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Daniel 9:5-6; Penitence in Prayer

07/17_Daniel 09:5-6; Penitence in Prayer; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220717_dan09_5-6.mp3

Daniel is teaching us to pray. Daniel was a man of prayer, he was in a disciplined habit of prayer, and we get to listen in on his prayer in chapter 9. Daniel was studying God’s words, and it spurred him to pray. Daniel sought the face of God in prayer; he gave God his full attention. He took up an appropriate posture of outward humility before God, reminding himself that he needs the Lord more than food, his only comfort comes from God, he is nothing and deserves nothing but incineration. He acknowledges God as God, the sovereign God, the great and awesome God, the God who protects his covenant and practices ‘chesed’, steadfast love and covenant faithfulness toward all who love him and keep his commandments. Daniel’s outward posture of humility is an expression of what is in his heart.

Confessing His Sins

Daniel says in verse 20 that he is confessing his sins and the sins of his people Israel. This word ‘confess’ is an intensive word meaning to bemoan by wring the hands. Daniel is confessing his sin. Remember, not one sin of Daniel is recorded for us in the Bible, and yet Daniel is aware of his own sinfulness.

Daniel addresses YHWH as a God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. But Daniel recognizes that he and his people have not loved the Lord their God with all their heart and soul and mind and strength. They have not kept his commandments. They do not deserve his steadfast love. They have earned the covenant curses, not the covenant blessings.

In verses 5-6 Daniel uses 6 different words to describe his sin, and he repeats those words multiple times throughout his prayer, adding several other unique words describing sin. We get a pretty comprehensive understanding of sin from this passage.

Daniel 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. 3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

Sinned [חָטָא chata’ (chaw-taw’)] cf. v.8, 11, 15; noun in v.16, 2x v.20

We have sinned, and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside …we have not listened. The first word he uses is ‘we have sinned’. This is the common word for missing the mark. We see this word in Judges 20, talking about the warriors of Benjamin:

Judges 20:16 Among all these were 700 chosen men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.

To sin is to fall short of the goal, to hit wide of the target. God created us for a purpose, and when we don’t live up to his good designs, that is called sin. But it’s not that we were aiming for the target and our sights are just slightly off; rather we weren’t even shooting at the target at all. We turn our bows and aim our arrows at the face of the Master of ceremonies and Judge of the competition. To miss the mark is no innocent miscalculation; rather it is a willful act of rebellion in aiming for a different target altogether. Daniel repeats this verb ‘sin’ in verses 8, 11, and 15; and the noun form ‘sin’ in verse 16 and twice in verse 20. We have sinned.

Done Wrong [עָוָה `avah (aw-vaw’)] noun in v.13, 16, 24

We have done wrong. This word means to twist, make crooked, or pervert. Jeremiah laments that the hand of the Lord is in judgment against him:

Lamentations 3:9 ​he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; he has made my paths crooked.

This is in contrast to the blessing of having the way cleared to go straight ahead.

Proverbs 3:6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

We have done wrong. The noun form of this verb is translated ‘iniquities’ in verses 13 and 16. Not only have we missed the mark, we have perverted, twisted the straight way. We have gone astray.

Acted Wickedly [רָשַׁע rasha` (raw-shah’) ] cf. v.15

We have acted wickedly. To be wicked is to do that which is morally wrong, that which is worthy of condemnation, that which justly deserves punishment. When Abraham prays for the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, among whom his nephew Lot was living, he asks:

Genesis 18:23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? …25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

There are those who are guilty of violating the moral standard and are worthy of punishment, and those who are not. It is not just to punish the innocent, and it is not just to let the guilty go unpunished.

Daniel acknowledges that there is an absolute objective standard of morality, that some things are immoral, and that God is the ultimate judge of morality. Daniel confesses that he and his people have not lived up to God’s standards. He repeats this again in verse 15. We have lived in a way that is worthy of your condemnation.

Rebelled [מָרַד marad (maw-rad’)] v.9

We have rebelled. This would be a vivid word for the captives in Babylon. In 609BC Pharaoh Neco killed king Josiah put Jehoiakim on the throne in Jerusalem, requiring him to pay taxes to Egypt. But

2 Kings 24:1 In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him.

Nebuchadnezzar lay siege to Jerusalem. Jehoiakim died and his son Jehoiachin surrendered to the Babylonians in 597BC. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon and appointed his uncle Zedekiah as king in Jerusalem. But

2 Kings 24:20 …Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem for two years, and in 586BC Zedekiah attempted to flee by night.

