The Fall of a Kingdom

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I want to invite you to turn to Daniel chapter four and five. We’re actually going to be mostly in chapter five, and I’m going to tell you the reason we’re going to be mostly in chapter five is because chapter four is explained in chapter five. And these two stories are tied together, in a series that we’re going through on a cultural collision. So if you’re with us for the first time today in worshiping, or you’re new to Alpine Bible Church, I want to welcome you/ and just invite you to turn to the book of Daniel with us. We’re going through a series trying to discover how to live out our faith when faith tends to collide with culture. Inevitably it will happen because culture tends to live contradictory to the Lord, unless it’s directed by God. And so how do you, as a follower of the Lord, pursue God in the midst of a cultural collision? What does that look like in our lives?

That’s what we’re discussing together in the book of Daniel. And the reason we’re going through Daniel is because of historically where this fits in the timeline of God’s plan of redemptive history. Daniel and his people were carried into captivity in about 606BC by the Babylonians. And they found themselves uprooted from where they felt they belonged into a new land, forcing them into a new identity. And trying to figure out how to walk with God in that. They were in captivity for 70 years. And Daniel and his friends become a beautiful example of how to follow God when our faith is challenged. And so that’s why we’re in this book together. And one of the things because of the nature of the topic of where we’re going today, by the way, if I could avoid any topic in conversation today would be the one.

When I say that, I don’t want you to be afraid. I’m not going to just bring down this hammer and beat us all up. It’s not my goal. But the nature of today’s topic is a difficult topic. So I just feel the need to say this. I’ll tell you what we’re going to talk about in a little bit. As I’m a pastor, or whatever title you want to see me fulfilling, I like to view myself as a sheep as much as anything. I don’t see myself as anyone above anyone else. And I hope I don’t ever come across that way, but I feel like what God desires in our lives is for us to figure out how to leverage who we are for the benefit of others. And however, in life, how high you ever feel like the need to climb, I hope in God’s kingdom we see it as in God’s hierarchical structure, we don’t seek to go higher, we really seek to go lower and being able to be a better blessing to other people.

When God made us in the garden of Eden, he told Adam and Eve be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth. And what he was recognizing for them is that he created them as creatures to be a blessing to the world around them. And the older I get in life, really the authority and the strength to have should grow, it should increase. And I think that tends to happen with age. You just have more time and you’re able to invest more into life and make more money. And so your ability to bless this world, and I know it’s not always the case, your ability to bless this world, the older you get, should expand.

And in that, if you walk with God, you’ve learned to not make life about you. But wherever your presence is made known, you learn better to serve. And truthfully, if you walk with God the right way, you start to see that you’re not all that great to begin with. But you found a place in the Lord where you’re incredibly loved. And I feel like this is important to just start off that way because of where we’re going to go. Let me just share where we’ve been as kind of a framework in thinking through this book. We’ve only gone through three chapters of this book. But we’ve seen the cultural conflict that Daniel and three of his friends have intersected with in pursuing God in their lives. And what we’ve learned in starting the first chapter is that culture’s goal is to redefine our identity, right?

You see Daniel immediately comes into Babylon. He and his three friends are given a new name and taught a new way, and they’re shaped in the culture where they are. And that new name was to symbolize a new identity and worshiping these false gods of Babylon. And it’s no different than any other culture that you’ll ever experience in life. The goal of culture really is to redefine your identity, to get you to shape into that mold. In fact, Paul warned us about that in Romans chapter 12:1-2,, he said, be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. The world wants to fit you in a box. That being conformed is fitting you in a box, shaping you in a mold. But God wants to transform you from the inside out. He wants to give you a new identity in him.

And I think it’s very important to recognize what transformation means as it relates to God in the Gospel. God’s not looking for you to impress him because he made you and there’s nothing that you’re going to do that’s going to impress the Creator of everything who is capable of doing anything that you can do 10 times better, or infinitely better. So when we think about shaping our identity, the idea of transformation becomes really important. Culture wants to redefine your identity. God wants to transform it. And in our culture, the conflict becomes, we try to teach ourselves that you’re the source of your happiness and you just need to have the self-esteem and need to look within yourself.

And I want you to know God wants you to be happy. I think that’s important. God wants you to discover joy in Him, but you are not the origin of your happiness. You’re not the origin of your existence. You’re simply the evidence that points to that origin. You weren’t created for you. And the reason I know that it’s because you didn’t make you. God did. And so the source of your life and the purpose for which you exist isn’t discovered within you. It’s not “look deeper within you.” That’s how you create idolatry. The source of your existence, the purpose for your existence is found outside of you. Not in the world around you. The world around you becomes the evidence of it. You are the evidence of it, but the source itself is God. You’re created for His purpose. Culture wants to redefine your identity in itself and get you to look within you for whatever it shapes. But God wants you to look towards him. So the goal of culture is to redefine your identity.

