Thursday, September 29, 2016

THE WRITING ON THE WALL



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In Christ, Mark
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.

The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.

The queen, hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. “May the king live forever!” she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”

So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.”

“Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position He gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone He wishes.”

“But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in His hand your life and all your ways. Therefore He sent the hand that wrote the inscription.”

“This is the inscription that was written: mene, mene, tekel, parsin”

“Here is what these words mean:”

“Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

“Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.”

“Parsin: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.

Daniel 5

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

“The writing is on the wall.”

It’s a saying that’s been around for a long time, one that means that circumstances are such that something bad is likely going to happen.  

Let’s say someone has decided to drink alcohol and drive. It was known that this person had done this many times without getting caught but then word gets around that they had finally been stopped by police and charged with driving under the influence. Anyone aware of the situation would say that the DUI was of no surprise because the writing was on the wall for some time before the person was finally caught.

So what does this have to do with our scripture passage from Daniel?

Well, everything because we may have just found the very origin of this saying as we look again at Chapter 5:

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.

The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.

The queen, hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. “May the king live forever!” she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”

So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.”

“Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position He gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone He wishes.”

“But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in His hand your life and all your ways. Therefore He sent the hand that wrote the inscription.”

“This is the inscription that was written: mene, mene, tekel, parsin”

“Here is what these words mean:”

“Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

“Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.”

“Parsin: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.  Daniel 5
  
The first thing we notice right away is that Nebuchadnezzar is not the king of Babylon. He has been replaced by his son, Belshazzar, who we find throwing a big banquet for a thousand of his nobles, a banquet which included an ample supply of wine which those in attendance were enjoying.

This in its own right would probably not have been an issue if the scene were left here but as we see, the king wasn’t satisfied with what he and his company were drinking from and so he called for his servants to bring him “the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem” so that he and “his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them.” And this is what got things going the wrong direction with God for the scriptures tells us that as those present “drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.”

In other words, they defiled the sacred items of God’s temple by using them to praise false gods. Obviously, this wasn’t going to work for God and so He did something about it, something that supernaturally incredible and amazing.

For we read where “suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace” while the king watched. The sight terrified the king whose “face turned pale” and “legs became weak” with knocking knees.

Unsure of what it all meant, the king “summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners” and said, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” Unfortunately for the king, none of his wise men could “read the writing or tell the king what it meant”, something that brought the king still greater distress.

Enter the queen who came to the rescue of her royal husband, telling him the following:

“There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”

And with that, King Belshazzar called for Daniel to be brought before him asking him:

“Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

Daniel’s response must have puzzled the king because he wanted no part in anything Belshazzar wanted to give him. He told the king to give his rewards to someone else but then added that he would at least “read the writing” and tell the king what it meant. And with that, Daniel breaks things down to Belshazzar, starting by reminding him of the history of behavior his father exhibited as king and how that impacted his relationship with God, especially when Nebuchadnezzar allowed his heart to become arrogant and hardened with pride, an act that led him into God’s judgment for seven years.

God’s word tells us that Belshazzar had not learned anything from his father’s past mistake but rather simply repeated the mistakes of the past. He had refused to humble himself despite what he knew of God’s power and authority, choosing instead to set himself up “against the Lord of heaven” and refusing to honor the God who held his life in His hands. And so God had to do something to get the king’s attention and He “sent the hand that wrote the inscription” for that purpose.

What was the message contained in the inscription, “mene, mene, tekel, parsin”?

Well, God had only given Daniel the ability to convey their meaning which essentially boiled down to numbered (mene), numbered (mene), weighed (tekel), divided (parsin or in some translations, upharsin).

In regard to Belshazzar:

1. His days reigning over Babylon were numbered and God would soon end his rule (mene, mene).

2. God had weighed Belshazzar on the scales of righteousness and the king was found wanting because of his sinfulness (tekel).

3. The kingdom of Babylon would be divided and handed over to the Medes and Persians (parsin/upharsin).

In other words, the writing was on the wall. The Babylonian empire was coming to an end.

And that’s exactly what happened as the scriptures tell us that very evening after the words were interpreted by Daniel, Belshazzar was killed by “Darius the Mede” who took over control of the kingdom but not before Daniel had been “clothed in purple” with a gold chain “placed around his neck” as “he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom”, a promotion of importance because we will see it bring Daniel into a position of peril as we continue our study of this book and his life.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves because we need to see the writing on the wall in this devotion and know God is warning all of us today about the life attitude we adopt and the associated outcome if we choose to go the wrong path.

For if we choose to live with no respect for God and His authority over us, refusing to humble ourselves before Him and ignoring the very Maker and Master of our lives, the One who holds our future in His hands, then we are opting to go down the same road as Belshazzar and can be rest assured of this one thing:

The writing will be on the wall for us just as it was for Babylon’s king because God will never allow Himself to be disregarded or dishonored.

Amen

In Christ,

Mark

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

THE RESPONSE



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified Him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: “What have you done?”

At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.

Daniel 4:34-37

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Seven years.

