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Prayer of Manasseh

The Prayer of Manasseh is a short work of 15 verses of the penitential prayer of king Manasseh of Judah. Manasseh is recorded in the Bible as one of the most idolatrous kings of Judah (2 Kings 21:1–18; 2 Chronicles 33:1–9).

The Prayer of Manasseh is a part of the Apocrypha. It is a short work, containing just 15 verses. It purports to be a prayer by King Manasseh of Judah (697-642 B.C.), but it was pseudonymously written as early as the second century or just before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Second Chronicles 33:19 says that Manasseh prayed but does not record the prayer itself, referring the reader to what was “written in the records of the seers.”

King Manasseh, the thirteenth king of Judah, was one of the most wicked and idolatrous kings in biblical history (2 Kings 21:1-18). He was captured by the Assyrians and imprisoned in Babylon. There, he prayed for mercy and repented of his sin of idolatry (2 Chronicles 33:1-19).

The Prayer of Manasseh is considered by Jews, Catholics and Protestants as apocryphal, i.e., non-canonical and of doubtful authenticity. However, the fourth-century Vulgate included it at the end of the book of 2 Chronicles. It later became part of the Matthew Bible and the Geneva Bible of 1599. It is also found in the Apocrypha of the King James Bible.

Prayer of ManassehThe prayer departs from Christian teaching in that it says men such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not need to repent because they “did not sin” (verse 8). This runs counter to the clear teaching of Scripture that all have sinned (Romans 3:10-12; Romans 3:21-26). The righteousness of Abraham was a product of his faith in God and was not anything inherent in him (Romans 4:3; Philippians 3:8-9). Though we now know that Righteousness was “Imparted” to them for their faith!

In summary, God has told us that Manasseh prayed a much-needed prayer of repentance.

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HAPPY and THANKFUL THANKSGIVING!

We at whatshotn wish all our readers, followers, disciples and truth seekers,Happy Thanksgiving.  We appreciate each and every one of you.  We are thankful for your participation in the work that we are doing here.  Each one of you is a branch of the True Vine that is bearing much  fruit for the world to consume.  We are thankful for God’s grace that abides in us.  As you prepare for your family gathering, be mindful of all that we have to be thankful for on this great day.  Let your hearts be filled with love, joy and peace as you reach out and touch those that are in the greatest need this day.  We love you and again, we wish you, your families and ministries a HAPPY and THANKFUL THANKSGIVING.   May God provide all of you with His peace and mercy and grace on this day.  Make it a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.  You are blessed.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to gather with family and friends and reflect on the blessings of the last year. Many of us experience renewed hope and faith during the Thanksgiving holiday because we turn our eyes onto what is most important. What if we spent time each day in giving thanks and prayer? How could God grow out faith and trust if we lived a life of thanks through all seasons and not just Thanksgiving time? When your heart is filled with gratitude, there is little room to worry or complain.

Bible Verses for Thanksgiving – Be encouraged with Scripture on why we should give thanks and how to express our gratitude. You can find many instances in the Bible that talk about giving thanks to God and Jesus for all the blessings we’ve received and take for granted! It’s so easy during the holiday season to be overwhelmed with all the tasks and activities to do. We often forget to stop and reflect on why we should be celebrating. Forget the food, forget the decorations, forget the shopping and read these Bible verses to meditate on all the ways God blesses us! Then share these Scriptures with your family and friends this Thanksgiving to help bring peace and joy to a season that is normally run by anxiety and stress!

Read our favorite thanksgiving prayers to inspire you and your family to talk about your blessings over Thanksgiving dinner. These are also wonderful to pray any day of the year as you seek to experience a heart of gratitude!

27 Thanksgiving Bible Verses

  • 2 Chronicles 5:13

    13 The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the LORD was filled with the cloud,
  • 2 Corinthians 4:15

    15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:11

    11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
  • Jeremiah 30:19

    19 From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. I will add to their numbers, and they will not be decreased; I will bring them honor, and they will not be disdained.
  • Nehemiah 12:46-47

    46 For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. 47 So in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portions for the musicians and the gatekeepers. They also set aside the portion for the other Levites, and the Levites set aside the portion for the descendants of Aaron.
  • Psalm 9:1

    1 I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
  • Philippians 4:6-7

    6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:16-17

    16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  • Psalm 107:8-9

    8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, 9 for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
  • Psalm 95:2-3

    2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. 3 For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:4-5

    4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—
  • 2 Corinthians 4:15-16

    15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
  • 2 Corinthians 9:11-12

    11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
  • Ephesians 1:15-16

    15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
  • 1 Timothy 4:4-5

    4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
  • 1 Chronicles 16:34

    34 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
  • Psalm 7:17

    17 I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High.
  • Psalm 28:7

    7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.
  • Psalm 100:4

    4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
  • Psalm 106:1

    1 Praise the LORD.Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
  • Isaiah 12:4

    4 In that day you will say: “Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.
  • Jeremiah 33:11

    11 the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD, saying, “Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good; his love endures forever.” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the LORD.
  • Romans 16:6

    6 Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18

    18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Grateful for each hand we hold
Gathered round this table.
From far and near we travel home,
Blessed that we are able.
Grateful for this sheltered place
With light in every window,
Saying welcome, welcome, share this feast
Come in away from sorrow.
Father, mother, daughter, son,
Neighbor, friend and friendless;
All together everyone in the gift of loving-kindness.
Grateful for whats understood,
And all that is forgiven;
We try so hard to be good,
To lead a life worth living.
Father, mother, daughter, son,
Neighbor, friend, and friendless;
All together everyone, let grateful days be endless.
Grateful for each hand we hold
Gathered round this table.

Happy Thanksgiving Day

O Heavenly Father:
We thank Thee for food and remember the hungry.
We thank Thee for health and remember the sick.
We thank Thee for friends and remember the friendless.
We thank Thee for freedom and remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances stir us to service.
That Thy gifts to us may be used for others. Amen.

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Get to Know God Better

Everyone knows that God exists. “God has made it plain” that He is real, “for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). Some try to suppress the knowledge of God, most try to add to it. The Christian has a deep desire to know God better (Psalm 25:4).

In John 3 we read about a man who clearly wanted to know God better and who became more studied than most in the things of God. His name was Nicodemus, and he was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. This Nicodemus knew that Jesus had come from God, and he was truly curious to learn more about Jesus. Jesus patiently explained to Nicodemus how he must be born again (verses 3-15). In order to know God better, Nicodemus had come to the right person “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus is indeed the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14). Jesus revealed God through His words and works. He even said that no one comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6). If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus.

Sons and DaughtersSo, we must start with faith. The first step in knowing God better is to know Jesus Christ, who was sent from God (John 6:38). Once we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can truly begin to learn about God, His character, and His will. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). By contrast, “the person without the Spirit . . . cannot understand [the things of God] because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (verse 14). There is a difference between the “natural” man and the “spiritual” man.

Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” It cannot be emphasized enough how the study of God’s Word, the Bible, is paramount to knowing God better. We must, “like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it [we] may grow up in [our] salvation, now that [we] have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3). God’s Word should be our “delight” (Psalm 119:16, 24).

Those who are learning more about God are also those who obey the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Born-again believers always have the Holy Spirit, but Ephesians 5:15-21 teaches us to walk in the Spirit and surrender to His will.

Prayer is also an important part of knowing God better. As we pray, we praise God for His character and for what He has done. We spend time with Him, relying on His power and allowing the Spirit to intercede for us “through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).

Also consider that one can get to know God better by fellowshipping with other believers. The Christian life was not meant to be lived alone. We learn more about God through the preaching of God’s Word and the godly counsel of those who walk with Him. Make the most of your church experience, get involved, do small-group Bible study, go witnessing with fellow believers. Just like a log ablaze on the hearth soon goes out when it is removed and placed aside, so we will lose our fervor for God if we do not fellowship with other believers. But put the log back into the fire with the other logs, and it will burn brightly again.

To summarize how to get to know God better: 1) Accept Christ as your Savior. 2) Read His Word…it is alive (Hebrews 4:12). 3) On an on-going basis, be filled with the Holy Spirit. 4) Seek the Lord through Prayer. 5) Fellowship and live out your life with the saints (Hebrews 10:25).

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Prayer of Protection

Psalm 91, King James Version (KJV)

A thousand shall fall at thy side – Though a thousand should fall at thy side, or close to thee. This alludes to the manner in which the pestilence often moves among people. A thousand enemies may fall upon thee on one side, and ten thousand may fall upon thee on thy right hand, but they shall not come nigh thee to take away thy life. It is a promise of perfect protection, and the utmost safety.

And ten thousand at thy right hand – Compare Psalm 3:6. The word “myriad” would better represent the exact idea in the original, as the Hebrew word is different from that which is translated “a thousand.” It is put here for any large number. No matter how many fall around thee, on the right hand and the left, you will have nothing to fear.

But it shall not come nigh thee – You will be safe. You may feel assured of the divine protection. Your mind may be calm through a sense of such guardianship, and your very calmness will conduce to your safety. This refers, as remarked above, to a “general” law in regard to the judgments of God. It is true that others, beside the dissipated, vicious, and debased, may be the victims; but the great law is that temperance, soberness, virtue, cleanliness, and that regard to comfort and health to which religion and virtue prompt, constitute a marked security – so marked as to illustrate the “general” law referred to in the psalm before us.

The words of Psalm 91 are some of the most beautiful words in the Bible. Look at them for just a moment:

91 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

These are wonderful words of comfort. They speak of God as the Protector of those who trust in Him. They promise that while many will suffer destruction, the one who has trusted in God, who has fled to Him for safety, will be delivered. Are these words really true? Can we find comfort in them this afternoon? We certain can! Let me show you why they are true, and why they can bring us great comfort as we grieve over the death of one whom we knew and loved or whatever your situation happens to be at this moment.

