Archive for June, 2011

Attitudes Toward Sin

Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.

Psalm 119:53

Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.

Proverbs 14:9

I came across this verse in the Psalms the other day, and it reminded me of the verse in Proverbs.  I think that these verses give us a good contrast of two attitudes toward sin. 

In Psalm 119, David says that horror has taken hold on him “because of the wicked that forsake thy law.”  I can understand being in horror over your own sins, but David says he is in horror because of the sins of others.  He saw wicked people forsaking God’s law, and it bothered him greatly.  I think that, from reading other Psalms that he wrote, we get the idea that his “horror” included both a desire to see the wicked stop forsaking God’s law and a righteous indignation that they would forsake Him in the first place.

That should be our attitude toward sin.  We should absolutely hate it and abhor it in all forms.  We should hate it in our own lives, and seek to root it out.  We should hate it in the lives of others.  When we see a wicked person, it is their sin and their rejection of God that is sending them to Hell.  It is sin that is literally destroying their lives.  If we care about people at all, we will hate their sin and all it does to them.  It is the chain that keeps them bound.

On the other hand, in Proverbs, we get a look at the fool’s attitude toward sin.  He “makes a mock at sin.”  The fool gets a chuckle out of sin.  That could be his own sin or the sin of others.  Sin is not something to be mocked.  It is literally destroying people all around us.  It is not a source of humor. 

What is our attitude toward sin today?  Do we abhor it in all it’s forms, or do we get our entertainment from it?  That is a convicting question.

God’s Writing

In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.  Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of the loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.  The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers.  And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.  Then came in all the king’s wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof.

Daniel 5:5-8

This passage shows us just how mixed up and desperate people can become when they are confronted by the Lord.  Belshazzar had defied the Lord and had lifted himself up in pride.  God showed up at his “party” and wrote on the wall.  Of course, this put great fear in Belshazzar and desperately needed to know what the writing said and what it meant.  Who does he turn to?

He turns to the “astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers.”  He turns to the world to try to get an interpretation of what God has written!  How often do we see this today?  How often do we see God trying to get people’s attention, but instead of turning to the Bible or to a Christian for help, they turn to the world?  You will never get an interpretation of what God has said from someone who doesn’t believe in God! 

Verse 8 gives us the obvious conclusion to this fiasco: “Then came in all the king’s wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof.”  That reminds of I Corinthians 2:14, But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  It was true in Belshazzar’s time and it is still true today!

When God Shows Up

They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.  In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.  Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.

Daniel 5:4-6

We looked yesterday at how sacrilegious king Belshazzar was being when he took the golden vessels from God’s temple and used them at his party to drink wine with.  In these verses, we see the beginning of God’s response.  The Bible says that “in the same hour” that they were praising the “gods” of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood and stone, God responded.  His response changed things. 

Any time God shows up, things are going to change.  If you are on the Lord’s side and doing what you are supposed to be doing, His appearing is a joyous occasion.  In fact, we are told in the New Testament to “love his appearing.”  (II Timothy 4:8)  Revival comes when God shows up.  But, on the other hand, if we are not on the Lord’s side and/or not doing what we are supposed to be doing, His appearing is a fearful thing.  Look at the response of king Belshazzar:

His countenance changed.  He wasn’t enjoying his party/banquet/feast any more.  The fun and merrymaking were over.  “His thoughts troubled him.”  I would say so.  If I were reveling and blaspheming God and a hand suddenly appeared and started writing on the wall, my thoughts would trouble me too!  And “the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.”  His legs literally started shaking.  He was “shaking in his boots.”  That is serious fear!

When we see the Lord, it changes things.  As Christians, if we start messing around with sin, we will, at some point, begin to see “handwriting on the wall.”  And that sin, which at the time seemed enjoyable, will quickly become a source of fear and regret.  Just as with Belshazzar, the Lord has ways of getting our attention and causing us to fear Him.

Wouldn’t it be easier if we just followed Him to begin with?  Then we could truly “love His appearing” instead of fearing it.

Praising Other “gods”

Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.  Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein.  Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them.  They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.

