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The Writing Is on the Wall

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
May 23, 2021 6:00 am

The Writing Is on the Wall

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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May 23, 2021 6:00 am

As we continue our series through the book of Daniel, Pastor J.D. preaches through Daniel 5, another story of God taking down a prideful, rebellious, selfish king. But this is much bigger than one king. Through this story, we’ll see God’s verdict on all of humanity: We have been weighed; we have been measured; and we have been found wanting. On our own, this news would crush us. But in Christ, all our insufficiency is swallowed up in his goodness.

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Good morning, Summit Church at our different campus locations in the Triangle and those of you who are joining us right now by home. Daniel chapter 5, if you have your Bible this morning and I hope that you brought your Bible, if you will open it up or turn it on to Daniel chapter 5. As you're doing that, how many of you have heard the phrase, the writing is on the wall? You have heard that phrase? It is a phrase that usually means that something bad is about to happen, that your fate has been sealed. That phrase comes from Daniel chapter 5 and most people don't realize that.

The year, the year is 539 BC. Nearly 70 years have passed since Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and a few others whose names we don't know, were brought in chains to Babylon. Daniel is an old man now.

He is well over 80 years old. Nebuchadnezzar is dead, has been for about 23 years and Belshazzar, his uber privileged spoiled grandson is now on the throne. Belshazzar is hosting a party. Daniel chapter 5, an all out rager in our terms, a hundred kegger. We know that by the way because the Aramaic word that is used for wine in the very first verse, verse 1 to describe the party literally means lots of wine.

That is what it means in Aramaic. Lots of kegs and lots of bottles. Suddenly as they were partying it up, a mysterious floating hand appears and begins to carve a message into the plaster on the wall. Now talk about terrifying, freaky even.

I mean imagine what that would have been like if you had been there in that moment. You are at a party. You are at a party and suddenly a severed floating hand appears and begins to etch three mysterious words into the wall and then it just disappears. The three words were numbered, weighed and divided.

Numbered, weighed and divided. People start screaming and the party descends into chaos. The Babylonian wise men are summoned but none of them can tell the king what it means. When the elderly queen, Nebuchadnezzar's widow, Belshazzar's grandmother says, you know, I once knew a man who could interpret messages like this and she tells him about Daniel.

Evidently Daniel had long since retired from public life or maybe he had just been put out to pasture. Either way they sinned for Daniel and he comes in. He reads the message on the wall and he says, mene, mene, that word means numbered and that means that God has numbered the days of your kingdom, Belshazzar, and he has brought it to an end.

Tekel, that word means weighed and it means that you have been weighed in the balances, the divine balances and you have been found deficient. Unlike his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar had never humbled himself before God. Parson, parson, that means divided and that means your kingdom will this very night be divided and given to the Medes and the Persians. You see that very night, less than 50 miles away, the army of the Medes and the Persians have coalesced to mount a joint attack against the Babylon and that very night Babylon will be overthrown and Belshazzar and all the royal family will die. This story is ultimately about how God ultimately brought down the prideful, rebellious, unjust Babylonian empire and how he kept his promise to restore his people, Israel, to their promised land.

But this story also gives us a picture into how God deals with prideful, rebellious people in all times and all places. So I want us to look at this story through two different lenses. The first is what it meant for Babylon and then secondly what it means for us. And I'm going to give you four things to that regard.

Here they are, I'll give you the whole outline up front. Number one, we're going to talk about partying in the face of death. Number two, we're going to talk about the failure of our wise men. Then number three, we're going to talk about the writing on the wall for all of us.

And then number four, how the finger of God has appeared to you and to me. By the way, if I could just real quick share a little historical tidbit before we get started. For years and years and years and years and years, in religion 101 classes, in secular universities all over the nation, they always took this story about Belshazzar as proof that you couldn't really trust the historical details of the Bible because every historian knew, every historian knew they said that the last king in Babylon was a guy named Nebonitis. Nebonitis, it was Nebuchadnezzar's son. In fact, they said there was no historical proof that any king named Belshazzar had ever even lived. So boom, there you go, Bible is not true, a bunch of made up myths. But then not too long ago, some archeologists dug up an inscription in the Iraqi desert right around the place where the Babylonian palace would have been and guess what it revealed? That Nebonitis just a couple of years before this event had moved out into the desert and left his son Belshazzar in charge as acting king of Babylon. So boom, back at you, the Bible is historically reliable after all. That is why, by the way, in the story Belshazzar offered Daniel as a reward the third highest place in the kingdom because technically his dad Nebonitis was still first and he, Belshazzar, was second.

