R/Dean Daniel Lesson 21
Panic in the Palace – Daniel 5:1-7
Open your Bible to Daniel 5, and we will look at the panic in the palace. Last time, at the risk of boring some of you, I took a lot of time to go over the historical background at this time because it's crucial to understand the historical framework, what was taking place and what is now the Middle East, what is now known as the area of Iraq and Iran where much of the problems are going on in relationship to Afghanistan and to the terrorist problems. But this was the center point of the world at the time of Daniel. We saw that in Daniel 5 we see two kingdoms coming together. On this particular night, October 12, 539 BC, everything changed. Everything was different after this because you had the demise of the Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian Empire and you had the ascendancy of the Persian Empire which would dominate the scene for another couple hundred years.
As we look at the history that was going on at that time we saw the inter relationship by marriage between the major players. Nebuchadnezzar was related by marriage, because he married a Median princess, he was related to Cyaxares the Great of the Medes. Also Cyrus because Cyaxares son, Astyages, had a daughter who was name Mandane and she was married off to Cambyses, the Persian, and their son was Cyrus who was prophesied by Isaiah and Jeremiah to be someone God had chosen, God would raise up specifically in relationship to Israel and to returning the Jews to the land. So we see God working in history.
There are three main themes that we have seen so far in Daniel that are crucial for us to remember, especially when we are facing uncertain times like we do today. Incidentally times are always uncertain; we just have a fresh dose of that reality as of September 11, but if you have doctrine in your soul and any understanding of what goes on in history then we know that our security is never based on any political party or any political situation, on world stability or anything like that because these things are always fleeting. In fact, instability, uncertainty and chaos have been the rule of human history rather than the norm of human history. So we know that the only way we can have security and stability as believers is based on the doctrine that is in our soul.
We see three themes that tend to be replayed over and over and over again in Daniel. The first has to do with the sovereignty of God. The first theme has to do with the sovereignty of God, that God is sovereign, and controls not merely the history of Israel but the history of the Gentiles. God is sovereign and He controls not merely the history of Israel but also the history of the Gentiles. The Jews at this particular time, we have to look at this from a Jewish point of view, that they had looked at Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as their God and that God worked primarily through them, but starting with the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC when the Gentiles would be in the ascendancy and Jerusalem would have stability only under the protective influence of Gentile nations, the Jews are learning that God is not only the God of Israel but He is the God of all the nations and He is the God who controls history. They're learning that God is bigger than the Jews, He's bigger than the Gentiles and that He is the God of all mankind.
The second theme that is emphasized here is that God's revelation makes specific detailed prophecies. God's revelation includes specific detailed prophecies. No other religious book or philosophical system does this and this is one of the most important aspects of the doctrine of Christian evidences. Now Christian evidences do not prove Christianity; that's one of the mistakes that many people make. Christian evidences demonstrate the veracity of Christianity, they don't prove it, because as we have seen in the past that if you were going to argue for proof then what you are arguing for is a higher standard and there is no standard higher than the truth of God's Word. So if God's Word is absolute truth, to what do you appeal? Here we have God's Word, which is absolute truth. Now that is the highest standard: to what standard would you appeal in order to prove it? Would you appeal to history? Would you appeal to human reason? Would you appeal to human experience? If you appeal to any of those as the ultimate court determining the veracity of God's Word, then you are basically putting those in a position of judging truth. So it is God's Word as absolute truth that judges history, reason and experience. It is God's Word as absolute truth that teaches us about history, that teaches us how to rightly use reason and how to rightly use experience.
