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TEXT: Daniel 5:1-31

SUBJECT: Daniel #6: The 'king' and the King

I'm not the man my father was. I'm not saying this to sound humble, or with the hope you'll disagree with me. I'm just stating the fact. My father was a man of real character, integrity, courage and generosity. I'm not. Sons seldom up to the legacy of outstanding fathers.

Never was this more true than the two Babylonian kings who appear in the Book of Daniel. Their names are Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Whether they were father and son or grandfather and grandson is irrelevant, because one certainly followed the other to the Imperial Throne.

Nebuchadnezzar is first seen conquering nations, Judah and her neighbors, including Egypt. Belshazzar is first seen planning a party. Nebuchadnezzar builds a magnificent city. Belshazzar sets a fine table. Nebuchadnezzar ends his long reign praising the God of Israel. Belshazzar begins his short reign making a mockery of Him. Never have father and son been less alike! If the father is a Golden Head, his son is a pinhead!

This is the king the narrator introduces to; named after the god of his father's youth, he and his god will fall this very night before Daniel's God, our God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE SETTING

The story takes place in the Grand Ball Room where Belshazzar is hosting a gala event. A thousand guests are present, dressed in their finest formalwear. What's the occasion? The Bible doesn't say, but I suspect it was the king's birthday, and a good time was sure to be had by all.

Drinking is a big part of most parties, and this one is no exception. In fact the finest wines in the world were brought in for the occasion, and also the king's best stemware. There's nothing wrong with a party; nothing wrong with drinking in moderation, and had that been all they were doing, the story would not have been told.

There was a religious aspect to the party. The toasts were not being offered to the noblest knights or the fairest maidens of the realm, but--

To the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.

The narrator says what the gods were made of to show their true character. and to ridoci;e their worshipers. The gods don't compare to the One True God, or even to supernatural beings of any kind. They're made of metal and stone and wood, common things. Every woman there was wearing a gold necklace or a silver broach! That morning some of the men were puttering around in the garden, using shovels and hoes made of the same materials that they're now worshipping. Worshiping the creature instead of the Creator is not only wrong, it's stupid! All the prophets say this, and never has it been more stupid than the night the lights went out in Babylon.

THE CUPS

All idolatry offends the Lord, but most of the time, He lets it slide (for the moment, I mean). Billions of people all over the world are worshiping idols today, and most of them will wake up tomorrow and go to work--

Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

We can't say what God would have done had this been the extent of their impiety. Of course, it wasn't. They were not only drinking toasts to the gods of Babylonia, but they were doing it with the Golden Cups that Nebuchadnezzar had brought back from Jerusalem. These were the cups the Jewish priests drank from when they were in the Holy Place of the Temple. In other words, they were consecrated to God, and to His praise. But now, an empty headed and blasphemous king has dared to put them into the service of himself and his gods that are not gods!

THE HANDRWRITING

As he and his friends are raising the cups in the honor of idols, something happens, something that shuts down the party. A hand appears near the wall and it's writing something on the plaster. When the king saw it, his--

Countenance changed, his thoughts troubled him, the joints of his hips were loosed and his knees knocked against each other.

The king messed his pants! That's how scared he was, and again, it compares him badly to his father, who was troubled by terrible dreams, but he didn't go all to pieces.

The king has scholars at his beck and call, and when they get there, he offers them a rich reward of they can tell him what the Hand had written. The words were not written in a unearthly language; they were Aramaic, and everyone there could read. What they didn't know is what the words meant. Nobody did.

Except the Queen, or more likely the Queen Mother. She couldn't read them either, but she knew a man who could. He had served Nebuchadnezzar for many years, but now he was retired, it seems, and certainly very old, probably in his eighties. His name is Daniel.

Daniel is fetched from the old folks' home and offered a high position in the government if he could tell the king what the terrifying words meant. Daniel wants no part of the offer, but, as the king's servant--and God's prophet--he will do his duty. And, it's interesting to note, he wasn't squeamish or personally hurt by the bad new, as he was when he broke bad news to Nebuchadnezzar. It seems Daniel has no respect for the young king, and why would he? He's an empty suit!

What do the words mean? They mean God has weighed Belshazzar's kingdom in the balance, and found it weightless. This may be a reference to Psalm 1, where the wicked are--

Like the chaff which the wind drives away.

What Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, God says about Belshazzar and his Empire, There's no 'there' there!

The king is an unworthy ruler, but at least he's a man of his word: the promise he made to Daniel is kept, the old man is made third ruler in the kingdom, but the prize isn't worth much because, that very night--

Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans was slain, and Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

This again shows the character--the childishness--of the king. The Medes are literally beating on the gates of Babylon, and he's whooping it up at a party! Such is human rule and that's why it can't last.

This, I think, is why the chapter ends by telling us how old Darius the Mede was. He's sixty-two, and--hate to say it folks--but that's an old man. His rule was btter than Belshazzar's, but it age indicates it's not long for the world either.

At its best, Human Rule is mortal and has to die with the ones who exercise it. Unless the Human who rules is immortal.

KINGS IN CONFLICT

This is what Daniel is about: two kings at war with one another. The kings of earth vs. the King of Heaven. The kings of earth are usually proud of themselves and contemptuous of Heaven. Some of them like to brag about their greatness and dare the Lord to do anything about it.

Belshazzar's father was such a man. He was the mightiest king who ever lived, but when he lifted himself up, the Lord cut him down to size. The man who crowed of the mighty Empire which he built for himself, ended up living like an ox for a while, till his reason returned and then he--

Praised and extolled and honored the King of Heaven...Whose dominion is an everlasting dominion and His kingdom rules over all.

Many years later, another king took the praise that belonged only to God and as he soaked it in, God sent a worm that ate him up, Josephus telling us he died in his own vomit and feces. His name was Herod. Agrippa.

These little conflicts between the One True God and His human rivals are only shadows of the Real War, the war between the Lord and the first rebel, Satan. Created to serve in Heaven, he chose to reign in Hell. But he doesn't reign there or anywhere else. Jesus is Lord, of Hell, as well as Heaven and Earth.

Satan challenges His rule everywhere he can and, at times, he seems to have the upper hand. But only seems to, because even his plots and power are by permission only. He's only doing what--

God's hand and His counsel had determined to be done.

And what God has willed is to hang the devil on his own gallows. He did this at the Cross, where Satan connived and human rulers carried out the death of Christ. How relieved they must have been that Friday afternoon! At last, the Son is dead and the vineyard is ours!

Their joy was short-lived! The following Sunday morning, Jesus rose from the dead, and in so doing shattered the power of Satan, sin and death! This is why Jesus could warn His disciples--In this world you will have triubulation, but in the same breath, comfort them--

Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

United to Christ by faith, we share in His victory over the dark powers. Psalm 22 says--

The Kingdom is the Lord's.

Jesus Himself added--

Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Our consciences say we're not worthy of the kingdom and the devil adds his proof texts, but as long as the Lord is King and His Word is true, we unworthy, unfit, unqualified failures are reigning with Jesus even now and will be forever!

Amen. Praise the Lord!

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