THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
Lessons from Daniel Chapter 5 on the future of America and the coming war in the Middle East
“Is America in a ‘Nebuchadnezzar moment’ (where we still have an opportunity to repent and be restored), or a ‘Belshazzar moment’ (where God removes His favor from us and turns out the lights)?”
Joel C. Rosenberg, Jacksonville Pastors Conference, January 29, 2012
[Text of remarks prepared for delivery; see conference video for final presentation]
“The Pastor and the Future” — that’s what I’ve been asked to speak about tonight, and I cannot think of a more important subject to close this conference. You and I are living in one of the most dangerous moments in the history of the United States….in the history of Israel and the Middle East….in the history of the Church. Yet at this very moment when so many people are so anxious about the future, too many pastors are shying away from teaching Bible prophecy.
- Some, because prophecy has been sensationalized in the past and they rightly resist such cheapening of God’s Holy Word.
- Some, because they’ve never really carefully studied Bible prophecy and feel unprepared to teach it to their congregations.
- Some, because they’ve lost sight of the power of prophecy – prophecy is an intercept from the mind of the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful God….prophecies are storm warnings from the future….not to frighten us but to motivate us – to get us ready for what is coming, and to help get others ready…..prophecy is given to encourage and exhort the Church to repentance….to holiness and purity….to prayer and fasting….to sharing the Gospel and making disciples….to pastor training and church planting….prophecy tells us we are going to be shaken….why?….to wake up the Church….to wake up the nations….to wake up Israel….because the Day of the Lord is coming, and surely it is near….and God love us and He wants us to be ready.
In Luke 12:54-56, Jesus rebuked His disciples for not understanding the Word of God and not analyzing the times in which they lived….which is why it is so important that we close this conference by considering “The Pastor and the Future.” So, turn with me, if you would, to Daniel chapter 5. [Read the entire chapter]
What do we see in Daniel chapter 5?
5:1-2 – A pagan nation at the height of its power, and corruption.
5:3-4 – A pagan government and high society drunk with power and consumed with seeking pleasure of all kinds….worshipping the gods of gold and silver and all things material….what do we see in the king’s court?
- Sexual immorality.
- Greed and materialism.
- No care or concern for their history of sin and God’s judgment.
- No remembrance of God’s grace and mercy for those who repent.
King Belshazzar doesn’t seem to remember or care about the testimony of his forefather, Nebuchadnezzar. Once an evil and terrible king, one of the worst in the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar had then faced the judgment of God. He’d been driven out of the king’s palace, into the wilderness, driven mad and eating grass like a beast. Yet after a time, God relented. The Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a second chance, and Nebuchadnezzar repented of his horrific sins and gave his life to the One True God. What’s more, Nebuchadnezzar praised the Lord before the entire nation ofBabylon.
Nebuchadnezzar testified before his people: “At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” (Daniel 4:36-37).
5:5-6 – So God begins to shake them.
5:7-9 – A mysterious hand appears out of nowhere in the king’s court….mysterious fingers begin supernaturally writing on the wall of the king’s palace….everyone in that room could see the handwriting on the wall….they could all see the hand of God at work…..it terrified them, but it certainly got their attention…..they knew it was important, but they had no idea what is said, or what it meant….so because they were pagans they turned to the so-called “wise men” of the age, but the wise men had no answers.
- 5:7 – King Belshazzar has two reactions:
- A physical reaction – he gets physically ill.
- An emotion reaction – he becomes desperate….he suddenly becomes willing to give massive wealth and power to whoever can help him understand the handwriting on the wall.
5:10-12 – Frightened, desperate, and having run out of all other options, Belshazzar turns to a man with a reputation for being completely different than they….a man described as having an “extraordinary spirit”….a man described as having “knowledge and insight”…a man “in whom is a spirit of the holy gods”…..the man, of course, was Daniel….he hadn’t been invited to the party, mind you…he wasn’t part of their culture….he wasn’t part of their religion….he wasn’t a member of the “in crowd”….and that was the point….in their fear and trembling, they were looking for someone completely different….someone who had a completely different perspective and just might be able to help them.
