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The Writing Is on the Wall

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2022 9:00 am

The Writing Is on the Wall

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 15, 2022 9:00 am

Today on Summit Life, we come to another story of God taking down a prideful, rebellious, selfish king. We’re going to see that this problem is much bigger than just one king.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Political and educational wise men, as helpful as they are, have proven unable to cure on any large scale the problems of the human race at their source, our hearts. They can't cure what's going on in the human heart. Money can't do it. Education can't do it. Politics can't do it. Science can't do it.

It can't give us solutions to the ultimate problems now, and it can't give us meaning for the future. Welcome to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and theologian J.D. Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today on Summit Life, we come to another story of God taking down a prideful, rebellious, selfish king. And you're like, wait, didn't we just hear the story on the program? Well, hang on. Sadly, today we come to Belshazzar, the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar. You'd think he might have learned a lesson from the old granddad, but no, we're going to see that this problem of pride and arrogance is much bigger than just one king. So grab your Bible, turn to Daniel chapter five, and let's see what we can learn from the word today. You got your Bible this morning, and I hope that you brought your Bible. Take it out to Daniel chapter five. Me asking you to get your Bible is not just a perfunctory way of getting the morning started. It really would help if you had a Bible, you were able to open it and track along with me.

You can turn it on if that's your thing and look at it on your phone, but I would love for you to be able to see the things that we're talking about. Daniel, chapter five. How many of you have heard the phrase, the writing is on the wall? The writing is on the wall.

Put your hand up. Yeah, that usually means that something bad is about to happen, that your fate has been sealed. That phrase, many people don't know this, but that phrase actually comes from Daniel chapter five. The year is 539 BC. Nearly 70 years have passed since Daniel and his teenage aged friends were brought in chains to Babylon. 70 years between Daniel one where we started, Daniel five where we are today. Daniel is an old man now.

He is well over 80. Nebuchadnezzar, his king, the Babylonian king, his friend is dead, has been now for about 23 years and Belshazzar, who is Nebuchadnezzar's uber privileged, very spoiled grandson is on the throne. Belshazzar is hosting a party as Daniel five opens, an all out rager in our terms, a hundred kegger. We know that because the Aramaic word that is used for wine in verse one is literally lots of wine. That's literally how you translate it.

Lots of beer, lots of wine. Suddenly as they are partying it up, a mysterious disembodied floating hand appears and begins to carve a message into the plaster on the wall. Now talk about terrifying, freaky even, right?

I mean, imagine what that moment would have been like. You're at a party and you see a severed floating hand appear and begin to etch three mysterious words you do not understand into the wall and then it just disappears. The three words are numbered, weighed and divided. People start screaming and the party descends into chaos. The Babylonian wise men are summoned into the room, but none of them can tell the king what these words mean. When the elderly queen, when the elderly queen, Daniel five says, who would have been Nebuchadnezzar's widow, Belshazzar's grandmother says, I once knew a man who could interpret messages like this one, and she tells them about Daniel. Evidently, Daniel has long since retired from public life, or maybe he's just been put out to pasture.

Either way, they send for Daniel and he comes in. He reads the message on the wall and he says, mene, mene, verse 26, mene, mene. That word means numbered and that means, Belshazzar, that God has numbered the days of your kingdom and Babylon's kingdom and he has brought it to an end. Tekel, verse 27, tekel, that word means weighed and that means that you have been weighed on the balance, on God's balance, and you have been found deficient.

You see, unlike his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar had never humbled himself before God. Parson is the next word, the final word, and that means, Daniel says, divided, and that means your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians. Sure enough, that very night, less than 50 miles away, the armies of the Medes and the Persians have coalesced to mount an attack, a joint attack against Babylon. That very night, Babylon will be overthrown and Belshazzar and all the royal family will die. This story in Daniel five is ultimately about how God ultimately brings down the prideful, rebellious, unjust Babylonian empire and keeps his promise to restore his people to their promised land.

That's what it's primarily about, but it 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 this morning through two lenses. I want us to look firstly at what it meant for Babylon, and then secondly, I want to show you what it means for us.

I'm going to give you primarily four things to that end. We're going to talk about partying in the face of death. We're going to talk about number two, the failure of our wise men.