We have a divinely inspired commentary on these verses in the New Testament, which shed much light on the meaning and application of this psalm to us. In the temptation of our Lord, Psalm 91:11-12 are quoted by Satan to our Lord, at the time of His temptation in wilderness (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:10-11). Satan challenged Jesus to throw Himself down from the temple, and to be divinely delivered from death, to show that He was the Messiah. He tried to convince Jesus that since Psalm 91 promised deliverance from suffering and death, God would deliver Him.

Jesus responded by referring to the Scripture which forbade putting God to the test. There is much more that Jesus could have said, and did not. What Satan would only later learn is that the promise of Psalm 91 was to be fulfilled through the suffering and death of Jesus, on the cross of Calvary. God could promise deliverance to those who trusted in Him because Jesus would suffer in their behalf, and would rise from the dead, the Victor over sin, and death, and Satan. Psalm 91 was not Jesus’ excuse for avoiding the cross, but His reason for going to the cross.

Just as Psalm 91 was no guarantee that Jesus need not suffer. Indeed, the suffering of Jesus was the reason why the saints are protected and removed from suffering. The important question is this: “From what sufferings are the saints delivered? From what dangers and destruction are we delivered?” Psalm 91 does it promise us that the saints will be delivered from all suffering. Many Scriptures, the experience of many saints (biblical and otherwise) and our own experience, make it clear that Christians do suffer. Let us look more carefully at this psalm to determine what suffering we are promised to be delivered from.

The Psalm begins with the strong statement that God is our refuge, our fortress, our place of safety (verses 1-4). There are two kind of people mentioned in this psalm, and they have two very different destinies. The one group is delivered from destruction, and the other group is destroyed. The all-important need here is to determine what it is that some are delivered from, which is also the means by which others are destroyed. Our text cannot mean that those who trust in God are all delivered from suffering and death, and that those who do not trust in God suffer and die prematurely. The psalm which comes immediately before our text speaks of that suffering and short life which the godly experience, as a result of living in a fallen, sin-tainted world:

1 Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born, Or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. 3 Thou dost turn man back into dust, And dost say, “Return, O children of men.” 4 For a thousand years in Thy sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or {as} a watch in the night. 5 Thou hast swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. 6 In the morning it flourishes, and sprouts anew; Toward evening it fades, and withers away. 7 For we have been consumed by Thine anger, And by Thy wrath we have been dismayed. 8 Thou hast placed our iniquities before Thee, Our secret {sins} in the light of Thy presence. 9 For all our days have declined in Thy fury; We have finished our years like a sigh. 10 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is {but} labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away. 11 Who understands the power of Thine anger, And Thy fury, according to the fear that is due Thee? 12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom. 13 Do return, O Lord; how long {will it be}? And be sorry for Thy servants. 14 O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad according to the days Thou hast afflicted us, {And} the years we have seen evil. 16 Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, And Thy majesty to their children. 17 And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And do confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands (Psalm 90:1-17).

Psalm 90, written by Moses, speaks of the eternal nature of God and the very temporal nature of man. With God, a thousand years is nothing. For man, 70 years is a long life, and even these years are filled with sorrow and labor. This brevity and painfulness of life is explained by Moses as the result of God’s holiness and man’s sin. The solution to this problem of pain, and the hope of the believer is not in this life, but in the next. It will come with the return of the Lord. It will come “in the morning”. It will come in the future. The solution is not to be found in the deliverance from death, but in a deliverance after death. While it is not clearly stated in this psalm, it would be correct to say that death itself is a kind of deliverance for the Christian, for it removes us from the effects of sin, from pain and suffering and sorrow, and it takes us into the eternal joy of the presence of our Lord.

The destruction from which the believer is delivered is not the suffering and pain and even death of this life, but from the judgment of God, from the “second death” of eternal separation from His presence. This deliverance is so clearly described in yet another psalm, Psalm 73.

1 Surely God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart! 2 But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling; My steps had almost slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant, {As} I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pains in their death; And their body is fat. 5 They are not in trouble {as other} men; Nor are they plagued like mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them. 7 Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of {their} heart run riot. 8 They mock, and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high. 9 They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return to this place; And waters of abundance are drunk by them. 11 And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?” 12 Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased {in} wealth. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure, And washed my hands in innocence; 14 For I have been stricken all day long, And chastened every morning.

15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I should have betrayed the generation of Thy children. 16 When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight 17 Until I came into the sanctuary of God; {Then} I perceived their end. 18 Surely Thou dost set them in slippery places; Thou dost cast them down to destruction. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! 20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, Thou wilt despise their form. 21 When my heart was embittered, And I was pierced within, 22 Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was {like} a beast before Thee. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; Thou hast taken hold of my right hand. 24 With Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me, And afterward receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven {but Thee}? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For, behold, those who are far from Thee will perish; Thou hast destroyed all those who are unfaithful to Thee. 28 But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Thy works (Psalm 73:1-28).

Here Asaph, the psalmist, expresses his faith, a faith in God as the Good God, to those who trust in Him. His problem was that while he trusted in God as the One who was “good” to Israel, his experience was that the righteous suffered, while it was the wicked who prospered. He had contemplated giving it up, he confessed, for his piety seemed to be of little profit.

This was until he came to see his life through a different perspective–a heavenly, eternal one (verses 16ff.). He then realized that the prosperity of the wicked was exceedingly short-lived. Their eternal fate was destruction. The righteous, on the other hand, have all of eternity to enjoy the blessings of God’s presence and power.

Prayer of God's Protection!

Prayer of God’s Protection!

In the light of eternity, the sufferings of this life are but a small price to pay when compared to the blessings of eternity. But even the sufferings of this life are not “evil”. They are truly “good” for the saint, for in these times of suffering, God seems even nearer to us, especially as we are drawn nearer to Him. The ultimate “evil” in life is to be separated from God, and if affluence and a life of ease turns us from God, this absence from pain is really an “evil”. The ultimate “good” in life is fellowship with Him, enjoying His presence. If suffering in this life enables us to experience His presence in a deeper way, then it is truly “good” and He is “good” for bringing this adversity into our lives.

This is why we can find comfort in Psalm 91. Not because it promised us a long, trouble-free life on this present earth, but because it assures us that in Christ we would escape the wrath of God. In this life, we do not need to fear danger or even death, for He will raise us from death to eternal life, in His presence, free from pain and sickness and sorrow. That is our hope, and thus we can rejoice in our sufferings and death.

This hope is not for everyone, but only for those who have turned to God for their security and safety. Jesus Christ suffered the wrath of God, and by faith in Him, we may be sheltered from it. If you would share this hope, you must trust in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. May you experience the joy and the hope which we can receive, even in our sickness and pain.

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The Lion and Lamb

Isaiah has painted a deliberately provocative scene.  Nature, as Tennyson reminded us, is red in tooth and claw.  How absurd to think that nature itself could be tamed!  What could possibly bring about such a cosmic reversal?

Well, as ever, Isaiah answers by pointing us to the Messiah.  In the face of warring nations and warring nature, Isaiah continues to set our hope on a miraculous birth.  He will be called Immanuel or the Prince of Peace, or here in chapter 11 He’s called “the Branch.”

Isaiah 11:6
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Isaiah 65:25
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.

Both of these passages deal with the kingdom age on the earth after the Lord Jesus Christ returns to reign on the earth as King of kings. The ferocious beasts (like the lion) will live peaceably with the gentle animals (like the lamb). Certainly, this will be a literal reality on the earth. However, this picture is also symbolic of the peace that will pervade the entire earth. When preachers speak of the lion and the lamb lying down together, they are referring to the time of peace when Jesus will reign as King over the earth.

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.  5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them… 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.  (Isaiah 11:1-9)

When the true King reigns in righteousness, the world is set to rights.  This is not a spiritual truth divorced from historical and physical reality.  There will be a day when actual wolves and actual lambs graze together contentedly.  When seals will swim happily with great white sharks.   When children will play with crocodiles.

Impossible!  Ridiculous!  Fairytales! you might say.   Yet Isaiah refuses to live in a double-decker universe. We often think that Christian truths apply to a spiritual realm while the real business of life occurs on some irredeemable physical level.  We might concede that Jesus has spiritual power but, we imagine, it has no bearing on the way of the world.
Deer and bunny get to know one anotherBut Isaiah cannot believe in such a divorce of spiritual and physical.  He believes in a very earthy Messiah.  He believes in God with us.  A God who becomes a Child.  A God who really enters into our world – to be born as a human king.   The power of heaven will enter into this world from the inside.  Not simply to grant spiritual benefits to spiritual people, but to remake His own creation.

We know that the false king, Adam, brought spiritual and physical death.  Well then, is Christ less powerful than Adam?  Is His victory less decisive than Adam’s fall?  No.  Therefore Christ, when He comes again, will bring spiritual and physical redemption to the ends of the earth.

The believer in Christ has a physical hope – death defeated, wars vanquished, disease abolished, nature itself brought to peace and prosperity:

6 And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. 7 And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.  8 He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it. 9 And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.  (Isaiah 25:6-9)

So typically, when someone is thinking of the “lion and the lamb,” Isaiah 11:6 is in mind due to it often being misquoted, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together.” The true “Lion and the Lamb” passage is Revelation 5:5–6. The Lion and the Lamb both refer to Jesus Christ. He is both the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb who was slain. The Lion and the Lamb are descriptions of two aspects of the nature of Christ. As the Lion of Judah, He fulfills the prophecy of Genesis 49:9 and is the Messiah who would come from the tribe of Judah. As the Lamb of God, He is the perfect and ultimate sacrifice for sin.

The scene of Revelation 4—5 is the heavenly throne room. After receiving the command to write to the seven churches in Asia Minor, John is “caught up in the spirit” to the throne room in heaven where he is to receive a series of visions that culminate in the ultimate victory of Christ at the end of the age. Revelation 4 shows us the endless praise that God receives from the angels and the 24 elders. Chapter 5 begins with John noticing that there is a scroll in the “right hand of him who was seated on the throne.” The scroll has writing on the inside and is sealed with seven seals.

