DARING TO MAKE A STAND – A BIBLE STUDY OF DANIEL CHAPTERS 1-6 – PART 21

God’s Wrath and Mercy

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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? 14 I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. 15 The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. 16 Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

17 Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.

18 “Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. 19 Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples 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. 20 But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. 21 He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.

22 “But you, Belshazzar, his son,[q] have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You 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 gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. 24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.

25 “This is the inscription that was written:

mene, mene, tekel, parsin

26 “Here is what these words mean:

Mene[r]: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

27 Tekel[s]: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

28 Peres[t]: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

29 Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”  Daniel 5:13-29 NIV

Last time as we looked at Belshazzar’s story, we saw the king shaken by mysterious writing on his chamber wall.  Daniel came to interpret the strange writing as the following:

Mene, meneNumbered, numbered – God had numbered the days of Belshazzar’s reign in Babylon.    

Tekel – Weighed – God had placed Belshazzar in the balance as a ruler, but he came up short.  God decided the days of his rule was over.

Upharsin – Divided – Babylon would be divided between the Persians and the Medes – the two armies camped outside the city gates as Daniel was speaking.

We learned that God’s Word challenges us and that God’s Word should be applied in the life of the believer.  We can also make a few more observations from these passages:

1 – God’s wrath is as real as His mercy.     

Sixty years earlier, the Lord gave a warning of His coming wrath to Nebuchadnezzar’s lineage through the prophet Jeremiah.

With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please. Now I will give all your countries into the hands of my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes; then many nations and great kings will subjugate him.”  Jeremiah 27:5-7 NIV (emphasis mine)

Note what the text points out.  The Lord declared, “I will give all your countries into the hands of my servant Nebuchadnezzar.  He continued “nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes.”  Belshazzar’s judgment was prophesied.  The warning was given.  God is good.  He is kind.  He is loving and forgiving.  His wrath however, is not to be taken lightly.

In our culture, God’s wrath is not a popular topic to discuss, but it should not be easily overlooked.  God grants time for His people to repent.  He gives ample opportunity for His people to return to Him.

Don’t be deceived.  God’s wrath is as real as His mercy.  In church, we love to preach about God’s mercy, but we would be wise to remember that God’s wrath is just as real as His mercy.  Although God often stays His hand, we should not procrastinate in our decision to follow Him or call others to follow as well.

2 – God’s mercy is as real as His wrath. 

Before we close this devotion, I think it is important to point out that God’s mercy is as real as His wrath.  We don’t want to end our devotions on Daniel 5 only gazing at the wrath of God.

Before we move on, I’d like to look at the next time that the same finger that wrote on Belshazzar’s chamber wall, wrote in the dust.  It happens in John 8.

We can see the same finger that wrote on the wall in Belshazzar’s chamber writing in the dust in John 8.  A woman was caught in the act of adultery and brought before Jesus.  Those who brought her did not care about her, but they wanted to trap the Jesus.

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.” They taunted Him. “Now what do you say?” (John 8:4-5 NIV)

They wanted to push Jesus to be a lawbreaker, if He said to free her, or to show that He was no friend of sinners if He said to stone her.  As they hurled the accusations at her, the Bible tells us, “But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.”

It is interesting to speculate what Jesus was writing in the sand with His finger.  The same finger that wrote on the chamber wall several hundred years earlier, was writing now in the sand.  Could He have been writing “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin?”  I believe He may have been writing the very sin of her accusers.   

Jesus responds to their questions.  “‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.”  John 8:7-8 NIV

It is comforting to know that the very hand that knows and can write down our deepest darkest sin and secrets is the One nailed to the cross on our behalf.  The text continues.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? 

11 “No one, sir,” she said.”  John 8:9-11 NIV

Then Jesus shares a key Gospel verse that reveals God’s great love and mercy that has rocked my world.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The order of this passage is the most significant part of it.  “Then neither to I condemn you,” precedes, “go and leave your life of sin.”   We live the verse in the reverse order.  We live our lives as if Jesus says, “Go and leave your life of sin,” then “neither do I condemn you.” 

God’s mercy is that He does not motivate us to be accepted by God.  He motivates us because we are accepted by God.  We think it’s the other way around.  We think that when we sin no more, God doesn’t condemn us.  The mercy of God is that in Jesus Christ, God does not condemn us, and AS A RESULT OF THAT, we should sin no more.

Thank You Jesus for accepting me as I am, and as a result, motivating me to follow You.  You are greater than my greatest sin and greatest defeats. You are greater than my deepest shame and sorrows.  You are greater than my greatest joys and my greatest blessings.  You are above all things.  Thank You for Your mercy.  In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.   

Ty Tamasaka is an author who hold a Master of Arts Degree from Pacific Rim Christian University in Christian Ministry  He is a Bible teacher who loves to encourage people to enjoy Jesus’ grace and extend His Kingdom. Ty just released his new book More than a Conqueror: 5 Pathways to Personal Revival.    

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