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RDean Daniel Lesson 23

Jesus Christ controls History – Daniel 5:7-31

 

We continue out study of Daniel 5 which is one of the most remarkable episodes in the Scripture and in Daniel, one that is well-known, from which we get the phrase, "the handwriting on the wall."  We're going to get to that tonight.  Last time we observed the contrast and the reactions between the unbelievers and the believers.  We have seen that the believer has stability and poise, and is calm because of the doctrine in his soul.  The unbelievers present, which is Belshazzar and everybody else, is falling apart and they're going through a complete meltdown because they don't understand what's going on and the potential is before they even understand the meaning of the words that just mysteriously have appeared up on the wall, before they know their meaning they sense the importance of these words and that they spell out something that indicates their collapse.

 

Let's look at verse 8, we see them trying to solve the problem; mysteriously the fingers of a man's hand had emerged and written on the wall in verse 5, and [6] the king's face grew pale, and his thoughts alarmed him; and his hip joints went slack, and his knees began knocking together."  That's Belshazzar's meltdown.  Then in verse 7, "The king called aloud to bring in the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners."  This was his cabinet, made up of all of his various advisors.  "The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, 'Any man who can read this inscription and explain its interpretation to me will be clothed with purpose, and have a necklace of gold around his neck, and have authority as third ruler in the kingdom.'"  Now one of the reasons, we're not sure why they had difficulty reading what was on the wall.  There are three or four possible explanations.  On one of the more likely is that normally Hebrew is written from left to right, so that would read across this way and if these words were written from the top down instead of from left to right, then that would be somewhat mysterious, but even so if you know the language you can make sense of it pretty quickly, even if you see the letters in an unusual order, your mind fixes on them and attaches a pattern to them. 

 

So it's very likely that it wasn't simply the fact that they were written in some odd manner but that the form of the words, as we will see, is somewhat unusual.  And so that mean that the meaning of the inscription was unclear, wasn't immediately obvious, and so the cabinet members who looked at this were completely stymied.  They knew that this was too important for them to just guess so they had to have some sort of solution.

 

Daniel 5:8, "Then all the king's wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or make known its interpretation to the king.  [9] Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, his face grew even paler, and his nobles were perplexed."  By this time Belshazzar as run out of gimmicks to try to figure out just exactly what is going on.  He knows he's at the end of the rope, the Persian army is outside the walls of Babylon, and he suspects, probably, that this miraculously appearing message on the wall has something to do with him and something to do with the army outside the wall.  Belshazzar has run out of time; he has heard the gospel again and again, he's had opportunities to respond, remember I said that though this is 539 BC and Nebuchadnezzar had died in 562 BC, that's a difference of 23 years.  Belshazzar by this time is probably in his late 30s, what we now of Belshazzar is that 3 years after his father, Nabonidus, came to the throne Belshazzar was co-regent, and so if you put all the numbers together it seems as though Belshazzar was probably in his middle to late teens in Daniel 4 when Nebuchadnezzar passed out his announcement to the entire empire proclaiming the greatness of God.  When Nebuchadnezzar sent out his evangelistic tract, Belshazzar was alive; Belshazzar heard the gospel then, Belshazzar knew who Daniel was, he would have heard the stories about Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and yet he had rejected all that. 

 

Time and time again God gives everybody the grace, the opportunity to respond to the gospel and to respond to doctrine.  But sooner or later there comes a point when God lowers the boom.  There is always grace, grace, grace before judgment and even at this point Belshazzar and respond.  He's going to get one more opportunity to respond, one more opportunity to turn from his arrogance and to respond to God.  It's too late to save the empire but he has one more opportunity for salvation and even then because of fear and arrogance he is going to do just the opposite of what his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar did.  So he is faced with the irrevocable inevitable judgment of God and he is scared to death about this.  Now when it says, in verse 8, that when his wise men came in, they were already there, they were part of the party, there's a thousand people at this orgy that's going on, and most of his counselors and cabinet members were present.  So when it says that they "came in," what that means is that they gathered together, they moved up to the front of the room, everybody was immediately sobered up once they saw this writing magically appear on the wall and they al moved up to the front and when Belshazzar called for them and now it's time for them to go into action, and yet they have no answers whatsoever.

