March 28th, 1971 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-28-71 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Drunk Kings. I could have entitled it "King of the Drunks." Maybe I should have because it fits the sermon exactly today.
In our preaching through the Book of Daniel, we have come to chapter 5. And the message is an expounding of the first four verses of Daniel, chapter 5:1-4.
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, and their 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, and their wives, and their 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 is the first and preluding scene in a chapter of human history that rushes by like a torrent: the king, and his feast, and the orgy, and the drunks, and the lascivious program, and the defamation, and desecration, and blasphemy, and the judgment, and the awesome destruction and murder, the loss of the first golden empire of the Gentiles. This happened within a few hours of its dissolution. The head of gold has turned to crass mud, and filth, and dirt, and rot! You have a glimpse here of the last days of the decadence of any civilization. They all follow the same pattern. Finally, evil grows to vast proportions, and the ripened fruit rots, and hell itself opens and yawns. "The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God" [Psalm 9:17]. You have here the atmosphere of the antediluvians in the days of Noah and of Sodom and Gomorrah.
"Belshazzar the king made a great feast." Why, there’s no harm in making a feast. No harm at all. But that’s where the devil begins, and he always begins just there. Why, there’s no harm in it, making a great feast. Why, they had a thousand feasts in the ancient Babylon. And the king makes a great feast. He always begins there, Satan [does]. There’s no harm in it. He’s a subtle beast, and he’s the most subtle of the beasts that God created [Genesis 3:1].
To the Lord Jesus: "You are hungry. Forty days and forty nights You fasted. Turn these stones into bread [Matthew 4:2]. You are hungry." Why, could it be less of a devil? How innocent the suggestion. But was he ever more the deceiver and the assassin of mankind. What it means is the undoing of the incarnation. He [Jesus] came down to be a man and to live like a man, to be incarnated human flesh. And men don’t turn stones into bread. We work and earn our bread. An innocent suggestion; there’s no harm in it. He always begins there.
The relationship between a boy and a girl; God made it that way, but Satan begins there. A reefer, a joint, a marijuana cigarette; there’s no harm in it. He begins there.
You’re the treasurer of the store, of the bank; what is it to borrow a little money? You’re going to pay it back. You may be the treasurer of the church. You are going to borrow a little money. You’ll pay it back. There’s no harm in it. He begins there. Satan always begins there.
A great feast, why, there’s nothing wrong in a feast. But this feast, this feast, you’ll see. This feast, a thousand of his lords, why, every one of them had his retinue, his guards, his favorite females, the bevies of dancers, the musicians, the jugglers, the mighty banks, the entertainers. By the time they were congregated, there were at least ten thousand in that vast banquet hall in ancient Babylon. But the time of it and the setting of it is unbelievable and unthinkable and unimaginable. For outside those walls, his father, Nabonidus, is fighting for his throne and for his kingdom and for his life. He is warring against the invading hordes of the Medes and the Persians under King Cyrus. And Nabonidus, the Babylonian king, has been defeated, and he’s shut up a refugee in Borsippa. After the fall of Babylon, he capitulated himself. And around that city on every side, as you stood on top of the walls, as far as you can see in every direction, were the camps of the Medes and the Persians.
And at a time when his father is fighting and warring for the life of the empire, this profligate and voluptuous son calls for an orgy of his lords and his concubines. And they revel and drink to the unseemly, unnamable gods of dirt, and filth, and corruption, and sin, and excess. You can’t believe it. And yet as I read that story, I think of how common and how ordinary it is. There are noble fathers and noble mothers, and their sons betray them and bring their heads down to grief and to despair.
One of the heads of state last Friday read a letter, one of the most heartbreaking letters I ever heard read. It was written by a famous professor in a university, a world-famed university in New England. And in that letter he said, "We brought up our boy in the Lord and to honor his country and to revere his home and his parents." The letter continued, "Our son is a dropout. He interprets freedom as freedom for love and promiscuity. He interprets democracy as an open opportunity to defame our institutions and to seek for the overthrow of our country. And he despises his father and his mother. And he lives in filth and on drugs."
Nabonidus, who by the way was one of the most cultured kings who ever lived, he was an antiquarian, an archeologist, not much of a soldier, but a noble man in all of his affinities. And while Nabonidus is outside those walls fighting for his life, Bel-shazzar, this profligate and corrupted son, calls together this orgy. And as they assemble, there he stands in the midst behind his impregnable, unassailable and invincible walls. And yet this is one of the most astonishing verdicts of history. What empires and generations of men have erected and built up and what seems to be unassailable can be destroyed in debauchery in an hour!
