The Handwriting on the Wall in Babylon

Scripture: Daniel 5:1-31
Date: 06/07/2008 
This sermon covers the story of Belshazzar's feast and the handwriting on the wall spoken of in Daniel 5. It has an end time application that judgment is coming to this world. The Lord is coming soon.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Please turn in your Bibles to the book of Daniel. A few weeks ago we were looking at Daniel 6. I’m going backwards. Today it’s Daniel 5. We’re going to talk about the fall of Babylon. And I think it’s interesting, as we prepare to look at this story, a very important study in the Bible, that history in some ways has a way of repeating itself. Right now the United States is over in the country that was once Babylon—Iraq. The same vicinity. I also think it’s interesting that our biggest problem in ancient Babylon over there is not the Babylonians or the Iraqis, but the ancient Persians. We call them today, Iranians. What we’re reading about in the Bible today, in some ways is still being acted out 3000 years, or 2,500 years later.

Daniel 5:1, “Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords. And he drank wine in the presence of his thousand. And while he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple, which had been in Jerusalem that the king and his lords, and his wives and his concubines might drink from them. And they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple, from the house of God, which had been in Jerusalem. And the king and his lords, and his wives and his concubines drank from them. And they drink wine, and they praised the gods of gold and silver and bronze and iron and wood and stone.” Now we’re getting ready to look into the recipe for how you destroy a nation. Babylon is preparing to fall.

Babylon was at this point one of the greatest kingdoms, if not the greatest kingdom of antiquity. Daniel, in Chapter 2, describes Babylon as a head of gold. In Chapter 7, Daniel describes Babylon through prophecy as of the lion of the beasts, the king of beasts, the golden head of all the metals. It was the greatest kingdom. The historians, when they describe ancient Babylon, it’s scarcely possible to believe the scope of what they talk about. A city with walls over 200 feet high. That's almost as high as a redwood. 60 miles in circumference, 80 feet wide at the top, Herodotus, the historian, tells us. So that four chariots could travel abreast. There were a hundred defense towers above its walls. Within the outer wall that we just described was farmland. They also had 20 years worth of food stored up in silos.

Now this is significant to think about because at the time of the story we’re reading about Babylon was engaged in a war with the Medo-Persian Empire. Matter of fact, the Persians had besieged the ancient city. I've got a map here. I've got some of the scope of the ancient kingdom of Babylon. The Babylonian civilization, it stretched all the way from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. It encompassed the territory that involved what we call today Syria, Iraq, and much of ancient Iran. And it was one the most vast of the ancient empires, the Golden Kingdom. Right there in the Fertile Crescent. In the same location begun by Nimrod to be the first kingdom built in defiance to God. Tower of Babel was in that same area. Matter of fact, you can read about where King Nebuchadnezzar, he surveyed this massive kingdom and said, “Is this not the great kingdom?” He looked at it from his balcony and he was just overwhelmed with how magnificent this empire was.

But at that same time this young king named Belshazzar, he was not at all concerned that the Medo-Persians were in the vicinity, threatening to attack the city. Now when I first mentioned Belshazzar, probably need to stop right here because for many years critics of the Bible said, “You can’t trust the Bible. Nothing in all the Babylonian history that we study tells us there is anyone by the name of Belshazzar.” They thought they had all the monarchs of Babylon mapped out. There’s no Belshazzar. Who was Belshazzar? Well, after some archaeological digs, especially more recent ones in the region of ancient Babylon, they’ve unearthed a number of artifacts. Belshazzar was the son of a Babylonian king by the name of Nabidonis[?]. Now Belshazzar, Daniel says, was a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. But Nabidonis wasn’t related to Nebuchadnezzar.

He came to the throne as a result of intrigue and a few military coups against the empire. And so folks said, “Well, the Bible can’t be trusted.” But they continued to do some archaeological research. And I’ve got a picture here of a slate showing Nabidonis praying to the moon. He was very religious. He left the kingdom to the care of his son, Belshazzar, and he went off and he was a very religious man. He was praying in Arabia, trying to appease the gods and trying to win that southern kingdom.

In the archaeological research that they did they unearthed a few things. One is this terra-cotta cylinder by Nabidonis, written in cuneiform. You can see this today in the British Museum. And another very important one is called the Nabidonis Chronicle. It looks a little bit like the shape of the Rosetta Stone. But in the ancient cuneiform he talks about his son Belshazzar. Evidently what happened is Nabidonis married the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. Meaning, Belshazzar was not related to Nebuchadnezzar through his father, but through his mother. And that comes up and it plays very prominently because she appears a little later in the story.

