5th Sunday in Lent
Text: Daniel 5:1-30
Ever since the building of the Tower of Babel and the confusion of the languages it necessitated, God has withdrawn His hand from apostate men, suffering them to walk in their own way as heathen and pagans. They were to realize the limitations of their own strength and wisdom. In Abraham God separated a holy seed, and to him and his descendants God revealed Himself. Lacking the glorious light of such divine revelation, the heathen continue to walk about in darkness.
Occasionally, God intervenes and makes Himself known to sinners. He wants unbelievers to realize not only their own impotence, but that of their gods, as well. That was the experience of Pharaoh, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar, 3 of the most powerful kings who ever ruled. First was Pharaoh, King of Egypt. On that first Passover, God sent a “Angel of Death” through all of Egypt, killing the firstborn of both man and beast?
Then there was Sennacherib, King of Assyria. He desperately wanted to destroy Jerusalem. His army of 250,000 had been unstoppable, defeating every city, territory, and ruler that resisted him, including Israel. But in Judah, God stopped him dead in his tracks. Just as Sennacherib was poised to attack Jerusalem, God once again sent an “Angel of Death” against them, killing 185,000 of Sennacherib’s best soldiers in one night. The next morning Sennacherib and the few men he had left fled all the way back to Nineveh.
Finally, there’s Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar, King of the mighty Babylonian empire. Babylon had reached it’s height of influence and power under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. But in Babylon, at a royal banquet, sat Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor. Surrounding him were the princes and mighty men of the empire, along with wives and concubines. Wine flowed freely, and soon decency and morality were forgotten. The banquet became an orgy of evil. Heavy drinking resulted in drunkenness. Belshazzar, in a wicked impulse, sent for the holy vessels his father had looted from the temple in Jerusalem and brought back to Babylon. The king and his mighty men, along with his wives and concubines, drank wine out of the vessels that had been consecrated into the Lord’s service. The riotous revelers sang songs honoring their god as they drank from the sacred vessels.
Could the “Holy One of Israel” look upon such a scene with indifference and restraint? How would Almighty God respond in the face of such utter contempt? While Belshazzar was praising both his own power and that of his heathen gods, divine judgment was on its way. Suddenly, in the midst of all the noise and drunkenness and immorality, there came forth the fingers of a man’s hand, which began to write on the plaster wall of the king’s palace. The king saw it; everyone saw it. God wanted them to see it. The God of Israel had come to punish Belshazzar for, profaning the name of the One, True God, for worshipping false gods, and for desecrating sacred vessels.
Today, more people than ever believe that they are so secure or so powerful, that no one can tell them the truth about their sin. They may ignore God and His Word today, but they will not escape judgment when He confronts them with their sin. Today many ignore God’s Law, while others believe that they’re above the Law. They ridicule Christians. They want nothing to do with God, the forgiveness of their sins or heaven.
Today unbelievers and pagans regard themselves as the heroes of humanity and the real wise men and women of the ages. They believe that they can engineer our society and create a utopian state in which all rights are honored and all voices are heard with no consequences, no matter how blatantly evil.
There was a profound change in Balshazzar as he watched those fingers writing on the palace wall. His face turned pale and ashen, his trembling knees could no longer support him – fear seized him. The inability of his prophets and wise men to interpret the message intensified his fear to a state of absolute terror. What was the writing on the wall, and what was its meaning?
MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIN
MENE – God has numbered the days of your reign, and brought it to an end.
TEKEL – You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
PARSIN – Your kingdom has been divided and will be given to the Medes and the Persians.
Only Daniel could interpret the handwriting for the king. “You have been weighed on the balances and found wanting.” For believers, we will experience God’s forgiveness and mercy. But for unbelievers, there will be no mercy or forgiveness; God’s judgment and damnation will be the final words they will hear.
When we experience God’s wrath in this life, it is always intended to lead us to repentance, and bring us back into relationship with Him. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. Today is ours, but tomorrow belongs to God. And if God comes and finds you with an empty life because you have not Christ or God’s Spirit within you, then you are without value to Him and face only divine judgment.
Our lives should be filled with repentence, faith, and absolute trust in God. At the cross you will find a safe and secure place for your soul. Jesus suffered and died there to make a safe place possible for you. God the Father welcomes you through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. In the end, who really has it better?Someone rich and powerful, like Belshazzar, King of Babylon? Or you, a believer who faithfully walks in the ways of God?