Now that does not mean that what the Bible has irrational or non-historical or contrary to experience but what it means is that through the right use of history, reason and experience we can understand the truth of God's Word. And one of the most fantastic studies in the area of Christian evidences has to do with the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies. For example, in Ezekiel 26:1-14 we find the detailed prophecy given, early in the time of Ezekiel, before any of the incursions by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC, we find the prophecy of the fall of Tyre. And it details the successive assaults on Tyre made by Nebuchadnezzar and then later by the Persians and eventually by Alexander the Great. And what's remarkable about that prophecy is that in about 610 BC Ezekiel makes his prophecy to Tyre, which was a commercial city on the sea coast of Phoenicia, north of Israel, that Tyre would be defeated by its enemies and that the ground itself, this magnificent maritime port and city of Tyre would be destroyed to the point that the sand itself would be scraped down to the rock, nothing would be left of that city and it would be completely destroyed and that's exactly what happened when Alexander came up through the Middle East, he came to Tyre which had been defeated earlier by Nebuchadnezzar, when Nebuchadnezzar assaulted Tyre what they did is there was an island off the coast, sort of like Galveston is off the coast of Texas, and they built a bridge or a causeway out to this island and they just started moving the city out there and so Tyre moved out to the island. By the time Alexander came along the city has a double area, they've got the city on the mainland and a city out on the island and he's going to destroy them both and in order to destroy the island, what did is he had to come along with whatever passed for his bulldozers and they just scraped the city on the mainland down to the bedrock and pushed everything out into the water in order to build a causeway out to the island to move their troops out there.
So it's a fantastic example of a detailed prophecy and it's these kinds of detailed prophecies that occur in Scripture over and over again which demonstrate or validate its claim to be the direct revelation of God because only the God of the Bible can accurately and precisely predict exactly what will happen in the future. And of course another major prophecy to develop in the doctrine of Christian evidences is in Daniel 9:23-27 which deals with Daniel's seventy weeks and that particular prophecy which we've gone over many times before.
So we see the first main theme here is the sovereignty of God; the second theme is God's revelation which makes special detailed prophecies. Now one of the problems that you have when it comes to the Word of God, when anybody comes to the Word of God they come with certain presuppositions, they come with a certain mindset. Either they are open to accepting it as the absolute authoritative Word of God or not, but there's no such thing as neutrality. Now that's the problem here in this diagram I put on the overhead, is that if proof is judged by history, reason or experience, then what basically you're saying is here's the unbeliever and here's the believer and the believer instead of appealing to the truth of God's Word as that which we all have in common according to Romans 1:18 and following, but we're talking to the unbeliever and want to appeal for some kind of neutral common ground to history, reason or experience, we've immediately lost the argument because there's no such thing as neutrality; there's no such thing as a historical fact, rational fact or experiential fact that has not already in some sense been interpreted and it's either going to be interpreted within a divine viewpoint framework or a human viewpoint framework.
Scripture makes it clear that the Bible is based on historical accuracy. These episodes in the Scripture are not just fables, they're not just stories, they're not just made up allegories in order to teach universal principles but they are actual historical events. And if they're not actual historical events then the entire framework of doctrine and theology in the Bible collapses. That's why it's important to stand firm for the historical accuracy of everything in the Scriptures. For example, Jesus referred to Jonah as historically accurate, that Jonah actually spent three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. And that became the basis for teaching the resurrection that He would be in the earth for three days and three nights. If Jonah didn't spend an actual three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, His teaching on resurrection begins to fall apart, it undercuts the foundation. Furthermore, Jesus also used the historical veracity and the historical events of the creation, of Adam and Eve as His foundation for teaching on marriage and divorce in Matthew 19 and Matthew 5, so that if they didn't exist the way Genesis says they existed then everything that Jesus and Paul teach about marriage and divorce is irrelevant because it falls apart, the basis is no longer there.
Furthermore Jesus reaffirms this in John 3:12 when He's talking to Nicodemus and He said to Nicodemus, if you don't believe the things that I tell you about earthly events, how will you believe the things I tell you about heavenly events. Jesus is making the point that the doctrines that he taught on spirituality, on salvation, on sin and on man's condition and need for a Savior were all based on historically accurate events. So if you destroy or take away the historical accuracy of the Scriptures you render those nothing more than fables or stories, then you undercut the foundation of every single doctrine in the Scripture. So Jesus isn't simply accommodating Himself to culture when He makes those statements because if He were then He would be wrong and He would be able to make the argument that sin for them at that time were just a culturally nuanced view of sin and today it could be something totally different. So you could get away from everything in the Scripture and end up in pure relativism.