When he has this big drunken party the Persians had surrounded the ancient city of Babylon, the Medo-Persian kingdom. They had laid siege to it. Well, the Babylonians were not worried. They said, “We’ve got enough food for 20 years. We can grow our own food within the city.” And a critical part of the story you must not forget is the Euphrates River. We’ve all heard about the Euphrates goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It’s in the news today. It ran underneath the walls of ancient Babylon, dissecting this massive city (15 miles each wall, 60 miles around) providing an abundance of water, cooling, irrigating the farms in the city. So Belshazzar said, “We’re not afraid of the Persians. We’re not worried about them.” They just closed the gates and they said, “We’re going to relax.” Well, the Persians had a very clever plan. But we’re going to get to that a little later.

The Persians temporarily retreated from surrounding Babylon. The Babylonians thought, “They’ve given up. They’ve left,” and they celebrated. They had a big party. And in the midst of this drunken party history tells us that Belshazzar especially disliked the Jewish captives in his kingdom. They had received some preferential treatment under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. You remember Nebuchadnezzar exalted Daniel who was prime minister. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were in his cabinet. Later you hear that through the intercession of Daniel the son of Nebuchadnezzar, Evalmeridoch, that he released Jehoichin from prison. And so they had positions of honor, they had respect, but when the kingdom was overturned Daniel was basically retired. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, we don’t know what happened to them, but when Belshazzar finally came into control he did not like the Jews one bit. And it says in some of these cylinders that we just looked at that they were especially persecuted. The Talmud tells us that the Jews were especially persecuted under Belshazzar.

When they saw the Persians surrounding the city the Jews were thinking, “The prophecies of Jeremiah are coming true. This is a sign we’re going to be liberated soon.” One of the generals of the Persians by the name of Cyrus was specifically mentioned by name in the prophecies of Isaiah. And so the Jews were very excited. Belshazzar knew that and he said, “Their God cannot save them form us.” So to mock the God of Israel—you wonder, why did he single out the Jews? Why did he say, “Get the vessels from the Jewish temple”? He had many kingdoms represented in his nation that had been overthrown, but he singles out the Jews. Very interesting. And he says, “Get the vessels that are in the treasury of my grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, that were taken from the temple of Jehovah, and we're going to show the Jews that they need to stop praying to their God-- they're not going anywhere. And we're going to pray to our gods, with their holy vessels.” So you see what's happening behind the scenes. There's a war between the gods going on. So he begins to mock them and as he mocks the God of heaven he begins to praise the gods, takes these sacred vessels, praises the gods of Babylon. You'll notice in Daniel 2 it talks about the metals of gold and silver and bronze and stone. It talks about wood. The gods of all these different materials; idols.

So right in the midst of all of this, Babylon had been under siege of the Persians, he has a party. Now it's interesting that frequently in the Bible it seems like there's a party that's going on just before a judgment. I don't know why that is. The Lord warns us about knowing when to fast and knowing when to feast. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:48, speaking of the second coming, “But if that evil servant says in his heart, My master delays is coming, and he begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken,” feasting, “the master of that servant will come in the day that he's not looking for him and an hour at that he's not aware of.” In the parable Jesus tells about the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man was clothed with purple and linen and he feasted or fared sumptuously every day. And then judgment came for that rich man. Judgment comes to the unfaithful servant. When the children of Israel some bozos delayed coming down the mountain they also had a pot luck that got out of hand, didn't they? And then Moses came—judgment. Adonija had a feast to proclaim himself king and then word came to the banquet hall, Solomon was being coroneted at that very moment and everybody left and the party was over. Judgment came. Jehu had a big banquet for all the worshipers of Baal, but it was really a ruse. The whole thing was to try to eliminate Baal worship from the kingdom. And everybody came and had a big feast to Baal, and then he sent his soldiers in and judgment came. There's a time to feast, and there's a time to fast. And right now, when we are at the borders of the second coming is not a time to be eating and drinking with the drunken. We shouldn't be feasting before Judgment Day.

II Peter 3:11, “Therefore,” speaking of the second coming, “since all these things will be dissolved, “what manner of persons thought you beat in all holy conduct and godliness?” Just to give you the picture, this was turning into, this banquet to celebrate the withdrawal of the Persians, was turning into the equivalent of an ancient Roman orgy. You've got to remember that it says here unlike some of the feasts where the Persians had the men drinking and the women were not allowed, here it says that Belshazzar had his concubines and wives, the men and the women were there. It had turned into something the equivalent of a New Orleans Mardi Gras, or a Brazilian Carnival. Where it was just debauchery of partying that was going on. And then it says when the king had tasted the wine the effects of the wine began to have its inebriating impact on his mind. That's when he gives the very reckless command to bring the sacred vessels from the temple of God, and to begin to make a mockery of Jehovah. Now this is very significant because he's now taking something that was dedicated for a holy purpose and it's being defiled.

