Daniel: Call to Preach

Daniel 5

Daniel’s real test of his understanding of dreams came when Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a beast made of a head of gold, arms and torso of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron and feet of iron mingled with clay. His interpretation not only saved his life but that of all the wise men or magicians of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold. This beast was broken up by a rock not made with hands which came down from the mountain. The latter part was fulfilled in the establishment of the church in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost.

In chapter three, Daniel’s three friends refused to worship the image set up by Nebuchadnezzar. They were cast into the burning fiery furnace. But God rescued them and the king gave them a promotion.

King Nebuchadnezzar had another dream which Daniel interprets in chapter four. It is one of punishment for the King due to his pride. Daniel gave the king some wise advice (Dan. 4:27). Nevertheless, the king boast of making Babylon and spent several months living like a beast until he recognized the absolute sovereignty of God.

Between chapters four and five the prophecies of chapters seven and eight occurred. Nebuchadnezzar’s reign ended in 562 BC, Evil-Merodach’s reigned for two years, Neriglissar was King for four years, Labashi-Marduk was only on the throne for two months, Then came Nabonidus who reigned from 556-539 BC. Finally, as co-regent with his father Belshazzar ruled the city of Babylon in 539 BC. It has been twenty-three years since Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

The King’s Ball

Belshazzar, his wives and concubines, and a thousand notable guests were feasting and drinking wine while the army of the Medes and Persians waited at the city gates, ready to invade. The city of Babylon boasted that it had impregnable walls and towers some three hundred feet tall.

The King’s Gall

The king ordered the vessels taken from the Temple in Jerusalem by his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, to be brought into the feast. His thousand lords, wives, and concubines all irreverently drank alcohol form these.

The King’s Wall

Suddenly, on a well lit portion of the wall Belshazzar saw a finger writing a message. This interrupted the feast and troubled the king so much his knees began to knock together. He saw “the handwriting on the wall.” Written with the finger of God it was a warning. God had turned ballroom into a courtroom.

The King’s Call to the Wise Men

The message he saw was in Aramaic. Anyone who knew the language could have interpreted it for Belshazzar. But he wanted to know the meaning behind the message. So he calls for the “astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers” (5:7). The one who was able to decipher the message would be greatly rewarded. For the third time in the book of Daniel they fail miserably (2:1-13; 4:7; 5;7,8). Not one of them was able to reveal the meaning.

The King’s Ma

Since all the king’s wives and concubines are at the feast it is most likely that the queen mother is Belshazzar’s mother or grandmother. She gave the king some great news about a wise man whom his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar had known and promoted. This new king apparently had removed Daniel from his position and replaced him with his own advisers. She suggests the king call the eighty-something prophet of God out of retirement from some assisted-living home in upper Babylon to explain the meaning of the message.

The King’s Call for Daniel

The king seems to remember hearing about Daniel and his reputation, but does not seem to know him like his grandfather. If Daniel can give the meaning behind these simple Aramaic words, Belshazzar promises to give him three things: a royal robe and a golden chain, and he would become third ruler under Nabonidus and Belshazzar. Daniel refused on the basis his understanding was not for hire and it would be God who would receive the glory.

The King’s Shortfall

It is deja vu all over again. Daniel rebukes Belshazzar for his royal pride. His grandfather, King Nebuchadnezzar, learned the hard way that “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men” (Dan. 4:32 niv). Philosopher George Santayana wrote, “those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.”

The King’s Wall Read

The message of the wall was simple Aramaic monetary terms: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” “Mene” is from “mina” a verb meaning “to number.” “Tekel” is the term shekel and as a verb means “to weight.” And “pharsin” is a term meaning to divide. It is also akin to the term used in reference to the Persians. Thus, the last one has a double interpretation. Mene: Babylon’s days were numbered! Tekel: the king himself had been weighed by God and has come up short of the full amount of the weight of a genuine shekel. Belshazzar was not a righteous man in God’s scales of justice. [U]pharsin: Babylon would be divided between the Medes and the Persians. “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations” (Ps. 33:10–11).

The King’s Fall

Those in the banquet hall did not have to wait long for the fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecy. “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain” (5:30). In chapter two it was decreed that the head of gold (Babylon) would be replaced by the breast and arms of silver (the Medo-Persian Empire). That night while they were feasting, Cyrus had his Medo-Persian engineers divert the Euphrates River into a freshly dug riverbed around the city. When the waters stop flowing under the city walls, Cyrus’ army simply marched under it and took Babylon intact. All this was prophesied by Isaiah (Isa. 13-14; 21; 47) and Jeremiah (Jer. 50-51). Belshazzar was assassinated. Historical records recorded that date to be October 12, 539 BC.

Application: The Call to Preach is a Call to Rebuke

□ Indulgence & Indifference

Belshazzar was indulging himself with his lords and wives eating and drinking. When in fact he should have issued a decree like that of the King of Nineveh and fasted with sackcloth and ashes. In the parable of the rich farmer Jesus tells us of a man who had a bumper crop. The farmer was faced with a dilemma. “So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry’” (Luke 12:18,19). Belshazzar met his fate like that of the rich farmer in Jesus’ parable. To whom God said, “this night your soul will be required of you” (Luke 12:20).

□ Irreverence (v. 2–4)

In verses two through four, Belshazzar shows great gall in having used the articles of the Temple of God for his pagan feast. For such irreverence for the holy things of God the priests, Nadab and Abihu, were destroyed with fire from heaven. Uzzah was struck dead for touching the ark of the covenant. And King Uzziah was struck with leprosy.

□ Insolence and Arrogance

Daniel warned Belshazzar of his prideful behavior by reminding him what happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. He rebuked the king, “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this” (5:22). Remember, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

□ Idolatry

The prophet also pointed out Belshazzar’s sin of idolatry “And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified” (Dan. 5:23).

– Daniel R. Vess

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