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Obedience: Guarding That Which Is Holy
Scripture: Daniel 5: 1-31
Track 6 of 11 in the Living Lives That Leave People Speechless series

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

"Obedience: Guarding That Which Is Holy" Daniel 5 February 10, 2008

The Berlin Police Department paid the equivalent of $147,000 for their new squad car. It's a specially equipped BMW. It has all the bells and whistles and security codes on it. It is billed as being theft proof. It has every conceivable thing on it to make it impossible for anyone to steal it. It's been stolen. The two police officers who were responsible for giving it its first test run decided that they needed to chase down a car thief on foot. So they bailed out the door, left the doors open, left the key in the ignition. When they came back to find their car, it was gone. Just when you least expect it.

You may have read in yesterday's paper that column where they ask those questions. One of the questions was, do teenagers need more behind the wheel time before they get their driver's license? First service I had teenagers shaking their head no. You're a quiet bunch. Most of the people answered yes, and the problem was they felt that most teenagers think they are invincible, nothing can happen to them. Of course, you didn't drive that way when you were a teenager. Okay. Maybe you did. But there is that sense, isn't there, that when everything is like it's supposed to be and all of our ducks are in a row nothing can go wrong? You can't steal this car. You can't wreck that car. Life is supposed to come out this way because everything is lined up the way it's supposed to.

That's the way it felt in this particular chapter of Daniel, too. Belshazzar had the world by the tail. He was, after all, the co-regent of the empire. He had it. He had been left in charge of the capital city of Babylon. He was feeling so good about himself, in fact, that he decided to throw a party. Here in his throne room he had a big drunken feast. He was so excited about the way the world was going for him. The only difficulty was that outside the city gates, outside the walls, these impenetrable walls of Babylon which had made him feel so secure, Cyrus and the Persians were already at work bringing Babylon to an end. In fact, most of the other parts of the empire had already been conquered by Cyrus. He was just a little ways upstream, as a matter of fact, on the night that this party occurred, except Belshazzar had so convinced himself that those four external walls 40 feet high and the moat and the river had made it impossible for anything to happen.

So he is in having a party. He is feeling so good about himself he finally says, I want to you go get those goblets that were brought over from Jerusalem to Babylon and let's use those. In fact, he brought them in, and his wives and concubines drank their wine that night from the sacred goblets from the temple of Jerusalem, and they offered their worship, it says, to the gods of gold and silver, wood and stone.

Meanwhile, while they are in their drunken feast, Cyrus and his people are diverting the Euphrates River into a lake, and they walk in on a dry river bed untouched, unresisted, and in one night the City of Babylon and the empire of Babylon fell, simply because somebody left the gate open. The impenetrable city.

We find ourselves in the kind of position where we sit back and we wonder what in the world could be going on in the world of Belshazzar that he would have somehow missed so much in his life. I mean, he should have known, shouldn't he? He should have figured out by now that there was a price to be paid for being arrogant.

You remember the story. During the party there is a hand that shows up and writes on the wall, and so Belshazzar calls for the magicians to come in and read what's on the wall and interpret it, and they can't, and he is beginning to get flustered and frightened. And so the queen mother comes in. She hears the ruckus. She says, there is a man in the kingdom who used to do this kind of thing for your ancestor Nebuchadnezzar. He is a man full of the gods, and he can do this. Call for Daniel.

So Belshazzar does. But you don't want to miss this subtle remark in Chapter 5, verse 13, because it just heightens your awareness of just how arrogant Belshazzar had become. We are 60 years removed now from the captivity of Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar had reigned successfully for 43 years, and now Belshazzar is on the throne, and it's been a long time of peace and prosperity. And look at his remark in Chapter 5, verse 13.

"So Daniel was brought before the king and the king said to him, 'Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father, the king, brought from Judah?'" Did you hear it? You're just a lowly slave. My ancestor captured you back when he destroyed your city and brought you in here. Can you interpret what's on the wall? And Daniel decides to reach back and teach a little lesson before he does the interpretation.

So in verse number 18 Daniel says, "Oh king, the most high God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor because of the high position he gave him." Now, are you hearing this already? Don't miss this, because this is the issue. God is absolutely sovereign. Nebuchadnezzar was not great because of Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was great because God put him in a position of greatness, and Daniel reminds Belshazzar of that in his opening remarks.