5:13-16 – Enter Daniel….he is brought into the upper echelons of power and wealth and offered a great reward if he can solve the mystery.
5:17-28 – Daniel doesn’t ignore or resist the king’s request….he doesn’t claim separation of Church and State….he doesn’t self-righteously declare he won’t “dirty his hands” by speaking to government leaders….but Daniel makes clear that he’s not interested in money, power or prestige….he’s not trying to be in their club….he certainly doesn’t want to be part of their pagan culture or corruption….rather, he knows he holds citizenship in another kingdom, yet he also knows that he is God’s ambassador….so he agrees to explain the hand of God to the king and his court….giving all glory and honor to the Lord, Daniel fearlessly makes known the word of the Lord, even at great risk to his own life.
Many in ministry look at Daniel with admiration and want to be like him:
- He’s handsome (Daniel 1:4)
- Brilliant (Daniel 1:4)
- Wise (Daniel 1:4)
- Sterling reputation (Daniel chapters 1 through 5)
- Invited into the highest courts of power (the entire book of Daniel)
- Given great accolades, wealth and authority (Daniel 2:46-49 and 5:29)
Yet let’s be clear: Daniel didn’t seek any of these things….moreover, he knew he could take no credit for these things.
That said, let’s take another look….are you really willing to be a Daniel? Consider the high price of his service to the Lord:
- He was taken captive from his homeland (Daniel chapter 1)
- Forcibly given a new home, new name, new diet, new education, new job in a brutal pagan empire (Daniel chapter 1)
- Arrested, convicted, imprisoned, sentenced to death (Daniel chapter 6)
- Yet he never faltered….he never wavered….he clung to the Lord….he knew His God….he listened to His God….he was a man of prayer….he understand the Word….he studied God’s Word diligently and carefully (chapter 9 he’s studying Jeremiah!)…..and when God told him to speak, he spoke boldly and without reservation…..he didn’t pull any punches….he did so at great risk, but with great faith and courage.
- In Matthew 24:15, Jesus calls Daniel “the prophet”….for that is what he was.
How about you?….are you clinging to Christ?….are you on you knees repeatedly throughout the day in prayer?….are you fasting?…..are you listening carefully to the voice of God?…..are you willing to teach God’s Word – all of it, including the prophecies of a future that is coming fast upon us?…..are you ready to stripped of all our worldly possessions…stripped of our identity….arrested…. convicted….imprisoned…. sentenced to death….all for being men faithful to pray and faithful to speak the Word of God in our pagan, corrupt culture? Let us not answer too quickly – let us consider the gravity of this calling in this moment…for these tests may be coming soon.
Now, what was the Lord’s message to Belshazzar via Daniel?
- 5:18-21 — Belshazzar should have known better…he had seen the sins of his father, and God’s judgment
- 5:22 – “Yet you…have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this,” Daniel says to the king. “You have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven.”
- 5:26 – Mene, “God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.”
- 5:27 – Tekel, “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.”
- 5:28 – Peres, “Your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”
- Why was God judging Belshazzar? Because of Belshazzar’s pride…his vanity….his insolence….his hubris….Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
Yes, the God of the Bible is a God of grace and mercy and forgiveness. He gives us one opportunity after another in life here on earth to say “Yes” to the Lord Jesus Christ and receive His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life by putting our faith in Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. But eventually there is a point of no return. There is a point in which you defy God too long….go too far….cross a line….and at that point you no longer have the opportunity to repent and receive God’s mercy. At that point, when you least expect it, you have sealed your own fate by rejecting the Most High God…by exalting yourself against the Lord, and you will stand condemned to the fires of hell for all of eternity with no way of escape.
Thus, the Scriptures are clear: Say “Yes” to Jesus Christ now, before it is too late.