My point here is not to disrespect secular historians or to imply that most of them are not doing very good work, just to say that when somebody tells you that history or science proves that the Bible is wrong, what I've found is usually if you just give it a little bit of time, give it a little bit of time, you'll end up seeing that the apparent contradiction usually clears up when we gain a little more information or a better understanding on what the author was actually trying to say, okay? That's just your little historical tidbit. Here we go though, four things, four things.

Number one, let's talk about partying in the face of death. What is unusual about this party is that Belshazzar knew that the combined armies of the Medes and the Persians were less than 50 miles away. He was very aware of that. Everybody in Babylon knew that and everybody was on edge. This was not the first time that the city had been attacked, of course, but this one seemed different because this was a humongous, well-organized army. So why, you and I might ask, why in the face of this kind of danger, this imminent threat, why is he throwing a party?

Well, we don't know exactly. Maybe he's trying to put on a brave face. Maybe he's trying to inspire everyone by his courage.

Maybe he's trying to drown his own fears and amusement and alcohol. Maybe he is just so arrogant that he thinks Babylon can never fall. Many of you are not old enough to remember this, but you remember all the wacky ways that people responded to the turning of the millennium in 1999.

Remember that? Those of you who are young won't remember this, but there were all these doomsday theories about Y2K and a computer bug and it was going to cause a global computer crash that would bring civilization as we knew it to a screeching halt. Power grids would fail. The food supply chains would break down. Money would evaporate out of our banks.

There would be gas shortages and you know how that goes. People were genuinely worried. They were genuinely worried. Some people responded by stockpiling. I knew a lot of Christians.

In fact, I'm looking at some of you right now who are in that category. About five or six years after Y2K was over, I was at the home of one of our very first church planter. His name was Josh Cenk and I opened up one of his closets to get something and it was stacked floor to ceiling with non-perishable food items like five gallon buckets of rice and MREs and potted meats and that kind of thing. And I was like, Josh, what is this? And he kind of grinned sort of sheepishly and he said, check this out. And then he took me to every single closet in his house, which were all packed floor to ceiling with non-perishable foods. And I was like, Josh, what on earth? And he was like, well, you remember Y2K?

He's like, you take a little bit of technology and a lot of N Tom's prophecy and you end up with $25,000 worth of food supply. So there's a lot of people that responded to the fear of Y2K by stockpiling. Others, however, responded by partying.

It even became a phrase, right? Somebody like it's 1999. In fact, how many of you were a little, just be honest, okay, safe place. How many of you were a little scared when the clock actually flipped that night? You were a little tense.

Just raise your hand. Like I was a little, I was a little, I was a little afraid. How many of you were at a party anyway? I heard about one guy who had a bunch of people over to his house on New Year's Eve.

True story. And when the countdown was at 30, he slipped down into the basement. He could hear everybody upstairs counting down five, four, three, two. When he hit one, right as the clock struck midnight, he killed all the power in the house. He says people started screaming and freaking out.

He said it took at least a minute before somebody went outside and figured out that the rest of the neighborhood still had power. So that was pretty awesome. That's how to do it. Belshazzar, Belshazzar parties in the face of death, which is not that uncommon.

He, in fact, he would say he partied like it was 539 BC. Why do people do this? Why is that a not uncommon human instinct?

Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher, I love to quote a lot, said, said, said it's actually the most consistent human reaction to unpleasant thoughts about mortality is to do something to distract themselves. And usually it's with amusement. He uses a couple of analogies. One of them I use all the time.

Here's the other one. He said life, he said, is like being in a stagecoach that is barreling toward a cliff and you know the cliff is coming and you can't stop the stagecoach or get out of it. But instead of thinking about your coming death and what it means for you, you begin to distract yourself from the thought with observations about the beautiful scenery around you or you engage in pleasant contact conversation or witty banter with the fellow passenger sitting there with you in the stagecoach. You just kind of distract yourself. You know it's coming, but you don't want to think about it.

