Daniel Bible Study Chapter 5 Part 2
The Precarious Position of the Unbeliever
by I Gordon
Well, we looked last time at a great party! The king of Babylon was throwing a wild party and huge celebrations were in order. Yep, they had the wine, the women and their precious gods of gold and silver. Everything was going swimmingly... well, everything apart from that strange creepy little hand that just suddenly appeared and started writing strange mysterious things on the wall! Yeah, fair enough, that did seem to quiet the party down pretty quickly.
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?
Daniel 5:18-21 'O king, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position he gave him, all the peoples and nations and men of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like cattle; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes.
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
Daniel 5:22-23 ' But you his son, O Belshazzar, 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 .
When Daniel 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 America, the United Kingdom, Western Europe etc done the same thing? When we look at our history we see that we were given great light. We have received much revelation and teaching concerning the true God and His ways and yet, as a whole, it is now being rejected. That is what makes this book of Daniel so important in this age!
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...?
Daniel 5:25 This is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN
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)
Parsin - means 'divided' or 'Persia' or 'half a shekel'
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
Daniel 5:26-28 'This 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.'
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
Daniel 5:29-31 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. That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.
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 Babylon were impenetrable! Belshazzar obviously thought that was the case. So how did the Medes and the Persian army get in? Well it is an interesting story and one that shows how even the mighty can fall in one day.
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.