After giving us a description of the scroll, an angel proclaims with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” John begins to despair when no one comes forth to answer the angel’s challenge. One of the 24 elders encourages John to “weep no more,” and points out that the Lion of the tribe of Judah has come to take and open the scroll. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is obviously a reference to Christ. The image of the lion is meant to convey kingship. Jesus is worthy to receive and open the scroll because he is the King of God’s people.

Back in Genesis 49:9, when Jacob was blessing his sons, Judah is referred to as a “lion’s cub,” and in verse 10 we learn that the “scepter shall not depart from Judah.” The scepter is a symbol of lordship and power. This was a prophecy that in Israel the kingly line would be descended from Judah. That prophecy was fulfilled when David succeeded to the throne after the death of King Saul (2 Samuel). David was descended from the line of Judah, and his descendants were the kings in Israel/Judah until the time of the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC.

This imagery of kingship is further enhanced when Jesus is described as the “root of David.” This harkens us back to the words of Isaiah the prophet: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. . . . In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:1, 10). As the root of David, Jesus is not only being identified as a descendant of David, but also the source or “root” of David’s kingly power.

Why is Jesus worthy to open the scroll? He is worthy because He “has conquered.” We know that, when Jesus returns, He will conquer all of God’s enemies, as graphically described in Revelation 19. However, more importantly, Jesus is worthy because He has conquered sin and death at the cross. The cross was the ultimate victory of God over the forces of sin and evil. The events that occur at the return of Christ are the “mop-up” job to finish what was started at the cross. Because Jesus secured the ultimate victory at Calvary, He is worthy to receive and open the scroll, which contains the righteous judgment of God.

Christ’s victory at the cross is symbolized by his appearance as a “Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). Prior to the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites were commanded by God to take an unblemished lamb, slay it, and smear its blood on the doorposts of their homes (Exodus 12:1–7). The blood of the slain lamb would set apart the people of Israel from the people of Egypt when the death angel came during the night to slay the firstborn of the land. Those who had the blood of the lamb would be spared. Fast forward to the days of John the Baptist. When he sees Jesus approaching him, he declares to all present, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus is the ultimate “Passover lamb” who saves His people from eternal death.

So when Jesus is referred to as the Lion and the Lamb, we are to see Him as not only the conquering King who will slay the enemies of God at His return, but also as the sacrificial Lamb who took away the reproach of sin from His people so they may share in His ultimate victory, Just as we see Him as the Lamb and the King of Kings!

Can I get an Amen?

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Importance of Genealogies in the Bible

The Bible contains multiple genealogical records. Many of us either skim these sections or skip them altogether, finding them largely irrelevant and perhaps even boring. However, they are part of Scripture, and, since all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), they must bear some significance. There must be something we can learn from these lists.

First, the genealogies help substantiate the Bible’s historical accuracy. These lists confirm the physical existence of the characters in the Bible. By knowing family histories, we understand that the Bible is far from a mere story or a parable for how we should live our lives. It is authentic, historical truth. An actual man named Adam had actual descendants (and, therefore, his actual sin has actual consequences).

A-Time-to-Love-whatshotnThe genealogies also confirm prophecy. The Messiah was prophesied to come from the line of David (Isaiah 11:1). By recording His lineage in Scripture, God confirms that Jesus was descended from David (see Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38). The genealogy is yet another attestation of Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies.

The lists also demonstrate the detail-oriented nature of God and His interest in individuals. God did not see Israel vaguely, as a nebulous group of people; He saw with specificity, with precision and detail. There is nothing detached about the genealogies. They show a God involved. The inspired Word mentions people by name. Real people, with real histories and real futures. God cares about each person and the details of his or her life (Matthew 10:27-31; Psalm 139).

Finally, we can learn from various people listed in the genealogies. Some of the lists contain narrative portions that give us glimpses into the lives of the people. For instance, the prayer of Jabez is found within a genealogy (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). From this, we learn about God’s character and the nature of prayer. Other genealogies reveal that Ruth and Rahab are in the Messianic line (Ruth 4:21-22; Matthew 1:5). We see that God values the lives of these individuals, even though they were Gentiles and not part of His covenant people.

While genealogies may at first glance appear irrelevant, they hold an important place in Scripture. Genealogies bolster the historicity of Scripture, confirm prophecy, and provide insight into the character of God and the lives of His people.

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Who Said A Cartoon Can’t Make You Shout !

Without-God-whatshotnThere is not a spider hanging on the king’s wall but hath its errand; there is not a nettle that groweth in the corner of the churchyard but hath its purpose; there is not a single insect fluttering in the breeze but accomplisheth some divine decree; and I will never have it that God created any man, especially any Christian man, to be a blank, and to be a nothing. He made you for an end. Find out what that end is; find out your niche, and fill it. If it be ever so little, if it is only to be a hewer of wood and a drawer of water, do something in this great battle for God and truth.– Charles Spurgeon

Never, never neglect the word of God; that will make thy heart rich with precept, rich with understanding; and then thy conversation, when it flows from thy mouth, will be like thine heart, rich, unctious and savory. Make thy heart full of rich, generous love, and then the stream that flows from thy hand will be just as rich and generous as thine heart. Oh! go, Christian, to the great mine of riches, and cry unto the Holy Spirit to make thy heart rich unto salvation. So shall thy life and conversation be a boon to thy fellows; and when they see thee, thy face shall be as the angel of God.

Happy 2016.
This is a year of increase. May the LORD be with you this year.
PSALMS 115:14-15
Stay blessed.

Written by a beautiful friend and the words are amazing. Have you ever felt that something was nagging at you that you needed to repent? Well ask the Lord to show you so you can lay down at His feet Amen

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Helping the Poor and Homeless

A stubble-faced, leather-skinned vagrant approaches me and asks, “Can you spare some change?” It’s nothing new, but the last few years the faces have been getting younger, the requests more frequent and my responses less certain. A popular sign reads, “Will work for food.” Sometimes it’s true. Sometimes it isn’t. (Unless I have a job to offer, how can I know?)

As a pastor for fourteen years, I was sometimes called on to deal with requests for money. Knowing that churches have benevolence funds, needy people dropped by asking for gas money, food money, or bus money. Some of them slept in their cars. Some even had children. It was my job to try to discern if the need was legitimate, and if so, the best way to help. As director of a parachurch ministry committed to assisting those who feed the poor, I have to exercise the same kind of discernment.

Definitions and therefore estimates of the homeless vary widely from source to source. (Does homeless include those who have no home of their own, but live with others? Does it include those who stay in government provided apartments and never face sleeping on the streets?) It appears that between 300,000 and 500,000 Americans may be homeless on any given night. Most of these end up in shelters, and a good portion of those who don’t are on the streets by choice. (According to Newsweek, New York City alone has 90,000 homeless, and 30,000 of these have AIDS or are HIV positive.) Most of these are adult men, but there are increasing numbers of women and children, and even whole families.

Demographic breakdowns of the homeless also vary widely from source to source. The following is an average of statistics found in several different sources, and is therefore only roughly accurate. It appears that about 15% of homelessness is due to job loss and lack of low-income housing. About 35% is due to mental illness, which is usually accompanied by marginal job skills. About 50% of the homeless are physically and mentally able, with job skills ranging from minimal to optimal, but choose not to work.

Many in the latter group are alcoholics or drug-addicts. They take advantage of public shelters and soup kitchens to save money for their addictions. Frequently they are the most cunning and aggressive panhandlers, while the willing-to-work are often too ashamed to ask for money, and not “good at it” when they do. The 15% whose adverse circumstances have put them on the streets are the subject of most of the media stories on “street people.” The sentiments this generates prompt further indiscriminate social services that often end up going to the wrong people, thus fueling the growing public cynicism about the poor that results in “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” (failing to help the truly poor because of resentment toward those who abuse the system).

When it comes to the poor and homeless, I see three primary questions. The morality question—”What is our responsibility to the poor?” The wisdom question—”How do we discern who the poor are and what they really need?” The practicality question— “What exactly should we do to help the poor?”

What is Our Responsibility to the Poor?

In his essay on self-reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Do not tell me, as a good man did today, of my obligation to put all poor men in good situations. Are they my poor?”

Biblically, Emerson’s question can be approached two ways. First, are the non-poor to blame for the poor being poor? Karl Marx claimed that if anyone has more than someone else, he must have gotten it at the other’s expense. Scripture, however, tells us God “gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deut. 8:18). There is not a set amount of wealth that is constantly redistributed. One person can generate wealth without taking it from another.

Of course, some have cheated and exploited others, contributing to their poverty—”The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you” (James 5:4). If we have done this we must repent and make restitution. Zaccheus determined to pay back four times over those whom he had cheated (Luke 19:8).

But contrary to Emerson’s sentiments, even if I am not to blame for the poor being poor, Scripture tells me I am still responsible to help them. The Good Samaritan was not responsible for the plight of the man lying beside the road. After all, he had not robbed and brutalized him. Nonetheless, he was responsible to love his neighbor as himself. He did this not simply by refraining from hurting him, but by actively helping him. He generously used his time, energy and money to care for him. Jesus instructed us to do the same (Luke 10:30-37).

God says, “I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” (Deut. 15:10, 11). He promises special reward for helping the poor (Prov. 19:17; 22:9; 28:27). The Old Testament prophets boldly spoke forth God’s commands to care for the poor (Isa. 58:7-11). Jesus came to preach the good news to the poor and needy (Luke 4:18-19). Though he himself had little, Christ made a regular practice of giving to the poor (John 13:29). He also repeatedly commanded care for the poor, promising eternal reward for those who do so (Luke 14:12­14). Special offerings to help the poor were commonplace in the early church (Acts 11:27-30; 24:17; Gal. 2:10).

