Sunday 31st January 2021

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Our series looking at how Daniel remains faithful throughout testing times has reach chapter 5. Here we read about an event which can be date fairly accurately to 539bc. This is 65 years after the young teenager Daniel arrived in Babylon, so he is now an old man and appears to have retired from being actively involved in life at the royal court. We never retire from serving the living God and so once again Daniel finds himself in the difficult position of having to tell a King a message he won’t want to hear.

It is a king we haven’t encountered before; King Nebuchadnezzar has died and Babylon is now ruled by King Belshazzar. What we need to know about this king Belshazzar is that he is holding this huge party while the enemy armies of the Medes & Persians are camped right outside the city walls. This king has every confidence that with the defences of the enormous walls that surround the city and the army which patrols the top of the walls he is safe from attack and so he behaves as though he hasn’t a care in the world. Read: Daniel 5: 1-6

The king feels invincible, all-powerful - so why shouldn’t he drink from cups which had been made for an almighty God. He sends for the ceremonial cups which had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem. We then read that as the king and his royal court were celebrating how clever and powerful they are, a disembodied hand appears and writes four words on the wall. No one can explain to the king the meaning of this incident, but eventually his mum (the Queen) remembers Daniel and his ability to reveal mysteries, so they send for him.

Once Daniel arrives, he first turns down the reward the king has offered to anyone who can explain the writing on the wall and then reminds the king of how so often ‘pride comes before a fall’ (Proverbs 16:18). He does this by retelling the events we looked at last week. He tells about how proud of his own achievements King Nebuchadnezzar was before the madness came over him and then he tells how the king finally humbles himself before God and discovers that God rescues and saves and is restored to his senses. Only after giving this history lesson does Daniel go on to explain that the writing on the wall Is also talking about ‘pride coming before a fall.’

Daniel explains that God had looked at the king’s life and the way he governs his empire, and God had judged him – given him an OFSTED – God has written that Belshazzar is a failing king, not worthy of his position and so would be removed. This happened that very evening. The enemy army dam the river Euphrates and enter the city along the riverbed.

The writing on the wall reminds us that the living God who endures for ever, is also a judge. We don’t often think about the judgement of God, but throughout the bible we are told that the living God is also a God of Justice – a judge! We sometimes describe God as perfect and for God to be perfect, he has to be full of Justice. There cannot be injustice in God because that would make him imperfect.

In the gospels we read Jesus teaching us about the justice of God. He spoke directly about a day of Judgement and told a number of parables about a time when God will sit as judge and call us to account for how we have lived our lives! Before we panic at this news, we should also remember that our living God who endures for ever is not only a judge but he also saves and rescues. God has given us someone who saves us from facing the judgement we deserve. We have a Redeemer who has taken the punishment justice requires us to pay.

In the New Testament the writer Paul (Romans.3:23 & 6: 23) reminds us that the sentence given out by our perfect God for sinning – any kind of sinning - is death, but he also reminds us that Jesus our saviour has taken that punishment we deserve so that we don’t have to face the Judgement of God and instead can receive God’s gift of eternal life.

So, each Sunday I don’t to focus on the judgement of God but rather on the Saviour God has given us - the one who saves us from the death sentence we face through not loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind & strength every moment of every day.

In Wednesday’s article I asked you to think about what 4 words might appear if God wrote on your wall - it is still a valid exercise for you to think about, but if we have declared Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour then the four words which would appear on our wall are ‘saved by God’s grace’ or ‘Jesus paid the price.’ Having acknowledged this amazing fact our response should be to live a life of thankfulness - wanting to please God not because we fear his judgement, but because we are so grateful that he rescues and saves.

To God be the glory! Great things He hath done; so loved He the world that He gave us His Son;

who yielded His life an atonement for sin, and opened the life gate that all may go in.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord! let the earth hear His voice

praise the Lord, praise the Lord! let the people rejoice:

O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son and give Him the glory, great things He hath done!

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood! to every believer the promise of God;

the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Frances van Alstyne (Fanny J Crosby) 1820-1915

Page last updated: 3rd February 2021 6:13 AM