Be Brave: When God Is Profaned

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 10/13/2019

In Daniel 4-5, we have the story of two kings, the first being Nebuchadnezzar. He was the greatest of Babylonian kings. (1) He laid siege to Jerusalem, destroyed God’s Holy Temple, took hostages from among the royal family and nobility, conscripted them into service. (2) He had terrible nightmares, threatening to tear people limb to limb. (3) He built that 90 ft. gold statue and commanded everyone to worship it or burned alive.

The breaking point for Nebuchadnezzar was the dream he describes in Daniel 4. God showed the King that that though his kingdom flourished like a tree, his kingdom was about to be chopped down, and reduced to a stump. Worse, God was about to make him “eat grass” like a wild beast. Daniel 4:25 tells us it was because the king would not acknowledge “that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms…” In Daniel 4:27, Daniel advises Nebuchadnezzar, “Separate yourself from your sins by doing what is right. . . separate from your injustices by showing mercy to the needy.”

Because he refused, he was indeed “driven away from people… and made to eat grass like cattle… his body was drenched with dew… until his hair grew like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.” Some people have to lose everything before they turn to God. Some have to eat grass like cattle or eat pods like pigs in order to come to their senses (Prodigal Son). Some have to live beneath their human nature, like wild animals, their hair growing white like eagle’s hair, their nails like birds claws, their health failing, their teeth falling out, their body emaciated. Some have to lose all sanity and sensibility. . . lose every precious relationship, be driven into isolation, to wake up.

I look at Washington, I look at Illinois. We have all these prideful, pompous leaders (red-faced as blue-faced) arrogantly setting themselves against God. This was Nebuchadnezzar! God can reduce a Present Trump to a stump, or a Governor Pritzker, or any other leader to a stump, to a wilder beast, in a Babylonian-second.

King Nebuchadnezzar shrugged his shoulders when Daniel warned him to separate himself from his sin. Only when God chopped down his Kingdom and made him like a beast of the earth, did Nebuchadnezzar have the wisdom to bow his knee before the God of the Universe. It’s when the King looked to heaven that his sanity, and kingdom, and splendor returned. In humbling himself, Nebuchadnezzar did more than many of the Kings of Israel ever did, far more than our leaders today are doing!

None of us self-identify as kings. But the lesson is clear: God opposes the proud and exalts the humble. God is perfectly willing to set us to pasture until such time as we humble ourselves (Rom 1). God is perfectly willing to let us lose everything he’s given to bring us prodigals back home. Some of you for sin, are throwing away your life, your breath, your health, your money, the love of your spouse, the love of your children, your good name, God’s good name, a good conscience… because you refuse to separate yourself from your sin. If can’t learn from Nebuchadnezzar, who can you learn from?

In Daniel 5, we have the story of a second king name Belshazzar. Scholars have so many opinions. Belshazzar may have been the son, the grandson, or a total imposter (i.e. only claiming royal lineage) to Nebuchadnezzar. The focus of Daniel is to spell out their relationship with the Living God, not each other. Decades have passed between Daniel 4/5, between their respective reigns. Daniel is very much an old man in Daniel 5.

Here is what Daniel tells us about King Belshazzar: Daniel 5:1-4, “King Belshazzar held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine in their presence. 2 Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar gave orders to bring in the gold and silver vessels that his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, wives, and concubines could drink from them. 3 So they brought in the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, wives, and concubines drank from them. 4 They drank the wine and praised their gods made of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.”

In Babylon, archaeologists have uncovered these huge palaces that were designed for pleasure and entertaining thousands of guests. The archaeological record matches the biblical record. First comes this great feast, everyone is getting fat. Then comes the wine, and everyone’s getting intoxicated. Then comes the women, the wives, the concubines and they too get hammered. The Bible calls this “carousing.” Carousing isn’t innocent pleasure, its exploitive pleasure, and its greatest victims are women, children, and families. You don’t need to take that on Biblical authority, you can take it on authority of news media, social media, or the hashtag #MeToo.