2 Kings 25:6 Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they passed sentence on him. 7 They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon.

A conquered nation was required to pay tribute to the conquering king. A failure to give what was due was considered a treasonous act of rebellion.

God is our king. But we are continually shifting our allegiances in other directions. When we fail to give God what is rightly due to him, we rebel against him. Daniel repeats this word again in verse 9. We have rebelled against him.

Turning Aside [סוּר cuwr (soor)] cf. v.11

We have rebelled against the Lord by ‘turning aside from your commandments and rules’. God gave his people instructions to live by, not suggestions or recommendations, but commandments. When Moses was on the mountain receiving God’s ten commandments,

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”

God warned Israel not to intermarry with those who worship false gods,

Deuteronomy 7:4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.

Daniel uses this word again in verse 11. God’s people had missed the mark, they had made God’s straight paths crooked, they had lived in a way worthy of condemnation, they refused to give God his due, and they ignored God, turning their back on him and giving their attention to other gods.

Not Listened [שָׁמַע shama` (shaw-mah’)] cf. v.10, 11, 14

Daniel 9:6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

We have not listened. This is not something a hearing aid can fix. The issue is not not hearing. The issue is hearing and not doing, not responding. God sent his servants the prophets. They spoke God’s warnings to everyone, small and great. It was not a lack of information, not a lack of auditory stimulation; this was a lack of response. They heard and did nothing. This word shows up in verses 10, 11 and 14, where it is translated ‘we have not obeyed the voice of YHWH our God; refusing to obey your voice; we have not obeyed his voice.’ They heard, and they made a choice not to heed. We turned our back on God and plugged our ears to his voice.

v.7 Treachery [מַעַל ma`al (mah’-al)] committed against you

In verse 7 Daniel refers to ‘the treachery that they have committed against you’ This word ‘treachery’ is used in Numbers 5 of a wife who ‘goes astray and breaks faith with’ her husband. In 1 Chronicles 5 this word is applied to those from Manasseh who ‘broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them’ 1Chr.5:25). We have broken faith and committed treachery by being unfaithful to God, allowing our hearts and affections to wander to other gods, to worship other things.

v.11 Transgressed [עָבַר `abar (aw-ɓar’)] your Law

In verse 11 Daniel says Israel has transgressed your law. They crossed over the line God had given. They violated his covenant, his commandment. What God expressly forbade is what they did.

v. 13 not Entreated [חָלָה chalah (chaw-law’)] the Favor [פָּנִים paniym (paw-neem’)] of YHWH our God

In verse 13, Daniel confesses that although they had done all these things, they have not entreated the favor of YHWH our God. They have sinned, but they have not sought the face of God.

Confession Positions us to receive God’s Grace

Notice what Daniel does not do. He does not make excuses, he does not attempt to point out that others (like the Babylonians) are worse sinners; He doesn’t justify that they behaved the way they did because they were in captivity and were forced and felt abandoned and had no choice. Rather, he admits it, he owns it, he makes no excuses for it. He agrees with God; sides with God’s just judgment in declaring a verdict against himself.

We have missed the mark, we have perverted your straight paths, we have done that which is morally condemnable, we have rebelled and refused to give God his due. We have turned away from the Lord and toward lesser things, we have stopped our ears and ignored your warnings and instructions. We have wandered in our affections, we have crossed your boundaries, we have failed to seek your face.

Just how bad are we? We are about as bad as we can be. What do we deserve? The wages of sin is death. We have earned your displeasure, your wrath. Daniel is the defendant, but he argues as the prosecution that he is deserving of nothing but God’s just wrath. Why this depressing focus on how bad we are? Why the laundry list of our faults, failures and flaws? Why focus on all this negativity?

This is bad news. We don’t deserve anything good. But Daniel knows who his God is. He is turning his face to seek the Sovereign God, YHWH the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. Daniel is not coming seeking justice, defending himself and his people. He is not seeking justice, he is seeking mercy from a God who is rich in mercy. By agreeing with God about just how bad he is, highlighting his brokenness and need, he is positioning himself to receive God’s abundant mercy that is only ever given to sinners.

