God established the nations Paul preached so that they might seek after him. He designs nations so that people can recognize the need for a true leader and look to God.
The nation that is in deep trouble is a nation that instead of seeking him, excludes him, relegates him to the sidelines, which our own nation has been doing for more than a hundred years. But don't be fooled, God still rules. God has a purpose in all things. That purpose is to bring glory to himself. Since that's God's top priority, his desire is that we would pursue his glory as well. When we don't, things usually end badly. The same is true for nations. When nations turn their back on God, it often results in disaster. There's an example of that happening in the book of Daniel. And the kingdom of Babylon comes to a crashing halt.
It's over for them. Thanks for joining us today here on Wisdom for the Heart. Stephen Davey continues his series on the life of Daniel with this message entitled, Babylon's Last Meal. I couldn't help as I got into this scene and studied the historical setting that this is a perfect picture of lost humanity, isn't it? What a tragic picture of our own world today.
Immoral, committed to the idols of their own making, addicted to pleasure and entertainment, self-centered, impious, rebellious, drinking, feasting, fornicating, moving every day closer and closer to the cliff until they crash over the guardrail of their lives and into eternity they are swept. Did any of them stop and think I would doubt it here in Babylon that maybe this meal will be my last? Well, Belshazzar's actually bored with the banquet. He's had so many of these things. He's been there and done that over and over again. He wants to make a statement.
He kind of wants to juice the party by doing something dramatic. And here's what happens. Verse three, repeat it again for emphasis.
Notice. They brought the gold vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God, which was in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. Now, at first glance, you might think or have the idea that Belshazzar is just being, you know, blasphemous by drinking from temple vessels of the defeated God of Israel. And you'd be right.
He is. But it's more than that. You see, according to historical records and sources, we learned that under the leadership of King Cyrus, the emperor of the Medo-Persian Empire, the empire that will overthrow Babylon, according to the prediction of Daniel given to Nebuchadnezzar decades earlier, they have already surrounded Babylon.
In fact, they have been camped around the walls for the past four months. Oh, Belshazzar is not only glorifying his gods of gold and silver, he's not only blaspheming the God of Israel, saying effectively, you're good for nothing but to hold my wine. He's going a great step further. Daniel will point out later that Belshazzar knew about his grandfather's insanity. He knew about his grandfather's conversion to God. He knew about the prediction that Babylon was prophesied to fall at the feet of Persia, and he's even now surrounded by the Persian army, and still he spits in the face of God. He's effectively doing this. This is what I think of your prophecy. This is what I think about your prediction that I'm going to fall to the Medo-Persians, who are even now surrounding the city. It isn't going to happen.
I am unconquerable. That's what he's doing. That's what he's saying. Even though we also learned that the Babylonian army, or a portion of it, had already suffered defeat four miles away, all the nobles and all the military leaders and all the citizens with connections have raced and piled now into the capital city behind the security of their walls. Even still, Belshazzar is leading a thousand plus in this unanimous chanting down of the prediction of this defeated God of Israel, who dared suggest we would fall to Persia.
He did have some reason to boast, according to the might of man. That outer wall was about 80 feet thick. That's a thick wall.
You're not going to use a battering ram on that wall. And if you happened to scale it, you'd drop down into an open area that was cleared and open, and you'd be confronted by another wall. Upon that wall, there were battlements some 300 feet high from which the soldiers could just pick off those that came over that first wall. These walls had not been breached for hundreds of years.
They couldn't starve the citizens out either. The Euphrates River flowed through the city in different points, providing endless supplies of fish and fresh water. Huge iron gates had been crafted to sink down into the river, to the very riverbed at points where the river ran just under the city walls. Historians also inform us that the Babylonians at this point had already stocked enough grain to feed the entire city for 20 years. That's why when the Persians had surrounded the city for four months, Belshazzar and all of his nobles can afford to throw a birthday party. We've got nothing to fear. And now at the height of his arrogance, he calls for the vessels belonging to the God who dared predict his downfall. This is what I think of your prophecy and your prophet.
Babylon will not fall to Persia. And then it happened. Verse 5, suddenly the fingers of a man's hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing. And then the king's face grew pale and his thoughts, literally his conscience, alarmed him and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together. To this day, our culture borrows from this very text, the phrase, the handwriting's on what? The wall, to refer to unchangeably bad news.
This is where it came from. This disembodied hand just appears and begins to write on the wall. We're told here, and I just read it, that this arrogant king loses all control.
There's no bravado here. His hip joints went slack. I'm not sure how your translation reads it, but it's the Biblical way of saying he lost control of his bowels. His knees are shaking, his body trembling, and his conscience is painfully alarmed.
Why? Because even though he can't read that writing, he knows what he's been drinking out of and something supernatural is happening and I'm going to be able to connect some of the dots. Verse 7, he literally screams for the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners.
