Beth Moore - Hand Writing On the Wall - Part 1
In the glorious name of Christ Jesus our Lord. Everybody say, "Hallelujah and amen". You may be seated. Please turn with me, if you haven't already, to Daniel chapter 5 and I'd love to give you a little bit of background so that you'll know where we are landing on the page. So we are seeing words that were written from a place called Babylon during the time of the 70-year captivity of the children of God, the Jews, those who had lived in Judah, the southern kingdom, the southern part of Israel. They had been warned over and over again by God, by prophet after prophet: "If you do not turn from your evil ways, from your idolatries, from your injustices, from all the ways that you have turned away from your God, if you do not turn back to me and repent, I am going to allow you to be taken captive by another kingdom that will hold you away from your home for 70 years," and he followed through exactly like he said he would.
And they should have known because the northern kingdom had already, the century before, been taken captive by the empire that was Assyrian. So he keeps his word. And that's exactly what he did, following through. And King Nebuchadnezzar, the emperor of the Babylonian Empire, sent his armies into Jerusalem. They completely flattened the city, burned it to the ground. They tore down the temple, tore down the walls, and completely razed the city. And so they took with them the cream of the crop from among the Judahites in and around Jerusalem and left there the poorest of the poor so that they could care for the land, so that they could bring the produce to the Babylonians and the Babylonian army.
So this is the setting that we have as we open up to Daniel chapter 5, that all those of status were taken. Daniel, our protagonist, the one who is writing this particular book, Daniel our protagonist was taken very early in his adolescence. He would have gone with the deportation that was around 605 B.C. Young, young man, handsome, smart, skilled, educated, definitely among the cream of the crop. And he was among the young men that the Assyrian, that the Babylonian army, rather, had dogtagged to be indoctrinated by the Babylonians so that they could use their skill and so that they could immerse them into their empire and make them a prophet to the king.
Now, he becomes very crucial in the storyline because in the former reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had a very frightening dream and no one could interpret the dream. Was told to him that there was one that most likely could and it was Daniel, and he came before him and he did exactly that. He interpreted the dream. Little bit of good news, and a whole lot of bad news. And that was Daniel's entrance into the page. One of the interesting things about it is that they brought him forth for indoctrination but it was not successful. And why? One of the most important things, and I've been thinking this as I've been looking around this room, even during praise and worship, and as I was praying for you today, and heading over this direction, because it's what I want for me. It's what I want for my family. It's what I want for my coworkers at the ministry. It's what I'm hoping for this generation. As I look at these young women, as I look at this 10-year-old, it's what I want for her. It's what I want for all of us. It's what God wants for us.
That the reason why Daniel could not be indoctrinated by the world is because chapter 1 of Daniel says that he "resolved," everybody say "resolved". That he "resolved," the CSB that I'm reading from tonight says: "He determined not to be defiled". That means he'd already made up his mind. And let me tell you something. In this day and age when we're so squishy about so many things, when commitment is the last thing we want to do, the last thing we want to make, God is looking to raise up Daniels and Danielles that are resolute in purpose. That as young as they are, determine: "I want to serve my God, and I don't want to be indoctrinated by all the things of this world where I'm torn away from my truest love. I wanna be faithful to God".
So much of faithfulness to God is determining in advance that we wanna be faithful. Not just waiting to the moment of temptation and then trying to decide what are we gonna do at that peak of when everything in us is calling the other direction. But no, we already made a decision that we wanna resolve, be determined, not to be overtaken by the things of this world. So, Daniel 5 is gonna open with a new Babylonian king named Belshazzar who followed Nebuchadnezzar.
Now, later in the chapter and you'll see it because I'll get to it, it says it a little different in the CSB but in some of your translations it's much more obvious, that it's going to say, it's going to refer to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar's father. But in reality, he is his grandfather, and this is his grandson. And that's very, very common in ancient renderings in the same way that there are a number of people, not just his sons and grandsons, that would have been referred to as "sons of Abraham" or Abraham as their father. Just as often a grandson is a son, because that was the way they saw it, that line, it was the father of the fathers, and so, Nebuchadnezzar was very likely his grandfather and not just his father.
How do we know that? Well, because history tells us that there is a king that is in between the two of them and his name was Nabonidus. Nabonidus, his actual biological father, and probably he married the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and then he usurped and came into the crown. This, then, is the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar. So, why would a king be unnamed? Well, because especially in a narrative of this kind, if they're not part of the story, then they don't need mentioning. They don't need to be named. But Belshazzar, on the other hand, has an extremely important place in the narrative of Daniel and we're gonna see it together. So, the place is Babylon, the time is the year 539 BC. Daniel has been transported there from the time of 605 BC.
