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779 Elmont Road - Elmont, New York 11003

THE LIFE & DEATH OF KING BELSHAZZAR


Text: DANIEL 5:1-9


INTRODUCTION:


  1. Last few weeks I preached on King Nebuchadnezzar, and referred a couple of times to his grandson, King Belshazzar. I realized that I have not preached about Belshazzar in a long time.
  2. Between chapter 4 and chapter 5 a period of about 23 years transpired. By this time Daniel was an old man, but he was still well-known and highly respected in the land of Babylon (cf. 5:11, 12).
  3. I mentioned last week that the Babylonians gave Daniel a Babylonish name, Belteshazzar, after one of the Babylonian gods, Bel (cf. Daniel 4:8).
  4. Belshazzar’s name is very similar. According to the Scofield Bible, Belshazzar’s name means, "Bel protect the king."
  5. Belshazzar was the eldest son and co-regent of Nabonidus, who is not mentioned in the Bible (cf. Dan. 5:7, 29). Nabonidus was an archaeologist and frequently traveled, leaving his son in charge of the kingdom.
  6. According to the ancient Babylonian records, Belshazzar became co-regent in the third year of his father’s reign and continued in that capacity till the fall of Babylon (cf. Dan. 5:30, 31). This was about 539 BC.
  7. When people think of King Belshazzar, they invariably think of
    "the writing on the wall" (5:5).
  1. THE WICKEDNESS OF KING BELSHAZZAR (5:1-4).
    1. Right away we see that this was a big drinking party (5:1-4; cf. Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-35; Isaiah 5:11, 12, 22).
    2. The curse of alcohol has ruined millions of lives. Have you ever noticed how they’re cracking down on the cigarette smokers but they go pretty easy on the drinking crowd?
    3. Elmont is cursed by booze. Right down the block is a beer store. Next door is a nightclub. Down on the next street is a wine and liquor store. Every Sunday morning I have to go around picking up empty bottles from the front of our church.
    4. My prayer to God is that He shakes Elmont upside down and sinners repent and multitudes are saved. Wouldn’t it be great to see these wicked establishments closed down?
    5. Wouldn’t it be great to see some drunkard pour his bottle down the drain, come to church and get saved?
    6. Booze helped bring down the mighty Babylonian Empire, and booze may help bring down America. By the way, 200 years later, in this same city of Babylon (in this same banquet hall?), Alexander the Great, at the age of 33, dropped dead in a drunken debauchery.
    7. So King Belshazzar was drunk, and the more he drank the more foolish he became (5:1-4). It was bad enough that Belshazzar rejected the true God of the Bible, but to make matters worse, he blasphemed God by defiling the golden and silver vessels from the temple in Jerusalem (5:2, 3).
    8. King Belshazzar was not only an immoral drunkard and a blasphemer, he was also an idolater (5:4). The Bible says, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" (Exodus 20:4).
    9. This party took place over 2,500 years ago but it could have happened last night. The sins that brought down Babylon will some day take down America – materialism, worldliness, atheism, idolatry, drunkenness, licentiousness, and pride – seven horrible sins. I was thinking of doing a series on these seven sins that brought down Babylon, and Greece, and Rome, and now England, and someday America, but I do not know if my poor heart can take it. It is sad, pitifully sad and heartbreaking.
  1. GOD’S JUDGMENT UPON KING BELSHAZZAR (5:5-16).
    1. This must have been quite a scene! The worldly music must have stopped. The loud laughing and talking must have stopped. All eyes were on the hand writing in the wall (5:5).
    2. "Then the king’s countenance was changed…" (5:6). One minute he was laughing and drinking with his worldly friends and his many wives and concubines, and the next minute his knees are knocking (5:6).
    3. The Bible says, "Be sure your sin will find you out" (Num. 32:23).
    4. If a man would have walked into the room and started preaching, King Belshazzar would have thrown him out. But what could he do about a hand?
    5. Lost sinners can avoid Bible preachers; and throw away Gospel tracts; and ignore the Bible – but when the handwriting is on the wall, their knees will start knocking just like King Belshazzar’s.
    6. The astrologers and soothsayers and none of the wise men of Babylon could help King Belshazzar (5:7-9). He should have remembered: they were unable to help his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2 & 4).
    7. Now the queen enters the banquet house (5:10). She had apparently stayed away during all of the debauchery. She now speaks up and says, "O king, live for ever…" (5:10). How ironic – that very night Belshazzar would be killed by the Median army (5:30, 31).
    8. The queen said, "There is a man…" (5:11). God always has a man – a Daniel or a David or a Moses or an apostle Paul or a John the Baptist.
    9. The queen told King Belshazzar to call upon Daniel (5:11-16). It is interesting to note that Daniel was not at this party (cf. 5:1; 1:8). You can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps, and by the company he doesn’t keep.
  1. THE DEMISE OF KING BELSHAZZAR (5:16-31).
    1. I have already mentioned the queen’s greeting, "O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed" (5:10). The queen spoke comforting words to the frightened king but it was too late for that. She should have said, "O king, prepare to meet thy God!"
    2. Oftentimes friends and relatives will go to visit some one who is dying in the hospital, and they will say, "Oh, you look great!" {they don’t look great} and, "You’ll be out of here in no time!" {Yes, out on a stretcher to the morgue}. Then the priest or the rabbi or the unsaved minister will come into the room and mumble some prayers and say, "Everything is OK. You will be with God," etc.
    3. But everything IS NOT OK. The Bible says those without Christ will spend eternity weeping and wailing in a horrible place called hell.
    4. The queen should have said to Belshazzar, "O king, It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).
    5. There was at least one man in Babylon who told the king the truth. Daniel was called for and Daniel arrived. He politely told the worldly king that he was not interested in his rewards (5:16, 17). III John 7 says "that for His name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles."
    6. Then Daniel reminded Belshazzar of how God chastened his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar (5:18-21).
    7. Next Daniel rebuked King Belshazzar – "And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this" (5:22). What a fearful indictment! (5:23).
    8. Daniel gave it to him straight – Belshazzar was proud and arrogant. He was a blasphemer. He was a drunkard, an idolater. He would not give God the glory and so he had to face the judgment of God (5:23-28).
    9. What a scene this must have been as Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall – the worldly music and laughing quickly stopped; the proud king is now just another condemned sinner ready to die.
    10. I think the saddest thing on earth is the death of a lost sinner. Slipping off into eternity without God, without hope, without anything or anyone to help them. What could be more terrible than being cast off into the fires of hell and hearing all the shrieking and weeping and wailing of the damned.
    11. The writing was interpreted (5:24, 25):
    • MENE (5:26) – Your number is up! Belshazzar, the party is over – it is time to leave. God "hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it" (5:26). That very moment the Medes and Persians were marching into the city.
    • TEKEL (5:27) – God has perfect scales. People say, "If my good works outweigh my bad deeds, I’ll make it to heaven." Where in the Bible does it say that? (cf. Isaiah 64:6).
    • PERES (5:28) – God is the One who raises up kings and nations, and God is the One that brings down kings and nations. This was the end of the great Babylonian Empire, and this was the end of King Belshazzar (5:29-31).
    1. Many poems have been written about the death of King Belshazzar. Lord Byron wrote these words:

