Early on in the Book of Genesis we are told about an empire that rose to power by building a great city that was centered around a great tower, a man-made mountain designed to operate as a temple, a stairway to the gods. And to celebrate their great ambitions, the citizens of that empire named their city ”Babylon”, which means Gateway of the Gods.
Unfortunately, they managed to catch the attention of the true God, who came down — along with his entire angelic army — to take a look at their little building project. And he decided, “…no. This kind of false religious-political unity is only going to result in tyranny and destruction.” So he scrambled their language so that they could not understand each other.
And quite naturally the empire collapsed, divided by the weight of its own diversity. It collapsed into linguistic confusion, and people renamed that city ”Babel”, which means Confusion.
But out of that confusion, out of that empire’s collapse, God drew one family: Abraham and his wife, Sarah. And the rest of the Book of Genesis traces the growth of this family from one son to two sons to twelve sons. And Genesis ends by following the story of one of those twelve sons, Joseph: how he was sold into slavery in Egypt, how he earned wisdom through a time of severe testing, how he was raised up out of a living death to become the Prime Minister of the Egyptian empire, how he became the saviour of the world at that time by persuading the Egyptian king to follow God’s wisdom. What a triumph!
But then the Book of Exodus continues the story, and we are told that a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt…and this king, fearful of the Israelites’ exploding population and prosperity, begins a reign of terror: he tries to wipe them out.
Well, Daniel is now re-living Joseph’s experience. He was effectively sold into slavery in Babylon. He learned wisdom through a time of severe testing. He was saved from death to become a royal cabinet member in the king’s court. Like Joseph, Daniel became fully integrated into a foreign empire, while also remaining distinct and faithful to his own identity as one of God’s people. Like Joseph, he actually became a kind of saviour — not by feeding people food, but by feeding their king God’s wisdom, so that he could rule his people more justly, more mercifully. And we saw how, at the end of Chapter 4, God even used Daniel’s ministry to lead that king — Nebuchadnezzar — to praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven. What a triumph!
But this is now Chapter 5. And a new king, to whom Daniel means nothing, has come to power in Babylon.
In fact, by the time we get to Chapter 5, several new kings have come and gone since Nebuchadnezzar died, and even this new king — Belshazzar — has been in power for about 10 years at this point.
And this king of Babylon, just like the king of Egypt after the time of Joseph, is afraid. However, unlike the king of Egypt, he is not afraid of God’s people, the Jewish people — the descendants of the ancient Israelites — who are now living scattered throughout his empire. No, King Belshazzar is afraid of a new empire that has been growing on his northern border.
This is the famous empire of the Medes and the Persians: two separate nations who had been recently joined together into one powerful unit by a military genius named Cyrus. And over the last 10 years or so King Cyrus has been busy conquering the world: to the north as far as Pakistan; to the west as far as the Greek kingdoms.
And now he has begun to move south, into Babylonian territory. He has already captured the citadel of Susa, on the Babylonian border — the same place that Daniel was transported to during his vision in Chapter 8, back in the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign. Here, seven or eight years later, Susa now belongs to Persia. The defeated Babylonian army is retreating, step by step, and they have taken up a strong defensive position on the plain to the north of the city of Babylon. They are determined to stop the Persian army, and throw them back out — but nothing is certain.
So what does King Belshazzar do with his fear?
Well, he does what any of us would do in his situation, I suppose: he gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them.  While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them.  So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them.
Now, this may not make sense to us, but apparently what Belshazzar is doing is trying to raise morale. He is trying to lift up the fighting spirit of his empire. He knows that the Persian army is marching south to meet the Babylonian army, and that this battle will decide the future of his empire.
And Belshazzar wants to make sure that his nobles and generals are not tempted to switch sides. Because they very well could! That sort of thing happened all the time in the ancient world. People were always “crossing the aisle” — as we might put it today — for their own political and financial benefit, especially during times of crisis.
Thank goodness politicians no longer do this, eh? Imagine how stressful and confusing that would be! — how cynical we would become about our political systems if that sort of behaviour still happened!
