Belshazzar's Feast and the Day of the Lord: Part 1

Daniel 5  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 11
The mind of man, though professedly believing the Scriptures, with its record of past events and particularly the acts and ways of God in judgment, is nevertheless slow to accredit what is written of future solemn realities. God's judgment of the world by a flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah are facts, owned nominally, at least, by all professing Christians, yet that both are used by the Lord Jesus Himself as solemn warnings of a terrible judgment ere long to burst with appalling surprise upon this present evil world, is not so readily assented to. Yet is it written that “as it was in the days of Noe so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man” (Luke 17:26-3126And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 28Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 30Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. 31In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. (Luke 17:26‑31)). Thus Noah's day of past overwhelming judgment, is coupled with the future approaching day of Christ, on His return as the Son of man. Yet where are those believing and heeding the warning?
So also, the fact of Belshazzar's Feast with its splendor and sudden doom, abides as a matter of history and warning, but how few believe it to be a picture of the surprising judgment which will overtake the boast and splendor of this world of pleasure and greatness, in the day of the Lord?
The same unerring scriptures recording the past, most assuredly declare the future; and woe to those who refuse to heed and fail to escape ere it is too late.
A great king who made a great feast in the day of Babylon's greatness and glory, is what God in Dan. 5 records for our instruction. This heathen ruler, the successor of a mighty king who received his position and extensive rule from the God of heaven, commands and invites a thousand nobles to a feast of grandeur and luxury, in character with his own majesty and court, calculated to give pleasure and gratification to himself and his guests; but at the expense of the honor and claims of the living God, to Whom they were indebted for their life, position, and mercies which they were then abusing. All for a time appeared bright and joyous, exceeding all bounds, for this king commands to be brought the golden and silver vessels that had formerly been in the temple at Jerusalem, and held in some sanctity as in relation to the God of heaven. These holy vessels were brought, and wine drunk from them, to give its exciting pleasure and sensual gratification, so that they “praised the gods of gold and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood and of stone.”
Such was the debased level of man, yea, man in his greatness going lower than the beasts. He not only drinks wine in sacred vessels, but defies the living and true God, making himself the object of veneration and glory. This was the case with the king at his feast, when the living God interposed in a way both sudden and effectual. He who saw, knew and heard all said and done against Himself, must as He ever will, vindicate His Name and glory, as well as judge the king and kingdom in responsibility to Him. Escape is impossible when God acts, as we see with Israel whom Nebuchadnezzar as God's rod, had carried captive, with the sacred vessels now so desecrated; hence the hand of God suddenly appears to strike terror in the midst, in the form of writing on the wall.
The eye of the king is made to fix on the handwriting, with its immediate effect not only upon himself, but also on his lordly guests. “Yea,” the king “saw” the part of the hand that wrote. “Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.” Not only did he cry aloud, but finding that his resources failed to explain the why and the wherefore, he was still more troubled, so that his lords were astonished.
The world's greatness and glory not only come to an end, but its wisdom totally fails, as will assuredly appear in the day fast approaching. The world's wisdom is folly and gross darkness when God is acting, and it needs one entirely outside its course and ways to make known the mind of God, whether in grace or judgment. In the hour of deep distress, the queen makes known to the king that there is one man in his kingdom with light and wisdom beyond all others; whose excellency and sufficiency had been proved in the interpreting of the dream that troubled Belshazzar's forefather Nebuchadnezzar. This was Daniel, a captive youth from the land of Judah, who in Nebuchadnezzar's reign had instructed and warned the king as to his God-conferred dignity and consequent responsibility, and for this faithful and timely service had been promoted by that monarch to greatness and rule. This separate and now hidden servant endowed with the mind of God, who had been brought forth in the past, again reappears, not as a guest at the profane God-defying feast, but as the revealer of God's judgment upon it.
Faithfulness in separation from evil, God. ever honors, as Daniel had proved. Now at this solemn juncture, by request of the stricken Belshazzar, he appears before him. Surely a grave and critical moment for the humanly weak in the presence of the world's strength and power! But in what conscious dignity as knowing God and His wisdom and sufficiency for declaring the truth, and laying the sin with its terrible consequence upon the conscience, does Daniel now stand when ushered in their midst!
The fear of God preserved a Joseph in the hour of keen temptation, and the poor, lowly, worm Jacob in his confessed. failing pilgrimage rises in given grace to the dignity of blessing Pharaoh. Equally does Daniel speak and act in lowly dignity as a vessel of wisdom and power, without fear of consequences. He had previously interpreted to Nebuchadnezzar the departed dream, saying of his kingly power under the God of heaven, “Thou art a king of kings,” “Thou art this head of gold.” Now in holy confidence and God-honoring dignity, he plainly and fearlessly tells the deep sin and failure of Belshazzar's, and declares God's mind and intended judgment, saying, “Thou, O Belshazzar hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines have drunk wine in them: and thou hast praised the gods of silver and gold, of brass, iron and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are thy ways, hast thou not glorified” (vers. 22, 23).
Thus the open sin of sensual gratification linked with awful impiety against the living God, brought the terrible witness of divine displeasure in the handwriting on the wall, causing trembling and astonishment, and fixing the doom of the daring guilty king. God, so sinned against, deigns to make Daniel His mouth to tell the writing, as well as to give the solemn interpretation.
Brief are the words, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin,” and striking their significance. “Mene: God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it. Tekel: Thou art weighed in the balances, and are found wanting. Peres: Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (vers. 25-28). So ended the pride, glitter, and boast of kingly greatness and glory, where responsibility to the God of heaven was despised and His name blasphemed in exalting the god of gold and the god of pleasure. If the past judgment is fulfilled. with its recorded history and warning, scripture is no less clear and emphatic regarding the day of the Lord, and the solemn judgment by which it will be introduced and established.
(To be continued).