Summary: Do we as a body of Christ and as a nation glorify God? Time for each one of us to heed to His warnings, stop testing God; come to Him in complete repentance, reliance and rest on Him alone. Let us not give God an opportunity to write on our walls ...
Opening illustration: Have you ever seen a tragedy coming and could do nothing to stop it? One night as my wife and I were returning from an underground church service, a car passed us at incredible speed, losing control as it sped by. Careening out of control, the car bounced along the center median, rupturing the gas tank and spewing a trail of gas down the highway. Sparks flew as the underside of the car scraped the concrete curb and it hit a vehicle in front and flew many feet up in the air and came down with a big thud.
Instantly, the sparks ignited, and flames followed the car to its final halt. We watched helplessly while the flames caught up with the car, ignited the gas tank, and engulfed the car in flames. A wall of fire between us and the automobile prevented our rendering aid. Thankfully, those on the other side of the flames were able to rescue the passenger. Apparently the police were there at short notice and were trying to set everything in order.
Let us turn to Daniel chapter 5 and capture an event which happened to set right what was wrong.
Introduction: Reading Daniel 5 gives me that same feeling of helplessness and distress. From our distance in time, our knowledge of history, and the account of Daniel, we know the king, and likely those dining with him at his royal banquet, are destined for destruction. Yet we can do nothing to prevent it. Helplessly, we look on as judgment day comes for King Belshazzar.
Announcement of the king’s coming judgment begins by mysterious hand writing on the wall of the banquet hall. Crying aloud, the king summons the wise men of Babylon. Their inability to fulfill his instructions only adds to his frustration. When his ability to interpret such matters is made known to the king, Daniel enters the scene.
Conservative calculations set the dimensions of the ancient city of Babylon like this:
• The outer walls were 17 miles long
• These walls were 22 feet thick and 90 feet high
• The outer walls had guard towers another 100 feet high
• The city gates were made of bronze
• A system of inner and outer walls and moats made the city very secure
Why did God write on the Wall?
1. Limit to God’s mercy and longsuffering: (Stop it now, we can’t go on any longer!) vs. 1-4
Such seems to have been the scene at Belshazzar’s banquet. One thousand of the king’s nobles were invited, along with their wives or other women. The king was responsible for what happened, and too much wine seems to have contributed to his poor judgment. A false sense of pride and self-sufficiency seems to have dominated the dinner party. The king remembered the expensive vessels which Nebuchadnezzar, his father, had taken when he defeated and captured Jerusalem. How much more impressive the evening would be if they drank their wine from the gold and silver vessels from the temple in Jerusalem.
And so the vessels were brought in. The wine continued to flow freely, and toasts began to be offered. That these pagans were engaged in a kind of drinking bout with the sacred temple vessels was bad enough, but the ultimate blasphemy was toasting the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone.
God condemned Belshazzar for misusing temple items which were dedicated to God. Just as today people use church buildings and finances for personal reasons. God has a limit to how far He will allow men to go in their sin. In His longsuffering and mercy, God may allow men to continue in their sin for a time. But there is a time for judgment. The king and his Babylonian dinner guests crossed the line that fateful night in the banquet hall of Babylon. Judgment day had come, and the writing on the wall announced its arrival.
Application: The consequences nations and individuals have faced in the past ~ Sodom & Gomorrah; disobedience of Israel allowed them to be slaves of the Romans; demise of the British rule in the world; consequences of sexual, abortion and homosexual sins … has God reached that limit in our lives and in the life of our nation?
2. Public Witness of God’s Warning: (Take heed. This is my final warning!) vs. 5-9
The writing on the wall was a message for all those who defy God and took pride in themselves. Knowing the power of the Babylonian kings, Belshazzar must have seen many men stand in fear and trembling before him. Now it was his turn to tremble. In that torch-lit banquet hall, the revelry had reached its peak, doubtlessly with loud boasting and toasting, laughter and celebration. Likely, the king was the life of the party. Perhaps he was closest to the sudden emerging of the mysterious hand in the light of the nearby lamp.