Now whenever you're in a discussion about the Bible and people try to pin you on something, I think a great answer is to say that you believe about the Bible the same thing that Jesus believed about the Bible because then you've got them, because as soon as you establish point then you go in and you show that Jesus believed in the historical accuracy of creation, of Adam and Eve, Noah, Jonah and many of the Old Testament events that are challenged by the liberals. Now the anti-supernatural presupposition which is based on the fact that man thinks he has the ability to judge and validate everything based on his own intellect or his own reason, is the same kind of arrogance that characterizes Belshazzar in Daniel 5.
Belshazzar's basic problem in Daniel 5 is one of arrogance, and he has been arrogant again and again and again and rejected the witness of God, the witness of the gospel again and again and now it's going to be too late. There comes a point, God always extends grace before judgment, there's grace and grace and grace and grace and it finally comes to the point of judgment. Now technically he still had a chance to be saved but he had no chance to avoid the judgment that's coming in the form of armies of Cyrus because the Medes and the Persians are now outside the gate. They have been defeating in battle after battle after battle the armies of Nabonidus and now they are surrounding the city of Babylon and they are outside the gates.
So what we see in Daniel 5 is the inability of human viewpoint to handle a crisis and we see that true stability comes only from Bible doctrine in the soul, and it's going to be illustrated through a contrast of personality. On the one hand we have Belshazzar; Belshazzar is the king of the greatest empire on the earth. He has at his command an incredible array of financial resources and military resources, he is locked away, as we are going to see, inside of Babylon, which by this time has become a tremendous fortress, they have storehouses of food and water inside the city, and so he is basing his security completely on the protection of the city and what they have done. So on the one hand he is basing everything on the human viewpoint ability to handle a crisis and that man can handle it on his own and when the crisis comes he panics, he falls apart, he completely loses it and this is in contrast two other people, the queen who is his mother, the queen mother, Nitocris, who is the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and a believer, and she comes in says hey, straighten up, get it together, quit panicking, you need to go get Daniel, he can interpret the handwriting on the wall. And then Daniel is the other believer who comes in and despite… he completely rejects Belshazzar's bribes and gives Belshazzar an accurate rendering of the handwriting on the wall, which is an announcement of judgment on the nation.
It is in this particular night that a great empire, the first of the empires of Daniel 2, is wiped out. In one single night the Chaldeans disappear from history, as did the Assyrians. Yet of all the ancient empires we are reminded that it was the head of gold, it was the purest; it had a fantastic system of government organization and leadership; it was very efficient, established by Nebuchadnezzar, yet in one night it collapses. Now why did it collapse? Because of arrogance, because even though the past leaders, specifically Nebuchadnezzar had trusted in the gospel of the Old Testament and trusted in the God of the Jews, the nation had come to reject that and it was characterized at the leadership level by arrogance. And this is one of the great doctrines that's established in this particular passage and is a lesson we as a nation need to learn today because there's no guarantee that we as a nation should continue, should survive and should still be here 10, 20, 30, 50 years from now. We could be wiped out just as easily as the Assyrians, the Assyrians were wiped out and the Chaldeans were wiped out.
The situation we face today is, I think much more grave than many people, many commentators and newsmen are willing to admit. They seem in the past few days to be so self-absorbed with this anthrax scare that that's all you get and they're missing many other aspects of the story. And one aspect that barely surfaces is that in this whole coalition that the President is trying to put together is extremely tenuous, one of the major players in any kind of coalition that's going to have any impact in the Middle Ease is on Saudi Arabia and yet in the past ten years the Saudis have been running their own game, they have completely forgotten everything that we did for them in pulling their butt out of the fire back in 1991 in Desert Storm and they have been paying off millions and millions of dollars to Al-Qaeda and to Bin Laden in protection money. Not only that, there a number of Saudis who have been involved in these terrorist organizations and the Saudi's position of power is so tenuous right now that they're afraid to do anything too much in favor of America because if they do then the radical Islamic elements in Saudi are waiting at the gates to foment a rebellion there. So if they lean too much to one side it's very possible there could be an internal revolt in Saudi Arabia. If there's an internal revolt in Saudi Arabia and the House of Saud goes down then you've got a major problem if the Islamic radicals get a hold of the situation there and that could easily happen. The Saudis are trying to play both sides against the middle, and as the President said, you're either a friend of ours or a friend of the terrorist and you need to pick sides. They're not wanting to pick sides.