Okay. Moving on:
Basically, an emergency election has been called. Soon, men will be voting with their swords. And Belshazzar needs to show his constituents that the ruling coalition is still the winning side. He needs to show them that he is unconcerned about the opposition party. He needs to show them that he is still wealthy enough to reward his loyal supporters. Above all he needs to demonstrate that the gods are still on his side: all the gods. So he has probably brought in all kinds of sacred objects from all the different temples in the city — including the sacred objects of the Jewish God — and he is throwing an orgy of worship and celebration. So that is why, for instance:
 As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
This feast is a public demonstration of King Belshazzar’s political and spiritual power. This feast is a way of demonstrating his invincible rule over men and gods.
 Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote.  His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.
“His legs became weak” is a very polite translation. In the original language it says “the knots of his joints were loosened”: he lost control of his…digestive system, shall we say.
Which is meant to be yet another ironic comment on mankind’s arrogance: just as King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to control his empire through a golden image, but could not control his own image — his own emotions — when Daniel’s friends refused to obey, so also King Belshazzar has pretentions of controlling the gods, but he can’t even control his own bodily functions when God actually shows up.
And so  the king summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”
We have seen this before, haven’t we? At least twice, King Nebuchadnezzar had a frightening spiritual experience, and called in his wise men to explain it to him. King Belshazzar is following the same pattern, including this promise of great rewards if the wise men are successful.
But there are no successful wise men:  they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant.  So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.
And apparently the noises they were making stopped being party noises and turned into terrified noises, because the queen notices the difference and comes into the banquet hall. “May the king live forever!” she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale!  There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners.  He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”
Now, this leads us to ask a couple of questions:
First, who is this queen? Is this Belshazzar’s wife?
No. Belshazzar’s wives and concubines are already there at the feast. We don’t know for certain, but most likely this was Belshazzar’s grandmother on his mother’s side: Nebuchadnezzar’s wife. She was still around at this time, and other historical sources also talk about how she continued to exercise a powerful influence in court right up until the end.
Second question: why doesn’t Belshazzar know who Daniel is? He would have been a teenager during the last years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign; surely he would have seen Daniel there in court? Certainly he would have heard the stories!
Well…yes, exactly! Belshazzar does know who Daniel is. He knows the old stories. And that is why the queen actually has a scolding tone here. Notice how she started her speech? “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale!” She is basically telling Belshazzar, “You know what to do here! Why are you wasting time with these losers when the wisest advisor your grandfather ever had is still around?”
And that is a very good question: why didn’t Belshazzar send for Daniel right away?
Could it be because he knows that Daniel is a Jew, and that Daniel will not be happy to come in and find the sacred dishes of his Jewish God being defiled? Could it be that Belshazzar already suspects that this writing on the wall is actually a message from Daniel’s God, and that it’s not a good message?
For certain, Belshazzar does know that Daniel is a Jew, because that is the first thing he says when Daniel is brought before him: “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah?
So that is a rude way to start, isn’t it: by reminding Daniel that he is basically a captured slave from a defeated nation?
But Belshazzar is not finished being rude:
 “I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom.  The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it.  Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”
Belshazzar knows who Daniel is. He knows the old stories. But he does not want to promote Daniel back into a position of power. So his attitude is, basically, “I’m not going to believe it until I see it for myself. Prove your powers to me!”
Well, like the old queen, Daniel does not have much patience for this punk. He is about 80 years old at this point, after all. So he says, “You can take your gifts and your rewards and you can shove them up…nevermind, it’s something we used to say back in Judea. At any rate, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.”
Then Daniel goes on to give Belshazzar an extended scolding. He retells the history of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, how the Most High God lifted him up into power, how his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, and then how God taught him humility by bringing him down to the level of an animal until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms.
 “But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this!  Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven! You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.
Now, we cannot help but notice that Daniel’s approach here is very different than it was back in Nebuchadnezzar’s time. Back then, Daniel was gentle, respectful; even when he had a message of judgement for Nebuchadnezzar, he also offered a way out, a way to escape that judgement.