Number three, we're going to talk about the writing on the wall for all of us, and then number four, we're going to talk about how God's finger has appeared to you and to me. By the way, before we jump in, could I just share a quick little historical tidbit just right before we get started. For years and years and years and years, Religion 101 classes at secular universities always took this story about Belshazzar in Daniel 5 as proof that you could not trust the Bible literally, because every historian knew, they said, that the last king reigning in Babylon before it was overthrown by the Medes and the Persians was a guy named Nebonitis. In fact, they said there was no historical proof that any king named Belshazzar had ever lived. So boom, one evidence piece. Bible's made up.

It's not true. It's a bunch of made up myths. But then, just a few years ago, some archeologists dug up an inscription in the Iraqi desert right outside where Babylon's palace would have been, and guess what that inscription revealed? Revealed that Nebonitis had just a couple of years before this event 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 this story, Belshazzar offers Daniel the third highest place in the kingdom, because technically his dad Nebonitis is still first, and he, Belshazzar, was second.

That would mean the only next spot available would have been third. My point here is not to disrespect secular historians or to imply that most of them do not do very good and trustworthy work. It is simply to say that when somebody tells you that history or science has proven the Bible wrong, what I have found after many years of experience is, just give it a little time.

Just give it a little time, and you will see that the apparent contradiction usually clears up when we gain a little more information, a little more understanding on what the author was actually trying to say, okay? All right, that's your little tidbit for the morning. Here we go.

Here we go. Four things. Number one, let's talk about partying in the face of death.

Partying in the face of death. What is unusual about this party is that we know that Belshazzar knew that the combined armies of the Medes and the Persians were less than 50 miles away. 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.

This was a humongous and well-organized and seemingly very determined army and enemy. So why, we would have to ask, in the face of this kind of danger, why is Belshazzar throwing a party? Why is he throwing a party?

We don't know. Maybe he's trying to put on a brave face. Maybe he's trying to inspire everyone else by his brazen courage.

Maybe he's trying to drown his own fears out in amusement or alcohol. Maybe he's just so arrogant that he thinks Babylon can never fall. Many of you are not old enough to remember this, but for those of you who are, do you remember all the wacky ways that people responded to the turning of the millennium at the end of 1999? Now again, those of you who are young will not remember this at all, but there were all these doomsday theories about Y2K and a Y2K computer bug that would 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 just somehow evaporate from our banks.

There would be gas shortages, and you know how that goes, right? People were genuinely worried. Some people responded to that worry by stockpiling. A lot of Christians were in that category.

That looking around the room, a lot of you I know were in that category. About five or six years after Y2K, I was at the home of our very first church planter, a guy named Josh Schenk, 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 such. And I was like, Josh, what is this? 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 food items. And I was like, Josh, what on earth? And he was like, yeah, remember Y2K? Take a little bit of tech knowledge and a lot of end times prophecy, and you end up with $25,000 worth of food supply, right? So a lot of people responded by stockpiling, but some people responded to the fear by partying.

It even became a phrase, right? Party like it's 1999. In fact, let's just ask, how many of you, just be honest, those of you that are old enough to answer this question, how many of you were a little scared when the clock actually flipped that night? Raise your hand. Like I was a little bit scared. How many of you were at a party anyway?

Keep your hand up. I heard about one guy, one guy, true story. You had a bunch of people over to his house on New Year's Eve, 1999. And when the countdown was at 30 seconds, he kind of quietly slipped down to the basement. He could hear everybody up in the main room, counting down five, four, three. And when they hit one, right as the clock struck midnight, he killed all the power in the house. He said people started screaming and freaking out. He said it took a full minute before somebody went outside and figured out the rest of the neighborhood still had power. So that was pretty awesome. Belshazzar's party's not exactly like that, but see, he partied in the face of death.

He partied, we might say like it was 539 BC. So we asked, why do people do this? Why do people, why is this not that uncommon? Blaise Pascal, the French philosopher that I quote sometimes of the 17th century said, the most consistent human reaction to unpleasant thoughts about their mortality is to distract themselves with amusement. He uses a couple of analogies. One I use a lot.

Here's the other one. He said, life is like being in a stagecoach that is barreling toward a cliff. You know the cliff is coming. You know you cannot stop the stagecoach or get out of it. You know your death is coming. But instead of thinking about your coming death and what it means for you, you choose to deal with that by distracting yourself with observations about the beautiful scenery along the road, or you engage in pleasant conversation and witty banter with fellow passengers in the stagecoach. You are distracting yourself so that you're not thinking about the ultimate questions or the fear that all of us have when we think about death. The Jewish atheist philosopher Ernst Becker, again, he's an atheist, says in his book, The Denial of Death, that in the face of our own mortality, humans almost always turn to one of three things to console themselves.