Caring for the poor is a litmus test of whether our faith is biblical and genuine (James 1:27; 2:14­16; 1 John 3:16­19). Our Lord takes personally how we treat the poor—”For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat . . . In that you did it for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:34-35).

How Do We Decide Who the Poor Are and What They Need?

We are often told by government and religious agencies alike that we should help “the poor” by doing this or that. But it is a fundamental error to lump together all of the “poor,” as if they were a monolithic group. Both Scripture and experience teach us that not all people are poor for the same reasons, and therefore not all can ultimately be helped by the same means.

I can think of at least fifteen reasons people may be poor: insufficient natural resources, adverse climate, lack of knowledge or skill, lack of needed technology or equipment, natural disaster (e.g. earthquake or flood), personal catastrophe (e.g. destruction of home or fields), poor health or physical handicap, mental handicap, exploitation and oppression by others, inability to find work, substance addiction, personal laziness, wasteful self-indulgence, personal choice to identify with and serve the poor (e.g. Mother Teresa), and religion or world view. (An example of the latter is the Hindu concept of karma which discourages improving one’s circumstances and results in people starving while one of their major God-given food sources, cattle, consumes another, grain.)

Cures must be tailor-made to the cause of an illness. One does not take chemotherapy to cure a cold, nor insulin to treat asthma. It is as ludicrous to use one stock formula to “help the poor” as it is to give all sick people the same treatment for every disease and expect it to heal them.

If a person is poor because his home has been destroyed by earthquake or flood, the solution may be to give him the money, materials and assistance to help him rebuild his home and reestablish his business. If he’s poor due to exploitation or oppression or injustice, we can offer immediate help while laboring for long-term legal, social, and economic reforms. When poverty is due to adverse climate, the poor need not just short-term relief, but long-term development that will give them the resources to prevent future poverty and hunger. (Some relief organizations are short-sighted, responding to present emergencies—as they should—but doing little to prevent future emergencies.)

If a person is homeless due to a mental handicap, we should seek to provide love, friendship and housing, find proper treatment and training in job skills. (Becoming a contributing member of society is often the best treatment for mental illness.) For those with addictions who want help, we can link them with rehabilitation and recovery groups. Again, giving short-term help without offering long-term solutions is counterproductive.

A person may be poor because of waste and self-indulgence—”He who loves pleasure will become poor” (Prov. 21:17). A man may make a decent income but waste it on drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, expensive convenience foods, costly recreation, or gambling (including lotteries).

Many people manage to meet their family’s needs on very low incomes. Others make several times as much money, but are always “poor,” always in a financial crisis. This is not because their means are too little, but because they are living above their means. Trying to solve such a situation by throwing money at it is like trying to put out a fire by dousing it with gasoline.

When I was a pastor, we called a government agency to get the names of needy people. We drove to their homes with sacks of food, only to find people surrounded by conveniences that some of us contributing the food couldn’t afford or justify. I’ve seen people who perpetually “have no money” to buy groceries for their family, but have a boat, car or recreational vehicle worth $20,000 parked in their driveway! Such people need to be held accountable to liquidate their assets and feed their families, then learn to reorder their priorities and live within their means.

Some people are poor due to laziness. God’s Word says that the result of laziness will be poverty (Prov. 24:30-34). “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Prov. 10:4). “Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry” (Prov. 19:15). “A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing” (Prov. 20:4). “The fool folds his hands and ruins himself” (Eccles. 4:5).

Every act of provision to a lazy person legitimizes and reinforces his laziness. It removes his incentives to be responsible for himself, and makes him more dependent on others. Paul commanded the Thessalonian church to stop taking care of the lazy and reminded them of this strict rule—”if a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). If we take this verse literally, and I do, it means it’s a sin to feed the lazy. The point is not to let people starve—the point is that faced with hunger they will be motivated to work and support themselves as God intends. “A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on” (Prov. 16:26).

The lazy and self-indulgent do not need financial support, they need incentives to no longer be lazy and self-indulgent. “Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry” (Prov. 19:15). As God-created nerve endings send the painful but life-saving message “take your hand out of the fire,” so hunger sends the life-saving message to the lazy person, “Stop being lazy and go to work.” That is, unless we circumvent God’s system by feeding the lazy. It is a serious error to invalidate the God-ordained mechanism that says “What you sow you will reap” (Gal. 6:7). By all means we must care for those whose circumstances and disabilities leave them poor. But any system—whether secular or religious—that feeds the able-bodied lazy is a counterproductive system. It does them and the rest of society a disservice. We become enablers and accomplices in the violation of God’s principles. The lazy man is poor by choice. We must do nothing to encourage that choice.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development counted 1900 homeless shelters in 1984. By 1988, there were 5400. Why? Because, some experts are now saying, the supply created a demand. U.S. News and World Report says people are now kicking out extended family or single daughters with children—or the latter are choosing to leave an adequate home—precisely because society will provide them free housing. In fact, New York has 3,200 transitional housing units for the homeless that provide private living quarters, baths and a daily restaurant allowance—a better arrangement than people get living with their relatives.

Federal funding for housing has gone from twenty billion dollars in 1978 to over seventy billion dollars in 1990, yet the number homeless seeking new shelters has dramatically increased. While many blame the economy, government statistics show the number of poor people living in crowded households actually dropped significantly from 1.4 million in 1983 to less than a million in 1989. Government provided housing has become a “Field of Dreams” scenario—”if you build it, we will come.” This problem will not be solved with money and facilities—families must be built and strengthened, and responsibility must be taught by refusing to reward (and thereby encourage) irresponsibility. The U. S. News article comes to a conclusion in line with the apostle Paul—”the homeless sometimes respond better to discipline than to unfettered support.”

I know a man who chose not to work, yet received unemployment benefits twice as high as the salary of his friend who worked forty hours a week. I saw the light go on in his head—”Why work when you don’t have to?” I watched that man change over a one year period, as he grew accustomed to not having to work to live. That was ten years ago, and he hasn’t had a job since. He still lives off the misguided “help” of society. Meanwhile he has lost both his self-respect and his family. A nation, church or family that subsidizes the lazy spawns laziness. Since laziness leads to poverty, supporting the lazy breeds poverty.

homeless-man-large-WHATSHOTNWhat is Biblical Compassion?

I know from experience that many Christians will be uncomfortable, or even offended, by what I’ve just been saying. They will think, “This doesn’t sound compassionate.” But what sounds compassionate and what is compassionate are not always the same. Compassion must not be rooted simply in our feelings, or measured by our own subjective satisfaction in saying “I helped the poor.” True compassion sees and deals with the root of the problem. Compassionate parents don’t let their children watch whatever they want on TV, eat junk food all day, or play on the freeway—even though doing so may make the children happier (today), and make life easier for the parents (today). They don’t automatically give their child the new bicycle he wants—they tell him he can only have a new bicycle if he earns it, then they take the time and effort to show him how to earn it.

The fact is that many of us want to “help the poor” because of the good feeling it gives us. We are concerned about salving our consciences, not with whether our “help” has actually met their real long-term needs. But true compassion gives people what they need, not just what they want. Our primary calling is not to help others (or ourselves) feel good, but to help them be good. Shoveling money and goods at poor people may help us—and them—feel good for the short run. It takes more thought, time and commitment on our part—and theirs—to help them do what is best in the long run. It is terribly unfair to attribute all poverty to laziness. It is terribly unwise to try to help the lazy in the same way we help those who are truly in need.

This concept is a challenge to ministries that open their soup kitchens daily and distribute free food and materials to anyone and everyone. Some inner city missions are exemplary, but others fall into the same unhealthy pattern of fostering irresponsibility that has marred most government programs. Some truly needy will be helped—but others will be reinforced in their laziness, and subsidized in their pursuit of harmful addictions. If by feeding a person tonight, we enable him to spend his money on alcohol rather than food, effectively are we doing anything different than just handing him a bottle?

Of course, sometimes it will be impractical or impossible to screen out the irresponsible. Better to feed some who are irresponsible in the process of helping the truly needy, than let the truly needy (including the children of the irresponsible) suffer in the screening attempt. But better still to try to do both, for Scripture tells us to do both. To exercise such discernment requires taking time to get to know individuals and their unique situations, just as a doctor must diagnose each patient rather than prescribing one general cure for everyone. Tempting as it is to do so, we must refuse to equate biblical compassion with every impersonal or indiscriminate distribution program, whether by government or religious agencies.

What Exactly Should We Do to Help the Poor?

Obviously, a person can be unemployed without being lazy. We need to help the unemployed with his immediate needs, but above all we need to help him find work. Sending him to classes, teaching him a skill, helping him write a resume, coaching him for a job interview—all these may be much more helpful than ongoing financial gifts. When work isn’t to be found, we need to provide it however we can. On a few occasions we’ve helped the unemployed by giving them work on our church grounds. I’ve come up with a variety of odd jobs around our house that are worthy and constructive. It’s important for people’s self-respect and initiative to maintain the God-ordained connection between work and income.

The Old Testament pattern of gleaning is a model of how to help the poor in the most positive way (Lev. 19:9-10). God said to leave the corners of the fields uncut so the poor could have food. But notice the grain was not cut, bundled, processed, ground, bagged, transported and delivered to the poor. Provided they were able, the poor were to go to the fields and do the work themselves. This way their needs were met, but they weren’t robbed of their dignity nor made irresponsible by a workless welfare system.

We need to develop a screening process that isn’t impersonal or dehumanizing, but accurately determines whether a person is in need, and if so, why. Christ’s words “Give to him who asks of you” must be seen in the context of the whole Scriptures. Paul commands the church to care for “those widows who are really in need” (1 Tim. 5:3), but says that even in the body of Christ not every widow qualifies for church support. We must be generous, but also be discerning so that our generosity hits the mark.

I have the phone numbers of a few friends who own nurseries. I’ve told able-bodied street people if they want some honest work to earn money for food and other needs, there’s a good chance they can get a job in the fields. If they’re not interested, they’ve screened themselves out and I know I shouldn’t give them money. If they are, I can go the next step and see what else I can do for them. (Needless to say, we should look for every opportunity to share the gospel.)