So you punt the question. The Jewish atheist philosopher Ernst Becker says in his book The Denial of Death that in the face of our own mortality, human beings usually turn to one of three things to console ourselves, all three of which, by the way, you'll see here what Belses are. First, he said, we tend to boast about our accomplishments as if those accomplishments give us some kind of immortality. We try to tell ourselves and our children that we've done something that has added meaning to human history and our significance therefore will last forever. We've really helped advance our career field. We've left something different in the world that we have changed or we console ourselves that we've left a legacy to our children or maybe it's a lot of money to our children that's going to help future generations of our family live well.

You can see Belses are doing that here. He brings out all the gold and silver that they conquered from other kingdoms to show that Babylon is special and had done what nobody else, no other kingdom had ever done. Second, Ernst Becker said, he said, we turn to romance. Romance, we find meaning in the thrills of sex or the feeling of being treasured by someone. Their love, he said, justifies us. It gives us a reason to live.

We see in Belses, our party here, we see it's filled with all kinds of wives and concubines and sex. Finally, he said, we turn to religion. We turn to religion to show that for whatever's out there, we would be worthy of it. We use religion to console ourselves that we're the best of all people and that for whatever's next, we'll be counted worthy.

You can see that there in Belses are in his extravagant toasting of the Babylonian gods. Becker, who again was an atheist, said human beings simply cannot live in a full honest awareness of the meaning of death. He said, even if you are one of those rare people that others still talk about 10 years after you're gone, he says, you know, one day our sun itself, our S-U-N, it's going to burn up and then there will be no trace of any of us that even we even existed.

Becker said that when we die, we're gone then and nothing matters unless it's done for the kingdom of God, the kingdom of a god who outlasts time and whose rule extends beyond the grave. Steve Jobs, who was Apple's legendary founder and CEO passed away a few years ago, was asked on 60 Minutes right before he died, was asked by the interviewer whether he believed in God or not. He kind of thought for a minute. He said that throughout his life, sometimes he had and sometimes he hadn't. He said, but after I was diagnosed with cancer, I found myself wanting to believe. And so the interviewer said, why that change? He said, because it cannot be that when we die that it all just fades to black.

All the wisdom that we have accumulated as a race, all of our accomplishments, somehow that has to live on. Incidentally, he said that's why he never liked to put on off switches on Apple devices. He just didn't like the idea of being able to just flip a switch and shut something off, which explains some of your frustration, at least mine. I'm like, how do I turn this thing off? I don't know where the on off button is. That was intentional. He just didn't like the idea that you just flip it and turn it off.

He'd rather to sort of slowly fade to black. Friend, what is your life? What is your life? You can't party throughout your life and not think about those questions. Are you prepared to die? It is appointed unto man once to die. You see, the only difference between Belshazzar and us is that he was told the day that he would die. You and I may not know the exact day that we're going to die.

It might be a month now, might be 10 years from now, might be 70 years from now, might be this afternoon. We may not know the day like he did, but we are just as certain of that day's inevitability. It is appointed unto you once to die. Only one life to live will soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last.

Are you prepared to meet God? And isn't that the only question that actually matters? So maybe it's time to stop distracting yourselves and giving false senses of meaning to yourself and think about the questions that actually matter. Number two, we see not only party in the face of death, we see number two, the failure of our wise men. The failure of our wise men, a repeated theme of Daniel in the book of Daniel is the failure of Babylon's wise men to deliver for the king when the questions really matter. Now obviously the wise men contributed something or the Babylonian king would never have kept them around. So they did something helpful for Babylonian knowledge, but consistently in the book of Daniel, when it really matters, when there's a really important dream or vision or question, consistently they let the king down. And each of those times Daniel appears and reveals that there is a God in heaven who can do what the wise men cannot do. There comes a point at which the wise men of every age and every culture fail. It does not mean that they do not have a role.

It just means there comes a point with ultimate questions that they fail us at best and lead us astray at worst. So let me ask you to consider, who would qualify in our culture as wise men today? I might first say scientists. And let me be very clear, science and scientists are wonderful gifts of God.

They are to be revered and celebrated and trusted in their spheres of authority. But we see places today where science fails us, right? Or at least where science has proven unable to answer questions that we really need answers to. I mean, somebody says to me today, and I hear this on a semi-regular basis, I only believe in science. Science is all that I need.