Seven years of being deposed from power. Seven years of living with the wild animals and eating the grass like oxen. Seven years of awaking each day drenched with the dew of heaven and seeing your hair grow as the hair of an eagle and nails like the claws of a bird. Seven years in this kind of environment to think about what you did in direct defiance of God that led to His judgment and the penalty you were suffering through.

Seven years is a long time. If you went back more than 2,000 years and spoke directly with Nebuchadnezzar, he would tell you as much.

Well, as Chapter 4 comes to an end, we find God’s punishment of Babylon’s ex-king ending as well.

How would he respond to what had happened to him?

Look at these closing verses to find out:

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified Him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: “What have you done?”

At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.  Daniel 4:34-37

The seven years of hardship and humility were maddening for Nebuchadnezzar. We know that because his very words reveal he had lost his sanity, a sanity that was restored as soon as the former king raised his eyes to heaven.

How would you respond if you had been delivered from seven long years of difficulty?

I hope you would do as Nebuchadnezzar did as he “praised the Most High” God and gave Him glory. His words of profession say as much as He speaks these truths about the Lord:

“His dominion is an eternal dominion.”

“His kingdom endures from generation to generation.”

“All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him: ‘What have you done?’”

Essentially, Nebuchadnezzar elevates God to the place where He deserves to be. For His rule and kingdom are forever and no one rivals Him or can stop Him or question anything He does.

How did God respond to Nebuchadnezzar’s praises?

He blessed him in the following ways:

1. He restored Nebuchadnezzar’s “honor and splendor” for the glory of his kingdom.

2. He allowed Nebuchadnezzar to be restored to his throne after he was sought out by his advisers and nobles.

3. He didn’t just restore Nebuchadnezzar to power but made the way for him to be “even greater than before.”

It was quite a turnaround for Babylon’s king, a kind of riches-to-rags-to-riches story, and so there is little surprise that he would close this chapter with the following words:

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.”

Friends, these were words spoken after God restored a person from judgment to honor but they could and should be words we speak each and every day when we awake, blessed with a new day by the Most High God.

So when you wake up tomorrow, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven because everything He does is right and His ways are just.

And when you wake up the next day, repeat, the next day, the same, and so on and so forth.

For there could be no better response we can give the God who provides us life than to give Him our thanks.

Amen

In Christ,

Mark

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

THE FULFILLMENT



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar.

Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

Daniel 4:28-33

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

In yesterday’s devotion, we found Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, receiving some harrowing news as Daniel interpreted the meaning of his dream, a revelation that carried the following prophecies:

1. Nebuchadnezzar would “driven away from people” where he would “live with the wild animals”, “eat grass like the ox”, and “be drenched with the dew of heaven”.

2. He would remain in that place for seven years (seven times) until the deposed king of Babylon would “acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to whoever He wishes.”

That’s a tough penalty but it is still sixty-three years less than the exile God sent His own people into for turning away from Him to worship false gods and idols.

Well, maybe Nebuchadnezzar might have felt differently about this interpretation than he did the first. Perhaps, he even hoped that maybe Daniel got lucky the first time and was wrong on this second occasion.

Maybe he felt these things but it wouldn’t matter what he felt for as we see today’s scripture passage open, we get this blunt proclamation:

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar.

You see, God will make good on everything He says He will do, even if it isn’t immediately for we know He always works in His perfect way and in His perfect time. We see just that happening as we look at the rest of our verses today:

Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”

Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. Daniel 4:29-33

Note it was a full year from the time that Daniel promised the Nebuchadnezzar that he was going to fall from power. You would think that such news would cause a man to humble himself but as we see in Nebuchadnezzar’s case, he was anything but. In fact, his attitude reflected the heart of a man who was only seeking to honor and glorify himself.

He gave himself all the credit for building the great empire of Babylon by his own “mighty power” and for the “glory of (his) majesty”.

Those self-serving, self-aggrandizing words were all God needed to hear for the scriptures tell us that no sooner had they rolled off Nebuchadnezzar’s lips, a voice called out from heaven declaring that the king’s “royal authority” had been “taken away” from him. The voice then confirmed all that the dream had revealed would happen to Nebuchadnezzar, a review of the judgment that befell him immediately after the voice ceased speaking.

God’s promise was fulfilled and Nebuchadnezzar was driven away from power, reduced to live among the animals for a very long time.

Friends, God’s word is speaking to us powerfully today on two fronts:

First, we had better never adopt an attitude that steals away the honor and glory from the Lord, the only One worthy of receiving any praise or adoration. We had better pay close attention to what happened to Nebuchadnezzar and know a like judgment could come our way if we decide to follow his lead.

Second, God always fulfills His promises and will do what He says He will do. We need to anchor ourselves in those promises as we seek to deal with the things life brings our way. Likewise, we need to swear off all the sinful behaviors He despises, knowing He will bring correction to anyone who willingly and willfully chooses to disobey His word, will, and way.

Just as He did with Nebuchadnezzar.

Amen

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Feel free to leave a comment and please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com