Handwriting is on the Wall
INTRO - Last week we discovered there are three, or four if you count Saddam Hussein, Nebuchadnezzars.
We noted the repeated pattern:
king opposed to God has a dream
God teaches a lesson
king bows down to God.
HIS - Where are we in the OT timeline?
Fall about 4000 BC
Flood about 2294 BC
Followed by the Tower
Then Egyptian Slavery
Look to 586 BC, here we are, Exile
In our chapter today we learn about God’s nature and how He wants us to respond to him.
Our last king, Nabonidus, ch. 4, learned humility before God.
The last verse:
Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of the heavens, because all his works are true and his ways are just. He is able to humble those who walk in pride.
This verse sets us up for today’s chapter.
Its a sort of “fatherly advice” for his son, the next king.
Today we meet three main characters:
King Belshazzar from who we’ll learn our need to avoid profaning God.
The queen who acknowledges God’s wisdom.
Daniel who shows people must accept God’s judgements
Don’t Abuse God’s Name
Don’t Abuse God’s Name
King Belshazzar held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine in their presence.
The Nabonidus cylinder names Belshazzar.
He is the son of Nabonidus and last king of Babylon.
If you recall from last week, he was regent in Babylon.
Several accounts describe the fall of this the Neo-Babylon empire.
This banquet takes place in October 539 BC.
The Persians just took the city of Opis.
It is likely the king heard of the great loss in battle.
Today’s text represents the last gathering before the fall of the city.
His first abuse is profaning God’s Name by using temple items.
The goblets were holy unto the Lord and had special rule for their use given by God.
God is serious about His rules.
You may recall the Israelites, when returning the ark to Jerusalem, ignored carrying the ark with poles and loaded it up on an ox cart.
At one point the ark appeared it might take a fall and Uzzah thought he’s do the right thing and keep it from falling.
He thought it a good idea, but Uzzah was struck down by God:
Then the Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there next to the ark of God.
Why does God do this when it appears Uzzah is trying to help?
God is holy and we are sinful.
We are more dirty than the ground.
We should not profane what is God’s.
If God does this to Uzzah, how much more does Belshazzar deserve God’s punishment?
APP - The temple items are gone with time.
Still, the application from this lesson remains.
Paul illustrates this in his letter to the church at Corinth:
Flee sexual immorality! Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.
In another letter, this to the church at Thessalonica, Paul speaks to not profaning:
For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you keep away from sexual immorality, that each of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passions, like the Gentiles, who don’t know God. This means one must not transgress against and take advantage of a brother or sister in this manner, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you.
You and I are holy vessels and should use our bodies for holy, not unholy, ends.
In another act of profaning God, the king used the items to worship his gods adding idolatry to his list of wrongs.
God will not share His glory with another.
God will be exalted on the earth.
Belshazzar’s abuse demonstrates his arrogance toward God putting God on the same level with his gods.
ILL - It’s easy to put Jesus up there with other gods.
On Sunday we worship God.
The remainder of the week comes sports, family, money, pleasure, or any other thing we make as important or more important that worshiping God.
To that God reminds us:
I am the Lord. That is my name, and I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.
God’s response, a set of fingers appear, no body now, and writ a strange message on the banquet room wall.
The wise can’t explain it, but the king needs to know what it means?
BAK - The throne room of the kings of Babylon was excavated in 1899.
No message was found, but they did note the walls were coated with white gypsum.
Archaeology confirmed the truth of the Bible noting walls were plaster.
BAK - Perhaps you caught it, but there is more proof of the truth of the Bible in this passage.
The king promises to make the one who explains the words 3rd highest in the kingdom.
For years this was questioned until, we addressed this last week, archaeology gave us the evidence proving Belshazzar was co-regent with his father Nabonidus at the time.
The next highest position was the 3rd from the top.
The king abused what is holy to God and the “writing on the wall” speaks of his punishment.
TRANS - We go from a king who abused God to a queen who acknowledges God in our next section.
Do Acknowledge God’s Wisdom
Do Acknowledge God’s Wisdom
Look here at what next happens:
Because of the outcry of the king and his nobles, the queen came to the banquet hall. “May the king live forever,” she said. “Don’t let your thoughts terrify you or your face be pale.
They let out a “cry” and in comes the calvary.
Picture it, the hall was full with frightened and confused people.
The king, the great leader, is shaking.
They look for an answer and the queen quiets the craziness for the moment.
The king, Neb II, is the first one mentioned in this book.
He made Daniel chief of the wise men.
We know about Daniel, but who is this queen?
Not the wife of Belshazzar because our chapter already noted they were already there with the king.
Yet, in she walks dignified, confident, and with the answer the entire hall sought.
Its thought she’s the queen mother — highly respected in most near eastern groups.