The church is not to take over responsibilities that properly belong to family members (1 Tim. 5:3­5). In light of this principle, our church leaders approached an elderly woman’s brother to encourage him to meet her material needs he had neglected. He was embarrassed, but he got involved in the life of his sister precisely because we called on him to. Had we continued helping her, he never would have. It is the church’s role to encourage the family to fulfill its responsibilities, not to take over those responsibilities. (Of course, if family members refuse to help, the church must.)

Churches need to help the poor not just by giving money or food, but personal attention—our time, our skills, and our personal interest. An elderly widow doesn’t just need a check, she needs someone to take her shopping, to sit and talk with her, to pray with her. She may need someone to mow her lawn, fix her fence, drive her to church. When we see the homeless, God may not just want us to open our pocketbooks, but our homes (Rom. 12:13). When we opened our home to a needy woman for a year, we had the privilege of seeing her come to Christ. No evangelistic efforts are more credible than those authenticated by hospitality. (Even when we open our homes, however, biblical compassion means expecting them to contribute to the household in some meaningful way.)

What many people need is not more money, but personal help in handling the money they have. Good financial counseling, including how to make and stick to a reasonable budget, is a far more valuable gift than $500 to bail someone out of a situation he should never have gotten into in the first place. Direction in how to find and keep a job is much more helpful than putting groceries on a shelf while someone sits home and watches television all day. When a middle aged career person is laid off, he not only needs to find a new job, but may need support to avoid paralytic depression.

Conclusion

Our family gives regularly to World Relief, a ministry that brings immediate help, long-term development, and the gospel of Christ to the needy throughout the world. The fact is that the poorest of the poor live far away from most of us. Local efforts are good, but we must not forget the desperate needs in parts of Africa, Asia and South America. Furthermore, the class called the “poor” in Scripture includes the weak, defenseless and exploited. Efforts on behalf of unborn children, exploited women, the elderly, handicapped and underprivileged immigrants and minorities are close to the heart of God, who calls himself the rescuer of the poor (Job 29:12; Psalm 35:10; Jer. 20:13).

I cannot relate meaningfully to the poor when I am isolated from the poor. For some of us it’s a question of walking down the block and getting to know the poor. For others it’s driving twenty miles to find a homeless person. Perhaps I must take regular trips away from the cozy suburbs to the inner city. Whole churches have become involved in projects of helping the poor. Some youth groups take regular trips to Mexico. Others put on camps and evangelistic Bible clubs for inner-city children. Churches can go to the ghettos, the jails, the hospitals, and rest homes—wherever there is need.

More radically, instead of following the evangelical pattern of abandoning the city for the suburbs, perhaps its time for more of us to go as missionaries to the poor and live in their midst. Clearly our social programs are not working—if we as Christians will not be the incarnation of Christ’s love and wisdom in the inner city, who will?

We must resist the unbiblical rationalization that we cannot make a difference. “But I’m just one person. And we’re just a small church. How can we eliminate poverty?” The answer is you can’t. Jesus said the poor would always be with us (Mark 14:7). But that shouldn’t inhibit our action. A poster asked, “How can you help a billion hungry people?” The answer below was right on target: “One at a time.”

Caring for the poor is a sobering responsibility for which we will all be held accountable—”If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered” (Prov. 21:13). We must seek to help the poor in the right way, but above all we must help them in some way. Helping the poor and homeless is not a peripheral issue. God links our efforts for the poor directly to our relationship with him. May he one day say of us what he said of King Josiah: “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” (Jer. 22:16).

100 % of the Donations, Tithes and Offerings that are received go right back into the Ministry, there are no paychecks, Rather than bragging, I’m Humbly asking that you weigh our minimal donations while considering the tremendous efficiency of teaching, preaching, sending Bibles to those that need, to encourage and strengthen families with the information, Food, prayers and Bibles we provide. Not only do we depend on your support, and for those who can sponsor, as well as your prayers, but your stewardship glorifies God when you mobilize this out-reach for spiritual battle. This ministry is a loving, lean fighting machine!
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”- Malachi 3:10, KJV Verse
How will I get the Word to them without your help? Each one of you are deeply appreciated, Thank You!

(Parts Written in 1993; Originally published in Discipleship Journal)

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Belshazzar’s Feast And The Fall Of Babylon

Almost seventy years have passed since the events of chapter 1 of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar himself had died in 562 B.C. Daniel does not record his immediate successors, and extrabiblical literature is somewhat confused. A plausible account of Berosus, in his third book, found in a fragment preserved by Josephus summarizes the history between Nebuchadnezzar’s death in 562 B.C. and the fall of Babylon 539 B.C.

According to Berosus, Nebuchadnezzar died after a reign of 43 years and was followed by his son Evil-Merodach. Because his rule was arbitrary and licentious, he was assassinated by Neriglisar after he had reigned only two years. The next four years Neriglisar occupied the throne. At his death his son Laborosoarchod, who was only a child, reigned for nine months until a conspiracy resulted in his being beaten to death. The conspirators appointed Nabonidus, one of their number, who reigned for seventeen years before being defeated by Cyrus the Persian. Nabonidus fleeing Babylon went to Borsippa but was forced to surrender to Cyrus. Nabonidus was allowed to live in Carmania until the time of his death, but he was not allowed to come to Babylonia.

The account of Berosus preserved by Josephus is supported by other evidence such as the short fragment of Abydenus preserved by Eusebius.

Until the discovery of the Nabonidus Cylinder, no mention of Belshazzar, whom Daniel declares to be king of Babylon, had been found in extrabiblical literature. Critics of the authenticity and historicity of Daniel accordingly were free to question whether any such person as Belshazzar existed. Since the publication of Raymond Dougherty’s scholarly research on Nabonidus and Belshazzar, based on the Nabonidus Cylinder and other sources, there is no ground for questioning the general historicity of Belshazzar; and only the details of the scriptural account unverified by extrabiblical sources can be challenged by the critics. Montgomery states that the story is “un-historical” but “nevertheless contains indubitable reminiscences of actual history.”

On the other hand, such a careful scholar as Edward J. Young states, “The identity of Belshazzar has long caused difficulty to commentators. Some have denied his historicity… The king’s name, however, has now appeared upon the cuneiform documents, so that there can be no question as to his historicity. This is the first point at which this ch. exhibits its remarkable accuracy.” The controversy over Belshazzar, because of the extensive investigation and great variety of findings, has become one of the most complicated problems in the entire book, but the problem itself is comparatively simple. Was Belshazzar actually king of Babylon and was he murdered on the night that Babylon was conquered?

A solution of the problem has depended largely on the premises of the scholars dealing with it. Those critical of the authenticity and accuracy of Daniel, especially those zealous to prove second-century authorship, proceed on the premise that Daniel must be in error until he is proved otherwise. Here the discussion is lost in a maze of conflicting facts in extrabiblical literature concerning which the critics themselves are not agreed. Although such ancient records are notoriously inaccurate and at best are fragmentary, the argument of the critics was that Belshazzar never existed because his name did not appear in any of the ancient records. This omission, however, was later remedied, as mentioned above, by the discovery of the name of Bel-shar-usur (Belshazzar) on cylinders in which he is called the son of Nabonidus. Critics, having to recede from their former position that no such person existed, have since centered their attack on the fact that the word king does not occur in connection with Belshazzar on any extant Babylonian records. The establishment of Nabonidus as the father of Belshazzar, or at least his stepfather, nullifies most of the critical objections, although Rowley in an extensive discussion maintains stoutly that to call Belshazzar a king “must still be pronounced a grave historical error.”

Since Rowley, however, even liberal scholars have tended to accept the explanation that Belshazzar acted as a regent under his father, Nabonidus. Norman Porteous, for instance, writes, “On the other hand it is known that Belshazzar was a historical person, the son of the last Babylonian king Nabonidus, who acted as regent of Babylon for several years before its fall, while his father was absent at the oasis of Teima in Arabia.” This would begin Belshazzar’s regency about 553 B.C., when Nabonidus went to Teima. Not only the record in Daniel but also the external evidence is now sufficient to support the conclusion that Belshazzar’s coregency is almost beyond question. This is another illustration of how critical objections based on lack of external evidence are frequently overthrown when the evidence is uncovered.

Additional evidence that Nabonidus was away from Babylon on the night of Daniel 5 is given in the fragment from Berosus, previously cited, which indicates that Nabonidus had left Babylon only to be vanquished in battle and flee to Borsippa. This would involve the premise that Nabonidus, although usually living at Teima, had returned to Babylon for a visit just prior to the siege of Babylon, had gone out to battle before Babylon was actually surrounded, and then was defeated, thereby permitting the Persians to besiege Babylon itself. Under these circumstances, Belshazzar would indeed be king of Babylon in the absence of his father. Problems of his relationship will be considered at the proper place in the exposition, including the possibility that Belshazzar’s mother was a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and thus in the royal line, whereas Nabonidus was not. There are actually so many plausible possibilities in Daniel’s account, supported by the evidence cited, that the storm of objections can hardly be taken seriously.

Belshazzar’s Feast in Honor of the Gods of Babylon

5:1-4 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles 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; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.