We are morally weak in this nation because we have bought into a whole system of thinking that has robbed us of what is necessary to have real moral courage and go into war, and we are also influenced by many people who are operating on nothing more than fear because they don't have any absolutes and they don't have any doctrine. We didn't ask for this, these people have declared war on us, they're not rational, they're operating on crusader arrogance, they have no concept of what it means to negotiate because to negotiate you have to have a common goal. For two people to get together and negotiate and resolve any difference they have to have a common goal and there is no common goal existing between the west and the Islamic radicals, because they only thing they want is the destruction of the west and they'll do anything the can. When you don't have a point of negotiation the only thing you can do is to destroy them like a cancer and if we don't have the guts and the courage to do that, then we're in for some really tough times.
The third theme of this chapter is that the only security in life comes from a relationship with God based on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and secondly on Bible doctrine dominating the thinking of the soul. When a man puts his trust in any element of the creation as a source of security then he is doomed to failure. So the only security comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ and from Bible doctrine.
The situation we face in Daniel 5 is that Belshazzar is overloaded with a false sense of security. He's putting his hope in all the human viewpoint techniques of that day, of fortification and he's inside the palace and he is throwing a party. Now we know from extra-Biblical accounts, because there were other witnesses at this time that this occurred on October 12, 539 BC. Cyrus has previously destroyed the Lydian Empire; he's at the head of the Persian army and he is pushing to the south with his general, Gobyras, while the Babylonian army has been under the control of Belshazzar's father, Nabonidus who is the king but he is has made Belshazzar his coregent during this time because he's been off in Tema following his hobby which was antiquities and digging up old temples and restoring them. Nabonidus returned 6 months before this to head up the army and he has been defeated.
So we find the situation in Daniel 5:1, "Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand." Now by way of review, because this is important to interpret and understand what's coming up, we need to go through about five quick points of review. First, Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC; this event is taking place in 539 BC, that's a difference of 23 years. So 23 years has gone by since chapter 4 began. Nabonidus has been on the throne, as it were, for a number of years now.
Second point of review, reviewing the kings, Nabopolassar founded the empire; Nebuchadnezzar was the great king and head of the empire from 605-562 BC. His son, Emel Marduk or known in the Bible as Evil-merodach, reigned for just over two years and then he was replaced by Nergal-sarezer or Neriglissar who reigned from 560-556 BC, he had married one of Nebuchadnezzar's daughters so he had a legitimate claim to the throne and so that meant since his wife was Nebuchadnezzar's daughter that his son, known in the Scripture as Labashi Marduk, that his son was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, but he also experienced the same sort of mental instabilities that had apparently plagued Nebuchadnezzar, especially when he had his seven year bout with insanity when God removed him from the throne, and Labashi Marduk took the throne when he was just a young teenager and the council recognized the signs of lunacy in him right off the bat and so a group got together and assassinated him and then they appointed Nabonidus to be the ruler. Now Nabonidus comes to the throne in 556 BC so this is only six years after Nebuchadnezzar had died. And Nabonidus only reigns for three years before he appoints Belshazzar as his co-regent. So Belshazzar is going to be co-regent with Nabonidus, and by looking at the chronology here we can make some interesting observations.
The third point of review is that Nabonidus could easily have married… one view is that he married a young woman who was in Nebuchadnezzar's harem, who was the actual mother of Belshazzar, that would mean that Belshazzar was literally the son of Nebuchadnezzar. The other view and the preferable view is that Nabonidus married Nitocris who was the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, and that would mean that Belshazzar is a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and a legitimate heir to Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar has the weaknesses of Nebuchadnezzar in that he is arrogant but he does not have the strengths of Nebuchadnezzar, he has rejected doctrine, rejected the gospel, he's had, as I'll show, probably an opportunity to respond to the gospel but he has rejected it. So that gives us the background from the Chaldean side.