The test of culture is to entice you to bow to its gods. Chapter two, chapter three, you see that playing out actually from chapter one. And when Daniel and his friends are told, if you follow what the king wants, he’s going to give you all these luxurious things. He’s going to train you, teach you, give you servants, give you clothes, give you a palace. You interpret his dream, chapter two, he’s going to give you more of what you want. Chapter three, he want you to bow down to this golden statue. And so the test of culture is to entice you to bow down. And the tool of culture is to either distract you or overwhelm you. Distracts you in the things that wants to offer you: wealth, whatever. Fame, fortune, power. It wants to distract you from what God wants to create within you by transforming you or overwhelm you.

You remember in chapter three, the call was to bow down to the statue and Daniel’s friends refuse to bow down. That moment was pretty overwhelming. I think of the story in Numbers chapter 13 when God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt and he wants him to go to the land of Canaan then into the promised land that he had foretold them. And when they go to scope out the land, chapter 13, I think it’s verse 33, the spies that go in, they come back and they’re like, they’re giants and we’re grasshoppers. And sometimes in culture the point is, we tend to get so overwhelmed that we make giants out of our problems and we feel very small.

And culture, if it can’t distract us or tempt us, it wants to overwhelm us to conform to its image. But God is calling us to something greater. In chapter four and five is that place where that struggle is met. Chapter four and five, it talks about two different kings, two different individuals, two different stories, but really, it’s focusing here in these two chapters on the same topic. And what is that topic? In thinking through this cultural collision, I think chapter four, chapter five, this topic is the greatest battle any of us face in our relationship with God in any culture we experience. Before tell you what that is, let me just unfold some of this passage.

Chapter 5:1 starts with this story. “Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles.” So remember we started with Nebuchadnezzar and we’re beyond Nebuchadnezzar. We’re to Belshazzar. Now this is not Belteshazzar. Daniel’s name was changed to Belteshazzar, but we’re talking about king Belshazzar here. And this is a number of kings past Nebuchadnezzar. And so Daniel 5, “Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand.” When this story starts to unfold, one of the interesting things that they think historically is taking place here is Babylon’s actually being besieged. Some people have come against it and fought. This place is so fortified that this king was so arrogant that he thought they had enough food within this city that they could have lived 20 years inside of its walls.

They weren’t worried about anyone coming in and they felt the walls were impenetrable. And so this kings like, “Those fools,” and he throws this feast for all of his friends, just to show off about how powerful they believe Babylon is. So while they’re being attacked, he’s like, who cares? Those peons, they can’t mess with us. And so he’s having this feast inside. And to give an idea of what kind of feast this is, it’s telling us in chapter five verse one that they’re drinking wine in the presence of thousands. In the first four verses, if you look at this chapter, you’re gonna seem wine talked about repetitiously over and over. They’re drinking wine, they’re drinking wine, they’re drinking wine, they’re drinking wine. So I think what they’re trying to get across to us here is, these guys are pretty wasted.

I mean, they’re drunk, right? This party is just bananas. And in verse five it gets a little freaky as to how insane it gets. Hopefully you’ve never been to a party like this, but it says, “Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing.” So I can imagine this moment where everyone is so messed up out of their minds and all of a sudden someone’s like, “Dude, tell me I’m not the only one that sees this. Do you see the hand on the wall?” I just want to say, if you’re ever in a moment where you experienced this, you just need to stop and examine your life.

And so they’re having this party and it’s getting way out of hand and they see this hand start to write on the wall. I’ve seen some people take this passage to try to teach that therefore God the Father has a physical body or God the Father has a hand. Just by way of theological side note, I want you to know when you consider what God the Father looks like scripturally, in no way in the context of the Bible is God the Father ever described as having a physical body. In fact, in Colossians 1:15 Jesus has called, “The image of the invisible God.” In John 4:24 it says, “God is spirit.” And in Luke 24:39 it says, “A spirit has no flesh and bones.” In 1 Timothy 6:16 it says, “No one has ever seen God and no one will ever see God.” In John 1:18, “No one has ever seen God.”

