them.
One day, Tom was at a recording session up in Los Angeles, when John Lennon was recording, I think, the Imagine album. He saw him in the studio, and John Lennon was watching the news. It was a Vietnam kind of an event; and he went off and said, what is this world coming to and these crooked politicians? And he went on, and Tom just thought, this has got to be a setup. I'm not in this room by accident. John Lennon just asked one of the most important questions ever.
So he stepped right in, and he said, I agree with you. I'm a revolutionary. I believe not in man's kingdom, but I believe in a whole 'nother revolutionary rule. Lennon thought, this is good. I like this. He wrote the song revolution. And he told him about Jesus Christ. He said Lennon locked his eyes on his and listened with rapt attention. Then he went ballistic again and, it would seem, rejected it. But what an opportunity to preach the gospel to somebody who has influenced so many people.
Well, that happens to us sometimes, on the road of life. You just don't know what kind of a setup might come your way. This last week, I was in North Carolina, at the Cove, speaking to a group of first responders-- people who, when a tragedy occurs, will go and be the first on site to minister to those at a hurricane or a terrorist threat. And they know the value of God getting people's attention through catastrophe and want to be there to comfort, and to counsel, and hopefully lead them to Christ.
Well, "Daniel was brought in," verse 13, "before the king The king spoke and said to Daniel, 'Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives from Judah, who my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard of you, that the spirit of God is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. Now, the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing and make known to me its interpretation. But they could not give the interpretation of the thing."
How embarrassing for them, standing around to hear this.
"And I have heard of you, that you can give interpretations and explain enigmas. 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."
This would make most people go, wow, really? Not Daniel. He's walked with God a long time and he's 80. He's been around the block. He knows what's ahead of him for all of eternity.
And so He says, "Daniel answered and said before the king 'Let your gifts be for yourself. Give your awards to another. I will read the writing to the king and make known to him its interpretation. O, king, the most high God-- singular-- 'gave Nebuchadnezzar, your Father, a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor. Because of the majesty that He gave him, all the peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whomever he wished, he executed. Whomever he wished, he kept alive. Whomever he wished, he set up. Whomever he wished, he put down.
But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne. And they took his glory from him. Then he was driven from the sons of men. His heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass, like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the most high God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He wishes. But you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this."
You know, when you call for a preacher, you better expect him to preach. And this preacher does. Four weighty charges are leveled by this 80-year-old prophet in the presence of king Belshazzar. First of all, he is saying, "You sinned against the light of the knowledge that you had. You did not humble your heart, but you knew all of this." Again, it was well attested in the annals of Babylon, what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar. And Belshazzar knew his history. He knew what had happened, but he was defiant against God.
God does expect us to learn from the light that we have, to respond to whatever form of revelation He has given us. It could be natural revelation. "The heavens declare the glory of God. The firmament showeth His handiwork." Every day, every night, they pour forth knowledge, and God expects every human being to respond to the form of revelation as simple or as advanced as He gives it.
This man had light. He knew what had happened. He knew what God had done. He had read the decree of Nebuchadnezzar. "But you didn't humble your heart," he says, "though you knew all this."
People will be judged according to the light that they have received and responded to.
You remember that Jesus spent His 3 and 1/2 year in ministry headquartered at Capernaum. And He preached in Capernaum. And He healed in Capernaum. More miracles are recorded in that city, of Jesus, than any other town.
He then went to Corazin in Bethsaida, those other outskirting villages on the Sea of Galilee. And to all three He pronounced severe judgment. "Woe unto you Capernaum. You were raised up to heaven; you will be brought down to hell." And He says that the judgment that they would receive would be far worse than the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus said, "If they would have had what you had, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."
Now, think for a moment about our country. How much light does it have? A nation that was once a nation that trusted in God and still put on its monies and in certain legal places, "In God We Trust."
Thousands of Christian radio stations dot our landscape. Hundreds of Christian television outlets, Christian bookstores, camps. How many sermons have been heard in America over the years? So, with that kind of light, the response should be overwhelming repentance. But it is not.
Thus, I honestly do fear for this nation. I love America. I'm praying for America. I fear for America, because of the light she has received and has rejected, time and time again. One author said, "It's not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting. It's been found and not tried in this country."