The fourth point is regarding Daniel, between 562 BC, now look at the chronology here, in 562 Nebuchadnezzar died, he's replaced by Evil-merodach and Neriglissar and probably when they came in to rule they would not have wanted to keep the same administrators as Nebuchadnezzar, they would want men that were loyal to them, and Nebuchadnezzar had made Daniel the chief magi, literally, the chief of the… the Aramaic term was the Rab-mag, that term is never actually applied to Daniel but it does describe the chief of the astrologers, Chaldeans and magicians that served as the counselor or cabinet for the king. By the time Nebuchadnezzar died Daniel was probably in his mid 60s, maybe late 60s by the time Nabonidus comes to the throne, so it's very likely Daniel has gone into some sort of retirement because it doesn't appear that Belshazzar really knows who he is.
So the Scriptures basically are silent about Daniel between the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 539 BC, he was probably retired at this time and we know from other passages that he spent much of his time looking at the Scripture and studying the writings of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, as well as Isaiah. It was during this same 23 year period that Daniel received the revelations that are recorded in Daniel 7 and 8. Remember Daniel came in the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, so that would be in 553 BC and chapter 8 came in the third year of Belshazzar, so Daniel knew and understood the content of those revelations. Now we haven't gotten there yet, we haven't gotten to the details of Daniel 7 and 8 but Daniel knows them by the time he comes into the throne room here in Daniel 5, he is fully aware of that background. Furthermore, he has been studying passages related to the fall of Babylon in Jeremiah and in Isaiah, and so when he comes in he has a pretty good idea what these revelations are going to be, whether or not God revealed anything special to him or not, he already knew pretty much what was going to happen just from his study of the Scripture.
That brings us to the fifth point of review and that is the setting: Nabonidus had gone out to fight Cyrus and had already been defeated. We have a quote from Berosus; Berosus was a Babylonian historian who describes the events this particular night. He says: "After beginning the wall of which I've spoken, Nebuchadnezzar fell sick and died after a reign of forty-three years and the realm passed to his son, Evil-merodach. This prince, whose government was arbitrary and licentious, fell a victim to a plot; he was assassinated by his sister's husband, Neriglissar, after a reign of two years." Nice little family reunions they had. "On his death, Neriglissar, his murderers succeeded to the throne and reigned for four years. His son Laborosoardchod" who was Labashi Marduk is another name for him, "a mere boy, occupied it for nine months, when owing to the depraved disposition which he showed, a conspiracy was formed against him and he was beaten to death by his friends, among whom was Nabonidus. After his murder the conspirators held a meeting and by common consent conferred the kingdom upon Nabonidus, a Babylonian and one of their gang." So these are wonderful people, just the kind you want for your neighbors and to be at your family reunion. "In his reign," that is the reign of Nabonidus, "the walls of Babylon abutting on the rivers were magnificently built with baked brick and by bitumen," see, they're strengthening their fortifications, they're hearing rumblings from the north and the Medes and the Persians. "In the 17th year of his reign, Cyrus advanced from Persia with a large army, and after subjugating the rest of the kingdom, marched upon Babylonia. Apprised of his coming, Nabonidus led his army to meet him, fought and was defeated, whereupon he fled with his few followers and shut himself up in the town of Borsippa. Cyrus took Babylon, after giving orders to raise the outer walls of the city because it presented very redoubtable and formidable appearance, proceeded to Borsippa to besiege Nabonidus, the latter surrendering without waiting for investment, which he mainly treated by Cyrus who dismissed him from Babylonia, but gave him Carmania for his residence." So he gets a nice little isolated retirement. "And there Nabonidus spent the rest of his life and there he died."