Why, bless you, when I read these books in histories and the whole library, getting ready for this message, I read where those Medes and Persians had been besieging Babylon when this happened for two and a half years. Other historians say it was for many months. Then I read that after the months and the months and possibly the years of besieging that city that the Medes and Persians were in the process of withdrawing.
Cyrus the king had conquered Croesus and Sardis. And his empire extended from the Caspian and Black Sea clear down to the Persian Gulf. He had conquered the entire East. And only one jewel lay unclaimed, and that was the city of Babylon. And they assaulted it and besieged it on every side, and had finally, failing, withdrawn. It is unassailable. It is not open to the aggressive power of men. And it was at that time, when they could not breach the walls or scale the towers, that this profligate son called together this orgy. And as I think in history, in that same place, in that same city, and in that same palace, Alexander the Great, two hundred years later, Alexander the Great who had been undefeated by the armies of the world, Alexander the Great fell and lost his life in a drunken debauchery in that same place, in one hour, in one night. As I think through the story of history, when Napoleon came to Waterloo, what all of the armies of Europe had not been able to do, that morning when the Duke of Wellington joined the battle and they rushed word to Marshal Ney, he had drunk too much of his favorite burgundy the night before; and when they roused him out of his stupor, the mind of Marshal Ney was befuddled and clouded. Waterloo. Drunk kings.
You know, it’s an astonishing thing to me how much there is in the Bible about God’s address to the rulers of the people, kings of commerce, kings of industry, kings of finance, kings of states and nations and cities. 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 strong wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
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: they that go to seek mixed drinks.
Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its color in the cup.
At last, it biteth like a serpent, and it stingeth like an adder.
Or look again at Solomon as he writes, "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise" [Proverbs 20:1]. I have others. I haven’t time to read them. Ah, ah, a bride, urged by her father to drink a liquor toast, a wine toast to her husband and to her home, she refused. And he egged her on, pushed her on. She finally lifted up the glass of wine and the young bride said, "Its color and its sparkle mock me, for therein I see a debauched husband, and a broken-hearted wife, and a grieving mother, and a darkened, saddened home – our home."
"Ha, ha, ha, ha! That’s ministerial stupidity!" Listen. If you had all of the addicts, those who take hallucinogens, those who take narcotics, those who take the barbiturates, and those who take amphetamines, have them by the thousands before you, they are not a drop in the bucket compared to the uncounted millions and millions whose lives now are destroyed and are being destroyed by that glass of liquor. "The preacher is a fool!" Then God is a fool; I’ve just read out of the Word of the Lord what a crazed mind under the drug of alcohol is capable of doing.
Nabonidus his father, out battling for his life, and the profligate son Belshazzar inside the wall, drinking in an orgy with his concubines and the whole bevy of female favorites, drinking to the gods of gold, silver and iron, and dust, and rust, and filth, and corruption [Daniel 5:2] – then he has an inspiration. You always have inspirations when you are drunk. He has inspirations.
Wine is flowing now like the disappearing of rivers in a forest. And it boils in his veins, and it inflames his mind. And he has an inspiration. En vino veritas, "In the wine is the truth." He has an inspiration. His father, actually his grandfather, his father Nebuchadnezzar had plundered and pillaged the holy temple in Jerusalem and had taken out of the holy city these beautiful articles of furniture and vessels of gold and silver. He has an inspiration. Let’s take them. Send for them. Why, this wine deserves the finest goblets. Such fine alcohol deserves the finest vessels. And what is sin if you don’t refine it? His father perpetrated that wickedness of destroying the Holy City and plundering the holy temple. What is sin if it isn’t refined and innovated and brought up to date? These movies, maybe in days past when I was a boy, we have a movie, and it might be suggestive, and it might be a triangle of love in it, but today what is a movie if you can’t portray there the nudity and the nakedness and the filth of downright corruption and dirt? Belshazzar: "My father plundered the temple and took the vessels. I shall refine it. I shall defame them and desecrate them. I shall blaspheme the name of the God to whom they were dedicated."
Now those vessels had remained holy and sacred in Babylon for seventy years. They were trophies of war, and they were placed there in a sacred shrine. I’m not exaggerating when I say to you that I can easily see in mind’s eye every Jewish family in Babylonia taking their little boys and their little girls to that shrine. And the father and the mother stand there and say, "Son, you see that seven-branched golden lampstand? It shined in the holy temple of Jehovah God in the Holy City. And sweet little daughter, do you see that golden altar? It burned incense as our prayers went up to the name of the holy and only God in Jerusalem. Children, do you see these goblets and these plates? On the sacred plate, the showbread was placed once every Sabbath day." And to the Jew those were sacred symbols of the one true and living God.