He says in verse 19, "Because of the high position he gave him, all the peoples and nations and men of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death he put to death, those he wanted to spare he spared, those he wanted to promote he promoted, and those he wanted to humble he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal. He lived with the wild donkeys. He ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he acknowledged that the most high God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes."

"But you, his son, oh Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all of this. Instead you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You have 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 God's of silver and gold of bronze iron wood and stone, which cannot see, cannot hear and cannot understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all of your ways."

You would have thought he would have learned something watching his ancestor Nebuchadnezzar. I mean, it could not have been that in the royal family this wouldn't have been a topic of conversation. I mean, you've got one of those nutty grandfather's back here in your lineage, too, and that's what you'd end up talking about. Your seven season period, however long it was that Nebuchadnezzar is living out in the field like a cow, is not going to go unnoticed at the family table. Belshazzar would have known those things. And then it's like he didn't pay any attention whatsoever.

I keep wondering how it is that we seem not to learn from the past, or more specifically I find myself wondering why we learn the wrong things from the past. You know, somehow it seems like rather than learning the positive lessons we could learn, we end up simply picking up generational sin and generational patterns. I'm the father of three girls and one grandson, and my greatest fear is that they will pick up the wrong things. They will inherit from me not the one or two good things they could inherit, but they'll simply carry on with the same issues that I've dealt with rather than learning.

Belshazzar was an arrogant man, but worse than being arrogant, he was foolish and he was disobedient. It's abundantly clear when you look at Daniel Chapter 5, verse 23 that he set that which was sacred as profane, and he abused it and misused it. He had taken that which had been set apart for God, and he used it in this drunken feast. But not only did he do that, he took it and he actually offered it as praise to the gods of silver and gold.

And in that arrogance he reminds us of something really important. Can we just stop for a second and reach back. It's been 60 years now since Nebuchadnezzar went to Jerusalem to get those goblets. That happened because of the arrogance of a previous king. Do you remember the story in Isaiah 37, 38, 39, king Hezekiah of Judah? God has granted him his prayer for extra life. He has given him an additional 15 years to live, and then some visitor from Babylon shows up and he takes him through and shows him all of the jewels and the gold and the goblets. And then the prophet shows up and says, what have you done? He says, well, I showed them stuff. How much did you show them? I showed them everything. And the prophet said, that was really stupid. That's a paraphrase. That's just dumb.

And here 60 years later Israel is now paying the price for that mistake, and Belshazzar is about to pay the price. See, that's the problem. You may get away with not paying a price in this life for your mistakes, but somebody will. A child or a grandchild will inherit what you've created. See, Hezekiah's problem was when confronted by the prophet his response was, well, as long as it's prosperous while I'm alive, it's okay. No, it isn't. Not at all. We have to assume some responsibility for those who are going to come after us.

See, Belshazzar had decided that he was greater than God. See, that's what it meant to use the utensils. See, if you owned the utensils of a God, then obviously you were greater than God. And so if God didn't stop you from using these goblets, these glasses, then obviously you were showing that you were more powerful than God. And Belshazzar was sitting in his little throne room, having a party, profaning the sacred vessels, thinking that he could say to God, I am greater than you.

It reminds me of Galatians Chapter 6, verse 7 Seven. God will not be mocked. Whatever a man sows that he will reap. And Belshazzar might have thought he was about to get away with this, and God was about to say, no, you're not.

We read this story, and up on the wall comes these four words: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. Daniel translates that this way. Belshazzar, God took a good look ay your life, and he has numbered your days. He took a look at who you are, and he weighed you out. He evaluated you, and, frankly, you don't have much substance. In fact, tonight your kingdom is going to be divided between the Meades and the Persians. See, if you haven't reached back to the prophecy of Jeremiah Chapter , you would have read that very prophetic word from God, that Babylon would fall. Belshazzar should have known that God will not be mocked. You will reap what you sow.

I read this text, and I find myself asking this question that was so beautifully prayed for us earlier. Did you hear the prayer? "God, make us a people that arrest the attention of the world." Make us a people whose lives somehow cause other people to sit up and take notice, that we have something they don't have, that we're different. We've talked about what it means to live lives of conviction. We've talked about trying to live lives that are wise. We've talked about trying to live lives under the sovereignty of God. We're going to talk in the future about how you live with the kind of courage that causes you to act on God's behalf no matter what the consequences are.

