Daniel 5, Belshazzar's Feast

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.
The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”
Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.
10 The queen, hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. “May the king live forever!” she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! 11 There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. 12 He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”
13 So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? 14 I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. 15 The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. 16 Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”
17 Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.
18 “Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. 19 Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. 20 But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. 21 He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.
22 “But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. 24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.
25 “This is the inscription that was written:
mene, mene, tekel, parsin
26 “Here is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
27 Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
28 Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.
30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, 31 and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.

 

Belshazzar’s Feast   Daniel chapter 5

          How are you everyone?  Finally, May 8th is the last day of stay home order.  However, we still need to keep our social distancing practice and mask wearing in public places. In the beginning, it was a big alarm for us.  After a couple months’ of experience, we came to realize that this generation might need to get used to this kind of close surveillance system of governing bodies.

          In fact, many people are anticipating second wave of pandemic either at the end of this year or possibly next year. If, thankfully, it doesn’t come next year, it might come within 5 to 10 years because there will be human- devised pandemics in order to fulfill human greediness.

          Unfortunately, this kind of surveillance system would become a part of our life because we are living in an end time.  The fearful social phenomena may not be something uncommon in the mundane lives of this end time.  

          Therefore, I’d like to invite you to think about how to handle our future life that gives us ongoing challenges and threat with various pandemics.  First, we need to apprehend the fact that initial fear or anxiety might not be a strange feeling anymore.  Then, we are moving on from that point.

          Today’s scripture portrays a man, a king, who had been in a pretty fearful circumstance.  However, he had projected his inner fear completely opposite way.

          As you read the scripture, you would know that the king Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of nobles and drank wine with them. Then, “While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.”  The king had done the most blasphemous thing to do.

          If the king hadn’t known about the God of Israel, his action could have been regarded something barbarian out of the ignorance of Yahweh God.  Unfortunately, the legacy of the king Nebuchadnezzar hadn’t happened longer than a decade prior to this incident because three of king Nebuchadnezzar’s successors were slain by the opponents. As you know, God revealed himself twice in a big way to the king Nebuchadnezzar and the king had become a God-fearing man. 

          In this case, do you think the king Nebuchadnezzar hadn’t told about his experience of the God of Israel both to his family and his officials?  The king was an excellent man who was smarter than any other kings in the region. He praised God when God restored his sanity and his throne after 7 years of debasement.  He must have given proverbs to his children to respect the God of Israel. 

          Now, we come to have a question.  Was the king Belshazzar a son of the king Nebuchadnezzar since Daniel referred the king Nebuchadnezzar as ‘your father’ to the king Belshazzar.  Answer is ‘no.’ Because, he was described as the last king of Babylon and was slain on the night of his banquet.  Now, take a look at the list of the kings of the Babylon.

          There were 6 kings in Neo-Babylon:

• 1. 626–605 BC

Nabopolassar

• 2. 605–562 BC

Nebuchadnezzar II

• 3. 562–560 BC

Amel-Marduk

• 4. 560–556 BC

Nriglissar

• 5. 556 BC

Labasi-Marduk

• 6. 556–539 BC

Nabonidus

First king, Nabopolassar was an official of Assyrian empire who revolted and succeeded the empire. Second king, Nebuchadnezzar was his son. Third one also succeeded his father, but was slain by an opponent.  Fourth one was king Nebuchadnezzar’s son-in law.  Fifth one succeeded his father, but was under a regent king, who was his mother and also the king Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter until he grew up and was able to succeed the throne.  Fifth king was also slain by an opponent, Nabonidus.  To be matched with the scripture, he should be both the last king and the one slain, but he wasn’t slain. 

          In 1854, some pieces of a broken pillar that had inscription of the king Nabonidus was found.  It was a prayer to the god of the moon to protect the king and his son, Belshazzar. 

          The king Belshazzar never had been enthroned, but he had been a regent king with the king Nabonidus.  At the third year of his reign, the king Nanonidus had his son, Belshazaar to share the kingship with him. It seemed the king moved away from Babylon and had lived in Arabia, called Theima.  Scholars think the king must have retired from Babylon because of the defeat at the battle against the Persian king, Cores II.