Well, that's the first accusation. "Belshazzar, you sinned against the light of the knowledge you received," verse 23. He deliberately challenged God. That's the second indictment. "And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven." See, this isn't ignorance. This is out and out defiance.
"They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives, your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you praise the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see, or hear, or know. And the God who holds your breath in His hand, and owns all your ways, you have not glorified."
Third accusation. "You worship idols-- lifeless, inept gods-- gods of gold and silver." What a contrast between these lifeless idols and the living God, who can write on walls. And he had just seen it.
And then, look at that phrase, "the God who holds your breath and owns all of your ways." What a tense moment this must have been, as it would seem that Daniel is giving this message in the context of the feast. Everybody is around hearing it, and Belshazzar the king is being put in his place.
"Then, the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this right writing was written. And this is the inscription that was written: "Mene mene tekel upharsin." The writing means, "Numbered, numbered, weighed, and divided or broken." This is the interpretation of each word. Mene, "God has numbered your kingdom and finished it." Tekel, "You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting." Peres, "Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians."
Notice that the first word, mene, numbered, is mentioned twice, probably for emphasis. He's saying, your number is up, individually, and your number is up as a kingdom.
You've been numbered. The number of your days is up. It was ending that night, his own life, as well as his own kingdom.
It was Moses who prayed in Psalm 90, "Lord, teach us to number our days, that we might apply our hearts to wisdom, or gain a heart of wisdom."
Your number is up. As Hebrews says, "It is appointed unto every man to die once; and after this, the judgment." One day, your number will be up. God knows that day; he knows the hour; he knows the moment. Of course, you and I don't. But if you knew that tonight would have been your last night on earth, would you have lived any differently?
If you would answer, oh, yes, I would if I knew tonight was the last night that I'd live on Earth. I would have changed a lot of things. Then if that's so, it's time to change tonight, now, in the presence of God and His people.
And then He says tekel. "Mene mene tekel upharsin." That means weighed, weighed in the balances. You've been weighed in God's balances, the divine scales, and found lacking or wanting.
The word tekel literally is "light," or "light-weight," or "without substance." When you place something on the scale and it lacks the substance that's over against the other weight, so that the scales tip, that's the idea. As if to say, Belshazzar you're a lightweight. You lack depth. You have no substance. You're all fluff. You're all talk.
And then peres, broken or divided. Now, it says, "Mene mene tekel upharsin." "U" is Aramaic for the word "and." It's very similar to Hebrew. Their word for "and" is the sound "vuh." So, if you were to ask a Hebrew what time it was, and they said, [? Steim ?] [? va ?] [? chetze, ?] 2 and 1/2, the "vuh" is the "and." So, He's saying, and-- u-- pharsin, the Aramaic plural for peres. So, you have been numbered in your personal life, and in the life of your kingdom.
"Mene mene tekel," you've been weighed; you're a lightweight. And your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians. Also, the word peres is a play on words of the word Paras, which is the Aramaic for Persia. At that very moment, the Persians were getting under the city of Babylon, through the Euphrates River, and about ready to overtake the city itself.
Then, Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be third ruler in the kingdom. Daniel wasn't impressed. That very night Belshazzar, the king of the Chaldeans, was slain.
Now, just think about that for a moment. That very night, he was having the party of his life. He was the Babylonian party animal, boosting morale. And judgment was coming upon him. And that was the last night he would live. That night, he was slain. There is a last night for everyone; a last meal, a last statement.
The handwriting was on the wall for him.
"It is appointed, for every man, once to die, and after this, the judgment." In judgment, you won't be in a banquet hall. If you don't know Christ, you'll be in the judgment hall. "And the books were opened," Revelation 20, "and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And everyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone."
Here's the good news. Yes, there is a handwriting of ordinances that is against everyone who doesn't know Christ. But if you're in Christ, if you've received God's solution for your sin, the payment for your penalty, then, as Colossians tells us, He has taken away or wiped out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, nailing it to the cross.
For some people, when life is over here, and death overtakes them, the party will be all over, like it was for Belshazzar. For others of us, the party just begins. It just begins, forever and ever, to be in His sight, in glory, enjoying His presence.
