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Babylon's Last Meal, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
November 29, 2022 12:00 am

Babylon's Last Meal, Part 1

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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November 29, 2022 12:00 am

God’s severe judgment of mankind is never an easy thought for us to stomach, but part of that is because we overlook His mercy in the midst of it. In this message, Stephen reminds us that before God extends His righteous arm in judgment, He always offers a way out. 

Wisdom for the Heart
Dr. Stephen Davey

There are 6,360 people who will die before I finish this sermon. A hundred and fifty-two thousand people will die before we pillow our heads tonight. Fifty-five million people on the planet have already been swept into their eternal unchanging condition this year.

At any given moment, the valley of the shadow of death looks like rush hour. The picture that Stephen just painted for you is true. Thousands of people die every day. Most of them enter eternity in the face of eternal judgment. And yet, they're oblivious to the danger that awaits them in eternity.

Do you know anyone like that? Well, you're going to see an example of this today as we open God's Word to the book of Daniel. The nation of Babylon was having a party while death was at its door. This is wisdom for the heart. Stephen is continuing his series called Daniel, the first wise man, with this message he calls Babylon's Last Meal.

Here's Stephen. I read recently the following story of a missionary with the Navigators who had followed God's leading to Uganda to pioneer a work in this country with the Navigators ministry. After a lot of prayer and discussion, he and his wife agreed that God was indeed leading them to uproot their family, young children, and to move to this particular field.

So they did. They uprooted and flew into Kenya where he put his family into a hotel and he rented a jeep to travel across the border into Uganda to find a place to live. He had no idea what he would encounter.

He was pioneering this work and had no one waiting for him there. In fact, he told the author who wrote his story that I read just this past week that when he pulled into a village where he had planned to spend his first day, there were several young kids firing automatic weapons into the sky. And as he drove by, they pointed their weapons at him and just stared. Naturally, he began to wonder if this was God's plan after all for his life. After a long and tiring day of exploration, he pulled into a dingy, dimly lit hotel. He went inside and the clerk knew just enough English to tell him that they had one bed left.

And so he procured that. He walked up two flights of stairs, opened the door, turned on the light, which was a naked bulb hanging by a wire in the middle of the room. And he noticed inside the room there were two beds. One was disheveled, having been slept in, and one was still made up. He said, I immediately realized I'm sharing this room with somebody else.

And a chill kind of went down his spine. He said, I dropped to my knees and I blurted out, Lord, OK, it's been quite a day and I'm afraid. I'm in a country I don't know anything about. I'm in a culture that's totally unfamiliar to me. I have no idea who's sleeping in that bed next to mine.

Please show me that you are in this move for my wife, my children, and myself. Just as I was finishing my prayer, the door flung open and there stood a six foot, five inch Ugandan man frowning down at me who then said in perfect British English, what are you doing in my room? Well, I'm with a Christian organization called The Navigators. The Navigators.

He broke into a huge smile as he pulled from his pocket a worn out scripture memory verse pack and pointed to the bottom of the packet. Look, The Navigators, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Are you from Colorado Springs, Colorado? And he said, yes, I am. Was I ever glad I was? That big Ugandan said to him, I've been praying for two years for someone from your organization to come to my country. And he threw his arms around me and picked me up and literally danced around the room with me, laughing with joy. That Ugandan believer became my closest ally. From that day on, he helped us. He helped us find a place to live and settle my family. He assisted me with the language and eventually joined the board of The Navigators for the country of Uganda.

Isn't that great? Amen. I couldn't help. I couldn't help but think of another faithful servant of God, a young man taken to a foreign country, only in this case against his will, but by the will of God, because he would trust his Lord, no doubt send a lot of urgent prayers up in those early days and throughout. He became one of the greatest missionary pioneers to another kingdom in the history of mankind.

His name is Daniel. And when we first met him, he was only 15 years old. He risked his life by refusing to eat in the royal cafeteria, even though he was in a foreign country and didn't know what to expect. And probably at those moments, really praying hard, he refused to turn his back on his faith. His trust in the Lord became not only apparent to the royal staff and the king that he and his three friends quickly distinguished themselves, by the way, from all of the other Jewish exiles who had so quickly become little Babylonians. Before you know it, Daniel's in his late teens, graduating from the Royal Academy, given the government post in the inner core of the leadership of this kingdom. The next time we see him in action is in chapters 2 and 3, where Daniel, now in his early 30s, interprets a dream for Nebuchadnezzar. He prophesied in that interpretation the world kingdoms that would rule, leading up to the kingdom of Christ on earth.

