The story in Daniel 5, in which a hand appears out of nowhere during Belshazzar’s feast and writes a message announcing his downfall, has inspired both music and art. To read the account is a peek into a night in Babylon when the king and elite partied themselves and their city into the hands of another king, Cyrus of Persia.
The vision has vivid lessons for each of us today—lessons that can help us meet the challenge of this time and this age in world history.
Belshazzar was an unpopular regent put in charge of Babylon by his father Nabonidus. For reasons unknown Nabonidus had left the city for several years and was an absentee king. Historians debate why he left this most critical city of the empire. Some propose that he was away fighting battles on other fronts. Others believe he was a mystic who, after making religious reforms by replacing the chief gods of the city with another single deity, traveled to Arabia seeking religious enlightenment.
This latter possibility is interesting in light of the witness of the one true God given to King Nebuchadnezzar by the prophet Daniel. Like an earlier Egyptian pharaoh, Akhenaton, who overturned the chief gods with a monotheistic god, was Nabonidus upsetting the established religious order of Babylon and incurring the wrath of the religious and financial class?
We don’t know the reasons for Nabonidus’ absence. But the fact that the queen came into the scene and reminded Belshazzar that Daniel, a man in whom was divine wisdom, tells us the influence of God through Daniel was enduring and deeper into the royal court than one might think. God’s witness through Daniel impacted Babylonian life.
Daniel’s interpretation of the handwriting revealed the kingdom was numbered and finished, weighed and found wanting and divided into the hand of the Medes and Persians. This warning gives us a measuring stick for our lives today.
Babylon had received a unique witness of God through Daniel. Little did Nebuchadnezzar and his successors realize the significance of taking this Jewish captive into the inner circle of Babylonian government. Daniel stood toe to toe with the great king and on several occasions explained in clear terms that there was a God whose power and purpose would always far exceed that of the king.
Babylon had a witness but did not change its ways, and in time God’s judgment brought the downfall of the kingdom and its deliverance into the hand of another. Babylon’s time in history had come to an end.
Times of political crisis and moments of great societal change call for individuals to recognize how to respond and rise to the challenge. We are in such a time today!
Great events are reshaping the Middle East. Millions of immigrants, the most since World War II, are flowing from the region into Europe. This massive influx of people threatens the established order of the European Union.
Couple this with increased terror attacks on Europe, like the Nov. 13 attack in Paris, and a severe national security issue is created. More attacks will come. At some point a response will be triggered that will lead to a reshaping of the world order. A leader capable of restoring order will emerge. No one among the present European leaders seems capable of standing up to this crisis.
America’s historic role of bringing order to chaos is fading. America continues its shift to a culture that no longer recognizes the God of the Bible or His commandments and teachings. With last year’s Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, the nation crossed a line from which there is no turning back. Human law in a land that should know God has denied the supreme law of the Kingdom of God. The current field of political leaders are not up to the times.
These and other examples show increased antagonism toward any who would argue for the rule of God in any part of modern society. With the majority of Americans shifting to acceptance of immorality, we are moving toward a climate where teaching God’s standard of moral behavior will bring direct opposition, even from the law of the land. We have entered a time when God will be seeking those who “sigh and cry over the abominations” plaguing our society (Ezekiel 9:4).
Will you stand against the culture of today’s modern Babylon? Will you seek divine wisdom just as Daniel did?
Daniel gives us an example to follow in our time. He refused to compromise with God’s instruction in the face of convenience and temptation. He wasn’t afraid to talk about God and explain the will and purpose of the true God even when it could have cost him his livelihood and even his life.
He prayed three times a day and wanted to understand the times of his life and how they fit into God’s plans for the nations. By living a lifetime of faith, Daniel gained insight into life, his own life and God’s plan for all nations.
Here’s a vital lesson to take away from this story: We are writing a story on our own wall of life each day—by our words, thoughts and actions. We must see God’s hand in history and in our lives. A day is fast approaching when we will be numbered and weighed.
Will we be found faithful? It’s a crucial question to ponder as we see world events moving the nations to a time of judgment!