As is often the case, when people are most intoxicated with pleasure, they behave in the most profane, blasphemous ways. There always has to be a greater/ greater high right? In Daniel 5:3, the party King, Belshazzar, brings out the sacred gold vessels that were taken from the temple (the House of God) in Jerusalem. Using the sacred vessels of God, he toasts the gods of Babylon.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I see a significant difference between Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was full of pride and full of himself. But he was also ignorant about the God of Israel, that is, until God (a) schooled him through dreams & visions, (b) then through miracles, signs, and wonders, and (c) ultimately made him eat grass. But unlike Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar wasn’t ignorant. He has full knowledge of who the God of Israel is, and all that transpired between God and Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar wasn’t just prideful; he was additionally blasphemous. He thought nothing of profaning what was sacred before God.

Now I doubt many of you self-identify as kings. You might be sitting there thinking this is just another Bible story, or worse, a tale of laughable proportions. But in the same way Belshazzar profaned the Holy things of God, so many “believers” today profane the holy things of God. We might claim ignorance, but we have no excuse.

The sacred things God most cares about aren’t things made of gold/silver.

Every single life is divinely sacred, from the point of conception, God knits us together. The womb is sacred space first/foremost belonging to God. But now it’s a civil right, a mark of true femininity, power and freedom… to tread upon the sacred. Likewise, our cavalier attitudes about guns & violence is an affront sanctity of life.

Gender and sexuality is sacred. God made them male/female. God brought man/woman together. But we think we can deconstruct sexuality and build our gender/sexuality any way we like, as if we’re all a bunch of Legos. And anyone who speaks for the sanctity of gender and sexuality is deemed a monster.

Marriage is a divine and sacred institution, one man + one woman for a lifetime. Paul tells us the marriage bed is sacred and to be kept pure. But pornography, promiscuity, fornication, couple’s living together refusing marriage, adultery, serial adultery, prostitution, divorce barely raises eyebrows even among God’s people. A presidential candidate this week announced that any church that doesn’t endorse gay marriage is violating a person’s human + civil rights, and ought to be punished!

The Holy Law of God, the Ten Commandments are sacred. The Bible, the Word of God is sacred. The words of the prophets. The words of Jesus. The words of the Apostles. But we will twist and smash and blaspheme God’s sacred words if that’s what our craven, idolatrous souls demand.

Our conscience is sacred, given by God, to guide/teach/protect us. But we sear our conscience as with a hot iron, when we just go on sinning.

Our very bodies are sacred, designed to be a temple in which the living God dwells! But we subject our bodies to immorality, to addictive behavior, to destructive chemicals, mind-altering/brain-cell destroying substances, sexually transmitted diseases, reckless dangers. . . We don’t practice sobriety always. We fill our minds with impurity, our hearts with greed, our eyes with lust, our hands/feet are quick to sin, our tongues curse

Communion is a sacred act. We profane God when we take of communion without regard for high cost Christ paid on that cross for our sin. We profane God when we’re perfectly willing to receive God’s forgiveness but absolutely refuse to forgive others for whom Christ also died. We profane God when we refuse to the consider the greater body of Christ and turn worship into a purely private self-serving matter.

Our offerings, what we do with money, is a sacred act. Ever read the Prophet Malachi? People profaned God because they extravagantly took care of their own homes while neglecting the ministry of God’s House. We don’t tithe… In fact, I can’t tell you how many people don’t give at all! What excuse do we have as believers celebrating God’s grace in worship, but not investing even a dollar to the ministry/advancement of that gospel through the local church?

We profane Grace. Hebrews 10:26-31 says, “For if we deliberately go on sinning *after receiving the knowledge of the truth*, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who disregarded the law of Moses died without mercy, based on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, who has regarded as profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know the one who has said, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge his people. 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

When did profaning sacred things ever stop being terrifying? The Hebrew writer mentions insulting/profaning the Spirit of grace. Is there anything more sacred than the Holy Spirit of God? God’s grace can heal just about every profanity… but we dare not profane the Holy Spirit of Grace. What did Jesus say in Matthew 12:31-32? “Therefore, I tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the one to come.”

