Background Scripture: Daniel 5
Quotes of the Week:
I have several times made a poor choice by avoiding a necessary confrontation. John Cleese
Confrontation. Does anybody really like to confront others? It is one thing to work through conflict and other issues, but the thought of confrontation can be very disturbing for many people. There used to be the show called "What Would You Do", where actors would portray situations around unsuspecting bystanders and the point would be to see what different, normal people would do. Most of the time, the actions portrayed did bother people. Some of them would do nothing and others would go out of their way to address the situation. Perhaps much of this has to do with different personality types, and how a person is internally wired. On a side note, wouldn't it be nice if we were all wired the same way, so that you would know what to expect in certain situations from others? Alas, that will never be the case and in many ways, we can be glad.
In some cases, there are issues that need to be addressed or confronted, while in other cases, confrontation would be a serious overreaction to a circumstance. It can be a dilemma to understand what issues deserve confrontation and what doesn't. We could find certain things that should be confronted all of the time, regardless of who is involved. In the past week in Missouri, there was a protest at the University in Columbia regarding different alleged actions of a few who were in charge. This brought many people out of the woodwork to join forces against such "atrocious" behavior. When it was all said and done, much of what was brought up was either fabricated or overblown altogether. Unfortunately, some people simply don't care about the truth, but would rather use any situation to further their own agenda. This situation in Missouri got to a point that it didn't matter what the initial infraction may or may not have been. It was going to be a big deal as more and more people joined forces. This is not to say that there are not legitimate causes for people to protest, as there certainly may be at times. There are times to take a stand. However, to cause a confrontation and blow a situation out of proportion typically does more damage than good to all involved.
Unfortunately, this lesson will not be as helpful as to determine when you should or should not be confrontational, but will show a clear issue where confrontation was required. We are still in the book of Daniel, and King Nebuchadnezzar's son, Belshazzar, is now the king. For typing simplicity, we will refer to him as Bel. Although Nebuchadnezzar had his ups and downs, at different points, he did extol the praises of the Lord. His experiences with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego helped him see how God worked in the lives of His people and led him to extolling the greatness of the Lord. However, it would seem that those stories were either not told to his son, Bel, or were very much disregarded. This led, at least in part, to the circumstances that we see in Daniel 5.
In the midst of their revelry, they saw the fingers of what appeared to be a human hand which wrote on the wall. The king watched the hand as it wrote. As you may imagine, his face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking. He summoned his enchanters, astrologers and diviners, and told them that whoever told him what the writing meant would be rewarded. They would be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck and would be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom. Although the reward was quite substantial, none of the king's wise men could read the writing or say what it meant. His nobles were baffled and this frightened King Bel even more and his face grew paler.
King Bel put a challenge before Daniel, as if he were the one in the driver's seat. He said that he had heard that Daniel was able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. He told Daniel that if he could read this writing and tell Bel what it meant, he would be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck and would be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom. Daniel told Bel that he could keep his gifts for himself and reward someone else. Daniel wasn't interested in what the king could give him. However, he did say that he would read the writing for the king and tell him what it meant.
Do you find amazing that assuming Bel had ever heard this story, he disregarded whatever his father had told him. Have you ever considered all of the things that God has taught you and that you have learned? Do others know of God's impact on your life, or are you keeping them to yourself?
In contrast to what Neb had so clearly experienced and learned, Bel, his son, had not humbled himself, though he knew of all of this. Perhaps Neb had tried to explain what had happened, but unlike many children (even those of us who are now adults), we tend to hear what we want to hear. Have you ever made up your mind about a situation without any desire to hear another side of the story, even if it happens to be the truth? Instead of following the example set by his father, Bel had praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone; gods who cannot see or hear or understand. Bel had praised these gods and refused to honor the one True God who holds in his hand Bel's life and all of his ways.
The message was quite clear. The days of the reign of the king were coming to an end because he had been weighed on the scales and found wanting. His kingdom was going to come to an end and would be divided between the Medes and the Persians. That very night, Belshazaar was killed and Darius the Mede received the kingdom.
Bel and his nobles showed blatant disrespect for the Lord. In the area of confrontation, what would happen if we addressed every situation that was dishonoring to the Lord? There are so many things that have happened in our society that would fall into this category. Obviously, we know that we can't address every single thing and that there will be times when we will have to accept that each person makes their own choice in life. You certainly cannot expect a person who has no real relationship with the Lord to behave in a way that aligns with Biblical teaching. We certainly can't expect our society to embrace Christian values as the norm. Even among believers, we might like to think that we would all live our entire lives in a way that honors God at all times, but we know our own personal situation all too well. While we may not be engaged in some gross area of sin, we all know that there are areas of our lives that need to be cleaned up. What would happen if we confronted our own selves before we confronted others? As in Matthew 7:5, Jesus said, "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
Daniel shared what the Lord had clearly said to king Bel. This writing was intended for a very specific event. We are less likely to understand with such certainty when God is speaking to us. It can be dangerous for us to confront others, as if we know what God is intending for another's life. In any given situation, we only see what we can see, and we seldom fully know the whole picture. It can actually cause more problems when we confront others without having all the facts; especially if we are not willing to look for the truth. Don't allow yourself to be swayed by what someone has said, as if you understand everything about a situation.