Belshazzar’s grave is made, his kingdom pass’d away,

He, in the balance weighed, is light and worthless clay;

The shroud his robe of state, his canopy the stone.

The Mede is at his gate! The Persian on his throne!

    1. And Edwin Arnold wrote this:

The night they slew him on his father’s throne,

The deed unnoticed and the hand unknown;

Crownless and sceptreless Belshazzar lay,

A robe of purple, round a form of clay.

CONCLUSION:

  1. Some day, each and every person in this room will be weighed in the balances (5:27). Are you ready?
  2. The great evangelist, D.L. Moody, preached a message called "Weighed in the Balance," and at the conclusion he said these words: "You may ask me then how I am ready to be weighed. If I step into the scales tonight the Son of God will step into the scales with me. I would not dare to go into them without Him."
  3. Unsaved friend, as far as God is concerned you are just as lost as old King Belshazzar. You may not be a drunkard like Belshazzar. You may not be a blasphemer like Belshazzar.
  4. In fact, you may have many good qualities. People might even think you are a Christian. But in your heart you know you have never been born again. You need to get things right with God today (cf. Rev. 20:11-15).

At the feast of Belshazzar,

And a thousand of his lords,

While they drank from golden vessels,

As the book of Truth records –

In the night as they reveled,

In the royal palace hall,

They were seized with consternation –

‘Twas the writing on the wall!

See the brave captive Daniel,

As he stood before the throng,

And rebuked the haughty monarch,

For his mighty deeds of wrong;

As he interpreted the writing –

‘Twas the doom of one and all,

For the kingdom now was finished –

Said the writing on the wall!

So our deeds are recorded,

There’s a Hand that’s writing now:

Sinner, give your heart to Jesus,

To His royal mandates bow;

For the day is soon approaching –

It must come to one and all,

When the sinner’s condemnation,

Will be written on the wall!


Pastor James J. Barker
email:   jbarker4@optonline.net