Summary: Lessons from the Pityful party of Belshazzar, interpreted by Daniel
The Handwriting on the Wall
One of the most well known phrases from the Bible comes from our text. In business, sports, and just in life, everyone seems to know what the phrase, “The handwriting on the wall” means. Before we read Daniel 5, I wonder how many of us could have turned directly to this story because the book of Daniel is a plethora of familiar stories. Additionally, this book ends with a prophetic section which helps us makes sense of the end times as is spoken of in the Revelation.
Let’s walk through this story tonight and discover truths which will assist us in life, living, and even understanding. First, Belshazzar is the last King of the Neo-Babylonian Empire (and not to be confused with Belteshazzar, which is Daniel’s captivity name) &was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. Some scholars suggest that when he came to the throng, he was little more than a spoiled brat who knew more about rebel-rousing than he did ruling. Let’s take a quick walk through the actions of the King and discover the road to God writing on the wall.
1.The Depravity of the Leader – v1-6 – Candidly, we could talk about the depravity of all people, but the issue really is that we are all, by nature, are depraved. However, the reason that the depravity of a leader is so much worse is that it impacts so many people. It’s kind of like James teaches about the responsibilities and thus the accountability of the teacher. “To whom much is given, much is required.” Let’s see how Belshazzar’s depravity is seen.
a.The Arrogance – v-4 – Consider the event about which we read. This King (who was probably the #2 in the Kingdom) gave this huge party which boasted of 1000 guests and where wine, women, and song, were the order of the day. As in my mind’s eye, I picture this party it is an event which is designed to remind all 1000 of the guests of whom it is that is running this portion of the Kingdom. Perhaps, he attempting to establish himself as the same powerful ruler as his grand-dad or maybe he is trying to impress his parents with his ability to ‘put on’ a show or even (more likely) this is his concept of being King. Whatever his reason, the party got out of hand. His inebriation led to gratification which led to desecration. The first phrase of verse one should speak tons to this culture. When one is under the influence of alcohol he is out of control. It was in this state that the King decided to ‘strut his stuff’ and show his 1000 subordinates just how powerful he was. He sent for the vessels which his grand-dad had taken from the temple in Jerusalem so HE could drink out of them. He had taken his arrogance to a new level.
The Handwriting on the wall – Pg 2
b.The Astonishment – V5a & 5b – Let’s get this picture in our mind’s eye. The party is rolling, the alcohol is flowing, and the wickedness is growing. Just as the music gets popping, something strange happens. More quickly than everything got going, all activity begins to stop. Something unusual is going on, a hand is writing on the wall. Talk about stopping a party, well this stopped everything. I can see all eyes turning to the king.
c.The Anxiety – V5c & 6 – It would be an understatement to say that the king was anxious. The HCSB says that his face turned “pale” while the KJV says “his countenance changed” (I’m not sure what that means—for better or worse). The New English Translation gives us the picture when it says, “The color drained from his face.” He looked like he’d seen a ghost and it disturbed him so badly that his body was shaking in fright. I’ll offer this thought. Within himself, he knew he had stepped over the line. All of a sudden, he was no longer under the influence of alcohol; he was now under the influence of adrenaline & knew something was us.
2.The Desperation of the Loser – v 7-14 – For all of the wealth and strength he possessed, the King knew he couldn’t do combat the spiritual in the spiritual world because he had no connection to the spiritual. So he knew he was out manned and outgunned; he was desperate.
a.His attractive request – Belshazzar was no different than any other rich person; he believed he could throw money at the problem and fix it. He made the offer for royal clothes, gold chains, and the third highest position in the land (Why the 3rd highest – because he was 2nd highest). He made this appeal to his regular advisers who obviously had no more spiritual understand that he did. (This demonstrates ‘leadership impact).