Daniel and the Dynamics of Church and Culture [Part 5]


Are you ready for some good news?

Take heart in these uncertain political times; God is on His throne.

Today’s text: “Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them.” (Daniel 5:3, ESV)

By 539 BC, Belshazzar had assumed the throne in Babylon and the Persian army was encroaching upon the city. For an unexplained reason, the king “made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand” (Dan. 5:1).  Why throw a drunken party when the Babylonians had recently suffered significant military losses and the Persians were pressing upon the city? Did Belshazzar really think that the great city was invincible with its great walls and unlimited water supply?

As the drinking party progressed, Belshazzar’s defiant attitude also inflated. In a brazen moment, the king “commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them” (Dan. 5:2). Some of those holy vessels may have dated back to the Mosaic tabernacle. They certainly included the precious temple vessels that filled Solomon’s temple. They were stolen by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC as trophies of war and kept in the Babylonian treasury. But, on that drunken night in 539 BC, Belshazzar felt compelled to make the ultimate mockery of the God of Israel and use the holy temple vessels not just for vulgar drinking but to toast the pagan gods of Babylon.

Unlike so many other moving scenes in the Daniel narrative, there is no man of God in the plot of the party. There is no faithful Hebrew servant forced to serve wine or compelled to worship the pagan deities. No, the scene stands by itself. It is a dark, unholy night in which the God of Israel is openly mocked with no prophet on hand to defend Him.

But, suddenly, a ghastly sight interrupted the revelry and made the blood drain from the king’s face and his knees quiver. “The fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace….”

Later, Daniel is brought in to interpret the prophetic handwriting on the wall. Daniel faithfully renders the verdict; the kingdom has been given to the Medes and the Persians. That night, not just the blasphemous king’s party to came to an end, but so did his empire.

Soon, under Cyrus of Persia, the Hebrew people were restored from their exile. God is on His throne. He always has been and He always will be. And that’s the Gospel!

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