He pleads, that is, with the wise men of Babylon, tell me what this means. Of course they can't do it. They fail again. I don't know why these guys are on the payroll. They never get the dreams right.
They never can do it. And that's because the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are spiritually discerned. These messages are from God. It's going to take someone in tune with the Spirit of God to be able to interpret the meaning of the words.
1 Corinthians 2, 14. The queen appears next. More than likely the queen mother. This would be Nebuchadnezzar's daughter, the mother of Belshazzar. Evidently she's informed of the commotion and she strides into the banquet room and you sense about her a dignity and a strength. I found it interesting that she wasn't in there to begin with.
Did you notice that? Judging from her testimony about Daniel and her description, she's probably a believer herself in the God of Israel like her father before her. She says in verse 11, look there, There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. And in the days of your father, illumination, insight, and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him. By the way, these two phrases can be translated, There's a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of God, capital G. Who has in him wisdom like the wisdom of God, capital G. This translation requires an interpretive decision on the part of the translator and most assume she's not a believer and they translate it in that manner. I believe she was the disciple of Daniel's faith. And the reason I do is given the fact that she's avoided this drunken party to begin with, given the fact that now she introduces and speaks of Daniel with the highest respect, and given the fact that she refers to him as Daniel, his Hebrew name. Notice verse 12, He has an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas, solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel. It's his Hebrew name. He hadn't been called that for 60 years.
You remember the king named him Belteshazzar? Well get this, forget that pagan name. Let Daniel now be summoned, and notice, and he will, not he might, he will declare the interpretation. I'd love to know just a little bit more about this remarkable woman and a testimony that to me is so clear.
And you know what she's doing? She's pulling Daniel out of retirement and introducing him to this king. Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, tells us that the king didn't want to see Daniel and that she literally begged him.
And he finally agreed. Before we go any further, isn't it interesting that even when someone comes in contact with an unexplainable, supernatural moment, they'd rather get an explanation from all the other pagans than ask somebody who knows the God of Israel? They'll go all around the world with their speculations, and you're just standing there saying, if you just ask me I know exactly what's going on because the Bible addresses that issue. That's what the king does. Asks advice from all the pagans, doesn't want advice from this Jewish prophet, and finally he says, all right, none of these guys know.
Bring them over. In fact, when Daniel finally arrives and enters the banquet room, the king says in verse 13, Are you that Daniel who is one of the exiles from Judah whom my father the king brought from Judah? Why ask? He already knew that.
Because he's not asking. One Old Testament scholar pointed out that you can actually translate these words indicative. Belshazzar actually says it this way, So, you're Daniel. Oh, you're Daniel. One of the exiles that my father brought over from that defeated kingdom.
I've heard of you. You can hear the sarcasm and the spite, can't you, when interpreted in this manner, which is what he was saying. But I'll tell you what, Daniel, if you can indeed interpret this dream, or I should say these words, verse 16, I'll clothe you with purple. That was the garment of royalty.
Nobody else could afford it. I'll put a necklace of gold around your neck. This was a special chain given only by the king to special citizens.
They wore it proudly. And third, I'll make you the third ruler in the kingdom. Why the third? Because Nabonidus was first in Arabia.
His son, the co-regent in Babylon, was second. So all he could offer Daniel, which wasn't a really bad job after all, was number three. I love Daniel's answer, verse 17. Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Keep your gifts for yourself, or give your rewards to someone else. Can you just see white-haired 81-year-old Daniel standing in the midst of a thousand nobles in front of the king?
You could hear a pin drop, except at that point when everybody gasped. Because Daniel just turned down what the nobles could only dream of. You don't turn the king down anyway. And he's treating this stuff like they're trinkets.
Why? Because Daniel knew what was coming. And by the way, keep in mind, he had no personal guarantee from God that he would survive that night.
If Babylon dies, I believe Daniel probably assumed he'd die with it. He's now 81. He's no longer serving in the palace. More importantly, though, he's telling the king, Look, I may be 81, but I still can't be bought. Keep your stuff. I don't need your necklace or the purple robe.
And give that to somebody else. You see, he has an eternal perspective. Dear friends, when you are eating your last meal, it doesn't really matter what you're wearing. When you're eating your last meal, it doesn't matter how much money you have in the bank, or the jewelry around your neck, or the title underneath your name on a piece of plastic stuck on a door somewhere. None of that stuff matters an hour or two before you die.
And they will. Daniel will survive, and he doesn't interpret the message on the wall right away anyway. Would you notice here, what he does first is preach another message. This guy, I tell you what, I can't wait to meet him.
He could easily slip in, here's what the words mean, dot, dot, dot, dot, you're toast, and leave. What he does instead is he stops and he says, Not so fast, and he preaches a message, not only to the nobility of Babylon, but to this 36-year-old king. All I'm going to do is simply read the sermon manuscript. It's fairly self-explanatory, beginning in verse 18. No king, the most high God, granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory, and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar, your father, because of the grandeur which he bestowed on him all the peoples, nations, and men of every language, feared and trembled before him, whomever he wished he killed, and whomever he wished he spared alive, whomever he wished he elevated, and whomever he wished he humbled. But, when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, everybody knew who Daniel was talking about, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken away from him. He was also driven away from mankind and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys.
