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Divine Graffiti: The End of an Empire B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
July 15, 2021 4:00 am

Divine Graffiti: The End of an Empire B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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The wisdom of the world is foolishness. No answers are going to come from them.

None. Take all of the brain trust of America or anyplace else and they can work themselves into a frazzle and they're not going to give the right answer to things because the natural man understandeth not the things of God and God is the sovereign who rules history. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. So many phrases in modern language have their roots in the Bible—setting one's teeth on edge, or the eleventh hour, or beating swords into plowshares, to name a few. And in Daniel chapter 5, we encounter King Belshazzar, who saw the original handwriting on the wall and the disaster it foretold. John MacArthur shows us what we should learn from this divine graffiti as he continues his study on the rise and fall of world powers. If you're able, turn in your Bible to the book of Daniel and here's John MacArthur.

As we come to Daniel chapter 5, these 31 amazing and marvelous, insightful verses, we see the end of an empire. We see the movement from the head of gold, as the image in chapter 2 indicated, to the breast and the arms of silver, which indicate the Medo-Persians who followed the Babylonians. This great transition takes place at the close of this, the fifth chapter. Now I want you to look at the chapter in two perspectives, first the account and then the application. First the account, just the historical record, and then its application.

And under the account, we've tried to break it down so you can see the flow of the text. First is the scene in verses 1 to 4. Secondly, the sign, verse 5.

So the scene and the sign. Thirdly, the shortcoming, verse 7. Where's he going to go to get some help? What's he going to do? The king cried aloud, screamed at the top of his voice, bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans and the soothsayers.

Now this bunch is still around, folks. They were useless the first two times they were called on in the book of Daniel. But what else can he do?

He calls the brain trust. And the king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, whosoever shall read this writing and show me its interpretation shall be clothed with scarlet and have a chain of gold about his neck and shall be the triumvir, the third ruler in the kingdom. Why the third ruler? Because Nabonidus was the first and Belshazzar was the co-regent and this guy was going to stand with them. Even though de facto Nabonidus was already eliminated, it still had to be acknowledged that he was king. Now we'll give him the throne equal to us and a gold thing around his neck and scarlet or better translated purple.

And so he gives them the biggest incentive he can. Clothed with scarlet means a royal robe. He's offering them royal rank. A chain of gold, that was the highest thing you could give to somebody because it was the most valuable commodity. And to give a chain of gold was the highest honor. And to become the triumvir was to be equal with Nabonidus and Belshazzar.

I mean the guy is offering the whole shot. Verse 8, then came in all the king's wise men. And believe it, they couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together there either. They couldn't read the writing in the first place.

They couldn't even read it. People say why? I don't know why. Some people say because God has his own way of curving letters. I don't know that.

Maybe he does. Maybe those days he curved them so nobody could read them. Or maybe they were just blinded by it all. Or maybe they were so drunk they couldn't see them.

I don't know. They couldn't read them. And if they couldn't read them, they certainly couldn't make known to the king the interpretation. And then was King Belshazzar greatly troubled and his countenance was changed in him and his lords were perplexed. Apparently he was getting a little bit relief and the color was returning to his face when he saw them in and he was going to feel a little better.

But when they came up zero he went right back to being ashen white again. Now frankly, folks, it's getting rather ridiculous. Same old song and dance, right? This whole pile of people keep marching in every time there's a crisis and march out without an answer. The wisdom of the world is foolishness. No answers are going to come from them.

None. Take all of the brain trust of America or any place else and they can work themselves into a frazzle and they're not going to give the right answer to things because the natural man understandeth not the things of God and God is the sovereign who rules history. And you can't interpret it from a humanistic perspective. By the way, the word perplexed at the end of verse 9 means there was excited movement. There was so much confusion they were all just, you know, jumping and hopping and moving around because whatever was going on on the wall was still going on.

It was still there. The scene, the sign, the shortcoming and then the summons, verse 10. Now the queen. By the way, this is a most likely reference to Belshazzar's mother, the queen mother, the dowager queen, because the wives and the concubines were already in on the orgy. And because the wife of the king would never have done this. It had to be somebody very stately who just moved in on the scene and by virtue of dignity or whatever had the right, the queen mother, scholars universally accept the fact that this is the queen mother, the mother of Belshazzar. By reason of the words of the kings and the lords came into the banquet house and the queen spoke and said, O king, live forever.