And I always want to say, really? Can science tell you what's right or wrong? Can it tell you what your purpose is?

No. As soon as a scientist stops looking through a microscope and starts philosophizing about the meaning of life, they have left science and now they're engaging in superstition or philosophy, foundationless pontifications about the unknown. Science can tell us the what and the how, but not the why. Only the creator can give us the why. Only something or someone that is before the material world and beyond the material world, only a creator that outlasts the material world can give us meaning.

So science is awesome, but it fails us on the ultimate questions of life. I might add to my list of wise men next, I would add our politicians and educators. Again, I think those are very valuable careers and a lot of respect for those of you involved in that, but haven't they also proven unable to solve humanity's primary problems? Has any political philosophy proved able to correct the most base human impulses toward corruption and greed or abuse of power? The right talks about the importance of family and traditional values and integrity and leadership and then puts up Donald Trump as their champion. The left talks about about ending discrimination, but then leaked emails from Hollywood elites reveal that racism is as much as much a problem there as anywhere. The left talks about caring for the poor, but then it's revealed that most are not personally involved. Statistically, they give less to poverty relief than their counterparts on the right. Pastor Brian, most of you know, Pastor Brian on our team here just moved here from San Francisco, the Bay Area, and he said, you know, if you really want to disabuse yourself of the myth that all the thought leaders on the left care about the poor, just go to San Francisco where most of them live and watch how they deal with the homeless there. He said their main strategy is to give the homeless vouchers to incentivize them to go be homeless somewhere else.

On the outskirts of town, he says, you see rows and rows of tents of homeless people who are literally shipped out of town so they can be out of sight, out of mind and not mess up the San Francisco young, single and wealthy vibe. Listen, the point of all that is not to pick on the right or the left. And I know it sounds like I'm doing both. Nor am I trying to say that nobody on the right really cares about morality or that nobody on the left cares about the poor. And I'm definitely not trying to say that there's never a wiser choice in politics so you can save your emails, okay? My point is simply that our political and educational wise men have also proven unable to cure on any large scale the problems of the human race at their core, in their source, which is in our hearts. So I would say just like with Babylon, these wise men have a wonderful role in our society, but when it comes to the ultimate questions in our lives, our wise men from Stephen Hawking to Stephen Jobs to party leaders on the right or left have failed us. And that means we need a word from God. That's why Daniel, by the way, won't let Belshazzar pay him to provide the interpretation. You see verse 17, he's like, hey, you can keep your gifts.

You can keep your gifts and give your rewards to somebody else. I'll read the inscription for the king and make the interpretation known to him free of charge. In other words, this is not my word. I can't sell it to you. It's God's word. You're offering me money, offering money, Belshazzar, as if this message comes from me or belonged to me.

But that's just not how this works. All I can do for you is tell you the truth. Friend, you need a word from God. And I will tell you, I don't know what you came in here for this morning, but that word doesn't come from me. I can deliver it to you. I can point you to it, but it doesn't come from me. It belongs to him. You don't pay me for it. It's something that comes straight from his mouth.

And whether you listen to it is between you and him, not you and me. The failure of our wise men. By the way, don't forget that the wise men who saw the star in the sky and ultimately came to see the baby Jesus were from this region. Babylon, of course, had long since fallen by the time Jesus was born, but the traditions and the writings of the wise men had remained. Isn't it interesting that somehow in their writings and their traditions, these wise men had been taught to look toward heaven for a clue about how the world would ultimately be saved.

That kind of gives me chills. Through encounters like this one, they were taught that ultimate answers about human purpose and destiny, for those answers, you had to look toward heaven. And so one day, God just put a star there and said, here's your answer. And 500 years after this story, a group of them show up to see the baby Jesus and they're asking where is the one who is the deliverer of the world?

That kind of thing happened because of stories like this one. Number three, we see the writing on the wall for all of us. We see party in the face of death. We see the failure of our wise men. Number three, the writing on the wall for all of us. Menemene, your days are numbered. Tekel, you've been weighed on the balance and been found deficient. Parson, your kingdom has been taken from you and divided.

