Daniel 017: The Folly of False SecurityDaniel 5:24-31 • Dr. Andy Woods • March 26, 2017 • Daniel
Andy Woods SUGAR LAND BIBLE CHURCH Lesson 17, The Folly of False Security, Daniel 5:24-31 March 26 2017
If we could take our Bibles and open them to the book of Daniel, chapter 5, beginning at verse 24. The title of our message this morning is The Folly of False Security, as I’m putting my false in electronics, that’s a very relevant message, isn’t it? Daniel 5:24, as God allows it we’re going to try to make it through the end of the chapter today. And if you didn’t have a chance to participate in the women’s luncheon yesterday I would STRONGLY encourage you to take a look at Rachael Miler’s testimony, which begins at about the 36 minute mark, if you want to move fast. And it’s just a tremendous testimony that she gave about God’s grace, because I think a lot of time we feel that we’re disqualified from His grace because of sins that we’ve done or maybe sins that we’re doing now. And it was just a tremendous testimony about how God reached out in grace and restored her and as Rachael will tell you, she has no corner on God and the grace that He bestowed upon her He wants to bestow on anybody and literally rebuilt her life, which was in shambles, as a Christian her life was in shambles.
Did you guys all know that, that as a Christian your life can get messed up? And what do we do then? We have a tendency to stay away from God because we say Lord, I’ve blown it and You’re done with me and actually the opposite is true. Really, when we get to the end of ourselves God is most interested in working with us because that’s when we’re humble and we’re ready to do things His way instead of our own. So I strongly encourage you to watch or listen to Rachael’s testimony.
Of course we are in the book of Daniel; Daniel was a very special prophet of God who was raised up by God during a very difficult time in the nation’s history when the nation was in captivity. God raises up Daniel to explain this time period prophetically and he functions a lot like a role model, teaching people how to live for God in the devil’s world.
We have navigated our way through chapter 1 and once you hit chapter 2 the language switches from Hebrew to Aramaic. Now there’s going to be some Aramaic words we’re going to read here in the passage; did you notice Ed read those? And I said Ed, we’ve got to get together and work on the pronunciation of these, the operating theory being if we both equally mispronounce them the same way no one will know the difference, right?
Chapter 2 was the revelation of Gentile history in the form of a giant statue, when Daniel was 17. That’s going to come up again here, as we’re going to see Daniel’s prophecy, given as a 17 year old, come to pass in this chapter, when he’s in his 80’s. There’s a divine rescue operation in chapter 3, Gog; chapter 4, reveals himself to a Gentile king, Nebuchadnezzar, and now in chapter 5 God is again revealing Himself to a Gentile king, this time a man not named Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar is past, but a man named Belshazzar. God dealt with Nebuchadnezzar in grace, as we’re studying he deals with Belshazzar in judgment.
These events happened October 12, 539 B.C., Saturday night (that’s pretty specific, isn’t it) according to the great chronologist Harold Hoehner, who could probably give you the exact second that Adam received his bellybutton. [Laughter] He could chronologize anything in the Bible. I’m not sure how he did it but he sounded good doing it so he must be right. Daniel is in his early 80’s at this time, he’s toward the end of his life, and really this chapter can be divided into four parts.
You have different contributions. First you have Belshazzar’s contribution which is total disrespect for God, as he takes the holy vessels of God that have been brought from the temple to Babylonia and uses them for profane purposes, a drunken party. Then you have God’s contribution to the feast and it has to do with handwriting on a wall; we’re not told the content yet of that handwriting but it startled everybody in the room to see this hand come out of nowhere and write on the wall; that’s in verses 5-6. And where we left off last time is part 3, Daniel’s contribution to the feast. Daniel is announcing doom here; there’s no grace, as there was with Nebuchadnezzar, there’s just a warning of doom which is going to be meted out this very night.
The “wise men” (I put that in quotation marks) tried to interpret the handwriting on the wall, and as you can imagine they got nowhere, which is common for these wise men; they’re bankrupt because they’re not tapped into the right source of power—God. They’re tapped into all kinds of other things, so they can’t make heads nor tails of this handwriting on the wall.