We'll look at that next Lord's Day, Lord willing. Following that interpretation, Daniel is promoted to prime minister in the kingdom. And you're probably thinking, well, we know the story, we know the book, we read it, but stop. That was such an incredible, heady, meteoric rise to be a Jewish exile, now prime minister in 15 years. But Daniel didn't shelve his convictions or his faith along the way. In fact, as chapter 4 begins, this time the dream of Nebuchadnezzar's bad news, and you discover that Daniel, now 50 years old, hasn't changed a bit, he's still faithful to God's word, he's still willing to tell the truth, even if it is bad news, and he even goes far enough to tell the king what you need to do is repent and follow after the God of Israel.

His honesty at that moment could have cost him his life, certainly his career, but he told the truth. Just as he predicted Nebuchadnezzar was touched by the hand of God, Nebuchadnezzar would lose his sanity for seven years until the grace of God opened his eyes to the gospel of Daniel, and he was delivered and converted. With that, chapter 5 opens, which is where we are today in our study. And you notice right away that you're introduced to a new king, Belshazzar. That's because chapter 5 is taking place some 30 years after chapter 4. I want to recommend you continue to write the timeline into the margin of your Bibles. It'll allow you to appreciate Daniel's testimony even more. If you haven't done that already, I'll review it here one more time quickly. If you don't get it this time, you fail the quiz next Lord's Day, okay? In chapter 1, you might go back there and just write somewhere around the margin of chapter 1 that Daniel is 15 years old.

The Hebrew word used to describe he and his friends, Yeladim, refers to youths between the ages of 13 and 17. Now the events of chapters 2 and 3 take place 15 to 20 years later. You might write that in the margin somewhere. The events of chapter 4 take place 20 to 25 years later. That is after chapter 3. And now finally at the beginning of chapter 5, you can write the words into your margin 30 years later.

30 years later. Bible scholars place Daniel in his early 80s when chapter 5 takes place. So you're immediately introduced to this new king and you notice, don't you, Nebuchadnezzar has sort of vanished without a biblical trace.

What happened to him? Well, God is fast-forwarding the tape. He's shown us the beginning of the Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar and now some 70, 75 years later, he's going to show us the final act of the last Babylonian ruler.

And this final act is effectively a last meal. Before we get to that meal, let me introduce you to this young king, Belshazzar, or Belshazzar, if you're from North Carolina, that'll work just fine too. For decades, the liberals have used this king as exhibit A for why the book of Daniel is historically inaccurate. That is until the 1920s when archaeologists discovered enough to tell us all kinds of things about Belshazzar and his forefathers.

Of course, the liberals apologized and converted to Christianity, which was wonderful to see. Those discoveries revealed that Nebuchadnezzar's son, Amel Marduk, began to reign after his father's death. Nebuchadnezzar reigned 43 years. His son will reign only for about two years before he would be assassinated by his own brother-in-law. That assassin would reign for four years until he's killed.

His son, Labashi Marduk, takes over, but his son is only a little boy when he's put on the throne. And tragically, he is beaten to death by conspirators who placed their choice on the throne of Babylon. And their choice was a man named Nabonidus. Nabonidus had married the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and would reign until the end of the Babylonian kingdom. It's rather obvious that people kind of wanted a connection back to the great king, Nebuchadnezzar. They wanted to go back to the glory days and he was given the crown. Nabonidus didn't really care for Babylon, didn't suit his health, so he spent most of his reign in a palace he built in Arabia. But he named his son co-regent, co-king, and placed him on the throne in the capital city. And his son's name was Belshazzar. Belshazzar would have been about 14 years of age when his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, died. He would have heard the stories of his grandfather's insanity. He would have heard the testimony of his conversion to the God of Israel. And that'll come back to haunt him, by the way. That's why I just dropped that into your memory bank.

One more thing. I'm almost finished introducing this sermon. Since Belshazzar was a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar's family, the son of Nebuchadnezzar's daughter, he could, in typical oriental fashion, refer to Nebuchadnezzar as his father. A term that can simply denote forefather. We do the same thing in a spiritual sense. We talk about the faith of our what? Our fathers. We're referring to spiritual forefathers. Now we're going to be swept into a lavish banquet room where a feast is taking place.