He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he recognized that the most high God is ruler over the realm of mankind, and that he sets over it whomever he wishes. Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, note this, even though you knew all this, and now I think he's pointing, even though you knew all this, nobody's breathing. But you have exalted yourself against the Lord of Heaven, and now they brought the vessels of his house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives, and your concubines have been drinking wine from them. You've praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see, they don't hear or understand. But the God, note this reference, in whose hand are your life breath, and all your ways you've not glorified.
Then the palm, literally, palm of the hand, representing him in whose life breath of your life is held. He delivered this inscription, and here it is, written out. Mene, mene, teche'el yufarsin. This is the interpretation of the message. Mene, God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. Teche'el, you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient, wanting, lacking. Peres, your kingdom has been divided, and given over to the Medes and Persians.
End of sermon. Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple, and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom. What is Belshazzar doing? I'll tell you what he's doing. He's defying everything Daniel just said. It'll never happen. Okay, I can't explain that disembodied hand part, but I've had time now to clean up.
Probably cleaned up, probably changed clothes. I've thought about it. We're not going to be overthrown, and I'm going to promote you, Daniel. I need a third guy in the kingdom. Look, we're surrounded by a wall 80 feet thick.
We have fresh water and food for 20 years or more. Cyrus has been camped out there for four months. Cyrus, you know, what does he know?
He can't get in through these gates that go down to the bottom of the Euphrates River. I'm not going to repent. I'm not going to buy all that stuff about your God who holds my life in his hand. I don't believe it.
Nice try. Drink up, boys. Let's get the band going again. Let's get this party on the road. Daniel, by the way, whether you want it or not, enjoy your purple robe and gold necklace.
Take it and just get out of here. Herodotus informs us, who was a historian living during the Babylonian kingdom, that the engineers of the Persian army had found a solution. That night they diverted the Euphrates River into an old channel and lowered the water level of the river, which was now at points just below their wastes, and the soldiers waded under cover of darkness right through the waterways in those walls at those points, and the Babylonians, in their overconfidence, had not even bothered lowering the gates.
These Persian soldiers rushed to the palace. Herodotus said that when they arrived, dancing and reveling was taking place. In other words, the party started back up as soon as Daniel walked out. Soldiers burst into the banquet room, which conveniently, by the way, now held every noble person, every political leader, every military general in one room, and with one brief massacre, the entire leadership of Babylon could be put to death.
That's what happened. The Bible records it fairly simply. Verse 30 says, That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain, and the kingdom of Babylon is no more. Let me close our study this Lord's day with three concise statements that translate all the way from Babylon to every kingdom and every nation and every individual person alive.
Number one, God's rule may be invisible, but he still rules. Paul preached the same thing to the proud Greeks living in Athens in Acts 17. He said, look, God has appointed the length of a nation's existence.
He knows how long it's going to even be around. And he's even appointed their borders. He knows how much land they will possess. God established the nations, Paul preached, so that they might seek after him. He designs nations so that people can recognize the need for a true leader and look to God.
The nation that is in deep trouble is a nation that instead of seeking him, excludes him, ignores him, patronizes him, relegates him to the sidelines, which our own nation has been doing for more than a hundred years. But don't be fooled, God still rules. Number two, God's judgments may be delayed, but he still judges. It is appointed unto man once to die and after that, what? The judgment.
Job in his wisdom said, do you not know that the triumphing of the wicked is short and the joy of the godless momentary. Though his loftiness reaches the heavens and his head touches the clouds, he perishes. And people say, where is he now?
Which is exactly what people are going to say about you and me. We used to know that guy. Wonder where he is now.
We lost sight of him. We will be in eternity. Belshazzar, you're going to be here today and gone tomorrow.
The handwriting is on the wall. Judgment is coming. You have another opportunity here before the sword falls to repent. Follow after the God of your father, Nebuchadnezzar, and like him, turn your heart toward the God of Israel while you still have breath left.
And Belshazzar effectively said, nah, I'd rather get on with the party. Number three, God's offer may be ignored, but he still offers. If you have breath in your lungs today, the offer stands. But if you don't receive the offer of forgiveness and salvation while you're alive and breathing, when you take your last breath, it will be forever too late. Eternity is irreversible and unchanging. And I'm not trying to be dramatic, but your Sunday dinner today, keep in mind, just might be your last meal. It's a sobering thought, isn't it?
We really have no idea when we'll take our last breath. That being the case, the wise way to live is with expectancy and obedience, always being ready for the Lord to return. This is Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. I hope today's lesson has helped you today. If you've never taken the time to introduce yourself to us, we'd really like to hear from you.
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