The handwriting is on the wall!!!!
The back story of Daniel 5, reveals a foolish, overconfident King with messed up priorities. There are historical sources that fill in the gaps to complete the story of Daniel 5 and the overthrow of the city of Babylon. Archeologists have even found the room in the palace where the King undoubtedly saw the writing. The writing is not on the wall, but in the room where this took place, two of the walls have plaster on them: READ Dan. 5:5. Fascinating. At the end of chapter 5 the Bible clearly states in Dan. 5:31, “and Darius the Mede took over the Kingdom.” This is the shifting of superpowers that took place on Oct. 12, 539 years before Christ. The date is known precisely.
In a bit of humor, at least I think it is funny, after the King sees the mysterious writing he is desperate to know what it means. He promises status and wealth to anyone that can read and interpret the writing (READ Dan. 5:7). Cool. When Daniel enters the scene to help the king understand what it means, and Daniel is now over 80 years old and probably just wants to live in peace, Daniel is promised the rewards, and this is his response: READ Dan. 5:17. Daniel interprets what the handwriting means, and guess what, the King puts the royal robes and gold on Daniel and elevates him to third in command ~ Daniel get what he doesn’t want. But what is really funny is that his new status as third in command lasts but a few hours because READ Dan. 5:30. Here is a lesson for all of you who are over 80 years old: God is not finished with you yet! You may want to live in peace, but there is a place for you in his kingdom work. And everyone under 80 years old says, “AMEN.” We love you and know God is using you…you never know…
Between Daniel 4 and 5, there is a gap of many years. The great Nebuchanezer has been gone 24 years. Time has not been kind to the Babylonian empire, and the once mighty empire has been reduced to the City of Babylon. The Medes and the Persians have combined forces and have taken over most of the territory of the Babylonians. All that is left is the great walled city itself. But the city is a fortress. A Double Wall: 15 miles on each side, 300 feet high, 80 feet thick, extending 35 feet below the ground. The armies of the Medes and Persians are surrounding the great city, but inside the people feel secure, or at least they are trying to convince themselves… what army could possibly overtake such a fortress. Furthermore, inside the city walls, the officials have stockpiled 20 years worth of food, so they had no reason to leave the city. And the Euphrates River ran through the middle of the city, providing an endless supply of water ~ the wall was built over the river making it impossible to gain access to the city by water.
According to secular history, the date is October 12, 539 BC. All over the city people were excited because the king was throwing a massive party. One thousand nobles were invited, the dignitaries, along with their wives and mistresses. Counting waiters, guards, and various onlookers, one estimate of the total crowd is well over 8000 people.
Why did the King throw such a lavish party? My guess: a way of diverting attention from the events outside the walls. A massive morale-booster, meant to lift the spirits of the city.
The king assembled the most important ingrediants for a good party! Food, wine, and women. All in abundance! Such a party would have started early in the day and lasted until after midnight. Course after course, wine flowing freely, entertainment. King Belshazzar with 8000 of his best friends! (I prefer our sober Potlucks myself!)
Twice in the opening verses it emphasizes the King was drinking wine. What that means: He was drunk! Smashed! Out of his gourd! Want a simple lesson? When you get drunk you do stupid things! …. Want a simple lesson? Checking out of reality doesn’t take away your problems, often they make problems worse. If I had the power to change one advertisement campaign on tv it would be to ban the beer ads in a bar with everyone having a fun loving good old time…that just isn’t real.. the King is drunk. Then he got a brilliant idea: “hey, why don’t we slap God in the face!!!!!” READ Dan. 5:2. The disrespect. The arrogance. The pride. Is there a taunting of God today in our world?
Another simple lesson. King Belshazzar is a generation removed from the great King Nebuchadnezzar. I have limited time so I can’t research endlessly, I read both that he was the grandson of Nebechadnezzar and that actually the kingship did not follow bloodlines… what is certain is that King Belshazzar is a co-King at this time with his father who apparently has skipped town. In all likelihood, in Daniel 5:10 when the queen comes in to advice the King about bringing in Daniel to interpret the dream, the queen is the mother of the King, the wife of the other co-King. King Belshazzar does not learn the lesson of the King Nebechadnezzar that preceded him. Nebechadnezzar was an arrogant man that was humbled by God. Nebachadnezzar ended his life by praising God. Now a generation later the next King slaps God in the face by drinking from the Jerusalem temple cups and vessels.
The lesson and the one I want to emphasize today: Every generation has to come fresh to God. Wouldn’t it be great if parents could tell children the stupid decisions they made when they were young and the children listened. But it does not work that way. Belshazzar ignored the story of the humbling of Nebuchadnezzar! Every person has to go to the Lord themselves. Our fathers and great men and women of faith can influence us, try to shape us, show us the way to God, but the bottom line every generation, every individual has to deal with the Lord according to the convictions and priorities of their heart. You would think King Belshazzar would be wary of the story of Nebacadnzzar about bellowing like a cow in the streets of Babylon, but apparently he dismissed the stories, ignored them, and chose to flaunt the greatness of God by dishonoring the temple of the Lord. READ Dan. 5:18-22. Faith is not inherited, but God gives each person, each generation an opportunity to repent and turn to him seeking forgiveness. I think it a slap at God when Belshazzar and the people are said to praise the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron in Dan. 5:23: READ. These are the materials in the dream of the statue in Daniel 2, they are making light of the vision of God. They learned nothing! No repentance. No changing.
Every generation, every individual has to decide what to do with God. When you and I talk to people who are struggling, when we tell them about the peace of Christ, we are only the messengers, we can only tell our stories ~ each person needs to search their own heart. Wouldn’t it be great if young people learned from the crazy decisions of parents, but that is not how it works…God wants our hearts. There are no second generation Christians ~ I cannot put my faith in my will to leave for my children. I can leave stories. I can be influencial, but there are only first generation Christians.
Right now, it seems as if our national leadership, our country, our world, is moving away from God, like Belshazzar. I like the little saying I saw in Facebook recently: “Christianity needs to catch up with the times” said every failed empire the last 2000 years. Faith in Jesus Christ is always relevant. No greater decision. There is no greater message than the truth of Jesus Christ. The world may try to marginalize faith, make it out to be quant and outdated, but there is no greater need than to know the peace of Christ.
Next week we will continue with the story of the Handwriting on the Wall. History is repeating itself. We’ll see Daniel used in a powerful way for God’s purposes. We’ll see the drunk King instantly sober up when he sees a vision of God’s fingers. We’ll see how important it is to be available for God and to wait upon him in his timing for him to use us. We’ll see how Christians are not welcome to the world’s parties ~ just get with the times we are told ~ but when crisis hits, the world wants the comfort and security that we are living. Like Daniel, the calling of Christians is to live in peace in the middle of the storm.
The world is falling apart. The armies are outside the walls. Inside the walls we are crumbling. Many people are choosing to ignore the lessons of history and the example of faith, rejecting God and all he stands for. You know what’s coming: tension will increase, wars will continue to threaten, and dissatisfaction will reign. Yet for those who search their heart and in humility look to God, the promise is peace and security in Jesus Christ. Dare to be a Daniel. Dare to be confident in God.