Nothing was off limits to Belshazzar. He profaned the sacred vessels of God’s temple. We profane things far worse—and we know a million times better than him! Do we imagine that God smiles upon our profanity? Do we imagine we will be able to plead ignorance? No, God sees our attitudes.

The carousing, blasphemous King Belshazzar, knew better. Daniel 5:5-9 says, “At that moment the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the king’s palace wall next to the lampstand. [Ever wonder where these phrases came from? “Eat grass…” “The writing is on the wall” Now you know!] As the king watched the hand that was writing, 6 his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him that he soiled himself and his knees knocked together. 7 The king shouted to bring in the mediums, Chaldeans, and diviners. He said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this inscription and gives me its interpretation will be clothed in purple, have a gold chain around his neck, and have the third highest position in the kingdom.” 8 So all the king’s wise men came in, but none could read the inscription or make its interpretation known to him. 9 Then King Belshazzar became even more terrified, his face turned pale, and his nobles were bewildered.”

“10 Because of the outcry of the king and his nobles, the queen came to the banquet hall. “May the king live forever,” she said. “Don’t let your thoughts terrify you or your face be pale. 11 There is a man in your kingdom who has a spirit of the holy gods in him. In the days of your predecessor he was found to have insight, intelligence, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. Your predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, mediums, Chaldeans, and diviners. Your own predecessor, the king, 12 did this because Daniel, the one the king named Belteshazzar, was found to have an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and intelligence, and the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems. Therefore, summon Daniel, and he will give the interpretation.”

13 Then Daniel was brought before the king. The king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the Judean exiles that my predecessor the king brought from Judah? 14 I’ve heard that you have a spirit of the gods in you, and that insight, intelligence, and extraordinary wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men and mediums were brought before me to read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not give its interpretation. 16 However, I have heard about you that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Therefore, if you can read this inscription and give me its interpretation, you will be clothed in purple, have a gold chain around your neck, and have the third highest position in the kingdom.”

“17 Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts and give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription for the king and make the interpretation known to him. 18 Your Majesty, the Most High God gave sovereignty, greatness, glory, and majesty to your predecessor Nebuchadnezzar. 19 Because of the greatness he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages were terrified and fearful of him. He killed anyone he wanted and kept alive anyone he wanted; he exalted anyone he wanted and humbled anyone he wanted. 20 But when his heart was exalted and his spirit became arrogant, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven away from people, his mind was like an animal’s, he lived with the wild donkeys, he was fed grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with dew from the sky until he acknowledged that the Most High God is ruler over human kingdoms and sets anyone he wants over them.”

22 “But you his successor, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of the heavens. The vessels from his house were brought to you, and as you and your nobles, wives, and concubines drank wine from them, you praised the gods made of silver and gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or understand. But you have not glorified the God who holds your life-breath in his hand and who controls the whole course of your life. 24 Therefore, he sent the hand, and this writing was inscribed.

25 “This is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the message: ‘Mene’ means that God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end. 27 ‘Tekel’ means that you have been weighed on the balance and found deficient. 28 ‘Peres’ means that your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Mene, Tekel, Peres. In a way, God didn’t tell Belshazzar anything that isn’t also true of us. Are not our days also numbered by God? Does God not also weigh us in judgement? Will not everything we have be divided and given to another? Remember the rich fool in Luke 12? God says, “‘You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. Then who will own what you have accumulated?’ 21This is how it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Daniel 4:29-31, “Then Belshazzar gave an order, and they clothed Daniel in purple, placed a gold chain around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. 30 That very night Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans was killed, 31 and Darius the Mede received the kingdom at the age of 62.”

