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Standing For Gods Glory

Daniel 5:1-16

STUDY (12)

Rev (Dr) Paul Ferguson Calvary Tengah Bible Presbyterian Church Shalom Chapel, 345 Old Choa Chu Kang Road, Singapore 698923

11 March 2012 The Writing On The Wall (Daniel 5:1-16) Daniel was a man who was never tainted by his times. In this chapter we see further illustrations of the life of a man who could never be corrupted or compromised. He is not a young man here, as almost 70 years have passed since Daniel was taken as a teenage boy to Babylon in 605 BC. So Daniel must be in his eighties when this event occurs. There is an abrupt leap from the previous chapter of more than 2 decades. The context of this incident is around 539 BC the final endpoint of the Babylonian Empire more than 20 years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar. It takes place in the degenerate reign of Belshazzar the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar was the co-regent with his father, Nabonidus. That is why later in the chapter he offers Daniel the third most powerful position (5:7), as he could not offer the second place because he was not first in command! At this point in history, Nebuchadnezzars great Empire is crumbling and under threat. The Medo-Persians have come to prominence and had surrounded the imposing city of Babylon. However, the residents were confident that they could survive a prolonged siege. A double wall some 15 miles round and at least 85 feet high circled the city. It had over 100 watchtowers and was reputedly so wide, that four chariots abreast could be driven around the tops of the walls. The great Euphrates River ran diagonally through the city providing adequate water supplies. The leaders of Babylon had a 20-year stockpile of food provisions. The city seemed impregnable. In this chapter we have another illustration that God is sovereign. Heaven rules over the kingdoms of men. The walls of Babylon were not strong enough to keep the judgment of God out. We see the beginning of the transition from the head of gold to the breast of silver. This will be just as God predicted through Daniel in chapter two. The world is about to get an example of what Isaiah warned That bringeth the princes to nothing; He maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and He shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. (Isaiah 40:23-24) It is God alone who removes kings and establishes kings (cf. Daniel 2:21). We tend to forget that amidst the fast-paced society we live in that exalts man. It is also a solemn chapter that reminds us that God judges sin, The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God (Psalm 9:17). The story of Nebuchadnezzar is one of saving grace, but this story is one of divine justice and wrath against sin. It warns every

reader of presuming on grace. The great Empire and city of Babylon will fall in 24 hours without a fight!
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles 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 at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, 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. (v1-4)

Oriental kings were famous for their grand feasts (cf. Esther 1:3-8). Historians record that some even had ten of thousands of guests at one meal. Here Belshazzar calls together the great and the good of Babylonian society in a scene reminiscent of his grandfathers folly in chapter three. Maybe he hoped it would divert people from the dangers of the Persians, who were outside the gate (v30). The king was indifferent to the peril of his kingdom as he just lived for the moment, let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die (Isaiah 22:13). He was self-confident and selfsatisfied. If anything, his trust was in Babylon the great rather than in Jehovah the Most High God. The whole narrative is another solemn warning of the dangers of alcohol. There is clearly a causal link in the text between the consumption of the drink and the acts of blasphemy that then followed. Alcohol removes the natural restraints on a man to indulge in even worse sins. The path to sin is not static. This is still true today. Belshazzar should have heeded the warnings of Scripture, Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise (Proverbs 20:1; cf 31:4). In a fit of pride and folly, Belshazzar does something none of his predecessors had dared to do. He seeks to show his gods superiority over the God of Israel by desecrating the holy vessels from the temple, which should have been used for sanctified purposes in worship, whiles 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. He then uses these holy vessels for wantonness and drunkenness. In his alcohol-induced stupor, Belshazzar forgot that they were only there by divine providence, And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god. (Daniel 1:2). Some have noted that his behaviour was effectively shaking his fist at the prophecy God gave to his grandfather about the ultimate fall of the Babylonian

Empire to the Persians. It was an attempt to eliminate any vestige of reverence his grandfather had shown to Jehovah. But not only does Belshazzar blaspheme Jehovah but he and his party guests use the temple vessels to actively promote their false gods, They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone (v4). Now, it was not that Belshazzar was ignorant of who Jehovah was. Later Daniel reminds him that he knew all about the Lords dealings in humbling his grandfather, And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this (v22). This blasphemous action was not done in ignorance but in willful rebellion. Belshazzar had multiple opportunities to get right with God. He should have heeded the warnings of his grandfather about proud monarchs, Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase (Daniel 4:37). This profane act would spell the beginning of the end of the short and tragic reign of this foolish young king. Belshazzars cup of inquity was now full. Enough is enough. Nearly a century before, the Lord declared, I am the LORD: that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images (Isaiah 52:8). Belshazzar has challenged the authority of God. He will find that God will accept the challenge of this puny man! Only a total fool mocks God, Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7). Belshazzar will now reap what he has sown. He is about to receive the surprise of his life.
In the same hour came forth fingers of a mans hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the kings palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. (v5)

There is a limit to how far God will allow men to go in their sin. There is a line that God has set for every man that is known only to the Lord. He will deal with it in His own way and time. When the party was in full swing, suddenly the finger of God silenced His enemies, In the same hour. God had spoiled the party. It is not the only time that the finger of God was seen or felt on an occasion (cf. Exodus 8:19). It is also reminiscent of what will happen in the last days just before the judgment of God falls, For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3) The candlestick would have illuminated the writing perfectly for all to see. God wants all to recognise this cryptic message. The banquet hall will now become a courtroom!

