Photo by Riz Mooney on Unsplash
Daniel 5:25 (KJV) And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
Many years ago there was a Sunday when my Pastor was going on vacation. He asked me to fill in for him. I was a young preacher – only 38 years old – and very nervous as I prepared that early message. I prayed and sought God’s face. The Lord put this text on my heart. I preached it that Sunday, and the following week the Pastor called me into his office to ….
…chew me out.
He told me that one of the “elders” of the Church said I was speaking in tongues during the services, and that speaking in tongues was not allowed in a Baptist Church. If I were more seasoned in the Word of God I would have quoted the Apostle, who said:
1 Corinthians 14:39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
I’ve never spoken in tongues while preaching. I always try (though I am often unsuccessful) to make my words clear and understandable. The elder who claimed I was speaking in tongues heard me quote Daniel 5:25, our focal text. The words Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsinwere written on a wall by a disembodied hand – a clear miracle from God.
and he thought I was speaking in tongues. I guess I was speaking in tongues. For I would not know what those words meant had God not given an interpretation of them. The words that were written on the wall by a disembodied hand, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. God spoke clearly to the King, but the King would not hear what the Lord said.
America, are you reading “the handwriting on the wall”? Are you getting what God is telling us through this Covid-19 pandemic? As I heard Barney Fife say the other day on that grand old classic, The Andy Griffith Show:
“Let’s blow away the smoke and read the handwriting on the wall”
What are we seeing as we go through this Covid-19 pandemic? I was reading the news on the Internet today, where several media outlets are breathlessly proclaiming:
“Unemployment Shatters Records”
“One Hundred Days That Changed The World”
“President Trump Threatens To Remove Funding From WHO”
We are in a time of national distress because a tiny virus has invaded our sense of security. Can we “blow away the smoke and read the handwriting on the wall”? America, we need the Lord! We need to repent as a nation, repent as the Church, and turn to wholeheartedly following the Lord Who loves us and gave Himself for us. Not tomorrow – TODAY.
The Powers That Be Are Ordained Of God
I love studying the Old Testament. I love the whole Bible, but there are many great truths that apply to our world today. The Book of Daniel has great truths that we need to mine as we go through this time of national testing.
Imprisoned for preaching the faith of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul wrote the Roman Church (and us):
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Every power – every President, King, Potentate, or Prime Minister that gets into office or sits on a throne is ordained of God. God is ultimately in control.
We don’t want to hear this, but it is Biblically true. During President Obama’s 8 year term in office I heard self professing Christians make disparaging remarks. Beloved, President Obama was in office because the Lord our God allowed it. President Trump is now in office because the lord our God has allowed it. We vote in America. We have an Electoral College in America. We elect Representatives and Senators to our state and federal Legislatures. Yet the powers that be are ordained of God. The Apostle Peter, often antagonized for preaching the Gospel of Christ, wrote:
1 Peter 2:13-15 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God…
Several pastors throughout our nation are ignoring social distancing and guidelines established by the Governors of their state. They are doing so in violation of God’s Will. The powers that be are ordained of God … and we are to submit ourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. If the state were to tell us what to preach or how to preach we as God’s people are to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). But when Governors enact laws to protect the citizens of their states, laws equally applied to churches as well as businesses, then we are under obligation to obey.
The powers that be are ordained of God!
Now let’s head back to our Daniel text. The Book of Daniel was written by a man who believed in and loved the Lord our God. This Book was written after Israel – a nation whom God loves – departed from following the Lord our God. God warned Israel before they drifted that there would be consequences if they departed from Him.
Hebrews 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
God spoke to Israel, but Israel would not hear Him. Do not deceive yourself. God is not mocked: for whatever you sow, you shall also reap (Galatians 6:7). Are you listening, Israel? Are you listening, America? Will you blow away the smoke and look at the writing on the wall? Israel didn’t listen, so God allowed Babylon to attack and destroy Israel. Daniel survived because he trusted in God. That’s why Daniel was able to write this Book.
Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon took over Israel. Why? The powers that be are ordained of God. Nebuchadnezzar reigned because God allowed him to reign. Donald Trump now reigns because God allows him to reign. Barach Obama reigned because God allowed him to reign. The powers that be are ordained of God.
Now turn with me in your Bibles to Daniel chapter 4. In Daniel chapter 4 King Nebuchadnezzar (the king of Babylon) has a dream.
Daniel 4:5-6 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. 6 Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream.
The dream frightens the King, so he initially turns to every source but God. That’s what most of us do. When something frightening happens we turn to doctors, lawyers, professionals, hospitals, bankers, whatever. Nebuchadnezzar turned to magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers (verse 7) and got no answer.
Then Nebuchadnezzar called on Daniel. Daniel loved the Lord. Though the king had given Daniel a pagan name, Daniel’s heart was still firmly fixed on God. Daniel lived for the Lord. “I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvelous works.” (Psalm 9:1). The King told Daniel his dream:
Daniel 4:10-15 … I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. 11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: 12 The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. 13 … behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; 14 He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: 15 Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth…
When Daniel heard the dream he studied on it for about an hour, I believe, praying to the Lord our God. At the end of that time Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar:
Daniel 4:20-22 … The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; 21 Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: 22 It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth.
Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that God was going to take away his throne, but leave the nation Babylon intact. The dream was a warning to this proud king. Change your ways and honor God, the God Who gave you this kingdom, or suffer loss. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar:
Daniel 4:27 … break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility.
The judgment of God could be averted if Nebuchadnezzar would REPENT and do as God directed. But if Nebuchadnezzar continued to ignore God, continued to puff himself up, and hold himself above the way of Christ, then he would suffer.
Beloved, God loves you. God loves us all. But God is ultimately in control. For the longest time our country has enjoyed the blessings of Heaven. We are the richest nation on earth, with unprecedented freedoms, freedoms that other people in other nations only dream of. The powers that be are ordained of God. Having so much, we have enjoyed the bounty of God, but have despised God and His Word. Now we are limping. Now we are suffering. Would that we would – as a nation – turn back to God.
Nebuchadnezzar heard Daniel’s words, but did nothing about the situation. He ignored the wisdom of the preacher. A year passed and nothing happened. Then Nebuchadnezzar walked into the palace one day, saying:
Daniel 4:30 … Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?
The king ascribed to himself the glory for his kingdom. He ignored God’s Word. God waited patiently for the king to repent, and he would not.
Daniel 4:31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.
King Nebuchadnezzar went mad that very day. The Bible says in verse 33, that King Nebuchadnezzar was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. He stayed in this state until
Daniel 4:34-37 … I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? 36 At the same time my reason returned unto me … 37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
When he was proud and lifted up, Nebuchadnezzar was like a wild animal in the field. He remained in this state for seven years. But once he looked heavenward and acknowledge that God alone is King, then he was blessed.
The powers that be are ordained of God.
There is no power but that of God.
The Truth Does Not Change With Time
As we move from Daniel chapter 4 to Daniel chapter 5 twenty-five years have passed. Belshazzar is now King in Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar is called his “father” (verse 2). The word translated “father” is the Arabic word אַב ʼab, (pronounced ab), which can mean “father” or in this case “descendant of or ancestor” (see Ezra 4:15; 5:12). Belshazzar was in the lineage of Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps his great-great-great grandson.
People are always telling me that truth changes with time. “That was back then, pastor, but this is now”. Truth is timeless. What was truth a million years ago is just as true today. God does not change – EVER. “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). What God told Nebuchadnezzar is just as true for Belshazzar.
Nebuchadnezzar didn’t listen to God.
Belshazzar didn’t listen to God.
The powers that be are ordained of God.
There is no power but that of God.
Are YOU listening, America?
Daniel 5:1-2 (KJV) Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein.
Belshazzar had a party, and selected 1000 “Lords” to attend that party. At the party they drank, and drank, and drank. Then Belshazzar had an idea. “When Nebuchadnezzar was King he robbed the Temple in Jerusalem, and had some great silver and gold vessels taken. Let’s get those and drink out of them.”
