14 July, 2024

June 23 Lesson | Revealed in Writing

by | 17 June, 2024 | 0 comments

Unit: Daniel 
Theme: Revealer of Mysteries
Lesson Text: Daniel 5:1-6, 13-30 
Supplemental Texts: Daniel 4:1-17, 24-37; Luke 12:15-21; Acts 12:21-23; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Peter 5:6 
Aim: Exalt and glorify our sovereign God and humble yourself before him. 

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions): LOOKOUT_June23_2024.

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By Mark Scott

The Bible is full of arrogant kings. Among them: Pharaoh, Saul, Balak, Sihon, Og, Sennacherib, Xerxes, Herod, and Nero (though that last one is never actually named in the Bible). But one of the worst was Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon. The text called Nebuchadnezzar his father, but that does not mean his literal father. (Similarly, Scripture said that King Josiah followed in the ways of his father David—2 Kings 22:2—but David was not actually Josiah’s dad.)  

Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC, but the Babylonians did not fall to the Persians until 539 BC. Several kings served in between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, but Belshazzar was in Nebuchadnezzar’s family tree and certainly followed him in terms of his arrogance.  

More than 20 years had passed since the events in Daniel 4 happened and the events in Daniel 5 began. Belshazzar was known as the playboy of Babylon. In his drunkenness, he seemed oblivious to the Persians who were right outside of the city of Babylon diverting the river to gain entry into the city. Belshazzar would literally have to face the “handwriting on the wall.” 

The Party Stopped 
Daniel 5:1-6 

Belshazzar did more than throw a drinking party for his nobles, wives (plural), and concubines. He mocked God by bringing in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar had stolen from the temple in Jerusalem when he sacked it in 586 BC, and the revelers then drank wine from them. In the same spirit of “my god is better than your god,” the idolatry was in full swing when the whole party 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. The word suddenly translates from a Hebrew particle which is intended to garner attention. It is hard to think of these fingers in any other way than a miracle sent from God (v. 24). Archaeologists have excavated a large hall with plaster walls that was 55 feet by 165 feet. A room that size could hold many guests. The king reacted to this miracle in four ways. His eyes watched, his face turned pale (countenance turned bright), his legs became weak, and his knees were knocking. Suddenly the wine didn’t taste so good. 

The Prophet Sought 
Daniel 5:13-16 

In his panic, Belshazzar called for his wise men to interpret the writing on the wall. He promised riches and power to the one who could decipher the meaning. The wise men came up empty. The queen mother remembered Daniel and his ability to translate such mysteries.  

So, Belshazzar sent for Daniel. He questioned him as to his identity and whether he was one of the exiles brought from Israel. The king promised Daniel what he had promised the other wise men—i.e., royal clothing, gold, and that he would become the third highest ruler in the kingdom. (Daniel continued to be promoted in pagan environments.) 

The Prophet’s Sermon 
Daniel 5:17-23 

Daniel refused the king’s gifts, as he had refused Nebuchadnezzar’s food and wine earlier. But he agreed to interpret the writing. However, first he inserted a sermon . . . and he delivered it straight. Point one: God gave Nebuchadnezzar his power and authority. Point two: The peoples of the earth recognized that power and feared the great king. Point three: Nebuchadnezzar allowed that power to go to his head, so he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. Point four: Nebuchadnezzar was made to be like an animal for a period of time—a reference to Daniel 4:31-33—and ultimately humbled himself before the Most High God.  

Point five was really the invitational appeal: Belshazzar, you had better learn from history and repent. The last king of Babylon did not humble himself. Instead, he treated the temple artifacts as common vessels and worshipped idols.  

The Wall’s Script 
Daniel 5:24-31 

To bring authority to the sermon, Daniel interpreted the script on the plaster wall. It was only four words: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN.” Belshazzar’s days had been numbered and brought to an end. He had been weighed and come up short. His kingdom would be divided and given to the advancing Medes and Persians.  

Belshazzar kept his promise to Daniel, giving him royal clothing, gold, and the third highest rank in the kingdom. But the handwriting on the wall came true overnight. The enemy advanced into the seemingly secure city, Belshazzar was killed, and Darius the Mede suddenly was “the new sheriff in town.”  

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