          This man, Belshazaar, had shard the co-kingship with his father.  However, his father was the king, who had succeeded the revolt and there wasn’t any record of Belshazzar’s coronation.  He was a regent king, an interim king, but his true, documented, position was a prince of the king Nabonidus. 

          Belshazaar must have wished two things; the real crown and the celebration that followed. That is the human background of the Belshazaar. 

          What about the political situation at that time?  If someone had planned a banquet with 1,000 people, they should have enough of resources and they should have been standing on superior political stance in the region.

          Was that so? Unfortunately, the City of Babylon had been seized by the king of Persia, Cores II for 2 years.  That was the political background of Belshazzar’s feast. 

          How could that happen in that situation?  During the king Nebuchadnezzar and Nabopolassar’s reign, they had accumulated countless produces from their colonies, which could provide, easily, for 10 years for the city people.  On top of it, the people of the City of Babylon had a firm confidence on the unconquerable stability of the city.  The city must have been the one that had been extremely hard to conquer.  By the way, it was conquered by God’s will.

          Now. Let’s go back to the banquet site. “As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.”  This empty- headed king, Belshazzar had started and further developed blasphemous actions.  He and the noble people at the feast had been the one big bunch of blasphemy, who deserved the punishment.
          At that point, “Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.” 
          A paranormal phenomenon happened and all the people who had eye-witnessed the incident consumed by the fear, especially the king. He needed to know the meaning of the letters on the wall.
                So, “7 The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.  Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.
          Evidently, it didn’t look like a good sign because he opened a banquet with 1,000 people and drank wine with the vessels of the temple of the God of Israel. 
          When the queen suggested the king to inquire to Daniel, he complied the queens’ suggestion. He called him in and asked Daniel, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? 14 I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom.” 
          Now, let’s think about Belshazzar.  He had been a regent king while his father had been out of the country. Therefore, he was in the place to seek any mentor or counselor, especially, while the Persian army had been seizing the City of Babylon.  The city of Babylon was a gigantic city that had population of 200,000.  For this reason, governing the whole empire must have been a huge responsibility, but it seemed he only enjoyed a privilege as a prince.
          In fact, if he could have succeeded the empire as a successor, they could have established a new monarchy because his father was not the bloodline of Nabopolassar/ Nebuchadnezzar even though they insisted that they were.
          According to the Jewish archive, Belshazzar had been the persecutor of Jewish people and he looked down on them.  When Daniel was summoned, he pretended that he hadn’t known about Daniel prior to the incident of handwriting on the wall.  He should have heard about Daniel, but didn’t care because of his discriminating mind.
          Now, Belshazzar explained Daniel what happened in the middle of the feast. Daniel told him God’s thought on Belshazzar.  Even though he should have revered the God almighty whose power had been witnessed by the king Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar did not honor God whose hands hold his life and all his ways. 24 Therefore God sent the hand that wrote the inscription which was mene, mene, tekel, parsin.  daniel interpreted the words:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
27 Teke: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
28 Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
                 Then at Belshazzar’s command to cloth Daniel in purple and to place a gold chain around his neck.  Then, he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.  Daniel had refused the reward.  However, the king had given to him.  Unfortunately, that very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two. 
                The king Darius was the king Cores II’s uncle and Medes and Persian became unified Empire.  The Cores conquered Babylon and had continued his expeditionary war while Darius was ruling the colonies.  However, 2 years later, the king Darius withdrawn from the throne and Cores II had succeeded the throne. 
          Now, what is the lesson from the chapter 5?  What can we learn from the downfall of Belshazzar? 

          In fact, he was in the better place to learn and practice to be the better king without having so much of burden that real king might carry since he was a regent king. However, he must have had some craving for social recognition as a legitimate king.

