Friday, December 1, 2006

Belshazzar's Ways

"But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself...you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways." -- Daniel 5:23

As the curtain opens on Daniel 5, we find a merry royal party in progress. But soon a mysterious hand appears and engraves four words on the wall, striking terror into the heart of the emperor-king and all his nobles. End of party. In fact, it was the end of the empire as they knew it, and of the king's life as well.

What was the divine indictment against Belshazzar, ruler of the known world? He had not humbled himself as his father had, and had not honored the God "Who held his life and all his ways."

Good story, but what does it have to do with us modern-day Christians serving God in a Western world, in the twenty-first century? Possibly everything!

Belshazzar's epitaph rings through time, and calls us to awake from our complacent, business-as-usual lives, to the alarm of God's message: "Honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways."

While enjoying our comfortable (if utterly useless) modern lifestyles, we often console--and even convince--ourselves that we are worth a lot to the Master, for we would surely lay down our lives for Him if that should ever be necessary.

Yes, God does hold our lives in His hands. We belong to Him, so it is only natural that he might demand of us the ultimate sacrifice someday, if that should be in the interest of His kingdom. 

But what about our ways?

Ways?? What mystery does the Scripture bespeak? In addition to owning our lives, God is also Lord of our ways! We may not face death today at the hand of wild beasts, or roasted at the stake, but we do face more subtle decisions that are equally weighty. Spending Saturday mowing a lawn for the neighbor who just got out of the hospital. Working that extra half hour to make up for the long lunchtime that just happened. Keeping silent when falsely accused by a "friend".

If Jesus is Lord, then He must be Lord, not only of the last breath we take, but of every day, every hour, every decision we make moment by moment--in thought, word, and deed. Honor the God who holds in His hand your life and all your ways.

In Baroness Orczy's masterpiece The Scarlet Pimpernel, there is one scene where Sir Andrew is telling Lady Marguerite, "There are nineteen of us ready to lay down our lives for the Scarlet Pimpernel if he is in danger!" Her reply is, "There is no need for lives just now, my friend...", as she goes on to describe more practical actions that these devoted men can take to assist with the matter at hand.

At the Last Supper, Peter made a similar proclamation: "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!" But Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."

Prison and death? Very romantic, yes. Maybe someday.

How about acknowledging Jesus in everyday situations?

"Who, Him? I don't know Him. I'm not one of those weird religious types."
Oops!

And in our day...

How about that extra little tax deduction that you're pretty sure Uncle Sam wouldn't approve of? "Come on! I'll never get audited, so what does it really matter?"
Oops!

How about that banner ad that just appeared on the screen? "Switch pages? Now, wait a minute! She does have clothes on...well, not much...but at least she has her minimal underwear on!"

And...umm...was it really her underwear you were checking out??...Yeah, right! Now, what would Jesus do?
Oops!

"But you...did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways."

Why does God not move in twenty-first-century America as he did in ages past? Why do we not experience the showers of blessing that were evident during the great awakenings? Perhaps we are too busy enjoying wallowing in the everyday muck and reek of this world, craving the slops that the other pigs are eating.

"NO NEED FOR LIVES JUST NOW", Jesus is saying, "give Me your WAYS!"

In the words of Australian songwriter Reuben Morgan...
Lord, I give You my heart
I give You my soul
I live for You alone
Every breath that I take
Every moment I'm awake

Lord, have Your way in me!

Here is the key to true revival. What divine power the Church would brandish against the enemy if only Jesus were Lord of our ways!

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