This article was adapted from the The Gospel Project for Adults. The Gospel Project takes adults, students, and kids on a chronological, Christ-centered journey through the storyline of Scripture. Preview one month free at gospelproject.com.
Don’t Trust in Earthly Kingdoms
There is a chronological gap of roughly 20 years between Daniel 4 and Daniel 5. The Hebrew people had been defeated and exiled, but God was in control, and they were learning to trust Him even when they could not trace His hand.
1 King Belshazzar held a great feast for 1,000 of his nobles and drank wine in their presence. 2 Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar gave orders to bring in the gold and silver vessels that his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, wives, and concubines could drink from them. 3 So they brought in the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, wives, and concubines drank from them.
4 They drank the wine and praised their gods made of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. 5 At that moment the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the king’s palace wall next to the lampstand. As the king watched the hand that was writing, 6 his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him that his hip joints shook and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called out to bring in the mediums, Chaldeans, and astrologers. He said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this inscription and gives me its interpretation will be clothed in purple, have a gold chain around his neck, and have the third highest position in the kingdom.” 8 So all the king’s wise men came in, but none could read the inscription or make its interpretation known to him. 9 Then King Belshazzar became even more terrified, his face turned pale, and his nobles were bewildered. —Daniel 5:1-9
Consider the scene from the standpoint of the powerful. With pomp and promiscuity, the all-powerful Babylonian King Belshazzar was throwing a party for the ages. What he didn’t know was that he was the last in the line of Babylonian kings. Darius the Mede was about to invade Babylon and bring its empire to an end.
Belshazzar’s foolishness didn’t stop with the revelry; he added blasphemy and mockery to his list of sins, drinking their wine from the sacred vessels taken from the Lord’s temple. Belshazzar’s action was intended to mock the God of the Jews and to celebrate the gods of Babylon as being superior. He was making a spectacle of God by treating His holy vessels as common utensils, in service to the debauchery of the night.
The Babylonians were having a gala to remember, completely out of touch with reality and the impending invasion. Sin does the same thing to us. It makes us dull. It makes us stupid.
In what ways does sin dull our senses and distract us from reality?
Suddenly, the king was brought to his senses. What yanked him back into reality? “The fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the king’s palace wall next to the lampstand” (v. 5). The same fingers that wrote the Ten Commandments for the Hebrew people (see Ex. 31:18; Deut. 9:10) now confronted blasphemous Belshazzar with his sins and told of imminent judgment.
The “wise men of Babylon” could not interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2, and Daniel bailed them out. The same thing happened again in chapter 4. Now for the third time, “all the king’s wise men” were brought in and once more they all struck out (see v. 8).
“Then King Belshazzar became even more terrified, his face turned pale, and his nobles were bewildered” (v. 9). He realized he could not place his confidence in his own power, his kingdom, or the wisdom of his people.
In what people or things does our society place its confidence and find its security?
What would it take for such “security” to be challenged?
Excerpted from Daniel Akin and Walter R. Strickland II, The Gospel Project: God the Sustainer © 2016 Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.