Friday, October 30, 2015

The Writing's on the Wall (Daniel 5)

As we continue in our study of the book of Daniel, we start to see a completely different story with a different cast of characters. Nebuchadnezzar has passed on and his son Belshazzar reigns on his throne.

Remember that we are still within the Aramaic section of the book of Daniel. God is still directing this section to the entire world, to declare His sovereignty to all the nations of the Lord. In this chapter, he responds once more to the arrogance of a king.

And it starts with King Belshazzar doing what kings do - feasting, drinking, and partying. Because running a country is probably difficult, I guess you just have to let off some steam somehow (kidding, I did not endorse this royal behavior).

As he is enjoying his little celebration, he asks for the vessels which Nebuchadnezzar stole from the house of God. Indeed, the book of Daniel makes it clear that these aren't just any vessels, but these are the vessels which were in Jerusalem. Get ready for the our God is bigger than your God moment. It's coming...

But first, let's make sure that we understand the significance of using the vessels designed for the worship of the Lord. The Lord makes it clear that there is a contrast between the sacred use of His vessels versus the use here. He contrasts their worship of gods, made of gold, and silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone, with Himself.

But even further, there is good reason to believe that Belshazzar's actions were a reflection upon his belief that he (and his gods) were greater than God so that he didn't have to worry about how he used or misused the sacred artifacts. Indeed, he could use them for mere sport.

But the Lord said, no. That's not going to work here. And so the weirdest thing that probably could ever happen occurred. Fingers wrote on a wall.

Alright, so we've all heard this account before, so we're hardly surprised by that. But let's take a second here. FINGERS ARE WRITING ON A WALL!!!!!!!!

I for one, have never seen a finger write on a wall, or a finger move when it is disconnected from a body. But here that is exactly what Belshazzar is seeing. I think he might be a bit justified to be just a little bit on edge about what is going on here.

And of course, the fingers writing on the wall is our first indication that God is greater than the gods that Belshazzar serves. The gods of the Babylonians had never tried to communicate in this way. Never, but God just does it as if it is nothing.

As we have seen so much before in this book, the king calls all of the religious people that serve his own gods - the Chaldeans, astrologers, soothsayers, and all. And as per the usual, they are unable to understand the works of God because God has chosen not to reveal it unto them.

And as per the usual, that's when Daniel gets called in. Here it is as the result of the Queen's suggestion, reminding Belshazzar that Daniel has managed to best these magicians, Chaldeans, soothsayers, and wise men in the past. Just in case you forgot this is not the first time that God has shown his power in this book.

Daniel works to give the interpretation of the writing. And it comes with a rather long section of understanding. Take a look at verses 17-28,
"Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: 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. But 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, 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; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, 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: Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians."

So that is a lot of verses to throw at you all at once, so I took the liberty of highlighting where Daniel makes it clear that God is more powerful than the king's gods. I find it interesting that Daniel starts by examining the Lord's dealing with Nebuchadnezzar, just trying to make sure that at its core, we don't forget that God has already shown himself faithful.

 After justifying that God has authority to do as he pleases, he proceeds to explain what God is planning on doing. He explains that the writing means that Bleshazzar's kingdom will be taken from him, and that he will die.

And then just to solidify the point that God is more powerful than the nations, that happens that very night. Which means that the Lord has already orchestrated it before He revealed His plans to anyone.

I think the Lord might just have authority over all authorities of this world, which I personally find to be pretty great.

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