- “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” (I John 5:11-12)
- “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish (die and go to hell forever and ever), but shall have eternal life….he who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16,18)
- Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell….Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:28,32-33)
- Don’t do what Belshazzar did. Don’t keep defying the Most High God. Don’t wait too long to repent and give your life to the Lord. Otherwise there will come a point of no return. You will be weighed in God’s balances and found deficient, and theKingdomofGodwill be ripped away from you and you won’t have another opportunity to be saved. The Apostle Paul put it clearly: “Now is the acceptable time [to get right with God],” he wrote. “Behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
5:29-31 – For some unknown reason Belshazzar kept his word to Daniel and rewarded him for his insight….and God kept His word and before the night was finished, Belshazzar was dead.
Question: Why did God write on the wall?
It was too late for that king — and that kingdom — to repent. Why, then, did God sent the message? To warn to those Babylonians who were in the room with Belshazzar, and to warn the entire nation of Babylon….and to warn us down through the centuries: Listen to the voice of God….read the Word of God….don’t harden your heart….understand the “handwriting on the wall”….understand that God is trying to wake you up….get your attention….draw you to Him….motivate you to serve Him….don’t wait too long….repent of your sins and receive Christ as your Savior while there is still time.
Today, we can see the handwriting on the wall once again….in Israel and the Middle East….and here in the United States….God is trying to get our attention….will we listen, or harden our hearts?
The Future of Israel and the Middle East
As followers of Jesus Christ, we can see the handwriting on the wall in theMiddle East. We know what it says, and we know what it means: a terrible war is coming to the epicenter. God is going to shake the people of theMiddle East. He wants them to wake up and realize their real and desperate and urgent need to receive Jesus as their Messiah, Savior and Lord. Jesus doesn’t want anyone in the epicenter to perish and go to hell. He wants them to all to be saved.
The Good News is that more Muslims and more Jews are coming to faith in Jesus than ever before in history. But it’s not enough for the Lord. Too many people are still resisting Him. So in His mercy He will continue shaking them in hopes that they will listen and repent like Nebuchadnezzar, not rejecting Him to the very end like Belshazzar.
Will the coming war be a prophetic war (like Ezekiel 38-39, the “War of God and Magog”), or just a really terrible geopolitical war? Of that we cannot yet be certain. But clearly the most dangerous corridor in the world is between Tel Aviv and Tehran. The leaders of the free world say Iran could have the Bomb by the end of 2012. Yet the nations of the world refuse to take decisive action to neutralize the Iranian threat. But make no mistake: if Iran’s mullahs get the Bomb, they could do in six minutes what it took Adolf Hitler six years to do – kill six million Jews. Today’s Sunday New York Times magazine story suggests Israel and Iran may very well go to war in 2012.
The handwriting on the wall is clear – the question is: What will we as believers do about it?
- Will the Church demonstrate the love and courage necessary to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the Middle East with clarity and compassion before it’s too late? If we really love the people of the epicenter, that’s exactly what we should do.
- Will the Church do everything possible to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in theMiddle East– to pray for them, to visit them, to equip them, to assist them, to stand with them, come what may? Will we help the persecuted believers in the region? Will we train the pastors and help them plant new churches? Or will we ignore them, abandon them, refuse them in their hour of need? Again, if we love them, we will serve them.
- Time is short, and the handwriting on the wall is clear.
The Future of America
The handwriting on the wall is also clear here in theUnited States. We as followers of Jesus Christ know full well thatAmericais in grave danger — not just at risk of decline but of outright collapse.
- We now have more than $15 trillion in debt….100% of our GDP….but we are facing $65 trillion in unfunded liabilities…..we are on the Titanic, heading for the icebergs, and too many inWashington are saying, “Speed up!” not, “Turn around!”
- The Bible warns us not to go into debt, yet we continue to defy Him.
- We are defying God in other areas, too.
- 53 million abortions
- Legalized homosexual marriage
- A pornography industry that makes more than ABC, CBS and NBC combined.
How much longer will the Lord wait before He lets us reap what we’ve sown? Is God going to give us another chance, or is He finished with us? Is America in a “Nebuchadnezzar moment” (where we still have an opportunity to repent and be restored), or a “Belshazzar moment” (where God removes His favor from us and turns out the lights)? Honestly, I’m not certain.