The Bible says that this will ultimately be God's verdict on all of us. Let me explain. As Daniel interprets this message, he explains the nature of Belshazzar's sin. First, he recounts what God had taught Belshazzar's grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, how God had humbled him by making him go insane for seven years and eat grass like a cow. You're like, that sounds like an interesting story. That's last week's message.

You can go back and get it. And then how at the end of that seven years, he looked toward heaven and acknowledged that heaven rules. And then Daniel said, verse 22, but you Belshazzar, you have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. Instead, you've exalted yourself against the Lord of the heavens.

The vessels from God's house are brought to you. And as you and your nobles, wives and concubines drank wine from them, you praise the gods made of silver and gold, which do not see or hear or understand. And you have not glorified the God who holds your life breath in his hand and who controls the whole course of your life.

I read that and I hear Daniel charging Belshazzar with two primary things. Two things that I would say are the essence of all of our sin. First, he says, you have not worshiped God as God. You have not given God glory. You have not credited God with all your power and success. When you got done with the victory lap, you didn't point to him, you raised your own hands. You have not lived your life in response to him. He has not held first place in your heart. Instead, you worship idols because you thought you could control them. And you've lived to please yourself, not God.

That's first. He said, you took the vessels that God set apart for his purposes and you used them, you commandeered them for yours. Specifically, Daniel identifies that the temple artifacts that Belshazzar stole from the, or Belshazzar's grandfather stole from the temple in Jerusalem and he's now using the party, knives and plates and goblets and candlesticks that have been consecrated to the worship of God, that Belshazzar is now using for his drunken brawl. But in calling this out, I believe Daniel is giving us a glimpse into the nature of all sin. Thank you for writing stuff down. Write this down. Sin consists of taking what God has set apart for his purposes and using it for our own. Same thing.

May not be as dramatic as temple artifacts, but when you really see how the New Testament talks about sin, you'll see it's the same exact thing. Let me give you a few examples of where we do this in our day. Start with an easy one. Your talents.

You do it with your talents. Your gifts and talents were given to you by God to glorify him and serve him and to not ask what purpose in your kingdom did you give me these talents for? That would be like stealing from God, even if you do everything else right and go to church three times a week. Jesus told a story about three servants that were given different units of money. One was given, let's just say $5,000. One was given $3,000. One was given $1,000 and the master who gave these servants that money went away on a long trip. The one who had $5,000 took it and invested it like he was supposed to and turned it into $10,000. The one who had $3,000 took it and invested it and turned it into $6,000. The one who had $1,000 was very afraid of losing it, so instead of investing it like he was supposed to, he dug a hole and buried it. So the master comes back and says, okay, let's see the money I gave to you. Let's see what you did with it. So the guy with five turned it to 10, showed it to him, and Jesus was like, that's fantastic.

Exactly what I wanted. Well done, good and faithful servant. Same thing to the guy with three, turned it into six. Well done, good and faithful servant. The guy with one digs up the stuff, pulls it out of the ground, hands him back $1,000.

Not a penny less, not a penny more. What has always struck me and made me shudder is what Jesus said, what the master says to this servant. He says, you wicked servant. When I read that, I have to ask him, what wicked thing had he done? He used the word, what wicked thing had he done? I mean, he didn't, there was no evidence that he'd taken the money and blown it on prostitutes or stolen it or gone gambling with it. He took $1,000 and gave him back $1,000. Yet that master called that action wicked.

And here's my conclusion. Evidently, there is more than one way in the eyes of Jesus to be wicked. You can be wicked by breaking all the 10 commandments. Adultery, stealing, murder, right? That would be what we would call sins of commission. But you can also be considered wicked in the eyes of Jesus by failing to leverage your talents for the purposes of God. If the first is a sin of commission, then the second one is a sin of omission.

Let that sink in for a minute. Because you might be sitting here this morning thinking, I'm doing pretty well. I don't break any of the 10 commandments on a regular basis in egregious ways. I have a pretty regular church attendance.

I give faithfully to the church. And yet you can still be thought of as wicked because you commandeered the talents and the resources that God gave you for His purposes and you've used them for your own. You've thought primarily with your talents, how can these benefit me? What do I want to do with them? What kind of career do I want? You never did anything wrong.