So, with that in mind, we even know what month it was by our Gregorian calendar. It was September of 539. We know almost to the day when it was because of something that is going to happen overnight in this text. So here's what I want you to do. You and I are gonna picture that we're getting out of our chariots in front of a... I mean, an enormous palace. All the flaming torches, all the lamps shining, all the revelry. We can already hear the crowd. And we're late to the party, because Belshazzar is throwing an enormous feast. And in all likelihood, because all the nobles are there. You'll see from every region, he's called people together. All the important people from many, many places, all of them are at this party.
But we're gonna walk into it a little late because it's late enough in the dinner where he is about to bring them to the point of lifting up toasts and by that I mean in glasses. Lifting up toasts in libations, and what I mean by that, in offerings to their gods. And something occurs to him when he is about to direct them to start bringing toasts to the gods, the pagan gods, of the Babylonians. He gets a bright idea. So let me read with you Daniel 5, verses 1 through 4. "King Belshazzar held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine in their presence. 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". If we had knowledge of that day and time, we would be horrified. Like, this would have been absolutely unimaginable.
Verse 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. They drank the wine and praised their gods made of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone". Let's just call this little portion of the lesson "the taunt," because Belshazzar very much means to be taunting God. And this is a mockery. This is ridicule. This is him having the kind of arrogance to say that that which had been set apart as sacred, listen carefully to me, had been in storage for 40 solid years under previous kings, and this one has the gall enough, the nerve enough, to call for those gold and silver vessels that were taken out of the temple in Jerusalem and bring them to the tables and hand them out. Utensils and cups that were used in sacred service before the Lord.
Now, what in the world was he doing here? Well, it was the custom of the Babylonian Empire to commandeer any kind of icon or statue of a people's god when they overtook that nation. So, whatever nation they had been in and, of course, they just spread far and wide, took over one people group after another, and so when they went in, they looked for whatever the statue was, whatever the icon was. Only, when they came to Jerusalem, you may know this if you have a little history in Bible study, God had forbidden there ever be any kind of likeness, any kind of statue, any kind of icon, anything that would represent him. I mean, there was, like, I mean, it was absolutely forbidden.
So they couldn't find anything. There was nothing there to take and don't think that that would not have been one of the purposes why God told them that there would be no such thing because their God was in the heavens and they did not even know what his face looked like. They could not make an image to represent him. So what did they do instead? Well, they just take all the gold and silver, everything out of the temple, because that's their sacred and holy place. Take it and put it in storage. Well, Belshazzar, for one thing, he's drunk. For the other thing, I have to wonder if maybe the party needed a little boost.
Have you ever planned something really fun but it didn't turn out to be nearly as fun as you hoped it was going to be? Like you saw it going better than this in your head, anybody? And there's that moment of what can I do to spice this up? And sometimes those are the very worst of ideas, what we decide to do at the last minute to spice the party up. Because here is what he's doing. He's not only treating the sacred as common, he is treating it as perverse. So it's not just not treating it with honor, but treating it with dishonor. I think maybe it's possible that he wanted to be memorable, I mean, Nebuchadnezzar had been such a king of renown and all the important things he had done and then, and all of his failures. Everybody knew the name of Nebuchadnezzar. He was the head of the empire when it became "The" crown, "The" ruling place on planet Earth.
And I just wonder if Belshazzar wanted to be somehow exceptional, wanted to make the history books after reigning under the shadow of Nebuchadnezzar. I started thinking about something. There are a couple of things I want you to write down. You don't have to if you don't want to, but a couple of mottos that we're going to see, about three of them. And this first one, I'd like to call "The attention-getter's motto," because I really think that that's what Belshazzar is. I think he's an attention-getter. I think that he doesn't have all the attention that he wants, that maybe the party is not going as greatly as he hoped, and so he's gonna think of a way that he can really be memorable, and I just wonder if the attention-getter's motto is this: "If I can't shine, I'll go for shock".
Just watch and see. Watch and see. Watch social media and see. Watch the news and see. When there is an attention-getter, if they can't get the attention by shining, over and over again they'll simply go for shock. Then if they can shock you, they can get your attention. It might be bad attention, but they can still get it, because they're scared and insecure that they don't shine. And this was a shock. We live in a time when we wonder, over and over again, how blasphemous can people get. I mean, just how blasphemous can they get? And we just keep thinking, I would imagine that this is a very, very common thought in the room, "Where is the fear of the Lord? I mean, where is the fear of the Lord? I mean, where", at what point, you know, there are just moments there that you see dismissal of God and you see dis-esteem of God, but then there's blasphemy.