The religious leaders questioned Jesus’ association with sinners.

Matthew 9:12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Daniel in effect is crying out ‘Doctor! Over here! Look at this laundry list of symptoms. This is a really bad case. This is so desperate, so urgent, it needs your immediate intervention. We are terminal and don’t have much time left and need to go to the top of your list. By confessing his sin, Daniel is agreeing with God’s diagnosis of his condition and positioning himself to be a recipient of God’s amazing grace. 1 John 1 says

1 John 1:5 …God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. …7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Confession is simply agreeing with God about our desperate condition. We really are as bad as he says we are. Our condition is terminal. We have no hope outside of him. We really do need his life saving rescue. If we confess our sins, if we walk in the light, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin; he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

July 23, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 5:7-16; Wisdom Scorned

10/17_Daniel 05:7-16; Wisdom Scorned; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211017_dan05_7-16.mp3

The fifth chapter of Daniel jumps ahead from the death of Nebuchadnezzar 23 years and 4 kings. Nabonidus was king of Babylon, but had entrusted his son Belshazzar with the rule of the kingdom, while he followed his archaeological and building pursuits 500 miles south in the city of Tema in Arabia. He had returned to Babylon toward the end of his reign, and on hearing Cyrus was approaching, had led his troops 40 miles north to meet Cyrus in battle. He was defeated and fled. Daniel 5 picks up the story 2 days later.

Belshazzar’s Confidence

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Belshazzar apparently felt secure behind the massive walls of Babylon, with supplies stored up to outlast any siege (or at least he wanted others to perceive him as confident), so he threw a massive party to display his opulent wealth, military might and strong defenses.

Spitting in the Face of God

But to call for the sacred temple vessels and to drink wine from them at his party his was arrogant and offensive. This was a symbolic act in direct defiance of the gods, saying in effect, I am greater, more powerful than the gods of other nations. My people have conquered the God of Israel, and now I can drink from his cup. We will also defeat the gods of the Persians encamped outside our walls.

Daniel 5:5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

His confidence evaporated as God supernaturally crashed his party by writing something no one could understand in the plaster of his party room.

Incompetence of the Wise Men

Daniel 5:7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

Notice that the offer of Belshazzar is to make the interpreter the third, not the second ruler of Babylon. Although he is not mentioned in Daniel, this would account for Nabonidus as first, with Belshazzar as second or co-regent, the successful interpreter being offered the third position, ruling alongside father and son.

By now we chuckle at the mention of the enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, because the incompetence of Babylon’s wise men has already been repeatedly demonstrated. Back in chapter 2 ‘the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans’ were summoned to tell the king his dreams, but they proved incapable and their very lives were spared only by the action of Daniel and his friends, with Daniel himself appointed as chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.

In chapter 3 when the Chaldeans ‘maliciously accused the Jews’, they became witnesses of God’s ability to preserve his people even through the fire. The result was an edict defending the Jews, with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego promoted in the province of Babylon.

In chapter 4, ‘all the wise men of Babylon …the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers’ were brought before the king to interpret his dream, ‘but they could not make known to me its interpretation.’ ‘At last Daniel came in …in whom is the spirit of the holy gods’ and he was able to make known the interpretation to the king.

Here again in chapter 5,

Daniel 5:8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.

It seems the thing that had the king scared at least as much as seeing a supernatural hand writing on his wall was not knowing what the writing meant. The king has lost all control, he is shouting for someone to come help him out. The enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers can’t even read the inscription let alone make known the interpretation. The king’s color had already changed back in verse 6; now it changes again in verse 9. The people who should be able to help him have failed him. Words are written on the wall, and no one understands.

The Wise Queen

Daniel 5:10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

We don’t know who this woman was, except that she is called the queen. She is not the wife of Belshazzar, because from verse 2 we know his wives and concubines are already drinking with him at his feast. She enters unbidden and with authority and dignity politely rebukes Belshazzar.