That is a quote from Berosus as it is in quoted in Josephus. So we know from these instances that the events of Scripture, described in the Scripture, fit the historical record that we have from extra-Biblical sources. Here's a map of the city of Babylon and what they did during the fortifications under Nabonidus, and incidentally this is attributed to…Herodotus attributes this to the influence of his wife, Nitocris, so we see that she's a believer and she has a strong influence on her husband which is very good, that's how it should be. Again and again we're going to see…she's like some of these strong women in Scripture that when the chips get down she's got doctrine in her soul and she's the one that comes in and gives a little stability to the situation. But what they did was they took the Euphrates River, here's the old river bed and this channel was dug and a huge basin was dug out in order to drain the water for a while so it would dry up the beds going through the city, and then they had all the craftsmen ready to go with baked tiles and as soon as the water level went down they started tiling the canal so that they would have a canal going through the city, and then when they sent it back in its course, they diverted some of the water around the city, they had a double wall around the city that had a moat in between it, so this is a strong fortification and there's no surprise that Belshazzar felt secure behind the walls of Babylon.
Herodotus reported that Babylon was about 14 miles square with outer walls 87 feet thick, 350 feet high with 100 bronze gates and a system of inner and outer walls with a water moat between them. He said four chariots abreast could parade around the top; modern evidence though suggests that he exaggerated a little bit, the outer wall was only 17 miles around, not 14 miles square, only 17 miles around with many fewer towers and gates, but it was still that wide, four chariots abreast. That's like a four-lane highway. So this is a strong fortification. And unfortunately Belshazzar put his security on his military and on his fortifications and he is about to learn what happens when we put our trust in man, and for this we need to turn to Jeremiah 17.
Jeremiah 17 is a critique of what happened in Israel before their fall but it applies equally to the time of the fall of Babylon as well as any other time in history because the principles are universal. Jeremiah 17:5, "Thus says Yahweh," now it's important to note the little things. Remember in Bible study the first key is observation. And you look at a passage like this and God is referred by the sacred Tetragrammaton, you see it in upper case letters in "LORD," meaning that reflects the Hebrew Yahweh, which is the name associated with the covenant God made with the Jews at Sinai. That's important because of the first word that shows up. The first word that shows up is "Cursed," the verse reads, "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord." The word is the qal passive participle which indicates that in human viewpoint man is the recipient or receives the action of divine judgment; the passive voice always indicates the subject receives the action of the verb, man is the subject, he receives the action of divine judgment. Now this word 'arar is an important word in a theological sense. It's used 63 times in the Old Testament and 40 times it is used in the qal passive participle, 18 of which are in the cursing sections or the judgment sections announcing the five cycles of discipline in the Mosaic Law. So in reading this in association with the covenant name of God, the first thing we ought to be thinking of is the cursings in the Mosaic Law, this is a judgment based on Israel's disobedience to the Mosaic Law. But it has a universal application in the fact that anyone who trusts in man is also going to undergo divine judgment.
Now there's a level or sarcasm here, you see the Lord is sarcastic; we have this truncated view of God that somehow God just sits up there with this long flowing white beard and he is extremely serious all the time, but God has not only a sense of humor but He is sarcastic to disobedient man. And He said, "Cursed is the man," and the word for man here is geber in the Hebrew, which is the term for a warrior, a might man, that's how man looks upon himself, we're tough, we can solve our problems, we can handle it, this is Belshazzar's arrogant attitude sitting in his palace having a drunken orgy while the armies of Cyrus are outside the gate, he's the mighty warrior and God just says, "Cursed is the mighty warrior who trusts in mankind."