Why is he so rude and direct now?
Because Nebuchadnezzar did not know any better at first. With Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was obligated to take his time, to give Nebuchadnezzar room to grow in his understanding of who God is and what God requires of a king.
But, as Daniel just pointed out in verse 22, Belshazzar knew all this. Belshazzar grew up in a court ruled by a grandfather who knew the Jewish God, who praised the Jewish God, who wrote letters to his empire about the Jewish God. But what has Belshazzar done with this knowledge? He refuses to believe the testimony of those who have gone before him. Even worse, he takes the sacred dishes of the Jewish God and deliberately defiles them as a show of power, as a way of proving that he is greater and more courageous than his grandfather. And then he asks all his pagan gods — gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone — to help him win the coming battle, when he knows very well that the Jewish God alone holds the power of life and death.
 ”Therefore,” Daniel goes on, “I have some good news for you: since you would not listen to the testimony of people, God has decided to communicate with you directly! He sent the hand that wrote the inscription.
 “This is the inscription that was written: mene, mene, tekel, parsin.
Now, these words are written in Aramaic, which is the language of the Babylonians. Why couldn’t the other wise men read them? They read Aramaic, don’t they?
Yes. They do read Aramaic. But the problem is this: these words make no sense on their own. They are units of measure that were used to weigh things in the marketplace. To translate them into modern terms, we could say it like this: kilograms, kilograms, gram, half a gram. Or: pounds, pounds, pound, half a pound.
So you tell me: what does that mean? No wonder the wise men looked at that and said, “…mmmmmm, we have no idea how to explain that to you, your majesty.”
But Daniel does:
 “Here is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.  Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.  Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
Now, how does Daniel know this? Is he receiving some kind of mystical revelation while he stands there looking at the wall?
No. Daniel is simply acting as a good prophet of God: he is simply applying God’s previous Word to this situation.
Remember, about eight to ten years before this, Daniel received two visions from God that revealed some details of the future to him. The first vision talked about a king who would gain power for a time, times, and then have his time cut in half by God. So it was pretty easy, actually, for Daniel to see that “kilograms, gram, half a gram” is basically the same concept as “a time, times, half a time”. All Daniel has done is apply this concept to King Belshazzar now: God gave him so much weight and substance, power and wealth; Belshazzar has wasted that weight, spent it on himself, even to abusing God’s sacred possessions; and now God is going to cut him short.
And Daniel’s second vision made it explicitly clear that God is going to use the Medo-Persian empire to do the cutting. Remember how he saw that the two-horned ram would conquer the world to the west and the north and the south? Daniel has known for eight years already that Babylon will eventually fall to Persia. So it was pretty easy, actually, for Daniel to see that “eventually” is now.
But, going back once again to our question of Daniel’s attitude toward Belshazzar here: why doesn’t Daniel give Belshazzar a way out? Why doesn’t he tell him, “Look, you can still repent and be saved”, like he did with Nebuchadnezzar back in Chapter 4?
Because Belshazzar is out of time. This point here is more like what happened to Nebuchadnezzar after Daniel warned him to repent, after Nebuchadnezzar refused to repent: one year later he was walking on the roof of his palace, and gave glory to himself as if he was God, and that is when a voice from heaven spoke and passed judgement upon him.
In the same way, Belshazzar has already been warned to repent many times, basically every time his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar told that old story about how he refused to repent and how he was deliberately humbled by the hand of God in consequence. And now, as Belshazzar has given glory to himself as if he was God — eating out of God’s dishes — a hand from heaven has written and passed judgement upon him.
Daniel’s job here, as a prophet, is simply to tell Belshazzar that his time is up now: the opportunity for repentance is past.
 Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.
So Daniel is promoted once again to the royal court, just as he had been back in Nebuchadnezzar’s day. And it is hard to tell why Belshazzar does this, since Daniel has just told him that very soon there will be no royal court. It could be that this is Belshazzar’s attempt to get God on his side by promoting God’s servant…?
If that is what he was hoping for, it doesn’t work:
 That very night the election takes place: Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain,  and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.