 

But in contrast to their failures we have the entrance of the queen in verse 10, this is his mother, Nitocris, and Nitocris is the youngest daughter, was probably one of the youngest daughters of Nebuchadnezzar.  She is a believer, and she was fully aware of everything that Daniel had taught and she shows tremendous stability and has poise under pressure.  Real poise under pressure only comes from doctrine in the soul because you know God's perspective.  Even in the midst of the most incredible crisis you can have inter calm and inter peace simply because of the doctrine that you know, because you know God is in control no matter how badly things might appear to be out of control. 

 

It's also interesting that several times in Scripture we can think of women, such as Deborah in the book of Judges, women in the Scripture who focus on doctrine when the men around them are falling apart and so she is a model of what all the great women in the Bible are pictured to be.  She is stable and she brings to the table something that causes the men to focus on something that goes beyond the situation and beyond the problem at hand.  Herodotus, who is considered one of the first historians, although that ignores the history written in the Bible, was a Greek and he describes some of the things about her.  She was a remarkable woman and she had a fantastic sense of humor. And that did not dull as she got older and when she was going to die she wanted to play a joke on the rulers of the nation and by that time she realized that the rulers, especially by then, it was the Persians, she realized they were very materialistic so she decided to play a joke on them. 

 

Herodotus tells us it was this same princess, Nitocris, "by whom a remarkable deception was planned.  She had her tomb constructed in the upper part of one of the principle gateways of the city, high above the heads of the passersby with this inscription cut on it."  So it's set up on a walkway where everybody that walked by could see it.  And on there she had this inscription cut in that said, "if there be one among my successors on the throne of Babylon who is in want of treasure, let him open my tomb and take as much as he chooses, not however unless he be truly in want, for it will not be for his good."  Well, her tomb remained untouched until Darius came to the throne.  And to him it seemed like a monstrous thing that he should be unable to use one of the gates in Babylon and that there should be a large sum of money inside that casket lying around idle, so he's the one who pried his way into the tomb and opened it up to get the money, but instead of the money all he found was a corpse and a note that read: "Had thou not been insatiate of treasure and careless how you got it, you would not have opened the tomb of the dead."  So she just had her little practical joke on him and there was no money at all, just wanted to show him up for any kind of greedy individual he was.  So she had a good sense of humor that she took with her even into the grave. 

 

So she walks into the banquet hall, she is upright, stately and her very presence probably caused those around her to calm down and to become quiet, waiting for her to say something.  Daniel 5:10, "The queen entered the banquet hall because of the words of the king and his nobles;" so there's been a hush, as he sent for whatever counselors weren't there when the handwriting first appeared on the wall, word got to her that something unusual had happened.  She comes in and comes up to the king and as only a mother can do, even with a king, "the queen spoke and said, 'O king, liver forever!" which is the normal address of politeness to a ruler, she says, "Don't let your thoughts alarm you or your face be pale," in other words, get a hold of yourself kid, straighten up, don't show that you're afraid, maintain poise in front of all the people, all the citizens, you can't let everybody see how scared you are, straighten up. 

 

Then she offers a solution, Daniel 5:11, "There is a man in your kingdom in whom is a spirit of the holy gods," now that's really a mistranslation; the problem is that almost every translator of the Scripture assumes that since she's a Chaldean that she's not a believer, she's going to talk in terms of the pagan Chaldeans, but the term here is the same term, it's the Aramaic form of ruach, and then it's Elohin, not Elohim, Elohim with an "m," is the Hebrew, Elohin is the Aramaic, and it's ruach Elohin, "spirit of God."  So she is referring to God by His generic name, she's not using it as a plural and she is saying, "There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of God," she recognizes that Daniel is indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, as He was in the Old Testament, and that God the Holy Spirit is revealing eternal truth through Daniel.  So she says, "There's a man in your kingdom in whom is" the Holy Spirit, "the Spirit of God; and in the days of your father," that is your grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, "illumination, insight, and wisdom like the wisdom of God, Elohin again, "like the wisdom of God was found in him.  And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father," actually your grandfather here because the word in Hebrew can mean father, grandfather, great-grandfather, descendant, there's about 8 different meanings.  "And King Nebuchadnezzar, your grandfather, your grandfather the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans, and diviners."  So he was the head of all of the cabinet, he was the chief of state for your grandfather because of his tremendous wisdom and insight. 