And verse 31, Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about 62 years old. So, Cyrus the commander, through Darius-- and some people think that Darius is a title that was ascribed to one of the generals, also called "uga baru," I know that's a weird name-- and that "uga baru" was the guy who was in charge of taking over the city of Babylon.
The Greek historian, Herodotus, gives us the story. He says, the Babylonians came down-- remember they defeated-- excuse me, the Persians came down from the north. They defeated the Babylonians in that battle. Now, they come and attack Babylon. They stop a few miles short of Babylon, in the city and the settlements of Opus. And they take over the canal system of the Tigris and Euphrates River.
Then, they managed to divert the Euphrates River, short of Babylon, into another canal, lowering the water of the Euphrates River, as that Greek historian, Herodotus, tells us, to the level of a man's thigh-- his words. That enables them to go underneath. The gates that lock the city we're left open, that night, by some drunk soldier, inebriated no doubt, from this party. And the Persians were able to get under the city and overtake it. It was basically a bloodless takeover, virtually.
Now, of course God predicted this. Not only did He say it would happen, He said who would do it. Isaiah chapter 13, "Behold! Thus saith the Lord, 'I stir up the Medes against them," was the prediction. And this is the Medo-Persian Empire. And then, later on, in chapter 45 of Isaiah, God gets very particular.
And He says this: "Thus saith the Lord to his anointed," to Cyrus, "whose right hand I have held to subdue nations before him and loosed the armor of kings to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut." A prediction of the night that Cyrus and his armies would overtake Babylon, going through those levied doors. The city of Babylon was taken.
Cyrus wouldn't be born for hundreds of years, and yet, God mentions his name. And it comes to pass. Now, chapter 6, it opens up where Babylon is under new management. Years have passed. Darius the Mede is the emperor, the viceroy to the king, king Cyrus. Daniel is probably 87 years old. Now, just think about that. He's pushing 90. He's close to 90. And it's the time where a lot of people think, look, retire, enjoy yourself. Take the rest of your life and kick back. You've earned it. Take a sabbatical Daniel. Not Daniel. He's like the ever ready bunny. He just-- he's like pastor Chuck.
Just keeps going, and going, and going. And that's what we pray for, amen?
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, these provincial rulers, to bear reign over the kingdom. And over these three governors, whom Daniel was one of the satraps, might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. Then, Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.
Go back in your mind to Daniel, as a teenager, in chapter 1, where he purposed in his heart not to defile himself. God honored that integrity. Nebuchadnezzar noticed it, advanced him. Later on, Belshazzar makes him third ruler of the kingdom. And now, Darius the Mede, who is over this realm, sees this aged fellow and seeks to set him also over the realm. Notice it says he has an excellent spirit. Could be translated, an extraordinary attitude. Now, if you mix a high work ethic with a good attitude, you have the kind of people I want to hire. And they are the kind of people that are so often promoted, as they were promoted here. Daniel had that extraordinary attitude.
Did you know that in the first century A.D., many of the Christians in the early church were slaves, sold at the slave markets of the Roman Empire? Did you know that Christian slaves commanded a higher price? Because there was noticed an attitude that others didn't have. It was as if these Christians, caught in this political machine of Rome as slaves, rather than protesting against slavery, thought, how can I be the very best slave in the Roman Empire and serve my master in such a way that people take notice of it? And they commanded, at one time, the highest prices. Attitude.
A man approached three workers, all doing the same job and asked them individually, what are you doing? One man said in disgust, I'm breaking rocks.
The second man said, I'm earning a living. The third said, I'm building a cathedral. They were all doing the same work, but the attitude of the third-- I'm building a cathedral.
And here's Daniel, caught in Babylon, still a captive. But saw himself there by the will of God. And what a great witness. "So, the governors and the satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel, concerning the kingdom. But they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful. Nor was there any error or fault found in him. Then these men said, "We shall not find any charge against this Daniel, unless we find it against him, concerning the law of his God." There's jealousy brewing in the hearts of his colleagues.
Verse 3 tells us why, because the King wanted to set Daniel over them. Admit it, it's hard to see other people blessed when you're not. That's human nature. Yet, the Bible says we are to rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep.