I was thinking about what's happening in our country. I read an article in Newsweek talking about how the media, the censors have just about closed down their shop for television. They used to censor the movies and censor television; what was appropriate, what was inappropriate. And the border had been pushed further and further and further where now even during daytime television they’re showing very explicit things. And you know what? It’s like boiling a frog. Little by little the country is being exposed to this and they just don't know it. And even Christians are watching these things without even blushing. Not to mention what's happening in the theater. By the way, Rome is sometimes compared to Babylon. And when Peter greets the church in Babylon, he's talking about Rome.

Edward Gibbon, describing the five main reasons to Rome's downfall. We’re getting ready to study the downfall of Babylon here. Listen to what he says. “The undermining of the dignity and the sanctity of the home. The sanctity of the home,” and I think that would also talk about marriage, “increasing taxes and spending of public money for bread and circuses.” Spending tax money on public parties. “The mad craze for pleasure, with sports becoming more exciting and more brutal.” Like extreme fighting. “The building of armaments, where the real enemy was the decadence of the people.” This is what Edward Gibbons says. “And the decay of religion with faith fading into mere form.” At one time about 200 AD the Roman Empire, they had been experiencing what they call poxroman, or the Roman peace. The laws and the morals of Rome at one point were very high. But as they began to fall and they gave themselves over to the orgies and to the gladiator battles and to ultimately killing the Christians, the kingdom imploded. Even though it had once been the most powerful kingdom.

Philip Myer, in his textbook called, Rome, Its Rise and Fall, made this observation on the Romans. “Almost from the beginning the Roman stage was gross and immoral. And it was one of the main agencies to which must be attributed the undermining of the originally sound moral life and society. So absorbed did the people become in the indecent representations of the stage they lost all thought and care for the affairs of real life.” The culture became obsessed with the equivalent of their media. And it was gross and immoral. Could that happen again to our country?

Now one of the things that shocked my socks off was when I finally got the news that the 9th Circuit Court in California had reversed the ban on declaring that marriage between gays would be legal. That ought to give you chills, friends. Not just because of what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. But I thought it was interesting that one of our members emailed me something. Do you know there’s only one other time in history when contracts of homosexual marriage were endorsed by the government? And it wasn’t Sodom and Gomorrah. Believe it or not it wasn’t Greece. As decadent as they were in Greece. In Rome. As much as they misbehaved in Rome. There have always been elements of homosexuality in culture. But when it was recognized they the government, you know when that was? Among the ancient writings of the Jews they’ve got the books called the Talmud.

There’s one manuscript called the Babylonian Talmud. It really has nothing to do with Babylon. It’s just something that was preserved through Babylon. And the ancient rabbis that lived 500 years before Jesus, they said that the one sin that was the most offensive to God before the flood (going back to the time of Noah) was when the government began to issue contracts for men to marry men. And then the flood came. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I can’t imagine why I’m not hearing more outrage from people across the country that America has come to the place where we’re going to take something that was dedicated for a sacred purpose, marriage, and going to hand that over to a perverse use. And to recognize it and legalize it and endorse it. I’m praying that that decision’s reversed. But you know, even if it’s reversed you just watch. It’s temporary. They’re not giving up.

Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Noah so will it be in the days of the son of Man.” By the way, they ate and they drank. “They knew not until the flood came upon them.” And you can believe all of that was happening in the judgment halls of Babylon that day before they saw the handwriting on the wall. By the way, did I tell you that’s the sermon title? When I first started reading the Bible one of the things that really impressed me about the Bible—I had no Bible background. As I’m reading through the Bible I finally get to the story of Daniel. Daniel 5 it talks about the handwriting on the wall. I said, “Oh, that’s where that expression comes from.” I was amazed how many expressions I had been using all my life, I had no idea what I was saying. I’d tell people, “Well, we’re going the second mile.” And then I realized that came from Jesus. Or “turn the other cheek,” or “at your wit’s end,” or “by the skin of your teeth,” or all the expressions that we use, they’re from the Bible. “The handwriting on the wall,” that’s the message today.

