Daniel 5

Sunday Morning Bible Study

December 29, 2002

Parties don’t always turn out the way we plan them to.

Illustration

A wealthy businessman hosted a spectacular party in which he had filled his swimming pool with sharks, barracuda, and other assorted dangerous fish. He announced to his guests that he would like to challenge any of them to try swimming across the pool, and he would offer a first prize of either a new home in the mountains, a trip around the world for two, or a piece of his business. No sooner had he made the announcement than there was a splash and a man swam rapidly across the infested waters and bounded up out on the other side. The millionaire said to the dripping man, “That was a stunning performance. What prize do you want?” He answered tersely, “Right now I really don’t care about the prize. I just want to get the name of the turkey who pushed me in.”

Belshazzar was throwing the party of his life.  It was his way of laughing at the danger his kingdom was in.

Yet the party wouldn’t end the way he expected.  Somebody was going to push him into the pool and he wouldn’t get out alive.  This is the night that a new kingdom would start, the night of a new beginning.  Yet he wouldn’t enjoy it.

It reminds me of New Year’s in a couple of ways –

We see the New Year as a chance for a new start, so we make “resolutions”; we try to look forward to what’s up ahead.

We too will soon be facing the changing of a kingdom. Jesus is coming back.

It’s going to be a “party night”. Some people will be getting drunk and will miss it. Others will be walking with the Lord and entering into the New Kingdom.

:1-4 Belshazzar’s party

:1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords

At the time that Belshazzar is holding this feast, things are happening outside the city walls.

The city of Babylon has been under siege by the Persian army of Cyrus. The siege has been going on for some time, but the Babylonians weren’t worried.

The city of Babylon was fourteen miles square, surrounded by a first batch of outer walls that were 87 feet thick, and 350 feet high, with 100 great bronze gates in the walls.

The walls were thick enough, that chariots four abreast were driven around the tops of the walls. Just inside the outer walls was a moat, and inside the moat was another system of inner walls.
The river Euphrates ran through the center of the city, from north to south, through great brass gates.
The city was so large, that it had its own internal farms, and with the river Euphrates running through it supplying water, it was thought that Babylon could survive a siege of 20 years without a sweat.

In the face of this threat, Belshazzar holds a feast, to laugh in the face of the threatening forces.

Belshazzar feels that nothing can shake his world. Nothing can shake his kingdom.

It’s the way much of our nation felt prior to 9/11.  It’s the way some of us feel if we’ve never been laid off or experienced a serious illness.

:4 They drank wine …

These were the very cups and vessels originally used in the Temple of God in Jerusalem, things which had been taken by Belshazzar’s grandfather Nebuchadnezzar nearly seventy years earlier. Apparently up to this time these things had been kept under guard in the treasure house.

But now Belshazzar has started to cross the line with God. He’s taking the very things used to worship God in the Temple, and using them for his wild party.

Lesson

Don’t abuse God’s vessels

You are those special, holy vessels. God wants you for special things, not drunken parties.
(1 Pet 1:15-16 NLT)  But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God--who chose you to be his children--is holy. {16} For he himself has said, "You must be holy because I am holy."
The word “holy” means “set apart”.  It means that something has been set apart for a special use.
We usually consider our toothbrush to be “holy”.  Most people would gag at the idea of using someone else’s toothbrush.
God considers you “holy”.  He wants you to be “holy”.
He wants you to be used for His purposes.

There was an old bumper sticker that read, “You touch-a my truck, I break-a you face”.  The truck is meant for it’s owner’s use.

God wants your body to be used for what He wants it used for.

(1 Th 4:1-4 KJV)  Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. {2} For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. {3} For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:
It is God’s will that we be “holy”.  Sanctification is that process where we become more and more like Jesus.  Sanctification is the process of “holiness”.
Fornication is defined as “sex outside of marriage”.
{4} That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
Our “vessel” is our body.  Belshazzar abused the “vessels” of the Temple.  God doesn’t want us to abuse our “vessels”.

