************ Sermon on Daniel 5:17 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on November 14, 2014

Daniel 5
Daniel 5:17
"The Congregation's Response"
Installation of Rev. David Inks

Usually, at the installation of a pastor, we hear a sermon directed at the pastor to preach the Word; to be prepared in season and out of season; to correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim 4:2).

However, your new pastor is a man with years of experience. He already knows his responsibilities and calling as a pastor. So, I thought I would preach this evening on the responsibilities and calling of the congregation.

It is our privilege today to install Rev. David Inks as the pastor of this church. What do you think your new pastor wants? What is he looking for?
-Is he looking for one Sunday a month off?
-Is he looking for a 20% increase in pay?
-Is he looking for tickets to watch the Super Bowl?
-Is he looking for a dream vacation or a new SUV?

All joking aside, do you know what he wants as pastor, what he is looking for in and from this congregation? The most wonderful reward God's prophets can receive is not purple or gold or honors or the praises of men – though they are all nice to get. The most wonderful reward God's prophets can receive is a response of repentance and faith.

Perhaps you remember the time the prophet Samuel commanded King Saul to destroy the Amalekites and all that belonged to them. After the battle King Saul decided to spare the Amalekite king and the best of the sheep and cattle in order to sacrifice them to the Lord at Gilgal. It was Samuel who had to admonish the king:
(1 Sam 15:22) "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
Like any true prophet of God, what Samuel wanted most of all was an obedient faith response to the Word of the Lord. Like any true prophet of God, what Rev. David Inks wants most of all is an obedient faith response to the Word of the Lord.

In our Scripture reading we see that the prophet Daniel, like Samuel, also did not get an obedient, believing response to the Word of the Lord. Daniel proclaimed and interpreted the Word of the Lord to King Belshazzar and a thousand of his nobles. It becomes obvious that Daniel waited in vain for the response he most wanted.

I Daniel Proclaims God's Word
A You know what happened. Being drunk with wine, King Belshazzar profaned the Lord and the things of the Lord. He not only drank wine out of the holy vessels of the temple in Jerusalem, but as he did so he also praised the idol gods of Babylon. Belshazzar failed to honor the one only true God, the God Who gave him kingdom, power, and glory (vs 23).

In response, God wrote four words on the palace wall. When none of the king's wise men could figure out either the words or their meaning, Daniel was called. Being a true prophet of the Lord, Daniel was able to read and understand what God's finger wrote on the wall.

B What is the message that God wrote? The inscription on the wall is: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN. This is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Parsin: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

We first see that word Mene. Daniel's explanation is that God counts – carefully and patiently. God makes it known to King Belshazzar and to all the world – whether they are interested or not – that there is a last page in every person's book. For Belshazzar the last page has now been reached. And, not surprisingly, it says, "The End."

Let's listen to the next word – Tekel! This means God weighs. It is time for a spiritual audit, Belshazzar. God forgets and overlooks nothing. As in any audit, it is too late for any new numbers to be added to the ledger. How does the financial statement look, Belshazzar? Are you in the red or in the black? Daniel's message: King Belshazzar has been weighed on the divine balance and found wanting. God's conclusion is that Belshazzar is too light. His life has no content; his heart is empty.

The final word is Parsin. Parsin means into pieces, divided, separated. That's the Lord's judgment against Belshazzar. He has been counted and weighed and found lacking, so he will be broken into pieces and cast into outer darkness.

C Wow, Daniel. You got to be kidding! What a horrible message to bring to the strongest and most powerful king of the entire world. Couldn't you have been a bit more diplomatic? Couldn't you have chosen a politically correct way to say all of this?

In the Ancient World the messenger with bad news quite often got his head lobbed off. No one wants to hear the kind of bad news Daniel was bringing. And, no one wants to bring it either.

But Daniel was given a message from the Lord. It may be unpopular. The king's advisers may have looked at Daniel in horror. The king himself may have looked at Daniel with disbelief. But Daniel proceeded to say what God gave him to say. He wasn't going to sugarcoat the truth. He wasn't going to soften its blunt edges. That took courage and that took faith. Likewise, I am sure you can expect the same from your new pastor.

II Applause Instead of Repentance
A Belshazzar listens to Daniel. Daniel tells him the words and their meaning. How does Belshazzar respond? Our text tells us: Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom. No higher honor could be given to Daniel: Nabonidus, Belshazzar's father, who was leading the armies in war, was the first ruler; Belshazzar himself was the second ruler; now Daniel was given the third place. The purple and gold and third highest position signifies royalty and nobility. From now on Daniel was going to walk in the highest circles. He was going to be in a position to determine the destinies of men and nations.

B This reward looks and sounds most impressive, doesn't it? Yet, in reality, it is nothing, it means nothing, it counts for nothing. Hasn't Daniel just testified that all the glory and pomp was coming to an end? Hasn't Daniel just spoken about the end of the kingdom and the death of Belshazzar? And, we see this happening that very same night already:
(Dan 5:30-31) That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, (31) and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.
A couple of hours after Daniel spoke the word of the Lord, that word came to pass.

Daniel was to receive a position of great authority in a kingdom that was on it last legs and would only survive a few more hours. Some reward! Even the glory of a butterfly with only a few days to live lasts longer than the honor bestowed on Daniel. The frail and tender beauty of the flowers of the field does not disappear as quickly as would the glory of Daniel's purple garments.