The king called for these holy vessels. I think there’s a secondary meaning for that. When he took these silver and gold vessels, these were precious metals. I also think it's interesting, the kingdom is getting ready to go from gold to silver that night. The golden head of Babylon to the silver of the Medes and the Persians that night. But what's another symbol for vessels in the Bible? What does the Bible tell us can be symbolized by vessels? I Thessalonians 4:4, “That each of you should know how to possess his own vessel.” Your body is a vessel to be filled by the Holy Spirit. “Unto holiness, sanctification and honor.” Our vessels should be possessed in sanctification. That means holiness, and honor. We are to be dedicated for that.

When King Belshazzar called for the vessels from the house of the Lord so that he could drink fermented drink in them, and praise pagan gods, that's really exactly what the Devil wants to do with all of God's children. He wants to take God's people, who have been dedicated to be filled with God's Spirit in God's house, and bring them into his banquet hall and fill them with his intoxicating drinks and praise devils. Because the Bible says when they worship idols they are really worshiping devils. II Chronicles 36:10 tells us that Nebuchadnezzar sent and brought King Jehoachin to Babylon “with the goodly vessels from the House of the Lord.” These vessels had come from the house of God. There's something incongruous about when we come from the house of God, when we leave this place, we should not be going into the feast house of idols from here. We should be reserved for a holy purpose.

He was, in effect, mocking God. And what happens when you mock God? Will a man mock God? Here's the Persians are outside the walls. The Jews are praying for deliverance. And he wanted to show the God of Israel was powerless. He didn't do this with any of the other gods he had conquered, but he did with Jehovah, because the real battle in this world is not between the devil and the kings and all the pagan religions. It's between Satan and Christ. And you can see that coming out in this story. The one God he was threatened by was the God they could not make an idol of. He's a God that you can't make Him. He makes us. Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. What ever a man sows he will also reap.” When the government begins to mock what God calls holy then Babylon falls.

Now turn back to your Bibles, Daniel 5:5. I read to you verses 1-4. “In that same hour the fingers of a man’s hand,” in the midst of their drinking and their praising their different gods of silver and gold, their going through this ritual, all the different lords. He’s got the most beautiful women in the kingdom. You read in the book Prophets and Kings, the most brilliant minds in the kingdom are there. It was an impressive scene. They’ve got the paparazzi there taking pictures, or etching them or something, or painting them. Because the who’s who in Babylon, and Babylon was the biggest kingdom in the world. If there was a party you wanted to go to and find out where all the influential people were, it was this party. But Daniel wasn’t there, because he knew what was going to be going on. “In that same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lamp stand, on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace. And the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.” It wasn’t a whole arm. It’s a hand. And it’s got the fingers curled around maybe some instrument, and it’s etching and burning characters on the wall over by the lamp where everybody could see. And a hush, a terror fell upon that assembly that day. One minute they’re praising their gods, they’re partying, they’re being profane, they’re using bad language, telling lewd jokes, behaving in an unseemly way. And it was amazing how when they saw the hand of God writing on the walls, everybody’s attitude instantly changed.

People usually sober up when God starts to write. You need to pay careful attention. I can only think of about four times in the Bible when God writes anything. You’ve got the Lord writing the Ten Commandments. But you know, He did it twice. The first time God provided the stone. The second time—Moses broke them, remember? God says, “Look, you’ve got to cut your own this time. I’ll write on them again.” So He wrote on them again the second time. Then you’ve got this writing on the judgment hall walls. It was a feasting hall, but it became a judgment hall, didn’t it? Of Babylon. And then Jesus’ writing in the dust of the Temple floor. And they got real quiet when He started writing, too, didn’t they? “And the king’s countenance was changed.” I guess. “And his thoughts troubled him so the joints of his hips were loosed.”

You ever get so nervous that your knees smite together? I can always tell when person’s nervous when they’re up front because I know how it feels. The first time I got up to preach I was absolutely terrified. I don’t get that way anymore, praise the Lord. Well, sometimes if it’s a live satellite feed. That first night I get a little nervous for the first few minutes. Sometimes I’ll be sitting here and someone’s up there doing special music and you can see them, their knees are knocking together or you can see the bottom of their dress is fluttering like that. Or I’ll see different speakers and I tell Karen, “Yeah, they’re licking their lips every two seconds. See their eyes blinking like that? They are scared to death.”

But when you get so scared that you’re doing the Charleston. He couldn’t stop and it gets worse than that. It says, “The joints of his hips were loosed,” and in some versions it says, “his loins were loosed.” And I read some commentaries on this this week and a number of scholars new and old say that means he lost control of his loins. Well, you drink a lot of wine that could happen. Combine that with a little bit of abject terror.