While she may be one of several mothers, the text gives us the best clue.
“King Nebuchadnezzar your predecessor...”
The queen emphasizes her husband.
She knows where to get the answer that the king’s own men failed to offer.
ILL - Our nation may not glorify God as we should, but Christians have looked to the works of His Word as answer to many problems.
Bible verses are etched in stone in federal buildings and monuments in our nation’s capital.
52 of the 55 founders of the Constitution were members of orthodox churches undoubtly influencing the wording of our primary national document.
“Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers.”
The statement was made by our very first Supreme Court Justice, John Jay, “Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers.”
Daniel is in his 80’s by now.
The arrogant king is quick to speak condescendingly to Daniel.
Still, Daniel is respected by most as he is still the chief of the wise men.
Why the king didn’t call on him, who knows. Perhaps because of his disdain for Neb II or Daniel’s God.
The queen says Daniel has the spirit of the holy gods, whereas the king says he “heard that.”
The king will not acknowledge the wisdom of God, but is desperate to let anyone answer his question.
ILL - When to you turn to God. Is it only when things are not going well with you?
Do you tell God He is infinitely wiser than you?
Many people live as though God is not real until something difficult occurs in their life.
Often, people will make God promises, like this king, if God will at once come to their aid.
When serving the Men’s Mission I met so many drug addicts willing to do anything to get off the dope. Many would get it together just long enough to put on some weight, get into good graces with family bosses and others, or appease some judge. Sadly, many leave the promises they make to God and turn back to their other god, the drugs.
TRANS - We looked at the king’s abuse, the queen’s acknowledgement, next lets visit accepting God’s judgements.
Do Accept God’s Judgements
Do Accept God’s Judgements
Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts and give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription for the king and make the interpretation known to him.
Once the king gives it a break, Daniel has a chance to speak.
The riches and power matter not to Daniel.
Yet, Daniel does as asked.
Daniel reminds the king of what took place in the life of his father, Nabonidus or Neb III.
Daniel was witness to God humbling Nabonidus.
This king should had seen the “handwriting on the wall.”
He should had learned form the experience of his father and acknowledged God.
Do you hear Daniel’s contempt for Belshazzar?
“You haven’t called God sovereign even knowing what happed to your dad!”
Is this a reoccurring message found in the Bible?
I think so. Look here:
Because of your hardened and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed.
ILL - People who put their trust in gods, like riches or fame, dishonor God.
God holds human life in His divine hand and is greater than anything humankind is capable of creating.
The wrath stored up is turned out with repentance, but turned upon the unrepentant.
This king, like many people, will experience the judgement of God.
READ vv. 25-31
This writing mn’tqlprs is typical of the day.
No vowels, just consonants.
Daniel had insight provided to him by God.
He knew he was looking at three words, of three letters, each with three different meanings.
Depending on the vowel used, each word met something entirely different.
mina, shekel, half-shekel
First vowel use as nouns translates to three kinds of Babylonian coins: mina, shekel, half-shekel.
I won’t go through all, but so you get how Daniel comes to this meaning look just the first word.
MENE, in addition to the mina coin, this word is translated as numbered, and paid out or too light.
“God has numbered your the days of of your reign.”
Daniel says MENE means “God has numbered your the days of of your reign.
Perhaps the king heard, “Like the little mina, your time is not much, you’ve done little, and God has numbered your days.”
Daniel saw the handwriting one the wall.
Belshazzar now sees it too; his kingdom is ending now and is going to the Medes and Persians.
While there is no repentance, the king does as promised and rewards Daniel.
The king appears to resign to God’s coming judgement.
Think how much Daniel risked talking to the king in this way?
The king might had killed Daniel for delivering this message.
Daniel might had made it sound less threatening, or more favorable, but that would had been untruthful.
ILL - In our world today there is too much “touchy feely” church. God does love and Jesus does save, thats the Gospel.
Yet, God does punish and Jesus did suffer and that is the truth.
Daniel was witness to this in the lives of the father to this king and the king himself.
What happens to a society that softens the truth to appease the people in power?
What happens when prayer is no longer allowed in public, when homosexuals are married, when babies are murdered, and when greed is god?
It’s happening in the USA because Christians, the majority of citizens claim to be Christian, it is happening because we fail to speak when it might be difficult to so do.
We might hear from the prophet Ezekiel:
But if you warn a wicked person to turn from his way and he doesn’t turn from it, he will die for his iniquity, but you will have rescued yourself.
Belshazzar thought he had it all, but lost everything for being a fool.
For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life?
However, when you give your life to Jesus, you get everything that belongs to the children of God.
You get to know God, eternal life, a family of believers with whom to go through this life—never alone.
You get a foundation unshakeable and all through this and the next life, know truth, can stand upon and for truth in all your ways.