April 8, 2018
Every Knee Shall… Knock???
Pastor Bryan Watson
Good morning. Let’s begin with a word of prayer…
Recap of Daniel 4
Before I move onto Daniel, Chapter 5, I want to give you a brief recap of Daniel, Chapter 4.
Daniel, Chapter 4, was King Nebuchadnezzar’s swan song. As you will recall, this mighty king demonstrated that although he was powerful, he was also a fairly slow learner. After already being put in his place a couple of times by God, Nebuchadnezzar is given yet another warning, again in the form of a dream. He dreamed about a giant tree which was cut down by a heavenly being.
Daniel interpreted this dream as representing Nebuchadnezzar, who himself was going to be cut down if he didn’t humble himself before God. True to his word, one day, Nebuchadnezzar was walking around Babylon, crowing about what a big deal he was, when the next thing you know, he is crawling around the pasture, snorting and eating grass like an ox.
This goes on for 7 years, until Nebuchadnezzar finally acknowledges God’s sovereignty over him. This is significant, because Nebuchadnezzar himself penned most of chapter 4, and I personally believe that we will meet Nebuchadnezzar in Heaven one day.
Moving on to Daniel, Chapter 5, I’ve titled this message, “Every Knee Shall... Knock???” for reasons that will become obvious as we move along. I’m grateful to the ministries of John MacArthur and The Friends of Israel for their material which contributed to this message.
This chapter is about the writing on the wall, so I had to share this picture with you. It’s called, “evandalism”. (Credit: Inherit the Mirth by Cuyler Black).
In Daniel, chapter 5, we will see the progression from the head of gold from the image in chapter 2, to the chest and arms of silver, as the Babylonian empire finally collapses and the Medo-Persians take over.
You know, every empire that I’ve studied follows the same basic pattern. After being established, it rises to great heights, where eventually it becomes prideful and complacent, thinking that it is immortal and indestructible. As John MacArthur says, “in the midst of its pride, and self-indulgence, and materialism it begins to descend into degeneration, and debauchery, and evil. And as it descends, it comes closer and closer to its destruction.”
Now, before we get into the details of the story, I need to take some time and set the stage properly.
Almost 70 years have gone by since Daniel was taken captive as a boy in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. He’s now around 80 years old. Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC, and Daniel 5 takes place around 539 BC, so 23 years have gone by.
Now, Daniel is silent for those 23 years, so we have to rely on ancient historians and archeology to fill that in for us. Thankfully, there is quite a bit of material to work with, and the fact that it fits is a testimony to the historical accuracy of Daniel. When you hear other authors or historians talking about how Daniel is not reliable history, that is a pile of baloney that would make Pinocchio jealous!
After Nebuchadnezzar died, he was succeeded by his son, Amel-Marduk. In the Bible, he is actually called Evil-Merodach. Both 2 Kings 25 and Jeremiah 52 describe Evil-Merodach as being the Babylonian king who released the captive Judean king, Jehoiachin, from prison in Babylon. Do you see how incredible it is that different Bible passages can describe an event from ancient history and be completely consistent with the secular historical and archaeological record? This is not just a book of stories written by ignorant people, folks! This is THE authority.
Anyway, Amel-Marduk, or Evil-Merodach, only reigned for two years because he was assassinated by his brother-in-law, Neriglasser. Makes me think that Neriglasser is part of that great cold medication family with his brothers Nyquil and Neo-Citran. You know, “mix one packet of Neriglasser in a mug of hot water and sleep all night.” Well, it certainly worked for Amel-Marduk. He had enough Neriglasser that he’s still sleeping three-thousand years later.
Anyway, Neriglasser, also known as Nergal-sharezer, is recorded in Jeremiah 39 as helping set Jeremiah free from prison, when Neriglasser was still a “prince of the King of Babylon”, while Nebuchadnezzar was still alive.
Neriglassar reigned for four years, and then died. His son, Labashi-Marduk, reigned in his place. But he was still a child, and after only nine months, was murdered by his conspirators, who included Nabonidus and Nabonidus’ son, Belshazzar.
This Nabonidus was appointed king. Now the whole thing gets a little muddy here, because as best as we can tell from recorded history, when Nabonidus was appointed king, he wasn’t actually related to Nebuchadnezzar, so he didn’t have any rights to the throne. So the way he fixed that, was to marry a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. And so, he married into the royal family.
Now, we know that Belshazzar is the son of Nabonidus as far as history goes, but we don’t know if he is Nabonidus’ biological son, or adopted son through Nabonidus’ marriage to Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter.
And you thought The Young and The Restless was a modern invention!