          In fact, the Babylonians used to worship the local god, Malduk. But, his father Nabonidus was drawn to the god of moon. Probably, for this reason, his son had become a man either who believed all or  didn’t believe any since, at the climax of the banquet, they called out everything as gods. 
         
          I ‘d like to conclude the message with three points that we need to remember and adopt to be a better Christian.

First, our perception of life and death should be changed.

          Death must be a very hard one to take for the remaining family since they cannot meet their beloved one for a long time. But, as we learned, our existence will be continued though death.  It is comparable to the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly through the stage of cocoon, which is the dying process in human life.

          Some of you must have heard of a testimony of Dr. Lani Leary.  She happened to have 10 minutes’ of death experience while she was being treated in dentist’s office. When she was being transferred to a different spiritual realm, she met her mother who passed away when she was 13.  Her mother knew everything about her and communicated fully without a word, but she informed her that she needed to return to the life.  After Dr. Leary came back to life, she has been actively serving people who are at the verge of death.  She tries to change people’s perception on death and life based on her own experience. She has been a renowned public speaker.

          We have to be grateful for our life and live it fruitfully. Death should be counted as an entrance that leads us to eternity, whether it is eternal life or eternal damnation.

          Psalm 139:7 say, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?”  God is everywhere and the heaven is where we can feel God’s presence face to face not like seeing through the mirror.

Second, trust God’s protection and provision.

When the world is full of uncertainty, what can we do?  Does your concern or worry bring problem-less tomorrow? It only takes away today’s peace.  The only problem-less community is the cemetery community.

          If George Muller, the father of orphans, had calculated necessary budget for 200 orphans, he wouldn’t have received that many orphans to feed.  He trusted God who would feed His children and brought all the abandoned orphans.  As we go through difficult times, we have to mature more in faith and trust God more than before.

          Matthew 6: 25 say,  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

Third, strive for excellence, which is love.

          The top of human effort is love.  We can earn and learn many things in between, but love is the last thing that we can achieve to live.  Love can be earned when you strive to reach to God and to feel God’s heart. 

          What motivate Christians to strive for excellence, to feel God’s heart, which is love?  Because, there isn’t any heavenly peace until we reach to His presence. 

          Life throws us issues that can be solved with various ways.
As for nonbelievers, the motivating factors might be sense of achievement, recognition, wealth, or even revenge.

          As for some Christians, the motivating factors could be similar to nonbelievers.  However, anything comes from demonic influences such as ungodly anger, hastiness, desire for fame, or popularity take away peace. There could be laughter, false communication, and mirage like satisfaction that the king Belshazzar had enjoyed for a while at his feast. There could be some ideas and plans, which are the most things that spiritual state might produce. 

          If Christians earn a wisdom and insight through their effort to solve life issues, they reached to the fairly high ground.  However, wisdom and insight does not have redemptive power.  The reason that Christians should keep on striving for excellence is to earn and reach to the state of Christ’ peace which was the fruit of His redemptive death.

          As we live this era of pandemic, Christians should be more discretive in action, alert, and thoughtful. For enemy is the one who has been making the highest profit, these days, through panicking people, provoking fear and anxiety that will make them compulsive in action and word.  Don’t be haste in action.  You might fall to the trap of the enemy.    

          Some Christians should repent of ‘Savior-distancing’ throughout their faith journey. Often, their service makes them blind of their lack of relationship with God.  Don’t be too much of a ‘doer.’ Rather, be drawn to the Savior and be known to Him.  That’s the way not to be contacted by the virus that gives the symptom of ‘Savior Syndrome.’

          Love cannot be found if Christian’s value is limited to understanding belief and doing service.  That would be short of weight just as Belshazzar was. Love can be found when we seek Christ’s heart, God’s will, and Christ’s peace on earth that is the weight of trustworthy Christians.

1 Corinthians 13: 1-7 say, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

          Let’s strive for excellence to reach to Christ’s love, God’s will, and His peace and let the world know that we have a greater Kingdom, which is Christ’s. May you strive to love your enemy that is the Christian’s weight!   Have a blessed week!