About seventy years had elapsed since the capture of Jerusalem recorded in Daniel 1. In the interpretation of the image in chapter 2, Daniel had predicted to Nebuchadnezzar, “After thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee” (Dan 2:39). Now, in chapter 5, this prophecy is about to be fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliating experience in chapter 4 had been followed by his death in 562 b.c. Approximately twenty-three years elapsed between chapter 4 and chapter 5. In this period, a number of monarchs had succeeded Nebuchadnezzar. According to Berosus, Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son, Evil-Merodach, also known as Amel-Marduk, who was killed in 560 b.c. He was followed by Neriglissar, also spelled Nergal-shar-usur, a son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar who died in 556 b.c. of natural causes. He was succeeded by Laborosoarchad, also known as Labashi-Marduk, a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, who was assassinated after less than a year. Nabonidus assumed the throne in 556 b.c. and reigned until 539 b.c. when conquered by the Medes. Belshazzar is best identified as his son, whose mother was either a wife or a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and thereby strengthened the claim of Nabonidus to the throne. This explains why Belshazzar in the lineal descent from Nebuchadnezzar was honored as a coruler under Nabonidus. Although there are alternative explanations and some dates vary, this succession of kings and identification of characters seems to have reasonable justification. Most expositors disagree with Keil, who identifies Belshazzar with Evil-Merodach, preferring the identification of a son of Nabonidus, based on later evidence not available to Keil. The identifications of Leupold are more satisfactory.

Marduk, sun god of Babylon, with his thunderbolts pursues Anzu

Marduk, sun god of Babylon, with his thunderbolts pursues Anzu

In the quarter of a century which elapsed between chapter 4 and chapter 5, the further revelations given to Daniel in chapters 7 and 8 occurred. Chapter 7 was revealed to Daniel “in the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon” (Dan 7:1) and the vision of the ram and he-goat in chapter 8 occurred “in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar” (Dan 8:1). The information embodied in these two visions, insofar as Daniel understood it, therefore was known to Daniel before the event of chapter 5 which chronologically came after chapters 7 and 8. If Belshazzar began his reign in 553 b.c, when Nabonidus went to Teima, the visions of chapters 7 and 8 actually occurred about twelve years before the events of chapter 5.

Verse 1 of chapter 5 introduces the fact that Belshazzar as king of Babylon had made a great feast to which a thousand of his lords had been invited with their wives. That such a large feast should be held by a monarch like Belshazzar is not at all strange. Leupold cites the ancient historian Ktesias to the effect that Persian monarchs frequently were known to dine daily with 15,000 people. M. E. 50:Mallowan mentions the great feast that Ashusnasirpal II gave to 69,574 guests when he dedicated his new capital city of Calah (Nimrud) in 879 b.c.

Although the size of the banquet is not amazing, the situation was most unusual. If the setting can be reconstructed, Nabonidus previously had gone forth from Babylon to fight the Medes and the Persians and had already been captured. The whole surrounding territory of the city of Babylon and the related provinces already had been conquered. Only Babylon with its massive walls and fortifications remained intact. Possibly to reassert their faith in their Babylonian gods and to bolster their own courage, this feast in the form of a festival had been ordered. The storehouses of Babylon were still abundant with food and wine, and there is evidence that there was plenty of both at this feast. The expression “drunk wine before the thousand” indicates that Belshazzar was probably on a platform at a higher level than other guests and led them in drinking toasts to their deities. Under the stimulus of wine, the thought occurred to Belshazzar to bring in the gold and silver vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar almost seventy years before. The implication in the clause “whiles he tasted the wine” is that Belshazzar in his right mind probably would not have committed this sacrilegious act.

Drinking bouts such as characterized Babylon were also common among other peoples, such as the Persians. Athenaeus quotes Heracleides of Cumae, the author of Persian History, in describing in detail the custom of drinking to excess after dinner. The luxury of both the drinking and the eating is also illustrated in Athenaeus in describing dinners among the Persians of high station as follows: “For one thousand animals are slaughtered daily for the king; these comprise horses, camels, oxen, asses, deer, and most of the smaller animals; many birds also are consumed, including Arabian ostriches—and the creature is large—geese, and cocks.”

Much has been made of the reference of Belshazzar’s relationship to Nebuchadnezzar, who is described as “his father” in verse 2; and even Keil is influenced by this to consider Belshazzar a literal son of Nebuchadnezzar. This is not entirely impossible, of course, for as Leupold shows, Nabonidus could have married a widow of Nebuchadnezzar who had a son by Nebuchadnezzar who then could be adopted by Nabonidus by way of strengthening his own hold upon the throne. As Nabonidus assumed the throne in 556 B.C., only six years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, and Belshazzar was probably at least a teenager when Nebuchadnezzar died—if he was old enough to be coregent with Nabonidus in 553 B.C.— it is possible that he was a genuine son of Nebuchadnezzar and that his mother, after Nebuchadnezzar’s death, was married to Nabonidus. This, however, is conjecture; and probably it is more natural to consider Belshazzar a son of Nabonidus himself.

Although the precise identity of Belshazzar may continue to be debated, available facts support accepting Daniel’s designation of Belshazzar as king. The reference to father may be construed as “grandfather.” As Pusey states, “Neither in Hebrew, nor in Chaldee, is there any-word for ‘grandfather,’ ‘grandson.’ Forefathers are called ‘fathers’ or ‘fathers’ fathers.’ But a single grandfather, or forefather, is never called ‘father’s father’ but always ‘father’ only.”

The sacred vessels taken from Jerusalem had apparently been kept in storage without sacrilegious use from Nebuchadnezzar’s day until the occasion of this feast. Now these holy vessels are distributed among the crowd and used as vessels from which to drink wine. Verse 2 cites that “the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines” drink from them; and this fact is restated in the actual act in verse 3 where only the golden vessels are mentioned. The Revised Standard Version, following the Vulgate, adds in verse 3 “and silver vessels.” This act of sacrilege was an intentioned religious gesture in praise of the gods of Babylon mentioned in descending order of importance as “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.” That Belshazzar well knew the blasphemous character of his act is evident from Daniel 5:13, 22. He knew Daniel and knew the history of Nebuchadnezzar’s experience with God’s chastening. Some have found, in the six materials mentioned, a typical reference to “the number of the world amenable to judgment because of its hostility to God.” In the original, the gods of gold and silver are separated by the conjunction “and,” not true of the listing of the gods of brass, iron, wood, and stone, as if there were two classes of deities. This distinction is supported by Keil.

Their pride in their deities may have been bolstered by the magnificence of the city of Babylon itself, interpreted as an evidence of the power of their gods. Herodotus gives a glowing account of Babylon as a monument to the genius of Nebuchadnezzar and undoubtedly a source of much pride to all the Babylonians. According to Herodotus, Babylon was about fourteen miles square, with great outer walls 87 feet thick and 350 feet high, with a hundred great bronze gates in the walls. A system of inner and outer walls with a water moat between the walls made the city very secure. So broad and strong were the walls that chariots four abreast could parade around its top. Herodotus pictures hundreds of towers at appropriate intervals reaching another 100 feet into the air above the top of the wall.

Modern interpreters view Herodotus’ figures as greatly exaggerated, with the real dimensions only about one-fourth of what Herodotus claimed. The outer wall seems to have been only seventeen miles in circumference, instead of about fifty-six as Herodotus claimed, with much fewer towers and gates; and probably even the towers were not more than 100 feet tall. While the dimensions may be questioned, the magnificence of the city was not seriously exaggerated.

The great Euphrates River flowed through the middle of the city in a general north-south direction and was bordered by walls on each side to protect the city from attack from the river. Within these walls were beautiful avenues, parks, and palaces. Many of the streets were lined with buildings three and four stories high. Among these buildings were the Temple of Bel, an eight-story structure, and the magnificent palace of the king, actually a complex of buildings, which have now been excavated. A great bridge spanned the Euphrates River, connecting the eastern section and the western or new section of the city. The bridge was later supplemented by a tunnel mentioned by Diodorus. The famed “hanging gardens” of Babylon were large enough to support trees.

babylon-represents-mans-efforts-to-replace-god-with-himselfAlthough Babylon has been only partially excavated with but a small part of the original city recovered, the system of mounds which mark the city today more or less indicate its boundaries. Archeological research is complicated by a change in the course of the Euphrates River and a higher water level, but more than 10,000 inscribed texts have been discovered.

In many respects, Babylon was the most fabulous city of the ancient world both for the beauty of its architecture and for the safety of its huge walls and fortifications. It was hard for the Babylonians to believe that even the Medes and the Persians who had surrounded their beloved city could possibly breach the fortifications or exhaust their supplies which were intended to be ample for a siege of many years. Their confidence in their gods was bolstered by their confidence in their city.

The Handwriting on the Wall

5:5-9 In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. Then came in all the king’s wise men; but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof. Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied.

While the feast was in progress with its drinking of wine and shouting of praises to the gods of Babylon, suddenly there appeared the fingers of a man’s hand which wrote on the plastered wall of the palace. With only the fingers of the hand visible and producing writing upon the wall, the spectacle immediately attracted attention.

In the ruins of Nebuchadnezzar’s palace archeologists have uncovered a large throne room 56 feet wide and 173 feet long which probably was the scene of this banquet. Midway in the long wall opposite the entrance there was a niche in front of which the king may well have been seated. Interestingly, the wall behind the niche was covered with white plaster as described by Daniel, which would make an excellent background for such a writing.

If the scene can be reconstructed, it is probable that the banquet was illuminated by torches which not only produced smoke but fitful light that would only partially illuminate the great hall. As the writing according to Daniel was written “over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace,” it may have appeared in an area of greater illumination than the rest of the room and thus also have attracted more attention.

The effect upon the king and his associates was immediate. According to Daniel, his countenance changed, that is, changed color and became pale. His thin courage, bolstered by wine drunk from vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had plundered and were seemingly a symbol of the power of the gods of Babylon, now deserted him. He was instead filled with terror to the point that “the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.” In his excitement, he no longer could sit down but hardly had the strength to stand. Probably before the babble of conversation in the banquet room had subsided, the king began to cry aloud “to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers.” Only three classes of wise men are mentioned, but it is doubtful whether any class was intentionally omitted as verse 8 refers to “all the king’s wise men.” The astrologers were actually the magicians; the Chaldeans were a broad class of scholars and learned men in the lore of the Babylonians; and the soothsayers corresponded more closely to the modern concept of astrologers, although they may have also practiced sorcery. It is possible in the decline of the Babylonian Empire that the number of the wise men was far more limited at this point in history than it was under Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. In any event, there is no proof for the suggestion discussed by Keil that the classification of wise men mentioned purposely excluded Daniel. As Keil points out, the king was ready to listen to anyone who could interpret the writing.

