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Trying God’s Patience


Trying God’s patience

Text: Daniel 5:1-4

Nebuchadnezzar is dead and he has left some mess behind him. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to reign by members of his family, his son, Nabonidus is now king, – and in a weird set-up, he is joined on the throne by Belshazzar, – a kind of Vice Regent.  Perhaps Belshazzar was a man who had not just the privileges of the royal household, but the privileges of one who knew that there was a gracious God, with whom he could have a saving relationship. But like so many – he hardened his heart against God. Let’s see just how hard and rebellious this sinful heart was…

  1. An Indulgent, Egotistical Heart. V1.  
    1. His ball. It was a great feast. 
    2. His buddies.  Look at the numbers and the status of these people. There were one thousand members of the nobility included in the guest list for this banquet. 
    3. His binge. They drank wine – specifically, Belshazzar himself drank wine before the assembled guests. In ancient days the king would not usually mix with these ‘lords’ -he would be separate from them – yet here he is, in the middle of his chief men…

But this was not happening in a vacuum. The Greek historian Herodotus tells us that at this very moment the mighty Persian Army under Darius was camped outside the city of Babylon. The Persians had already conquered the rest of the country. So, why are King Belshazzar and the Babylonians having a party? Again – bravado?  They were convinced that the Persians could not conquer their city. Its walls were thought to be impregnable. The river Euphrates ran through the city so there was no shortage of water. Babylon had enough food in storage to last twenty years.  Like these party goers, many of us don’t want to think about the fact that all of life is drawing to an inevitable conclusion, and we shall be one day facing our Maker in judgement.  

2. A Profane, Disrespectful Heart. V2 Belshazzar is in serious trouble. His kingdom is finished, his life is coming to an end, a ferocious enemy is at the gate. In those circumstances, wouldn’t he do well to get on his knees before the Lord God and plead for mercy? Shouldn’t he be seeking the face of God for help and for deliverance, like his father Nebuchadnezzar had done when God humbled him? Would he not have done well to call the lords and politicians and advisors together and declare a national day of mourning before the Lord, a day of prayer and fasting?  But instead he calls for the vessels that were taken from the Temple in Jerusalem to be brought to the feast, …that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. and he publicly blasphemes, he drinks from these sacred vessels, and he  openly despises God and his law. And his people, who placed a great deal of value on these vessels. Jeremiah 27:16-18  Ezra 1:7-8  

3. A Coercive Manipulative Heart. V3  Not only did Belshazzar sin in this respect, but he encouraged others to sin with him – sin spreads…

4. An Idolatrous Heart. V4 While they are sinning and blaspheming, – they go further in the rejection of God. Not only do the fail to trust him, and not only do they shake their fist at the Lord and His people, but the deliberately and wilfully focus their worship upon false gods. Maybe they held an impromptu sacrifice. Maybe they sang songs of praise about them. Intoxicated, did they not realise that they were sining and praying and sacrificing to a lump of wood?  Sin is never content. It always spreads, it always involves others, it always is primarily against God.

In our last lesson, we saw how graciously God wooed Nebuchadnezzar, despite his pride and and arrogance and cruelty, and brought him low, so that he would realise his sin and confess and repent and trust God. God has been patient with Belshazzar too. But his patience has been tried. Belshazzar has been given opportunity after opportunity to repent, and instead, he indulged in a worldly godless insult. His time is over.  He has been warned.

 Next time, we will see the terrible consequences of unrepentant sin.

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