But have you discovered it's a lot easier to weep with those that weep, than to rejoice with those that rejoice? Somebody is weeping, because a bad thing happened to them. You go, hey, didn't happen to me. I'll pray for you. I can counsel you, and I can console you. And I can encourage you, but didn't happen to me.
But when someone else is blessed, and God meets their need miraculously, wonderfully, but He hasn't seen fit to meet yours in the same way, how do you respond? Example: let's say your car is trashed. You could use a new one. It's got 700,000 miles on it.
People here you coming, and see you smoking, from blocks away. And someone comes up to you at church and goes, you wouldn't believe what happened! This guy just gave me a brand new car. Hallelujah, will you rejoice with me? Yeah, praise God, brother. It's not so exciting. Jealousy is so easy. It's the jaundice of the soul. It's taking over these colleagues of Daniel.
So these governors and satraps thronged before the king and said to him, "King Darius, live forever. All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and the satraps, the counselors, the advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree that whoever petitions any God or man for 30 days, except you O, King, shall be cast into the den of lions.
Now this is a lie. They didn't consult Daniel. Obviously, Daniel would not have agreed to this at all, as you'll see. But it's a lie designed to get the king to do something that they want him to do, to manipulate him. "Now, O, King establish the decree and sign the writing so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which does not alter." Therefore, King Darius signed the decree.
King Darius it seems has a weakness.
He was easily manipulated by flattery. This is not a good trade for any leader. Because people around these kind of leaders figure it out very quickly. And they'll go in, and they'll butter up the king; you are the most wonderful thing, King, since sliced bread. Oh, thank you! What can I do for you?
He had a weakness.
Now, something to notice before we go on. Remember back to that poly-metallic image that Nebuchadnezzar saw? Head of gold, and then the silver, then the bronze, then the iron, then iron and clay? And we noted that the specific gravity, and the value, decreased as you went from gold all the way down, so that each kingdom that would succeed the previous kingdom was inferior to the previous kingdom. Now we have a little bit of a highlight as to how Medo-Persia was inferior to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was a strong ruler. And whatever Nebuchadnezzar wanted, it happened. And he could change his mind at the drop of a hat; nobody would say anything. He was the king. He was in charge.
Not so with the middle Persian Empire. Instead of this monarch, they conferred all of the rules, and regulations, and authority to a group of nobles. It became the law of the Medes and the Persians. So that once that was signed and sealed, even the king couldn't alter it. Even if the king saw, that's a bad plan, it couldn't be altered. So his authority wasn't the same kind of authority, and that was a weakness in that kingdom.
"Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day; and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since the early days. Then, these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God."
You see, Daniel knew the law was passed, and he is at a crossroads of a decision. He had a lot of options, perhaps. I'll lay low for 30 days. I won't do anything, save my neck. Or he thought, I don't have to open my windows and make a public display out of it. I don't want to be ostentatious. I'll close the windows. After all, religion is a private thing. He doesn't. He opens the window so everybody can see him, faces Jerusalem-- Why? Because the temple once stood there. It was the center of their hope to rebuild it. Every synagogue today still faces Jerusalem. And he prays.
He's not doing this to be ostentatious. This is not an in-your-face expression. It was always his custom. Why should he change now? He's done it since he was a kid when he purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself. He's always worshipped God this way. He's always been open about his testimony. He's not going to hide now.
I love that consistency. I love that about Daniel; as was his custom. Again, Daniel believed, like his three friends previously believed, that it's better to die for a conviction than to live with compromise. So he opened the windows.
"And they went before the King and spoke concerning the King's decree, 'Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any god or man within 30 days, except you, O, King, shall be cast into the den of lions? And the King answered and said, 'This thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which does not alter. So they answered and said before the king, 'That Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, does not show due regard for you, O, King, for the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.
And the king, when he heard these words, was greatly displeased with himself and set his heart on Daniel, to deliver him. And he labored until the going down of the sun to deliver him. Then, these men approached the king and said to the king, "No, O, King, that this is the law of the Medes and the Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed."
You see, he doesn't have the authority that the Babylonian Empire, under Nebuchadnezzar, once had. He is bound by this law. "So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, 'Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you."
