Writing’s on the Wall
The chances of you dying are 100%. Are you living in that reality or are you numbing out the truth like everyone else?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
It’s pretty amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish medically in the last 100 years.
The amazing advances in childbirth
In the last 80 years, the infant mortality rate in the US has dropped from 55 out of 1,000 births to now just 6 out of 1,000 births
The discovery of antibiotics
Vaccines for polio, measles, and more
Goodness, kids don’t even get chicken pox anymore.
Gone are the days of chicken pox parties.
That was a rite of passage for many of us!
In 1900, the Life Expectancy was still 47 in the United States. 47!!
Now it’s 79 in the U.S.!
84 in Japan!
And yet…even if you move to Japan…despite all of our efforts, the global death rate remains constant at 100 percent.
We all die.
It shouldn’t come as a shock.
Billions…BILLIONS of people have lived before us.
They all died.
And yet…despite the certainly of it, most people don’t want to acknowledge it and certainly don’t want to think about it.
This morning, I want to show you a true story from history…from the Bible…that should caution us to think otherwise.
We’re in the middle of a series called “Stranger in a Strange Land” where we’ve been taking a look at the book of Daniel in the Old Testament
And how Daniel himself was a stranger (an exile from Jerusalem) living the really strange land of Babylon.
And we’ve said that we need wisdom from how Daniel lived his life because living as a Christian in America can you make you feel like you’re a stranger in a strange land.
If you’re visiting today, so far we’ve covered the first 3 chapters of Daniel.
We’re actually going to skip chapter 4, because it’s a chapter that I just taught on last May in a message called “Pride of Power” in our “Distorted Reality” series.
I encourage you to look that up if you want a refresher on chapter 4 where God humbles King Nebuchadnezzar because of his pride.
We’re going to be in chapter 5 today, and a significant amount of time has passed in the book since we last studied chapter 3.
When Daniel was first exiled, it was 605 BC.
Now, in chapter 5, it’s 539 BC.
Daniel is an old man.
Most likely around 80 years old.
Nebuchadnezzar is no longer around.
He’s been dead for 22 years or so, and there have been a couple more kings of Babylon after him.
The current King as a man named Belshazzar
Let’s take a look at what happens in Daniel 5 and what it has to do with “death”
(Daniel 5:1-12) – NIV
King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. 2 While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father[a] had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. 3 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. 4 As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. 5 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. 6 His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking. 7 The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers[b] 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.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. 9 So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled. 10 The queen,[c] 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!11 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. 12 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.”
Let’s pause there for a moment, and I’ll summarize parts of the middle due to length.
You’ll get a chance to read the whole thing in your House Groups this week.
If you’re not in one yet, every week is a great week to sign up J
So King Belshazzar calls for Daniel and offers him great rewards (including being the 3rd highest ruler in the kingdom if he can interpret the writing)
Daniel says he’s not interested in the rewards, but he’ll interpret it anyway
He then reminds Belshazzar that his great predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, was prideful, but God humbled him, and Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself before God (that was chapter 4)
Let’s rejoin it as Daniel gets fired up in verse 22
(Daniel 5:22-31) – NIV
22 “But you, Belshazzar, his son,[d] have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23 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. 24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription. 25 “This is the inscription that was written: mene, mene, tekel, parsin 26 “Here is what these words mean: Mene[e]: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. 27 Tekel[f]: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. 28 Peres[g]: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” 29 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. 30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians,[h]was slain, 31 and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.[i]
So Daniel interprets the writing from the hand that God sent.
And he tells Belshazzar that his days are numbered…they’re over.
He has been found wanting (there is sin in his life…)
And that his Kingdom (Babylon) will be divided.
And that very night…Belshzzar is killed, and the Medo-Persian army breaks into Babylon.
By the way, while we’re here in chapter 5, let me say this:
If we’ve ever going to live as not just a reflection of the culture, but as a reflection of Christ, it starts with us deeply believing in the Bible
Here’s where Daniel 5 that I think can help with that.
For a long period of history, Daniel 5 was the poster-child of why someone shouldn’t take the Bible seriously.
And here’s why: Nowhere, in any historical sources (outside the Bible) did we have any record of the last king of Babylon being named Belshazzar.
In fact, we didn’t even have record of a Belshazzar.
People said, “The last king of Babylon was actually Nabonidus…not someone named Belshazzar like the Bible said.
SO people said, “See the Bible is just nice stories for little kids, but it’s not real history to be trusted.”
But get this…over the last century, archaeologists have now discovered not 1 , but as of present day, THIRTY-SEVEN different historical texts that mention Belshazzar.
And here is what archaeology has now helped us discover
Nabonidus (whom historians said was the last King of Babylon) was technically the last king.
Except, he was ruling from (what is now Saudi Arabia) and left his son Belshazzar to rule over Babylon
This is why Belshazzar offers Daniel the 3rd highest position in the Kingdom. His father is first. Belshazzar is 2nd. Daniel would be third.