Then the kings countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. Then came in all the kings wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof. (v6-8)

You can only imagine how quickly the disembodied hand writing these strange words must have sobered up the drunken crowd. Four words from God immediately dampened the passions of the most intoxicated partygoer. They are no longer interested in their wine and revelry. The judgment of God can silence the proudest and loudest of sinners. Mans bravado melts away when Almighty God speaks. Belshazzars face that had been flushed with the alcohol now turned as white as a sheet. The man who made others tremble now cannot even stand up properly because of his terror. Sadly although his knees are knocking, this man doesnt fall on them in repentance. Like his grandfather, Belshazzar initially seeks the help of the wisdom of this world. Evidently he had learned nothing from Gods past dealing with Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzars panic is immediately apparent as he offers the highest honour available for any that can interpret the message, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. He gets the same result, but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof (v8b). For the third time in this book, we see that the natural man cannot understand Gods Word (cf. Daniel 2:27; 4:7). This incident warns us to be careful who we seek counsel from. It is amazing that even professing Christians trust the advice of the ungodly rather than spiritual leaders when they face spiritual crises.
Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied. Now the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed: There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation. (v9-12)

The arrival of the wisdom of Babylon seemed to have given Belshazzar hope. The colour had returned to his cheeks. But their failure to assist him, only now increases his panic. He turns white again in fear, his countenance was changed in him. All around now there is total confusion. The party is well and truly over! At this point in the narrative, enters the queen. She may have been a wife or daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. She heard the great commotion and panic and went into the banquet room. This woman clearly has some dignity and poise in the melee. She evidences wisdom in her words. The fact that she was not even at the party suggests this also. Doubtless, as she observed the strange writing on the wall she remembered the previous incidents of Nebuchadnezzars dreams. A name from the past came to her mind. She remembers the tribute that Nebuchadnezzar had paid him many years before, There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods (cf. Daniel 4:8; 18). Indeed, her words in v12 seemingly indicate that Daniel must have performed other amazing accomplishments for the previous regime not recorded in Scripture. The queen has confidence that Daniel will provide the answer, now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation.
Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee. And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not shew the interpretation of the thing: And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom. (v1316)

No time was clearly wasted in procuring the services of the long forgotten and now aged octogenarian prophet. Daniel is now summoned for his last act of service to a Babylonian king. He is ready to speak a word for His Lord, in season, out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). This old man began well, continued well, and will end his race well. This must have been quite a scene as he calmly stood before hundreds of Babylonian dignitaries stilled by the words on the wall. Swindoll described it well, Before the sapling king, he stands like an oak tree his character firmly rooted, his integrity unshakable. The king words are a mixture of condescension and flattery. He refers to the once great ruler somewhat dismissively as of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? Such discourtesy of a loyal and trusted counselor of his father could have

inflamed a prouder man than Daniel. Belshazzar also throws in some smooth flattery, I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee. He then promises him the world if he will give him the interpretation. It was like being offered a promotion in a bankrupt company! Daniel will not be flattered or intimidated into changing Gods message to suit the new generation. He knows there stands before him a blasphemous, ungodly man who holds the power of life and death. But that will not deter Daniel from doing right. He is unmoved by the rewards of this world. This man cannot be bought at any price in any generation! Like Moses, he had discovered greater treasure, Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt (Hebrews 11:26). Daniel may have been living in retirement ignored by the new regime of the youthful Belshazzar. Like Rehoboam, Belshazzar may have spurned the wise counselors of his grandfather, which left Daniel on the sidelines, and seemingly forgotten. He does not want the counsel of the godly. The playboy monarch seemingly had more interest in partying than taking care of his kingdom. Wiersbe observes, What a tragedy that the ruler of the mighty city of Babylon should ignore one of the greatest men in history and turn to him only in the last hours of his life when it was too late. Certainly, Daniel was not part of the drunken revelry of Belshazzars partygoers. This man was a separatist from the first day he spent in Babylon till the last day. When the moment comes, the Lord has His men in the right place to speak for Him. Joseph Parker makes a pertinent application, Preachers of the Word, you will be wanted some day by Belshazzar; you were not at the beginning of the feast, but you will be there before the banqueting hall is closed; the king will not ask you to drink wine, but he will ask you to tell the secret of his pain and heal the malady of his heart. Abide your time. You are nobody now... Midway down the program to mention pulpit, or preacher, or Bible, would be to violate the harmony of the occasion. But the preacher, as we have often had occasion to say, will have his opportunity. They will send for him when all other friends have failed; may he then come fearlessly, independently, asking only to be made a medium through which divine communications can be addressed to the listening trouble of the world...O Daniel, preacher, speaker, teacher, thunder out Gods word, if it be a case of judgment and doom; or whisper it, or rain in gracious tears, if it be a message of sympathy and love and welcome. When we come to a passage such as this one, we must all learn to not trifle with sin. God is longsuffering and merciful but His grace should never be presumed upon. He will always judge sin. The creature cannot indefinitely defy the Creator for, He, that being often reproved hardeneth

his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy (Proverbs 29:1). Many are living the illusion of permanence like the partygoers in Babylon. Disaster is around the corner yet the party goes on. Death parades before us every day and yet we think there is always tomorrow. Few expect it, but it is coming nonetheless! The God who numbered the days of Belshazzar also numbers our days. As the poet put it, Tis the hand of God on the wall! Tis the hand of God on the wall! Shall the record be Found wanting! Or shall it be Found trusting! While that hand is writing on the wall?

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION 1. Why does man think he can defy God?

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