By the way, don’t forget that because we’re going to read a prophecy where it says the kings of Babylon, their loins are loosed, with fear. “And his knees knocked against each other.” That bold, brave king was shaking his puny fist in the face of God. All of a sudden his knees are knocking together. A lot of people are very bold about saying, “I don’t believe in God. There’s no God,” acting like fools. Someday when they see the handwriting on the wall they’re not so brave anymore. We’re all going to be judged for everything we say, every idle word we speak, everything we do. We’ll all stand and give an account of ourselves before God. Something we need to remember. “And the king cried aloud.” He’s screaming, he’s terrified. “Bring in the astrologers.” They see these words and then finally the writing stops and there it is, blowing and burning characters. And I don’t know if the hand was still there where they could see the hand, but there was just terror in the banquet hall there.

“And he cries out,” he screams, “Bring in the astrologers and the Chaldeans and the soothsayers. And the king spoke to the wise men of Babylon.” The rushed in before the king. “Whoever reads this writing and tells me its interpretation he’ll be clothed with purple, he’ll have a chain of gold around his neck, and he’ll be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Babylon was the biggest kingdom in the world. To be number three, you might be wondering, “Why didn’t he offer them number two?” That’s because that’s all he was. The real king was in Arabia, his father Nabidonis. He was only serving as the Vice-Regent. He was king number two, ruler number two. He’s offering number three to whoever could interpret it. “Now the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing, or make known to the king what the interpretation was of it.”

I think it’s very interesting, Isaiah 47:13, prophesying about this. “The wise men are mystified.” That often happens. Pharaoh brings in his wise men. Can they tell what his dream means? No. Nebuchadnezzar brings in his wise men, not only for his dream about the golden image, but later he dreams about the tree. The wise men of the world, they don't know. Isaiah 47:13, “Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsel. Let now the astrologers and the star gazers and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.” His wise men could not help him, they could not save him. They could not interpret what was happening.

I'm concerned when I see God's people going to the wisdom of the world for advice, when that advice conflicts with the word of God. The wisdom of the world is foolishness. Don't forget that the wisest people in the world once thought the earth was flat. The wisest people in the world once thought if you had a fever you had too much blood and so you’d just bleed them. And that was the wisdom. Who could no more than the doctors and the scientists and the scholars? The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God. I Corinthians 1:20, “Where is the wise, where is the scribe, where is the disputer of this age? How's not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” You can read in the book Prophets can Kings, “But of no avail was his appeal to his trusted advisers with offers of rich rewards. Heavenly wisdom cannot be bought or sold.” He needed one of God's wise men to tell him what God's writing said.

The wise men could not tell him. Verse 9 of chapter 5, “The king's countenance was changed, and his lords were astonished.” Everyone is totally mystified. “The Queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came to the banquet hall.” She was not there also. Isn't that interesting? This is the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar, who ended his life by extolling the God of heaven. This is a daughter that was probably a little more amenable to the God of heaven. She was not invited. She's brought to the judgment hall, and now word is going everywhere about this event. “And the Queen spoke.” This is probably Belshazzar’s mother. “O King, live forever. Do not let your thoughts.” Don't forget that, “O King, live forever.” “Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change.” Do you underline in your Bible? I've got four words for you: there is a man. I like when God says, “There is a man.” They've got all the wisest men in Babylon, and they can't figure it out, but God still has a man. “There is a man in your kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy God,” unlike the gods you're praising, “and in the days of your father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him.”

Keep in mind, this is the queen mother. She’s describing events that had happened 40 years earlier. Most of this generation has forgotten about those miracles of Daniel’s wisdom and his interpreting the various dreams of Nebuchadnezzar. “The wisdom like the wisdom of the gods was found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father,” and they use the word father and grandfather interchangeably, “your father the king made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans and soothsayers. In as much as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar.” You’ve got Belshazzar and Belteshazzar. “Now let Daniel be called and he will give it the interpretation.” You notice, she has absolutely no doubt. “Let him be called.” She doesn't say, “Let him take a crack at it.” She says, “He has never failed to give an interpretation. He'll give it to you.”