 

Then she goes on in Daniel 5:12 to say, "This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas," that is puzzles, conundrums, difficulties, "and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar.  Let Daniel now be summoned, and he will declare the interpretation."  I want you to notice the name by which Nitocris refers to Daniel.  She calls him not by his Chaldean name, Belteshazzar, which would invoke the renaming of the Jews when they came into Chaldea, but she calls him Daniel mostly, and that indicates she recognizes him, she probably knew him personally and knew him by his Jewish name, and this again indicates that this is not just some formal recognition but that she knows who Daniel is and is a believer.  It's very likely that Daniel is the one who taught her as a young woman about the Lord and taught her doctrine.  So she reminds Nebuchadnezzar of who Daniel is and what made Daniel the kind of person he is. 

 

This is seen in a couple of Aramaic words that are used here.  He is said to have an "extraordinary spirit," this is ruach yattiyr, which means an exceeding, an extraordinary, a preeminent or an outstanding spirit, and here it's not referring to the Holy Spirit but it talks about Daniel's mental attitude.  It talks about Daniel's mind, his abilities, his capabilities.  The word "spirit" is used a number of different ways in Scripture, it can refer to human spirit, it can refer to the Holy Spirit, it can refer just as a generic term for the immaterial part of man, and here it is referring to Daniel's attitude.  That's one of the meanings of "spirit."  The New Testament uses the Greek pneuma in the same way.  It talks about a person, if they're bitter it says they have a spirit of bitterness or an attitude of bitterness.  If they're angry they have a spirit of anger, an attitude of anger.  It doesn't necessarily talk about some immaterial being. 

 

So when it says an "extraordinary spirit" it's talking about his mentality, his attitude.  He has "knowledge and insight," the word for knowledge is from the Hebrew yadah, which is comparable to the Greek gnosis, he has a tremendous amount of academic knowledge and understanding, and then just as in the New Testament period and the Church Age, when we study the word and we learn it as gnosis, as academic knowledge, and then it is transferred into our soul and into the heart, the mentality, the innermost mentality of our soul, as epignosis.  The Aramaic word that's used here is soklethanuw and it means inside wisdom, prudence or success and it indicates the high level of Daniel's ability and capabilities.  He had inside wisdom, prudence and he was successful because of the doctrine that is in his soul. 

 

So Daniel comes in, Daniel 5:13, "Then Daniel was brought in before the king.  The king spoke and said to Daniel, 'Are you that Daniel who is one of the exiles from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah?"  Belshazzar is going to go on and he's going to try to encourage Daniel, he's going to try to convince him, bribe him, and try to flatter him into giving Belshazzar what he wants to here.  But Daniel has an important principle to communicate here.  He is going to communicate to Belshazzar that it is the God of Israel who is the only real God, the only true God, whose goblets and whose dishes and bowls they were just desecrating so easily, it is that God, the God of Israel, who they had assumed was just some local deity, just another god among all the other gods in the pantheon of the ancient world.  What Daniel is trying to communicate to Belshazzar is that because you have touched his sacred vessels, because you have desecrated that which came out of the temple in Jerusalem, at this point God is going to judge you.  It's not just chance, it's not just happenstance that they've just hauled all the goblets and bowls of the temple out of storage and began to use them and profane them, that this occurs… the handwriting appears as soon as they begin to desecrate these bowls and dishes that came out of the temple.

 

Daniel 5:14 we see Belshazzar's flattery.  "Now I have heard about you," see, he didn't seem to remember too much when Nitocris was talking to him but apparently it caused him to remember a few things more about Daniel that he mentions, he says, "Now I've heard about you that a spirit of the gods," again it should be translated "the spirit of God, "that the spirit of God is in you, and that illumination, insight, and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you.  [15] Just now the wise men and the conjurers were brought in before me that they might read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not declare the interpretation of the message."  You'd think that Daniel might be thinking this is a little deja vue at this point, reminding him of the time he's come in to Nebuchadnezzar twice to fill in the gap where the cabinet members could not properly interpret those dreams.  So it's one more situation like that.  They failed, human viewpoint can never solve man's problems and human viewpoint can never produce insight into the plan of God, it must come only from direct revelation from God. 

