Sunday, October 28, 2012

Daniel 5 -- The Writing on the Wall and Humility

LINK: Daniel 5

The Chronological Order of the Book of Daniel 
Daniel 1–4: Captivity and interpretation of dreams and visions (Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar) 
Daniel 7: Vision of the four beasts (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 8: Vision of the ram and he-goat (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 5: Belshazzar’s feast—conquest of Babylon (Babylon, Belshazzar) 
Daniel 9: Vision of the seventy weeks (Persia, Darius) 
Daniel 6: Daniel in the lions’ den (Persia, Darius) 
Daniel 10–12: Daniel’s prayer and visions (Persia, Cyrus)  
(Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (9). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)
Some Babylonian History

Nebuchadnezzar ruled for 43 years and died in 562 B.C. He was succeeded by Evil-Morodach who ruled from 562-560 B.C. He was murdered in August 560 B.C. by Neriglissar, Nebuchadnezzar's son-in-law. Neriglisssar ruled from 560-556 B.C. He is mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3, 13 as Nergal-Sharezer. He was succeeded by his son Labashi-Marduk who ruled only two months in 556 B.C. before he was assassinated and Nabonidus took the throne from 556-539 B.C.

Nabonidus' mother was the high priestess of the moon god at Haran. Because of this, he made a great effort to restore and expand the Babylonian religion and abandoned temples. He restored the temple of the moon god, Sin, attacked Edom, and conquered parts of Arabia where he lived for some time.

His eldest son, Belshazzar, was co-regent with him even though Nebuchadnezzar is referred to as Belshazzar's father throughout Daniel 5. Since he was co-regent, this is why he offered third place to the person who could explain the writing on the wall (5:7).

Belshazzar was holding a great banquet with goblets from the temple in Jerusalem (showing contempt toward God) while Babylon was being besieged by the Persian army led by Ugbaru, governor of Gutium (showing contempt toward men). Belshazzar means "Bel (another name for the god, Marduk) has protected the king," and he certainly believed it as he had no concern for the danger that was at his doorstep. His city had large walls and provisions to last for 20 years! Archaeologists excavated a hall in Babylon with plastered walls that measured 55 by 165 feet. Maybe this was the very hall where Belshazzar held his banquet!

Lulled to sleep by a false sense of security, Belshazzar was awakened to reality by the writing on the wall. His bravado turned to fear as he frantically sought someone to interpret the message and promised riches and authority for the man who could interpret the message.

A queen (probably the king's grandmother who would have known about Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel) recalled a man who "had the spirit of the holy gods . . . insight . . . intelligence . . . wisdom (5:11), knowledge . . . understanding and . . . ability to interpret dreams"(5:12): Daniel!

Daniel was summoned and summarized God's dealing with Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself beneath the mighty hand of God, and God blessed him with power and authority. Belshazzar was not like his ancestor, and he even openly defied God by drinking from the goblets in the temple (5:2-3) and praising man-made gods (5:4). Some commentators believe that there is a play on words between Daniel's proclamation that Belshazzar's life was in God's hand and the hand that wrote the message on the wall.

The message on the wall meant "numbered, weighted, and divided." Even if the wise men could read the actual words, only Daniel knew the context of their message. Because of Belshazzar's moral and spiritual degradation, God would hand the mighty Babylonian Empire over to the Medes and Persians.

The "writing on the wall" was fulfilled when the Persian army, led by Ugbaru, divided, with one half at the entrance of the Euphrates River into the city and the other at the exit of the river out of the city. The army diverted the water north of the city by digging a canal from the river to a nearby lake cutting off the water supply to the city. They were able to go under the sluice gate when the water receded and take the city without a fight. This fulfilled Daniel's prophecy and the prophecy in Isaiah 47:1-5. This took place on October 12, 539 B.C. 

The rule of the Medes and Persians was the fulfillment of the second phase spoken of in Daniel 2!


The gist of this story is that the "Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone He wishes." If we "set [ourselves] up against the LORD of heaven" and refuse to humble ourselves beneath His mighty hand (5:22. See also Luke 18:14, James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6), God cannot possibly bless us.

Nebuchadnezzar chose to humble himself. Belshazzar did not. Tomorrow we will see the response of King Darius. Stay tuned.

He believed in a sovereign God 
“The Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (Dan. 4:25, 32, nkjv; 5:21) is one of the basic truths taught in the Book of Daniel. Dictators and petty politicians may have thought they were in control, but Daniel knew better. As a devoted Jew, Daniel knew that there was but one true God, the Lord Jehovah, and that He ruled all things with wisdom and power. The Babylonians changed Daniel’s address, his name, and his education, and they tried to change his standards, but they couldn’t change his theology! God was sovereign when He permitted Babylon to conquer Judah, and He was sovereign in sending Daniel and his friends to Babylon. In every aspect of Daniel’s life and service, he depended totally on the God of heaven who is sovereign over all things. 
Some people associate sovereignty with slavery, when actually our surrender to God’s sovereign will is the first step toward freedom. “And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts” (Ps. 119:45, nkjv). We can yield ourselves to Him with great confidence because He is our Father, and He loves us too much to harm us and He is too wise to make a mistake. 
Nor should divine sovereignty be confused with fatalism, “What will be will be.” Fatalism is belief in an impersonal force that’s working out its blind but inevitable purposes in this world, whether it’s the economic forces of materialism and Communism or the “survival of the fittest” in Darwinian evolution. One is tempted to ask, “What established this force? What keeps it going? If it’s inevitable, why can we resist it or choose not to accept it?” The Christian believer’s faith is in a personal God, a loving God who plans for us the very best (Jer. 29:11). “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1)..

He sought only to glorify God 
“There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets,” Daniel told the powerful monarch, giving all the glory to the Lord (Dan. 2:28, nkjv), and later Nebuchadnezzar himself was glorifying God (v. 47; 4:34–35). When the king rewarded Daniel for his service, Daniel asked him to include his three friends, for they were an important part of the praying that brought the answer. When Belshazzar tried to smother Daniel with compliments and influence him with gifts, the prophet brushed it all aside and courageously interpreted the bad news to the king (5:13–17). 
Throughout his long life, Daniel was a great man in the kingdom, but he used his gifts, abilities, and opportunities to honor God and minister to others. It has well been said that true humility isn’t thinking meanly of yourself, it’s just not thinking of yourself at all! Jesus came as a servant (Phil. 2), and His example is the one we should follow. I see many leadership conferences for Christians advertised these days; perhaps we need to organize some “servanthood” conferences; for a true leader is always a humble servant. This was true of Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, and Nehemiah, as well as our Lord and His apostles. Can we improve on what they teach us? 
(Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (154). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)

Are you making wise choices that go down the path of humility or are you going down the path of pride?

Jesus shows us the true, good, and restful way by inviting us to become yoked with Him. We can't help but learn humility because He is gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29).

Humility is the realization that He is God, and you are not. This picture reflects that concept:


Lord, You are the ruler over the realm of all mankind, and we humbly come before You and acknowledge that You are God and we are not. Teach us the path of true humility, We ask this in the name of the humble and gentle Jesus. Amen.
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