All three of which you'll see right here in the story of Belshazzar. It's fascinating. First, he said, we boast about our accomplishments, as if those accomplishments can give us some kind of immortality. We try to tell ourselves that what we've done, we have done something significant that's added meaning to human history and our significance. Therefore, our significance is going to last forever. We've really helped advance our career field where we control ourselves. We've left a legacy to our children or maybe a pile of resources that will help future generations of our family live well. You can see Belshazzar doing that here. He brings out all the gold and silver that they had conquered and collected from other kingdoms to show that Babylon is special.

It's a unique empire, and the world will never be the same after Babylon. Second, Ernst Becker said, we turn to romance. We turn to romance. We find meaning in the thrills of sex or the feeling of being treasured by someone.

Just listen to modern music, he says, about how we talk about romance. You give meaning to me. I find my everything in you.

Your love justifies me. It gives me a reason to live. Well, we see Belshazzar party filled with all kinds of wives and concubines and sex. Finally, Becker said, we turn to religion. We turn to religion to show that whatever's out there, we're worthy of it. We use religion and virtue 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 in Belshazzar with his extravagant toasting of the Babylonian gods. Becker, who again was an atheist, said, human beings simply cannot live in full, honest awareness of the meaning of death. He says, even if you are one of those rare people that others still talk about 10 years after you're gone. He says, one day our sun itself, our S-U-N, is going to burn up, and then there will be no trace that any of us ever even existed.

Becker said, when we die, we're gone and nothing matters unless it's done for a god, for 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, was asked on 60 Minutes in an interview shortly before he died whether he believed in God or not. When they asked him that, you can go back and watch a little YouTube clip of it, he kind of pauses and he says, you know, throughout my life, sometimes I have believed in God and sometimes I haven't.

He said, but after I was diagnosed with cancer, stage four cancer, and told I did not have that long to live, he said, I found myself increasingly wanting to believe. The interviewer said, why? He said, because it just can't be that when we die, that it just all fades to black.

He said, all the wisdom that we've accumulated as a race, all of our accomplishments, somehow those things have to live on. Incidentally, he said in that interview, that's why he never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices. He just didn't like the idea of being able just to flip a switch and shut something off, which explains some of your frustration, whether you're like, how do I turn, I don't know how to turn it off. He just, he didn't like the on-off switch.

He's like, I just, I don't like that idea that we flip something and it all goes to dark. Friend, what is your life? Have you thought about ultimate questions? If eternity is real, that's the most important question you will ever consider. Your Bible says it is appointed unto man once to die. It is appointed unto you.

The day of your death, it is appointed to you. The only difference between Belshazzar and you and me is that he was told the day that he would die. You and I may not know the exact day like Belshazzar did, but the certainty of that day for us is just as inevitable. Only one life to live, only one life to live will soon be passed, only what's done for Christ will last. Are you prepared to meet God? You know, isn't that all, isn't that the only question, the only question that eternally matters?

Number one, partying at the face of death. Here's the second thing we see. We see the failure of our wise men, the failure of our wise men. Daniel, a repeated theme in the book of Daniel is the failure of Babylon's wise men to deliver when the questions really matter. Now, obviously, these wise men contributed something to Babylonian knowledge or Nebuchadnezzar, the king would not have kept them around. But consistently in the book of Daniel, when it really matters, when there's a really important dream or a really important vision or a really pressing question, in those moments, 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. You see, there comes a point at which the wise men of every age and every culture will fail. That is not to say they played a role in society or they do not contribute a lot, they do. But there comes a time when it relates to the ultimate and most difficult questions of our life that the wise men of every age fail.

So let's just consider here for a moment. Who would qualify as our wise men in our culture 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. We see places today where science fails us, right? Or at least it has proven unable to answer questions that we really need answers to. Somebody tells me, which I hear from time to time, on college campuses especially, I only believe in science. Science is all that I need.

And I want to say, really? Can science tell you what's right and 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've left science and they're now engaging in superstition or philosophy. Foundation-less pontifications about the unknown. Science can tell us the what and the how, but it cannot tell us the why. Only the creator can give us the why. Only something that is before the material world and beyond the material world can give us meaning.