If Daniel had put his hope and faith in the purple and gold, in the position and title, he would have been a person to pity. However, Daniel had declined these gifts in advance, saying, "You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else" (Dan 5:17). How could Daniel do this? To use the words of Jesus, we would say that Daniel was not aiming for treasure on earth; rather, his goal was treasure in heaven (Mt 6:19f).

We can learn from Daniel here. Too many times we allow ourselves to be mesmerized by the transitory glitter of this world. Too many times we let the attraction of the purple and gold, the position and title, divert us from what is really important. Too many times we seek the temporary treasure of earth rather than the enduring treasures of heaven. But, like Daniel, we should seek not what is temporary and transitory, but what is enduring and permanent. Like Daniel, we all should seek first the Kingdom and its righteousness.

C So, did Belshazzar believe the message? Did Belshazzar listen and repent and beleive? Did Daniel's words cut Belshazzar to the heart and cause him to change his ways? When you read about his knocking knees and legs that gave way you would think the answer is yes. But, if Belshazzar believed Daniel's message, he would not have given Daniel a position of great honor and authority in a kingdom that Daniel himself said was about to perish. If Belshazzar believed the message he would have been praying instead of applauding. If Belshazzar believed the message he would have not have stood before Daniel with empty gifts in his arms; rather, he would have stood with empty hands raised to heaven.

D In giving Daniel these honors, do you know what Belshazzar was saying? He was saying, "Congratulations, Daniel. You were able to do what no one else in my kingdom could do: you were able to read the handwriting on the wall and tell me its meaning." King Belshazzar was impressed with the cleverness and talent of Daniel. King Belshazzar applauded, praised, and thanked Daniel.

Daniel, however, was not interested in purple and gold, in position and title. As a true prophet, what Daniel wanted was for Belshazzar to repent and believe. But Belshazzar, he was so impressed with the power of the preacher that he paid no attention to the message. The messenger became more important than the message. That's not the way it should be.

Remember Nineveh? When the king of Nineveh heard the preaching of Jonah, he didn't offer him the key to the city, he didn't offer him a ticker tape parade, he didn't offer him the red-carpet treatment. No, what he did was infinitely better than that: he wore sackcloth and ashes and repented of his sins. That's what Belshazzar should have done.

III Two Lessons
A I think we can learn two lessons here. First, a lesson for preachers and leaders in the church. Like Daniel, our number one desire should never be purple and gold, position and title, honor and glory. Our number one desire should be the repentance and faith of God's people in response to the truth of God's Word.

This congregation is being blessed with a pastor who has this desire. You can praise him, you can pay him, you can thank him – and they will all be appreciated – but the number one thing he desires is an obedient and faithful response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that he will be proclaiming Sunday after Sunday. Some days, like Daniel, he will say things you will not like. Some days, like Daniel, he will bring a message that requires change on your part. Some days, like Daniel, he will not be saying what is popular or politically correct or diplomatic. But, as a true servant of Jesus Christ he will bring the Word anyways.

B Second, a lesson for congregations and members of the church. Like Belshazzar, far too many people today applaud or criticize the preacher instead of repent and believe at his message. The messenger too often becomes more important than the message.

Look, for example, at the Rev. Billy Graham. The latest issue of Christian History magazine is all about him and his ministry. I was thankful to read about his faith and commitment to the Lord. I learned he moved among the rich and powerful with the utmost of ease. And, he was the personal confidant of 5 of our presidents. I know he met with President Nixon during the darkest hours of Watergate. He met with the Reagans on more than one occasion; this is while they were dabbling with astrology. He met with the first President Bush just before Operation Desert Storm. In reading all this I have to wonder if the messenger became more important than the message, if the messenger was being applauded while his message was being ignored.

Today and every Sunday, large crowds of people enter God's house. But why have they come? Is their attention focused on the messenger or on the message? Do they say, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening" (1 Sam 3:9)? Too often, I'm afraid, most of the attention is focused not on the message but on the messenger. He can be glorified or condemned for his preaching style. The person in the pew declares that one preacher puts a great deal of work into his sermon, while another preaches superficial sermons. There is interesting preaching and dull preaching, beautiful preaching and not so beautiful preaching, covenantal preaching and evangelistic preaching. Sometimes we are irritated by the sermon, and sometimes we enjoy it. Sometimes we listen carefully, and sometimes we let our mind wander.

Let me propose, congregation, a different way of listening to the Rev. David Inks. Instead of sitting back and being irritated or entertained, ask yourself the question: "What is the Lord saying to me?"

C Of course, it is not good enough just to listen. The Lord Jesus had much to say about listening to His Word. He warns us against being only a hearer of the Word. He wants us to be a hearer and a doer. God wants from us what He wanted from Belshazzar: people who hear and repent, people who listen and believe (Lk 6:46-49; 8:21; 11:28; James 1:22; 2:14-20).

Be very careful, then, in your listening. Not everyone who says, "Lord! Lord!" and admires this preacher or that one will be permitted to enter the Kingdom of God. The only ones who are allowed in are the ones who hear the Word of God and repent and believe.

"That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians was slain." This is a warning, congregation, to all those who applaud the messenger but don't obey the message. This is a warning, congregation, that to enter the Kingdom of God we must be hearers and doers of the Word.

What Daniel wanted, what Samuel wanted, what Rev. David Inks wants, what the Lord wants, is a people who hear the Word, who believe the Word, who repent at the Word.

Are you that kind of people?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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