The good news is that God moved powerfully in this land in the early 1700s with the first “Great Awakening,” a series of amazing spiritual revivals that woke up the Church and rescuedAmerica. God moved powerfully again in the early 1800s with the “Second Great Awakening” that was even more transformative.
The question now is: Will God give us a Third Great Awakening? I don’t know, but I hope so. That’s why I’ve written the book, Implosion. But I can’t wait until June when it releases. I feel compelled to start talking about these issues now because they are so important. We need to be on our knees praying and fasting and pleading with God to have mercy on us. Yes, Washington and Wall Street and Hollywood bear much blame for the mess we’re in. But so does the Church.
There are 340,000 churches in the United States. They are all supposed to be shining cities on a hill. They are supposed to be lights in the darkness. But in too many American churches, the light is growing dim. In some churches, there is no light at all. We desperately need a revival of the Church to save this country. Nothing less will do.
Even if we elect godly, principled, wise and courageous leaders to the presidency, the Senate and the House in 2012, this won’t be enough to keep us from implosion. It’s still important, don’t get me wrong. But won’t be enough. We need a supernatural movement of God to rescue us, or this nation will collapse economically, morally and culturally.
On Saturday, June 16th, we will host the national “Implosion” simulcast….a three-hour program for churches all across the country….I’ll teach for about an hour on these issues, and then take 2 hours of questions in a live format…we’ll talk about how much trouble we’re in, and we’ll talk more about the Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakening and see if there are lessons we can learn and apply to our own time….I hope you and your churches will consider joining us for this.
The world is fearful and confused. Millions across the globe can see the handwriting on the wall. They know something is terribly wrong. They sense something terrible is coming. But they cannot read the handwriting or understand what it means. That’s your job. That the mission of the pastor, the man of God who knows the Word of God and is charged with teaching the Word of God. It is your job to analyze these present times in the light of God’s Word, in the light of Bible prophecy, and help the Church and the pagan world understand what God is saying….before it’s too late.
Too many pastors, however, are asleep to the trend lines. They are unable – or unwilling – to see how much danger the people of the Middle East are in, and how much danger the people of the United States are in. But now is precisely the time to call the Church, and the nations, and Israel, back to the God of the Bible…..now, while we still can.
ALSO: The Gospel was powerfully and beautifully preached today to President Obama, the First Lady, some 4,000 guests from all over the world attending the National Prayer Breakfast, and to the nation via C-SPAN….the truth of Scripture were communicated so clearly — and with humor — by New York Times best-selling author Eric Metaxas, author of of the acclaimed recent biography of Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was murdered by the Nazis for standing up for the Jews….please watch and share with others….it starts at 34 minutes in — click here.
- Help Christians bless needy Israelis now and be ready for a possible new war in the epicenter — please consider a generous, tax deductible financial contribution to The Joshua Fund for the New Year.
- Implosion is now available for pre-order at Amazon…and at Barnes & Noble.
- The Tehran Initiative is available in hardcover or e-book
- Follow the “Epicenter Team” on Facebook with the latest news from the Middle East along with prayer requests.
- Sign up for Joel’s (free) email updates called “Flash Traffic”
RESOURCES ON ISRAEL, IRAN AND BIBLE PROPHECY
- Study notes on the Book of Joel — Israel, Prophecy and the “Day of the Lord”
- Online video messages on the Old Testament Book of Joel from the 2011 Epicenter Conference
- Study notes on Ezekiel 38-39 — What Is The War of Gog and Magog?
- Online video message on “America In A Troubled World: What Does The Future Hold,” looking at several prophecies, including Luke 12:54 -56 and Ezekiel 38-39 at the “Inside the Middle East Conference” at the Moody Bible Church
- Audio of Joel’s message on how God is shaking the nations (from the Book of Haggai, chapter 2) at King of Kings church in Jerusalem (given in June 2011)