Amenities out of the way. Let not thy thoughts trouble thee nor let thy countenance be changed. There is a man in thy kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. You heard that before? Who said that? Nebuchadnezzar did, 23 years before at least. Well, 30 years before if you go before the time of his insanity. Nebuchadnezzar knew this man, Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar had called him that and that's one reason why we believe this woman was a widow or a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar because she remembered the very phrase that Nebuchadnezzar said. There is a man in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God because the gods of Babylon were not holy.

They were just as vile and sinful as men. And in the days of your father light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods was found in him. Whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king I say thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans and soothsayers.

In other words, the king and she repeats your father, I say your father, apparently to emphasize the point that he is related to Nebuchadnezzar, strongly emphasize it. But he was so impressed with this Daniel that he made him the chief of the magicians, the chief of the scholars, the wise men. For as much as an excellent spirit and knowledge and understanding, interpreting of dreams and revealing of hard sentences or riddles and dissolving of doubts were found in the same Daniel whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called and he will show the interpretation. There's the summons.

In pops this old queen. In the midst of all this excitement and perplexity and chaos, he says, there's a man in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. Statement right out of Daniel 4, 8, 9 and 18.

A statement made by Nebuchadnezzar. In him is light, that means enlightenment. Understanding, that means insight. Wisdom, he can apply what he knows. He is the master of the magicians. He has an excellent spirit in knowledge and understanding. In other words, he uses every possible noun and descriptive adjective to tell him that this is the most intelligent, gifted, capable man in all of the realm. He can interpret dreams, verse 12 says. He can solve riddles, that's what it means, revealing hard sentences. And he can answer knotty problems, dissolved doubts. Get him.

Get him. Verse 13, then was Daniel brought in before the king. Now folks, let me just say this again. It always thrills me that the guy is never hanging around the rest of those people. He never fooled with any of them. He just waits his moment. I mean he stood alone when he was a teenager. He stood alone when he was a mature man. And now that he is an octogenarian in his 80s, he'll still stand alone.

Never compromise. And he walks in an old man. Daniel enters the scene and we know something's about to happen. Now the king was afraid, but he had to know what the writing on the wall meant. Verse 13 again, the king spoke and said to Daniel, this shows you that he knew him. Are you that, Daniel, who art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king, my father, brought out of Jewry? I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the God or of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in thee. I know about you, Daniel.

But you know what's interesting? Apparently after Nebuchadnezzar died, Daniel faded away because he had to ask who he was. He had the rank of a prime minister and yet Belshazzar paid little or no attention to him, didn't even know who he was. Now he calls him out of oblivion again and says, are you the one who was brought of the children of the captivity of Judah by my father, the one who has all of this knowledge, the spirit of the God is in thee?

Is this the one? Verse 15, and now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me that they should read this writing and make known unto me the interpretation of it, but they couldn't show the interpretation of the thing? And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations and dissolve doubts. Now if thou canst read the writing and make known to me the interpretation of it, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet and have a chain of gold about thy neck and shalt be a third ruler in the kingdom. Now Daniel is not intimidated by this whole deal and nor is he interested in being a third ruler in the kingdom. I mean, who wants to be a third ruler in the kingdom that's got a few hours to last?

The higher up you go in the rank, the more likely you are to get killed. He wasn't intimidated by any of these monarchs when he was a teenager and he wasn't about to be intimidated by them in his 80s. So the scene, the sign, the shortcoming, the summons, and then we find what's the heart of the matter, the sermon. And this is great, the sermon. Verse 17, then Daniel answered and said unto the king, and he doesn't say, long live the king. The king is not going to live long. He said unto him, let your gifts be to yourself.

Keep your own stuff or give it to somebody else. Oh, the character and the courage of Daniel. I don't want your crummy stuff. What a tremendous need there is for men of the same fearless courage in our day. You know, people in our day are seeking with all their might to get somebody rich and powerful and famous to lift them up and give them things and Daniel could have cared less about the whole deal. He was filled with holy zeal. He had no interest in gifts or rewards. He couldn't be bought. He had integrity. Try to find a man like that in our society. Try to find a man like that in the politics of our society. A man who can't be bought.

A man with absolute integrity, who has no interest in gifts and rewards. That's Daniel. He says, keep it. I'll read the writing unto the king and I'll make known to him the interpretation.

But first, I've got a few other things to say. Like all good preachers, he can't give his message until he gets his introduction out of the way. Verse 18, O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom and majesty and glory and honor. And for the majesty that he gave him all people, nations and languages trembled and feared before him. He was great as a monarch. Whom he would he slew and whom he would he kept alive and whom he would he set up and whom he would he put down.