He's trusting in his own resources, trusting in his own strength, trusting his own intelligence, trusting in his own abilities to solve his problems apart from God. And the word here for trust is going to be the same word used in contrast to trusting God in the next verse, it is the Hebrew word batach; batach means trust, confidence, security, a sense of well-being, a sense of stability. Incidentally this word, when the Jews translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek in the Septuagint they never used the Greek word faith, or pisteuo which is translated faith or trust, they always translated this word batach with the Hebrew word elpis, which means confidence, a confidence. So this man's confidence, this warrior's confidence is in his own ability, his own training, his own military might. "Cursed is the mighty warrior who puts his confidence in mankind," the things of mankind, "and makes flesh his strength," and here zerowa in the Hebrew, which literally means "arm," "makes flesh his arm." And this, of course, is a metaphor, arm was often a metaphor, when you talk about the "arm of the Lord," the "arm" is a metaphor for strength and for power. And so the sense here is it makes flesh, that is mankind, that is human viewpoint teaching his strength or his power. "…and his heart," that is his leb, the leb for thinking, the thinking part of the soul, the innermost part of the soul, "his heart turns away from Yahweh." So here is a picture of all unbelievers and most believers. They are looking to some kind of human viewpoint skill, technique, ability in order to solve their problems; they're trusting in reality therapy, they're trusting in cognitive emotive therapy, they're trusting in some sort of psychotherapy, they're trusting in their financial resources, they're trusting in their 501K plan, they're trusting in their ability to chart their education, they're trusting in the fact that everything has gone pretty stable for the last ten years and the stock market has been going up so it will continue to go up… [tape turns]
…from evolution to the future, everything's gone well so everything will go well and their trust is not in the Lord, they don't have any concept of what God is doing in history and as soon as the crisis occurs they are going to fall apart, and that's the description of verse 6. "For he," that is the mighty warrior who trusts in man, "he will be like a bush in the desert, and will not see when prosperity comes," he's going to be blind to what real prosperity is, he won't see it, he won't understand that only Bible doctrine provides prosperity and stability; he's going to reject it, he's going to put his hope in something else and miss where the real source of confidence lies.
"He will not see," and that's the Hebrew word ra'ah which means not only to see but to have insight, to have perspicacity, to have perception, understanding, "he will not see or understand when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness," life may go well but when you choose human viewpoint rather than divine viewpoint it's ultimately a waste, it's "a land of salt without inhabitants." Now "a bush in the desert" here is the Hebrew word 'arow'er which refers to the small juniperus phoenicia bush that grows in the Judean desert; it's a bush that has tiny leaves like scales with round tawny colored cones. It survives on a minimum of moisture and has little to commend it by way of beauty, value or use. So this person ends up being something that is useless and something that is small and insignificant. In America we might compare this to a tumbleweed; a tumbleweed has a shallow root system and as soon as the winds pick up that tumbleweed cuts loose from the soil and just blows across the highways of west Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, it's typically found in the desert of the southwest.
The issue here is relying on man and human viewpoint always places security in some detail in the creation. Another word for that is idolatry. Whenever we look to any detail of creation, other than God, as a source of security, meaning and value in life, that is idolatry. So whether its possessions, family, friends, military might, fortifications, financial security, whatever it might be, security is an illusion in the devil's world. Don't be caught up in thinking that you have real security in this life; it only lies in the hand of the Lord. The reality is that the unbeliever and carnal believer live in this desert of misperception and distorted reality. They're living in self-deception, they convince themselves that all is well and yet they are impoverished because they are seeking security in something that cannot provide security.
Now the contrast between the "cursed one" in verse 5 is with the "blessed one" in verse 7, same terminology that's used in the covenant, contrast between cursing and blessing. In contrast to the cursed one you have the believer who uses the problem solving devices, the stress busters of the soul, in order to solve the problem in life. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD,  For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to yield fruit."
Now let's look at this; "Blessed is the man," the word for "blessing" has to do with soul strength, not merely happiness but soul strength, soul prosperity, tranquility, and contentment no matter how difficult the circumstances in life may be. It's part of the process of developing true inner happiness. So the blessed man is the one who is content despite the circumstances and the reason why is because he trusts in the Lord, the word for "trust" is batach again, in contrast to the one who trusts in man this is one who trusts in Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, "and whose trust is the LORD," he's not just trusting in the Lord but the Lord is his trust, his confidence. This is the faith rest drill, the beginning stages of the Christian life where we learn to mix faith with the promises of God and to apply the doctrines of Scripture to the issues in life, to realize that we have to look at life and the issues in history from God's perspective and not our perspective and learn to relax even when everything is falling apart around us. That's what gave great believers like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego the ability to remain calm and steadfast when their lives were on the line. And in contrast we're going to see Belshazzar and as soon as the handwriting begins to appear on the wall, "his knees go weak, his hips go slack," he falls apart, he goes into complete fear, adrenalin is rushing so much through his system that he can't think, can't do anything but emote and it takes a woman of doctrine, his mother, to come in and verbally slap him into stability. The issue is where do you place you hope? And where do you place your confidence, in man or in God?