As soon as a suitable number of the wise men had assembled, the king addressed them offering the reward that, if one of them could read the writing and show the interpretation, he would be clothed with scarlet and have a chain of gold about his neck and become third ruler in the kingdom. To be clothed in scarlet and to wear a chain of gold about the neck were special tokens of the king’s favor and certainly would have been coveted by any of the wise men.

Much speculation has arisen concerning the expression that he offered them the position of being “the third ruler in the kingdom.” There is some question as to whether the Aramaic indicates specifically “the third ruler.” The ordinal numeral would be tÿli‚ta„y (as in Dan 2:39) whereas the Aramaic here is actually talti‚. Scholars are not agreed as to the precise meaning of this term, but the suggestion is made that it may be a title for an office of honor which did not necessarily correspond precisely to the meaning of the word. As Keil expresses it, “It is not quite certain what the princely situation is which was promised to the interpreter of the writing… That it is not the ordinale of the number third, is, since Havernick, now generally acknowledged.” However, recent scholarship has tended to confirm the translation “the third ruler.” Franz Rosenthal, for instance, confidently translates the term “one-third (ruler), triumvir.”

In spite of the problem in the word, it is probable that the offer of honor was that of being the third ruler. Belshazzar under Nabonidus was considered the second ruler, and the position of a third ruler would be the highest that he could offer. Belshazzar was evidently in no mood to bargain but was terrified and desperately desired to know the meaning of the writing.

The large reward that was offered, however, was to no avail, for the wise men who assembled could not read the writing nor interpret it. This implies a twofold difficulty. Some have claimed that the text does not plainly indicate the language. Charles, for instance, suggests that the writing was in unfamiliar ideograms. This, however, is mere conjecture. The probability is that the writing was in Aramaic and therefore not entirely unknown to the wise men.

In any case Daniel read the writing as Aramaic, and the suggestion of puns in the language depends upon the Aramaic. The difficulty of the wise men in reading the writing may have been that it was written in Aramaic script without the vowels being supplied; but if written in cuneiform, the vowels would have been included. Daniel does not explain the difficulty in reading the writing on the wall, but the problem apparently was not that it was a strange language but rather what the words signified prophetically.

The inability of the wise men to decipher the writing only increased the concern of Belshazzar. Perhaps the full force of his wickedness in using the vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem had begun to dawn upon him, or the fears suppressed concerning the presence of the armies which surrounded Babylon may have now emerged. His concern was shared by the entire assembly.

Belshazzar’s predicament is another illustration of the insecurity and powerlessness of the rulers of this world when confronted by the power and wisdom of God. How God holds in derision the rulers of the world who take counsel against Him (Ps 2:1-4)! Like Nebuchadnezzar before him, Belshazzar was soon to experience divine judgment but without the happy ending.

Daniel Suggested as the Interpreter

5:10-12 Now the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed. There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.

The crisis produced by the inability of the wise men to interpret the handwriting on the wall is met by the entrance of one described as “the queen.” Much speculation surrounds the identity of this person as it is related to the larger question of Belshazzar’s lineage. Keil and Leupold both consider her to be a wife of Nebuchadnezzar and the mother of Belshazzar. As the wives of the lords and the king himself had earlier been declared to be at the banquet (v. 3) one who had the role of “queen” would most probably be Belshazzar’s mother. She had not attended the banquet. This would be understandable if she was elderly and the widow of Nebuchadnezzar. If she were the wife of Nabonidus who was in captivity she probably would not have desired to come alone. Hearing the unusual clamor at the banquet and learning of the distress of her son, because of her position she was able to enter the banquet hall freely and speak to the king. Her address is courteous, “O king, live for ever,” but directly to the point. Like a mother, she told her son in effect to pull himself together because there must be some solution to his problem. As one holding her position was normally highly regarded and treated with respect, she could speak out in a way that no other could do. Honoring of parents was characteristic of the Israelites (Ex 20:12; 1 Ki 2:13-20; 2 Ki 24:12-15). The same was true in the Gentile world, and the dowager queen was able to enter the banquet hall without an invitation.

Montgomery, opposing the idea that the queen is Belshazzar’s wife, comments, “Also the lady’s masterful appearance on the scene betokens rather the queen-mother than the consort.” Jeffery, likewise, writes, “…she speaks to him of his father in a way that suggests a mother speaking to a son rather than a wife to a husband.”

The solution to the problem which the queen suggested was that they invite Daniel the prophet, who had been discovered as a man of wisdom by Nebuchadnezzar, to interpret the writing. The queen uses the very words which presumably she had heard Nebuchadnezzar express (Dan 4:8, 9, 18). According to the queen, Daniel had “the spirit of the holy gods.” In the time of Nebuchadnezzar, to whom she refers as “thy father,” Daniel had been found to have the wisdom of gods and possessing “light,” that is, enlightenment, “understanding” or insight, and in general wisdom comparable to the wisdom of the gods. So great was his genius that Nebuchadnezzar had made him “master” or chief of his wise men, which in itself was a remarkable position for one who was not a Chaldean; and this honor placed upon him testified to the confidence of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel’s abilities. The reference to Nebuchadnezzar as the father of Belshazzar, as previously indicated, should probably be either grandfather or greatgrandfather as the same term would be used for any of these designations. It does imply, however, that Belshazzar was in descent from Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel’s excellent qualities manifested themselves in “an excellent spirit,” unusual knowledge and understanding, and the ability to interpret dreams, difficult sentences, and “dissolving of doubts,” that is, solutions to problems. The word for doubts ( qitÿri‚n) is actually knots, joints, difficult problems. Daniel had not been assembled with the other wise men because he probably was in semiretirement and was no longer chief of the wise men. The queen urged, however, that now he be brought in to solve the present problem.

Daniel Called Before the King

5:13-16 Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee. And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not show the interpretation of the thing: And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom.

When Daniel was brought before the king, he addressed a natural question to reassure himself of the identity of Daniel. It seems clear that Belshazzar knew something of Daniel, for his form of address in verse 13 goes beyond the information supplied by his mother. He knew for instance that Daniel was of the captivity of Judah and that he was one of the captives which Nebuchadnezzar had brought out of Jerusalem. It may well be that because of awareness of his ancestry and religious convictions that Daniel had been demoted by Belshazzar himself. Now Belshazzar was all too eager to have the gifts of this man exercised to interpret the writing. Belshazzar goes on in verse 14 to repeat what his mother had said concerning Daniel’s wisdom.

Belshazzar informs Daniel of the inability of all the wise men either to read or to interpret the writing. Belshazzar then offers Daniel the same promise he made to the others of being clothed with scarlet and having a chain of gold and the privilege of being “the third ruler in the kingdom,” that is, the triumvir. As in the previous instances in Daniel 2 and 4, the wisdom of the world is demonstrated to be totally unable to solve its major problems and to understand either the present or the future. Daniel as the prophet of God is the channel through which divine revelation would come, and Belshazzar in his extremity was willing to listen.

Too often the world, like Belshazzar, is not willing to seek the wisdom of God until its own bankruptcy becomes evident. Then help is sought too late, as in the case of Belshazzar, and the cumulative sin and unbelief which precipitated the crisis in the first place becomes the occasion of downfall.

The situation before Belshazzar had all the elements of a great drama. Here was Daniel, an old man well in his eighties, with the marks of godly living evident in his bearing—in sharp contrast to the wine-flushed faces of the crowd. In the midst of this atmosphere of consternation, apprehension, and fear, Daniel’s countenance alone reflected the deep peace of God founded on confidence in God and His divine revelation.

Daniel’s Rebuke of Belshazzar

5:17-23 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this: But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:

Daniel’s reply to the king is properly called a sermon, and as King says, “What a great sermon it is!” Daniel begins by disavowing any interest in the gifts or rewards which the king offered. This was not prompted by disrespect nor by the evident fact that they would be short-lived. What Daniel is saying is that he will give an unprejudiced interpretation with no attempt to seek favor from the king. He promises both to read and to make known the interpretation.

In addressing the king, Daniel does not begin with a formal salutation as he does for instance in connection with Darius in Daniel 6:21 where he says, “O king, live for ever.” No doubt Daniel holds Belshazzar in contempt for his desecration of the sacred vessels. However, the narration here must be considered in the form of a condensation; and probably Daniel addressed the king in a formal way. A parallel is found in Daniel 2:27, where Daniel addresses Nebuchadnezzar without formal greeting, and in Daniel 4:19, where Daniel replies to Nebuchadnezzar simply with the expression, “My lord.” This was hardly a time in any case for Daniel to greet Belshazzar with such an expression as he gave to Darius, “O king, live for ever,” when as a matter of fact, Belshazzar’s hours were numbered. Instead, in verse 18 he recognizes him as king but then immediately delivers his prophetic message of condemnation.

Daniel first reminds Belshazzar that God gave Nebuchadnezzar his great kingdom and the honor that went with it. Daniel describes graphically in verse 19 how Nebuchadnezzar was feared and had absolute authority of life and death over his people and, accordingly, was an absolute sovereign. As Young points out, however, the very character of this absolute authority delegated to Nebuchadnezzar by God also made Nebuchadnezzar responsible. This is demonstrated and supported by Nebuchadnezzar’s experience of insanity in Daniel 4 when, as Daniel expresses it, “he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him.” Daniel then itemizes in detail the characteristics of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity, how he lived with the wild beasts, ate grass like the ox, and was wet with the dew of heaven. All of this proved that God was greater than Nebuchadnezzar and held him responsible for his authority. Only when Nebuchadnezzar was properly humbled did God restore him to his” glory and kingdom.