Daniel 5:1-4

When I read these verses, two very blasphemous acts of Belshazzar struck me.  First, he took the golden vessels that were once used in the house of God and used them to get drunk on wine with.  Second, he and all of those assembled with him “praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.” 

Of course, in the next verses, a hand appeared out of nowhere and started writing on the wall, predicting the imminent demise and destruction of his kingdom.  But, imagine the audacity of taking something holy and using it for something as unholy as a drunken party.  We can rightly condemn Belshazzar for his action.  But what about us?  How often have we taken something that should be set apart for the Lord and used it for doing evil?  Every time we sin, that is exactly what we are doing.  Our bodies, our eyes, our minds, and our goods should be set apart for the Lord.  How often have we lined up with Belshazzar in this regard?

And, while we may not actually literally “praise the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone,” how often have we “sung their praises?”  How much of our speech is used to extol the virtues of something made of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood or stone?  Those things would include houses, cars, money, technological marvels, etc. 

My first thought when reading these verses was to condemn Belshazzar, but my second thought has been to condemn myself for doing the exact same things (though maybe on a smaller scale) and ask for the Lord’s forgiveness.

Nice To See Where You’re Going

But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.  The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.

Proverbs 4:18-19

I enjoy the contrast of these verses.  Think about the difference between walking through the woods (or anywhere else) during the daylight and during the night.  During the day, you can easily avoid obstacles.  You can see the tree in front of you and step to the side.  You can see the branch on the ground and step over it.  You can see the puddle of water and can walk around it.  On the other hand, in the dark, you might run into the tree.  You might trip over the branch and you might splash right into the puddle. 

That seems simple, and it is.  During the day, you can see where you are going and during the night, you can’t.  That is the contrast given between the “just” and the “wicked.”  The Christian can see where he is going.  He has the Bible and the Holy Spirit to guide him.  In yielding to those influences, he is able to avoid many pitfalls and snares.  On the other hand, the wicked man stumbles through life, often unable to see the dangers that lie in his path. 

What is the difference between the two?  The Light.  The Christian has the Light, and the unsaved person does not.  That Light makes all the difference.  It makes all the difference not only in our eternal salvation, but in our day to day lives.  He makes all the difference.  It is literally and figuratively the difference between night and day!

Each Step I Take (Hymn)

Each Step I Take
Elmo Mercer

Each step I take my Saviour goes before me,
And with His loving hand He leads the way,
And with each breath I whisper “I adore Thee;”
Oh, what joy to walk with Him each day.

Refrain
Each step I take I know that He will guide me;
To higher ground He ever leads me on.
Until some day the last step will be taken.
Each step I take just leads me closer home.

At times I feel my faith begin to waver,
When up ahead I see a chasm wide.
It’s then I turn and look up to my Saviour,
I am strong when He is by my side.

I trust in God, no matter come what may,
For life eternal in His hand,
He holds the key that opens up the way,
That will lead me to the promised land.

How often do we find ourselves getting ahead of the Lord?  How often do we not take things “one step at a time?”  No matter where our steps may lead, we can be confident that “each step I take, I know that He will guide me.”  I just have to follow Him.  I love the thought expressed at the end of the refrain: “each step I take, just leads me closer home.”  So true and so encouraging!

Lesson Learned

And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting kingdom, and his kingdom is from generation to generation:  And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

Daniel 4:34-35, 37

I find this to be one of the strangest stories in the entire Bible, but I also find to be encouraging.  King Nebuchadnezzar found himself lifted up with pride after the prophet told him to get right with God.  God punished him by basically turning him into an animal, who ate grass like an ox, lived outside and had hair like eagle feathers and long claws.  That is not the encouraging part to me.  I do not want to be turned into an animal.

The encouraging part is the fact that, when his “understanding returned” to him, he had clearly learned his lesson, and was restored (his restoration is detailed in verse 36).  We are all going to stumble and we are all going to things that we shouldn’t.  We are all going to be chastised. (Hebrews 12:8)  The issue is how we deal with that chastisement.  Will we learn our lesson and get things right or will we continue going our own way?  Nebuchadnezzar learned an important lesson about pride.  Listen to his own words:

“I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him.”  “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of earth: and none can stay his hand.” “I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven.”  And, my personal favorite: “…those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”  Amen, Nebuchadnezzar.