So I encourage you…if you ever come across a historical bit similar to that, just give it time
THE CULTURE DOESN’T WANT TO THINK ABOUT DEATH
And maybe the culture at large doesn’t want to believe the stories are true because that would mean they’d have to start thinking more about the big picture.
More about life…and death…and eternal life.
But most Americans want to spend as little time as possible thinking about their death.
Even though we know it’s coming.
And we have glimpses of our mortality
Many Americans go to funerals…and for a moment, they start thinking of their own death…but just for a moment.
Others get strong words from their doctor: If you don’t stop this habit and change your life…you’ll die, not at 79, but at 59.
And yet…after a few weeks…most usually go right back to what they were doing before.
WE know that death is coming.
People see the writing on the wall.
By the way, that famous phrase is indeed taken from this very chapter in the Bible.
Many Americans know the writing’s on the wall regarding their coming death, but they don’t want to acknowledge the truth of it.
And by the way, that exact same thing is happening to Belshazzar and the 1,000 nobles at his banquet.
Here’s where history really makes this passage come alive.
See, we know from other historical sources that 7-10 days before Daniel chapter 5, Cyrus the Great had brought the Medo-Perisan army to within 50 miles of Babylon, and had defeated the Babylonian army.
Which meant at the time of Daniel 5, the great city of Babylon was completely defenseless
The people inside the walls of Babylon were scared to death
This is the context to which Belshazzar & his nobles are throwing this enormous party full of alcohol, revelry, and blasphemy of God.
In fact, we even know from two different ancient Greek Historians (not the Bible…not religious historians) that when the Medo-Persian army finally got through the mighty walls of Babylon…
The Greek historians write that the Babylonians were feasting in drunken revelry (exactly what the Bible tells us)…amazing.
The Babylonians know their death is coming.
Their army is defeated…they’re fairly confident they’re going to die.
Listen, even if their banquet was supposed to be some sort of showing of confidence and pride…it’s all the same…deep down they’re trying to suppress their fear of death.
And that’s a apt description of our culture.
Trying everything we can to suppress our fear of death.
Because people don’t want to think about what might actually happen at their death.
Will it just be nothing? Blackness?
Will they meet God? Will they go to heaven? Hell? Forever?
And rather then contemplate that and try and find solutions…many choose to suppress it.
Because we don’t like to look at it…or think about it.
But it’s REALITY.
(Pull back cover on Easel) – Words say: “YOU ARE GOING TO DIE”
For many (maybe even most) in our culture…this makes people uncomfortable.
It’s no different than saying, “you’re going to breathe.”
For a culture that loves science and data, since this is one of the few things we know to be 100% true, it shouldn’t make us uncomfortable.
But for most…it does.
And so we do our best to suppress it.
Many, subconsciously out of their fear of death get obsessive in their quest to stay young.
Because of course the younger you are…the farther you are from death, right?
As if we could somehow cheat the clock.
And so we lie about our age…
Or, for example, I’m turning 34 on Tuesday, but nowadays, that’s not 34, that’s 29 part 6!
We feel we’ve got to get younger…stay away from death!
We’ve got to: (start walking away from the sign):
Stay in shape
Get wrinkle free creams
Spray funny stuff on the top of our heads so it doesn’t look like we’re going bald
Keep telling ourselves that it’s okay, “60 is the new 50!”
And see if you we’re a believer in Jesus Christ, I think you might ought to consider seeing the falling out of your hair and the sagging of your skin as another welcomed sign that you’re one day closer to living in paradise forever with Jesus Christ!
And most people, don’t know that truth…and thus they fear death…and so they try (in vain) to run the other way.
Forgetting the global death rate is 100%.
You can’t outrun it.
Others instead of trying to run from it, do everything they can to never think about it
In America, to avoid thinking about death…we distract ourselves to death.
That’s kind of what they’re doing in Babylon, right?
The enemy army is at the door… “I know! Let’s throw a party and just get plastered.
This is what we do.
The last thing most people want to do in this strange land is think about things like “The purpose of life.” “or why they exist” “or what will happen when they breathe their last”
We don’t to think about it, and so we just keep ourselves distracted.
And so, we’re always working.
And when we’re not working, we’re entertaining ourselves.
On our TV’s, our tablets, and always…always our phone.
Most Americans aren’t even up for 15 seconds before they’re phone is entertaining them with some sort of game, music, video, or information.
We can’t drive with out it
Most of you can’t even go to the bathroom with out it.
And so, many in our culture will do absolutely anything they can to distract themselves from actually stopping and thinking about death...and more importantly, what to do about it.
(walk over and cover easel)
WE CAN, AND WE MUST INTERPRET AND SHARE THE WRITING ON THE WALL
And yet as much as people try and cover up the truth, the writing is all over the wall
The reality is: People know death is coming...but the real reason they’re suppressing it is because they DON’T know what to do about it.
The writing is on the wall, but it’s OUR job (as Christ followers) to interpret the signs.
Just like Daniel, the Spirit of God is in us, and so it’s OUR job to interpret truth as the stranger in this strange land.
Yes, just like the Babylonians…the world around us may be participating in absolute silliness at times in order to blur out their impending death.
