Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel, and more specifically, is found in the first twelve verses of the fifth chapter. What we read in the fifth chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel is a profound transition from what we read at the end of the previous chapter. When the fourth chapter of the boo of Daniel draws to a close, it does so with a powerful description of an event which took place within the life of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. The event and account we read in this passage of Scripture is the last and final account of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign as king over Babylon, for in the fifth chapter we find his successor—Belshazza reining upon the throne in Babylon. Consider if you will how the fourth chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel draws to a close: “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 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 dwe of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. 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 dominion, 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? At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellers and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose words are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase” (Daniel 4:28-37).
When the fourth chapter of the prophetic book of daniel draws to a close, it does so with a powerful declaration of Nebuchadnezzar after the Lord had not only driven him from men, and from the comfort of the palace from which he ruled, but also caused him to become like one of the wild beasts of the field. Nebuchadnezzar spent a certain length of time eating grass as oxen, and having his body wet with the dew of heaven, and his his hairs were grown like the eagles’ fathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. For a period of seven times Nebuchadnezzar was removed from the company and presence of men, and dwelt among the wild beasts of the field completely cut off and separated from men. What we read in this passage, however, is that at the end of the days, Nebuchadnezzar lifted up his eyes unto heaven, and his understanding returned unto him. It was in that moment when his eyes were lifted up toward heaven that He not only blessed the most High, but also praised and honoured him that liveth forever. What we read in the final set of verses within the fourth chapter of this book is a powerful declaration concerning the Lord of heaven and earth—a declaration that was made after Nebuchadnezzar had been driven from men, humbled before the Almighty, and after he lifted up his eyes toward heaven. What marks this particular account in the life of Nebuchadnezzar—at least as is recorded in the book of Daniel—is that it was the culmination of previous events which had taken place in the life of Nebuchadnezzar. I have already written concerning the events which took place within the life of Nebuchadnezzar, and how the second, third and fourth chapters describe Nebuchadnezzar coming face to face with and encountering the God of heaven. IN the second chapter Nebuchadnezzar was confronted with the divine wisdom and understanding of the Lord, as the Lord through His servant Daniel not only revealed the dream which he dreamt, but also provided the interpretation of the dream as well. In the third chapter of the same book of we find Nebuchadnezzar being confronted—not only by the courage, the boldness and the strength of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, but also by the Lord’s deliverance of these three Hebrews from the fiery furnace. Thus far Nebuchadnezzar had not only encountered the wisdom of the Lord, but he also encountered the deliverance of the Lord. When we come to the fourth chapter of this prophetic book we find Nebuchadnezzar encounter the dominion, the authority and the government of the Lord.
In order to truly understand what transpired in the fifth chapter, it’s necessary and important to look back upon and review the previous declarations which Nebuchadnezzar had made before and concerning the Lord of kings, and the God of gods. In the second chapter of the book of Daniel we find this declaration issued by the king in response to Daniel’s revelation and interpretation of the dream—“Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret” (Daniel 2:47). In the third chapter—after Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego walked out of the flames of fire within the furnace—we find the king declaring and proclaiming these words: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Neto, who hath sent His angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Neto, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (Daniel 3: 28-29). In the fourth chapter—after Nebuchadnezzar lifted up his eyes toward heaven, and had his understanding returned unto him—Nebuchadnezzar blessed the most High, and praised and honoured Him who lives forever. These are the words which Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed before the Lord of hosts upon lifting his eyes upward toward heaven: “…and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, 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?” (Daniel 4:34-35). Although it is only one verse in the second chapter, and two verses in the third and fourth chapters, we find Nebuchadnezzar being brought low, humbled, and abased before the God of heaven and earth. On three separated occasions—each with different events leading up to them—we find Nebuchadnezzar making profound declarations before the Lord of heaven after being unable to deny His wisdom, His deliverance, and His dominion.