“Then Daniel was brought in before the king.” Now the king has been mocking the God of the Jews. Who is brought in to interpret the king's writing? A Jew. “And the king spoke and said to Daniel, Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives of Judah?” When they wanted to get rid of Daniel in chapter 6, they say, “That Daniel.” “Who is one of the captives of Judah, who my father, the king brought from Judah.” “You're just a foreign captive.” It still irks the king that he’s having to ask a Jew to explain the writing. “I've heard from you that the spirit of God is in you and that the light of understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. Now the wise men and astrologers have been brought before me to read this writing, to make known its interpretation, but they could not give the interpretation of the thing. And I have heard of you that you can give interpretations and explain enigmas. Now, if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation you will be clothed in purple,” oh, big deal, “and have a chain of gold around your neck. And you’ll be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Offering him these rewards. Do think that impressed Daniel?

It's amazing how quickly that [Belshazzar’s] behavior went from mockery to abject terror. How does Daniel feel about these rewards? 5:17, “Daniel answered and said before the king, Let your gifts to you for yourself and give your rewards to another.” We have other ways of saying that. But I won't say that. You don't say that to a king in front of. I think of another banquet hall. The king started drinking wine. You remember Herrod and John the Baptist? And yet some Christians think it's OK to drink alcohol. So he says, “Daniel, look, what I'm going to give you.” Whenever a prophet makes out a receipt for you; when a prophet says, “I’ll give you a prophecy, but just let me get out my credit card machine,” you’d better go looking for another prophet. Matter of fact, a prophet of God, if he's got a message for you, you cannot pay him to not give it to you. Is that right? So the idea of, “If you give me a prophecy…” Naaman, he comes for healing, he offers Elisha a fortune. He says, “Keep your money.” You can't even pay for your healing. God's Word is free. Joseph's brothers tried to put money in Joseph's hand so they could get bread, and Joseph said, “You can’t pa y for it.” He put the money back in their sack. A lot of astrologers, soothsayers and palm readers--you can go visit them and they're going to charge you for your visit, right?

The other thing is when Daniel talks to King Darius in the next chapter he says, “O King, live forever. My God has sent His angels.” {?} “O king, live forever.” That's the proper way you greet a king, right? But you notice he doesn't say to Belshazzar, “O Belshazzar, live forever.” You know why? He knew he wasn't going to live forever. No sense wasting it and he wasn't going to give him that kind of glory. He knew what the handwriting on the wall said. And he's offering him position. What's the position? You get to be third ruler in the kingdom. When you turn the page and you read Chapter 6 Daniel’s getting ready, in chapter 6, to be second ruler in the kingdom. He didn't need to get Belshazzar to offer him third place. He says, “You know, God's going to give me second place in one more chapter.” Isn't that what it said? “Darius thought to set him over the whole realm.” He was already chief of the presidents. He thought to set him over the whole realm. Because of this excellent spirit was in him.

“O king, let your gifts be for another and let your gifts be for yourself. Keep your gifts, your awards for another. Yet, I will read the writing to you.” Can't wait to read the writing to you, “to make known to him the interpretation.” “O king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar, your father, a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor,” unlike any other king, I might add. “and because of the majesty that he gave him all peoples, nations and languages trembled and feared before him. Whomever he wished he executed. Whomever he wished he kept alive. Whomever he wished he set up. Whomever he wished he put down.” He was a total, absolute ruler. But when his heart was lifted up,” remember, his pride, “Is this not the great Babylon, that I have built?” “And his spirit was hardened in pride. He was deposed, from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him. Then he was driven from the sons of men as his heart was made like a beast’s heart and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys.” When you're proud, God can send you out to feed with donkeys. “They fed him with graphs like oxen, and who thought he was wet with the dew of heaven until he knew that the most high God rules in the kingdom of men and appoints over it whomever He chooses.”

In other words, Daniel is all about whether you worship the true God, who has the real kingdom, or the idols and the false kingdom. They were praising their idols and trusting their idols to protect Babylon from the Persians. And the one God that they could trust, or that could help them, they were not trusting. “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this.” You knew what the history was, your mother told you. “And you've lifted your self up against the Lord of heaven, and you've brought the vessels of His house before you and you and your lords, and your wives and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold and bronze and iron and wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know anything.”

Do you have the context of this? Daniel, what a man. Someone said the lion's didn’t eat him because he had too much backbone. He is in a judgment hall, where they've got all of the idols illuminated, beautiful idols all around the walls of the judgment hall. That's why they were all praising them. And they're going through the ritual, they’re praising them in the most important, the most powerful people in the kingdom are there. And Daniel stands fearlessly in their midst, 85 years old, perhaps. He had been carried away 70 years earlier. And he denounces that their gods are dead. They are stone they're wood, they do not see, they do not hear. What a sermon. That takes courage. It's like when Paul goes in the amphitheater of Greece and says, “I’m going to tell you about the one unknown God. You've got all these idols. You don't even know what you're worshiping.”