They remember this man, Daniel, though, who’s been in the kingdom for a long time, at least 60 years, and as a youth, as a 17 year old and as a 40 year old he had the capacity to interpret troubling dreams that beset Belshazzar’s predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel shows up and Daniel is not very, what I would call seeker friendly here; he launches into an immediate rebuke. He rejects the king’s offering of a reward, verse 17. He reminds the king of what happened to Nebuchadnezzar, verses 18-21. And he rehearses Belshazzar’s sins.
Belshazzar’s four sins that he had committed against God are described there in verse 23, which we covered last week, but his major sin is he should have known better, verse 22. He had the historical record before him, he should have known where pride leads simply by studying the life of his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, and he chose to be ignorant of that information. There are a lot of people today that are ignorant of spiritual things and many times they want to be; they deliberately shut themselves off from truth. And the way God is dealing with Belshazzar is God is saying I am holding you accountable for information you know or should have known through due diligence. And God is like that with people, particularly people here in the United States who any time they want can have access to the gospel and the Bible. God is holding them accountable for what they know or what they choose not to know.
And this leads to, now, Daniel actually interpreting the handwriting on the wall which he does there in verses 24-28. Notice the message that was on the wall, these strange words. It says, verse 24, “Then the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written out.  Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UFARSIN.’” These are Aramaic terms; they represent parts of speech. First of all the word MENE, what does that mean? It means to number. So literally what this says is numbered number, and the reason number is repeated is to add emphasis. And then you come to this second word, TEKEL, which in Aramaic means to be found light, to be weighed in the scales of justice and to be found wanting. And then you notice the letter “U” which is a conjunction, like how we would say “and,” and then it ended with this ward UFARSIN, which means to divide.
So literally what this said on the wall is NUMBERED, NUMBERED, WEIGHED AND DIVIDED. Now what does that mean? We don’t know, it’s just words on a wall. But Daniel is able to not only translate it, he’s able to explain its meaning and we get to the meaning there in verses 26-28 and notice what it says there beginning in verse 26, “This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.  “ ‘TEKEL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.  “ ‘PERES’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”
What does the whole thing mean, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UFARSIN? Well, notice verse 26, it says, “This is the interpretation….” You might remember the giant statue in chapter 2; Daniel again there said, “Now we will tell its interpretation,” Daniel 2:36. “You” Nebuchadnezzar “are the head of gold.” [Daniel 2:36, “This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king.  You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory;  and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold.”]
You might remember the tree that was cut down in chapter 4, the vision that Nebuchadnezzar saw. It says, “Now you Belshazzar” that would be a reference to Daniel, his pagan name, “tell me its interpretation. [Daniel 4:8, “But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him, saying,  ‘O Belshazzar, chief of the magicians, since I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell me the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation. Daniel 4:8-9]
Notice the repetition of “interpretation,” all the way through the book of Daniel. The reason I bring this up is the Bible interprets itself. When you see something puzzling in the Bible it’s just a matter of exercising patience and waiting to the point in time when the Holy Spirit interprets the vision for us. And I find that many people today, particularly on You Tube, (I don’t recommend you get your theology these days from You Tube), are coming up with some of the strangest views I’ve ever heard. They can tell you exactly what the ten toes represent, they can tell you what the ten toenails represent, maybe if there’s fungus between the toes they could tell you what that represents, and people go on and on and on with these interpretations and you listen to it and they sound interesting but where are they getting this from? The answer is they’re getting it from their own mind; they’re making it up as they go. They might fit well on the Supreme Court these days, by the way.
But we ought not to be that way with the Bible; we ought to be patient with the Bible, we ought to be humble about the Bible, we ought to let the Bible interpret itself which it will for you if we simply exercise patience. Many times in the same context the vision will be interpreted. In fact, the late great Dr. John Walvoord, of Dallas Theological Seminary, in his commentary on The Book of Revelation, identifies twenty-six times where a symbol is used and yet the book of Revelation will interpret the symbol for the reader. So God has not given us a book of puzzles to confuse us, He is speaking through these things. He wants us to understand these things. In fact, remember what the opening word is in the book of Revelation? It’s “The Revelation,” which is a Greek word apokalopsis, which means to unveil or to disclose. [Revelation 1:1, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John,”]
God has not written a book that only some people can understand; He’s written a disclosure. And yes, some of the material we’re studying is very symbolic but even that difficult symbolic material is interpreted for us. There’s no need to rely upon the sanctified imagination to interpret the Bible; allow the Bible to interpret itself.