So when it describes the hand of God writing on the wall, this is what we call anthropomorphism. Where it attribute certain characteristics to God to help him be more relatable to our understanding in life. So when you read the Old Testament, New Testament, you will even see God described as being a chicken with wings or an eagle or a mountain or a bear. God’s got these different anthropomorphic descriptions of Him for us to understand a certain aspect of his characteristic or identity. And so in this passage, it’s not saying that God has a physical body. Now, I will tell you in scripture, the Bible tells us that Jesus became flesh. And he says in John 14:9 so God becomes flesh in Christ. And in John 14:9 Jesus says “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Because Jesus is demonstrating the same characteristics of the Father in the flesh. And it even says in Colossians 2:9 that Jesus is the explanation of God the Father in the flesh. But this passage isn’t teaching that the Father has flesh. It’s simply getting us to identify the characteristic of God that’s being made known here.

So why did this hand show up? I don’t want any hand of God coming down and putting judgment on my life. So I think it’s an important question to ask. How can it be in your grace, God, not in you judgement? Why did this hand show up? Well, it tells you in verse two. So if I backed up just a little bit, this is what happens. “When Belshazzar tasted the wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them.” So what is saying is as that this king had the arrogance to take the sacred things of God and treat them without the respect they deserved.

If you read Daniel 1:2, you see back when Nebuchadnezzar conquered the Jews, he took the belongings of the temple. But now here in this story we have the story unfolding of a king who is so arrogant that then he takes those possessions from the temple and he begins to use them for his own party. And therefore God’s judgment comes. And this king, the story tells us, is so freaked out by the hand of God and what it’s doing ,that he just goes white. Verse six talks about that. His knees are knocking. Verse nine, verse ten, he gives out an audible cry of just being fearful of whatever’s taking place here. So much so that his grandma comes in the room and is like, “What’s wrong honey?” And that’s kinda how the story unfolds. And so he’s freaking out and he says this, “Okay, whoever can solve why in the world, his hand is just writing on the wall right now, I’m going to make you really rich!”

In fact, in verse seven it says, the king called aloud to bring in the conjurers and the Chaldeans and diviners and the King spoken said to the wise men of Babylon, “Any man who can read this inscription and explain its interpretation to me shall be clothed with purple and have a necklace of gold around his neck and have authority as third ruler in the kingdom.” So the imagery of what that looks like and what this king’s exactly going to do, we’ve seen it right? “Purple rain …” I mean, that’s pretty much it. Purple gold decorated and rule.

And then the kings, Grandmama, remember something. There was a man, who was wise. Who God has used in his kingdom to interpret dreams and to reveal things to us. And she started to talk about Daniel. And this king brings Daniel in and I think to a little bit degree continues to demonstrate his arrogance. He says, aren’t you the man that was conquered by my people? Aren’t you part of the Jews over conquered? And aren’t you beneath us?

And he says, you know, I’ve heard it said that you’ve done some pretty spectacular things. He sort of gives this idea, I don’t know that I necessarily trust you yet cause I haven’t seen this demonstrated. But I’ve heard it said that you have done these things. And the reason this person hasn’t experienced it to this point is you think right now you’re five chapters into Daniel. Daniel was taken into captivity when he was a teenager. But at this point in Daniel’s life, he’s most likely in his eighties. And so what you have transpired over these five chapters is a significant amount of time and history. In fact, Nebuchadnezzar ruled for 43 years. So the events that you read and the first four chapters of Nebuchadnezzar’s life, that have happened over decades.

And so this young man just hasn’t experienced the authority of God that’s placed in the life of Daniel, as God works through Daniel as Daniel surrenders his life to the Lord. So he’s in his eighties. And he comes before the king and the king saying, listen, I want to make you purple rain. And Daniel was like, I don’t want anything to do with that. I mean, I’m in my eighties now. This stuff doesn’t impress me anymore. And I really don’t want anything to do with what you’re about because you’re insulting God. But he says to them, but I will interpret your dream or the inscription.

And so then verse 18 sort of begins the main focal point of what this chapter is and it says this, “Oh king, the most high God granted sovereignty and grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar, your father. Because of the grandeur which he bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations and men of every language feared and trembled before him. There was no one more powerful than Nebuchadnezzar. One of the most interesting things in this story, you think about, we talked here in the beginning that culture will try to shape you in its identity. And it will try to entice you and satisfy you. Yet you read the first five chapters of Daniel, the life of Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man in the world, and his soul is still never settled until this story starts to unfold.

Men of every language feared and trembled before him. Whomever he wished he killed and whomever he wishes he spared alive. And whomever he wished he elevated, and whomever he wished he humbled. But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was disposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken away from him. So during the 43 years of Nebuchadnezzar reign, to humble him, God actually made Nebuchadnezzar think he was a beast of a field. And Nebuchadnezzar lost his mind. Now he later got his mind back, but God used that, in all of his glory and brought him low. And it says this, he was also driven away from mankind and his heart was made like that of a beast and his dwelling places like that, a wild donkey because he was given grass like cattle and his body was drenched with dew of heavens until he recognized that the most high God is ruler over the realm of mankind.

