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Daniel 5:1-31 ~ 2 Peter 2:1-22
Psalm 119:113-128 ~ Proverbs 28:19-20
Old Testament - Daniel chapter 5 is the infamous "the writing is on the wall" chapter! It is not a good sign to see writing appear on the wall in this way... This chapter is of huge importance to the Babylonian dynasty - because this chapter is the very last day of Babylon the empire. The next day everything goes to the Persians & Medes and Cyrus will be taking over the roost. Daniel chapter 5 verse 1 starts us out today with: "A number of years later.." This chapter takes place in 539 B.C., whereas chapter 4 with Nebuchadnezzar took place before his death in 562 B.C. So, at least 23 years have past between chapter 4 & 5 - and several leaders of Babylon have passed by, leaving Belshazzar, who has 1 day more...
Verses 1 through 4 in the chapter unfortunately describe an orgy taking place, utilizing gold and silver cups taken from the Temple in Jerusalem decades earlier by Nebuchadnezzar. Unwisely, Belshazzar and the crew toast false idols with these sacred cups of God - at which point immediately the hand begins writing on the wall, and verse 6 tells us this about Belshazzar - "Such terror gripped him that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way beneath him." Think he had reason to be scared like this? Why?
As Daniel is called in to interpret the writing, verse 17 stands out as Daniel tells Belshazzar: "Keep your gifts or give them to someone else, but I will tell you what the writing means." Daniel is obviously quite bold and dismissive of Belshazzar here - he does not defer to Belshazzar being the king, and the seemingly right thing to do would be to immediately say you'd appreciate the gifts. Daniel simply says - keep 'em! (though, later he's still bestowed with them) Bold... A righteous boldness, no? Plus, you gotta think that Daniel's seen a lot in Babylon in his time and he's ready to cut to the chase and just interpret the writing. He doesn't need earthly gifts or honor... What about us in our lives today? Do we seek earthly gifts and honor for ourselves? Should we? Can we learn from Daniel's boldness and focus on what truly matters in this life? (note that an older Daniel is in the middle of this image below from the 1816 John Brown Bible, with a strange lookin' Belshazzar sitting to the right)
Before interpreting the dream Daniel gives Belshazzar an old fashioned lecture which culminates in verse 22 as he speaks of Nebuchadnezzar being humbled by God: ""You are his successor, O Belshazzar, and you knew all this, yet you have not humbled yourself." Basically, Daniel is saying - you should have known better. You knew better. You saw Nebuchadnezzar's mistakes. You did not learn. Are we like this sometimes in our lives today? Shouldn't we know better...? Below is an artist's take on Belshazzar's final feast -
Verse 27 is worth reflecting upon! "You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting." (NIV). Very interesting to think about a godly scale. A scale that maybe looks at how we invest our time, money, love, life, worship? Are we investing in things that are eternal? Obviously, through the opening verses Belshazzar was simply investing his life into himself, his lusts and his desires. And hence, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN was written on the wall... Pretty amazing to think that the great kingdom of Babylon went down like this in one chapter... God clearly is a kingdom-maker and a kingdom-taker!
New Testament - Second Peter chapter 2 is a strong one that looks at the danger of false teachers - both in the Old Testament times through false prophets and also in the early church during the 1st century. I have to confess that as I read this chapter I think of some current books and movies and teachers in our modern world that I am afraid apply to the warnings of this chapter. Do you believe that there are false teachers also in our world today? Teachers that distort the Gospel message? Teachers that steer people away from Truth and into Darkness? Teachers that are in it for the money? I almost hesitated to post up this image below - the wolf is kinda scary... :) but I think it's applicable! False teachers and the damage they can cause are clearly very scary...
Verses 2 & 3 warn us that: "Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of them, Christ and his true way will be slandered. In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money." Commentaries suggest that at the time Peter wrote this letter the shameful immorality was primarily sexual sin. The false teachers were allowing / encouraging people to basically do what they want sexually. They taught that there is no theological or spiritual or personal damage that will come with sexual do-whatever-the-heck-you-wantness... (okay, that's not in the Bible - I made that up). Do we see this type of teaching today? Is this type of teaching true? Is it false? Is it shameful? Do you believe that sex can be damaging to you outside of the proper context of marriage? Verse 19 warns again: "They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves to sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you." What controls you? Is it purely love for God and his ways, which is great. Or is it something else...? Something that is dangerous and leads down a slippery slope... ? Will you instead pursue God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the True Freedom that only They can give you? Please please be watchful of wolves in sheep's clothing. The Enemy comes in sheep's clothing to lie, steal, and kill. The lies may be attractive on the surface, but the core of the lie is deadly to you. Please cling to Jesus and God's Word, the Holy Bible, above all else.
Psalms - Psalm 119 verse 114 is beautiful a beautiful reflection on our relationship with God and his Word, the Bible - "You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my only source of hope." This ties in so well with the reflections on false teachers above. The Bible is clearly a refuge and shield from false teaching! Is God's Word your only source of hope? And remember, Jesus is the very Word made flesh, so Jesus would clearly be your only source of hope too, if the Word truly is. Let us take refuge in God's Word each day of our lives!
Verse 127 today is powerful - "Truly, I love your commands more than gold, even the finest gold." I think this is something each of us needs to ask ourselves. Do we love God's commands - his Word - the Bible - more than we love any and all material possessions? Do we value the Bible above all the money this world could ever offer us? This is an important decision to make... I pray we realize the eternal worth of God's commands compared to the passing and transitory nature of "even the finest gold." Let us always remember the great peril of ignoring God's Word and instead chasing after the world's "fool's gold..."
Proverbs - Proverbs 28 verse 19 tells us: "Hard workers have plenty of food; playing around brings poverty." This is a great reminder to not "chase after fantasies" or "chase the wind", but to simply work hard for our employers and earn an honest wage each day! Verse 20 reminds us to be trustworthy in our work: "The trustworthy will get a rich reward. But the person who wants to get rich quick will only get into trouble." How is your work ethic these days? Are you working hard for your employer? Are you trustworthy on the job? Do you think that God pays attention to these things in your life? Let us not be lazy on the job!
Comments from you - What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!