Listen to that testimony. Wouldn't it be great if unbelievers who watch our lives would be able to say, your God whom you serve continually? I'm encouraged by this.
They have discovered some lions' dens in North Africa, in Morocco, that correspond to this. Now, when I was in Babylon, they showed us what may have been an ancient lion's den. But what they think it was, was a hole in the ground. It was square. It was divided in two, with a partition and a door that was controlled from the top.
Somebody had the ability to, with a chain, open and close that portal, so that a lion was on one side; humans were on the other side; a door was opened. Meat would be thrown into the side of the humans and entice the lion to go in. The door was shut, and it was regulated that way. Then, the opening on top would have been closed and sealed with the signet ring of the emperor meaning, don't mess with it.
So, Daniel was cast in testimony of the King your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you. "Then, a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring, and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed. Now the King went to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no musicians were brought before him. Also, his sleep went from him."
So the camera pans from the lion's den now to the King's bedroom. And what a sleepless night he had. No music no food no sleep.
I would say Daniel had a better sleep that night than this fellow. He wasn't worried. If I know Daniel right, his God will deliver him. The king is nervous.
One of the greatest things about being a Christian is the peace that passes understanding. How many times I've spoken with people in difficult circumstances, excruciating periods of their lives. And I've even been in a few myself, where I will say, God has been so faithful to be so close and to give a peace and a rest that you really can't explain. It passes all understanding.
I've always loved the story about Peter, when Herod had killed James and put Peter in prison. And God dispatched an angel, because the church was praying that he would be released. And the angel came to the prison where Peter was, and it says that Peter was sleeping. And so the angel had to, sort of, kick him to get him awake.
Now, what's odd about that is the next day, Peter was facing execution. And Peter's in the prison--
--having a great night's sleep. At rest. At peace.
The Roman emperor Caesar Augustus heard a rumor of a man in Rome who owed a great debt that he was unable to pay, but that this same man got a good night's sleep every night. It so impressed Caesar Augustus, that he demanded that his troops find the bed upon which that man slept and buy it, so that the King could sleep on it, as if it was the Posture-Pedic mattress. Had nothing to do with it. It was a waste of time and a waste of money, because "He will keep him, God will keep him, in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Him." So the peace that God gives.
Then, the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste, in a hurry. He wants to see what happens to the den of lions. "And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, 'Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?" I don't know how long the pause was--
--but there was tension in this man's heart. "And Daniel said to the king, 'O, King, live forever."
Again, what a wonderful witness. How respectful, in deference to the king. Not, yeah, what's it to you? But O, King, live forever, in respect. "My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouth, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him. And also, O, king, I have done no wrong before you. "
Maybe Daniel said something like, yeah, I didn't get a peep out of these lions all night. I wanted to see what their teeth looked like, but their mouths were shut. But had a great time last night, O, King. "And the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatsoever was found on him, because he believed in his God."
There are so many wonderful stories in the Bible, like this, of God's ability to deliver His children from the very worst of circumstances. They're true; they're historic. They happened. God delivered Daniel. But because of the stories of God's miraculous deliverance of so many, whether it's Peter, or Daniel, or the three Hebrew children, or Paul the Apostle, we tend to feel cheated when that's not our experience. And it's a mistake to think that this kind of deliverance is going to happen every time, for every Christian. Be careful.
Peter was released from prison. James was beheaded. You say that's not fair. Why would God deliver one and allow another one to die? Well, there's probably a lot of answers to that.
But one answer is that James was also delivered, as well as Peter. You know what happened to James, as soon as his head was cut off? He was in glory. That's the ultimate deliverance. He was delivered from all of the pain and persecution that could come his way. He was forever and still is tonight in the presence of God. That's a great deliverance.
I don't think he was cheated. Do you?
Second, it seems to deal with God's deciding when your ministry is completed or not. You know, God uses us for His own glory, for His own purpose, and whenever that purpose in His eyes, in His mind, is done, then it's time to go home. That's great!
In Revelation 11, the two witnesses had miraculous power. They called fire down from heaven. They were immune to any kind of threat, any kind of attack. But it says, when they finished their testimony, when that was all done, then the beast was given authority to slay them. And they died.
