There are 7 books of the Bible that were written by men (and women) who lived during this time period. They are Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Among these were prophets, scribes, governors, and a queen. There are also some isolated references to these years in other books of the Bible, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah. For the purposes of this series, we will focus primarily on the writings of Ezra and Nehemiah, and will mention passages from these other books when appropriate.
The goal of this series is to discover what God has to say about rebuilding the church. We will study how the people of this era reconstructed the Temple, reestablished the worship, and revitalized their city and nation. I believe that these lessons will have direct application to us here at Calvary Baptist Church, as we seek to do the same - to rebuild our church.
"Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Because you have not obeyed My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. Moreover, I will take from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years." - Jeremiah 25:8-11
In the year 612 BC the Babylonians destroyed the capital city of Nineveh, and become the world’s newest “superpower” effectively replacing the Assyrians. In the years that followed they subdued many surrounding nations including Judah, forcing them all to become subject states of and pay tribute to Babylon.
In 605 BC under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, they deported many prominent young men and women from Jerusalem to Babylon. One of these was Daniel, probably just a teen at the time he was taken captive. Daniel was educated and trained to serve the Babylonian king, and he spent most of his life doing just that. The book of Daniel describes many of the notable events that happened during his life.
In today’s sermon, the year is 539 BC some 66 years after Daniel became an exile. He is now around 80 years of age, and during his life in captivity he has seen several Babylonian kings come and go. The current king is Belshazzar, considered by many scholars to be the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar has thrown a party at his palace and invited many guests, not realizing that the end of the mighty Babylonian Empire was imminent.
A. The Magnificent Feast (Daniel 5:1-4)
The name “Belshazzar” means “Baal protect the king”. Belshazzar was a highly religious person, a man of faith - but his faith was misplaced. One’s faith is only as good as the object or person it is placed in. Powerless god = powerless faith. Despite the rising influence of the Persians, Belshazzar was so comfortable that he threw a grand party. He discounted their strength, believing that his god’s would protect him and that his kingdom was impenetrable. Belshazzar demeaned the holy articles that had been taken from the Jewish Temple, using them as instruments to worship and praise other gods. This was a direct assault on Jehovah God.
B. The Mysterious Finger (Daniel 5:5-9)
The world will never be able to interpret and understand the “writing on the wall”. They desire to know what it says, but are simply unable to read it. As such, there are countless theories about who God is and what He says. Because it remains unknown to them, the “writing on the wall” is a source of fear and uncertainty for those who can’t read it. In other words, life apart from God can be a scary place to be.
C. The Man Forgotten (Daniel 5:10-16)
Daniel had served Nebuchadnezzar so well in his younger years that the queen mother remembered him all these years later. It challenges me to consider how memorable my service for God might be. When the opportunity arose, it was Daniel who was used by God to read the writing on the wall. It just goes to show us that God still uses older people and that there is no retirement from Christianity. The younger believers today desperately need to see and learn from the activity of our senior saints.
D. The Message Foretold (Daniel 5:17-28)
Daniel rejects the king’s offer of gifts, not desiring to receive material possessions from the king. He was not interested in worldly riches or power. Daniel explained that Nebuchadnezzar had been successful because of God’s sovereign design, but that his pride and arrogance led to his downfall - he literally went crazy. Although Belshazzar knew this about his grandfather, still he was repeating the same haughty behavior. Why is it that we never seem to learn the lessons of our history? Daniel boldly declared truth to the king. He told Belshazzar that the gods he was serving were powerless, that Jehovah was/is the true God, and that it was He who had written on the wall. He read God’s message to the king - a proclamation of God’s judgement against Belshazzar and the Babylonian Empire. As Christians today, we are called to warn the world of the consequences of sin.
E. The Mighty Fallen (Daniel 5:29-31)
Belshazzar heard the message but basically ignored everything that Daniel said. Ever done that? He proceeded to lavish Daniel with gifts and promoted him to a high royal position. His actions indicate that he’d missed the point completely. That very night Babylon fell to the Persians and the king was killed. Cyrus, the king of Peria, installed Darius the Mede to rule over the area of Babylonia.
During the 70 year reign of Babylon, the people of God were largely silent. They had virtually no influence and were powerless before their oppressors. Their homeland was destroyed, their cities were burned, and their Temple was demolished. But now that Babylon had been defeated, a new era was about to begin - a time to return to the promised land and rebuild that which had been broken.
God took the children of Israel into their captivity, remained with them there, and was now about to bring them out and give them another chance. Would they be able to rise to the challenge? As our church - Calvary Baptist - seeks to rebound from years of decline and hardship, will we rise to it? There is work to be done - it is time to rebuild the church...