Several other ancient historians also wrote about this event. Unfortunately, their accounts are confusing, incomplete. Some are even contradictory. Ancient Persian records say that King Cyrus arrived and the citizens of Babylon threw open the gates and welcomed him as a liberator from their own incompetent kings. But: hello, propaganda! The Babylonian records basically say they were taken by surprise. Another historian from this period says that some of the Babylonian generals did “cross the aisle”: surrendering the city without a fight. Yet another says that King Cyrus basically bypassed the Babylonian army, which had taken up a strong defensive position far to the north of the city, and sent a small, fast-moving attack force ahead to Babylon, and that this small force — under the command of a trusted general — did manage to sneak into the city at night, perhaps by following the Euphrates’ riverbed under Babylon’s great wall.
Whatever the details are, it has been noticed that this city of Babylon suffered essentially the same fate as the first city of Babylon, some 3000 years earlier: in both cases, God came down and used language to confuse, divide, and destroy the ambitions of the tyrants.
Okay. So now we come to the place we come to every week, where we ask: what does this mean? What is God trying to teach his people through his episode? How are we supposed to apply this text to our lives today?
Well, as usual, one of the best ways to find out what our Father might be trying to tell us today is to find out what he was trying to tell his people back when this was first written.
So, going back, we have to remember that Daniel’s journals, Daniel’s papers, were apparently discovered after Daniel’s death, and they were brought back to Jerusalem and published there as a sort of guide for God’s people while they live in exile. Even though the Jewish people were back in their homeland once again, their homeland was consistently ruled by foreign empires and kings — first the Persians, then the Greeks, then the Romans — and they needed help figuring out how to remain faithful to God’s law while also living in relative peace under the rule of people who do not know God.
The first four episodes of Daniel revealed how Daniel and his friends survived under King Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. Sometimes they were tempted by offers of weath and power, sometimes they were threatened with death. But they passed every test by giving up control over their lives to God, trusting him to save them and keep them faithful — and eventually, through their faithful witness, King Nebuchadnezzar gave up control of his empire to God.
Then, after King Nebuchadnezzar died, Daniel began to receive visions. And these visions revealed that Daniel’s experience in Babylon was really just a preview of what the Jewish nation will experience over the next few hundred years. Sometimes foreign kings will tempt them to compromise their faith by offering them peace and prosperity; sometimes foreign kings will threaten them with genocide! — and the only way for them to survive as a people will be to give up control of their lives and their nation to God, trusting him to save them.
Well, today’s episode is really just a confirmation of these patterns of temptation and threat. Just because a government favours God’s people during one generation does not mean that the next government will continue to do so. In fact, the pattern God reveals here in the Book of Daniel strongly suggests that it is normal for the second and third governments that follow a good government to be harsh, to become jealous of how God’s people prospered under the prior government, and try to cut God’s people back down to size. There is every chance that the sons of a good king will reject their father’s testimony, reject God, and reject God’s people. It happened in Egypt after Joseph’s time; it happened in Babylon during Daniel’s time. And it happened again in the centuries after Daniel, where the first Greek kings after Alexander the Great practiced a policy of religious tolerance and quiet temptation through prosperity — followed by a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, who set himself up against the Lord of heaven and tried to wipe out God’s people.
Today’s episode gave God’s people yet another preview of what this evil king would be like: King Belshazzar is himself a preview of the evil Greek king to come, a preview of the antichrist. Just like the boastful king in Daniel’s visions, Belshazzar has thrown truth to the ground: he scoffed at God’s Word as it was preached to him by his grandfather, his grandmother, and countless other people while he was growing up. In Daniel’s own words here: Belshazzar set himself up against the Lord of heaven and deliberately defiled the sacred things of God, the sacred worship of God, the sacred people of God — just as the antichrist will.
So…what practical application did God want his ancient people to learn from this episode? What did he want them to believe and do during those centuries of life in exile under foreign powers?
First — and most simply — he wanted them to believe that he is in control. That is the overall message of Daniel’s book: God is in control. Every human king, every human government, is put in place by God to carry on Adam’s work of bringing the earth in to proper order and worship.