She refers repeatedly to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s father, which is a general word that is broader than our word ‘father’ and could apply to a grandfather or simply a predecessor. For that matter, we don’t really know what Belshazzar’s lineage was, other than that Nabonidus claims him as his only son. It is likely that this is the queen mother, possibly a daughter of the late Nebuchadnezzar or even his wife Nitocris, possibly married by Nabonidus to secure his position. It is possible that Belshazzar is the literal son or grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, who was adopted by Nabonidus. We aren’t told the details.

The Incontinent King

But this wise woman enters the banqueting hall and rebukes the incontinent Belshazzar and points him to Daniel who can untie his knots for him. Back in verse 6, we are told that the knots of the king’s loins were loosed; probably meaning that he lost control of his bodily functions. The queen, wittingly or unwittingly uses a double entendre, telling her son that the wise man Daniel is able to untie his knots for him. The king himself obliviously uses this phrase again in verse 16, where he says to Daniel ‘I hear you are able to untie knots.’ As one commentator notes: ‘from the point of view of an Aramaic speaking Israelite who had suffered much at the hands of the Babylonians …this ignominious spectacle is enough to elicit hoots of derisive laughter on the part of the audience …The unwitting double entendre [of the queen mother] evokes more derisive laughter. Finally, the king himself comes face to face with Daniel …and says, in effect, “I understand that you can untie my knots for me” Again we imagine the audience’s uproarious laughter as the hapless pagan king unwittingly makes a fool of himself before the prophet of the Lord. We see how the story uses burlesque humor to underscore the sovereignty of the Israelite God, before whom the great kings of the earth can at a moment’s notice be reduced to figures of fun, preparatory to being brought to justice.’ [Schwab, p.76 (citing Al Wolters, JBL 110, 1991: 117-122)]

Rebuke of the Queen

The queen mother reminds Belshazzar

Daniel 5:11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king— made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

There seems to be a motherly scolding in her tone; king Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king. The man you demoted and won’t even listen to, your father promoted him and put him in charge because of his surpassing wisdom. You should listen to him. This woman enters the chaos boldly and answers the fear with wisdom and confidence.

The queen mother may have observed first hand the abilities of Daniel and his interaction with Nebuchadnezzar. She may have even come to believe in the God of Daniel herself.

Belshazzar has no other options than to comply with the queen’s recommendation.

Lady Wisdom

We are reminded of the lady wisdom in Proverbs 1;

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. 8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching,

…20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; 21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: 22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? 23 If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. 24 Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, 25 because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, 26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, 27 when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, 30 would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. 32 For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; 33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

She says again in Proverbs 8

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. 14 I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength. 15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; 16 by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.

And Proverbs 9

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Belshazzar obviously had no fear of the Lord, and terror is striking him like a storm and calamity like a whirlwind; he is about to eat the fruit of his own way and have his fill of his own devices.

Daniel Dishonored

Daniel 5:13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

The king puts on a face of being in control. Daniel is brought in, and the king addresses Daniel as ‘that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah.’ Belshazzar wants to lift himself up and put Daniel in his place, making sure that he knows that it was his father (or predecessor) who conquered Judah and took Daniel captive, and that Daniel is a mere exile from conquered Judah.

Keep in mind, Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel captive at the beginning of his reign, and he reigned for 43 years, so Daniel has now been in Babylon for 66 years. If he was about 15 when he was taken, he would be over 80 years old. And he is being talked down to by this arrogant young king. He seems to have no respect for age or wisdom.

All the positive things he says are prefaced by ‘I have heard of you’. He extends the same offer he made to the other failed wise men, but prefaces it by ‘if’, expressing skepticism about the capabilities Daniel.

The Fool and the Gospel

Belshazzar is the classic fool.

Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. 2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

We can look at Belshazzar and recognize a fool. We might even be tempted to laugh and scorn. But Psalm 14 tells us that we are looking in the mirror. There is none who does good. Not even one. None seek God. Not even me. Romans 3 quotes this Psalm and concludes:

Romans 3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Is my mouth stopped, or am I looking down my nose at Belshazzar, amazed at his folly, thinking I am so much wiser than he? Am I able to recognize by God’s grace that I am looking in a mirror, and this is what my pride looks like? Am I willing to acknowledge that

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned [I have sinned] and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

I fall short. I am inadequate. I am not enough. I need a gift I don’t deserve. I need grace. I need redemption. My only hope is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. I am the God-belittling fool, and without God’s supernatural intervention, I will eat the fruit of my way, and have my fill of my own devices.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

