DUNCAN/The handwriting on the wall


Please turn with me in your Bible to Daniel 5:1-31. God has shown His sovereignty over nations and individuals in the previous four chapters. And God's sovereignty in both grace and in judgment is set forth here in Daniel 5 most dramatically. In this passage, we see the valiant stand which the aged Daniel makes against Belshazzar, the king of Babylon. As such, this passage provides a word of encouragement for Christians today who are facing opposition for the Lord in their own lives individually and corporately, in that even in times like these, where our world looks dark and unpromising, the Lord is always faithful. There are two truths we can observe from this passage. First, we observe that God sees injustice and He addresses it. Secondly, we see that God’s servants are instruments in His hands.

I. God Sees Injustice and Deals with it in His Own Way and Time.

In verses 1-9, we see the account of what happened that night in the king's banqueting hall where the finger of God's judgment was written against the nation of the Babylonians and against Belshazzar. There we learn that God sees injustice and He deals with it in His own way and His own time. It may have looked like to the captives of Israel that God had forgotten His righteousness and holiness in judgment, because there was an exceedingly wicked man on the throne, and now, Daniel, one of the choice servants of the Lord, is on the sidelines. Though a man of great influence once, Daniel doesn't even seem to be remembered by the contemporaries of Belshazzar in the court. 

In verses 1-4, we see that Belshazzar is unteachable. This was clearly a man who had learned nothing from the history of God's dealing with Nebuchadnezzar. And in these first few verses, we can develop a brief catalog of Belshazzar's sin. First, it is clear that Belshazzar has blatantly disregarded his responsibilities as a monarch. Whereas he ought to be concerned about defending his kingdom, he has thrown a lavish feast in order to exalt himself. Secondly, we see that Belshazzar is blatant and deliberate and public in his blasphemy. He not only misrules, but he blasphemes the living God. Those instruments of the temple, which would have been reserved to the most holy of purposes, he uses for sinful purposes. And thirdly, we see that his sinful heart had caused his spiritual blindness. He anticipated no judgment from God, and yet it came. 

In verses 5-9, a finger writes on the wall words that neither he, nor his wise men can understand. His counselors are just as blind as he is. They can't even read God’s judgment when He comes. It's a picture of the world in rebellion. However, this passage also serves to remind us that we must never fear. When it seems like the forces of God and of His kingdom are being overcome, we must never fear because the city of God remains. It may have appeared that Belshazzar and his hosts were in control, but they were not. God was in control and He will bring His own justice in His own time. What an encouragement it would have been to the children living under godless rule to know that God had not forgotten what they were experiencing. 

I. God's Servants Though Obscure in the World's Eyes Are Instruments in His Hands. 

In verses 10-31, Daniel is brought to the center of the stage again. In these verses, the queen appears. We are not told which queen, but we do know that she is a brave and wise woman because she calls upon the king to remember certain important things. Her words about Daniel speak worlds about him and about God's care and love for His servants. Daniel seems to be forgotten by Belshazzar and his court. He seems obscure now, but the queen clearly remembered him and has tremendous respect for him. In fact, we see that  respect in three ways in this passage. First, the queen remembers his name. She does not call him “Belteshazzar” like Nebuchadnezzar did. Instead, she calls him, “Daniel, whom the king had called Belteshazzar.” This queen saw the true identity of the servant of God and she called him by his real name. God's blessings to His servants are sometimes small but they are sweet. Secondly, she saw the spiritual energy in Daniel. She said, “this man has the spirit of the holy gods in him.” He was a man who manifested the fact that he was indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He was a man who worked tirelessly for the kingdom of God. Thirdly, she testifies to his holiness. She says a spirit of the Holy God or a spirit of the holy gods is in this man. She knows Daniel's God must be holy. Nebuchadnezzar had confessed that Daniel's God was holy, but she had also witnessed Daniel’s holiness and she knew that such a holy man must serve a holy God. And it's a testimony to his character. She knew God was holy because Daniel was holy.

Daniel’s character is seen when the king attempts to buy him with his great prizes and wealth. Yet Daniel says, “I don't want your gifts. The spiritual gifts that I have cannot be bought and God's servants cannot be bought.” Daniel rejects the bribes of Belshazzar, and he gives him three words of judgment. First, he reminds him of the pride of his grandfather, and that the Lord humbled him under his pride. Then, he brings a divine accusation against Belshazzar by showing him his sin. And finally, he pronounces a divine judgment against Belshazzar. His words “MENE, MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN” basically mean “Numbered, Numbered, Weighed and Divided.” The judgment of God was there. Daniel realized that God had weighed the kingdom's moral and spiritual levity and decided that it would be handed to the Medes and the Persians.

There are two important observations from these verses. First, we see here that Daniel treats Belshazzar as a covenant breaker. Belshazzar was not a Hebrew, he was not a recipient of the covenants of promise, but all mankind is in covenant with God through the covenant of works made in the garden with Adam. And all mankind has an obligation to honor our Creator. But Belshazzar hadn't honored his Creator and now his Creator was judging him. aSecondly, we see that the Lord does not forget Daniel and His servants. Even though His servants may seem obscure and insignificant in the eyes of the world, they are used in His own way, and in His own time to establish His justice and judgment on earth. Perhaps God is calling you to stand against overwhelming odds for the sake of the kingdom of God. Don't forget the God who wrote on the wall, and don't forget how God upholds His servants and honors them even in the face of kings. May we delight to serve God before a watching world and praise His name forever.

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