But, second, God wanted his people to believe in the ultimate futility of every earthly kingdom. Yes, every human government is put in place by God, but at the same time every human government is strictly temporary. Human beings last forever; human governments and nations do not.
And what did God want his people to do because of these two beliefs?
First, he wanted his people to serve and respect every human government as much as possible. Like Daniel at the end of Chapter 8, God’s people are supposed to get up and go about the king’s business. God’s people are supposed to help kings and governments carry on Adam’s work.
But, second, God also wanted his people to avoid putting their hopes in those kings or governments — especially during the times of peace and prosperity. Because that is when the temptation is the strongest, isn’t it? It is exactly during those times of peace and prosperity that God’s people start to look at the highest levels of government and think, “Ooooooo, what if we could actually get some of our people into those high positions. Then they could advocate for us. Who knows, perhaps they might even win the emperor or the king or other governors over to true worship, and then finally we would be completely safe!”
God made sure that Daniel’s journals were discovered and published because he wanted his people to study Daniel’s career in the Babylonian government and learn from it. Yes, sometimes God raises his people into the highest levels of government. Yes, sometimes God even redeems emperors and kings and governors. That is valuable, of course, because even emperors and kings and governors are human beings whose souls will live forever. But that “success” in government never lasts. Emperors die. Governments are voted out of power. Things change. Just because God’s people seem to gain control in one generation does not guarantee that they will retain control in the next generation, because human control is an illusion. God alone rules and guides the tides of history. All that matters is whether God’s people remain faithful to him through every turn of events, in times of peace and in times of persecution.
That was God’s message for his ancient Jewish people, during the centuries that followed the fall of Babylon: be faithful through prosperity. Endure persecution. Serve wherever you are called to serve, whether from the bottom of society or from the top. But do not make the mistake of putting your hope in political control.
Now, history records for us that many of the ancient Jews forgot this message. The evil Greek king that Daniel foresaw in his visions did not start out persecuting God’s people. He started out as a free-thinker, promoting religious tolerance. He only turned violence after a group of conservative Jewish priests tried to seize control of Judea. Those conservative Jews thought they were doing God’s work: striking down the unbelievers, bringing pure worship back to the people of God…ironically, they are the ones who triggered the worst persecution the Jewish people had ever experienced until that point in history.
So, is God’s message for his ancient people still relevant for us today, all these thousands of years later?
Well, you tell me: are we still tempted to believe that if we could just get enough Christians into high government positions, into positions of influence in our society, everything would be okay?
I think this temptation is still very strong in my own heart. It is the easiest thing in the world for me to think, “Ooooo, what if we could have Christian ‘influencers’ on youtube? What if we could have real Christians in Hollywood, Bollywood, real Christians with top-40s hits, what if we could have churches that were so large and influential that the world would have to pay attention to our Gospel message?” That is the Hillsong philosophy, isn’t it? And we are all drawn to that kind of thinking: if small is good, bigger must be better. If a little bit of influence is good, more must surely be better!
Friends, what God is telling us is that this strategy does not work, certainly not in the long term. It did not work for Daniel, and it will not work for us, because things change. There is always a new king coming to power, to whom all of our good Christian service in the previous generation means nothing.
Let me give you two modern examples, one from the world of politics, one from the world of art.
First example: did you know that 100 years ago, Holland had a Christian prime minister? Like: really, really Christian, not just Christian in name. This man, Abraham Kuyper, was an ordained pastor, a Reverend, a double Phd in Theology and Philosophy, who went into politics and served in various capacities from 1874 until 1920, when he died. That is 40 plus years of service at the highest levels of government, just like Daniel! A truly amazing man, who stood up for many amazingly godly policies, including an amazing level of religious freedom for everyone, even for atheists and socialists and other traditional enemies of Christianity. But did he make any lasting difference in the foundational structure of the Netherlands?
I’m sure he made a difference on a personal level, among family and friends and colleagues. He is still making a difference in many Christian seminaries, which are still studying the things he wrote about the intersection between theology and politics. Tim Keller, for instance, is a major student of Kuyper’s philosophies, and he has influenced many among us with his books.