October 23, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 5:1-6; Divine Graffiti and Profane Incontinence

10/10_Daniel 05:1-6; Divine Graffiti and Profane Incontinence; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211010_dan05_1-6.mp3

History of Babylon

Nebuchadnezzar reigned in Babylon for 43 years. He died in 562, and was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach; 2Ki.25:27-30). After an arbitrary and licentious reign of only 2 years, he was assassinated by his brother-in-law Neriglissar, (Nergal-Sharezer; Jer.39:3,13), who reigned for three years eight months. When he died in 556 BC, his son Labashi-Marduk took the throne. He was young and inexperienced, and was assassinated after only a few months, and Nabonidus, part of the coup to overthrow him, was appointed to rule. History tells us that Nabonidus was the final ruler of the Babylonian empire, until it fell in 539 BC to Cyrus the Persian.

Belshazzar and the Nabonidus Cylinder

Daniel chapter 5 records Belshazzar as the final ruler of Babylon at its fall to Cyrus, and critics of the Bible were quick to point out this historical ‘inaccuracy,’ and the fact that a king named Belshazzar was unknown to history outside of the biblical record.

That is, until 1853. The Nabonidus cylinder was discoved in a ziggurat in Ur in, which contains a prayer of Nabonidus to the moon god Sin:

ii 3–16) O Sîn, lord of the gods, king of the gods of heaven and earth, god of the gods, the one who resides in the great heavens…

ii 18–22) (As for) me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great divinity and grant me a long life (lit. “a life of long days”)

“ii 23–26) Moreover, with regard to Belshazzar, (my) first-born son, my own offspring, have the fear of your great divinity placed in his heart so that he does not commit a(ny) sin. May he be sated with happiness in life.” [RINBE 2, p.163]

Since that time, several other inscriptions on cuneiform cylinders and tablets have been found in the ruins of Ur, Sippar, and Borsippa attesting to the historicity of Belshazzar (or Bēl-šarru-uṣur – Bel protect the king).

Even Babylonian administrative documents recording business transactions naming Belshazzar as the crown prince have been discovered. This clay tablets is dated to the ‘24th day of Kislimu in the 11th year of Nabonidus, King of Babylon’. It mentions a ‘slave of Bel-sharra-utsur (Belshazzar), son of the king.’ [https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_1898-0514-558]

Things like this are still being found. In July of this year, a 26 line inscription depicting Nabonidus was discovered in northern Saudi Arabia. This inscription has not been published, so we don’t yet know what it says.

No one today can question the existence of Belshazzar son of Nabonidus.

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

We learn from the Verse Account of Nabonidus that:

… -when the third year was about to begin- he entrusted the army [?] to his oldest son, his first born, the troops in the country he ordered under his command.

He let everything go, entrusted the kingship to him, and, himself, he started out for a long journey. The military forces of Akkad marching with him, he turned to Tema deep in the west.

He started out the expedition on a path leading to a distant region. When he arrived there, he killed in battle the prince of Tema, slaughtered the flocks of those who dwell in the city as well as in the countryside. And he, himself, took residence in Tema, the forces of Akkad were also stationed there.

He made the town beautiful, built there a palace like the palace in Babylon. He also built walls for the fortification of the town and he surrounded the town with sentinels.

Nabonidus spent most of his 17 year reign in Tema in Arabia, 500 miles south of Babylon, entrusting his son Belshazzar with the responsibilities of overseeing the affairs of Babylon. Although Belshazzar does not refer to himself as king of Babylon in any of the known inscriptions, he was indeed entrusted with the kingship by his father, and it would be natural for Daniel to refer to him as king.

Cyrus’ Siege of Babylon

Nabonidus had returned to Babylon around 543 BC, so he was in the province when Cyrus attacked in 539 BC.

Josephus records for us what the ancient historian Berosus said about the attack of Cyrus on Babylon:

…but when he was come to the seventeenth year of his reign, Cyrus came out of Persia with a great army; and having already conquered all the rest of Asia, he came hastily to Babylonia. When Nabonnedus perceived he was coming to attack him, he met him with his forces, and joining battle with him was beaten, and fled away with a few of his troops with him, and was shut up within the city Borsippus. [Josephus c. Ap. 1:151-153 (1:20)]

This is the historical backdrop of Daniel 5.

