“The Writing on the Wall” (Daniel 5:1-31)

by Jan 5, 2020Sermons0 comments

Today we will be studying Daniel chapter five, the famous writing on the wall passage. Once again, we’ve done this for a few weeks now, since this is a longer text, we will be covering this text in sections. We are going to begin by reading the first nine verses, but as we work through the text, we will be reading all of it.

1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.
2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, 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. 3 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. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed. Daniel 5:1-9, ESV

In the months leading up to the Allied invasion of Normandy in World War Two, historians tell us that the Allies had launched this successful deception campaign against Germany and the Axis powers. Among other measures, the Allies had strategically placed inflatable dummy tanks on the south coast of England and employed double agents to report back to the German hierarchy. All to convince Hitler that the impending invasion of Western Europe was to happen in the French city of Calais, rather than where it did eventually happen in Normandy.

Despite that virtually everyone knew that the Allies were going to invade western Europe at some point, Hitler was convinced that the defenses that he had constructed all along the northern French coast were more than enough to repel any invasion that the Allies could throw at him. He considered them militarily inferior to his own forces.

On June 6, 1944, the famous date, all of these factors came to a head when the Allies invaded in western Europe at Normandy. When the reports of this invasion began flooding into German HQ, the response, for a number of reasons, was lacking from the Germans.

For one thing, the necessary reinforcements weren’t able to be called up in time because the only person who was able to act, Hitler, was busy sleeping and nobody was brave enough to wake him. When Hitler finally woke and learned of the invasion, he didn’t think it was the real thing because he had bought hook, line, and sinker the Allies’ deception campaign. He thought the real invasion would happen elsewhere, so he refused to send reinforcements.

Then to top it all off, according to reports, Hitler was apparently relieved when the news came his way that the invasion had taken place. He wasn’t angry or alarmed because he thought so little of the Allies’ efforts and so much of his own forces. You see for Hitler, at the time, June 6, 1944 was really by and large just another day in the war. The truth is that June 6, 1944 was the decisive day that brought the end to his reign.

When Daniel five opens, we read a story of another ruler. A ruler by the name of Belshazzar who is also, at least at first, far from alarmed when he should have been alarmed. In the first four verses he is so not alarmed that he is having a party where he and his nobles are singing and engaging in all manners of practices such as debauchery, drunkenness and unrestrained idolatry. In no way, at least in these first four verses, is Belshazzar concerned even about his own security as king or about his spiritual condition.

As the narrative unfolds, we learn quite quickly that he should have been alarmed by both. We haven’t read the final verse of this passage yet, but by the end of Daniel five, we learn this is the final night, not only of Belshazzar’s life, but also of the kingdom of Babylon.

Around this time in Babylon history, they had been engaged in this prolonged war with the Persians and Meads. Ancients historians tell us that on this very night those armies had made their way just to the outside of the city of Babylon. The city was virtually surrounded and everyone in the city apparently knew it.

Yet Belshazzar was apparently so confident in his defenses and the vast supplies in his storehouses, this wasn’t itself a troubling reality in the slightest. Similar to Hitler’s response to D-Day, Belshazzar had suppressed the military realities that lie outside his gates.

Even more consequential than the military realities that were apparently suppressed by Belshazzar are the spiritual realities that he had suppressed. This is what Daniel homes in on in this text.

We will see in a moment that Belshazzar should have known of all his responsibilities before the Lord. He should have known how a king should conduct himself under the Lord’s authority, the one who ultimately rules the kingdom of men. He should have known that such unabashed participation in idolatry and wonton pride would eventually reap spiritual consequences before God.

So, our big idea is this, The Lord will sovereignly act, even when truth is sinfully suppressed.

As we work through this text, we will break it down into three points.
1. Presuming Upon God’s Patience
2. Suppressing God’s Truth
3. Knowing God’s Sovereignty in Salvation

Presuming Upon God’s Patience

Thus far in Daniel, ever since the opening chapter, everything that has transpired and everything that we have surveyed during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. If you remember back in Daniel chapter one, we were in year one of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon at the time, had just ascended to the throne and when he did he took the best and the brightest of Judah, which had included Daniel, into captivity to learn and labor in his kingdom.

As we move through chapters two, three and four, we are propelled further and deeper into Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. We slowly saw it unfold how an ungodly king, gripped by idolatry, obsessed with visions of his own grandeur, who continually failed to see the Lord for who he is, was eventually brought to a place of humility in chapter four. After which, it seemed that he finally got it.

