Belshazzar was a young Babylonian king who was filled with pride. Even though God had showed the Babylonian kings, like Nebuchadnezzar, that they should be humble before the Most High God, Belshazzar did not take to heart the lessons God had showed his predecessors. Daniel 5 reveals how he made a feast, praising the false “gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone” (Daniel 5:4). It was “the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem” that he used in this drunken feast of idolatry (Daniel 5:3). Daniel 5:22 says, “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this.”
Because Belshazzar got drunk, he continued down a path of doing things he knew he shouldn’t. Intoxication loosens the willpower God has given us to restrict ourselves from moral transgressions and brings out the animal part of man, causing the baser instincts to hold sway. Drinking leads to doing things we will soon regret. Who has woe and sorrow? Those who seek wine (Proverbs 23:29-35).
To sober Belshazzar up to the consequences of his actions, God made a hand appear and write a message on the wall in the midst of this feast (Daniel 5:5). Belshazzar was so afraid his knees knocked and he asked for someone to come and interpret the message (Daniel 5:6-7).
Daniel was finally brought in to interpret the message of God. Belshazzar offered Daniel gifts if he would interpret the message, but Daniel esteemed the blessing of God greater than the gifts of a king and said, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another…” (Daniel 5:16-17). How great it would be if all of us could be like Daniel; if we could only get covetousness out of our hearts and have our sole desire to be to please God by properly interpreting and applying His message.
The writing on the wall was, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (Daniel 5:25). What do these words mean?
Mene, mene: God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.
Tekel: you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.
Upharsin: your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.
Nothing could have been further from the mind of Belshazzar than an overthrow of his kingdom by the Medes and the Persians. Belshazzar ruled in a city that was surrounded by two enormous walls. The inner wall was 21 feet thick and 300 feet high. Chariots could ride around on the top of it. But little did he know that Darius and the Medes had spent months outside the walls, digging. The Babylonians, thinking they were secure, ignored the enemy and got drunk at their feasts. God’s message brought Belshazzar to grips with reality. The very night of the handwriting on the wall, in 537 B.C., Darius (under Cyrus the Persian) took Babylon by diverting the riverbed and going under the city gates. They killed Belshazzar.
Belshazzar knew that he should have been giving respect to the Most High God, instead he decided to live it up and enjoy pleasure, but before his night of frivolity was over he was weighed on God’s scales and put to death. When the world wishes to live for the moment, we must be seriously minded to live for that eternal day that awaits those obedient to God. “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.” 1 Thessalonians 5:8.
The Bible gives some rich images of God to help our understanding of His nature. Several figures of speech are given in the Scriptures as “lenses” through which we are better able to see God, who in reality is an invisible spirit (Luke 24:39; John 4:24; Hebrews 11:27). God is described as a king, a warrior, a rock, a father, a shield, a bird, a farmer, a vinedresser, etc.; however, one persistent figure of God in the Bible is that of a shepherd.
It seems that the shepherd is a retired figure in contemporary times since so few in the world practice shepherding the way it was conducted in the ancient Near East. The primary roles of a shepherd were providing food and water to the sheep, delivering them from dangerous predators, and gathering those who were lost. Sheep are not highly intelligent animals, lacking the capacity to find food and water for themselves in many environments; thus, they need an intelligent and caring leader that will guide them to places where the essentials of life can be found. Sheep also tend to wander and are susceptible to predators because they lack natural defenses that would enable them to escape from their attackers or at least ward them off.
To have an inept shepherd would be a terrifying condition, but to have a good shepherd would bring a sense of peace. When the nation of Judah had poor shepherds (leaders) that led them into danger, God promised that He would raise up good shepherds so that they would no longer be terrified or go missing (Jeremiah 23:4). Indeed, when Christ the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14), the branch of David would come, “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely” (Jeremiah 23:6). As a shepherd and a king Jesus would bring peace (Isaiah 9:6-7; 11:1-5).
Let us make sure the figure of a shepherd, with his tender relationship and emotional involvement to the sheep, is not lost on us today. We must go back and consider this figure and revive it in our day to those who are unfamiliar with shepherding. No other passage in the Bible portrays this figure more tenderly than Psalm 23. David, who was a shepherd, wrote of how God is a competent shepherd who is able to meet all of our needs. Because the Lord God was his shepherd, he would not lack (v. 1). Even when he found himself in the valley of the shadow of death, he would fear no harm (v. 4a). The Lord’s rod and staff (with which he implements protection and discipline) brought him comfort (v. 4b).
Certainly God is the great shepherd. To God we owe our very existence. Every breath we breathe is a gift from Him (Acts 17:25). The food we eat ultimately comes from His hand (Acts 14:17). Even pompous rulers, who often deny Him, are sustained by the crops that grow in the field He sustains with nutrients, sunshine, and water (Ecclesiastes 5:9). More importantly, the Lord gives us spiritual protection and rest from our adversary the devil, who, as a roaring lion, preys on us (Matthew 11:28; 1 Peter 5:8). If we follow the Lord, He will lead us, His sheep, into the green pastures of eternal life. Jesus said, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (John 10:27-28). In the great judgment scene of Matthew 25, Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, and gives His sheep eternal life (Matthew 25:32-33, 46). What a joy it will be for us to see the Chief Shepherd appear to lead us home (1 Peter 5:4).
Our Lord said in Matthew 11:16-19:
But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
Many in Jesus’ day could not be satisfied. They rejected both Jesus and John on different terms. They criticized John for not socializing with the people and claimed he was a demoniac. However, they criticized Jesus for socializing with the people, calling him a glutton and a drunk. It is obvious from their charges that these people were extremely unfair. If it weren’t for the seriousness of the fact that their rejection of Jesus cost them their souls, their charges would be comical.
Jesus compares these people to children who must have it their way. If someone does not follow their lead, they throw a fit. One cannot win with this sort of people. Sadly, there are many in our present age who are of the same stripe. They will use any excuse not to fulfill their responsibility to obey God. Often, unfair expectations are placed on God. People want freedom of choice, but they grow angry and bitter against God when another person is allowed to make a choice that harms them. Many will not listen to God, but when they find themselves in trouble they expect God to listen to them. They cannot have it both ways.
There are even some in the church who act accordingly. Some almost make it a sport to criticize every little thing they can in the church. By their attitude they make engaging in acceptable worship impossible for themselves and difficult for others. There are legitimate concerns and criticisms that need to be addressed, but when criticisms are constant and unreasonable a deeper spiritual problem lies at the root. I have observed that those who are the biggest critics and most insistent that others change are often the most easily offended and least likely to change themselves. Instead of examining themselves and making changes, it is easier to shift the focus elsewhere.
Is this not why people made ridiculous accusations against John and Jesus? If they accepted the Divine message, they would have to change. Instead they chose to reject the message and attempted to justify themselves in doing so. Criticism of others is often an attempt to justify oneself. When Pharisees derided Jesus (Luke 16:14), he replied, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts” (Luke 16:15). We might as well get out of the habit criticizing others to justify ourselves for there will be no shifting blame in the final judgment (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
06.07.15 pm – Jerry Sturgill – The Place of Weeping
Scripture Reading – Jeremiah Smith: Judges 2:1-5