In verse 8 the concept of water represents the Word of God, "he will be like a tree planted by the water," the water is that which nourishes and sustains the tree, "that extends its roots by a stream," a stream is the movement of water so it's not just the potential pool of doctrine that's there but it is the continuous flow and reminder of doctrine in the soul. You don't get it once a week, you don't get it twice a week, you need to hear it over and over again. Every one of us need to be reminded of the realities of God's Word again and again and again. That's what gives us stability. That's why we have a tape ministry, so that we can get the tapes and listen to them again and again and again. And the result is that there's no "fear when the heat comes," see, "they will not fear when the heat comes." The "heat" is adversity, the heat is pressure, the heat is the crisis, when the crisis comes there will not be fear. And it will continue to have green leaves, that's the production from doctrine, and "it will not be anxious in year of drought," no anxiety, no reason for the believer to ever fear, and next time we'll cover the doctrine of fear, worry and anxiety. "It will not be anxious in a year of drought," no matter how bad it gets there's complete calm, relaxation, "nor will it cease to yield fruit." Now this is because there is doctrine in the soul of the believer. He is basing his life on doctrine and that gives him an inner strength and an inner stability so that he can stand firm no matter what's going on around him.
And this reminds us of Proverbs 29:18, a much misquoted verse today. Everywhere you go, anytime you get into some kind of Christian leadership conference, any time you get in some sort of pastoral conference or something, somebody always misquotes this verse. It reads in the English, "Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained." The King James reads "Where is there is no vision the people perish, but happy is he who keeps the Law." See, notice the contrast is between the one who has no vision and the one who keeps the Law, so vision and Law have to be related to each other. Now what happens is the word "vision" is often related to someone who is planning, someone who has some sort of intelligent foresight, looking forward to the future and has goals and plans to get there. That's not what the Bible talks about for vision, this is not a visionary, this is not someone who is going to take the group into the future because he has a clear concept of where he's going. This is the Hebrew chazown which means revelation, this is the vision that God gives a prophet, it is the communication of doctrine; what this verse is saying is when there is no communication of doctrine then the people are unrestrained. That's a lousy translation, it's from the Hebrew pera' which means to run wild, the people run wild, they have no controls, there's no absolutes, there's no discipline, the people just do whatever they want to do.
Everyone does what's right in their own eyes, that's what happened in the book of Judges. "Where there is no doctrine the people run wild," the people do whatever they want to do, "but happy," there's our happiness again, "but happy" or "blessed is the one who keeps the Law," who applies the Word of God. Before you can apply the Word of God you have to know the Word of God. Before you know the Word of God you have to make sure that you're number one priority is get in Bible class every opportunity in order to know the Word of God. When there is rejection of doctrine and God's revelation the people run wild, they panic and they fall apart in times of crisis. And this is because only doctrine stabilizes the soul.
It's interesting that 200 years ago a man by the name of Alexander Frazier Tyler in his book, The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic, made an analysis of the cycles that civilizations go through from their rise to their decline. And he spelled it out very clearly and we ought to pay attention to it because it has application for us today. He says: "Man begins his existence in bondage," and this is true of any of these nations we study in Daniel; our study of the Babylonians, our study of the Persians, the Greeks, they all follow this cycle. "Man begins his existence in bondage and rises from bondage through spiritual faith," because when everything is going bad you're forced to turn to God, that's why crisis is so wonderful, every one of you ought to have a thousand opportunities to witness right now because in the midst of crisis people want to know where there's hope. We know our lives are in the hands of God and so we can relax and we need to demonstrate that because it's going to stand out among those who are afraid today.
But in those early days a nation is in bondage and the rise "from bondage through spiritual faith, and from spiritual faith they develop courage, and from courage they move to liberty, and from liberty to abundance, and from abundance to selfishness, and from selfishness to complacency and from complacency to apathy and from apathy to dependency and from dependency back to bondage. And that is how the civilization ends." And that is where we find ourselves on October 12, 539 BC. With our heads bowed…