Nebuchadnezzar’s reign covered about forty years, and though we do not know where many of the events in chapters one through four fall in that timeline, one thing is reasonably clear from Nebuchadnezzar’s story when we put on our theological spectacles. That is, the Lord was exceedingly patient with Nebuchadnezzar. Through all the years of pride and hardness of heart that we see in Daniel one through four, the Lord was patient with Nebuchadnezzar, and he didn’t immediately deal with him in judgement according to what his sins merited.

Thus far we have seen in Daniel, God’s abundant patience unfold with King Nebuchadnezzar, through the first four chapters. We may expect that when we come across another king, a similar pattern would unfold. We have seen forty years of God’s patience with Nebuchadnezzar, and we will see forty years of patience with another ruler, right?

That doesn’t happen, when Daniel five opens, three kings have already come and gone after Nebuchadnezzar, in the span of twenty-three years following Nebuchadnezzar’s death. The kingdom is far from the powerhouse that it was during Nebuchadnezzar’s day. If Belshazzar is any indication of the spiritual environment in the kingdom, that’s why things haven’t improved since Nebuchadnezzar.

Look with me starting at verse one. We learn in the opening line that King Belshazzar made a great feast. That may sound relatively innocuous, but it actually tells us quite a bit. You see back in chapter three, when it opened, we heard this same phrase and, in that text, we heard that Nebuchadnezzar made something too. He made his colossal image of gold that towered to the sky. It was blatant idolatry, but as a symbol of power it was something of a marvel to behold. Yet, when we meet Belshazzar in chapter five, he makes something else, but he makes a feast.

As one commentator, Ian Dougwood, put it, “While Nebuchadnezzar archived throughout his life, great military success, destroyed cities, erected mighty statues, and was even responsible for constructing one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. All King Belshazzar was able to arrange was a drinking party.”

You see, the kingdom of Babylon has fallen quite far from the once great heights it once occupied. Its current weak geopolitical position is really just an illustration of its sinful spiritual state. This is especially emphasized for us in the next three verses.

Belshazzar, we learn, arranges this drinking party with his nobility, and other women in the kingdom are involved. Once he has too much to drink, he makes the demand that shows just how desensitized he is to the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. He orders that the vessels of gold and silver, that were taken out of the Jerusalem temple about seventy years before this by his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar and brought to Babylon, be brought out for this drinking party.

These vessels that were created for the worship of the Lord are now included in the celebration of the Babylonian moon god sin. That’s probably the context for what is going on in this story. It is a feast to one of the Babylonian gods.

Then they drink from these vessels, in verse four, and they praise the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, and stone. The kingdom of Babylon has fallen fast and hard from the once great heights it occupied, geopolitically in Nebuchadnezzar’s day. The pride of this new king has reached new heights.

What makes this entire scene worse than it already is, is that Belshazzar should have known better. When Daniel comes around later in this passage, he is going to tell Belshazzar exactly that. Belshazzar should have known what Nebuchadnezzar came to learn. Namely that the Most High rules the kingdoms of men and gives it to whom he will.

Belshazzar should have known that the only reason that he rules is by the will of God. Belshazzar should have known of his grandfather’s experience and God’s patience with him. He should have known that he better not presume upon God’s patience. Rather than learning these important lessons from his grandfather’s day, we meet a king who “double-clicks”, as it were, on Nebuchadnezzar’s sin.

In a sense, Belshazzar’s opening action here is an illustration of Lamech’s boast in Genesis four. In Genesis chapter four, after Cain kills his brother Abel and then he is driven out from the presence of the Lord. We read about how Cain’s descendants multiplied and a few generations later a man named Lamech is born, who we quickly see is more evil than his ancestor Cain.

For one Lamech corrupts God’s design for marriage into polygamy; Cain didn’t do that. Then he turns proportional justice into disproportionate revenge. Then to top it all off, it’s almost as if he sings about it. In Genesis 4:23-24 he says,

23 Lamech said to his wives:
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”
Genesis 4:23-24, ESV

In one sense, Belshazzar’s actions in Daniel five are an illustration of this sort of unrestrained pride at work. He knew of God’s patience with his grandfather and he should have learned from that. His spiritual sense had been so numbed, not by alcohol but by sin. So now God acts in judgement.

After this opening party unfolds and all seems to be going well for him and his nobles, we read in verses five through seven,

5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. 7 The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”
Daniel 5:5-7, ESV

At this point in the narrative we don’t quite know what the context of what was written on the wall was, but we see that Belshazzar is absolute terrified by it. His complexion changed, that phrase that we read in verse six, “his limbs gave way”, could also be translated, “his bowels gave way”. He immediately summons the best and the brightest with the promises of great reward for whomever solves this riddle for him as soon as possible.