But rather than letting that push you away or make you mad or make you look down upon them, I pray that it pushes you to them.
Because you can read the writing on the wall!
You have answers!
God has called each and every one us to interpret the writing on the wall with the people He’s put around us…just as Daniel did.
And we need to be brave enough to share the whole story…because I fear the culture of our strange land only knows half the story
Look at what Daniel says in verse 22:
(Daniel 5:22) – NIV
22 “But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this.
Belshazzar had some familiarity with God moving in Nebuchadnezzar’s life…one of his famous predecessors
And yet…not enough…not enough for Belshazzar to do anything about it.
And I think this is indicative of American culture in the 21st century.
Most people in our country can actually still tell you that “yes Jesus died on the cross to show that he loves us”
And yet if so many know that…why are they UNMOVED by it?!?
It’s because they do not understand the weight of what he died for!
They think of his death as a kind symbolic gesture of sacrifice.
It was a nice act of kindness…a way to demonstrate that we should put others before ourselves.
They don’t see it as it is: That he was taking a bullet that they deserved.
And unless they accept his sacrifice, it will surely pierce their heart!
People know that Jesus loves them…that part of the writing, they understand.
But they don’t understand the writing on Belshazzar’s wall.
Mene, Tekel, Parsin
1) Your days are numbered…you’re going to die.
2) Your kingdom is going to be divided…someone else is going to live in your house.
And all the stuff that you spent a lifetime accumulating will be auctioned off or trashed
3) And you’ve been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
There is sin in our lives that must be punished…if God is indeed Holy
Yes, he loves you, and he died for you.
But the only reason he died for us is because there was so much sin in our lives, that we’ve been weighed on the scales of righteousness…and been found wanting…deserving of judgment
We’re not perfect.
And unless, a perfect person (Jesus) takes our place on those scales, we will not only die, but pay for our sins, in hell for eternity…
But if we believe that Jesus died for our sins, we can be completely forgiven…CONQUER DEATH… and be in heaven with Him forever.
We have to interpret the writing for people.
They see it…they know death is coming…they maybe even think God loves them.
But that love will move them nowhere until they understand that what makes his love so amazing is that without it, we perish.
And so what do you do with this?
For some of you that already share your faith with others, I encourage you to begin to incorporate more of God’s truth.
The world is on a party bus headed towards a cliff, all while trying to numb out it’s final destination.
And sometimes in order to inspire someone to get off the bus headed towards destruction, it’s not enough to just tell them that someone loves them.
People on the party bus love them too!
Sometimes we need to tell them that their bus is headed towards destruction…and someone wants to (and CAN) save them.
And don’t hear me wrongly: You don’t have to do this by yelling or holding creepy signs.
No joke…I saw some people in Coon Rapids last month holding “repent or perish” signs.
I can’t imagine that’s helping.
That’s just half the story too…except this time you left out the LOVE part of it!
Share your story with the people God’s put around you.
And not just that you found out that God loves you.
But you found out that because of your sin…you were never going to make it on your own…or to heaven.
But because of His LOVE, he sent Jesus to die for you!
And gave you life everlasting.
Tell the full story.
It’s boring otherwise.
See, we fear that people will never want to hear anything like this.
And maybe at first…they’ll be scared to talk about it…even get mad.
But remember, as much as people try and cover it up, they KNOW death is coming…and they’re scared.
And deep down…people want answers…and they’re scared
Friends, we can READ THE WRITING ON THE WALL!
Let’s tell people someone can save them from death!
We’ve got good news!
And for others of you (many of you), that are still looking for the COURAGE to even begin to bring God up in conversation, or invite someone to church, or even live out more of your faith in the public sphere in this strange land…
Part of having courage to take those next steps, is reading the writing on the wall yourself.
It’s knowing it in your core.
Knowing the truth will create boldness in you.
I read a few months ago about a new watch that came out in 2014 that actually counts down the years, days, months, etc. left in your life (based on life expectancy)…
SO you can have a sobering idea just how much time is left.
Now, I’m not saying you need to go get it…
But I am saying that unless we as believers acknowledge the truth that a lot of people are going to be “found wanting” when the number of their days is up…
We’ll never move.
And yet for many of us…when we come to Christ…we learn this truth (uncover the sheet)…but soon enough…just like the culture around us…we too drown it out
We file it away some where. (cover it back up)
And no wonder we don’t have the courage to offer a lifeline to our friends & family perishing around us!
We’ve covered up the truth in our own lives.
But this isn’t you.
It’s not how this began…remember?
He didn’t save you, so you would drift off into apathy like everyone else.
He didn’t save you so you could spend life checking off your bucket list…numb…NUMB to those perishing around you.
Remember: He saved you for a purpose.
But if you’re going to live out that purpose, you’ve got to live in truth:
If every day you you can stare into this very real truth…
And you could think about:
Just what your Jesus rescued you from…
What He will bring you too…
His heart for the lost
I guarantee you it will change the way you live and how you interact with people who just need somebody to interpret the writing on the wall.
Uncover the truth again.
Live in the truth again.
God is in you…may He use you.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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