And then he sets it over whom he wishes. That you his son, Belshazzar have not humbled your heart. Even though you knew all this, but you’ve exalted yourself against the Lord of Heaven. And they have brought the vessels of his house before you. So he’s saying you want the demonstration of how you’ve shown yourself to be arrogant? You’ve used the sacred things of God for your own glory. Let me pause here and just say, the problem of the king, both in chapter four and chapter five. One word: pride. The greatest battle a Christian faces or an unbeliever faces in their relationship to the Lord, regardless of the culture, it’s pride.

And we talk about cultural collision. What we’re saying is out of all the things that you face, at all the struggles you might have in a cultural collision, that the greatest battle you honestly will fight, it’s within yourself. When I look at this story and I realize, okay, this morning we’re going to talk about pride. How do you do that? I think it’s even worth, myself, to recognize I’m not innocent. And truthfully think about this. No one wants to have a lesson about pride, especially if you’re proud. If you’re proud, then you need to hear a lesson on pride. But you’re probably most apt to not listen to a lesson about pride. How do you do that? How do you share a lesson on pride when people need to hear about pride? When in pride you’re not going to listen to a lesson about pride?

I was thinking this week, I don’t think we take the idea of the sin of pride very serious and it made me immediately thinking about this this week. At one time in my life, I moved out to Utah and this was before ABC existed, but I was out with a church on a men’s retreat and it was like 30 something guys. And we decided we were in Hobble Creek Canyon and we’re like, oh, this has got a nice golf course. Let’s take all of our guys to go golfing. And I’m not a golfer. I don’t like to golf. I’ll go golfing if some guys go. And if you’ve asked me enough times. I’ve done golfing as a younger kid, I was decent at it when I was younger. But when I was 18 my clubs got stolen and I didn’t pick up another golf club for like 15-20 years.

So I’m not that great at it, you know? But I’ll do it sometimes. And here we are on this men’s retreat. They decided they want to go golfing and okay, I’ll go golfing. And I just like, you know what, I’m just going to be arrogant. I could tell none of these guys are golfers and I’m just gonna tell them I’m the best thing since sliced bread when it comes to golfing. Because they’re trying to figure out how to break up teams and let’s break up according to our abilities. That way it’s at least competitive. I’m like, all right, I’m the best one. So put me with the worst guys. And I’m thinking this is going to be great cause we’re just gonna be horrible. So guys, honestly, I don’t know any better golfer than me. So we get on this golf course and it wouldn’t you know it, like the first two holes are like the best two holes in my life.

I’m like past two holes, I’m one under. And I’m like, Oh my word. And I’m with the Scrubs. I won’t tell you their names, but one of them may be here. And so we’re golfing and I’m having the game in my life. I’m like, this is impossible. And I’m just keep playing it up. I’m like, yeah guys, I told you I’m awesome. I mean, just ride my coattails. I’ll take you to the victory all the way. So we get to the third hole and one of these guys is like, I think he’s might be teasing us a little bit. So he pulls me aside. He’s like, seriously? How good are you? I’m like, all right, I’ll prove it.

And about that time I looked down this fairway, right before I go to tee off. And these turkeys are crossing the fairway like 250 yards out. And I look at the guys, I’m like, guys, I know you may not believe how great I am, but just to prove it, I’m going to hit those turkeys. And I put my tee on the ground and tee up. And I’m like, what am I doing, you’re such an idiot. This is great. And I swing and I hit. I hit a horrible drive. It was one of those drives where you know, the drives supposed to go so many yards off the ground. Well this one, for whatever reason, only went like four feet off the ground. And it just goes like a bee. And you can see it right for the turkey. It’s almost like I intentionally did this and I’m watching this thinking, no way, no way. And all of a sudden, the Turkey turns and its rear end is facing us and it puts its wings out like this on the side, just a little bit.

And my ball hits the ground and it bounces up just a little bit. And it nails that stinking turkey right in the back of the neck. It was unbelievable. It’s flopping around on the ground. I just looked back at the guys and I was like, see, I am amazing. And then for the rest of the round, I shot like 2,000 over or something. But for those three holes and it was awesome. Pride. Oh, it’s on my life. I’m just like, I’m living in it, man. I want to just be proud and and it worked out so well. But the point is, we don’t always take pride seriously. Sometimes we even tell sermon illustrations about how great you are, right? But you know, Proverbs 8:13 says this, the fear of the Lord, which we talked about last week, the fear of the Lord is to hate evil, but pride and arrogance, it says, I hate.