You never broke any laws. But God sees you as wicked simply because you didn't offer those talents back to God like a blank check saying, God, what do you want with these? It's why we often say here at the Summit Church that one of the biggest myths at work in the church today is that only a few of us are called the ministry. And the rest of you are supposed to go on about your merry way and just live it up and make sure you tithe and come to church. But that's basically God's got to call my life but not yours.

False. God has called all believers to leverage their talents for the Great Commission. Jesus said, follow me and I'll make you a fisher of men. That means when you accepted Jesus, you accepted the call to mission.

That's why we say the question is not if you're called, the question is simply where and how. That's why we encourage all of our college students and our young professionals and new retirees to put the mission of God first and where they choose to pursue their careers or in the case of retirement, where they're going to spend their retirement. Lots of factors go into where you pursue your career. I understand that, where you can make money, good jobs, where you want to live, where your family lives.

Awesome. Why wouldn't the kingdom of God be the most important of all those factors for the follower of Jesus? We always say, do what you do well to the glory of God but also do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.

We tell our college students and young professionals specifically to consider giving at least the first two years of your postgraduate life to go with one of our church plants in the U.S. or overseas. The point is all followers of Jesus are supposed to lay down their talents before God and say, what do you want to do with these? And listen, to not do that is stealing from your master just like Belshazzar. Here's the second place that scripture says we steal consecrated vessels from God.

We do it with our resources. Malachi, the prophet in the Old Testament says, will a man rob God? Will a man rob God and yet you ask, Malachi says, how have we robbed you? By not giving the tithe to me, says the Lord. Tithe means first 10%. Of all that God gave you, you were to give back at least the first 10%. And to not do that, God considers, it's not my word, it's his, stealing.

Will you rob me? Just like Belshazzar did with the temple vessels because you are misusing a consecrated thing. God said, this is what I put a claim on. You took it and used it for that. That's stealing. Same thing Belshazzar did. I'll give you one more here.

One more. Sexual sin. To use somebody else for sexual gratification outside of the ways that God has prescribed, God considers stealing, misusing a consecrated thing.

Here's why I know that. The word that the apostle Paul uses in 1 Thessalonians 4 to describe sexual sin is defrauding. Defrauding means you stole something. He said, don't defraud one another sexually. You see, the body is a sacred thing. It is made in the image of God.

For the believer, it's the temple of the Lord. And that sexual relationship is something that was very precious that God said ought to be given to someone in the context of a lifelong covenant of marriage. And when instead, outside of that covenant, you use somebody else for your sexual pleasure, you are taking a precious thing of God and using it for your own gratification. And God considers that very serious.

No less serious than what Belshazzar is doing. The writer of Hebrews says, marriage is honorable and all and the bed is undefiled. But those who engage in sexual immorality, God will judge.

When you look at pornography, you are defrauding that girl or guy of her dignity. Using what God intended to be holy and sacred as an object of your personal pleasure, that's serious. Belshazzar, of course, has taken this sin to an even greater degree, concubines for sex slaves. So now he's taken this precious holy thing by force without even the consent of the person that he's having sex with.

Sexual abuse is one of the most damaging things, if not the most damaging thing that you could ever do to somebody. You are taking something that God considers holy by force and using it for your pleasure. Belshazzar's story gives you warning just how serious that God takes that. So there you got three examples, three examples in our day.

There could be many, many more. Paul says in whatever we do, whatever we do, we should do all to the glory of God. Anything that we do that is not first and foremost done as an act of worship to him is stealing. To not use every part of our body for God's purposes and for his glory is to steal the consecrated things and to misuse them for our pleasure, just like Belshazzar did.

So those two things, failing to worship God as God and serve him above all things, and then number two, commandeering God's consecrated things for our purposes, those are the essence of all sin and something I would say that we are all guilty of. So that's why I say this handwriting on the wall is for us also. Many, many. Our days are numbered. It's been appointed unto you and me once to die.

Tekel, we've been weighed on the balance and found deficient. How would you like it if this morning we weighed these two parts of your life, these two aspects on the divine scales? Have you loved and served God above all things? Have you used the time, the resources and talents that God gave you for his glory and his purposes, or have you used them for yours?

If the answer to those questions is not an emphatic and unqualified yes, then the judgment of that last word is for you also. Parson, your kingdom, your life is going to be taken from you. What is Scripture's verdict on all of us? In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul declares, for there is none righteous.