So science is awesome, but it fails us on the ultimate questions of life. All right, I might add to my next list of our culture's wise men. Let's put politicians and educators. Politicians and educators. Again, I respect them.

I revere them. Many of you serve in those fields and you are worthy of respect, but have not those groups also proven unable to solve humanity's primary problems? Has any political philosophy proved able to correct, for example, the human impulse toward corruption, greed, or the abuse of power?

The right to be able to correct the human impulse toward corruption, greed, or the abuse of power? The right, for example. 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 ending discrimination, but then leaked emails from elites in Hollywood reveal that racism is as much a problem there as anywhere. The left talks about caring for the poor, but then it's revealed that most of them are not personally involved. Statistically, they give less to poverty relief than their counterparts who, as part of our team, now moved here from San Francisco, from the Bay Area. 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 a lot of them live and watch how they deal with the homeless there. Their main strategy out there is to give the homeless vouchers to incentivize them to be homeless somewhere else. On the outskirts of town, he says, you will see rows and rows and rows of tents of homeless people 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 this 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 nobody on the left cares about the poor, and I'm definitely not saying that there's never a wiser choice in politics.

You can save your emails. I'm not saying that. My point is simply that our political and educational wise men, as helpful as they are, have proven unable to cure on any large scale the problems of the human race at their source, our hearts. They can't cure what's going on in the human heart. Money can't do it. Education can't do it. Politics can't do it.

Science can't do it. It can't give us solutions to the ultimate problems now, and it can't give us meaning for the future. So just like with Babylon, when it comes to our ultimate questions, our wise men, from Stephen Hawking to Steve Jobs to party leaders on the left and right have failed us. Just like Belshazzar, we need a word from God. That's why Daniel, by the way, won't let Belshazzar pay him to provide this interpretation. Did you see verse 17? Verse 17, he's like, you can keep your gifts.

You can give your rewards to somebody else. I will read the inscription for the king and make the interpretation known to him free of charge. In other words, this is not my word, Belshazzar. You can't pay me for it. You can't buy it from me.

It's God's word. You're offering me money as if this message comes from me or belongs to me, but that's not how this works. All I can do, all I must do is tell you the truth. Friend, I will tell you the same thing. You need a word from God. That word does not come from me.

I can deliver it to you. I can stand up here and tell you what it says, but it doesn't come from me, and you're not shouldn't be paying me for it. It comes from God, and what you do with it is between you and God and not you and me. So we see the failure of our wise men. By the way, don't forget that the wise men who one day saw the star in the sky and traveled from the east to see the baby Jesus were from this region. Babylon, of course, by that point was long since fallen, but the traditions and the writings of the wise men had remained, and isn't it fascinating that somehow in their traditions that they handed down they 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 the ultimate answers for human purpose, for those kind of answers, you had to look beyond the earth and you had to look toward heaven, and so one day as they're out looking toward heaven, God puts a star there and said, here's your answer. 500 years later, a group of wise men show up to see the baby Jesus and to shower the baby Jesus with gifts because of incidents like this where He taught them, you won't find it here.

You've got to look toward heaven. In Jesus, we are given a message just as serious as what Belshazzar received. The question is, are you paying attention and are you going to listen? You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. Pastor J.D., what are we hoping our listeners will take away from this new teaching series that we're in called Daniel's Shining in Babylon? We're hoping to show people what it looks like to shine for Jesus in the midst of a dark and hostile culture. We're supposed to be like Daniel, a part of Babylon's life in her business structures, in her government even, and we're supposed to be there as a part of this city and this culture, loving it and embracing it, but willing to be different in all the ways that the Bible calls us to be different, which means ultimately we live for a different kingdom, we worship a different God, and we participate by a different set of values.

We want to be different so that we can make a difference. That's what this book will give you a roadmap to show you how to be different in Babylon and how to shine for Jesus. We want to give you a Bible study that goes along with the teaching that you're going to hear that will take you even deeper into these passages and maybe help you see some things that I wasn't able to cover in the messages. It teaches you the principles of inductive Bible study, how to study the Bible on your own, and to get every bit of goodness and life out of it that God wants to give you.

It's a nine-session Bible study to take you into these passages. If you go to jdgrier.com right now, it will show you how you can reserve your copy today. I'm Molly Vidovitch. Join us tomorrow as we continue this message titled, The Writing is on the Wall. See you Wednesday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-22 03:12:57 / 2023-05-22 03:23:38 / 11

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