But can we claim, today, that Holland is “more Christian” than any other nation in Europe because they once had a really good pastor and theologian for a prime minister? I don’t know. Dutch culture today seems just as secular, just as atheistic as the German or the French or the British. And even during those years that Abraham Kuyper was in politics, the Dutch colonial policies in Indonesia continued to be absolutely brutal. Maybe Rev. Kuyper had to focus on redeeming Holland; maybe he was unaware of what was going on out on the fringes of the Dutch empire, or maybe he lacked the power to change centuries of evil policy — but this is why we are left asking this question 100 years later: ultimately, what lasting good did it do for Holland to have a Christian prime minister for a few years?
Second example: Chris Pratt. This is a Christian A-list actor. You’ve all seen him in Guardians of the Galaxy or Jurassic World. Will he have a personal effect on those he works with? We can hope so. Might he even lead some other A-list actors to Christ? We can hope so! After all, even A-list actors are human beings with eternal souls: better for them to be redeemed rather than lost. But should we be hoping that Chris Pratt will somehow transform Hollywood from the inside-out so that it becomes an agent of redemption in the world? No! Because even if some of the studio bosses come to Christ today, in forty years new studio bosses — to whom Chris Pratt means nothing — will come to power in Hollywood. Besides, Hollywood is going to be swallowed up by Bollywood anyway, and Bollywood by whatever the Chinese film industry will come to be called.
Now, to be clear: God did make Abraham Kuyper the prime minister of Holland, and it seems that Rev. Kuyper — like Daniel — was never corrupted by that power. And there is no doubt that Abraham Kuyper did many good things for Holland during his time in office. And we can have the same hope of good things from Chris Pratt’s career. But:
We must resist the temptation to believe that lifting Christians up into positions of influence is God’s key to redeeming the nations. We are supposed to work. We are supposed to serve. Like Daniel, we are supposed to get up and go about the king’s business. But we are supposed to do so without putting our hope in our work, in our service, or in our kings and governors.
But if that is the case, then what is God’s key to redeeming the nations? Where should we look for our hope in the midst of all this collapse and confusion?
Well, here, again, Daniel is our guide and our example. Daniel does not know if he, personally, will survive the fall of the Babylonian empire. But he does know that God’s people will. Because he has been promised that, one day, the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. Not because God’s holy people have somehow conquered the nations, but because God’s Son has, the “one like a son of man” that Daniel saw arriving on his cloud chariot before the throne of his Father, the Ancient of Days.
Our hope is the same as Daniel’s. We don’t know if we are going to survive this global pandemic. We don’t know how long Malaysia is going to survive as a nation — we could become a colony of China sometime in the next 50 years, or Malaysia could conquer China! Stranger things have happened in history. But whatever happens, we do know that Jesus’ people will survive, that Jesus’ Church will continue in faithfulness through times of peace and times of persecution right up until the Last Day. And we know this because God’s Son has already conquered the nations, he has already arrived before his Father’s throne, he has already received his crown and he is ruling even now from his Father’s right hand.
So what does our Father want us to believe and do during these centuries of waiting for our final redemption?
First, he wants us to believe that he is in control, that he is the one who put our nations and our governments into place. In response to this belief, he wants us to serve wherever we are called to serve, whether from the bottom of society or from the top or from anywhere in between.
Second, he also wants us to believe that every nation, every government will one day fall, swallowed up and replaced by the perfect government, the perfect nation of Jesus Christ. In response to this belief, he wants us to always keep our eyes on the big picture: the promise of the eternal Kingdom of God.
And knowing these things should be a comfort to us in our daily lives, because this means that the Christian who becomes a Prime Minister is no greater or more effective than the Christian who works an ordinary job for an ordinary salary every day of their life. We really have no idea what good might or might not result from our labours. But we labour on in weakness and rejoicing, in faithfulness and in hope, because we know that nothing we do, no position we take in this world, will be wasted — because all this will belong to him in the end, anyway.
To him, and to us.