“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early to sit up late; to eat the bread of sorrows for He gives sleep to His beloved. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of the warrior so are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak (contend) with their enemies at the gate.” Psalm 127
Today’s study is another familiar story from which one of the well known phrases we often use when we see things clearly, we say: ‘the writing on the wall.’ This phrase is used when there are clear signs that something bad, or very bad is about to occur. I cannot think of a more appropriate title for this lesson and for this time in our lives than: ‘the enemies at the gate.’
From the end of our event in Daniel 4 to this event in Daniel 5, decades have passed. King Nebuchadnezzar would die in 562 BC. This event takes place in 539BC. Daniel is an old man and appears to have been forgotten by the new regime of young leaders. Meet King Belshazzar, the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar. His grandfather had built a great empire and as we saw in chapter 4 had recognized after his 7 years of insanity, the God of Daniel was the Most High God and His kingdom endures forever. His speech recorded for us in chapter 4 ends with an ominous warning for the generations coming after him: “And those who walk in pride, He is able to humble.” Daniel 4: 37.
THE TRUTH ABOUT FREEDOM
Before we meet King Belshazzar, let’s talk about something which has been around since the Garden of Eden- the meaning of freedom and our desire for freedom. In His questioning before Pilate in John 18 Jesus makes this remarkable statement: “For this cause I was born and for this cause I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” God is a God of freedom. We see this in the creation account, where He tells Adam and Eve, you may freely eat of every tree in the garden, but the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil you shall not eat, for you shall surely die.” Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the Good Shepherd who came to give us life and life more abundantly, but the enemy at the gate of our hearts and minds, the enemy who is after our children and grandchildren is a thief, a liar, a deceiver who comes to rob and steal and kill. He enslaves. In Genesis 3, the enemy calls God a liar who is not trustworthy who is withholding good things from Adam and Eve. He tempts with lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life.
Each of us are born with a sinful, self-centered nature. We want to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. We want the freedom to live and do what we want. We want to rule our own lives, determine for ourselves what is right and wrong, good and evil. When mankind wants the freedom to live to how we want to live, we neglect the freedom to live and do what we should do. And so life is not at all what God meant it to be when He looked at His creation before the fall and said, ‘everything is good.’ God is the God of freedom. It was for freedom, the Lord Jesus set us free. His rules are to guide us to the abundant life and help us avoid the pitfalls of sin. Under His authority, we find the life worth living and enjoy the maximum freedom. The freedom to live the life you wish without consequences does not exist. God’s rules have always been to provide a framework for the best possible life, for the longest possible time for the most possible people, by the best possible method. Sin on the other hand, robs one of their freedoms.
THE WRITING ON THE WALL
Meet King Belshazzar, playboy grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar doing what he does best, throwing a great feast, a drunken party and night of revelry and sexual immorality. History tells us it was in October of 539 BC when this occurred. Darius, the Mede, was at the gate of Babylon with his armies while this great party occurred. The enemy was at the gate. Is this a picture of the USA today? Is the enemy at our gate? Or has he already found a way into our country, into the hearts and minds of our citizens?
King Belshazzar was aware of their presence, but in his pride he believed the walls his grandfather had built, which reached heights of 300 feet and were of great thickness were impenetrable. The gates were of reinforced bronze. This great nation had a source of water as the Euphrates River ran through the city from one end to the other. They also had storehouses of food to feed their people for 20 years. Pride goes before a fall. His grandfather had told him and left it in writing: ‘the Most High God is able to humble those who walk in pride.’ It is a night of celebration of their strength, wealth, power and invincibility. Like the Titanic whose builders prided themselves on building a glorious vessel which was unsinkable. These people like those in the days of Noah, paid no heed to God’s warnings through Noah’s building of an ark, so it will be in the last days. This world is headed for an epic disaster.
Belshazzar was the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar. Look how far he and his nation had fallen in just two generations.
So let’s take a sober look at our country and what has happened on our watch in the last 50- 75 years. Paul wrote to Timothy in his last days before his death that in the latter days would come perilous times. He said men would become lovers of self, lovers of money and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. He said they would depart from sound doctrine. We need teachers of sound doctrine like never before! Everyone wants to do what is right in their own eyes, as a result we see the works of the flesh: “ Now the works of the flesh are evident which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like…” Galatians 5. This is a pretty good description Paul is giving of our country today from 2000 years ago.
Now when we look at the obvious decline in our culture and analyze the root problems, we discover the trouble in this country coincides with the decline of the church in America. By Church, I am referring to Christians and Christianity. The influence of Christians and Christianity has declined. Membership is down. Baptisms are down. Attendance is down. Departure from sound doctrine is utilized by many to build up their numbers. God looks at nations. He numbers their days; He judges their works on His scales of justice and does with those nations what He pleases. He did it with Belshazzar and Babylon, and He has done it with every nation since. Nations rise up and nations fall down.
How will our grandchildren and great- grandchildren, the next generations behave and live in a nation no longer considered a Christian nation? Raised by parents who say we have been freed from the guilt- producing religion of this ancient book. We are free to live as we want- self-autonomy. Doing what is right in our own eyes. As a result we are a nation in decline with the enemies at the gate and our grandchildren and great grandchildren will not be equipped if we do not equip them to contend with the enemy at the gate. THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL.
