Well, we looked last time at a great party! The king of
We looked at how God can write ‘Ichabod’ over a nation and this is what He did with the Babylonian empire. The word Ichabod means ‘no glory’ and God is able to give or remove the glory of a nation as He so determines. We also saw how nations and empires are like people in that they can have births and deaths. Scary stuff actually for we tend to think that things will continue as they always did and that ‘our nation’ won’t fall like others have. But alas, we also saw that the same Babylonian spirit manifests itself today and you can begin to see the writing on the wall once again.
Anyway, time to move on! This study carries on from where the last one finished and looks at Daniel 5:18-30. Where as the last study focused more on nations as a whole, this study is bringing it back home… this study will focus on the individual with particular emphasis on the following two things:
1) The precarious position of the unbeliever
2) The importance of this life for the believer
So let’s have a look. Daniel has just been called in to give the interpretation of the writing to the king.
Why the history lesson?
As Daniel confronts king Belshazzar he begins with a slightly unusual approach. He starts with a history lesson. Why you ask? Well, this king should have learned! This king should have seen what happened to his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar and humbled himself before God. Belshazzar had been given great light. He had been given tremendous grace. He should have learned… he should have known better than to mock the God of Israel while praising the so called gods of silver and gold. So Daniel, like a wise court prosecutor, starts with the facts of history. He is building his case and laying a foundation for the judgement and conclusion to come! And once he has finished laying out the facts, all will know why the writing has now appeared.
You idiot! – The precarious position of the unbeliever
was asked to interpret the Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great tree being
chopped down, he did so almost with a sadness that the interpretation applied
to king Nebuchadnezzar and not his enemies. There seemed to be a fondness
there. Well, things are quite different for this king and Daniel is straight to
the point. “You knew all this!” “You knew it Belshazzar…
you saw how God humbled your Grandfather and yet you still wouldn’t humble
yourself!” “You had been given great revelation and light from God and you
rejected it! You mocked the true God and made created things into a god!” You
can just imagine the force of Daniel’s words as he speaks straight to the
king’s actions. And yet, as I write this, I see the same words condemning those
in the western nations. Have not
Look at how this scripture above describes the One whom they despise and turn their backs on: “the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways”. The one that is being mocked and being declared irrelevant in our societies is the one who holds the very life and breath of the mocker in His hand. God could clench His fist and snuff out their life if He so wished. Now I don’t want to rush past this verse too quickly as it was one of the main verses in this passage that stood out to me and we all know people in this position. For those curious (and with good eyesight) more has been added in the small print which explores further this precarious position of the unbeliever.
What strange little words are these…?
Now here are the words that were written on the wall – Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. Four little words but what confusion they caused! The problem was that each Aramaic word had more than one meaning.
Mene – means ‘numbered’ or mena (a unit of money)
Tekel – means ‘weighed’ or ‘shekel’ (a unit of money)
means ‘divided’ or ‘
So as the Babylonians tried to interpret this message there were a few interpretations open to them. At it’s best it might be saying ‘money, money, money!’. Or, just possibly, it meant something more foreboding. I’m sure you know the story… they weren’t coming into some quick riches…it was the later. Something foreboding! It meant…
Numbered, weighed and divided
As Daniel gives the true interpretation of the writing on the wall you can only imagine the fear rising within the king. “Numbered, numbered, weighed and divided. Your number is up Belshazzar. You have been weighed and found to be a spiritual featherweight. Your life and kingdom is over. You have been found wanting.”
Important words for us all! God not only numbers our days, but he weighs our lives. And He not only weighs our lives, but He records and judges our deeds. The fact is that all of us will have to hop on the heavenly scales one day. The Bible says that “it is appointed unto all men to die once and then face judgement.” For the believer, this will not be a judgement of their sins, for that took place 2000 years ago as Jesus was nailed to the cross. But there is a judgement of our lives and all that was based on Jesus will remain and be rewarded.
1 John 2:28 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.
Third in the Kingdom... for a whole entire hour
Finally we see that for telling Belshazzar that his kingdom has come to an end, Daniel is rewarded by being made a third ruler in the kingdom! You can probably see Daniel just shaking his head saying ‘you don’t get it do you? Are you not listening… you don’t have a kingdom!’ Now from what I know of God, if the king had genuinely repented even at this very late stage then he wouldn’t have been judged and lost his life.
So we read in the scripture that that very
night Darius the Mede took over the kingdom and king Belshazzar was killed.
Hmmm… and I thought the walls of
History records for us how they did it. You may remember that the Medo-Persian army had been camped outside the walls of Babylon. But the walls of Babylon were said to be wide enough to race six chariots side by side so there was no breaking in! The Babylonians had also stock piled up to 20 years of food so there was no starving them out either. But they had an Achilles heel. The river Euphrates ran underneath the wall giving the city a constant source of fresh water. So what the Medes and Persians did was dig up river an alternative channel for the water to flow. This reduced the amount of water flowing under the walls enough so that they could simply walk in under the walls of Babylon. With the king throwing such a grand party inside the Medo-Persian army was able to take the city without much force. And thus, king Belshazzar of Babylon was killed the very night that God wrote His judgement upon the wall.
