In our study of Daniel chapter five, we look at God's control over the affairs of men and the fact that He has numbered our days. In chapter 4, we saw how Nebuchadnezzar learned that God was in control of the governments of men. Now, we will see how his grandson learns that God is in control of the days of men.
"King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them." NIV translation
Belshazzar was now in charge of Babylon while his father was away at war. The city was under siege by the Medes and the king threw a party in an attempt to bring courage to the people. They were partying it up as if there was no problem.
"While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them." NIV translation
These goblets were from the temple and had been consecrated (set aside for God's use) and now the king was mocking God by using them for this party.
Belshazzar would have known about his grandfather's testimony of how God showed him that He was in control. He would have also known that the goblets were set aside for God's use.
"So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone." NIV translation
They were really living it up and mocking God while worshiping the great city that had been built around them. They believed that the city was invincible and would last forever. The same type of thing happens today as many people will celebrate the things that they have and the things that they have made without acknowledging the fact that God gives those things and is the Creator of all things.
"Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way." NIV translation
God has a way of getting our attention when we are acting stupid and that is exactly what happened with the king. The king was terrified by what he saw but God was merciful in sending a message instead of just striking him dead.