I am on vacation until 6th August. Until then here are some short thoughts (given originally as devotional talks) on Daniel….
There is a true story of a man who preached at the funeral service of a friend. The man spoke to the congregation that we do not know the time, place or circumstances of our death. It could be today, tomorrow, next week, next month or decades away. His point was that all of them had to be ready.
The moment he sat down from speaking he collapsed and died of a heart attack.
For him, it was minutes.
My question this evening for you is: Are you ready to meet God now? What would God say to you should you die tonight? What would you say to God if you faced him tonight? What would God write on the wall of your cabin if he showed up?
Only you (and God) can answer that question. Only you know truly where you stand with God.
We can fake it pretty well with our friends, family, youth leaders and youth pastors – we can do and say the right things which give us the image of knowing God. We can know in our heads all the right knowledge and we might even be able to pray out loud.
You may even genuinely believe that God exists – but as the Bible says, even the demons know God exists and they shudder. Belief IN God is not the issue. The issue is DO YOU BELIEVE GOD. Do you believe what he says, and what he has done and what he will do. That was why Abraham, in Genesis 12, is credited with righteousness – not because he believed in God but because he BELIEVED GOD.
Belief in God does not necessarily change your behavior or your heart – BELIEVING GOD, THAT EVERY WORD IN THE BIBLE WILL COME TRUE AND WILL HAPPEN, WILL CHANGE YOU, INSIDE AND OUT.
This is why your youth pastors desperately encourage you to read the Bible and pray. It is not a religious exercise that you have to do – it is the way you learn to draw near to God, to hear his voice so that your inside matches your outside appearance.
Belshazzar knew about Nebuchadnezzars encounter with the living God.
He knew about the 7 years Nebuchanezzar spent away from his throne, being humbled and cut down and he knew of Nebuchadnezzars restoration. He knew about the dreams which were interpreted and he knew about Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego.
And he ignored it.
It’s interesting that Belshazzar is condemned not so much for the drunkness or the great, sumptuous banquet he held in his own honor – he holds a party so that he can say look at me. The specific charge against him is the use of the goblets which were from the Jerusalem temple.
Belshazzar had used the things dedicated for God’s use, in a way which showed he had no respect or belief in God, his power or his authority.
This may have been a way of trying to show that he was a tough guy. Nebuchaddazzar had his reputation as a war king – he kept his officials loyal by being willing to execute anyone who disobeyed him – which one way of getting people to do what you want them to do. Nebuchanazzar had great accomplishments – yet he was also intelligent. After beating up Jerusalem he takes the holy things from the temple and puts them in the temple in Babylon. Nebuchadnazzar knew these things to be holy. He had respect for them.
Belshazzar has no mighty reputation. He has no battles to his name. The only way to show his authority is to through a massive, drunken party to try and bribe his officials into liking him.
He wants to be popular and cool – he wants to establish authority he does not have.
And he tries to be tough by demanding something that was sacred – and then using it badly. Maybe he had father issues with Neb and wanted to flick him the bird, we don’t know.
But he takes something that had been dedicated for God’s use and defiles it.
Belshazzar despised the holy things of God.
We have lost the sense of God’s majesty in our Church today. Listen to the words of the prophets – Isaiah knows he is in God’s presence and says “woe is me, I am ruined, for I am a man of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
When did we last begin prayer like that?
Or Ezekiel who says that when he saw the Lord “he fell face down”. Or Peter who, when in Jesus presence, tells Jesus to leave him “because he is unworthy.”
The God we worship is a holy, righteous, powerful God and we need to recognize both that he is our Father in heaven but also that he is holy and he is not to be messed with.
Belief in God, worship of God, claiming to know God is not to be taken lightly – because if we do, we are on dangerous ground.
Belshazzar despised the holy things of God.
How do we regard God’s word, the Bible? Do we really believe it is the full, true, word of God, which speaks to us today? Do we spend time reading it, praying over it, asking God to speak to us and for his word to dwell richly in us? Do what it says? Or do we ignore the Bible; do we rarely read it; do we doubt what it says; and do we ignore what is asks of us?
How do we regard God’s grace? Do you know that the God of the Universe died for you? Are you humbled that God took your punishment? Do you REALLY know that God has dealt with your sins on the cross. Or don’t you really care?
How do we regard God’s church? Is it boring? Irrelevant? A joke? Is communion just a routine that you need to go through in order to get out of church? Paul, in the New Testament says that:
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 11:27.
How do we regard one another? Humanity is created in God’s image. We are called to love our neighbor as ourself. To love and pray for our enemy. To think of others more highly than ourselves? Do we do this? Do we do this at school? At Youth Group? With our friends? If we hate someone we are despising the things of God because God created that person.
Belshazzar deliberately, knowingly chose to despise the things of God. He chose darkness over light.
And God steps in and pronounces Judgment.
DON’T DESPISE THE THINGS OF GOD.
You know your heart. Be honest with yourself about who you really are, what you really think, what you really believe and your relationship with God.
If and when you get doubts about God tell Him – tell your youth pastor. Don’t pretend. To pretend is to despise the things of God.
To be honest will open your heart to letting God speak to you and lead you and change you.