The Heart of the Humble – Daniel 5:17-31 – Pastor Brian
God confronts pride to keep the hearts of His people humble. How does God confront our pride?
We are continuing our study of His Word through our series, “Uncompromising Faith,” in the book of Daniel 5:17-31.
God confronted the pride of Chuck Colson, who served President Richard Nixon as Special Counsel, by allowing him to be imprisoned for seven months for his role in the Watergate scandal. God humbled Colson resulting in Prison Fellowship the largest Christian ministry in this area of need.
It’s been about 20 years since King Nebuchadnezzar died and Belshazzar is now the ruler of Babylon. He was arrogant, rude, and disrespectful to God though he knew how God had humbled Nebuchadnezzar. In the first sixteen verses of Daniel chapter five, Belshazzar’s lack of respect for God was demonstrated when he took golden vessels out of God’s temple in Jerusalem and used them to drink wine and get drunk at a party of about a thousand people. While in a drunken state, Belshazzar and the party saw fingers of a human hand writing on a wall of plaster in the palace. This frightened Belshazzar so much his color changed and his knees gave way and he fell. He immediately sought help from the wisemen of Babylon and offered a great reward to anyone who could interpret what was written. Then the queen mother recalled a man who helped King Nebuchadnezzar interpret his dreams. His name was Daniel (“God is my judge”) who Nebuchadnezzar gave the Babylonian name Belteshazzar.
God confronts pride with GRACE, TRUTH, and CONSEQUENCES to humble the hearts of His people. Our take home truth is, God confronts pride to keep the hearts of His people humble. Almighty God, the creator of life, desires a personal and intimate relationship with His children. Remaining close to God requires a humble heart so He confronts our pride to keep us humble. How does God confront pride?
1) To keep the hearts of His people humble, God confronts pride with GRACE. (vv.17-21) Pride in a person’s heart more often than not, leads to trouble. Pride causes a person to think they are always right. Pride also causes a person to think too highly of themselves. As Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction.” But by the grace of God, He humbles His people to save us from complete destruction.
During the party, a thousand people and Belshazzar see the writing on a wall and Daniel is summoned to interpret what is written… God was very gracious with King Nebuchadnezzar. It was God alone who made Nebuchadnezzar the most powerful king of that era. But it was also God alone who graciously humbled the king. When Nebuchadnezzar did not acknowledge that it was God who gave him his power, God could have passed judgment upon Nebuchadnezzar then and there but God’s grace saved him by bringing him down to the level of common work animals, dwelling with donkeys and eating like an ox for seven years until King Nebuchadnezzar admitted that it is, “the Most High God who rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom He will.” It was by God’s grace that Nebuchadnezzar’s life was spared.
The grace of God is the foundation of Daniel’s uncompromising faith that leads him to courageously tell the truth that God gave both King Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar their rulership over Babylon. God granted Nebuchadnezzar so much power and greatness that verse19 tells us, “all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him.” Yet at the same time Daniel told Belshazzar that because Nebuchadnezzar’s “spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne (by God), and his glory was taken from him.” (v.20)
Nebuchadnezzar’s prideful stature was brought down by God until he learned his lesson and humbly submitted himself before God and said in Chapter 4:37, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are right and His ways are just; and those who walk in pride He is able to humble.” By the grace of God, Nebuchadnezzar humbly submitted to and honored the King of heaven. The king received God’s grace and acknowledged it was not by his own might that he ruled Babylon but it was because of Almighty God.
This principle that it is by God’s grace that we live and have our being was not only true for Nebuchadnezzar but also true for us today. It is by the grace of God we exist, but pride tells us we need to earn grace. Pride tells the more we do for God the more grace we will get. This is the trap of pride that God confronts. Too many Christians try to live out grace by doing more instead of resting in His given grace. When grace is received as God desires, serving God becomes more of a delight rather than a duty.
God did not require anything from Nebuchadnezzar other than an acknowledgement of what God gave him. That is all God asks today, to acknowledge what God has given us. By grace God gave us His only Son to die on the cross and be raised three days later from the dead to free us from sin’s grip so we could live eternally with Him. That is what makes His grace so amazing. We can’t earn grace. We can’t do more to get more grace. All God asks is that we receive His grace and live in it. Ephesians 2:8-9 says…“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
2) To keep the hearts of His people humble, God confronts pride with TRUTH. (vv.22-23) After Daniel recounts the story of God’s dealings with Nebuchadnezzar, he proceeds to confront Belshazzar by saying… 22 “And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of His (God’s) house have been brought in before you, and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. Belshazzar disrespected God’s house by taking golden cups from the temple of God and using them to get drunk with wine. Belshazzar was brazen, overconfident, arrogant, and egotistical forgetting that it was God Almighty who set his royal family in place. Daniel further says… “And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.” Belshazzar further dishonored God by praising the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Belshazzar knew the truth of Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogance yet chose to ignore and even disregard it to the point of disrespecting God and His temple.
We may not intentionally worship or praise the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone but we might be blind to how much we focus upon the pursuit of material comfort and conveniences. This focus can be a form of worshipping the false god of materialism. There is huge pressure in countries like ours to think that when we are of a certain social or economic status then we are successful and even blessed by God. I wonder how many of us are being blinded to truth by pride.
God desires an intimate relationship with His people but pride often gets in the way. If you are missing a closeness to God, consider evaluating who you are truly worshipping; the god of this world or the God who created the world? Even though it makes us uncomfortable and hurts, we should thank God for loving us enough to confront pride with truth.
3) To keep the hearts of His people humble, God confronts pride with CONSEQUENCES. (vv.24-31) Truth does not allow grace to be cheapened. Grace cost Jesus His life. We cheapen grace when we don’t receive the sacrifice of His Son as a gift from God. We cheapen grace when we think we need to do more to get God’s grace. There are consequences the moment we think we need to do something to earn God’s grace. When we believe what pride tells us, that it is up to us to get the grace of God, we cheapen His grace and suffer consequences. Though the blood of Jesus has wiped away every sin allowing us to stand before God without shame or judgment, in this world we are held accountable for the wrongs we commit. God loves His people enough to keep us humble by allowing the consequences of sin to be felt in order to be nearer to Him.
Unfortunately, we are often like Belshazzar. We are like the prideful king who was unwilling to learn from past mistakes rather than learn from faithful and teachable followers. Because Belshazzar did not learn from God’s dealing with Nebuchadnezzar’s pride, God communicated to Belshazzar that his days were numbered. More specifically Babylon would fall to the Medes and Persians since Belshazzar had been weighed in the balances and was found wanting. Belshazzar was not accepted by God because he was not humble enough to honor God. That very night Babylon was conquered by the Medes and Belshazzar was killed.
Today, Jesus is the standard by which God weighs us. Because of Jesus, we have met God’s standard and are accepted into the household of God. But if we fail to listen and learn from God’s dealings and continue to live in our pride, then God, though He is perfect in mercy, will also carry out His perfect judgment. The consequence of rejecting truth (Jesus), will be judgment, but the hope of God is that in suffering consequences we will be drawn nearer to Him.
God confronts pride to keep the hearts of His people humble in order to draw us nearer to Himself with GRACE, TRUTH, and CONSEQUENCES. May we learn from our past mistakes like Nebuchadnezzar and Chuck Colson to stay humble in our relationships with others and more importantly before God.
Praise Songs: This I Believe (The Creed), Mighty to Save, Be Thou My Vision, Your Love Never Fails, Doxology