"Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable,
he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy,
useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work."
2 Timothy 2:20-21
This week I have been working through Daniel 5 and was not surprised that the descendent of Nebuchadnezzar, King Belshazzar struggled with pride. We all struggle with some kind of generational sin and more than likely the root of the generational sin is pride. However, I was surprised at how his pride showed up. He decided to throw a party for a thousand of his lords and he had his servants bring him the vessels of gold and silver that Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem. His lords, his wives, his concubines, and he drank from them while they praised their gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
As I read that Nebuchadnezzar had taken the vessels from the temple I cringed in fear. As I read the statement that Belshazzar had actually used them for idol worship, I cringed even more because I remember how carefully God had instructed Israel as they made the temple and its vessels. He wanted everything in the temple purified and set apart for worshipping Him! People had died for not honoring God through obedience in their worship now a gentile king takes vessels and uses them to worship gods who do not see, gods who do not hear, or gods that do not know--gods who were not living gods.
It seems that every time Jehovah God addressed gentile nations, it was to show that He was the only true God. He showed a nation that worshipped fertility gods that He was the true God of life when he called Abraham and Sarah, an elderly, infertile couple out of the nation and gave them a child of their own way past the time they should have conceived. He did it when He judged Egypt with plagues that countered their gods. Egypt worshiped living creatures and by afflicting them with plagues, God revealed that He was Creator of all living things. He even did it when King Nebuchadnezzar was glorifying himself by removing his kingdom, his power, his looks, and his sanity by having him live, eat, and sleep with beasts. Jehovah ultimately showed Nebuchadnezzar He was God and Nebuchadnezzar wasn't.
Belshazzar was using Jehovah's vessels to worship gods that represented elemental things. God had ordained the vessels in the temple for use in worshipping Him. So, it was is no surprise that when Belshazzar used the vessels from the temple for a idolatrous feast, God had a response. These things were created by God just as living things were. So, just as Jehovah had penned the ten commandments with His own hand, He penned a message to Belshazzar on the wall of the palace.
Once again Daniel was called to interpret the message. Daniel reminds Belshazzar about the story of Nebuchadnezzar and his struggle with pride then translates a scathing message: God had numbered the days of his kingdom and brought it to an end. He had been weighed in the balances and found wanting and his kingdom would be be divided and given to the Medes and Persians. That very day Belshazzar was killed and Darius, a Mede, came to power.
I want to be careful not to judge Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar too harshly. As a believer, I was washed clean and set a part as a vessel for service by the blood of a holy, loving Savior. But the flesh constantly wars against the Spirit indwelling me and tempts me to do dishonorable things. 2 Timothy 2:20-26 tells me how I can remain a clean vessel. I am to run hard after righteousness, faith, love, and peace. I am to join with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart and have fellowship with them. I am not to have anything to do with foolish, ignorant, controversies because they breed quarrels. Finally, he calls me to "be kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently endure evil, correct my opponents with gentleness." All of this is so that God may work in the hearts of others so that they might repent and come to the truth, allowing them to escape the snare of the devil.
As I think about what keeps me from being like the person described in 2 Timothy, I realize it boils down to the same thing Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar struggled with--that ugly thing called pride.
When I fail to run hard after righteousness, faith, love, and peace it is either because I have become self absorbed and dissatisfied with God's plan in my life and want more(pride) or I am wallowing in the pit of shame (pride) rather than believing God continues to forgive me as I confess my sin.
When I rise up in anger and start a quarrel or perpetuate a quarrel another has initiated, it is because I want to be right rather than caring about the other person's heart, our relationship, and their relationship with God. Pride wants to make sure I am heard and agreed with and pride wants the validation that I am right. When I am walking closely with the Savior, I care more about the other person and their heart than I do about being proven right (or wrong).
When I don't isolate myself from those who seek God with a pure heart, I find that I can more patiently endure evil for the sake of the gospel and allow God's love to be visible through me. When I isolate, I can only take so much before anger and pride begin to swell and my thoughts become more about, "How dare they treat me like this?" than a prayer, "Lord, show me how to love and to show this person both grace and truth!"
When I either cower in fear avoiding a loving, gentle correction or rise up in anger and rage at a person it is driven by pride. Pride forgets I serve an abused, wounded Savior. Pride forgets His calling on my life to be His visible representation to others who are entrapped by the enemy who wants to use them to do his will. Pride forgets that when I respond as Jesus would, they get a taste of the goodness of God, which is what really leads to repentance.
If I truly long to see the hearts of people drawn to His, then I have to draw near to the one who can save, believe Him, pursue all that is holy and walk humbly with Him who can bring it about. He is God, I am not.
To be honest, I have had conflicts that I can look back on and realize it wasn't me the people were angry with. It was the Savior who dwells in me and bringing about changes in me that made them feel uncomfortable or threatened. It was the Savior that was truly being rejected. If I had really understood then what I do now, I would have loved better, been more patient, and patiently endured evil with the hope that they might have been drawn to the heart of Jesus.
I want to challenge myself not to forget I've been called to fellowship in His suffering. I want to embrace that and trust Him even when suffering comes at the hand of those I want to love me. I want to remember that at the end of this life, it won't matter how many people love me or how well, because I have always been perfectly loved by Jesus. What will matter is how well I loved others the love He has shed abroad in my heart.