The Handwriting on the Wall
5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king's color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king's wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.
10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel,whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”
Daniel Interprets the Handwriting13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one ofthe exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, butthey could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations andsolve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”
17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, theMost High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in 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, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.
24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Divine Graffiti - The End of an Empire
Accompanying Ray Pritchard sermon: God's Graffiti
There are so many things to learn from this passage.
One is the destructiveness of sin, especially in the form of pride, which could be said to be the root of all sin. Sin is eternally destructive - both personally and nationally. The only thing that can save us from that destruction and judgment is faith in Jesus Christ.
There are so many parallels between Babylonian society and ours today.
- The decline of the family (Nebuchadnezzar turned to God after being humbled by Him, but the spiritual gap between Nebuchadnezzar and his grandson, Belshazzar, is huge).
- Corrupt leadership. The princes were just as drunk as Belshazzar, and the wise men continued to show their lack of wisdom.
- free flowing alcohol and sex
- their confidence in human security and our own invincibility as a nation
- greed and impure motives
- unrelieved guilt
- willful rejection of the gospel message
- blasphemy and mocking God
- immorality and the obsession with pleasure seeking
God cannot be mocked. A nation that becomes this depraved cannot survive forever. God raises nations and He causes them to fall.
When Nebuchadnezzar first heard about the golden head of Babylon being replaced by the Medo-Persian empire, it likely seemed pretty far away.
But God's Word is sure. Every promise, every prophesy will be fulfilled, exactly as He said it would be. Babylon's destruction was certain.
God's Spirit will not strive with man forever. Eventually, we reach the point of no return. It is foolish to continually presume upon the grace of God. Judgement is coming.
God sees into the heart of every individual. He knows not only our deeds and words, but also our thoughts and motives.
We will be held accountable, and the more light we've seen the greater our accountability.
Pritchard ends his sermon this way:
Let’s end by stepping back and considering Daniel 4-5 together. In Daniel 4 a pagan king was humbled and then radically changed by God. In Daniel 5 another pagan king was judged and then slain the same night. It reminds me of what has been said about the two thieves crucified with Christ. One was saved that none should despair; one was lost that none should presume.
Today is the day of salvation. It is also the day for all of us to make a new start with the Lord. This is the day to forgive, to repent, to renew our vows, to repair broken relationships, and to encourage a fellow pilgrim.
Just as God humbled proud kings, he can do the same to us. These two chapters show us that our place is at his feet in obedience, submission, and gratitude. They teach us as clearly as anything could the First Rule of the Spiritual Life: He is God and we are not. Until we learn that truth, we are still in spiritual kindergarten.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Daniel 6
Sunday's passage: Numbers 17-18
Monday's passage: Numbers 19-20, Psalm 49, Luke 5