A feast with consequences

King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. Daniel 5:1 ESV

What’s so special about what looks like any feast?
At the time, the Persian army stood before the gates of Babylon. They had just beaten Belshazzar’s father, King Nabonidus, in the Battle of Opis, effectively beating the Babylonians and clearing the path for the capital.

However, no panic is recorded to have happened at their arrival – Babylon was the most powerful stronghold of its time, and it’s inhabitants simply regarded it as impregnable. It is understandable that king Belshazzar was very self-confident, which explains with what mindset he was able to feast at a such a time.

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. (v. 2)

In his drunkenness, he becomes so proud as to utterly disregard the God of Israel, the God which the former king Nebuchadnezzar II had known to be the one true God. He ignored everything he had witnessed (He was alive during the events of chapter 4) and defiled the Lord through his abuse of the treasure.

By the time he (literally) saw the writing on the wall, it was too late – that same night, the Persians took Babylon without resistance and killed Belshazzar. Daniel, however, preserved by his Lord, lived on to serve at the court of his new master, the King of Persia.

Since most of us obviously aren’t drunken kings under siege, what does this event teach us? I, for one, often behave like Belshazzar. Not only am I constantly in danger of – or, more likely, actually being proud, but I also make mistakes of large scale. I never was drunk, but I still “feast” in war-time. I often play games or read Tom Clancy novels when I should actually be communicating with the Lord, praying, reading, singing, thinking, taking notes, … In short, I ignore the war that I live in. And it’s pretty hard (spoiler: impossible) to survive in this war as a human. We aren’t strong enough.

This chapter is a reminder to humble ourselves under our God. And to stay alert. Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak, says Jesus in Mk 14:38. Let us watch, wary of the war in us!

1 Corinthians 1& 2 – God’s sovereignty || ministry? – how to witness

We often think that we have to convert people, that we have to convince them of the truth. But this is wrong. The recurring theme in these chapters is that we aren’t supposed to convert people through rhetorics; instead, we are supposed to be witnesses of the Cross!

“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (v. 1:17)

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (v. 2:1.2 & 3.4)

These two verses clearly warn us from resorting to eloquence, or rhetorics, or wisdom, or whatever you want to call it. We should not try to convince people of the truth; that’s what human, earthly religions do. But what else should we do?

 “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” (.v 2:12-16)

As you can see, our job is not of convincing. If we can convince people of something, then it isn’t the gospel! If we can convince people of something, we are teaching a different God than we should! For our Lord can’t be recognised or understood by people.
You see, this is why doctrine is important. It really, really is. Because what I just told you doesn’t make any sense if you don’t believe in the sovereignty of God. I mean, how are we supposed to minister if the only thing they understand is false?

You really do need to believe in God’s sovereignty to spread the gospel in God’s way.
Our job is to be witnesses! Testis, non orator. We aren’t supposed to convert. we witness the cross through scripture, through the Spirit, and if it is God’s will, he will give understanding and repentance to a person trough the Holy Spirit. God saves. We don’t. If we try to do it, we take the glory that is rightly his! “Lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

“And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,  so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”” (v. 1:30-31)

We are saved because of God. Now let’s talk about it! And if, in his infinite wisdom, the Lord wishes so, he will save the person we are talking to.

Ecclesiastes 11:9 – Youth equals freedom? – The consequences of sin

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.”

If we listen to the world, it teaches us it’s idea of youth: youth means freedom. It means listening to your heart, to your feelings, doing whatever you want. No regrets, fun and yourself are all that matters. Do whatever you can to be happy, because #YOLO (you only live once).

This is exactly the opposite of what the Word of God teaches! Sure, we should be happy. One recurring theme of Ecclesiastes is that we should be happy with our situation. And yes, we should roam free and do what our heart desires. We should discover things. However, this shall not be without consequences. And that is the crux of the matter. The world tries to make us forget that our behaviour has consequences. Satan tries to teach this. He wants us to sin as much as possible, without thinking of consequences. The problem is, this is not the way it works. The second most recurring theme after the vanity of the world is the fear of the Lord. Because the Lord will judge, and he will judge righteously, and everything will be made public. Sin will be punished, because God is just. That is, if we are not saved through our faith in Jesus Christ, of course. And even then, we are “only” spared death – the consequences of sin remain. If a man sleeps with the wrong kind of person in college, gets AIDS, comes to know the Lord, and is saved, he still has AIDS, and he still no longer is a virgin. This holds for everything, and Satan would love us to forget it.

Though we don’t know who the author of Ecclesiastes is, I found Solomons Proverbs very useful to understand the Kohelet. Let’s let the Word of God speak for a moment. Here is a selection of Proverbs that teach us about this topic:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10)

“Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.” (Proverbs 10:17)

“The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.” (Proverbs 10:27)

“Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises his ways will die.” (Proverbs 19:16)

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2)

“Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge. Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” (Proverbs 23:12-14)

“If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:12)

“Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” (Proverbs 28:14)

 Do you see? Freedom doesn’t mean we get carte blanche to do everything stupid we want, and when we turn 18, everything is forgotten! I know this is the way the law woks in many countries, but God doesn’t work that way!

We need to turn to the Word (not the world, scripture) and live our life by that. Being young may be an excuse to try (some!) things, and to do what we want instead of serving in our families and churches (after all, isn’t that maturity?), but it isn’t and shall never be an excuse to not fear the Lord who created the world and is just and righteous and hates evil.

You Only Live Once. After this one attempt, you will be judged if you don’t fear the Lord. Make something of your life!