These facts are pertinent to Belshazzar’s situation as they were well known by everyone as Daniel expresses it in verse 22, “And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this.” The contrast between the supreme power of Nebuchadnezzar and the very limited power of Belshazzar is also evident. Belshazzar was not even the first ruler in the kingdom and was humiliated by the fact that Babylon was besieged and had already lost its power over the provinces surrounding the city.

Belshazzar’s situation and his knowledge of Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling made all the more blasphemous his taking of the vessels captured in Jerusalem from the house of the Lord and using them to drink wine in praising the gods of Babylon. With what eloquent scorn Daniel declares that Belshazzar, his lords, wives and concubines had drunk wine from these sacred vessels and had “praised gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified.”

Although the Scriptures do not state so expressly, it is probable that the message of Daniel to the king was heard by the entire company. It would have been quite improper for the entire company to keep on talking, especially in these dramatic circumstances, when Daniel was reporting to the king. They would naturally want to hear what he had to say. One can well imagine the tense moment as these ringing words reached every ear in the vast hail in the deathlike silence that greeted Daniel’s prophetic utterance. Here was a man who did not fear man and feared only God. Daniel spoke in measured tones the condemnation of that which was blasphemous in the sight of the holy God. There was, however, nothing insolent or discourteous in Daniel’s address to the king; and the charges were stated in a factual and objective way. In any case, the king was in no position to dispute with Daniel, even though Daniel’s words brought even greater fear and apprehension to his heart.

Daniel’s Interpretation of the Writing

me5:24-28 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

In beginning his explanation of the handwriting on the wall, Daniel first of all reads the writing; and for the first time, the words are introduced into the text of this chapter. Transliterated into English, they are given as “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” There has been almost endless critical discussion as to what the meaning of this inscription is, and the interpretation is complicated by a number of factors. In the book of Daniel the words are given in Aramaic, but some have questioned this. If it was written in Aramaic script, however, only the consonants may have appeared. If in cuneiform, the vowels would be included. While in ordinary discourse the lack of vowels could normally be supplied rather easily, in a cryptic statement such as this the addition of vowels is a problem. The inscription on the wall may have appeared like this, “MN’ MN’ TQL UPRSN.” The order of the letters in the Aramaic, of course, would be the reverse of this, that is, from right to left.

Young suggests, after some of the rabbis, that the characters may have been written vertically, and in that case in the Aramaic order they would have appeared as follows:

P T M M

R Q N N

S L ’ ’

If, in addition to the complications of the Aramaic, a language which was known, some unfamiliar form of their characters was used, it would indeed have required divine revelation to give a suitable explanation and interpretation, and may account for the difficulty in reading the writing.

Because of the variety of words that could be identified merely by the consonants, another suggestion has been made. MENE could be considered equivalent to the maneh of Ezekiel 45:12; Ezra 2:69. TEQEL could be considered as representing the Hebrew shekel PERES could be read as PERAS, or a half-maneh, although this identification is questionable. Under this interpretation, the writing would read, “A maneh, a maneh, a shekel, and a half-maneh.” Having arrived at this conclusion, however, it still remains to be determined what it means. Young in his discussion on this point gives J. Dymeley Prince the credit for the suggestion that the maneh refers to Nebuchadnezzar, the shekel (of much less value) to Belshazzar, and the half-minas refers to the Medes and the Persians. Daniel’s explanation, however, is far more cogent and reasonable, and does not give any indication that the words mean other than he indicates.

The word MENE means “numbered,” and Daniel interprets this in verse 26 as indicating “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.” It is in keeping with the idea that man’s days are numbered, and the repetition of the word twice is probably for emphasis. Like the other words, it is a passive participle.

TEQEL means “weighed,” with the thought that Belshazzar has been put into the balances and found wanting, that is, short of true weight.

PERES means “divided,” and is merely another form for UPHARSIN as in verse 25 having the u, which is equivalent to the English and, with PHARSIN being the plural of PERES. Leupold suggests that PHARSIN could be understood by changing the vowels to be “Persians” and might have a double meaning as indicated by Daniel’s explanation “given to the Medes and Persians.” A pun may be intended on this third word. Having been interpreted to mean “divided,” it is also understood as a reference to the Aramaic word for Persian, thereby hinting a Persian victory over Babylon.

The interpretation of Daniel is clear and much more satisfactory than the alternatives offered by some expositors. Belshazzar is made to understand that Babylon will be given to the Medes and the Persians. Even while Daniel was interpreting the writing on the wall, the prophecy was being fulfilled as the Medes and the Persians poured into the city.

Daniel’s Reward and the Prophecy Fulfilled

5:29-31 Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.

The drama of the writing on the wall and its interpretation is now brought to its fulfillment as Belshazzar keeps his promise. Daniel is clothed with scarlet, a chain of gold put about his neck, and a proclamation issued that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. All of these honors, however, were short-lived and useless, as Daniel well knew, and typical of the honors of this world. In its rise to power the Babylonian Empire had conquered Jerusalem, taken its inhabitants into captivity, looted its beautiful temple, and completely destroyed the city. Yet this empire was to have as its last official act the honoring of one of these captives who by divine revelation predicted not only the downfall of Babylon but the course of the times of the Gentiles until the Son of man should come from heaven. Man may have the first word, but God will have the last word.

Herodotus gives an interesting account of the circumstances surrounding the capture of Babylon:

“Cyrus… then advanced against Babylon. But the Babylonians, having taken the field, awaited his coming; and when he had advanced near the city, the Babylonians gave battle, and, being defeated, were shut up in the city. But as they had been long aware of the restless spirit of Cyrus, and saw that he attacked all nations alike, they had laid up provisions for many years, and therefore were under no apprehensions about a siege. On the other hand, Cyrus found himself in difficulty, since much time had elapsed, and his affairs were not at all advanced. Whether, therefore, someone else made the suggestion to him in his perplexity, or whether he himself devised the plan, he had recourse to the following stratagem. Having stationed the bulk of his army near the passage of the river where it enters Babylon, and again having stationed another division beyond the city, where the river makes its exit, he gave order to his forces to enter the city as soon as they should see the stream fordable. Having stationed his forces and given these directions, he himself marched away with the ineffective part of his army; and having come to the lake, Cyrus did the same with respect to the river and the lake as the queen of the Babylonians had done; for having diverted the river, by means of a canal, into the lake, which was before a swamp, he made the ancient channel fordable by the sinking of the river. When this took place, the Persians who were appointed to that purpose close to the stream of the river, which had now subsided to about the middle of a man’s thigh, entered Babylon by this passage. If, however, the Babylonians had been aware of it beforehand, or had known what Cyrus was about, they would not have suffered the Persians to enter the city, but would have utterly destroyed them; for, having shut all the little gates that lead to the river, and mounting the walls that extend along the banks of the river, they would have caught them as in a net; whereas the Persians came upon them by surprise. It is related by the people who inhabited this city, that, by reason of its great extent, when they who were at the extremities were taken, those of the Babylonians who inhabited the centre knew nothing of the capture (for it happened to be a festival); but they were dancing at the time, and enjoying themselves, till they received certain information of the truth. And thus Babylon was taken for the first time.”

Keil discusses at length both Herodotus’ account and that of Xenophon in his Cyropaedia,which is similar, and summarizes the arguments of Kranichfeld discounting these records. Discoveries since Keil tend to support Herodotus and Xenophon, although not accounting for Darius the Mede. The battle probably took place much as Herodotus records it.

Prophecy anticipating the fall of Babylon is found in both Isaiah and Jeremiah, written many years before. Isaiah and Jeremiah had prophesied that Babylon would fall to the Medes on just such a night of revelry as Daniel records (Is 13:17-22; 21:1-10; Jer 51:33-58). Some of these prophecies may have their ultimate fulfillment in the future (Rev 17-18). More specifically of the invasion of the Medes, Isaiah writes, “Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media” (Is 21:2), and continues, after describing their dismay, “My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me. Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield” (Is 21:4-5). Finally, the tidings come, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground” (Is 21:9). Jeremiah is explicit, “And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire” (Jer 51:57-58).

The account of Cyrus, himself, of the fall of Babylon has now been recovered in an inscription on a clay barrel:

Marduk, the great lord, a protector of his people/worshipers, beheld with pleasure his (i.e., Cyrus’) good deeds and his upright mind (lit.: heart) (and therefore) ordered him to march against his city Babylon… He made him set out on the road to Babylon… going at his side like a real friend. His widespread troops—their number, like that of the water of a river, could not be established—strolled along, their weapons packed away. Without any battle, he made him enter his town Babylon,… sparing Babylon… any calamity. He delivered into his (1:e., Cyrus’) hands Nabonidus, the king who did not worship him (i.e., Marduk).

Daniel himself records with graphic simplicity the fulfillment of his prophecy in the words, “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.” The concluding verse of the chapter in English versification records how Darius the Median became ruler of Babylon at the age of 62 years. The identity of this conqueror, unknown outside the Bible by this name, has touched off endless controversy and discussion which will be considered in the next chapter.

The long chapter devoted to this incident which brought the Babylonian Empire to its close is undoubtedly recorded in the Word of God not only for its historic fulfillment of the prophecies relative to the Babylonian Empire but also as an illustration of divine dealing with a wicked world. The downfall of Babylon is in type the downfall of the unbelieving world. In many respects, modern civilization is much like ancient Babylon, resplendent with its monuments of architectural triumph, as secure as human hands and ingenuity could make it, and yet defenseless against the judgment of God at the proper hour. Contemporary civilization is similar to ancient Babylon in that it has much to foster human pride but little to provide human security. Much as Babylon fell on that sixteenth day of Tishri (Oct. 11 or 12) 539 B.C., as indicated in the Nabonidus Chronicle, so the world will be overtaken by disaster when the day of the Lord comes (1 Th 5:1-3). The disaster of the world, however, does not overtake the child of God; Daniel survives the purge and emerges triumphant as one of the presidents of the new kingdom in chapter 6.

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