 

And then Belshazzar says, Daniel 5:16, "But I personally have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems.  Now if you are able to read the inscription and make it interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple," which is a sign of royalty, "and wear a necklace of gold around your neck," again an indication of his rank and privilege in the nation, this necklace of gold would have carried an insignia on it that indicated his rank in the kingdom, "and you will have authority as the third ruler in the kingdom."  Now I want you to notice how this is translated because if you look at the old King James Version it would indicate that he is the third in rank in the kingdom, but remember how the kingdom is structured here.  You have Nabopolassar who is now king in absentia because he's sort of gone off to his archeological digs to leave his son, Belshazzar, in charge.  And they are both ruling the kingdom.  And what Belshazzar is saying here is not that you're going to be third in rank but you're going to come on as a third in the triumvirate.  There will be three of us ruling the kingdom, not just two.  And so he is offering Daniel to be the third ruler, the third of three, in the kingdom. 

 

I want you to notice Daniel's response because his response shows that he's not swayed by the flattery of Belshazzar or the promise of rewards.  He has his focus on the real priorities which is serving God.  Daniel 5:17, "Then Daniel answered and said before the king, 'Keep your gifts for yourself, or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him.'"  In other words, I'm going to fulfill my job here and it doesn't have anything to do with your flattery; it doesn't have anything to do with your rewards.  His answer demonstrates the quality, the integrity of Daniel's soul; it's an integrity that comes about only because you've reached spiritual maturity.  You don't have that kind of integrity just right off the bat, it comes from his long period of time studying the word and applying the Word.

 

 He's telling Belshazzar that his motivation in life isn't rooted in things in time, it's not based on what he gets, it's not based on the details of life, it's not based on his promotion, it's based on his relationship with God; he basically tells Belshazzar you can offer me anything you want to offer me but that doesn't have anything to do with the task at hand, and besides Daniel knows that whatever he's offered is meaningless because the next day somebody else is going to be in charge.  But Daniel shows here that he is a grace oriented believer, he is doing this not because of what he's going to get; too often the world system works on what we're going to get, I'm going to do whatever it is I'm going to do but I'm doing it for remuneration, I'm doing it for what I'm going to get out of it.  But he shows that he's grace oriented.  He also shows that his focus is not in time.  See, he's not focusing at all on temporal rewards or on time; he's focusing on his position in God's plan, so he has a personal sense of eternal destiny and he has a mastery of the details of life.  He's focused on the future, he's focused on his role as it relates to eternity, not to time and it's because of that that even if his life hangs in the balance, that's not an issue.  And as a believer we can only live as if life doesn't matter if we're focused on eternity.  We can only handle the tremendous crises, whenever life is threatened, whenever we're in a situation, whether it's in combat, whether it's living under a situation where we're threatened by terrorism, whatever it may be, as a believer we can only live above that if we have a personal sense of our eternal destiny, where we realize where we're headed and we realize that this is just a temporary abiding place, and while we're here we're to serve the Lord, and the time and manner and place of our death is in the hands of the Lord, and the Lord alone is going to determine that; it's not up to us, then we can relax and we can be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego where no matter what the threat is, no matter what the punishment might be it doesn't matter because our focus isn't on what's going on in time, our focus is on eternity.  So Daniel is demonstrating this same type of thinking in the midst of this situation. 

 

I want you to think of it another way.  Think of the fact that Daniel also might be facing a bit of a temptation here to step in and solve the problem.  Just think, this is how a lot of Christians would reason; we're so filled with pragmatism:  gee, what wonderful things I could do for God and for my people if I was the third ruler of the empire; just think, I could free everybody, I could send everybody home, I could just step in and solve all the problems on my own.  There's a temptation there to take advantage of that as sort of an end justifies the means mentality.  Too often that's what characterizes too much of Christian; it characterizes church growth, it characterizes evangelism, it characterizes all kinds of gimmicks and programs that church get involved in and the focus is well, it's going to produce certain good results so isn't it worth doing.  Remember, a right thing done in a wrong way is always wrong, and Daniel understood the principle and so he rejects the temptation because he realized that was not the way God worked.  Rewards or temporal rewards were not the issue; the issue was God's plan.  So he begins to give the interpretation in verse 18 to the king.  He demonstrates politeness to the king and he follows all of the royal protocol.