Pride is contrary to really walking with Jesus. Pride is what stands in our way in our relationship with God, and we really, a lot of times don’t take it seriously. Let me give you an example. If I came up here this week, and I said, guys, you know, I’m just going to be honest. I really struggled with lust this week. In fact, I struggled so bad I’m having a difficult time not checking you out right now. You’d be like, dude, that is creepy. If I start just staring you down, you’d be like, ah, I don’t know if I can go to that church. That makes me feel awkward and forget it. That is, that’s creepy. But if I came up the same time, and I just said, you know, guys, I’m really struggling with pride. I think we have a tendency to shrug some things off and other things we might just find unacceptable. And I think one of the most destructive things or the most destructive thing to our relationship with God is pride. In fact, Proverbs 8:13, God hates it.

In our culture, sometimes we’re good at trying to mask it because it is so destructive. We call it things like believing in yourself or building yourself up or showboating or self-esteem. We mask it under things like that to make it not sound that bad, but pride is destructive. Pride kills. It kills our relationship with God. It kills our relationships with others. In fact, one of the prominent counselor in marriage talks about this thing called the crazy cycle. And he says in relationships what tends to happen is you will get offended. If your spouse offends you, then you react in that offense to defend yourself. And usually when you’re acting that offense to defend yourself, you offend them. And then all of a sudden now they’re offended that you offended them. And so to defend themselves, they react. And they offend you. And then what happens is it’s a crazy cycle of just going around and around, around, around.

And you know when it stops? In vulnerability. In humility. In putting the interests of someone else above your own. Pride kills. Pride our relationship with God. It kills our relationship with others. It really elevates us above others and puts others beneath us, which is completely contrary to the demonstration of Jesus in his own life. It brings a crazy cycle. Here in the book of Daniel, the greatest obstacle we see in our relationship with God in the midst of culture. We asked that question so many times. We start thinking, looking external, looking external, how do we fight the bad things? Truth is the greatest battle happens here. In our hearts.

Some have said this, reading theologians this week, some have said this, some have considered pride to be the root and essence of sin. And others consider it to be sin in its final form. Either way, what they’re acknowledging theologians and looking at pride. Either it’s the route that leads to all sin or it’s the end that culminates what sin becomes in our lives as we act it out. Either way, pride is a source. I honestly would say it’s the most destructive tool in human history. In fact, Proverbs 16:18 says, pride goes before destruction. And when you look at that as it historically has played itself out you consider Satan and Isaiah 14 it says, I will be like the most high. God brings him low.

And when Satan goes to the garden of Eden, he tells Adam and Eve, surely God didn’t say that. He’s keeping this best from you. If you eat of the apple, if you eat of the fruit, you can be like God. You’ll take that position, You’ll be proud. And in so doing pride becomes the most destructive tool in human history.

I like how J. Vernon McGee said it, you look at Adam and Eve and what Adam and Eve are doing: they’re answering the question of if I were God, I think I could do it better. God’s got it all messed up. And so if I were in that position, I would be better at it. And so I’m gonna knock God out of his place. I’m gonna usurp myself in that position to lead because I am better at this than you are God. The number one question I get asked with people that don’t believe in God or have a difficult time with trying to rustle with the existence of God is, if God exists, why are so many bad things happening in the world? And they’re fighting a noble question at first.

I think their conclusion becomes wrong. A noble question is, if God is good, then why bad things happen? Because if he sovereign but bad things happen, he cannot be good, right? Or he’s weak, right? Because a good God who is sovereign wouldn’t only make good things happen. Since bad happen, there must not be a good God. That’s the conclusion that they make. But you know, it’s interesting when people make that judgment, therefore God must not exist because bad things happen. And if there was a good God, good things would only happen. The judgment they’re using to make that decision that God doesn’t exist is only pointing to the existence of God. Meaning who told you what’s good and what’s bad? Where do you think that comes from? And I often say, I think maybe wrestling with how it fits, how God fits with bad things in this world.

But the truth is, by asking that question, I think you’re carrying the very heart of God into it. Because you’re not content with the bad things that happen in this world. And guess what, neither is God. You think that the bad things are happening and you and judging it are proving that God doesn’t exist. But rather it’s acknowledging his very existence by demonstrating the desire for good to exist in rule and reign in this world. And that’s what God’s desire is. Now he’s working out in history and I’ll invite you to read the Bible to discover how that looks, but it’s pointing to his existence. But here in the story of Adam and Eve, Satan, it’s saying that God got, I can do it better. And J. Vernon McGee said it like this, he just kind of summarize it. He said, “This is God’s universe and I’m sure you could run it better. But you don’t have a universe.” That’s true. Maybe he does know a little bit more than me since he created this thing.