Nabonidus ruled Babylon for 17 years, and for 14 years of that, ruled from afar as he lived in the Arabian city of Tayma. Nobody really knows why he did this. However, in order to maintain his position in Babylon, he appointed Belshazzar as co-regent in his place. This is an important detail to remember.
Elsewhere in the region, the Persian King Cyrus was conquering territory after territory and kingdom after kingdom. But one last thing remained: Babylon. And so, as Cyrus was advancing toward Babylon, Nabonidus came from Tayma to meet him in battle, but was defeated, taken captive, and exiled by Cyrus.
Now, all of this has taken place before we even get to verse 1 of chapter 5. <sigh>
At long last, we meet Belshazzar. And what is he doing while Cyrus is mulling around outside the city walls? Is he preparing for battle? Getting his citizens ready for an imminent invasion? Not exactly.
Daniel 5:1 says, "Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in the presence of the thousand. While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.”
You’ll notice that Daniel referred to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s father. Now, whether he was a father or a grandfather, it would be expressed by the term “father” because the Hebrew dialect of the day had no word for grandfather. So whenever you see the concept of “father” in Hebrew, you have to consider the context to get the meaning. The Jews of Christ’s day referred to Abraham as their father, yet clearly this was not meant in the literal sense.
But back to Belshazzar. Why on earth would Belshazzar be so negligent as to throw a drunken party while Cyrus is banging at the door? Well, he probably had good reason for this false sense of security. According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, “Nebuchadnezzar built three walls around Babylon at heights of forty feet and so broad at the top that chariots could race around them. The Greek historian Herodotus praised the walls which he said were 56 miles (90 kilometers) long, 80 feet (24 meters) thick, and 320 feet (97 meters) high.” It’s thought that Herodotus has exaggerated these dimensions, but even if he did, you’re not going to just break in and take over the place. So go ahead and drink away, Belshazzar!
Now, I’ve been to enough social events through my other day job that I know that in every social event, there is “that moment” where the party turns. And a wise and discerning person will identify “that moment” approaching, and be long gone before it arrives. Well, that moment arrives in Belshazzar’s party when he suddenly thinks that it would be just a hilarious idea to mock the God of Israel by bringing in the temple treasures that Nebuchadnezzar had pillaged so long ago.
"Bring all of that stuff and we're gonna drink out of it!" Can you imagine, these holy temple treasures being drank from by Belshazzar and his pals and wives and concubines? Disgusting!
Verse 5. “In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.” Now there’s something you don’t see every day.
Verse 6, "Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him." THAT is a candidate for the “understatement of the year.”
"so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other".
I know that feeling. In my case, it involved a creepy house in Moose Jaw, a dark closet, and the Silence of the Lambs movie. And my wife. She’s got all the details, you can ask her after the service. Needless to say, Belshazzar was scared.
Verse 7. "The king cried aloud…” I know that feeling, too. This time, it involved a big dog, a dark night, and a creepy sidewalk in Marchwell! And my wife. She’s got all the details, you can ask her after the service. “The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers.'" Like they’re going to help. Rinse and repeat, folks. Rinse and repeat.
"The king spoke, saying to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and tells me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck; and he shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”"
Do you remember why he would be the third ruler? Because Nabonidus was the first and Belshazzar was the co-regent.
To the surprise of nobody, these wise guys are completely useless. The Bible says in Isaiah 44:24-25, Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
And He who formed you from the womb:
“I am the Lord, who makes all things,
Who stretches out the heavens all alone,
Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself;
25 Who frustrates the signs of the babblers,
And drives diviners mad;
Who turns wise men backward,
And makes their knowledge foolishness;
Now, it says the Queen comes in. This is probably the queen mother, Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter and Nabonidus’ wife, as Belshazzar’s wives and concubines are already drunk in the wild party. She hears her little boy squealing like a child, and rushes in and says, “10b O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And 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, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. 12 Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas[a] were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.”
“There is a man in thy kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy God." Have you heard that before? Who said that? Nebuchadnezzar did 23 years before, at least. Well, 30 years before if you go before the time of his insanity.
Nebuchadnezzar called him that. And that's one reason why we believe this woman was a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar because she remembered the very phrase that Nebuchadnezzar said, and even knew enough to refer to Daniel by his Hebrew name. Dani-el = “God My Judge”.
After Nebuchadnezzar died, Daniel must have been reduced in his role, because Belshazzar had to ask who he was. All of a sudden, now Daniel is needed, and so Belshazzar says, "13b – 14a - Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives[b] from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? 14 I have heard of you,”
“16b - 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.”
Not very impressed is Daniel. Third ruler in a kingdom that's going to be overthrown in a few hours? Let me think about it. No thanks!
Verse 17, “Then Daniel answered, and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation.””