And none of them catch this. I know you want to read ahead, but hang on. We're almost done with the introduction, that is. You need to know that this meal, they don't know it, will be their last meal.

Nor do we know, by the way, when our last meal will be eaten. But we can prepare better, far better, I would trust, than Belshazzar. Now verse 1. Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand. A nice way of saying they were all getting drunk. Verse 2. When Belshazzar tasted the wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels, which Nebuchadnezzar, his father, had taken out of the temple, which was in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.

Now that information alone is alarming. For one thing, women didn't normally banquet with men. In the custom of the court, they would have their own separate banquet. You may remember the story in Esther of Vashti as it opens, how she is holding a banquet for the wives and the women, the concubines, a private banquet, while the king and his nobles got drunk next door. The presence of all of these women confirms in the minds of Old Testament historians that this was nothing less than a drunken orgy. We know from history now that Belshazzar was 36 years old when he threw this party. Some historians believe it was his birthday party.

We do know he was decadent, he was idolatrous, he was immoral, he was impious, he was selfish, he was the king. We also know from excavations that this banquet room was enormous. Imagine seating a thousand plus wives, women, concubines. The banquet room was supported by stone pillars carved in the forms of elephants, their heads supporting the ceiling 20 feet high. The tables were fashioned in the form of horseshoes with all of the nobles and the leaders of Babylon, perhaps even along with their wives, seated there. Trained peacocks dressed in gold and silver harness threw miniature chariots loaded down with wine goblets around that banquet room.

Trained waiters served the masses of people while girls danced on raised platforms. They were oblivious to the fact that within a matter of hours their kingdom would end and they would be dead. I couldn't help as I got into this scene and studied the historical setting that this is a perfect picture of lost humanity, isn't it? What a tragic picture of our own world today.

Immoral, committed to the idols of their own making, addicted to pleasure and entertainment, self-centered, impious, rebellious, drinking, feasting, fornicating, moving every day closer and closer to the cliff until they crash over the guardrail of their lives and into eternity they are swept. It's startling to think that there are 6360 people on the planet who will die before I finish this sermon. A hundred and fifty-two thousand people will die before we pillow our heads tonight. Fifty-five million people on the planet have already been swept into their eternal, unchanging, irreversible condition this year alone.

At any given moment the valley of the shadow of death looks like rush hour. Did any of them stop and think I would doubt it here in Babylon that maybe this meal will be my last? Well, Belshazzar's actually bored with the banquet. He's had so many of these things. He's been there and done that over and over again. He wants to make a statement.

He kind of wants to juice the party by doing something dramatic. And here's what happens, verse 3. Repeat it again for emphasis.

Notice. They brought the gold vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God which was in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Now at first glance you might think or have the idea that Belshazzar is just being, you know, blasphemous by drinking from temple vessels of the defeated God of Israel. And you'd be right.

He is. But it's more than that. See, according to historical records and sources, we learned that under the leadership of King Cyrus, the emperor of the Medo-Persian Empire, the empire that will overthrow Babylon according to the prediction of Daniel, given to Nebuchadnezzar decades earlier, they have already surrounded Babylon.

In fact, they have been camped around the walls for the past four months. Oh, Belshazzar is not only glorifying his gods of gold and silver, he's not only blaspheming the God of Israel, saying effectively, you're good for nothing but to hold my wine. He's going a great step further. Daniel will point out later that Belshazzar knew about his grandfather's insanity. He knew about his grandfather's conversion to God. He knew about the prediction that Babylon was prophesied to fall at the feet of Persia, and he's even now surrounded by the Persian army, and still he spits in the face of God. He's effectively doing this. This is what I think of your prophecy. This is what I think about your prediction that I'm going to fall to the Medo-Persians, who are even now surrounding the city. It isn't going to happen.

I am unconquerable. That's what he's doing. That's what he's saying. Even though we also learned that the Babylonian army, or a portion of it, had already suffered defeat four miles away, all the nobles and all the military leaders and all the citizens with connections have raced and piled now into the capital city behind the security of their walls. Even still, Belshazzar is leading a thousand plus in this unanimous chanting down of the prediction of this defeated God of Israel, who dared suggest we would fall to Persia.

