Read Daniel 5:1-31
1King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. 2While 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. 3So 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. 4As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
5Suddenly 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. 6His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way.
7The 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."
8Then all the king's wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. 9So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.
10The 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! 11There 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. 12This 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."
13So 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? 14I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. 15The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. 16Now 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."
17Then 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.
18"O king, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. 19Because 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. 20But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. 21He 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.
22"But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23Instead, 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. 24Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.
25"This is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN
26"This is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. 27Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. 28Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."
29Then 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.
30That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, 31and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two. (NIV)
When we read these stories, we are not looking at pure history, but a story to tell us something about God and our relationship with God. This story is written first for the Jews in exile. It is secondly for us how live in different circumstances.
For the Jews, it was a reminder that God can do what we cannot do. The Jews were powerless to address the rulers who oppressed them. But God was able to speak to these rules and even affect their lives. This is a powerful reminder to us as we go through struggles in life. There will be times when all we can do is seek God and pray. We must live trusting God.
But we see a deeper meaning too. King Belshazzar is the main character in this section of Daniel. He is seen as one who mocks God. Nebuchadnezzar was given power by God. But he became arrogant and prideful. God gave Nebuchadnezzar a chance to repent. And after his ordeal of going mad, he repented and came to trust in God.
But we are not always given a dramatic event like that to trust in God. We see that today in the lives of those who have lost everything to drugs and alcohol. It is in hitting a hard bottom that they come to see that Christ is their answer and begin to trust in Christ. But others are only given signs and invitations. This is the story of Belshazzar. This is the story of most people.
Belshazzar, like many in our country today have had the opportunity to hear of God, or the wonder of Christ. We have seen other believers. This is what Daniel reminded Belshazzar in verse 22 where Daniels says, “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.” There are those who hear and see, yet still reject God. To all to many, the cares and pleasures of the world are more important.
Yet we do not know when our time will come to an end. We also think there is time to get right with God, to think about God’s love for us later. Right now is the moment we want to live in thinking there is time.
There is a wonderful story about a church member, who when the offering plate came to him, simply stared at it. He then looked at the usher and said, “I owe too many bills right now.” The usher said back, “Now, you know you owe the Lord more than you do anyone else.” The man replied, “That is true, but the Lord is not pressing me like those other people.” We think that God’s call on our life can be put off. This part of Daniel is a reminder that God will not be mocked and that repentance cannot be put off.
We see in this passage, that when Belshazzar heard the interpretation, his only response was to do what he said he would do, reward the person for the interpretation, verse 29. There was not repentance. Once has to wonder that if Belshazzar had repented, would his life have been spared. We see this in other passages. It is the lesson of Jonah and the Ninevites. But here, there was not repentance, no acknowledge of God’s sovereignty or God’s love. And so, he life was forfeit that very night.
For those who do trust in God, we should see this as a warning to us to share with those who do not trust in God. We don’t know the days of a person’s life. Every year, all too many die too young – too soon. We are called to share the good news. It is then up that person to say yes or no to God. But we are called to share.
Blessings and Peace