Belshazzar might not know what exactly this message from God; the God who in contrast to his idols actually does speak. His response suggests that he knows that this is not good for him. We know, as the reader, that because he has so presumed upon the patience of God that we have seen in Daniel one through four, and he has continued in the pride and sin of his ancestors. In fact, he has double-clicked on that sin and pride, that in the end it’s going to cost him virtually everything.

Theologically, the consequences that Belshazzar are about to reap are an outward being of what the apostle Paul writes in Romans 2:4-5,

4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.Romans 2:4-5, ESV

Belshazzar knew more than Nebuchadnezzar knew. He had this incredible story of God’s patience, kindness, and mercy given to one of his ancestors. This should have led him to repentance. He had greater revelation and thus greater responsibility. In the end he so presumed upon God’s patience, he was storing up wrath in the words of Paul for himself. Now the judgement of God is about to fall on him.

Before it does, we learn that behind this presumption of God’s patience. The reason we might say, that he presumes upon God’s patience in the first place is that he had suppressed God’s truth. Of course, these two points are very closely related. That leads to our second point.

Suppressing God’s Truth

Look with me now at Daniel 5:10-23,

10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”
13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”
17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.
Daniel 5:10-23, ESV

So, in order to prepare the way for Daniel and to offer some temporary relief into this situation, the queen (who commentators point out is probably the queen mother or may even be Nebuchadnezzar’s wife) enters the scene and informs Belshazzar that there is a man in the kingdom who can make sense of riddles such as this. She talks about Daniel and how Daniel aided his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, in his own day and how Daniel will be able to offer an interpretation even of this.

When Daniel comes before Belshazzar in verse thirteen and the king begins to address him, commentators note for a number of reasons that Belshazzar probably wasn’t unaware of Daniel’s existence. For one, the description he provides of Daniel in verses thirteen through sixteen goes slightly beyond the queen’s description. There’s even this subtle slight in his address to Daniel when he reminds him that he is one of the exiles of Judah.

Belshazzar it seems, has probably known of Daniel’s existence all along, but as Sinclair Ferguson suggests, his actions are more reminiscent of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. He has chosen thus far to ignore this wise man who is more than eighty years old at this point, in favor of counselors who are more like him; astrologers, Babylonians experts in wisdom. That was one of Rehoboam’s sins in generations prior; relying on the wisdom of people like him rather than the older counselor who had advised his father Solomon.

Nonetheless, Belshazzar’s suppression of the truth is suggested already before Daniel even speaks. After Daniel rehearses Nebuchadnezzar’s experience, he accuses Belshazzar of just that in verses twenty-two and twenty-three. He says,

22 And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.Daniel 5:22-23, ESV

We learn from this that Belshazzar is an example of what the apostle Paul warns against in Romans 1:18-23,

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Romans 1:18-23, ESV

Not only did Belshazzar have, like every person who has ever lived has general revelation at his disposal by virtue of being a human being and living in God’s world. He should have known of God’s eternal power and divine nature and was therefore without excuse. That’s Paul’s main point in Roman’s chapter one.

What makes it even worse is that Belshazzar knew more than that. He almost certainly knew of Daniel’s existence. He knew of his grandfather’s experience. Through all of that he should have known that the Most High rules. Yet, even with all of that revelation at his disposal, he exchanges the glory of the immortal God for idols of silver, bronze, wood and stone.

Belshazzar’s sin here wasn’t rooted in ignorance. According to Paul, no sin is rooted in ignorance of God. It was rooted in knowledge. According to our confessions, specifically Larger Catechism 151, although all sins merit judgement before God, there are some aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others.

One of those aggravations is when greater knowledge and conviction of sin doesn’t produce the repentance that it should. This passage in Daniel, specifically 5:22-23, is actually cited as the prooftext for that catechism question. You see, Belshazzar should have been convicted by the knowledge that he possessed. But he persisted in it anyway. He suppresses the truth and as a result, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.

We see that unfold in the final part of our passage.

God is Sovereign in Salvation

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an enDaniel 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wantinGod 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
Daniel 5:24-31, ESV

Now we here the verdict pronounced. In Daniel’s speech thus far, he has been acting as a prosecuting attorney of sorts. This is often how Israel’s prophets functioned as the mouthpiece of God. They brought God’s case against his own people and against the nations. That’s what Daniel does in this text. In one speech he martials the evidence the is stacked up against Belshazzar. He brings Nebuchadnezzar to the witness stand. He issues his closing remarks and then he issue the verdict, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN.”