Why Feast?

The night was the 16th of Tishri (October 12) 539BC, and the army of Cyrus was camped outside the walls of Babylon. Two days earlier, Belshazzar’s father Nabonidus, had led his troops to battle at Sippar, less than 40 miles north of Babylon on the Euphrates river. Nabonidus was defeated and fled.

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.

When we put the historical details together, we must ask why? Why was Belshazzar making a feast in Babylon after the defeat of his father two days earlier, and with Cyrus encamped on his doorstep, preparing to lay siege?

It could be that news of his father’s defeat and of the Persian army had not reached him. It could be that he was oblivious to the threat. Or it could be that he was well aware of the imminent demise of Babylon, and he chose to ‘eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ But it seems from his actions that he was proud and defiant, thinking he was safe within the city’s walls. The feast could be a way to rally the leaders and demonstrate to them that they had nothing to fear.

Herodotus in his Histories gives us a possible explanation;

…Cyrus …when the next spring was just beginning, then at length he continued his advance upon Babylon: and the men of Babylon had marched forth out of their city and were awaiting him. So when in his advance he came near to the city, the Babylonians joined battle with him, and having been worsted in the fight they were shut up close within their city. But knowing well even before this that Cyrus was not apt to remain still, and seeing him lay hands on every nation equally, they had brought in provisions beforehand for very many years. So while these made no account of the siege, Cyrus was in straits what to do, for much time went by and his affairs made no progress onwards. [Herodotus Histories 1:190]

The walls of Babylon were massive, impenetrable. The city was built around the river Euphrates, so they had a constant supply of water. If they had stored up many years worth of supplies, they may have been confident that they could outlast any siege.

Belshazzar’s Profanity

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

This is a bold act. Belshazzar is saying that he is greater than the God of Israel. He is greater than his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar had taken the sacred vessels of the Jerusalem temple and placed them in the temple of his god (1:2). There was an understanding that if I conquer you, that means that the gods I serve are greater than the gods you serve, so I take the treasures that belong to your god and put them in the temple of my god, because my god is greater. Nebuchadnezzar was great, and Nebuchadnezzar was proud, but he dared not touch the sacred vessels or use them for any common use. They were dedicated to his god, and they remained in the temples of his god.

In Numbers 18, after the rebellion of Korah, God set aside the Levites to serve alongside Aaron and his sons the priests, but he made a distinction.

Numbers 18:3 They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. …7 And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift, and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”

Not even the Levites were allowed to come near or touch the holy vessels, or they would die. Belshazzar, under the influence of wine, orders that the holy vessels be brought to his immoral feast so they can use them to get drunk. ‘The king, and his lords, his wives, and his concubines’ is repeated to emphasize the audacity of this act.

Saying that they ‘praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone’ is a long list declining in value that may be intended to mock the inanimate and worthless gods that the Babylonians worshiped.

But Belshazzar may be saying ‘I don’t believe in any god I can’t see. I put my trust in tangible things like gold and silver; I can buy my way out of any situation. I trust in bronze and iron, tools of war. I trust in wood and stone, physical defenses, walls. I trust in what I can see, in what is real, tangible, solid, strong. I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe in any gods. I don’t believe in the supernatural.’

Divine Graffiti and the Incontinence of the King

This is when God shows up to crash his little party.

Daniel 5:5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

In the excavations of the palace of Babylon, there is ruins of a room 165 feet long by 55 feet wide, and the walls were plastered. There is a recess in the middle of one of the longer walls, opposite the entrance to the room, where the king would have sat on a raised platform, illuminated by the lampstand. In the plastered wall of his party room, the king was confronted by the supernatural. His confidence crumbled in an instant. He went from proud to pale, from cocky to coward, from arrogant to incontinent, from defiant to debilitated. The ruddy color of fine wine drained from his face. The phrase translated ‘his limbs gave way’ can be literally translated ‘the knots of his loins were loosed’; very likely this means that he lost all control of his bodily functions. This one who was so self assured to defy the living God publicly soiled himself in front of his thousand party guests. God has a way of humbling the proud. And God has a sense of humor!