But pride as an issue. What is pride? Pride is linked to arrogance. It’s the opposite of humility. It’s the elevation of yourself at the expense of lowering others, whether it be God or your relationship with humanity. And in the story you see this King, Belshazzar use the illustration of Nebuchadnezzar as told in chapter 5, these two kings are all about themselves. Pursuing their dreams. Making life about them. Maybe leaving us to ask the question, what dictates your pursuits? When you wake up and do the things you do in life? What’s the motivation? Self pleasure?

Or does it start with, God, you created me for a purpose. God, what is it you desire? Make your glory known. I think the struggle in Christianity sometimes, Christians I’ll tell you this, you will never find yourself happy if this is what you do in what I’m about to tell you. Sometimes we see God as like this add-on, where I live my life and then I come to God and I give God what I think I’m obligated to give him so that way I’ve covered my basis, right? And God sort of becomes this add-on and when you consider your relationship with God, we sort of approach it like this. Whenever I have a need, I’ll just ask him. I’ll come to him, I’ll treat him like a genie who’s supposed to give me my three wishes.

Occasionally I hope he answers on the ones that want him, but sometimes at some point I’m, I’m sure he will. And so your relationship with God, you more leverage God as an individual that’s supposed to serve you rather than you created to serve him for his glory. And I don’t think we’ll ever find ourselves happy in that struggle. I think the contentment in the Christian life always starts with understanding life is not about you. It’s not saying that God doesn’t want you to be happy. It’s not saying God doesn’t want you to experience joy, but it’s just to acknowledge the source of your existence isn’t discovered within you. And then recognizing that come to God and say, God, you created me for your glory. And the greatest gift I can give you, in love, is myself. So God, whatever you want, have your way. I want to know you and enjoy you for eternity.

I think in that surrendering, that’s when the Bible talks about the peace that passes all understanding and the fruit of the spirit being made known in our lives. And that’s what God has created us for. So what are your pursuits? What drives what you do when you wake up? See in Daniel chapter 5:26, Daniel comes and he starts to give the interpretation and he says some great words. Verse 25, “MENĒ, MENĒ, TEKĒL, UPHARSIN.” It sounds like a more like a spell than anything but he says “MENĒ, MENĒ, TEKĒL, UPHARSIN” and this is the interpretation of the message. And he goes on to interpret it. He says this in talking about this interpretation, he says, God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.

God has numbered your kingdom and putting into it. And he goes on through these other ideas. Verse 27. You have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. Your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and the Persians. When he talks in this story, he’s sort of giving that, uh, oh moment, right? Like just to say, okay, pride is destructive. Pride is destructive. So many times in life we just want to distract ourselves. We want to use culture to distract ourselves. We don’t want to just sit with ourself, you know, and culture is good at that. But God wants to bring us to this place to recognize that pride is destructive.

And so he does that in this story by writing on the wall. Pause your heart for a minute. What will it take to wake you up? This is the, “Crank up the music, AC/DC Highway to Hell” here. I want you to think for just a second. And inevitably where this road leads. So God uses Nebuchadnezzar to deliver this thought and to examine his heart. And I love the story. The story unfolds here between two stories. Chapter four, chapter five, two different kings, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar. It tells us, Nebuchadnezzar’s response, it says Nebuchadnezzar in chapter four said, is this not this great Babel that I have built at the royal residence by my mighty power and the glory of my majesty.

And at this point in the story, this is where God’s strikes Nebuchadnezzar. And then Nebuchadnezzar, in going to the beast of the field and eating with the animals, finally lifts his head to God. And it says this, verse 34 of chapter 4. At the end of that time, I Nebuchadnezzar raise my eyes towards the heavens and my sanity was restored. And then I praise the most high, honored and glorified him forever. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven because everything he does is right and all his ways are just, and those who walk in pride, he is able to humble. I love verse 37 because it’s actually in the active tense. What Nebuchadnezzar is saying, is the act of present tense. So what it’s telling us about Nebuchadnezzar is that he prays, exalted and glorified God for the rest of his life. Now I believe this becomes evidence to ask the question, will I see Nebuchadnezzar and Heaven one day? I think you will.

It’s saying this attitude that transformed Nebuchadnezzar’s life in just praising God. Now that the story juxtaposes itself then against this other King Belshazzar, because it tells us within the story he gets scared. Verse 6, verse 9, verse 10, he turns white. His knees are knocking, but he never humbles himself. Still continues to see himself as the source.