But this had all been prophesied earlier by Isaiah concerning Babylon:
Isaiah 47:7-9 You said, 'I will continue forever-- the eternal queen!' But you did not consider these things or reflect on what might happen. (8) Now then, listen, you wanton creature, lounging in your security and saying to yourself, 'I am, and there is none besides me. I will never be a widow or suffer the loss of children.' (9) Both of these will overtake you in a moment, on a single day: loss of children and widowhood. They will come upon you in full measure, in spite of your many sorceries and all your potent spells.
Daniels case against Belshazzar was based upon the fact that God had given the king great light and understanding, yet it made no difference and the king carried on living in contempt of God. This speaks to our nation and culture as well as to our lives personally. There is often a disconnection between what we know and how it affects our daily lives. There is no doubting that the pull of the world and the Babylonian spirit are very strong.
But let us remember the two aspects that have come out of this study – the precarious position of the unbeliever and the importance of this life for the believer. Let us not be like king Belshazzar who knew it all but did nothing, but like Daniel who set himself apart for the Lord to use.
|Bible Studies in the Daniel Series|
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 1: Stranded in Babylon
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 2: Faith under pressure and the God of the impossible
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 2 p2: A vision of things to come
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 3: When things get hot
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 4: Nebuchadnezzar and the tree of doom!
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 4 p2: Nebuchadnezzar - Lessons from a loon!
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 5: Ichabod and the writing is on the wall
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 5 p2: The Precarious Position of the Unbeliever
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 6: Lunch with Lions
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 7: The Times of the Gentiles - The Earthly Scene
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 7 p2: The Times of the Gentiles - The Heavenly Scene
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 8: Gods Declaration of the End... From the Beginning
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 9: Daniel - Lessons from a Legend
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 9 p2: Daniel's 70 Weeks P1
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 9 p3: Daniel's 70 Weeks P2
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 10: Lifting the Veil
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 11: A Tale of Three Madmen
Daniel Bible Study Chapter 12: How to Shine like the Stars
1] There is an old saying ‘those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’ Too true. On the lighter side, a school put up a sign in the hall that read ‘those who fail history are condemned to repeat it!’ Unfortunately that is also true as many of us discovered! But examine history and we find that mankind is so slow to learn. The German philosopher Hegel said ‘History teaches that man learns nothing from history.’ Sad but true and especially so in king Belshazzar’s case as we shall see.
 This brief little detour will just examine this precarious position of the unbeliever a little more. There is a key Psalm that emphasises this well. I have written briefly on this before but let’s look again at Psalm 73. You are going to have to read it please! Go on, I did say please. In verses 1-3 we read of Asaph, a godly man struggling to remain godly as he views the prosperity of the wicked. Look at how he describes his culture in verses 4-11… it could well be describing king Belshazzar in the text before us. Or for that matter it could also be describing many in our own culture today. Now look at the important verses in 16-20: “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
After being envious of the prosperity of the wicked, Asaph gets a glimpse of their true position. They are standing on slippery ground and only the goodness of God holds them from falling. Nothing else! And He could take His hand away and let them go whenever He wishes. The one they mock is the only one who now holds them from slipping into a Christ-less eternity! That is the precarious position of the unbeliever!
 When someone dies, there is the sense of finality. That is, you know that nothing can now be changed, no more words can be said or expressed. Sometimes people feel regret when someone dies that they hadn’t been with them more or had an issue between them resolved. But death is final in terms of our relationship with someone in this life. 1 John 2:28 tells us to abide in Christ so that when He comes we will be confident and won’t feel any shame. It gives the possibility at least that some will feel shame at His coming. Obviously there will be great joy and wonder, but there also could be a limited time of shame or regret over a life that was not lived with eternity in mind. Worth thinking about.
 Other examples exist like the Ninevites in Jonah chapter 3 who genuinely repented and were spared judgement (much to Jonah’s annoyance!) They were just as wicked as the Babylonians but after a decree from the king, everyone humbled themselves before the Lord when they heard of the upcoming judgement. Even every beast had to be covered in sackcloth! But not our Belshazzar. No sign of repentance here!
Or think of the thief on the cross. It says in Matt 27:44 that at the
start both robbers who were crucified with Jesus hurled abuse on Him. And yet,
through a miracle, one robber would later believe in Jesus! Even at the this
very late stage of his life, because he genuinely turned to the Lord, salvation
was granted to him. Amazing. I have always enjoyed the words of Martyn Lloyd
Jones concerning these two robbers crucified with Christ -
“One thief was saved so that there would always be hope. But only one so that there would not be presumption.”
 Regarding the pull of the world, I watched the movie ‘Into the Wild’ the other day. It is the kind of movie that stays with you for a while. It is the sad story of Chris McCandless who grew up in
Here are some lyrics from one of the songs from the movie:
ohhh, It's a mystery to me,
we have a greed, with which we have agreed
You think you have to want more than you need
until you have it all you won't be free
society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
When you want more than you have, you think you need
and when you think more than you want your thoughts begin to bleed
I think I need to find a bigger place
'cos when you have more than you think you need more space
society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
society, have mercy on me
I hope you're not angry if I disagree
society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me