These words are Aramaic words. This portion of Daniel that we are in was originally written in Aramaic, not Hebrew like most of the Old Testament is. On the surface these Aramaic words refer to weights or measurements in decreasing value. The “mene” is a mena, the “tekel” is a shekel, the “parsin” is a half shekel.

With some minor adjustments these words can be turned into verbs. This is the approach that Daniel takes. He sees in these words, not just bare measurements, which might by why everyone else has failed to offer an adequate interpretation to Belshazzar, but Daniel see through the Spirit who empowers his prophetic gift, a word play that is based on the word’s verbal form.

As Daniel explains it, the interpretation is also charts in descending fashion. Yours days are numbered; you’ve been weighted in the balance; and your kingdom is given. There may even be an additional word play in that “parsin” can also refer to Persia, the kingdom that would take over that very night.

In many respects Belshazzar has been revealed through this verdict to be just like the rich fool that Jesus describes in Luke chapter twelve. Who, after building his own kingdom, settles down and says to himself, soul you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink and be merry. Belshazzar has indeed been doing that. He’s been eating and drinking all the while convincing himself that all is well, even when enemies are camped outside his gate.

When Daniel comes around through his speech and the verdict that he pronounces at the end, he exposes the reality that judgement is on its way. Belshazzar, just as he mimics that rich fool in Luke twelve, he will also receive the judgement that rich fool is pronounced in Luke twelve. There God says to him, fool, your soul is required of you and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? That’s what happens next in our text.

After Daniel speaks, apparently Belshazzar has nothing to say, he is speechless. He’s not boiling over in anger, nor does it seem that he’s alarmed or that his alarm has increased. It’s not that he is repentant either. He simply gives the command to honor his word to Daniel. He makes Daniel the third ruler in the kingdom, which at this point is really a meaningless reward. Then he waits to die.

We learn that very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. Ancient history tells us that very night the army of the Persians marched into Babylon without a fight while the Babylonians were drunk and participating in a feast to the moon god. It wasn’t entirely bloodless because one of the Persian generals marched into the palace and assassinated Belshazzar.

In the space of just one chapter, this short story of another Babylonian king concludes. Whereas we’ve seen forty years of one king’s life, for this king we see not even a full day of his life. The Babylonian empire is in all effects finished and the narrative transitions us to this next guy, Darius the Meade, who we will read about whenever we come to Daniel chapter six.

Theological Implications

While this story is done, we as the readers are invited to consider a couple of theological points that emerge from this story.

1. The first is, I think there is something about this story that satisfies our sense of justice. I’m indebted to a guy named Shawn Michael Lucas for this observation. In this story, we meet a king who is consumed with pride. He participates in debaucher, he profanes what is holy, he relies on the wisdom of the world to solve riddles and mysteries that only the wisdom of God is equipped to solve.

Then when we zoom out and consider the entirety of the Babylonian empire, our sense of justice is maybe further satiated. We know that this text also marks the end of Babylon which is an empire responsible for inflicting horrible ills on the people of God. It feels right, and maybe it would have felt even more right to the original readers of this text. Belshazzar, and Babylon by extension, would be weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Yet, as heinous as these sins were before a holy God, would you or I really fare much better if we were weighed in the balances of God’s justice. The answer is no. In fact, the thought of standing before a holy God on our own merit should alarm all of us. There is absolutely nothing we could bring before God that would move the balances of justice even one tick in our favor. In one way or another, all of us have lifted up ourselves against the Lord of Heaven in pride and autonomy. If any of us were to be weighed in the balances, we would be found wanting too.

Even more than satisfying our sense of justice, when we know this to be true of ourselves, more than anything else this text should increase our desire for Jesus. Friends, the only hope we have before a holy and justice God is that Jesus Christ was weighted in the balances and found righteous.

Our only hope is that when the evidence is stacked up against us in God’s court, for the judge, rather than condemning us, to give us the righteousness of his son so that we would be justified. That is our only hope.

In Christ alone, through faith alone. That is the glorious reality that is ours to lay claim to. It’s a reality that doesn’t extinguish our sense of justice in this broken world but is a reality that should deeply humble us in our sense of justice.

2. The Lord is sovereign over salvation. If God indeed justifies the ungodly through Christ, this he does, then why is it that one ungodly king, Nebuchadnezzar, is shown forty years of mercy by God, while another king, Belshazzar, is not? Or maybe, do bring the question a little closer to home to use, why is it that God saves some of us, but passes over others? Ultimately the answer to that question has to lie in the Lord’s sovereignty over salvation and judgement.