 

Daniel 5:18, he says, "O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory, and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father."  Now here he is going to address Belshazzar and give him one last gracious opportunity to turn from his arrogance and hostility to God and to turn to God and he's going to do it by reminding Belshazzar of what Nebuchadnezzar went through.  He's going to remind Belshazzar that arrogance always leads to destruction and the kind of judgment that God brought against Nebuchadnezzar is the same kind of judgment but less severe and wasn't permanent that God is bringing against Belshazzar.  He's giving him one last chance to deal with the arrogance in his soul and recognize the authority of God.  It says "the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory, and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar, your father."  Remember back in the interpretation of the statue in Daniel 2, when Nebuchadnezzar was identified as the head of gold, there Daniel said you reign, you rule because God placed you in authority.  You re the head of gold because God placed you there, not because of who and what you are.  So he's reminding Belshazzar that he is ruling Babylon, not because of who he is, not because of what he's done but because of what God has in store for him, what God's plan is.

 

In Daniel 5:19 he goes on to remind Belshazzar of Nebuchadnezzar's arrogance.  "And because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations, and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed, and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whoever he wished he elevated, and whomever he wished he humbled."  The point is that God is the one in charge, God is the one who raises up and God is the one who takes away.  But Belshazzar couldn't understand the principle here of God granting sovereignty because he never correctly understood or interpreted the historical facts that Daniel is mentioning here in verse 19.

 

Daniel 5:20, "But when his heart was lifted up," that is Nebuchadnezzar, "when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne, and his glory was taken away from him."  Daniel points out that when Nebuchadnezzar became arrogant about the expansion of his empire and when he became power hungry and when he began to lord it over everyone to the point where he had visions of godhood for himself, it was then that God took the kingdom away from him.

 

Daniel 5:21, he had boanthropy as we saw, and "He was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts," he had the mentality of an animal "and he lived with the wild donkeys, and he ate grass like cattle, "and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until finally," that's a hard way to learn who's in charge of your life, "until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind, and that He sets over it whomever He wishes." 

 

And then Daniel drives the point home in Daniel 5:22, "Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this."  In other words, you have not responded to God's grace in humility.  You have continued to maintain your arrogance thinking that everything came from yourself and this is Daniel's personal indictment of Belshazzar.  Belshazzar failed where Nebuchadnezzar succeeded.  Belshazzar never understood the gospel, never responded to the gospel and Belshazzar is in Sheol today.

 

Then we come to Daniel 5:23, this is the indictment, "but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines, have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand.  But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified."  In other words, he is condemning him for the blasphemous way in which they are abusing the dishes and glasses, the goblets from the temple. 

 

Daniel 5:24, "Then the hand was sent from Him, "this is the hand of judgment, the fingers that wrote on the wall, "the fingers were sent from Him, and this inscription was written out."  And here is the inscription, "MENE, MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN."  Now what is the interpretation of these words, what exactly do they mean.  The first two words are nouns, MENE, MENE, and they mean the same thing, they refer to a mina, a mina was a coin, a piece of money.  And TEKEL refers to the shekel, which was smaller in weight than the MENE, and then the UPHARSIN was even smaller yet, and that was a half a mina.  But each of these nouns has a related verb, and so the meaning, the real meaning of the sentence comes from the verb that's related to it.  MENE, MENE, that word relates to a verb which means to be numbered.  TEKEL which in the noun form means a shekel, and the verb form means to be weighed out.  And UPHARSIN, the "U" is the Hebrew Vav, which is the "and," it's the Aramaic PHARSIN, which refers to the half mina, and because it was half a mina the verb meant divided.  So the significance of the saying was not in its literal meaning, MENE, MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN, Mina, mina, shekel and a half mina, but number, numbered, weighed and divided.  And so then Daniel understands that and he is going to apply that to the situation. 

Daniel 5:25, "Now this is the inscription," the Aramaic word for "inscription" is keethab, which means to write, so it should be translated "this writing," and then it says, "that was written out," and that's the verb resham, which means to inscribe.  So it shouldn't be translated "this inscription that was written out" but "this writing which was inscribed."  It had a permanency to it, it was visible for some time on the wall.  And the words, though they weren't difficult to understand because they were written in a noun form instead of the verb confused the cabinet department and they weren't able to understand or interpret exactly what it meant.  So Daniel makes it clear what it means in the next several verses. 