“But the God who hold your breath in His hand, who owns all your ways, you have not glorified. Then the fingers of this hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written.” Now we’re going to look at the writing. “And this is the inscription that was written.” Most scholars believe probably the writing was in Hebrew. It was in the ancient Hebrew. In the soothsayers and the Babylonians, Daniel was instructed in their language and he understood both languages, but they were not instructed in his language. What were the Ten Commandments written in? Probably Hebrew, right? The language of the people. Does that make sense? And what do you think Jesus wrote when He wrote in the dust? He wrote, probably, Hebrew. Was there Hebrew also above the head of Christ when He was crucified? So I think there's a good argument that these were Hebrew characters. It's no problem for Daniel to read this. “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin,” is the writing. Now if I were just say that to you, you probably wouldn't know what that means. Matter of fact, even if you understood Hebrew. Each one of these words, one repeated twice, each word represents a sentence. The sentence is summarized in the word.

Pastor Harold told me a story this week. I told him I hope he doesn't mind my robbing his story about a young person that was studying the truth and wanted to accept the truth. His family was from a charismatic background, and they just were very worried about him that he might become a Seventh Day Adventist. They thought what he really needed was the gift of tongues and everything would be all right. So they brought this young person, brought him in to a church and surrounded him with pastors. And they said, “We’re just going to pray until you speak in tongues. We're not leaving here until you speak in tongues. And they all surrounded him. They’re all praying and they’re speaking in tongues and they're laying hands on him and they're carrying on. He doesn't know what to do, and he's praying and praying; they're going on and on. Finally, he said, “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.” And they all said, “Praise the Lord!” And they left. But they didn't realize what he said was, “You’re all weighed in the balances and found wanting.” Just remember that in case you ever need it.

And so, then he gives the interpretation. In the Hebrew mene signifies the word enumeration; tekel, weighing; and peres, division. So just to give you that background. So back to the writing, Daniel 5:26, “This is the interpretation of each word. Mene, God has numbered your kingdom and finished it. Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances,” there’s a judgment, a scale. “You are weighed, and you are found wanting.” They used to check a pure gold, they'd weigh it against a certain weight to see if it was pure or if they had something else mixed in with it. It had some false material in there and it was impure. “You are weighed in the balances and I found wanting. Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.” I think it is interesting that at that point the walls of Babylon, at the very moment that Daniel is speaking those words, the outer walls had been breached.

Now let me give you a little history. In case you didn't notice. What Cyrus did, Cyrus and the Medes and the Persians had this confederacy. They have surrounded Babylon. They realized they could not breach the walls of the city, they were too high. They could not get through the gates, they were too thick and they could shoot down from the walls. And as they studied the situation they came up with an idea. When they built Babylon, they had the old place the river used to run. And they redirected it through the city. After they finished building the aqueducts that went through the city they had too dam that off for a little while some ways upstream so that they could do the construction.

Cyrus found that and it was a number of miles out of sight. He had his army dig a big basin, and a canal that would reroute the Euphrates River. Just as the sun began to go down, he had all of his soldiers retreat. The Babylonians celebrated. They thought that the Persians and the Medes had given up. They retreated out of view. They broke the dam that let the water run off in the other direction. The regular flow of the Euphrates went down, it was dried. The flow of the river ran off in this incredible old canal so at least temporarily it dropped the water level many feet. And it tells us that the soldiers were able to walk underneath the walls because the level of the water had dropped to where it wasn't much more is there a stream. This is the Euphrates River, which normally flows like the Mississippi. It's a big river. When they got to the great iron gates. Not only were they able to go under the walls, but the soldier were all drunk. They were celebrating the retreat of the Persians. They had left the iron gates unlocked. Right as Daniel is in there saying, “You are found weighed in the balances and found wanting,” they can hear the cry of the soldiers outside judgment hall, and they are saying, “The Persians are here! The Medes are here! There's an army coming! We’re overwhelmed!” They swarmed in like ants underneath the walls. Then they opened the other gates. The army came in through the other gates and the city quickly fell. Babylon fell.