Now, the reason I chose to include each of the previous three chapters when speaking of and referencing the fifth chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel is because we find Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar reigning upon the throne in Babylon in place of his father. When the fifth chapter opens, it opens with the new king making a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Daniel would go on to reveal how Belshazzar—while 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. Once the vessels of the house of the Lord were brought into the presence of the king, the king, his princes, his wives, and his concubines drank from those vessels. What’s more, is that while drinking wine from the vessels which were reserved for and unto the service of the Lord within His holy temple, Daniel goes on to reveal how the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They all drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. Thus, what we find in this passage of Scripture is not only a complete desecration of that which is sacred and holy in the service of the Lord, but also the false worship of the various gods of the world. It’s worth noting that while using the vessels of the house of the Lord Belshazzar and all those with them were actually using those vessels to gratify their own pleasures and desires, while at the same time worshipping the false gods of their generation. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many men and women among us within this generation are guilty of doing the very same thing—perhaps not in a palace, but in churches and houses of worship. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women take that which is sacred, that which is holy, that which is separate, that which is set apart as holy unto the Lord, and instead of keeping those things holy, they desecrate them by using them for their own selfish desire, ambition, pleasure, desire, and perhaps even gain. Belshazzar wasn’t content to drink wine from the vessels of Babylon, but sought to drink wine from the vessels of the house of the Lord—almost as a direct statement of defiance before, toward and against the Lord of heaven and earth. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we read and find in this passage of Scripture is a direct affront and direct assault against the God of heaven and earth, for by taking that which was used in the worship and service of the Lord and treating it as common, he was making a statement that the gods which were worshipped on that day were somehow superior and greater than the God of heaven from whose whose those vessels were taken.
WORSHIPPING THE FALSE GODS OF AN AGE WHILE DESECRATING THE HOLY VESSELS OF THE LORD! It would have been absolutely nothing for the king to hold a banquet and feast for a thousand of his lords, and drinking wine before the thousand. Where this banquet took a turn was when Belshazzar dared desecrate and pollute that which was sacred and holy before the Lord in the service of His house in Jerusalem. Up until this moment there is absolutely no indication that the vessels which were taken from the house of the Lord in Jerusalem were anywhere but within the house of the god of Nebuchadnezzar when the vessels were first removed. It wasn’t until this next generation came along and showed a clear and blatant disregard for that which was sacred and holy before and in the sight of the Lord that the Lord responded. THE LORD TAKES NOTICE! One thing this particular passage reveals is that the Lord takes notice when we take that which is sacred and holy in His sight and use it for our own selfish desires, ambitions, goals and pleasures. If you study the progression of this passage of Scripture you will notice that what began as merely drinking wine in the presence of a thousand of his lords took a detrimental and dangerous turn when the vessels of the house of the Lord were brought froth from the house of the gods of his father, were used in that which was common, and when all those present drank and worshipped the gods of gold, silver, brass, wood, stone, etc. The banquet in and of itself wasn’t an affront against the Lord of hosts, but when the king and all those present engaged in the worship of false gods, and when they desecrated the vessels of the house of the Lord, the Lord could no longer remain silent or inactive. There is not a doubt in my mind that by drinking wine from the vessels of the house of the Lord, and by worshipping the gods of gold, silver, brass, wood and stone, the king was making a statement and declaration that such gods were far greater and far superior than the God of heaven. After all—what God would allow His house to be destroyed, the vessels from that house to be carried away, brought into the house of foreign gods, and now used to partake of drinking in a strange and foreign land. In the Old Testament book of First Samuel we read of the Ark of the Covenant being brought into the house of Dagon—the god of the Philistines. What we also read concerning the Ark of the Covenant is that on one night the image of Dagon was face down on the ground before the Ark, while on another night the image of Dagon was face down on the ground with his head and hands cut off. The vessels of the house of the Lord were brought into the house of the gods of Babylon until Belshazzar had them brought forth from that place and brought into his presence to be used for the pleasures of all those present.
One thing you will notice is a vast and fundamental difference between the actions of Belshazzar and his father Nebuchadnezzar, for although Nebuchadnezzar erected an image of gold in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon and demanded men and women bow down and worship the image, he ultimately found himself praising the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. Although Nebuchadnezzar allowed his heart to be lifted up within him in pride and arrogance while walking in his palace, and although he was driven from men and into the field, there would come the point when the king would lift his eyes toward heaven, and would once again find himself blessing, praising and worshipping the God of heaven and earth. I can’t help but wonder how much of these events Belshazzar actually witnessed up close and person. Was Belshazzar present when Nebuchadnezzar praised and worshipped the God of Daniel after Daniel had revealed the dream he dreamt upon his bed, and provided the interpretation of the dream? Was Belshazzar present as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego walked right out of the fiery furnace—much to the amazement and astonishment of the king and all those present. I can’t help but wonder within my heart and spirit if those who refuse to bow and bend their knee are able to not only withstand the fire, but also walk forth from the fire. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego dared defy the king’s decree to bow down and worship the image of gold which he had set up—and not only did they refuse to bow, but they dared stand before the king in his presence and declare unto him their refusal to bow. What’s more, is that they also went so far as to declare that they believed their God was able to deliver them from the fiery furnace, but even if He didn’t, they would not bow down and worship the image, nor serve his gods. The more I consider that encounter, the more I am convinced it could have gone either way. It could have been that the Lord delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego from the fire, or it could have been that the Lord allowed them to perish in the midst of the flames of fire. What if He hadn’t? What if the Lord hadn’t delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego from the fiery furnace and allowed them to perish before all those who were present? Could it have been that worship of the image would have continued, or could it have been that their actions would have started a revolution of men and women who would dare bow down and worship the image of gold which the king had set up in the plain of Dura. It might very well be that it could have gone either way, yet the Lord chose to deliver Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego from the fiery furnace.