 

In Daniel 5:26 he says, "This is the interpretation of the message," that is the explanation of the message, "MENE" which in the verb form means to number, "MENE—God has numbered your kingdom," that means He's evaluated your kingdom, He's evaluated you, Belshazzar, and he's evaluated the people and there's no positive volition here, there's no response to the gospel, the people in the Babylonian Empire, which is the shortest of all these empires we're going to study, the people had an opportunity to respond to the gospel tract of Nebuchadnezzar, some 23 years earlier, but they had not, they had completely rejected it.  So God has evaluated the kingdom "and put an end to it." 

 

Daniel 5:27, "TEKEL—you have been weighed on the scales," a term for judgment, a further evaluation, "you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient," you're lacking, there is no righteousness here.  And then the final word, UPHARSIN, PERES is the root form, meaning to be divided, "PERES—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians."  Now that last word is interesting because there's a paronomasia there, there's a pun there because all you would have is the consonants, the PRS and PERES would look the same as Parse; Parse is the word for Persians.  So there was a little double entendre there to get their attention, "divided and given over to the Medes and the Persians.  "…your kingdom has been divided," God is going to put an end to it and it is being divided; that doesn't mean that it is being divided in terms of split up but that it is being destroyed, it is being shattered.  "…your kingdom had been shattered and given over to the Medes and Persians."

 

This is the announcement of judgment; apparently Belshazzar had a little poise and decided, perhaps with a little tongue in cheek irony, considering that Daniel had just announced the empire… he thought well, it's not going to fall tonight and so he is going to go ahead and reward Daniel.  At the very time that he is rewarding Daniel the armies of Cyrus, under his commander Gobrius, are outside the walls of Babylon.  They built a dam which caused the water to flow off into another area, into a lake area, one that actually had been established years earlier when the Babylonians had done the same thing in order to build the canal through the city.  So when they diverted the river all of a sudden they had a dry walkway to come into the city and they brought their armies under the gates on the river bed that had been tiled and bricked by the Babylonians themselves.  So little did they know… and that's the irony of history, is that years earlier they had diverted the river and then they had tiled the entire river way so they could have a smooth canal, and later on the Persians did the same thing and now they had a dry river bed to bring their soldiers in on and at the very time this is taking place you could almost hear the rattle of swords and shields as the Persian army is coming up and entering into the palace to take control. 

 

So at that very time Belshazzar was clothing Daniel with purple, putting the necklace of gold around his neck, and he issues a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.  Unfortunately that did not last long because the last verse in the chapter states that, [31] "That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain."  Belshazzar the king was slain. 

 

Now this brings us historically to the end of an important era in Israel's history or almost to the end of that era.  This is in 539 BC and in just three years, in 536 BC Cyrus is going to issue a decree for the Jews to go back into the land.  This will end, his decree, will end the exile.  We have a 70 year exile from 586-516 marks the period of the temple being down.  The temple is destroyed in 586, rebuilt in 516.  The first exile goes out with Daniel in 605 and the first return occurs in 536 and it is during the period of this exile that we have been studying in Daniel that God taught some vital principles to Israel.  The first focuses on the sovereignty of God, that God is sovereign and God runs history and He runs history according to His principles and not according to man's principles, and that even though the Jews look at God as their God and tried to control him, God demonstrates to them during the exile that He is sovereign over the Jew and over the Gentile.  And it is during that time that they begin to have a bigger picture of God, that God controls human history.

 

The second thing that they learned as a result of God's sovereignty is that God is in control even in the midst of chaos, that no matter how horrible things look, no matter hopeless things look, no matter how disastrous things look and no matter how out of control things may appear in our own lives at times, God is still in control.  Even in the midst of chaos God is still in control and this leads to the third point which has to do with God's revelation because God is going to reveal to them that there was a future for Israel and that God ultimately would restore Israel to the land and would bless them as He has promised in the Mosaic Covenant.  So these three doctrines are emphasized in these first five chapters of Daniel as well as a fourth, and that is that there can be real success in a pagan environment based on application of doctrine.  Israel is outside the land and just as Israel is outside the land, we are, as believers in the Church Age, we are living in the devil's world, and just as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego had real success because they applied doctrine consistently in the midst of a pagan environment, we too as believers living in the pagan environment of our modern western culture and America at the beginning of the 21st century we can have success.  Even though our kids have to go to a secular school where they are taught all kinds of concepts that are contrary to the Word of God, if that is countered in the home by the teaching of the parents, then those kids can learn doctrine and they can have the foundation for success in life. 