Post truth, a phrase we often hear was selected by the Oxford Dictionary as the “word of the year in 2016.” The Oxford Dictionary has been doing this for years as they select a new word which has come to be popular and best describes and captures the mood of the culture at the current time. Post truth is defined as : “ denoting circumstances in which objective facts, truths, are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotions and personal preference. “ This simply means people will bypass the truth, obvious truth as getting in the way of personal agenda. Because of the departure from sound Bible doctrine, as behavior worsens in our culture, the community adjusts its standards so that conduct once considered reprehensible, unacceptable and even criminal is deemed normal and even honorable.
When there is no longer an accepted standard of truth, a source of absolute truth everyone does what is right in their own eyes. Politicians then pass laws which allow them to give people what they want and keep getting re-elected. What happens when there is not fixed point of reference by which individuals and communities make decision. How do we decide what is right or wrong? We do what is right in our own eyes. We live and walk in the flesh, by our feelings; our emotions guide us to do what feels good. Welcome to the post-truth culture of the 21st century.
Now it is easy to observe what happens when one lives by their feelings, their senses. Soon what satisfied us before becomes old and no longer thrilling. We are easily bored. Can you imagine what people would think of television today if it went back to only three channels and all shows must present Biblical morals? When one lives by their feelings, their senses, they become easily bored. They then demand their sensations must be intensified in order to escape boredom.
Thus the party, the feast for a 1000 nobles the playboy grandson is throwing, must find new and greater sensations to entertain his guests and himself. The constant need to intensify sensations leads Belshazzar to bring out the sacred goblets which had been taken from Solomon’s Temple and use these sacred symbols to drink from and toasts their idols. Blasphemy from the highest office in the country of Babylonia, from its capital city of Babylon, a city formed by a rebel, Nimrod, who defied the God of heaven.
Are we there yet as a country? Has America fallen to those depths of blasphemy from the highest office in the land? When the law was passed to make same sex marriage a right, the White House was prepared to celebrate this event. How? They had arranged to have colored lights, the color of the rainbow, God’s symbol of His Promise, His word to us He would not destroy the earth by flood again. To use this symbol of God’s covenant with us, to celebrate sin is blasphemy from the highest office. The president stated: My hope is one day; we will come to celebrate same sex marriage being as honorable and admirable as marriage between a man and a woman.
When the governor of the state of New York signed into law permitting the abortion of a full term nine month old baby, it was not done in the darkness of night. It was done before lights and cameras to be broadcast throughout the land. There was cheering when it was signed. Yet we are told ‘children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has a quiver full of them. They shall not be ashamed but shall contend with their enemies at the gate.’ Psalm 127
The days of the playboy king were numbered and about to come to an end. He had been weighed on God’s scales and found wanting. His kingdom would fall that very night.
The writing is on the wall. The writing is clear as clear can be. “The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purpose of His heart through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”
HOW THE ENEMY CREEPS IN
Today the attitude of the majority toward Christianity is indifference, apathy, ignorance and outright hostility. All of these are obviously present and growing. We see a culture whose conduct is characterized by a lack of manners and civility. Profanity flows from their lips. There is no self-restraint. Vulgarity. Pornography. Drugs. Mass murders and crime. The decline grows more rapidly- violence increases. Chaos and confusion reign and mounting problems threaten our existence as there seems to be no solution or one who can solve the problems which sets the stage for the Anti-Christ waiting in the wings of time to make his entrance upon the world stage.
How did Darius the Mede and his army get into such a fortified city? They could not scale the walls. They could not break down the bronze gates. They diverted the Euphrates River and came in under the gates on what had previously been the life-giving Euphrates River. Paul said in the latter days would come perilous times. Men would depart from sound doctrine. Are we seeing that happen in mainline Christian churches? Yes. We labor in vain to build anything if God is not the builder and architect.
The Word of God is compared to water. Jesus said in John 15: 3- “you are already clean through the Word I have spoken to you.”
The enemy has diverted the Word of God from our culture. The departure from sound doctrine marked the decline. The departure from truth, absolute truth has allowed the enemy to creep in under the gates of or wealth, power and guarded watch towers.
The enemy is not at the gate. He is in our cities, our countries and our churches.
For such as time as this, we have come into the kingdom. We must teach the next generations the truth so they can contend with the enemy at the gate.
We are under attack. Arm yourselves with the Word of God the divine weapons which are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Put on the whole armor of God and take your stand.
The Holy Scriptures must be taught and made known from childhood. Paul tells us the Word of God is inspired and profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness that we believers can be equipped for every good work of God.
Teach us to number our days Lord that we might gain a heart of wisdom and make the most of the time we have for the days are evil.
What are we to do? Teach our children and grandchildren scriptures from childhood. Model them before them. For grandfathers, I urge you to sit down and write your story, your testimony. This will be not only a treasure for your children, but your grandchildren and great grandchildren.
It can be simple document which tells about the time you grew up in; about your parents and grandparents. It will tell them how you got saved; maybe what your favorite Bible verse is or a story you want them to know. I had a fierce 14 year battle with alcohol which almost killed me. My family had a history of alcoholism and I wanted to warn them about its danger.
If we do not teach our grandchildren how to defend their faith in a culture which wants to conform them, they may very well desert it. Look around- the enemy is at the gate. The writing is on the wall.