How are we learning our lessons?

God Hates Pride

Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility.  All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.  At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.  The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?  While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.  And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.  The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.

Daniel 4:27-33

To me, this is one of the stranger stories in the entire Bible.  But it illustrates a truth that is given over and over.  It is the simple truth that God hates pride.  Proverbs is full of warnings about pride, the most famous probably being “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”  -Proverbs 16:18

King Nebuchadnezzar had seen the Lord deliver the Hebrews from the fiery furnace.  He had been properly awed by God.  However, in this chapter, He is told by a dream to “straighten up his act.”  I don’t know if he did get better or not, but after a year, he was walking in his palace and got a little swelled up with pride.  Notice the “I’s” and “my’s” in verse 30: “I have built,” “my power,” “my majesty.”  Pride came.  He fell.

The Bible says that “while the word was in the king’s mouth…”  He didn’t even finish what he was saying and God struck him down and changed him into a beast.  He lived outside, ate grass like an oxen, and had hair like feathers and fingernails like claws.  I can’t even begin to imagine what that must have looked like.

That was a brutal lesson for king Nebuchadnezzar (we will look at the rest of the story tomorrow), and it is a lesson that we do well to pay attention to.  God hates pride.  He hated it king Nebuchadnezzar’s day and He still hates it today.  Let us root pride out of our lives any time it rears it’s ugly head.  When we fell a little pride coming, maybe we would do well to remember the great king of Babylon eating grass like a beast.

How Bad Do You Want It?

Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;  If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;  Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.  For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 2:3-6

Every time I read this chapter, I am struck by these verses and the attitude with which we are supposed to seek knowledge and wisdom.  As with most other things in life, the amount of wisdom and understanding that we have comes down to one simple question: how badly do we want them?  If we had a desire for them like these verses tell us to, I think we would do well.

I enjoy verse four, which tells us to seek wisdom “as silver” and search for her “as for hid treasures.”  I am a coin collector and I love finding silver coins.  I will wade through garage sales, pawn shops, auctions, and just about anywhere else to find valuable coins.  I keep hunting until I find something I’m looking for.  Imagine what would happen if I approached Bible study like that.  Imagine all the wisdom that I would find if I sought for it like silver.

I have read stories of treasure hunters who will study old maps and drawings for years, trying to find some tiny clue as to where a treasure might be hidden.  In some cases, the search for treasure will consume their entire lives.  They will sacrifice just about anything to get a shot at finding that treasure.  How intense are we about getting wisdom?  What would we sacrifice for a chance to gain a little more wisdom from God’s Word? 

The truth is, we have all of the Bible that we want.  We have all of the wisdom that we want.  If we lack wisdom, the fault does not lie in the Bible or in the Holy Spirit, it lies in our desire to get it.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”  James 1:5

Showing Others

Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.  I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.  How great are his signs!  and how mighty are his wonders!  his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.

Daniel 4:1-3

King Nebuchadnezzar is getting ready to tell an amazing story that we will look at tomorrow.  (I dare say that he was taught a lesson in a way that we have never experienced nor will ever experience.)  But in these verses, he tells us his reasons for talking about his tough experience.

He says “I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.”  That is a great attitude.  In fact, that should be our attitude toward every person in the world.  We should be ready and willing to show others all the wonderful things that He has done for us and to us.  If we have been saved, He has wrought a wonderful work toward us!  We should be willing and ready to show others those things.

In the next verse, he magnifies the Lord, which is also something we should be doing at all times.  “How great are his signs!”  “How mighty are his wonders!”  “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom…”  He also calls Him “the high God” in verse 2, a fact which is important in light of the fact that this chapter is about his being punished for pride.  How often do we magnify the Lord like that?  To use modern terminology, how often do we just “brag on the Lord?”  His signs are great.  And His wonders are mighty.  And His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.  We should be praising Him and thanking His for these things and many others every day.

Nebuchadnezzar magnified the Lord.  Do we?