Absolute dictator. And when his heart was lifted up and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne and they took his glory from him. And he was driven from the sons of men and his heart was made like the beasts. In other words, he thought like an animal. In fact, he had lycanthropy. He thought he was an animal. And his dwelling was with the wild asses.

They fed him with grass like oxen. And his body was wet with the dew of heaven until he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men and that he appointed over it whomsoever he will. That man needed to learn who really ran things.

It wasn't him. God humbled him. God humbled him. Nebuchadnezzar had used his God-given authority and great authority it was given to him. He had used it to pervert justice. He had used it to kill. He had used it to become proud. And so God struck him down, turned him into an animalistic human who thought that he was a beast who ate grass and that lasted for seven years of that man's life until he learned that it is the most high that rules in the kingdoms of men and gives them to whomsoever he will. Now from that, he indicts Belshazzar on three counts. Number one, verse 22, and thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart though thou knowest what?

All this. Indictment number one, you sinned against knowledge. You knew.

You knew. You're not ignorant. You can't claim I'm just an ignorant pagan. What do I know?

You have sinned against light. Your sin is not a sin of ignorance. You knew what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. You knew that he ascribed all things ultimately to the God of heaven. You knew that God broke him and God was demanding to be worshiped. And against that knowledge you sinned.

You know all the facts of Nebuchadnezzar. You failed to heed. You did not humble your heart. Therefore your sin is flagrant rebellion against knowledge. Serious sin people. And I'm telling you the same is coming from the heart of God to any soul who sits under the gospel of Jesus Christ today and refuses Christ. That is a flagrant sin of rebelling against knowledge, the severest of sins. How much greater punishment shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing?

In other words, how much greater punishment for the one who knows and tramples on that knowledge? He sinned against light. Christ pronounced horrible judgment in Matthew 11 on the cities you remember in Galilee.

And He said, I pronounce this judgment on you. It shall be worse for you than Sodom and Gomorrah because you refused to heed the word and the work that I did in your midst. Second indictment, verse 23, But thou hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven, and they have brought the vessels of this house before thee, and thou and thy lords, thy wives and thy concubines have drunk wine from them, and thou hast praised the gods of silver and gold and bronze and iron and wood and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know, and the God in whose hand thy breath is and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified? Second indictment, you have blasphemed God and worshiped idols. You have sinned against light and it isn't just the sin of rejection, it is a willful blasphemy. Bad enough to sin against light, but against light to blaspheme. And then thirdly, the indictment at the end of the verse, idolatry. Sin against knowledge, blasphemy and idolatry.

You know, listen, it's a progression, isn't it? First, you knew the truth and you turned from it. Then you blasphemed the God of that truth and then you turned and worshiped false gods and he indicts him. Verse 24, then was the part of the hand sent from him and this writing was written. When God saw you, Belshazzar, when he saw you sin against light, blaspheme his name, express idolatry. Then God sent the fingers and God wrote, it's because of your sin and the sins of your people. So, the scene and the sign and the shortcoming, the summons, the sermon, the solution, the solution. Verse 25, and he solves the mystery of what was written. And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Eufarsin. That's what the hand wrote so they could all see. Aramaic is the language. Three words with the first one repeated, Mene.

Let's see what it means. Verse 26, this is the interpretation of the thing, Mene. God has numbered thy kingdom and finished it. Mene means numbered. You want it in the vernacular, Mene meant your numbers up. Your numbers up. God who numbers all kingdoms says you're finished. And he says it twice, your numbers up, your numbers up.

Mene, Mene. Tekel, verse 27, thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting. The word Tekel literally means to be weighed and to be found too light.

In those days when they weighed things, they would put whatever the standard of weight was on one side of the scale and on the other whatever the commodity was and it had to balance. God's standard is over here. You come up too light.

You don't make it. You don't meet the standard. And so you've been weighed in God's balance and you are found too light, too light in your morality, too light in your spiritual virtue, too light in your moral value.

You don't balance off with God's standard. You come short. Finally, the word Eufarsen or Perez, Farsen, Farse really and Perez, basically the same root word, just two different forms of it. It means the kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians. The root word simply means to divide, numbered, numbered, too light, divided. That's the message.

The sum of it is simply this. Belshazzar's kingdom is going to be destroyed. Why? Because it is lacking in moral and spiritual value. It does not meet God's standard and the encompassing army will absorb it into their larger dominion, the Medes and the Persians. It will be divided into the Medes and the Persians, two elements. The prophecy then written over the head of that king where all could see and the drunken orgy that was going on said, this is the end, Belshazzar.