 

So it is those four points that are emphasized again and again to the Jews during the exile.  As we wrap up tonight, as we've come to this point in our study of Daniel, I want us to close by looking as a Psalm that was written during the exile and I think this is a Psalm that perhaps has some elements in it that can help you when you pray, pray for our nation in this time of war.  Turn to Psalm 137.  This is a Psalm written by the Jews, by someone, during the time of the exile, while they were outside of the land under divine judgment.  This is a well-known lament Psalm.  They are facing a crisis and they are calling out to God in order to resolve the crisis and deliver them.  The lament section begins in verses 1-4 where the Psalmist recalls his Babylonian experience of frustration.  Here he's focusing on the adversity he's facing.

Psalm 137:1 "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept," they're in captivity.  They've lost their homes, they've lost their families, they've lost everything.  Now they are in a foreign land, they're having to listen to others in a foreign language, they're missing everything that they love and everything that is familiar to them.  "There we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion."  As they focused on all that they had, everything that God had given them in grace, all of the security that they had, the homes that they had, the material possessions that they had, the family and friends that they had and perhaps they were killed in the assault.  "There we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.  [2] Upon the willows in the midst of it we hung our harps.  [3] For there our captors demanded of us songs," and see, at that point, when they say they "hung their harps," they're not going to sing any more, they're going to put away their musical instruments because there's no joy in the soul and as they face the adversity they responded with depression and sorrow and the last thing they want to do is sing, much less sing for their captors songs about the joys of Zion.

 

Psalm 137:3, the captives were demanding entertainment from the captives, "For there our captors demanded of us songs, and our tormentors mirth, saying, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.'"  So they're really making fun of them, they're ridiculing them, they're abusing them verbally and they abused them physically.  Just think of any situation where after a military conquest you have prisoners taken away into another land.  You can imagine all the various forms of physical, sexual and psychological abuse that there was.  Then starting in verse 4 the psalmist questions how they can ever have joy, there's a metaphor here, "How can we sing the LORD's song," isn't simply how can we sing again, but "How can we ding the LORD's song," or how can we praise God again, we've been defeated, we've been destroyed, God has let this horrible thing happen to us and we are taken to a foreign land, how can we ever trust God again.  And that's a theme that runs through these lament Psalms again and again, you sense the honesty of this individual with God.

 

See, many of us are afraid to really question God when we pray.  We're afraid to challenge God when we pray.  When we get on hard times we say God, how can You let this happen to me, how can You claim to love me, how can You claim to be just, how in the world can You let this happen in my life right now, I just don't understand, I'm going to the Word and I'm looking at these passages and I can't correlate what's happening in my life with what Your word says; help me understand that.  See, we have this idea that if we come to God and challenge Him like that that somehow that's being disrespectful, and yet again and again and again the psalmist does that.  The writers of Scripture do that.  God would rather have us honestly questioning Him out of our frustration and our aggravation with life than to come to God with some pusillanimous weak wimpy thing, oh God, I'm going to trust you, You're so great, when we don't mean it, when at the core of our being we wonder how in the world can God let this happen to me.  God wants us to be honest even if it means admitting that we don't understand and we're somewhat frustrated with Him.  And that's what's going on; they say how in the world can we ever praise God again when He's taken us out of the land.  You know it's something like what we see with Naomi in our study on Ruth, she's honest with God about the trauma and the travails that she's going through.  Job was the same way. 

 

Verse 4, "How can we sing the LORD's song in a foreign land?"  And then he shifts gears starting in verse 5 which begins his focus on doctrine and he begins to lead toward the ultimate praise section and confidence section at the end of it, and that's the point, if we're not honest about our frustration with God and our lack of understanding with what's going on then we're not going to get to the point where we can see how doctrine applies to the situation.  And you see that again and again as the psalmist focuses on his heartache, on his difficulty with understanding what's going on in his own life, what's going on in the life of the nation, it's only when he's honest and expressing that frustration that it begins to dawn on him how doctrine applies to the situation.

