But too many of us can’t understand it…
The sermon at Black Rock-Long Ridge Congregational Church (North Stamford, Connecticut) was delivered by Pastor Larry Fullerton. His text was Daniel, chapter 5, the famous account of the fateful writing that mysteriously appeared on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast.
Neither Belshazzar, nor his sorcerers and magicians could understand the message. But Daniel, a righteous man of God, understood and delivered God’s message of doom, a message that unhappily applies to our modern-day, largely Godless society.
King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked together and his legs gave way.
The king called out for the enchanters, astrologers and diviners to be brought and said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”
Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.
The queen [mother], hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. “O king, live forever!” she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king, I say—appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. This man Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”
So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”
Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.
“O king, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position he gave him, all the peoples and nations and men of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like cattle; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes.
“But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.”
This is the inscription that was written:
Mene , Mene , Tekel , Parsin
This is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.
That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.
Among the many lessons to be drawn from Daniel, chapter 5, are:
• Each of us has a final day of life. Belshazzar was unready for his. Will we be ready for ours?
• Chapter 5 is to be understood against the background of chapter 4, which describes King Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and downfall into madness, then his return to sanity after acknowledging that the God of Israel was the sovereign God of the universe. The import is that pride in self and in worldly accomplishment is a form of insanity. Humbling oneself before God is sanity. Sin is substituting our willfull pride for God’s will.
• Belshazzar, to whom the story of Nebuchadnezzar was surely known, learned nothing from it. He chose pridefully to blaspheme against God by bringing into the banquet the silver and gold goblets that had been pillaged from the temple in Jerusalem, a direct affront to God. And, of course, he was worshipping false gods.
• Daniel symbolizes the remnant of God-fearing and righteous people who, despite society’s persecutions, remain steadfast to God’s laws. When the chips were down, even when Belshazzar offered him rich reward, Daniel spoke the unvarnished truth, fearless of the possible consequences to himself.
• As did Daniel, the God-fearing remnant under pressure in today’s increasingly, aggressively atheistic and hostile society must maintain faith in God to deliver us from evil.
• If we remain heedless, as did Belshazzar, it may be too late. Our hour may be at hand.
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
His weblog is THE VIEW FROM 1776.