The Death of a Celebrity

By Rev. A. T. Vergunst

Shock, disbelief, anger, and profound grief swept over our world when the news of the death of Princess Diana reached its far corners, A celebrity, a "Princess of the people" found her violent death. For many days young and old were preoccupied with the tragic end of this Princess.

We may certainly acknowledge God for all the good that this Princess did do in her show of compassion, acts of thoughtfulness, and reaching out to the needy, sick, and dying. Yet, we are missing in this evaluating review of her life, the major point of the loud call which God sent into this pleasure loving and glamour occupied world. God not only ended the life of a beautiful and amiable Princess, but He also called an abrupt halt to a lifestyle of sin, pleasure, immorality, and a great abuse of privilege and opportunity. Her death is God's handwriting on the wall of a world which is entertaining itself unto death!

The context of the story of the handwriting on the wall, I assume, is well known to our young readers (See Daniel 5). Belshazzar was a star in the Babylonian civilization. He had early on distinguished himself in the military campaigns of the Babylonian empire. He had obtained "celebrity status." In this position of leadership, God did give him wonderful opportunities to do good. Yet, instead of using these opportunities to lead, guide, and direct by his example in what is proper, wholesome, and responsible living, he gave the example of indulgence, immorality, and a callous disrespect for what is holy! While he partied, his kingdom was on the verge of disaster. Outside the city gates, the army of the Medes and Persians were making their final preparations to enter the city. That very night the capital fell and Belshazzar was slain.

How great is the sin of capable and popular leaders who abuse their position! The abuse of position is already the neglect of opportunity. This was true also in Diana. The Most High God did call her from relative obscurity to a public position. He gave her popularity and a devoted and world-wide audience. How much good she could have done by a life of dedication, unselfish service, exemplary walk, and godly obedience to the Prince of the nations, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet God made her glory cease! While she was callously desecrating the holy things of God, much like Belshazzar, God summoned her before His judgment seat. For where was her obedience to God's will, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy?" Where was her honoring of the 7th commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery?"

Yes, young friends, the celebrities of today are by no means celebrities in God's eyes. While Belshazzar was partying and desecrating God's holy vessels, we read in Scripture, "In that same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick of the wall of the king's palace" (Dan. 5:5). Usually, these walls were decorated with paintings portraying the glorious victories and accomplishments of the Babylonian kings. Right on top of that, however, God wrote His evaluation of Belshazzar: days numbered... weighed and found wanting... everything lost.

How different was Belshazzar's own evaluation and the one of his peers! He was successful, accomplished, daring, prosperous, and glamorous. Likewise the world's report card of Diana was a resounding A+ because she was a "princess of the (needy, suffering) people." God's standard, however, is His holy law which was trampled shamelessly, even in the last moments of her brief life.

Let's pause, young friends, at this solemn calling of God. I know the pressures and temptations of this world which thrive on glamour, success, and entertainment are strong. I know that some of you are more informed and up to date with the latest in the celebrity and sports culture than I care to know.

It grieves me to think of this. Your soul is too precious to me to let this opportunity go past without improving it to you. Take heed today! Lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, pause again at this death of this 36 year old Princess. What did her celebrity status help her when God laid her in His balance? Likewise, how will it help you if you gain almost the whole world's audience and admiration, and loose your soul? It grieves me to think how little you regard God's displeasure that our culture's "heroes" desecrate what God calls holy? Our participation as audience is also sin. Do you realize that? How solemn is God's warning, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." One secular communications professor said not too long ago, "This generation is entertaining itself to death." He hit the nail on its head.

Awake, young friend. The magazine racks at the check- out of the grocery stores are picturing the life stories of immense sadness, disappointment, bondage, and hatred. When my eyes catch the headlines and cover pictures, I cannot but feel pity for these "heroes." There is a better life than the life of addiction to the world and sin. It is that life which is dedicated to God. Even though Daniel had been pushed into obscurity during the reign of Belshazzar, he was known of God. He had found grace in the eyes of God. In the last chapter of his prophesy, he wrote, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. 12;2-3). Belshazzar was a "star" but Daniel will be the real "star." Seek the Lord while He is to be found.

How precious is the service of that King! You ask any of God' s children whether there ever was a day that they had to say, "He is a hard Master?" My father used to say to us that there was no better service than to be in the service of King Jesus. At first I didn't agree at all. I thought it dreary and boring to live such a life. I may confess today, "It was a true report that I heard in my parental home. However, I didn't believe the words, until I came and mine eyes saw something of it. And, behold, the half was not told me. It far exceeds what my father could ever tell me. Your experience, by the grace of God, will be likewise if you come to know Him."