I've got the writings here from Heroditus. “Cyrus dug a trench and diverted the flow of the Euphrates River into this new channel, which led to an existing swamp. The level of the river then dropped to such a level it became like a stream. His army was able to take the city. The Babylonians at this time were celebrating intensely at a feast to one of their gods and they were taken totally by surprise. There was a festival going on and they continued to dance and enjoy themselves until they learned the news the hard way.” That’s from the historians. [It] goes along with the Bible. Isaiah 45:1, listen to what Isaiah says over 100 years before these events transpired. About 150 years. “Thus says the Lord to His anointed, Cyrus.” Cyrus is not born yet. We know from the Dead Sea Scrolls Isaiah wrote this before it happened. “Whose right hand I have helped.” I am going to help this king. “To subdue nations before him, to loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors so the gates shall not be shut.” It’s actually to loose the loins of kings. The double doors would be left open. This is exactly what happened.

Jeremiah, speaking of the fall of Babylon in 51:30, “The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting. They’ve remained in their strongholds. Their might has failed. They became like women. They have burned her dwelling places. Her bars of her gates are broken.” They were unable to fight. They were all drunk and intoxicated. They fled before the Persians. No resistance was put up. I think this is significant because if you read in Revelation 16; nothing in the book of Daniel talks about the drying up of the Euphrates. This is in history, though. And all the Jews knew this. So when you read Revelation 16:12, “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates and its water was dried up so the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.” When Darius the Mede king and Cyrus the Persian, who later became king, when they came from the east it meant deliverance for the people of God who had been held captive in Babylon.

I think right now we can hear the shouting from the judgment hall, or from the banquet hall, I should say. And soon you’re going to hear shouting from the judgment hall. I think we’re on the boarders of a very similar vent, that the end is near. Now you read in the last few verses of Daniel 5:29, “Belshazzar, he gives the command and they clothed Daniel with purple and they put a gold chain around his neck and they made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.” This is the last command of Belshazzar before he dies. What is his last command? To glorify a Jew. To make a Jew the third ruler in his kingdom. And then you read the next verse. “That night Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans was slain and Darius the Mede received the kingdom being about 62 years old.”

Of all the leaders in the Babylonian cabinet that were executed they didn’t execute Daniel, did they? You know why? All the Babylonians fell. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Babylon; you’ve just got to make sure Babylon’s not in you. God tells His people that we should come out of Babylon. Now we might be surrounded with Babylonian behavior. And you might even see elements of Babylon in the church, but the church is not Babylon. But some people in the church have got Babylon in them. We need to pray that the Lord will help us to treat our vessels as holy. Amen, friends? I think these are signs that the Lord is coming soon and we need to do everything we can to prepare. Do you see the handwriting on the wall? I believe that the evidence is there that Jesus is on His way.

Turn in your hymnals to 626. I’m trying to think about how do I end this sermon? I don’t think I can and I think God’s going to have to end it. You just keep watching the headlines. I’ll let the Lord end it. In A Little While We’re Going Home.


Before we sing the last verse I just feel like I need to offer a moment for you to respond. And I always struggle and say, “Lord, I don’t know if I was able to communicate to them the power and intensity of this story and how relevant it is today that I see.” What happened there in that banquet hall many years ago, that’s being acted out in our country right now. What happened in ancient Rome. And I think that unless there’s major repentance we’re going to see some pretty dramatic changes taking place very soon. And it’s time for us to make sure that we’re not in Babylon and it’s not in us. Amen? Some of you might have different needs in your hearts and lives and the Lord’s speaking to you and He’s calling you. I’d like to have a relationship with the Lord like Daniel had. Where people will accuse us of having the Spirit of the living God in us. Is that your desire? Some here maybe have some special needs you’d like to bring to the Lord right now. As we sing the last verse and you want to know you’re ready for Jesus to come, if you need special prayer, come as we close with prayer.


Father in heaven, we do look forward to and long for that day when Jesus comes. We can see the Euphrates River drying up even now, Lord. That’s the harbinger that Jesus is coming. I pray that each one of us can find a way to excuse ourselves from the feasting banquet hall and make our way to the fasting. That we might humble ourselves before you and recognize that there is judgment looming. I pray, Lord, that there’ll be revival in our church, that we’ll really come before you and surrender ourselves and return to the faith that was once delivered to the saints. I pray, Lord, there will be revival and repentance in our country and that we will, as a nation, humble ourselves and turn away from the decadent behavior that seems to be modeling the fall of Babylon and the fall of Rome once again. I pray also, Lord, that there can be a revival in our personal devotional lives, in our relationship, in our witness for you. We’re very thankful for the young people preparing to go on this mission trip. We ask that you guard them, watch over them and bless them as well. Pour out your Spirit on our church and the blessings of this Sabbath day. As we close this worship service we pray we can take your presence and those blessings with us. Help us to be your witnesses. We pray that your Spirit will be in our hearts and we’ll sense it there. We ask in Jesus’ name, amen.

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