Notice that he doesn’t say “O king, live forever.” You know why? Because Belshazzar isn’t going to live very long, and Daniel isn’t a liar. And he doesn’t want the king’s stuff. He absolutely cannot respect Belshazzar because there’s nothing respectable ABOUT Belshazzar. So keep your junk. I don’t want any part of it.
But before Daniel gives the interpretation, he’s got a few things to say that he’s been waiting a long time for. Daniel takes his life into his hands by talking giving Belshazzar a serious tongue-lashing.
Daniel uses this opportunity to remind Belshazzar about what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. He reminds him how God had set up Nebuchadnezzar to be the King of Babylon, and he reminds Belshazzar how Nebuchadnezzar had misused that power and glorified himself, until God humbled in him in a dramatic way.
And now, he levels his accusation at Belshazzar.
Verse 22. “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this.” You knew all this! You knew it! You are without excuse! You are guilty of flagrant rebellion!
Verses 23. “And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house 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, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.” You are guilty of blasphemy and idolatry!
And now for the interpretation:
Verse 26. “MENE: God has numbered t kingdom and finished it." Mene means numbered. And He says it twice. Your days have been numbered. Your days have been numbered. It’s over.
Verse 27. “TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.” You do not measure up to God’s standard. God’s standard is on one side of the scale, and your morality, your faithfulness, your qualities as a king have been placed on the other side, and you come up short. You are too light compared to God’s standard.
Verse 28: “PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” To clear up any confusion, upharsin and peres have the same root word, with one of them being the plural concept. The root word means to divide.
So, the literal message: Numbered, numbered, wanting, divided.
I bet you could have heard a pin drop. What’s Belshazzar going to do after getting dressed down like this in front of his thousand big shots?
Verse 29: “Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Well, at least he kept his word.
Meanwhile, here’s the scene just outside the walls of Babylon.
The Euphrates River flowed under the wall of Babylon. That’s one of the reasons they were fairly safe. They didn’t have to leave the city to get fresh water. But Cyrus was not a stupid man. Cyrus had his army build a dam on the Euphrates and divert the water. As the water level dropped going under the city wall, Cyrus’ army marched in on the river bed.
Verse 30 & 31: “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.”
If there was one Bible verse that could be written on Belshazzar’s tombstone, it would be Psalm 9:17 - "The wicked shall be turned to hell, and all the nations that forget God." We have just seen that lived out here in Daniel 5.
And Darius the Mede? He is Cyrus’ uncle, the General of Cyrus’ army, now ruling Babylon at the pleasure of Cyrus the Great.
So what does this mean to us today?
If you look at North American society, this Western Civilization Empire, what parallels do we see to Babylon under Belshazzar?
Intoxication. Alcohol. Drugs. It’s everywhere. Addictions and dependence and we keep rewarding it with wrist slaps for the dealers. What government is going to do anything about it? Why are the bars always packed out on Saturday night and the churches empty on Sunday morning?
Pleasure Madness. People are addicted to what feels right instead of to what is right. People do what they want to do instead of what they know they should do. Sacrifice is like a swear word. Don’t interfere with my party, my retirement, my weekend, or my nap. We’re crazy about entertainment, and sports, and buffets, and sex. Don’t tell me what to watch on TV. If it’s not hurting you, it’s none of your business. Well, when you just sit around on your own rusty dusty and the only time you lift a finger is to lift a drink to your lips, we all lose. Because we’re losing what you could offer. We’re here for a good time, not a long time. And people can’t get their heads wrapped around the fact that we ARE going to be around for a long, long, long time.
Immorality. Sometimes overlapping with number 2. How many movies get brought into Langenburg that we could, or should, take our children to? I can’t even find many that I’d be willing to go to. I just heard about “sex week” at some universities in the US. Probably here in Canada, too. And they’re not teaching abstinence, folks.
Idolatry. I think each one of us can think of a number of things that we are putting ahead of God, if we are honest. Money. Recreation. Rest. We worship St. Mattress on Sunday morning.
Blasphemy. Hollow prayers and empty rituals. Flippantly saying “I’ll pray for you and all that stuff”. God and Jesus become profanity instead of holy. And we tolerate it. In our daily language. In our movies. In our music.
Greed. Impure Motives. How many government scandals and how much insider trading? How many televangelists who want you to send your money to the Lord but they give you their address? I’m so sick and tired of the golden chairs and the private jets. If these people ever met a true martyr in the faith, well, they should be ashamed. And they will be.
And finally, what made Babylon fall? Pride. Human beings who thought that they made themselves. That they are superior due to evolution. The Bible says in Luke 12:20, But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
Let’s not be fools. Romans 14:11 says, “For it is written:
“As I live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”
We will either bow our knees out of reverence, or out of fear. Let’s do it now out of reverence, while it is still our free will to do so.
Amen. Let’s pray.