:5-9 The handwriting on the wall

:5 fingers of a man's hand, and wrote …upon the plaster of the wall

This is where we get that phrase, “the handwriting on the wall”.

:6 his knees smote one against another.

His knees were literally knocking together.  Kind of like that Elvis thing …

:8 Then came in all the king's wise men …

Belshazzar gathers all his magicians and wise men to explain what is happening.  But these guys don’t have a clue.

Lesson

Not everyone can give you the right advice

This is a spiritual thing. This is a “god-thing”. Only people who really know about God can tell you what’s going on.
Illustration
Bob went to a psychiatrist. “Doc,” he said, “I’ve got trouble. Every time I get into bed, I think there’s somebody under it. I get under the bed; I think there’s somebody on top of it. Top, under, top, under...you gotta help me, I’m going crazy!” “Just put yourself in my hands for one year,” said the shrink. “Come to me three times a week, and I’ll cure your fears.” “How much do you charge?” “A hundred dollars per visit” the psychiatrist said. “I’ll sleep on it,” said Bob. Six months later the doctor met Bob on the street. “Why didn’t you ever come to see me again?” asked the psychiatrist. “For a hundred buck’s a visit? A friend cured me for free!” “Is that so! How?” “He told me to cut the legs off the bed!”
Be careful where you get your advice from.
When it comes to making important decisions about your life, make sure you are trying to find out what God thinks.
Our friends can mean well, but if they don’t know the Lord and don’t know God’s Word, we ought to be careful about listening to their advice.  It is not an uncommon thing to hear about some couple getting a divorce because one spouse is asking their friends for advice, and their friends are giving them bad advice.

Find a friend who knows God’s Word.

Better yet, YOU get to know God’s Word.

:9 Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled …

Lesson

Do you see the handwriting on the wall?

If you’re abusing the things of God, are you aware of what you’re doing?
There may be some of you here this morning who are in a dangerous place.  Do you even recognize it? 

:10-16 Daniel is summoned

:12 now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.

Daniel is an old man by this time.  He’s been around a long time.  He has quite a reputation.  And it’s a good one.

Lesson

Be a light in your world

Illustration
This is a story about a little girl who, on the way home from church, turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, the Preacher’s sermon this morning confused me.” The mother said, “Oh! Why is that?” The girl replied, “Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?” “Yes, that’s true,” the mother replied. “He also said that God lives within us. Is that true, too?” Again the mother replied, “Yes.” “Well,” said the girl. “If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn’t He show through?”
God wants people to see Him through us.  God wants us to have a reputation of integrity.

:17-24 Daniel’s rebuke

:17 Let thy gifts be to thyself …

Daniel is probably a man in his eighties about now. He isn’t interested in money or power. He never was.

Lesson

Ministry is free

Jesus told His disciples:
(Mat 10:8 KJV)  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
I think this goes beyond whether or not you get “paid” for ministry or for helping others.
Why do you help others?
Do you expect to get something in return?

Sometimes we can find ourselves serving others to gain “respect”.  And then when someone doesn’t show us any “respect”, we act surprised and think about quitting.

:21 …till he knew that the most high God ruled …

This story is recorded in detail in Daniel 4, apparently at least partly recorded by Nebuchadnezzar himself.

Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed a bizarre dream about a tree that was cut down, and it was a warning to him about his own pride, that he would be cut down.

He ignored the warning and later was walking through his palaces, boasting to himself of his greatness, when he was struck with a kind of madness.  He started acting like a cow and was “put out to pasture”, literally.  He ate grass.  His hair and nails grew long.  He went insane.

Then one day he looked up and his mind returned to him:
(Dan 4:34-35 KJV)  And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: {35} And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

:22-24 thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart…

Belshazzar was aware of what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar.  He hadn’t learned from what he had seen.

Daniel was willing to speak up.