So maybe the question is, how do I know if I’m proud? How do I know I struggle with pride? Let me say this, and just ask these questions. I asked myself, and I’m not trying to make this personal for y’all. I want to examine my heart. Am I easily offended? Do I talk down to others when I don’t get what I want? Do I feel entitled? Do I have a judgmental spirit towards those who don’t make the same lifestyle choices as me? Do I look down on those who are less educated, less affluent, less refined, less successful? Do I have a harsh spirit that’s finding fault, Am I argumentative? Do I generally think that my way is the right way? The only way and the best way?

Do I become defensive when I’m criticized? Do I always have the answers? Do I have a sharp critical tongue? Can I say I’m sorry when I make mistakes? Am I afraid to ask questions or admit that I don’t know? Do I compare myself to others? Do I frequently interrupt people when they’re speaking? Do I worry about what others think of me? Do I talk about myself too much? Am I offended when my acts of service aren’t recognized? Do I look at the things that I have in life as a gift or do I look at them as what I deserve?

Are you self conscious because of your lack of education or beauty or economic status? Do you give undue time, attention and effort to your physical appearance, your hair, your makeup, your clothing, your weight, your body, your shape? Are you sitting there thinking of how many of these questions apply to someone you know? Are you feeling pretty good that that none of these questions really apply to you? What about just in your relationship with God? Do you have a hard time confessing your sins before the Lord? Do you have a hard time sharing your spiritual needs and struggles with others? Do you have a hard time praying out loud with others? Or how about this? Have you ever given your life to Christ? If not, why fight? Why battle? What keeps you from surrendering? The writing’s on the wall.

This example of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar is an illustration of our lives. If you think about in Jesus’s Day people dealt with pride even then. The Pharisees, they hated Jesus. They hated Jesus. Jesus took the spotlight. They want what Jesus had. Jesus is not falling in line the way that they want him to. And so they wrestled with Jesus. And I like how Paul writes this in Galatians. I want us just to think about this for a minute because when it comes to the Gospel, I think the Gospel in our pride is the solution to everything. And this is why. If I want to talk about pride, here’s the tendency. And we can do this in a very proud way. We start beating ourselves up about how bad we are. And in fact you can talk about how you’re more humble now when I’m talking about pride. And we start beating ourselves up and we don’t see the solution. Religiously, we start thinking, I need to feel pretty bad about myself because of pride. And I want to tell you that’s not the answer. The answer is the Gospel. And what I mean in religious ways of thinking, we start obeying these rules because we’re bad people to try to make God love us more. And that’s not the gospel.

The Gospel isn’t about shaming you. The Gospel is about recognizing how we aren’t the source. We aren’t the solution to our sin. And being able to reconcile our problem with God. It’s not us. Now when we talk about pride it helps us to see that. I have messed up. And in a religious way of thinking, but I’m not as bad as that guy, so I’ll be okay when I see God,.Ooh, don’t want to be him. But the truth is God is perfect. God is perfect. There’s not a person in this room that has a leg to stand on. Now you say, that’s not good. That’s not good. It’s not. But here’s the joy of the Gospel. God created you for relationship. God made you to know him and enjoy him forever. The Bible and being honest with us wants us to recognize that we can’t bring that solution to enjoy God forever in ourselves.

Once you send against a holy God, you can’t undo it. You need grace and forgiveness. That’s why the Bible tells us, Romans 3:23, all have sinned. No one in here is better than anybody else. No one on planet earth is better than anyone else. All have sinned. Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death. That doesn’t just mean you’re going to go to a grave one day. Death means you’re separated from God. Death means, in its most basic sense, death means separation. And when the Bible talks about death, it’s not talking about being in a grave. It’s talking about you separated from God. But you need reconciliation. You were created for life. You were created to know him. You can’t earn that back. Adam and Eve tried to do that in the garden of Eden. They sinned, they ran from God. They put on fig leaves.

That word for fig leaves means a soldiers garment. They tried to put on a soldier’s garment to fight the battle on their own. They built the first manmade religion. They hid from God. God is the one that pursued them. You want to know the theme of the Bible? It’s one word: redemption. God is pursuing you for relationship in him. It’s not based on you. It’s based on His grace. It’s based on his forgiveness. He created you for that relationship. He loved you so much. The Bible tells us, and while we were yet sinners, Christ died for you. In your ugliest state, Jesus gave his life for you. In the most pride that you’ve ever had, and no matter how many turkeys you’ve wacked in the back of the neck, Jesus died for that. Poor turkey.