We’ve heard throughout Daniel this announcement time and time again that the Lord is sovereign. The Lord is the one who sets up kingdoms. The Lord is the one who tears down kingdoms. The Lord is the one directing the wheels of history to their God ordained ends. The sovereignty of God that Daniel proclaims over kingdoms, also extends to individuals.

Despite some of the contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, the one thing, among many, that they had in common was that both of them were sinners who deserved no mercy. There was nothing intrinsic to Nebuchadnezzar that prompted God to show him mercy that Belshazzar didn’t also share. Both kings, in other words, deserved judgement. The only thing to account for their diverging fortunes is the sovereign will of God.

That is what Paul gets at in another chapter of the book of Romans. In Romans 9:15-18 Paul writes,

15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. Romans 9:15-18

The Lord is sovereign over kings and kingdoms, and the Lord is sovereign in both salvation and judgement. That is the second theological take away from this text.


Tying this all together, let’s briefly consider a few applications, a few things to take away with us as we prepare to close.

1. Know that God is patient and kind towards you, but don’t presume upon his patience of kindness either. All of the blessings and good gifts that we enjoy in this life are fruit of God’s kindness towards us. God has restrained human wickedness from being as bad as it possibly could be. He sends rain to water the crops and give us food. He preserves creation for our enjoyment and benefit and his glory.

Beyond these common grace manifestations of his kindness, we have special revelation. We have the Word of God so that we might know him, receive salvation, and receive spiritual nourishment through the ordinary means of grace.

He supplies for his church. As Christians, the Lord is kind towards us and patient with us. He is patient with us in our sanctification, our sin, our sometimes faulty theologies. The Psalmist tells us that the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Know then that the Lord is kind. Know that the Lord is patient. That has all manner of applications for us. From tempering our own anxiety, to learning what it means to be patient with others.

I came across a quote this week by a Puritan named Stephen Charnock that I thought was applicable. “God has exercised a long suffering from the fall of Adam to this minute on innumerable subjects. Shall we be transported with the desire of revenge upon a single injury? How distant are they from the nature of God, who are in a flame upon every slight provocation, from a sense of some feeble and imaginary honor, that must bloody their sword for a trifle and right their avenge in wounds and death.”

God is patient with us friends. Does God’s patience and kindness in Christ influence the patience that you show or don’t show to other? Ask yourself that.

If you are not resting in Christ for salvation, recognize that God is patient towards you too by deferring, for now, judgement. I invite you, don’t presume upon God’s patience by charting your own course in this life. None of us are guaranteed one more day. So, I beg you to turn to Christ now and be saved.

The Lord is kind and patient. That is the first application.

2. Don’t suppress the truth. Again, this applies to both those of us who profess Christ and claim to love his word, and those who might not. First, all of us have been exposed to truth, that makes us accountable to God. We heard that already in Romans chapter one. Even if all you know is what the scriptures refer to as general revelation, that is a revelation of God and his invisible attributes simply from his creation. Scriptures tell us that’s not enough to bring salvation, but that is enough to be held accountable.

So, let me urge you to turn to the word of God, to hear the gospel of God for what it is and believe and be saved. According the scriptures, anything less than that is a form of suppressing the truth. In the words of Paul, “exchanging the truth of God for a lie.”

As Christians, there is also a sense in which all of us who know the word and love the word may suppress the truth too. For instance, when you hear the word of God proclaimed and it pricks your conscience a little bit. What do you do about that? Do you humbly submit yourself to the word, or do you deflect it in some way?

Again, there are millions of ways we could do that in an attempt to ignore the conviction of sin that the Spirit brings through his word. As Christians, the invitation we have is not to numb ourselves to God’s word, especially when it picks our conscious in ways that might sting a bit.

Instead, we are called to hear the word, to hear the message of God’s patience and kindness towards you. To humble yourself under it. To remember that Jesus Christ loves his church, is patient with his church, and is kind to his church.

Let me pray.

Father, we thank you for the patience and kindness that you exercise towards us in Christ Jesus. We thank you Lord for what you proclaim and teach us in this chapter in Daniel. We pray that the implications that are virtually endless from this chapter, we would continue to sit upon and meditate, not only now but as we leave and prepare to go out of here. Lord, as we prepare to transition to a better feast, the feast of the Lord’s Supper, we pray Lord that you would continue to nourish us even in this. I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.