He did have some reason to boast, according to the might of man. That outer wall was about 80 feet thick. That's a thick wall.

You're not going to use a battering ram on that wall. And if you happened to scale it, you'd drop down into an open area that was cleared and open, and you'd be confronted by another wall. Upon that wall, there were battlements some 300 feet high from which the soldiers could just pick off those that came over that first wall. These walls had not been breached for hundreds of years.

They couldn't starve the citizens out either. The Euphrates River flowed through the city in different points, providing endless supplies of fish and fresh water. Huge iron gates had been crafted to sink down into the river, to the very riverbed at points where the river ran just under the city walls. Historians also inform us that the Babylonians at this point had already stocked enough grain to feed the entire city for 20 years. That's why when the Persians had surrounded the city for four months, Belshazzar and all of his nobles can afford to throw a birthday party. We've got nothing to fear. And now at the height of his arrogance, he calls for the vessels belonging to the god who dared predict his downfall. This is what I think of your prophecy and your prophet.

Babylon will not fall to Persia. And then it happened. Verse 5, Suddenly the fingers of a man's hand emerged, and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing. Then the king's face grew pale, and his thoughts, literally his conscience, alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack, and his knees began knocking together. To this day, our culture borrows from this very text the phrase, the handwriting's on what? The wall, to refer to unchangeably bad news.

This is where it came from. This disembodied hand just appears and begins to write on the wall. We're told here, and I just read it, that this arrogant king loses all control.

There's no bravado here. His hip joints went slack. I'm not sure how your translation reads it, but it's the Biblical way of saying he lost control of his bowels. His knees are shaking, his body trembling, and his conscience is painfully alarmed.

Why? Because even though he can't read that writing, he knows what he's been drinking out of, and something supernatural is happening, and I'm going to be able to connect some of the dots. Verse 7, he literally screams for the conjurers, the Chaldeans, and the diviners. He pleads that is with the wise men of Babylon.

Tell me what this means. Of course, they can't do it. They fail again. I don't know why these guys are on the payroll. They never get the dreams right.

They never can do it. And that's because the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are spiritually discerned. These messages are from God. It's going to take someone in tune with the Spirit of God to be able to interpret the meaning of the words.

1 Corinthians 2.14. The queen appears next. More than likely the queen mother. This would be Nebuchadnezzar's daughter, the mother of Belshazzar. Evidently, she's informed of the commotion and she strides into the banquet room and you sense about her a dignity and a strength. I found it interesting that she wasn't in there to begin with.

Did you notice that? Judging from her testimony about Daniel and her description, she's probably a believer herself in the God of Israel like her father before her. She says in verse 11, look there, there is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods, and in the days of your father, illumination, insight, and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods were found in him.

By the way, these two phrases can be translated, there's a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of God, capital G, who has in him wisdom like the wisdom of God, capital G. This translation requires an interpretive decision on the part of the translator and most assume she's not a believer and they translate it in that manner. I believe she was the disciple of Daniel's faith. And the reason I do is given the fact that she's avoided this drunken party to begin with, given the fact that now she introduces and speaks of Daniel with the highest respect, and given the fact that she refers to him as Daniel, his Hebrew name. Notice verse 12, he has an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas, solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel. It's his Hebrew name, he hadn't been called that for 60 years.

You remember the king named him Belteshazzar? Well get this, forget that pagan name, let Daniel now be summoned, and notice, and he will, not he might, he will declare the interpretation. I'd love to know just a little bit more about this remarkable woman and a testimony that to me is so clear. And you know what she's doing? She's pulling Daniel out of retirement and introducing him to this king. I wish we could keep going and hear the end of this story, but we need to stop here.

We're just about out of time for today. Stephen will resume and conclude this lesson on our next broadcast. This is Wisdom for the Heart, a production of Wisdom International. Wisdom International is a production of Wisdom International, a production of Wisdom International. Wisdom International is the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. More information about our ministry, as well as access to all of Stephen's teaching resources, can be found at If we can help you today, or if you'd like to receive the gift that we offer first-time callers, dial 866-48-BIBLE. We'll send you the next three issues of Stephen's monthly magazine as our gift to you. Do that now, then join us next time on Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-29 15:37:34 / 2022-11-29 15:47:30 / 10

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