I feel the need to pause for a moment and consider this concept of deliverance, for I believe there is something incredibly powerful to learn. I would dare say that more often than not we have this false sense of how deliverance actually does and should operate. There is not a doubt in my mind that there are countless men and women who view deliverance as the Lord delivering us from something in terms of not permitting or allowing us to go through it. When I read the third chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel I am gripped by the words which Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego spoke in the presence of the king when they were brought before him. Pay attention to the words which they spoke in the presence of the king, as well as before and in the hearing of all those who were present along with the king: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). When in the presence of the king, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego spoke unto him concerning the power of the Lord to deliver them from the burning fiery furnace, and even delivering them out of the hand of the king. What’s interesting and worth noting, however, is the use of the words these three Hebrews spoke in the hearing and presence of the king, for they spoke unto him concerning the Lord’s ability to deliver them “from” the fiery furnace. Please don’t quickly read over that, for to do so would be to miss something incredibly important the Spirit would have us learn. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Neg0 made the declaration that the Lord could deliver them “from” the fiery furnace, I can’t help but wonder if they thought of it in terms of the Lord delivering them from the experience of the fiery furnace. When they made such a declaration in the presence of the king, did they think and even believe the Lord could deliver them from even experiencing the fiery furnace? I am intrigued what went through the hearts and minds of these three Hebrew boys as they were not only bound, but also as they were preparing themselves to be cast alive into the fiery furnace. They had already acknowledged that it was possible the Lord would not deliver them from the fiery furnace, but in that moment when you know that you most certainly are facing your death, it is very easy to wonder what is going on. What was their confidence like as they were being dragged to the place of the fiery furnace knowing that their end had been decided?
I deliberately and intentionally chose to highlight the word “from” when speaking of their words before the king, for deliverance “from” the fiery furnace could very well suggest and speak of their being delivered from the experience of the fiery furnace. When they made the declaration to the king that it was possible the Lord could deliver them from the fiery furnace, I can’t help but think that they believed the Lord was able to deliver them from even having to experience the fiery furnace. This actually brings me to quite a remarkable concept, for there is a vast difference between being delivered “from” something, and being delivered “through” something. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego believed the Lord could have delivered them from the fiery furnace, but the closer they got to the fiery furnace, I am sure they all three felt that the Lord had chosen not to deliver them from the fiery furnace. What. Went through their minds—even as they were being cast into the fiery furnace? I am sure at that moment in time they believed within their hearts that the Lord had determined that they would perish in the midst of the flames. I do not believe for one moment that when they drew closer to the fiery furnace, and even as they were being prepared to be cast in, they believed the Lord could deliver them through the fiery furnace. What I mean by that is that I am inclined to believe that they did not believe that once they were cast into the fiery furnace, the Lord was still able to deliver them at that moment. There is something vastly different between thinking and believing the Lord can deliver us from something, and believing the Lord can deliver us through something. There are many among us who might very well have the testimony of how the Lord delivered them from something, but how many actually have the testimony of how the Lord delivered them through something? How many men and women have the testimony that the Lord allowed them to be cast into the midst of the flames, yet HE delivered them from the midst of the flames? How many men and women have the testimony that says they have been through hell, and have experienced sorrow, pain, anguish and agony, and were delivered through it? I am reminded of the words of the psalmist David when he spoke of the afflictions of the righteous being many, and yet the Lord delivering them from them all. Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality that though you might experience wave after wave of sorrow, and wave after wave of affliction, and wave after wave of suffering, the Lord is able to deliver you from them all.
What is so unique and incredible about this particular passage of Scripture is that not only did Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego have to be cast into the fire, but they then had to actually walk in the fire. Consider what is recorded in the twenty-fourth chapter of the third chapter of this prophetic book: “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellers, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the SON of God” (Daniel 3:24-25). Please don’t miss that, for in the twenty-second and twenty-third verses of the chapter we read how men took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Neto, and how they fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. What I wouldn’t have given to be able to witness what took place as soon as their bodies touched the flames—and not only touched the flames, but actually passed through the flames. What happened as their bodies passed through the flames of fire and hit the floor of the furnace? How did the Lord cause them to become unloose in the midst of the flames of fire? Please do not miss the gravity and magnitude of this encounter and experience, for it reveals something absolutely incredible. The Lord permitted and allowed them to be bound and cast alive into the burning fiery furnace, yet it was once in the midst of the flames that true deliverance began to take place and manifest. I would even dare say that true deliverance didn’t take place while they were still in the midst of the flames of fire, for although they were loosed in the midst of the flames, they still had to walk in the midst of the fire. I can’t help but find it absolutely astounding that the king and all those present saw four men loose “walking in the midst of the fire,” for not only did they have to be cast into the fire, but they also had to walk in the midst of fire. Mark these words very well—“walking in the midst of the fire”—for although they were loosed from that which bound them, they weren’t immediately loosed from the blames which were all around them. LOOSED, YET STILL WALKING IN THE MIDST OF THE FLAMES!