Back in Genesis, when all the people gathered against the Lord on the plains of Shinar to make a name for themselves, and to make a tower whose top reached to heaven, the Lord stooped down to see what it was they were building. This one who asserted his power over YHWH’s bowls lost control of his own bowels (Schwab). As Nebuchadnezzar said at the close of the last chapter, “…all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (4:37).

God will not be mocked (Gal.6:7). Biblical ‘scholars’ who accused Daniel of historical inaccuracy in fabricating a Belshazzar character are now shown to be the fools who disbelieved God’s word. Belshazzar who defied the living God and trusted in the things that were solid and reliable now has the knots of his own loins untied.

Application

What are your idols? What do you praise? What do you treasure? Delight in? What is it you value most?

Proverbs 17:3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.

Proverbs 27:21 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.

What are your idols? What do you praise? What are you trusting in? Gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone? In what does your confidence lie? Who or what do you rely on, depend on?

1 Peter 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Take a moment to evaluate your affections. What do you love? What do you rejoice in? That which you can see, or the unseen realities? If Jesus is not supreme in your affections, your faith is misplaced.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

October 11, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 3:1-12; Making a Name for Ourselves

07/18_Daniel 03:1-12; Making a Name for Ourselves; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210718_dan03_1-12.mp3

Daniel 2 showed us the bankruptcy of human wisdom and even the dark arts. The king had a dream, and he summoned his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans; all the wise men of Babylon, and they were powerless to unravel the king’s mystery. They are more inclined to tell him what is expedient, to use flattery, to preserve their positions, than to tell him the truth.

Now we see in chapter 3 the bankruptcy of human government. Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold. God has given him authority over ‘the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all’ (2:38). The head of gold gathers all those he has set up to rule under him; “the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces”; this list becomes comical in its sheer length and its repetition. These are representatives from all “peoples, nations, and languages” and they all buckle under the great pressure and threat of consequences; they all compromise to preserve their own skin. They act out of jealousy and self-interest; not the good of the people they are responsible to serve. They all, including Nebuchadnezzar, allow pride and preservation of position to eclipse simply doing what is right.

The Image of Gold; Opposition to God’s Revelation

Daniel 3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.

In chapter 2, God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar the future of Gentile dominion, and what would happen after these things with ‘a great image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, frightening’ (2:31). After the head of gold would come three other empires represented by metals of descending value but increasing strength, followed by a divided kingdom. A divine stone would impact and obliterate all human kingdoms, crushing them to powder that the wind blew away, and God will establish his kingdom that will have no end.

In response to this, maybe even in proud opposition to this vision from God, Nebuchadnezzar sets up a massive image 9 feet wide and 90 feet tall that is gold from head to foot. He is saying as it were, my kingdom will last forever. My dominion will not decline or be given to another. My kingdom will never be crushed, never fall. He calls for allegiance to this statue as a symbolic act to unify his empire and rally all his people around an experience of worship.

Daniel had acknowledged God as the one who ‘removes kings and sets up kings’ (2:21), and he made it clear to Nebuchadnezzar that ‘the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory’ into his hand (2:37). Here Nebuchadnezzar is saying that he is the one who sets up gods for his people to worship, and that he can give life or take life away from those who refuse to bow.

The Plain in Shinar; Place of Opposition to God

The location of this statue is telling. It is on the plain, in the province of Babylon. In chapter 1, the author calls Babylon ‘the land of Shinar’ (1:2). This links all the way back to Genesis 11.

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

We were created in the image of the invisible God, to enjoy relationship with him and bring glory to his name. Instead we desire to make a name for ourselves, to get glory for ourselves, to establish a monument and create a legacy that will last forever.

On the plain in the land of Shinar, the people united in rebellion against God and his glory, God and his word. God had commanded man to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen.1:26-28). Instead they came together so that they would not be dispersed over the face of the whole earth as God intended.

Genesis 11:5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

The tower of Babel was intended to bring together all mankind united in rebellion against God. In that unity, nothing they proposed to do would be impossible for them, but it would not be for the glory of God and the good of others; they do it all to get glory for themselves, to make a name for themselves in opposition to God and his word.