There's nobody who's been weighed and found not deficient, not even one. There's no one who understands. There's no one who seeks God. All have turned aside. All together, they have become worthless.

No one does good, not even one, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death. That's why I say the writing's on the wall for all of us, which leads me to our last observation, number four. The finger of God has appeared to this generation. The finger of God has appeared to this generation. Maybe you're sitting out there saying, okay, JD, this is cool and everything, but a severed hand that appears and carves the divine message into the plaster of a wall? First, that seems a little far-fetched.

Second, how is that even relevant to me? I mean, if I saw a floating hand at a keg party and carved me a message, I'm pretty sure I'd pay attention to. You see, that's where you need to see the bigger point of this story, because there is some divine imagery at work here that you've got to pick up on. You see, this wasn't the first time that the finger of God had appeared in Scripture. The first time the finger of God appears is in Exodus 8, 19, when the Egyptian magicians in Pharaoh's court are unable to replicate the miracles that God was doing through Moses. For the first couple of plagues that Moses did, the Egyptian magicians were able to mimic what Moses had done. So Moses throws his staff on the ground and it becomes a snake.

Well, they had this little trick rod that they could make look like they had that power, so they threw it in the ground. It looks like it turns into a snake. But then in Exodus 8, Moses raises the stakes. This time he throws his staff on the ground and into the dust. As the dust poofs up, it turns into gnats. And from there, gnats begin to multiply and cover the face of all of Egypt. The Egyptian magicians kind of step back and are like, we can't touch that. Can't duplicate that. Creating an optical illusion where it looks like a staff turns into a snake, that's one thing. But this, creating gnats out of dust, that's something on an entirely different level. And so they take Pharaoh aside and tell him privately, Exodus 8, 19, this is the finger of God.

We can't do this. That's first place. Second place you see the phrase, finger of God, is when Moses gives the Ten Commandments. Moses tells the people in Exodus 31 that these commandments were literally etched into stone by the finger of God.

So here's what all that means. The finger of God indicates a power that only God has or a direct communication from God himself without a human messenger to relay it. Which makes Jesus' claim to be the finger of God very significant. You see, Jesus did miracles that nobody else had ever done. He healed the blind, he walked on water, raised the dead, raised himself from the dead. And so in Luke 11 20 he said, these miracles prove the finger of God is at work among you. He claimed that to hear his voice was to hear the voice of God directly. If you've seen me, he told Thomas, you've seen the Father.

If you've heard me, you've heard the Father. In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul said that God through Christ engraved God's law on our hearts just like the hand that Daniel 5 wrote God's word on the plaster. By the Holy Spirit God brings changes into our lives that only he can make. My point is that in the person of Jesus the finger of God has appeared to this generation. He appeared to us.

He was verified through prophecy, through miracles, most of all through his resurrection. These things show you that God is speaking to this generation just like the mysterious hand carved a message to Belshazzar. In Jesus we are given a message that was just as serious as what Belshazzar received. The question is, are you going to listen? That was the question for Belshazzar and it's the question for you. Let me offer a conclusion. I'm going to offer two different conclusions here. One of those, one is for those of you who are not yet Christians, not yet fully surrendered followers of Jesus. And then I'm going to give a conclusion to those of you who are.

So first, for those of you who are not yet fully surrendered Christians, I think the message is obvious isn't it? Mene Mene Tekel Uparson, your days are numbered. You've been weighed in the balance.

You've been found deficient. Belshazzar got a rare gift. He was told the day that he was going to die. You may not know that day, but your death is just as certain as his.

It is appointed unto man once to die, scripture says and after that the judgment. That day is appointed for you. Tekel, you're put on the divine scale to all of you, the best of us. Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, you, me, your mom, your kids, all of us are put on the divine scales and found deficient. All of us in that day are going to come up on the light side of justice.

Charles Spurgeon concluded his message on this passage this way. Listen, I would have every man put himself into those divine scales. These scales are true to a hair.

One grain of sand would tip them on one side of the scale. I put only one commandment. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all the heart, with all the mind, with all the soul, with all the strength. And I invite any man, any man who flatters himself that he has no need of mercy, no need of washing in the blood of Jesus Christ, no need of atonement. I invite him to put himself into the scales and see whether he measures up to just that one command. Oh, my friends, if we did but weigh ourselves against the very first commandment of the law, we would have to acknowledge ourselves as hopelessly guilty.