Belshazzar robbed God, and redefined what God made for his own purposes. America has done the same thing. We have redefined marriage, taking it out of God’s design into something else. We have redefined life, making abortion the law of the land, contrary to God’s decree. We have redefined morality, and now endorse sexual pleasure prior to Biblical marriage. We have taken the vessels that God meant for His worship and have filled them to the brim with liquid pleasure. We have worshiped the gods of money, sports, Hollywood, news media:
Daniel 5:4 (KJV) They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.
Are you listening? Will you repent? God watched and waited. The Bible says that God is long suffering, patient, and kind. Time passes, and we feel that God isn’t watching. God is there. God is here. God is watching. The Bible warns:
Romans 2:3-6 thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds …
Sooner or later a payday comes. Payday is here, King Belshazzar. The King would not listen, so now God gets his attention in a very visible way.
Daniel 5:5-6 (KJV) In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. 6 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.
What did the King do? He did the same thing King Nebuchadnezzar did. He “cried out for the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers” (Verse 7). These wise men couldn’t do anything about it. Why? Because they had no contact with the God of the Bible. But then the Queen of Babylon told her husband about Daniel, and how Daniel had helped Nebuchadnezzar. So Belshazzar calls for Daniel and tells the old believer:
Daniel 5:16 (KJV) And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom.
I love Daniel’s words to the King. He wasn’t about to receive anything from Belshazzar. He told the King
Daniel 5:17 (KJV) … Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation.
“You can keep your STUFF. I don’t want it. But I’ll tell you what these words mean”. Before Daniel interprets the handwriting on the wall he tells the King that all that Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar has, they have from God. Daniel then scolds Belshazzar, saying:
Daniel 5:22-23 … O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; 23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven…
God Has The Right To Judge His Creation
I was reading an article written by Capitol Ministries entitled “Is God Judging America Today?” In that article the author noted:
“Five forms of God’s judgment are repeatedly mentioned in the Bible. They are as follows: 1. Eternal Wrath (Hell), 2. Eschatological Wrath (The Day of the Lord), 3. Cataclysmic Wrath (The Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah), 4. Forsaking Wrath (Removing Restraint), 5. Consequential Wrath (Sowing and Reaping).”
Belshazzar walked away from God (forsaking), so God walked away from Belshazzar. America, have you walked away from God? America, are you listening? Daniel tells King Belshazzar:
Daniel 5:25-26 (KJV) And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
The word MENE מְנֵא (pronounced men-A) is Aramaic, not Hebrew, and means “You have been NUMBERED”. God has closely examined you and your nation. God didn’t just closely examine Belshazzar ONCE, but note that MENE is repeated twice. God closely examined Belshazzar and his kingdom TWICE. What did God determine from this numbering?
Daniel 5:27 (KJV) TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
תְּקַל tĕqal is also an Aramaic word, and it means “to weigh a thing”. The ancients weighed things on a balance beam. On one side a known and true weight was placed, and on the other side the item to be weighed was placed. Belshazzar, you just don’t measure up. Then God gives His judgment:
Daniel 5:28 (KJV) PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.
God raised up another Kingdom that would overthrow Babylon. First the Medes under Darius would overthrow Babylon and kill Belshazzar, and later the Persian empire will join with the Medes to rule Babylon. God would raise up first King Darius
Daniel 5:30-31 (KJV) In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. 31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.
and Darius would keep Daniel as a high ranking adviser in his kingdom. Daniel would be protected for he trusted in God. Belshazzar would lose his life, along with his kingdom, because he neither loved God nor respected the Father’s authority. The Bible tells us that “If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31).
America, are you listening? Church, are you listening? Today we are confronting a global pandemic. What will we do? Will we repent, and turn to following the God of Scripture? Will we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving Him as Savior? Will we follow His leadership? Let us as His people and His nation heed the ancient lesson of Scripture.
The powers that be are ordained of God. There is no power but that of God. May God the Holy Spirit and His Word draw you close to the Eternal Father, in Christ’s name I pray. Amen and Amen.