- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. John Odean at Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Millersville, Md.

By the fifth chapter of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar's son, Belshazzar, has become king and is throwing a big party for 1,000 nobles. While they were drinking wine, Belshazzar "gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem."
The verb "to drink" is used often in this text, but not in the sense that you may have beer with your crabs. It connotes "to be a drunkard" and to do wicked deeds. This was a party thrown strictly for drinking like the parties thrown when I was a kid, when the only purpose was to get wasted.
Isn't it strange that drinking, getting sick, and not remembering anything is viewed as "having fun." I thank God that I put that behind me years ago. There is nothing more fun, in my opinion, than seeing people who are broken and addicted and separated being freed in Christ.
Belshazzar's party gave free reign to any appetite you can imagine. He brought in his wives and concubines. It's the same today. You go to a party with one goal, to get loaded and hook up with somebody. It's a terrible thing. And the royal coffers funded this for Belshazzar.
Have you learned how our appetites work? They get bored after a while, and we want something deeper, wilder, higher than before. As with using drugs or having sex outside the context in which God intended, you have to kick it up a notch to scratch that itch. This happens in life. With the first step, people never imagine they will end up way out there, destroying a life.
So Belshazzar takes his drinking party up a notch. He brings these sacred goblets into the orgy, and he mocks God. It was an ugly thing to do. My point today is not about Christians and drinking. You must work that out with the Lord. Some say, "Liquor has never touched my lips, so I am a spiritual man, not a carnal man." But the only place where the Bible separates the sheep from the goats is on our relationship with Jesus Christ. When our life flows from that relationship, we can keep the Bible's message against the misuse or abuse of anything God has given. In Belshazzar's drunkenness, it was easier to be wicked, and so he called for the sacred vessels.
Many people struggle with addictive behavior and find no way out. Freedom from addiction starts by acknowledging it, and finding support in the body of Christ. "Who the Lord sets free, is free indeed." When a member of the family has a serious problem, we do intervention, right? But look at the intervention with Belshazzar. All of a sudden, a hand appears and God writes words on the wall. The king's "knees knock together" in fear and he "called out for the enchanters, the astrologers, the diviners." He would reward them with power, but no one could deciper the words, "mene, mene, tekel, parsin." So the king "became even more terrified."
His wife told him about Daniel, who years ago was his father's top adviser. Imagine the scene. Daniel is now in his 80s. He is woken up and brought into the orgy, and Belshazzar says, "Are you Daniel?" He did not even know the top man in his father's Cabinet.
For a long time, Belshazzar strategically avoided the truth about himself and the truth about God. He was to honor God and serve the people. Daniel says, "You knew all this." But Belshazzar became arrogant and corrupt. The words meant, "You are measured and found wanting," and Daniel tells the king plainly it's all over for him. And that night, Belshazzar is slain.
Think of those words: "You knew all this." We know what is right. We know what God wants of us. But as with Belshazzar, it is this simple. We avoid responsibility for knowing the truth because we want to do what we want to do.

Next week: A sermon by the Rev. Guy A. Williams Sr. at Parker Memorial Baptist Church in Silver Spring.

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