This week's Bible Study - November 15, 2015
Quotes of the Week:
I have several times made a poor choice by avoiding a necessary confrontation.
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.
King Bel gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles. This must have been a big shindig, as you might imagine would be the case with at least a thousand people in attendance. While Bel was drinking his wine, he gave orders for the gold and silver goblets that were taken from Jerusalem to be brought in, so that he and his guests could drink from them. So, these goblets taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem were brought in for party use. While they were drinking the wine, they began to praise the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
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.
The queen had heard the voices of the king and his nobles and she came into the banquet hall. While she did give honor to the king, she said that he had no reason to be so alarmed and to look so pale. She recalled that, in the time of his father Neb, there was a man in the kingdom who had the spirit of the holy gods in him. He was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. He had been appointed chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners, because Bel's father found that Daniel had a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, as well as the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. She told the king that he should call for Daniel and that Daniel would tell the king what the writing means.
Daniel was brought before the king. The king asked Daniel if he was one of the exiles that Bel's father had brought from Judah. He told Daniel that he had heard that the spirit of the gods was in him and that he had insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. Bel continued to say that the wise men and enchanters were brought before him to read the writing and tell him what it meant, but they could not explain it.
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.
Daniel did address the king with respect by saying "Your Majesty", but after that he gave some background as to why he had been called. Daniel said that the Most High God gave Bel's father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of what God had done, all the nations and people of every language dreaded and feared him. The king was successful in all he had done, until his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride. At that time, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. As you can read in Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and that God sets over them anyone he wishes.
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.
Daniel told Bel that because of his arrogance and refusal to acknowledge the Lord, God sent the hand that wrote the inscription. It was God clearly speaking to Bel. The inscription said Mene - God had numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end, Teke - you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting, Peres - your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.
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.
In this passage, events of the past were referred to Bel. Do you wonder what had happened to Daniel, once Nebuchadnezzar was gone? He had been appointed chief of all of the king's wise men, but when Bel called for his own wise men, Daniel wasn't included. Is this an instance of a new king bringing in his own new staff? This often happens in many places today, when new leadership steps in. New pastors tend to bring in new staff. New coaches tend to bring in new assistant coaches. New bosses tend to bring others with them. In some cases, it may make sense to have others with whom they had worked well, but there is another side to this. Many who have had an impact on others in the past are disregarded and thrown to the side when the new regime comes in. This causes many things to be lost, as in business, they may have had contacts with customers, or in technical areas, they may have knowledge of why things were done a certain way, and in churches, many members have been greatly impacted by the leadership. When these people are thrown aside, it has a larger impact than one might think. Surely, over time, that impact may be lessened, but what would be different if these things might be considered? In our story, If Daniel had continued to be in the new king's presence, perhaps this story would have had a much different ending. In our own areas of life, we need to value those with experience and realize that different perspectives will often bring value.
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.