You get the image here? We got, here's you see if you're good enough to get to heaven on the side of the scale and we put one commandment down there. Love God with all your heart, soul and mind.

And boom, you were suddenly found deficient. Then Spurgeon said, then as we begin to drop in the weight of the other commandments until the whole sacred tenor there, there is not a man under the scope of heaven who has anything left to say, but must confess that he is woefully short of the mark. For all has sinned and all fallen short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death. One day we will give an account to an absolutely holy and perfect God for every unkind thing, every stray thought, every dishonest action that we have ever taken.

Your days are numbered, you have been weighed in the balance and you have been found deficient. Some of you say, well, I don't like a God of judgment like this. Don't you see? Don't you see how he is reaching out to you in mercy just like he did Belshazzar? How he has filled your life with warning after warning. He does not want you to perish.

He wants you to repent and come back to him. See in Jesus's words and his works, the finger of God pointing at you. You see the core of Jesus's message, listen was that you can never be good enough to get to heaven.

You can never be righteous enough to tip the scales in your favor. So what Jesus offered you was substitution. He offered to take divine judgment in your place. Jesus did not come like other religious leaders to make you a better person. He came to take your place under divine judgment because you couldn't become a good enough person. He lived the life you were supposed to live, a perfect life.

Then he died to death. You were condemned to die paying the price for your sin. And so when you receive him onto your side of the scales, God puts the righteousness of Christ. Then on the other side, he takes away every bit of condemnation that came from your sin.

So there is nothing left on that side of the scale. And that means that if you're in Christ, if you're in Christ on the scales of God's justice, you are no longer deficient. Nothing in all of eternity could ever tip the scales of justice against you because on your side is the eternally weighty righteousness of Christ.

That's the conclusion, okay? For those of you who are not yet Christians, there's also something in here too for you who are believers. You see, Daniel wrote this book for Israelites who were discouraged in Babylon. And it's easy to get discouraged in Babylon, right? Because everywhere we look, everywhere we look, Babylonians are in charge and Babylonians seem to be getting away with all kinds of blasphemy, injustice, and cruelty at their parties.

They sin with impunity. So the Israelites in Daniel's day were like, has God has forgotten us? Christians in our day, we asked the same question, has God forgotten us? It's been 2000 years since he was here. Is he gone forever? There were Israelites there like Daniel who had lived their whole lives under captivity. And many of them were starting to wonder, is God still in charge?

Does he remember us? This chapter is a resounding yes to that question. All the days of wickedness are numbered, beloved. They are numbered and the true King soon will return. And when he returns, he will restore justice and he will take us home to the promised land to spend eternity with him. Our hope is in that day. Our hope is in that King. And that hope gives us the strength to not only survive as exiles, but to shine as exiles in a very dark and hostile battle line. That's the conclusion for us.

Why don't you bow your heads if you would at our campuses and homes around the triangle. For those of you in that first category, you've not yet given your life to Jesus, not yet surrendered. You have been weighed in the balances and found deficient. But the good news of the gospel is that Christ has offered his righteousness to you as an exchange. You give him your sin, he gives you his righteousness. You will in right now to surrender to him, surrender to him and just receive him as savior. If you are, you could say something like this, Lord Jesus, I know that you're the Lord, not me. So I surrender. I receive you, your offer to save me.

Yes, Jesus come into my life and save me. I believe there's a number of you that just prayed that right now. So I want you with every head bowed and every eye closed, just to very quietly take out your phone. And I want you to text the word ready. R E A D Y text the word ready to 33933.

We'll get in touch with you and we'll just show you what that means and how to take the next step. So if you pray that and you're serious, just text the word ready to 33933. As always after every service, there'll be prayer teams down front. We'd love to also talk to you there if that would be even better for you. For those of you who are believers, I'm just going to leave you for a moment soaking in the good news that the king has not forgotten you and that soon he will return. Because of that, you can shine as an exile in Babylon and point people to the glory of the Lord Jesus. You stay there for a moment, soak in that our worship teams will come and they'll lead you from there.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-07 15:35:36 / 2023-09-07 15:53:33 / 18

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