Today here is what we are talking about -- how do you live a life that is obedient, that honors that which is sacred, that makes honorable that which is honorable, that up holds that which is important, so much so that the world sits back and says, what in the world? How are those people like that? Again, I can't read this text, I cannot read this text without coming away wondering about just demonstrating the fact that we believe God is in control.

You've heard all that sovereign language in Daniel so far. How is it that we demonstrate our absolute faith in the confidence of God that he has everything under control, even when we don't understand what's coming, even when we don't understand what's going on? We live a life that models our confidence that God knows what's going on and he will take care of it.

You surely saw the news. I read it in the paper, the tragedy down in Kirkwood. A man by the name of Thornton who felt like he had been abused by the political system of the Kirkwood Township in St. Louis walked into the city council meeting, shouted out, shoot the mayor, and killed five people. Did you read what he said just before he died? To God be the glory. How, how when five innocent people give their life, tell me how God is in any way honored by that? How?

Now, I understand. I've read the paper. I know the circumstances of Meecham Park in Kirkwood. The African American community and Meecham Park feels, rightfully so, that the Caucasian leadership in Kirkwood has taken advantage of them. There is no question about that. And exactly how they feel is probably true. But how did going in and shooting five innocent people fix that? See, the heritage that we have in our country to which we must give credit to the African American community is to live in the absolute dependence that God will fix things when he is ready. If we don't learn anything else from our history, we ought to listen to the African Americans' music, to the spirituals that deeply cry out to God, but they wait in patience. And what they express is while they feel as if they are oppressed, because they are, they also live in the absolute confidence that one day, just like with Israel, God will fix it.

That's what we have to portray is a patience and a faith that says, given time God will do what God's going to do. It isn't up to us to make it our way. It isn't up to us to respond. It isn't up to us to try to fix everything. It's up to us to live with the confidence God will fix it when he is ready. I mean, how good is it for us to go out in the name of believing in the sanctity of life and kill an abortion doctor? That makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? We take things into our own hands as if we think we know better than God what it is that's supposed to happen next.

And what Belshazzar teaches us is that you have to be willing to let God be God, even when you don't understand it, even when you don't know what's happening, even when it's hard. You have to wait for God. I read this text, and I come away thinking that maybe, just maybe we can learn to live differently by learning from the lives of other people.

God help her soul. I don't know how you respond to the news about Brittany Spears. It breaks my heart. And there are two things about it that break my heart. One is she didn't learn from her predecessors that this is what happens when you let fame go to your head, and, two, that there is a whole generation of young women who are learning from her and they are not learning the right thing. But do you see that's the problem, isn't it, that we don't learn from our predecessors the things that we ought to learn? We don't sit back and say, what can I take from this that would be beneficial? See, you would have to be a teachable person to have that happen. You'd have to be willing to learn, or you just inherit whatever comes and never do anything with it.

I learned a lot from my dad. On the one side of that coin I learned to absolutely hate alcohol because my dad was addicted to it, and what he taught me was this. If you never take a drink, you never have to worry about being an alcoholic, and so I just decided I wouldn't take a drink. But I also learned on the other side of that coin what it means to work hard and to be generous. And I'm not the most teachable person, but I was not going to make the same mistake my father made, but I was going to try to come away with some of the ethics that he brought into my life.

And I just wonder what's it going to take for us to learn from each other, to recognize that all around us are people who have had life experiences from which we can learn if we would just be willing to be teachable. We don't have to make all the same mistakes. One of my biggest problems in being a preacher is you. Give me a second and I will explain that. Because I have the privilege and responsibility to stand up here every week and talk. I wear down your defenses, and pretty soon you actually think I can do the things I talk about.

The unfortunate thing is if I fall, so will some of you. If I am ever tempted to be unfaithful to my wife, one of the key things that keeps me from breaking my vows is you, because I have seen congregation after congregation broken by the moral failure of the preacher. So I invite you to pray for me, because there are some things I am unable to do on my own, and I know that my failure will easily become yours. We need to learn that there are things that we cannot do by ourselves, and we need to understand, deeply understand, that we need to learn from each other so we don't make the same mistakes.

I read this text, and more than anything else I come away wanting to know how do you keep the sacred sacred? How do you keep the honorable honorable? How is it that we understand that goblets in and of themselves are just glasses. They are just a drinking vessel made out of a piece of wood or a bunch of metal. But when they are used for God, when they are brought into the service of God, they take upon themselves a sacredness that has to be honored. And I find myself coming back to scripture again and again wondering, what are the things that God calls for us to honor? What are the sacred things that we need to keep sacred? It isn't about a building. It's not about a vessel. It's about the things that God calls for us to honor, and the question is, what are they? What are the key things that God says honor?

