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.
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King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The king called out for the enchanters, astrologers, and diviners to be brought and said to these wise men of Babylon, 'Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.'
The king called for all of his wise men to interpret the writing and offered a big reward. The purple clothes and gold chain were a status symbol of the day as they were worn by royalty. The one that could tell him the meaning was promised a royal position. The reward was to be the number three man in the kingdom and we remember that the number three is associated with the earthly display of God's will. Although Belshazzar had the title of king, his father was actually the king but he was away at war and so this royal position would be next to the king.
Then all the king's wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.
When the king tried to get men that did not know God to interpret things from God, it did not work and so he became even more scared. The same thing applies to our lives today, in that, if you want to know about the things of God, you will not find answers from the wisdom of the world. Understanding the things of God comes through the Holy Spirit and that is a gift that is reserved for those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The queen, hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. 'O king, live forever!' she said. 'Don't be alarmed! Don't look so pale! There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. King Nebuchadnezzar your father - your father the king, I say, - appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. This man Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.'
The queen remembered Daniel and advised the king to seek him for help in getting the meaning of the writing on the wall. It is interesting to note that the queen did not know God but she knew who to turn to in this difficult circumstance. As Christians, we need to ask ourselves whether those around us that are "lost" know to come to us when they do not know what to do. We need to be there when they get to the end of their rope (understanding) and have searched everywhere else for the answers. At that point, we can introduce them to the wisdom that can only come from God.
So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, 'Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom.'
Now, we see that Daniel had a reputation for being a man of God. This king, who knew nothing about the one true God, calls on Daniel to interpret the writing. As a Christian, do you have the reputation as someone that is in touch with the things of God and is willing to help others in need? Jesus had that kind of reputation when He walked the earth as we see by the fact that all of the sick always tried to get to Him to be healed.
'The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.'
Daniel's reward for doing this was to be a promotion to the third highest position in the land. The purple robe and gold chain are symbols of royalty. This is a reminder to us that, if we humble ourselves and serve the Lord, He will lift us up.
Then Daniel answered the king, 'You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.'
Daniel agrees to interpret the writing for the king but refuses the rewards that are offered as payment. This is a shining example of ministry for the right purpose. Today, there are many so-called pastors, ministers, bishops, prophets, etc. who are peddling the works of God for their own profit. They are accumulating wealth and power on this earth but do not realize that they are trading their rewards in heaven for the things they possess today for a short time.
'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.'
Before he interprets the writing, Daniel gives the young king a little history lesson. His grandfather had been elevated to the position of the greatest kingdom in the world. He had power and authority that were unmatched by any man but pride became his downfall. The prophet recounts how his grandfather was humbled to the point of insanity and acting like a wild animal. He was also reminded that the reason for this was his elevating himself to a position equal to God. Belshazzar must have started feeling a little unease as he wondered why Daniel was giving him this little history lesson. This should be a reminder to us of the importance of sharing with our children and grandchildren what God has done and is doing in our lives. The first witnessing of a Christian begins at home; when it does not, you end up with the same type of situation that we see with Belshazzar.
'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. Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.'
Belshazzar had known about what had happened with his grandfather but did not take it to heart. Instead, he went about partying it up and even went so far as to defile the things of God. He worshiped the material things (false gods) and ignored the fact that God was in charge of his life. Daniel tells him that this is the reason that God sent the hand to proclaim his fate. This same type of thing is happening more and more today as many people chase material things and forget the more important matters of life itself.
'This is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN 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.'
God simply was telling Belshazzar that his number was up and his kingdom was going to be split in two because of the fact that he did not acknowledge that God was in charge. This is the same thing that God had showed Belshazzar's grandfather as we saw in chapter 2 with the statue.
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.
The king kept his promise to Daniel and elevated him to be his second in command. As we saw before, the king was really subject to his father who was off at war and so, in effect, Daniel became the third highest official in the kingdom. As is the pattern with God, He elevates the humble servant (Daniel).
That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.
While the king was having his party, the Medes were already infiltrating the city. The judgment was carried out that very night and is a reminder to us that God has all of our days numbered. When He says it is time, then, your number is up. As it was with King Belshazzar, we do not know when that appointed time is coming so we need to be prepared at all times. The only way to be prepared for the time when your number is up is through personal faith in Jesus Christ for your salvation.