And this profligate pig, this son of dirt, and filth, and corruption, and blasphemy, he says, "These Jews are assimilated in this motley throng, people who have been colonized here in Babylonia and in Babylon, they’re peculiar. They are separate and apart. Let’s defame and damn their God! And that’s the way he did it. He took those sacred vessels, and he poured and parceled them out to his paramours and his mistresses and his concubines. And the thousand lords did the same. Do you notice how they name it here? They drank wine and praised the gods, then this long grim list, praised the "gods of gold, and of silver, and of brass, and of iron, and of wood, and of stone" [Daniel 5:2-4]. I don’t have any opportunity to do it in public. But if I did have, I don’t have the courage to do it. Those gods of the Canaanites, of the Babylonians, the way they worshipped them was unthinkable, unthinkably corrupt and vile. I have seen pictures engraved on vessels like a face, little carvings dug up from that civilization. When I looked upon what they were depicting, my mind could not imagine it. Compared to what these gods represented and the way they were worshiped, homosexuality is a modern day virtue compared to the filth of that. They took those vessels and those sacred goblets and those plates on which the sacred showbread had been placed, and they blasphemed the name of Almighty God.
We have to stop there. There’s another verse. There’s another paragraph. There’s another chapter. "The Lord God looked down from heaven, and the Lord God heard the blasphemy." We’ll pick it up next Sunday morning. The title of the sermon will be: The Handwriting on the Wall. Wherever you find sin, rot, wherever you find national decay, you don’t need a prophet to point out the handwriting on the wall.
Now, just for a moment, let me say a word about us today. The desecration, the defamation of sacred and holy things, the Lord’s Day, is it not a sacred day? Does it not belong to God? Is it not said, is it not described, is not the word itself the Lord’s plural day? It’s His day. And yet modern America and the modern Christian people are increasingly making it not a holy day, but a holiday. It’s a day to forget God, the Lord’s Day.
Ten thousand things could I name. I name just one of them. Things that are sacred and holy and belong to God; but we desecrate them and defame them and defile them. A man’s heart; do not the holy words say, "The temple of the holy God, now the Spirit of the Lord now dwells in the human heart. You are not your own. You are bought with a price. The body is the temple of God" [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. On the throne of our hearts, who reigns? Who’s there? Who sits, and drives and decides and dreams and judges and reaches out? Who’s on the throne, the sacred throne of our hearts? Sometimes it’s avarice, sometimes it’s lust, sometimes it’s greed, sometimes it’s pride, sometimes it’s self-will, sometimes it’s a thousand other gods. Who ought to be there? Who ought to be enthroned in your hearts? Should it not be Him before whom we bow in love and adoration? Should it not be the Lord Christ who is honored in our hearts?
O Lord, who’s on the throne in my life? Who reigns over my soul? Lord, every vision we have, every dream to which we aspire, every ambition, the outreach of our lives, the house, the home, the children, the work, the job, the assignment, the position, our aims, our goals, everything, Lord, ought to be as unto Thee. Is it? Is it? Who is enthroned in that sacred place that belongs to God alone in our hearts? That’s what the apostle meant when he said, "I die daily" [1 Corinthians 15:31]; dead to self, dead to every personal dream and ambition, and alive in Christ, resurrected in Him.
O Master, how do you do it? In our own self, we cannot. It lies in the prerogative of God. The Lord must help us. And that’s why we need God. We cannot do it alone. We can’t make it by ourselves. We haven’t the strength. It must be in God.
And that’s our appeal to your heart today. In a moment we’re going to sing this song and while we sing it, a family you to come to Jesus, a couple you, a one somebody you, while we sing this hymn of appeal, come. "Pastor, I don’t want to go that way out in the world. I want to go God’s way, heaven’s way, your way. I want to join myself to the people of the Lord." You come. In that topmost balcony, you, there’s time and to spare, come. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, come. As the Master shall press the appeal to your heart, answer with your life. "Here I am, here I come." Make the decision now in your heart right where you are, right where you sit. Make the decision now in your heart. And when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming down one of these stairways, into the aisle and here to the front. "Here I am, pastor, we are making that choice today, and it is for God." Do it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.