Thursday, January 26, 2017

Living Lives Of Purpose: Lessons From The Book Of Daniel. Day 19, Daniel Interprets The Writing

Living Lives Of Purpose:
Lessons From The Book Of Daniel
Day 19
Daniel Interprets The Writing

In yesterday's study, King Belshazzar of Babylon promised Daniel a purple robe, a gold chain, and the position of third highest man in the kingdom. Daniel told the king he would interpret the writing on the wall without the incentive of these gifts. Belshazzar wasn't going to be in a position to bestow gifts for very long anyway; this was his last night to co-rule the kingdom with his father and it was his last night on earth.

"Your Majesty, 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 nations and peoples 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; those he wanted to humble, he humbled." (Daniel 5:18-19) Nebuchadnezzar was in a position of high authority, and with authority comes responsibility. Daniel is going to show us how poorly Nebuchadnezzar handled his responsibility and will point out that Belshazzar should have learned from his predecessor's mistakes.

Nebuchadnezzar was a much greater king than Belshazzar, though Belshazzar liked to call himself Nebuchadnezzar's son as if they were equals. Belshazzar's pride in himself is unfounded; he was not the man who made Babylon what it was. Nebuchadnezzar's own pride was unfounded, for he owed all the thanks for his vast kingdom to Almighty God who gave it to him. If Nebuchadnezzar had no right to boast, Belshazzar certainly doesn't. If Nebuchadnezzar's pride was sinful, Belshazzar's is even more so. Daniel describes how the Lord dealt with Nebuchadnezzar's pride. "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 the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes." (Daniel 5:20-21) 

Belshazzar has committed sins Nebuchadnezzar never considered. Though the greatest king of Babylon did take the vessels from the temple at Jerusalem and put them in the temple of his own gods, we are never told that Nebuchadnezzar mocked the name of God or desecrated the vessels or committed blasphemy as Belshazzar did in his drunken feast, drinking toasts to false gods from vessels consecrated to the one and only God. Nebuchadnezzar, even before he was humbled, recognized the existence of the God of Israel and forbade the citizens to speak a word against Him. Belshazzar's pride is so overwhelming that he feels superior to the God of Israel. He does not feel God's name is to be honored, as Nebuchadnezzar did even before his conversion, but instead dishonors the name of the very One who created him and put breath in his body. 

Daniel now accuses Belshazzar of his offenses against God and against the memory of his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar, "But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this." (Daniel 5:22) In the Bible we sometimes find the godly kings of Judah being called a "son of David", meaning they have the same heart for God that David had and that they are following in David's footsteps. A son should look something like his father. But Belshazzar, who loves to brag and refer to himself as a son of Nebuchadnezzar, doesn't resemble this man in the slightest. Even before Nebuchadnezzar's conversion, Daniel found things in the king's character he respected and the two of them appeared to enjoy a mutual friendship. We don't get the impression Daniel found anything in Belshazzar's character to respect or admire. Belshazzar knew the story of Nebuchadnezzar's pride and punishment and conversion, but he never took it to heart. In all these years, he has never once called for Daniel, the man who led his predecessor to the Lord, the man who gave wise counsel to the greatest king Babylon ever had. Belshazzar was not ignorant of the one true God. He will not stand in the judgment and make the defense that he didn't know any better. Daniel clearly points out that he knew enough about God to bow his knees to Him as Nebuchadnezzar did. He had all of Nebuchadnezzar's royal records and was aware of both the public and the personal details of Nebuchadnezzar's life. Yet he never once tried to be like the man he keeps referring to as his "father".

"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." (Daniel 5:23-24) Belshazzar deliberately did something that desecrated items dedicated to God and he purposely mocked and blasphemed the name of God. Yet he owes the very breath in his lungs to this God. How puny and feeble mankind's rebellion must appear to our Creator! He could take our lives in a split second. He could speak one word and cause the universe to collapse in on itself. He could conclude that mankind isn't worth His efforts and put an immediate end to us. We are deserving of any sentence this righteous Judge decided to hand down to us, yet He chose to extend mercy to us. And He chose to extend mercy to Belshazzar for many years, giving him opportunities to repent, granting him the knowledge of Nebuchadnezzar's mistakes and repentance, but instead Belshazzar grew more and more wicked.

"This is the inscription that was written: mene, mene, tekel, parsin. Here 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 have been found wanting. Parsin: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians." (Daniel 5:25-28) This fulfills part of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream about the statue. After his kingdom (the head of gold) would arise another inferior to his (the chest and arms of silver). This is the Medo-Persian Empire.

Belshazzar keeps his promise to reward Daniel, even though Daniel doesn't care anything about the reward and even though Daniel gave him bad news. "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." (Daniel 5:29) 

Daniel was third highest ruler for only a matter of hours. And Belshazzar continued to live for only a matter of hours. "That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two." (Daniel 5:30-31) Persian historical records tell us that it was King Cyrus who conquered the city. Darius was likely a man Cyrus placed to govern Babylon, but his identity outside the Bible is not known. So far history and archaeology have not given us any information at all about Darius the Mede, but as we continue our study this week we will look at the historical accounts of the fall of Babylon and we will explore the possible identity of Darius, the man who will throw Daniel into the lion's den. 

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