The Midrash enters into the details of Belshazzar's death. It tells us that that Cyrus and Darius were employed as doorkeepers of the royal palace. Belshazzar, being greatly alarmed at the mysterious handwriting on the wall, and apprehending that someone in disguise might enter the palace with murderous intent, ordered his doorkeepers to behead anyone who attempted to force an entrance that night, even though such person should claim to be the king himself. Belshazzar, overcome by sickness (he’d soiled himself), left the palace unobserved during the night through a rear exit. On his return the doorkeepers refused to admit him. In vain he plead that he was the king. They said, "Has not the king ordered us to put to death anyone who attempts to enter the palace, though he claims to be the king himself?" At this, Cyrus and Darius grasped a heavy ornament forming part of a candelabrum, and with it shattered the skull of Belshazzar!

I think each of us has to decide what we believe about these two stories. Does the God of Universe really exist? Does he really care whether we tread on the sacred? Does he really resist the proud and give grace to the humble? There is no life more tragic, than that of those who tread on the sacred. Nebuchadnezzar’s life might have been tragic, but instead he chose to repent/believe. He bowed his knee to the God of the Universe. What will it take to bring you to repentance? Do you have to lose what Nebuchadnezzar lost? Does God have to make you eat grass to get your attention? Do you have to first lose your humanity, your mind, your kingdom? Does God have to drive you deeper into isolation and darkness? One thing is certain… we cannot wait to until we see the writing on the wall.



Scripture Verses

Daniel 5, Hebrews 10:26-31, Matthew 12:31-32

Worship Set

Worship Playlist

Raise a Hallelujah
by Jake Stevens, Jonathan Helser, Melissa Helser, and Molly Skaggs
as recorded by Bethel

Another in the Fire
by Chris Davenport and Joel Houston
as recorded by Hillsong

Be Still
by Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan
as recorded by Hillsong

How Great Is Our God
by Ed Cash, Jesse Reeves, and Chris Tomlin
as recorded by Chris Tomlin

Study Questions


Week 6 ∷ Brave… When the Sacred is Profaned

Read Daniel 5


1. Like the Babylonian culture, our culture loves to celebrate without restraint. Virtually nothing is off limits. What are the dangers of partying hard?


2. Consider Daniel 5:1-4. A new king has risen to power by the name of Belshazzar. How did his behavior and indifference to spiritual matters escalate?


3. Consider Daniel 5:5-9. How does God get the undivided attention of the partying king? When was a time in your life when God got your total attention? How and what did God "write on your wall?"


4. Read Romans 1:18-31. What do these verses teach us about being accountable before God?


5. Read Daniel 5:10-16. What was Daniel's reputation to the Queen and throughout the kingdom?


6. Consider Daniel's response in Daniel 5:17-23. Why did God seem to be less gracious with Belshazzar than Nebuchadnezzar (see Psalm 78:1-4 and Romans 15:4)? Why was this king without excuse?


7. Carefully read Romans 5:1-11. We often "justify" our sinful attitudes with excuses. Why can we never justify ourselves? What does it mean to give up our self-justifications and let Christ be our justification before God?


8. In Luke 15:11-32, the Prodigal Son leaves his Father to party hard and loses everything. But unlike King Belshazzar, he comes to his senses, returns home, and the Father throws him a party! How is this a picture of God's grace? Which party are you part of?



KIDS:


1. What did the king want to use for cups at his party? Read Daniel 5:2. What do you think these were used for in the temple? (Worshipping God?)


2. What happened once they had the cups at the party? Read Daniel 5:5


3. How did the queen describe Daniel? Read Daniel 5:11


4. If one of your friends has a problem, would they think of you to tell them what God wants them to know?


CHALLENGE: The church is where we worship God. What is something you could do to respect our church building and make it more holy? (Is there an area you could clean?) Is there a way you can honor this place of worship? (Taking care of the areas.)




Apply It!

Resources

Lakeside Bookshelf

Below are some books to complement our Be Brave sermon series through the book of Daniel. Stop by the bookshelf in the lobby to browse or purchase. 

  • The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm & Love Well in a Culture of Compromise by Chris Hodges 
  • The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations by Anne Graham Lotz 
  • A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's World by John Stonestreet & Brett Kunkle
Downloads & Resources