Nebuchadnezzar’s statue on the same geographic location had the same purpose. In fact, he intended to reverse the confusion of Babel by bringing back together ‘people, nations and languages’ that the Lord had dispersed, to unite them all in worship before his image of gold.

Inclusive Worship of the Image

Daniel 3:2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

Note what Nebuchadnezzar is not asking. He is not demanding that all peoples, nations and languages renounce their own gods and exclusively worship his. But he is requiring that they acknowledge his god alongside theirs. In chapter 2, he was willing to acknowledge Daniel’s God as God of gods and Lord of kings without renouncing his own gods. He is requiring the same of all his subjects. It is fine if you worship your own gods, as long as you will also acknowledge mine. Nebuchadnezzar commands under penalty of death that all peoples, nations and languages fall down and worship the golden image that he has set up.

The Manipulative Power of Music

Notice what he utilizes to initiate the worship of this image? ‘When you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music.’ Some have commented that this bizarre combination of instruments would produce a cacophony of sound, but I don’t think so. Nebuchadnezzar understood the emotive and persuasive power of music skillfully played to manipulate a response from an audience. The image he had made was visually awe inspiring and impressive, and the strategically diverse ensemble was meant to elicit an emotional response from the people. The combination of sight and sound, of threat and hope, of uniting with such an unbelievably great and diverse crowd around something great would be almost irresistible.

And it worked!

Daniel 3:7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

We need to be careful with this. Music is a gift of God. Music is powerful. But music skillfully played at just the right time and in just the right way can manipulate the emotions of people. It persuaded a multitude from diverse backgrounds to fall down and worship an image. Music combined with fog machines and colored lights can create an atmosphere of sight and sound that is powerful and persuasive, and draw people in, whether they believe in Jesus or not.

Paul said, not in the context of music, but in the context of human oratory and eloquence that could please the ear in a similar way;

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

I think it is right and biblical to use instruments in worship of God (Ps.150:3-6). Even loud music and clashing cymbals can be appropriate in worship to God. But we need to be careful that we are not coming to be entertained, to be moved, to be awed by the band and the special effects. We must be careful that we are not using music and visual stimulation to manipulate an emotional response. We ought to be singing because God has genuinely changed our hearts, and we ought to be standing and singing in awe of him, who he is, and his grace, what he has done.

Music is powerful, and it can be used to move ‘all the peoples, nations, and languages’ to fall down and worship ‘the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.’ All but three young men that is.

Jealousy of Position

Daniel 3:8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

At the end of chapter 2 we saw that because Daniel upstaged all the ‘wise men, enchanters, magicians, and astrologers’ of Babylon, he was appointed ‘ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon’ (2:48-49).

Now the hearts of the Chaldeans are exposed. They ‘maliciously accused the Jews’. They were full of resentment and jealousy toward these foreigners who had been appointed to positions of authority over them. They were watching, looking for opportunity to accuse the Jews. They were even bold enough to be critical of the king’s decisions; ‘There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon…’

If we look ahead to chapter 6, where Daniel is thrown to the lions, we are told that the jealous leaders conspired to arrange circumstances to entrap Daniel and have him removed. Although we are not told, we could imagine that a similar thing could have happened here; the king’s counselors inflating his ego, encouraging the king to make the image and to institute the death penalty for conscientious objectors, knowing that the Jews were expressly forbidden to bow to any image.

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God,…

Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah knew God’s commands. They feared God more even than the threats of the king.

Deuteronomy 6:13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

Made to Worship

Although we were made to worship, made to supremely enjoy the one true God, our hearts are sinfully inclined to worship lesser things. We tend to suppress the truth. We exchange the glory of the immortal and invisible God for images resembling visible mortal man. We fail to honor him as God or give him thanks.

Like the Chaldeans, we value our own position, our own promotion, our own exaltation more than God. And we are willing to push others down if that will give us opportunity to advance. We want to be in places of power, we want to be honored. Like the people on the plain of Shinar, we want to make a name for ourselves.

But at the cross, the power of sin was broken. We can be free from our selfish desires. We are set free to look up, not to aspire but to adore. When we see God for who he is, we are set free from the pursuit of self-promotion, from seeking the approval of others. We can be free to forget ourselves and humbly worship the only one who is worthy. We were made to worship, and we find our greatest fulfillment when we pursue the glory of God in all we do.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

July 23, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment