March 28th, 1971 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-28-71 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church. This is the pastor bringing the message. Now the title of the sermon this morning: Drunk Kings; or we could turn it around, King of the Drunks. In our preaching through the Book of Daniel, we have come to the fifth chapter. And the Scripture reads:
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.
Belshazzar, while 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 in Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, and 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.
This fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel reads like a torrent. There is the king, and the feast, and the excess, and the drunkenness, and the debauchery, and the defamation. And there is the judgment, and the disintegration and destruction of the empire. This is the golden head that has turned to mud; just twenty-three years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar the kingdom was forever destroyed, obliterated from human history. It rushes on. And we have here a glimpse of the world in its final stages of decay and deterioration. Sin has grown to vast proportions. It has ripened until it is rotting. And the king, and his concubines, and his lords, and their female favorites are in their last drunken orgy. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” [Psalm 9:17]. It is the atmosphere of the antediluvians in the days of Noah [Genesis 6:5-6]; it is the atmosphere of Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis 18:20-21, 19:13-29].
We speak first of the feast. There’s nothing wrong in having a feast; there’s nothing wrong in Belshazzar having a great banqueting convocation of one thousand of his ministers of state [Daniel 5:1]. But that’s where the devil begins; he always begins there. Why, he says, “There’s no harm in it, there’s no harm in this, there’s no harm in that, there’s no harm in the other”; he always begins there. He is a subtle beast, the most subtle beast of the field [Genesis 3:1]. And he is never more subtle than in these suggestions so innocuous, so innocent. “There is no harm in it, why not?” Was not that the temptation that he laid before our Lord? “Turn these stones into bread [Matthew 4:3], you are hungry; forty days of fasting [Matthew 4:2], there is no harm in that.” He was never less a devil than when he suggested it to our Lord; but at the same time he was never more of the deceiver and the subtle assassin of mankind! “Turn stones into bread” [Matthew 4:3]; the temptation was to undo the incarnation itself [Matthew 1:20-25; John 1:1, 14], for He came down to be a man, and to live like a man, and men don’t turn stones into bread.
We live by the sweat of our brow. The bread is the toil of our hands. “There’s no harm in it,” he always begins there. The friendship of a boy and a girl, why, God made it that way, there’s no harm in it, that’s where he begins. He made a feast to a thousand of his lords [Daniel 5:1]; there’s no harm in that. Now banquets were so common in Babylon, but this is no common banquet. You’re going to see it in a moment poignantly, starkly. Think of the people who were there: a thousand of his lords, the nobility and the aristocracy of the whole kingdom, but each one had his guard, and his retinue, and his female favorites, and his concubines; and the place was filled with jugglers and mountebanks, and bevies of female dancers and magicians. Why, it was a banquet of at least ten thousand in attendance. But what made it so cruel and so tragic was this: Nabonidus, his father, was fighting for his life, and for his throne, and for the kingdom outside those city gates. And Nabonidus, his father, had been defeated, and he was shut up, a refugee in the city of Borsippa. And later when Babylon fell, he capitulated before Cyrus. And at that very moment, the great armies of the Medes and the Persians were besieging Babylon. You could stand on the walls of the great city and see those armies for miles encamped around. And what does this unworthy debauched son of the great Nabonidus do? He answers the crisis with an orgy [Daniel 5:1-4]. “These walls are impregnable, they are invincible, they are unassailable”; and while his father was fighting and dying, this unworthy and profligate son was calling together the concubines and all of the profligate nobility of the kingdom of Babylon for a night of excess and sin. Oh, how often to you see that repeated in human life, the father pouring out his life for the kingdom, and the son wasting it in debauchery and defamation!
One of those heads of state read a letter from a great professor in a famous northeastern university in New England. And the letter briefly read like this: “My wife and I poured into our son our finest and our best. He is now a drop-out. He interprets freedom as free love and promiscuity. He interprets democracy as the liberty to seek to destroy our institutions. And he despises his father and his mother, and lives like a bum, filthy and dirty.” You can’t believe these things; but you read them in the Scriptures, and you see them in all of the concourses of life around you. While Nabonidus the father was struggling against the hordes of the Medes and the Persians, his son Belshazzar is flinging himself into dirt, and sin, and orgy, and filth, and excess [Daniel 5:1-4].
Isn’t that amazing, how the impregnable and the unassailable and the invincible are destroyed in a night of debauchery, one night? Why, as I studied and prepared for this message, I read so many things. Cyrus, the king of the Medes and the Persians, had overwhelmed Croesus up there in Sardis, and his kingdom now extended from the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, clear down to the Persian Gulf; he had conquered all of the East. And the one prize that lay beyond him was Babylon. And I read, one of the men said, that those Persian armies had been besieging Babylon for two and a half years. Others said, as I read, that they’d been besieging the city for several months. But in one instance, I read an historian who said that the Persians were on the verge of withdrawing, the city was too mighty, too great a fortress for the aggressive clans of mere man. Those great mighty walls could not be breeched, and those impregnable towers and fortresses could not be scaled, and that it was at the very time that the armies of Cyrus were preparing to withdraw, that Belshazzar called together this orgy. And he drank wine, and his brain was inflamed, and his concubines and his female favorites and his lords gave themselves that night to intolerable and indescribable excess. You know, God has words to say about kings drinking. Kings of commerce, kings of industry, kings in politics and statesmanship, kings of nations; the thirty-first chapter of Proverbs, the words of King Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him:
What, my son? And what, the son of my womb? And what, the son of my vows?
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of the afflicted.
[Proverbs 31:2, 4, 5]
And listen again to the words of King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived:
Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes?
They that tarry long at the wine.
Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its color in the cup;
At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
Look again as he wrote in the twentieth chapter of his Proverbs, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” [Proverbs 20:1]. I have many other passages here in the Bible and I haven’t time to read them. Ah, the Scriptures have so many things to say about the excess found in that liquor.
A bride was urged by her father to drink a toast to her husband and to her home in wine, and she refused. And as her father encouraged her, she finally held up the glass and said, “Its color and its sparkle mock me; for I see in it a debauched husband, and a broken-hearted wife, and a grieving mother, and a saddened and darkened home, our home.” “Ha, ha, ha, ah, you preacher!” I would to God that I could say to you something else except that! All of the drugs, of narcotics, and hallucinogens, and all of them put together do not begin to approach the damnation and the death caused by that drug alcohol, all of it put together. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the decimation. “Wine is a mocker [Proverbs 20:1], and at the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder” [Proverbs 23:32]. So when Belshazzar was drunk; the king is drunk, his mind is inflamed, it boils in his blood, he says, “It is not enough”; it’s never enough, the drink is never isolated, and separated, it’s always in repercussions and in chains with other things; it has links, it has roots, it has outreach!
On that night, when the wine was drunk like rivers disappearing in a forest, and they brought tankards of it and tankards of it and tankards of it, and they drank and drank, then the king had an inspiration in his inebriation. En vino veritas, “in wine is truth”; “Ah,” he says, “ah,” he says, “bring in those sacred vessels that my grandfather Nebuchadnezzar brought from the holy temple of Jehovah God in Jerusalem; bring them in, and let’s desecrate and defame and debauch the name of the God of the Hebrews [Daniel 5:2]. They are a despised, unassimilated people. They’ve been a thorn in our flesh ever since we’ve tried to make them fellow citizens in this motley decolonized colony here in Babylon. Go get them.”
I want you to look at that a minute. What Nebuchadnezzar had done, the wicked king had plundered the temple in Jerusalem [Daniel 1:1-2, 5:2]. But as wicked as he was, and as vile as he was, when he brought those sacred vessels into Babylon, for seventy years they had been carefully set apart; they were trophies of war in the shrine of Marduk. And you know, I can see those Jews in Babylon by the thousands in their generations, I can see them taking their children to that shrine and standing there and pointing out to their little boys and their little girls,” You see that seven branched lampstand, see it? That was in the Holy Place in the temple of God. And you see these trays? They contained the holy showbread. See this golden altar? That was the altar of incense. And these vessels and these goblets, they were used by the holy priests to worship the Lord.”
And I can see those little boys and those little girls in those Hebrew homes look at those sacred trophies. They belong to the true God. And they were taught the faith of their fathers, unassimilated. And that was Belshazzar’s inspiration: “Let’s curse Him to His face, let’s damn His name; bring them, bring them, and let’s drink out of them, our concubines, and our female favorites, and let’s curse God to His face.” Isn’t that what that said? “They drank wine out of those sacred vessels [Daniel 5:3], and praised the gods,” and do you notice the grim list? “The gods of gold, and the gods of silver, and the gods of brass, and the gods of iron, and the gods of wood, and the gods of stone” [Daniel 5:4]. Wonder why he did that? Why, it’s very obvious. You cannot imagine, it is not translatable, the indescribable depths of Baal worship, Canaanite worship, oh! I have seen figures dug up, back there from that day. If I had more nerve I’d describe to you some of those things that are drawn; but I don’t have enough courage to do it. It is filthy beyond description. You think homosexuality is of the gutter? That is purity compared to the worship of those gods, and as they called his name, and drank to him, then followed the excess, unbelievable depths of corruption of the worship of that god. And the Lord God heard it, and the Lord God saw it. “Jehovah, the Lord God of the Hebrews, here are His vessels, here are His sacramental cups [Daniel 5:3]. Where is He Himself? Ha ha ha!” He bows in the slime before Marduk, and blasphemes the name of God.
We pick it up from there in the next sentence, in the next verse. Could I apply it just for a moment, just for a moment? To desecrate, to defame, to debauch holy things has in them a self-accompanying judgment, always, in the next sentence, in the next paragraph, in the next day. I think of the Lord’s Day, and what is happening to America. Is it a holy day any longer? It’s a holiday. Why, our own people think nothing, these who have been born again, they tell me they love God, they tell me they think nothing at all of taking God’s day, the Lord’s Day, and desecrating it, defaming it. Why, you’ll see them out on the lake, in the park, in a thousand areas, nothing at all, nothing at all, desecrating sacred things.
And think of the hearts of our people: they are sacred for God; the temple of the Holy Spirit is now these temples, this temple, and His throne is my heart, it belongs to God [1 Corinthians 6:19-20], and is to be filled with all of the holy visions and dreams and ambitions of the Lord. If in our hearts we have visions for our children, they’re to be godly visions. If we have in our hearts ambitions for our lives, they’re to be godly ambitions. If we have in our hearts prayers for our homes, they’re to be godly prayers. Every dream and every plan and every purpose, every outreach, every hope is to be God-ward and heavenward. But instead we desecrate our hearts; we defame our souls. Our hearts are filled with all kinds of things of lust, and of greed, and of avarice, and of pride, and of self-will, and finally of blasphemy and rebellion and rejection.
O Master, how we need a Daniel, a prophet of God to come before us and to lay upon our souls these awesome things that God hath written in His Book, that our souls might be saved from damnation, that our homes might be delivered from hell, that our nation and our land and our country might have in it those who lifted in intercession and prayer unto God. O Lord, how we need Thy strength, and Thy presence, and Thy help, and Thy forgiving mercy and grace in our souls and in our lives. We need the Lord.
And that is our appeal this morning. You, a family you, a couple you, or just one you, “Pastor, I’m not equal for the world, and I know it. I need the Lord just as you do. It’s an uneven battle, He is stronger than I, and I’m taking the Lord for my friend, and my refuge, and I’m asking Jesus to see me through.” Come, let God win the war for you, He will. “Pastor, I want to put my life in the circle and circumference of the church of God’s people. I know how it is out there, and I don’t want to go that direction. I want to be with God’s people, and I want to be in this dear church, where we can pray and love the Lord, and I can bring up my children in the nurture and admonition of Christ Jesus. I want to be here. I don’t want to be out there, I want to be here. I want to be with the Lord, and with God’s people, and I’m coming.”
In a moment when we stand up to sing, you stand up coming. You’re in that farthest seat in the balcony, no mind; there’s time and to spare, come down one of these stairways to the front. You’re on this lower floor, into that aisle and down here to the pastor, “Here I come, pastor, and here I am. Give you my hand, give you my hand, I’ve given my heart to God [Romans 10:9-10], I’m going His way.” Do it, make the decision now, make it now, and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming. God speed you in the way as you come, while we stand and sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The Feast
A. No harm in having a feast
B. Over one thousand lords attend
C. The banquet occurs while the nation is being taken over by the Medes
II. Invincible lost in drunkenness and debauchery
A. The walled city kept out the enemy for months
B. Wine is not for kings
III. The insult to God