And I think he says honor life. There is a reason why. You're it. You were made in the image of God. You have absolute value just because you're you. We don't value you because of what you can do. We don't value you because of what you have done. We don't value you because of what you can give. We value each other because we are made in God's image and inherently valuable whether we can produce anything or not. Why do you think euthanasia is wrong? It's not wrong because it allows someone to have a more comfortable death. It's wrong because these people are made in God's image, and it's not our job to make that decision for them.

Why do you think abortion is wrong? It's because that life has inherent in it value, and we don't make it more valuable by being idiots and shooting doctors or condemning women. We honor it by stepping up to the plate and supporting something like the Crisis Pregnancy Center. We honor it by stepping up to the plate and adopting a child who wouldn't otherwise have a home. We step up to the plate and we honor life by putting ourselves in a place where we can demonstrate our kindness and our commitment and our generosity, and we will step into people's lives, we'll do whatever we have to because we think life matters. That will cause people to sit up and take notice.

What does the bible say we ought to honor? The bible says we ought to honor the marriage bed. Hebrews Chapter 13, Verse 4 is clear. When you make a commitment to your spouse, you are committing yourself to never lie in another bed for the rest of your life as long as that person lives. The marriage bed is to be honored as a sacred place, and you don't honor the marriage bed just because you haven't been physically unfaithful. You can be unfaithful here and here (pointed to head and heart). You are not faithful to your spouse if you are watching pornography or if you are thinking about other people in your life. You honor the marriage bed. You keep it sacred by devoting yourself to that person and that person only. And while I got your attention, that includes all of you. Before you ever decide to be a spouse you decide to keep your marriage bed pure, meaning you don't sleep with anybody until you are married, and that's the last person you ever sleep with.

Your job is not to find somebody that will make you happy. It is not my job to try to make my wife Gail happy. Even if I try, I usually don't succeed. But, see, that's the problem. Thinking I can make her happy is outside of my control, because I can't control life's circumstances. I can't control what she is going through right at that particular moment. I cannot control whether she is going to like or dislike any choice that I make. So there is only one thing I can do that I have control over. I can be faithful. That I can control. And if my faithfulness produces happiness, that's a great by-product.

So what's the bible say I ought to make holy? What should I keep sacred? This table. The bible is explicitly clear in First Corinthians Chapters 11 and 12, that when you come to this table, you are coming to a sacred place. Nothing special about grape juice and the bread. Something special about the table. You realize that in the first century in the City of Corinth they desecrated, they defamed the Lord's supper. They came in without concern for other people. They came in without thinking about anybody but themselves. They came in early, had a drunken feast, they didn't wait for one another, they didn't leave anything for anybody, and they thought that was the Lord's supper.

You come to this table not because you are worthy of the table, not because you are perfect, but because of the blood of Jesus Christ inviting you to this table, allowing you to be here, and you come with your heart in the right place, honoring this blood and this body of Jesus. You keep that sacred.

What do you keep sacred? The bible is clear you keep the name of Jesus and the name of God sacred. Exodus Chapter 20 is clear. Do not misuse my name. I don't think he is talking about swearing, although I think that probably is in the list. I think he is talking about the fact that when you take God's name, you live like you have God's name. You behave as if you are carrying the name of God in your life. And so we live in such a way that nothing we do dishonors the name of God.

And closely related to that one, one of the broader pictures, I think, painted anywhere in scripture is in Ezekiel Chapter 36 where it says, "I'm doing this to Israel for the sake of my name." Just because of God himself we determine we are going to live lives that are lived in such a way that they give God honor no matter what, and we will do whatever it takes to live that life honorably.

So how do we arrest attention? How do we get people to sit back and take notice and say, I don't know what they have got, but, man, they are different. You do it by making that which is sacred sacred and honoring that which God honors and making sure that that is your decision, your intention to live like that every moment of every day. What arrests attention in our world? Brittany going back to the hospital, Cookie Thornton shooting five people in Kirkwood, that's what gets people's attention today.

We are calling you to challenge that, to live your life in such a way that people don't even take notice of those things because they are so intently arrested by the life and the character of God's people.