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Lowell Brueckner

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The Last Straw


The Book of the Prophet Daniel

“… some stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire!” Hebrews 11:33, 34

Chapter 5:1-31                                                  The Last Straw

1.  King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 
2.  Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 
3.  Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 
4.  They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. 
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." 

Of all the accounts of history that are available, none are as authentic as those of God’s historians. That is as it should be, because for that purpose God has raised them up in the most strategic places. There are quite a number of secular individuals, who have written of Babylonian history and its kings. However, they wrote from a distance, in time and place, whereas Daniel’s had, we might say, “a ring-side seat”, writing from the palace of the emperors in the city of Babylon. No one saw these occurrences with more clarity and detail than he had. Yet the world, in its rebellion, tend to give secular writers more credence and criticize Daniel.

When it comes to the life of Jesus Christ, no historical records of ancient history are more accurately confirmed than the four Gospels, written by eye witnesses or those very closely associated with them. We conclude that the Bible is the greatest historical authority available. Constantly, as time unfolds, more evidence is discovered, proving its authenticity. We, who are believers, know it to be inerrant and only to be criticized by men out of rebellious unbelief. That, in itself, goes to prove the biblical assessment that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 Jn.5:19).

In this chapter, Daniel wrote of the last night of Babylonian reign and gave us the inside story of what took place in those final hours. Over twenty years had passed since the death of Nebuchadnezzar and a descendant, Belshazzar, an especially evil man, sat on the throne (see Jer.27:6-7). Belshazzar had shut himself inside the city of Babylon, as the enemy army of the Medes and Persians was besieging it. What did he do? Confident of the fortification of the city and the abundant provisions inside, he proclaimed a feast, attended by a thousand nobles. This was probably done on a religious holiday, but it is also likely that it was meant to boost the morale of the Babylonian leaders, who knew that the enemy was close at hand.

They were apparently drinking to excess and, of course, the feast had its religious, idolatrous connotations. In commenting on the first chapter, I mentioned that Daniel saw importance in the fact that Nebuchadnezzar took treasures from Jerusalem’s temple and placed them in the house of his god. I believe that Daniel saw this as more than an addition to the king’s own fortune or his country’s, but as an act of idolatrous worship.

For the benefit of his nobles, Belshazzar is celebrating in defiance of the enemy, but he goes a step beyond, by defying the living God of Israel. Emboldened by the wine, Belshazzar did what his predecessors had never done and what he would not have done, when he was sober. No one dared to use sacred vessels, dedicated to divinity. Obviously directed by evil spirits, he chose the “golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem”. Then, he led the assembly in praising “the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone”, and thereby greatly offended the Lord of Lords.

With that act, as it happened in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, the bowl of the wrath of Almighty God towards Belshazzar and Babylon was filled to the brim. Babylonian hands had profanely taken the Lord’s treasures and now their hands were profanely using them. Immediately, the God of Israel angrily answered the challenge with fingers like those of a human hand. The fingers appeared on the palace wall and were enlightened by the lampstand. Was it the lampstand from the temple, brought in with the cups? In any case, God intended that the fingers would be clearly visible to the king. They appeared and then they wrote.

As the face of Nebuchadnezzar was altered before the fiery furnace, now in an instant, Belshazzar’s cheery disposition changed into one of terror. His legs became weak and his knees literally knocked against each other. History repeats itself, when its lessons are not learned, and Belshazzar, as his grandfather had done twice, cried out for the religious sages and promised them rich rewards for an accurate interpretation.

All of them entered the palace, observed the writing and could give the king no satisfaction. I sense in this, as well as in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, an unwillingness in these men, as well as an incapability. It was a message of doom that must be interpreted and man cannot see, what he is not willing to see. Belshazzar feasted in the face of eminent disaster and his wisest men are unwilling to inform him of it. The bulk of ignorance is voluntary and people sleep on in deceptive dreams. It’s a spiritual principle, very true to this day.

Nebuchadnezzar’s anger intensified before the three Hebrews, who disobeyed him, and Belshazzar’s fear intensified. The lords were alarmed and confused. Now the “queen mother” entered, possibly Nebuchadnezzar’s wife or daughter, who saw him in the throes of insanity for seven years, and then observed his full recovery. She knew Daniel and she knew that he could give an answer to the riddle, written on the palace wall.

However, she did not have the light that the former king received, concerning the incomparable God of Daniel. Relatives and family do not participate in spiritual things, unless they are given personal light from the Holy Spirit. In her idolatrous perception, she spoke of Daniel as “in whom is the spirit of the holy gods… the wisdom of the gods were found in him”. The fact that she termed Nebuchadnezzar Belshazzar’s father is not a hard puzzle. Unlike English, in eastern terms, father often meant ancestor, particularly an ancestor who is to be especially honored. This is sometimes true in biblical genealogies.

13.  Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, "You are that Daniel, one of the 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, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 
16.  But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve 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, the Most 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. 