This is the end. And you know something? Daniel, bless his heart, standing there zeroing in on that king and I'm sure he said it so that hall literally rang with his words while he was saying that.

You know what was going on? Herodotus the historian tells us this. The Medes and the Persians outside the city in the night in which Belshazzar had his feast. And by the way, the night is marked for all history, the 16th day of Tishri, 539 B.C.

in October around the 11th and 12th of that year, by our months. That night, the Medes and the Persians built a dam on the Euphrates. It flowed under the wall of the city. They diverted all of that water coming into the Euphrates except a little shallow portion.

They diverted it into a swampland. And when the water began to fall in the midst of the banquet, it came down to be about to the knees or the waist of the soldiers. They marched underneath the wall on that shallow riverbed, went into the inside and the whole Medo-Persian army descended on that city in one fell swoop.

What happened? Verse 29, the sequel. Then commanded Belshazzar and they clothed Daniel with scarlet. They put a chain of gold on his neck and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the triumvire in the kingdom and he could have cared less.

But that's not all that happened. Like a shot in that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans, what? Slain. And Darius the Mede took the kingdom.

Listen, it all came to a fast end. Babylon is fallen is fallen. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

John is pastor of Grace Community Church and he's also chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. Our current series is titled The Rise and Fall of World Powers. Now John, this scene with the writing on the wall, obviously that was terrifying for Belshazzar and the Babylonians and everyone who was there. And what you're going to talk about tomorrow could be scary for a lot of people listening because you're going to draw comparisons between the fall of Babylon and the direction where our culture is headed today. And yet there is something very encouraging when we look to the future and see everything scripture reveals about it. Yeah, one of the most interesting parts of the book of Revelation is where John has this vision and he sees a little book and the little book is likely the title deed to the earth that the Lord is going to take back. And in the vision he eats the little book and it's both sweet and bitter. And it's sweet because God has vindicated, Christ has vindicated, Christ has exalted, and that's the sweetness of it. The bitterness of it is the devastating judgment and death and eternal punishment that comes. So whenever you're dealing with eschatology, you're dealing with the combination of the terror of the Lord on the one hand to the unconverted and on the other hand the hope of the believer. So you couldn't get two more extreme responses out of any single event than the return of Christ because everybody ends up either in eternal bliss or eternal punishment, eternal heaven or eternal hell.

On the one hand the rejoicing over the vindication of Christ and his exaltation and his people with him and on the other hand the crushing realization that the people that you know and love who don't know Christ are going into eternal judgment. So I think when Paul said, knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men to the Corinthians, I think if you don't talk about that, the terror of the Lord, you don't have that motivation. And preachers don't preach about the terror of the Lord. So what are you trying to motivate people to do?

Evangelism gets reduced to Jesus will make you happy, he'll fix your marriage, Jesus will make you a better person, Jesus will give you hope and joy. But wait a minute, where is the terror in all of that? Where is the terror that says to the sinner you're headed for eternal hell?

This is not about how happy your life is here, there's no guarantee of that. This is about where you're going to spend eternity. So the fact that that is not a part of regular preaching is a sinful omission, a massively sinful omission. If that's not being preached in a church, then that church is an unfaithful church no matter what else they're doing. Now again, as we've been saying almost every day, this and a lot of other things are touched on in the little booklet, A Jet Tour Through Revelation. Free to anyone who asks, just contact us today. Friend, there is no need to feel intimidated by the book of Revelation.

And don't ever assume that it just can't be understood. John's booklet will show you what the last book of the Bible is all about. To get your copy, contact us today. Our number, 855grace, and our website, Again, the booklet to ask for, A Jet Tour Through Revelation.

It's yours with our compliments. Request your copy when you call 855grace or go to Also, whether you're a long-time believer or a new Christian, if you have a passion for God's word and you want to know what it teaches, not only about the end times, but about any subject, I'd encourage you to order the MacArthur Study Bible. It has the full text of Scripture and 25,000 footnotes from John MacArthur that will help you understand every passage. The Study Bible comes in a variety of bindings, hardcover, leather soft, even premium goatskin, and it's also available in various translations. We have the New American Standard Version, the English Standard Version, and the New King James Version, as well as several non-English editions. To order the MacArthur Study Bible, call 855grace or log on to Now, for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to be here tomorrow when John looks at the proper response to Daniel's prophecies about the rise and fall of world powers. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-22 09:40:31 / 2023-09-22 09:50:56 / 10

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