 

He says, Psalm 137:5, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill.  [6] May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I to not exalt Jerualsem above my chief joy."  See, he goes down into the pits and in verse 4 it's how can I ever have joy again and he begins to realize at that point that God is eternal and infinite, God's plan goes on, Jerusalem is still there, it will be restored, and he begins to recognize that if I ever forget Jerusalem then I'm really in trouble, and "I will praise Jerusalem above my chief joy," at the end of verse 6. 

 

And then he focuses on the Lord, this is the first time he specifically addressed the Lord in this Psalm.  Psalm 137:7, "Remember, O LORD," he calls on the Lord to remember his travail, to remember his adversity, to not forget him in the midst of his trauma and to execute justice.  He calls upon God as the supreme judge of heaven and earth to vindicate him in the midst of his circumstances.  And this is what's called an imprecatory Psalm because he is going to call upon God to curse and judge the enemies of Israel, and I want you to watch how he does this because this is legitimate; when we understand the plan and purposes of God in history it is still legitimate to call down the curse of God on the enemies of believers and the enemies of Israel. 

 

Remember, especially in light of this whole terrorist situation today, that Israel is still at the heart of the conflict.  One of the reasons that the extremists, the fundamentalist Muslims are against the United States is because the United States stands behind Israel.  They know that Israel is just the branch of the tree and that if they are going to destroy that branch they need to destroy the trunk of that tree, and that's the United States and Western Europe which has basically allowed Israel to be reestablished in the land.  And that is an affront to Islam; Islam is on a crusade, according to the Koran they are to conquer the world, and the very fact that they have lost ground continuously since the end of the 15th century, and now that Israel is back in the land this is considered by them an affront to Allah, and so they must do whatever it takes in order to get Israel out of the land, just to restore to themselves honor and prestige of Allah.  So they are the enemies of Israel, the enemies of God, the God that they worship is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it's not the God of the Christians and they are in enemies of the cross and enemies of the Old Testament. 

 

So there is just as much a legitimacy to pray down an imprecatory curse on the radical Muslims as it was for the Jews during the exile to pray down a curse on the Babylonians, and I want you to notice what the text says.  Psalm 137:7, "Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom the day of Jerusalem, who said, 'Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation,'" that is those among the Babylonians who were crying for the complete destruction of Jerusalem to burn it to the ground.

[8] "O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, how blessed will be the one who repays you," see, he's calling upon God, the supreme court of heaven to bring vindication and vengeance against Babylon.  "…with the recompense with which you have repaid us," in other words, an eye for an eye, he is going to call down judgment upon the Babylonians.  Verse 9, "How blessed will be the one," notice this, "who seizes and dashes your babies against the rock." That's the final curse here.  This is writing under the inspiration of the… you know, C. S. Lewis had problems with this, he said this can't be under the Holy Spirit, he wanted to cut these imprecatory Psalms out of the Bible because he didn't understand how they could be from God.  But they are, if you put it in the context of the Abrahamic Covenant.  God promised Abraham, those who bless you I will bless and those who curse you, and the first word for "curse" means to treat lightly, I will seriously judge.  Those who curse you I will curse, and so the psalmist here is simply recalling to God's mind the Abrahamic Covenant, that You said You would curse those who curse You, well look how they have treated us; an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  They came in and they destroyed our babies, they destroyed our children, they burned Jerusalem to the ground, now it's time for you God, for the supreme court of heaven to execute judgment against the Babylonians, kill their babies, do everything. 

 

We ought to be praying that, that is a legitimate prayer for believers during a time of war, especially in this kind of a situation where we are faced with an enemy who is an enemy of Israel, and an enemy of believers, and trust me, the radical Islamic fundamentalists view this as a religious war and they are out to destroy the Christians.  Now in their view anybody in the west is a Christian, it doesn't matter if you're an atheist, a Hindu, a Buddhist, if you're in the United States or Western Europe, in their viewpoint you are a Christian.  And that is part of their creed, is to destroy the Jews on Saturday because they are the people who worship on Saturday, and to destroy the Christians on Sunday because they're the people who worship on Sunday.  And that is their motto and that's their creed and that's what they're working off of.  And so this is a religious war and we are justified in praying an imprecatory curse down on the enemies of the United States and the enemies of Israel in this war.