While mentioning his Babylonian name, the queen twice referred to Daniel by his Hebrew name. Whether she knew it or not, this was appropriate, because Daniel, “God is judge”, was now the person, who would proclaim the judgment of God upon this assembly and the entire city. 

Belshazzar did not recognize the position given to Daniel by his grandfather, but simply saw him as one captured by him and deported to Babylon. “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.” Right, Belshazzar, and he and his extraordinary gifts have gone totally unrecognized by you and he has been ignored and kept out of your palace and government. Well, we can’t expect much from a heathen king, but I am deeply appalled by the lack of discernment and spiritual insensitivity of Christians, who often miss God’s best. They often pass by those, which He has put at the disposal of His church. Usually, this is due to pride and self-sufficiency… “We have need of nothing” (Rev.3:17).

John saw this happen in his day. Imagine the apostle not being received by a church, because Diotrephes “refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church” (3 Jn.9,10)! I remember reading Corrie Ten Boom’s account of her first years in America, after being released miraculously from a Nazi concentration camp, without receiving any invitation to speak. If I remember right, she was housed in the YWCA. I am reading a biography of a Bulgarian man, now in his 80’s, who I met a couple years ago. He spent time in a communist prison. He has rich lessons to share of the things that he learned during his suffering. I wonder how many younger and less experienced believers are taking advantage of his life and teaching. Just tonight, we listened to a wonderful Bible expositor, a retired pastor, who could have been very useful to a group of young Christians, moving into the area. But they were too busy working with their own program.

Instead of calling Daniel in the first place, Belshazzar has gone to the same empty well that Nebuchadnezzar had dipped into twice. The “wise men” of Babylon failed for the third time before a major crisis. There was no one who could interpret the writing, regardless of their spiritual power, because the answer lay in the God of Judah. He was the One, who gave the message and only He could give the interpretation. At long last, the eyes of the king and the Babylonian nobility are upon Him.

The courtroom of God is in session and the guilty will receive the just sentence for their sins. The feasting is over. Belshazzar promised the best that he had to offer to Daniel, but he was not interested. "Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another.” He knew what was to take place that very night within a matter of hours.

It is time to ask ourselves a question. Are we really aware of the destiny of this present world? Perhaps we have biblical information, concerning its destruction, but are we living the reality of it on a daily basis? Do we have roots in it, have we built a foundation on it, and are we looking to it for our future?

Without accepting rewards, Daniel will read and interpret. God is a perfectly righteous Judge and will not pass judgment without presenting to the accused the evidence that is against him. All his doubts will be erased, as to the justice of the sentence. When David’s case went to court, he said, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment(Ps.51:4).

Finally, the entire human race will stand before God at the Great White Throne; the books will be opened, the evidence will be presented and condemnation will be issued (Rev.20:11-15). Everyone will be tried and ignorance will not be an excuse. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Ro.1:20). He has given breath to all mankind, and all are compelled to honor their Creator.

Publicly and before all the lords, Daniel boldly denounces Belshazzar’s crimes against God. He turns back the clock to the time of Nebuchadnezzar and the greatness that the Lord had given to him. “When his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly,” Daniel recounts the consequences. Pride is a foolish deception that hardens man’s heart.

“And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this,” Belshazzar was much better informed than Nebuchadnezzar concerning God, having this history. Deceived by his tremendous arrogance, he erased the fear of God from his heart. As a result, we have witnessed his irreverence in bringing the vessels from God’s temple into this pagan feast.

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.

Now, the handwriting is on the wall, sent by an offended God. Daniel reads it to all, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PERES, and then interprets. MENE, MENE… it is numbered, it is numbered, stated as an exclamation with a double emphasis. God has sovereignly determined the time of Belshazzar’s reign, as well as the period of the Babylonian Empire. The predetermined time has reached its completion, as the wrath of God is filled to the brim. Both the sovereign purpose of God and the results of human rebellion combine as one to bring disaster.

TEKEL… weighed. The reign of Belshazzar was heavily laden with sin and idolatry. On God’s scale, there was nothing to bring honor and glory to His kingdom. It was less than nothing (Is.40:17). PERES or PARSIN (singular and plural forms)… divided.  The kingdom is to be broken into fragments and it would be given to the Medes and Persians. The city of Babylon itself would now come under their rule.

Belshazzar heaps his worthless honors on Daniel and, for a few hours, he became the third ruler in the kingdom. Daniel has already shown his contempt for it all. The enemy army dammed the Euphrates River, which flowed under the walls of Babylon. This was totally unexpected and took the city by surprise. They entered without a challenge and quietly began to take possession. They soon arrived at the center and found Belshazzar. I heard one Bible teacher comment that they dragged him behind horses through the streets of the city. In any case, he was killed that night and, it is for all the world to learn, that the sin of idolatry and lack of a fear of God, brought him and his kingdom to an end in an instant. Although Cyrus was co-conquerer, Darius the Mede, his uncle, became ruler.



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