I believe there are men and women who right now have been loosed from that which has bound them, yet they are still walking in the midst of the flames of fire they have been permitted to experience. First comes the loosing, then comes the walking, and only after the loosing and the walking comes the emerging out of. The Lord didn’t immediately bring forth Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Neto from the fiery furnace, but loosed them, caused them to walk in the midst of the flames, and even accompanied them in the midst of the flames. How absolutely remarkable it is that when they walked in the midst of the flames, they did not walk alone through those flames alone, but walked through those flames with one who I believe is the preincarnate Christ. These three Hebrews were loosed in the midst of the fires, but they weren’t actually delivered until they bodies emerged from the flames of fire. I am thoroughly convinced that there are countless men and women who right now have been loosed within the fires they have had to walk through, yet they must still walk in the midst of those fires. With that being said, however, those who walk in the midst of, and those who walk through those flames will not walk through them alone, for there is one who will walk in it with them. Remember it was David who declared, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” There are many who would love for the Lord to deliver them from the experience of something they would rather not walk through or endure, yet they don’t recognize or realize that the Lord may not want to deliver them from something, but rather, deliver them through something. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were not delivered from the fiery furnace, but were delivered through the fiery furnace. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Neto had to endure the fiery furnace, yet even while they were present within that furnace, there was absolutely no hurt that had come to them. Oh how I would love to know what it would be like—not only to walk free and unbound in the midst of the flames of fire, but also to walk out of and emerge from those same flames. Scripture reveals that when they emerged there was not even the smell of smoke upon them, nor were their garments singed by the flames. I wonder what their testimony was like in the province of Babylon as undoubtedly men and women would know that these were the three Hebrews who were cast alive and bound into the fiery furnace, were somehow loosed in the midst of the flames, and appeared to be walking in the midst of the flames with one whose appearance was like the Son of God.
What I find so alarming about the actions of Belshazzar is that he undoubtedly knew that the God of heaven had given Daniel the ability to reveal the dream of the king, and provide the interpretation thereof. Belshazzar knew how three Hebrews dared defy the decree and edict of the king, and were even cast alive into the fiery furnace, and yet emerged from the fiery furnace unharmed. Belshazzar knew of the king being driven from men, and how his mind became that of a beast, and how he had spent seven times dwelling among the beasts of the field. Undoubtedly he knew of how the king lifted his eyes toward heaven, how his understanding was restored to him, how he praised the God of heaven, and how the king was restored to his place in Babylon. Despite all of this, the king still dared take the vessels of the house of the God whom his father had clearly encounter on three separate occasions, and had discovered was in fact the Lord of kings and the God of gods. Despite the stories and accounts of the sovereignty, the dominion, the authority, the glory and the presence of Almighty God within Babylon, Belshazzar dared defy this God by taking the vessels from the Lord’s house and treating them as common. It is very easy to take that which is sacred and holy unto the Lord and to treat it as common when we have either forgotten the dominion, the authority, the glory, and the power of the God of heaven, or have downright chosen to ignore it. We play a dangerous game when we choose to neglect, reject and ignore the sovereignty, the power, the glory and the dominion of the God of heaven, for it is in and from that place that we may very well find ourselves disregarding that which is sacred and holy before the Lord of hosts. What’s more, is that in and from that place we might also find ourselves—not worshipping the God of heaven, but worshipping the false gods of this age and generation. I am incredibly challenged when reading this particular passage of Scripture—especially when considering it in light of everything that had already happened in the midst of Babylon, for Belshazzar’s actions were a blatant disregard for that which is holy—and not only that which is holy, but also for the true and living God of heaven and earth. Oh that we would read this passage and understand that there is a reckoning that comes when we choose to allow ourselves to enter into this place—a reckoning which Belshazzar experienced when he saw the hand of one writing on the wall in the midst of that hall. We must be consciously aware of the divine reckoning that comes when we not only choose to desecrate that which is sacred and holy, but also when we choose to allow ourselves to worship the false gods of this generation.