"So, the king gave the command," verse 24, "and they brought those men who had accused Daniel and cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, their wives. And the lions overpowered them, broke all their bones in pieces, before they ever came to the bottom of the den." So please don't listen to any of those liberal thinkers who said, well, Daniel was untouched because these lions weren't hungry.
Read the rest of the story. They were hungry. They were so hungry that these people didn't even touch the bottom of the cave. They were destroyed by these lions.
King Darius wrote, "To all the people, nations, and languages that dwell on the Earth, peace be multiplied to you. I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom, men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for He is the living God and steadfast forever. His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed. And His dominion shall endure to the end."
And the rest of the book of Daniel, this prophetic section beginning in chapter 7, will underscore that truth time and time again. God has a plan to set up a kingdom that will never end. He delivers and rescues. And He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
So, this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel prospered in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel prospered in the reign of Belshazzar. Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and Cyrus. From a teenager, when he purposed in his heart not to file himself with the king's table, to the time he was almost 90 years of age, faithful, faithful.
Never underestimate the power of a godly life, a life simply made available and surrendered to the Lord. Sky's the limit, what God could do to use us. Ever think about it this way, that if the Lord Jesus could take 12 fishermen from Galilee-- minus one, Judas, so he's got 11 left, then Paul the Apostle-- if he could take those simple guys and turn the world upside down through them, what he could do with 1,200? 12,000? Dare to be a Daniel. It's an old hymn that goes that way. The power of a godly life surrendered.
One of the chaplains of the United States Senate was Peter Marshall from Scotland. He came to our country, exerted great influence. Peter Marshall had several stories he liked to tell. One was the story called The Keeper of the Spring.
It seems that there was a village up in the Austrian Alps. And living above this village was an old guy, whose job it was, employed by the city, to clear out the pools of water up in the mountains, that collected water, and empty them into the spring that fed the river that went through the center of the town. So he would pick up debris, leaves, twigs. And there was that water mill that churned the water over and over again. And he made sure it was always clean. He was called the keeper of the spring.
One day, they had a town meeting, and people looked over the budget and saw that there was on the budget a line item that said "keeper of the spring" and then his wage. They'd never seen him before. And so, one of the guys deemed him irrelevant. Get rid of this salary. I never see him. We'll save a little bit of money. So they cut his salary, told the guy he was fired, and for the first few weeks, nobody noticed a thing.
Then, early fall hit the Austrian Alps. Leaves began to fall from the trees; branches broke off. Nobody was there to clear the debris from those pools that fed the rivulets, that came into the river. One day, somebody looked at the river in the middle of that hamlet and noticed a pale yellow color. A few days later it was darker. A few days later, there was a film of scum that was on certain parts of the lakes and the river and a foul odor.
So, the businesses that had once relocated, and the restaurants that were there, and the hotels that were there decided, let's move some place else.
And the town became almost a ghost town. People evacuated. Then, the city council recognized their fatal error. And they hired back the keeper of the spring, who in constant, silent, faithful persistence, went to clear the twigs and the leaves. And that town came to life once again.
Peter Marshall would often point out that what the keeper of the spring was to that Austrian village, Christians are to be to this world. Keepers of the spring, men and women of such integrity that people take notice, and excellent spirit is in them. They're the cream of the crop. They're the best we have.
Our Heavenly Father, how exciting to look at our lives in that light, the possibility of You taking simple people like us, who would dare to say, Lord, use me. As that young man heard that sermon and heard the preachers say, the world has yet to see what God can do through one man, wholly devoted to Him. And said by the grace of God, I will be that man. We say to You, by the grace that You give, oh, Lord, we want to be those men and those women devoted to You, for Your purpose, looking for those divine setups this week.
Influencing people at work, in our neighborhood; telling them about Jesus Christ; inviting them to church; discipling them in the Word. Oh, Lord, use us for Your glory and Your purpose. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.
Shall we stand?
(SINGING) Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.
(SINGING) And He shall lift you up, higher and higher. And He shall lift you up, up into Heaven. Then He shall lift you up. Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord. Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord. And He shall lift you up, higher and higher. And He shall lift you up, up into Heaven. Then He shall lift you