There are the kinds of things where you'd go, "Everybody duck". Anybody know what I'm talking about, like...where you just throw your hands over your head and think, "Man, the rocks are gonna fall on us". And we wonder, "Lord, did you hear that? Did you just hear that"? Oh, he heard it. Would you pick up with me in verse 5. Verse 5: "At that moment," what moment? The moment they are drinking the wine and praising their gods out of the sacred vessels from the holy temple in Jerusalem, pulled out of storage and handed out to people, completely inebriated, completely given over to the things of the flesh, completely defiled by the empire, and they're drinking it up, and "At that very 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".
I have to stop there, just for a moment, because here's what I wanna tell you. We've just seen the taunt. Well, I'd call this "the retort". We've gone from the taunt to the retort. This is gonna be God responding back to the taunt. Now, I'm gonna tell you something about God. Every church these days has a media team. They have a team that also knows how to get all the graphics set up the way they need to, what screens need to be used, what kind of material the screens need to be. Let me tell you something, God was his own media director. He picked a plaster wall that had a lamp right by it. I mean, it could not have been more perfect. He had a spotlight right on it and right there these fingers appear and start writing on the wall.
Well, "As the king," it says at the very end of verse 5, "watched that hand that was writing, his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him," now I don't know what your translations say here, but every now and then in the Scriptures we learn more than we really thought we needed to know. There are so many times in Scripture, I'm going, "I could have used a little more information here". And then there are other times and you think, "You know, I could have lived a long time without that information".
But it says then that "his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him that he soiled himself". That cannot be good. "And his knees knocked together. And the king shouted to bring in the mediums, Chaldeans, and diviners. And 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.' So all the king's wise men came in, but none could read the inscription or make its interpretation known to him. Then King Belshazzar became even more terrified, his face turned pale, and his nobles were bewildered".
So what is a man to do with a hand that appears out of nowhere and starts writing on a plaster wall, right by a light? Now, obviously, the queen mother is not in the party. We don't know why for sure. Neither were the others that he calls in to see, the diviners, the Chaldeans, and the others that he called in to see if there was an interpretation. These were the important people, but everybody must have been so afraid that they gasped, and there must have been a great noise coming from it. Because it says in verse 10, and now I'll read 10 through 12:
"Because of the outcry of the king and his nobles, the queen came to the banquet hall. 'May the king live forever,' she said. 'Don't let your thoughts terrify you or your face be pale. There is a man in your kingdom who has a spirit of the holy gods in him.'" Very, very interesting statement because this would have been, this is the queen mother. Some of your translations will make it clearer than others. And so it would have been her father, Nebuchadnezzar, that would have said these very words. He was told that there was a man who had the spirit of the gods in him. He said these words back in 4:8, chapter 4, verse 8. So she says the same thing, so she remembers all of this time.
"'There is a man in your kingdom who has a spirit of the holy gods in him. In the days of your predecessor he was found to have insight, intelligence, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. Your predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, mediums, Chaldeans, and diviners. Your own predecessor, the king, did this because Daniel, the one the king named Belteshazzar, was found to have an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and intelligence, and the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems. Therefore, summon Daniel, and he will give the interpretation.'"
So, I find this very interesting. Where has Daniel been? Why need he be reintroduced at this point? I mean, he was one of the greatest leaders under Nebuchadnezzar's rule. He promoted him to the highest possible position. Been right at his side, telling him not just what he wanted to hear, but the truth. What had happened to him? Well, isn't this the way it goes? Because the next king comes along and whoever the previous people really thought were something, well, you know, we just need our own people to think we're something. Anybody know what I'm saying? The turnover in leadership is like, oh, you know, especially somebody that had been a captive. And why was he in that important position in the first place? So we don't see necessarily huge demotion, we just see that he fades out of sight.
Isn't that the way it goes sometimes, just kind of fading out of sight. They brought their own wise people, only they couldn't solve the problems. That little phrase, and I don't know how your translation says it, but it would all come from the same Hebrew rendering, anyway. Did you see that where it says toward the end of verse 12 that "he interprets dreams, explain riddles, and solves problems". He can solve problems. Anybody know anybody that's just, like, gifted with solving problems? It's like a gift, just a gift. And we know from Daniel chapter 1 that God had made him an extraordinary man. But we also know that Daniel was a man of prayer and sought after the wisdom of God.
And I really love this word, because in Hebrew that "solve problems" means in its most literal sense, and in a word picture, it means to untie knots. I wonder if anybody knows what it's like to just be tied in a knot. There's just no problem like the one that just ties you in a knot. I wonder if anybody came to Bible study or anybody is on the other side of that screen, whose stomach is what? Tied in knots. You can know somebody's tying a lot of knots in the family or in the workplace, if your stomach or your intestines are constantly tied in knots.