Lesson

Caring enough to confront

Daniel didn’t have to say these difficult things.  He could have simply interpreted the handwriting on the wall.
But somebody had to say something to Belshazzar.
(2 Tim 2:24-26 KJV)  And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, {25} In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; {26} And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
It’s when we learn to “speak the truth in love” that we stop being children tossed about by every wind of doctrine, and when we grow up (Eph. 4:15).

:25-29 The Interpretation

:25 … MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN

The inscription was written in Aramaic, a language that the people understood. It wasn’t as it the message was in a foreign language; it was that they just didn’t understand it.

To the person in the room looking at this, it looked as if a series of monetary values were being written on the wall.

Mene is the mina, about 50 shekels.

Tekel is the shekel

Upharsin is the half-shekel

Totaling 101 ˝ shekels.

:26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.

MENEmene’ (Aramaic) – a weight or measurement; from [email protected]– to number, reckon

Daniel is taking the words and giving them an “interpretation”.  He’s saying that God has determined a time of “reckoning” for Belshazzar.  It’s time to see how Belshazzar “measures up”.

:27 TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

TEKEL[email protected] (Aramaic) – to weigh (like putting on the scales); “shekel”

Belshazzar had been put on the scales, and didn’t measure up.

Lesson

How does your “kingdom” measure up?

There is a sense in which this is true of all of us.  We are all found “wanting”.  We all come up a “bit short” to God’s standards.
Jesus said,
(Mat 5:20 KJV)  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The Pharisees were the most strictly religious people that were around in Jesus’ day.  Perhaps they were some of the most religious people ever.  Jesus said you had to “out do” the Pharisees.  Even they weren’t good enough.
He also said,
(Mat 5:48 KJV)  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Jesus said that the standard was perfection.  We aren’t measured by our own standards, we are measured by God’s standards.  We aren’t measured by comparing ourselves to other human beings.  We are measured by comparing ourselves to God’s standards.
(Rom 3:20-23 ICB)  because no one can be made right with God by following the law. The law only shows us our sin. {21} But God has a way to make people right with him without the law. And God has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about. {22} God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all are the same. {23} All people have sinned and are not good enough for God's glory.
Every single one of us can be measured to God’s standards and found “wanting”.
(Rom 3:24-25 ICB)  People are made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. {25} God gave Jesus as a way to forgive sin through faith. And all of this is because of the blood of Jesus' death. This showed that God always does what is right and fair. God was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins.
Instead of trying to measure up to God’s standards on our own, God offers us help.  He offers to pay for our sins if we will learn to trust Him.

How do you measure up?

:28 PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

PERES[email protected] (Aramaic) – to break in two, divide; Ironically, the word for “Persians” (parac) is very similar, a play on words.

Belshazzar would lose the kingdom.  It would be “divided” among the Medo-Persian Empire.

:29 put a chain of gold about his neck…

Belshazzar seems truly dazzled by Daniel’s interpretation of the handwriting.  But it doesn’t say that he stopped the party and changed his ways.

:30-31 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.

That very night the city of Babylon fell, and Belshazzar was killed.  The party was over.

Lesson

It’s not too late for you.

You don’t have to resign yourself to thinking that it’s too late for you, that all his hopeless.
(2 Cor 6:1-2 NLT)  As God's partners, we beg you not to reject this marvelous message of God's great kindness. {2} For God says, "At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you." Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation.
Illustration
Those inventive people, the Italians, have a custom. As midnight on New Year's Eve approaches, the streets are clear. There is no traffic; there are no pedestrians; even the policemen take cover. Then, at the stroke of 12, the windows of the houses fly open. To the sound of laughter, music and fireworks, each member of the family pitches out old crockery, detested ornaments, hated furniture and a whole catalogue of personal possessions which remind them of something in the past year they are determined to wipe out of their minds.

-- House & Garden

Today, God is giving you a chance to throw out the old and bring in the new.
(2 Cor 5:17 KJV)  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.