Jesus died for you. Why? Because you’re not going to go before him and impress him. I can tell you this, you’ve never been loved to the extent of which Christ has loved you. He wants that relationship with you. So what does he give us the opportunity to do? Well, Jesus came. Jesus died for all of that so that you can enjoy relationship with him forever. That’s why in John 3:16 it tells us for God so loved the world that gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. You live forever in relationship with God. And when it talks about believing in, it’s not saying, believe like George Washington. Like I believe in George Washington. Historically it has been demonstrated, George Washington existed. That’s not the kind of belief. Believing in literally means trust. I take this soul created for your purpose and finding its redemption in my God who died on my cross and saying, God, that’s what I believe will pay for my sin to reconcile myself to you, to enjoy you for all of eternity.

Pride isn’t about feeling bad. I don’t want to walk out of here and just feel bad. That gives us no solution at all. I want to walk out of here and be loved. I want to walk out of here and understand that in the midst of this pride that I wrestled with in my heart, God still, he still loves me. And he cares about me. And that’s exactly how chapter five ends. And that’s exactly what he says in the midst of this pride. Verse 28 when he says this, he says, Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians. I want you to know we read that. You’re like, okay, the Babylonians are done. The Medes and Persians, what does that mean? When you read Jeremiah chapter 25, which Daniel would have been in tuned to at this point. Jeremiah 25:11-12, in that passage, Jeremiah, tells the people you’re going to be taken into captivity because of your pride.

And in 70 years, I’m going to set you free. And Daniel has been in Babylon now for 70 years. And what this is, is a demonstration of God’s redemptive hand being worked in history. It’s God coming in Daniel at 80 years old, 80 plus years old and saying to Daniel, I still love you. I’m still here for you. I care about you. This past week, it was actually a couple of weeks ago, I read an article that said pastors rank high on the manic depressive scale, of which I believe it. But the reason they said is because you pour so much of your heart into what you do. Like on Sunday, I’ll give my heart into this and then, you know, you could get criticized with it later. Or there’s this, this let down. It’s like this release.

When you’re done, you expose your heart, then you’re done. So you go home and it’s like way up some downs, you know, and, and I called one of my friends and I just told him, man, I just feel so isolated and I’m having a difficult time. And I was just sharing with him and, and he did a good job of putting me in my place. He didn’t know that he was doing, he was very gracious and his attitude, but he said, man, don’t assume God doesn’t know. And I translated it as, don’t be so arrogant as to assume God doesn’t know. Don’t assume God doesn’t know. God knows.

Here I was in my pity party of pride thinking, isolated poor me over this dumb circumstances. But I know we all go through it. Whether you living life as a mom and you feel like you’re isolated out there on your own. Or you’re doing something at a job and you take stick your neck out there and you just feel, you feel like you’re in a spiral. Where are the people that care? Here I am poor me. Does God even care? And he just says, you know, God knows. And then you said this. Don’t expect more out of you then God expects that of you. Like, dude, who do you think you are? Why are you expecting more of you than God does? God knows. Just be faithful.

Have you ever felt like you’re fighting the battle all on your own or you can’t get to the top and you just keep struggling and keep fighting and just getting that spot where you’re throwing that pity party and you feel so isolated on your own. And start asking questions. God, don’t you know? God, don’t you care? Like Daniel, in these moments, will be saying this in his 80’s. Still in captivity. God, do you not care?

We could say this, here I am standing, all alone. Who’s going to look out for me? And then you just kind of remember when you start considering God knows and he doesn’t expect more. Then you just say to yourself, Nathaniel, whose battle is this really anyway? What is it you think you’re to do in your own strength? What battle are trying to fight? This isn’t your battle. It’s God’s. Because I belonged to him. I don’t need to walk in my pride to find my strength to combat this. I trust in him. And then as he sang this, I just had this verse come to my mind that God just floored me with. I just started thinking of King David. In my head, I was thinking, what about King David? And I know I’m not King David, but I know he ruled and I think of the Psalms. And, and he got to these places in his life where he felt so isolated. And what would he say in these moments? And then I just remembered Psalm 23 and he said in that Psalm, the Lord is my shepherd. It’s not me. The Lord is my shepherd.

Here’s this king. And he probably feels, I mean, when you get to the top of the pyramid, it is a lonely place to be. And then you’re saying, God, where’s my solace? Where’s my place? How do I know you love me? And then he just says this on the Lord. The Lord is mine. Shepherd, I shall not want. He leads me green pastures and still waters. He restores my soul. What a beautiful place it is. Pride will lead you to the things that will kill you and keep you from the things that will heal you. Yet but for a moment before God you could be for vulnerable and just say, the Lord is my shepherd. I don’t have to fight these battles. The king works it through me.

Bow to Babylon

Pray in the Gap