So what is meant by these words? MENE means numbered, and what that means according to verse 26-28 is the duration, Belshazzar of your kingdom is about to end. Your kingdom has been numbered, it’s not going to last forever, it’s about to end. It’s going to come to a screeching halt, as we will see today, in verses 30-31. And he says that twice because God is emphasizing that your kingdom will not last forever.
It is interesting that when you study ancient empires and the writings that come from ancient empires, every person that was involved in an ancient empire generally believed that their empire would never end, their kingdom would never end. Even Adolf Hitler, his kingdom was supposed to last a thousand years, the Third Reich. And human pride is such that we think we’re going to be here forever and what we’ve built will last forever. In reality our days and even our kingdoms that we are involved in, our manmade kingdoms may be far more numbered or of shorter duration than we think.
‘TEKEL’ means to be weighed. Belshazzar had been weighed in the scales of God’s justice and found wanting. God had taken this man, Belshazzar, and weighed his heart, weighed his life, and found him to fall short. Why? Because of the four sins of verse 23, [23, “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 all your ways, you have not glorified.”] That he should have known better, verse 22. [22, “Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this.”]
So Belshazzar wasn’t getting away with anything as he was having this drunken bash God was weighing his life in His scales. The “U” is the conjunction which means and, and “FARSIN” means to divide. And what this means is Belshazzar’s kingdom was about to be given over to the Medes and the Persians, which was an empire which was divided, The Medo-Persian Empire.
Babylon was about to be divided amongst this divided kingdom that as Belshazzar was receiving this vision the Persian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire was right outside the city gates, but because of the walls of Babylon Belshazzar thought he was invincible and that’s why he’s partying as if there’s no tomorrow. In reality he was far more vulnerable than what he even understood. Now it is interesting that from the word FARSIN, the plural is PERES; PERES is a word play from Persian. So God, by using this word PERES, is not only speaking of division but He is making a reference to, through a word play, to the empire that’s coming to cause the division, the Persian Empire. So what all of this means, according to Daniel’s interpretation, is Belshazzar’s kingdom was about to be taken away from him because he had been weighed in the balance of God’s justice and found wanting, and this very night, as we will see, your kingdom is going to be divided.
One of the great distinctives of Christianity is the idea that this life ends in judgment. We don’t simply get reincarnated and recycled endlessly, as some teach; there is a definitive judgment that is on the horizon, not just for the unbeliever, by the way, but also for the believer. The believer’s judgment is not to hold us accountable for our sins, that sin debt has been paid the moment we trust in Christ, but God evaluates our lives, how we spent them in Christ in terms of giving or not giving us rewards above and beyond heaven.
So both the believer and the unbeliever there is an immediate judgment that follows in the next life. And this is a judgment that God is manifesting here, to this man, Belshazzar. Acts 17:31 says this: “because He” that Jesus, “has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
The bottom line is people can meet Jesus as their Savior now or their Judge later. Who do you want to deal with? The Lamb or the lion? The fact of the matter is our sin debt is going to be judged one way or the other; it’s going to be judged by what Jesus did for us on the cross 2,000 years ago or we will find ourselves under the wrath of God for all eternity, having died in unbelief.
Hebrews 9:27 puts it this way: “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” the judgment of God, an absolute reality to biblical truth and the Christian world view. In fact, one of the verses that brings many, many people to Christ is Revelation 20:11-15, depiction of the Great White Throne Judgment, which is a judgment for unbelievers. And it is a frightening scene to behold, and it’s designed to be frightening because God is telling us that if we find ourselves by faith in Christ we need not appear in that horrific judgment, the judgment of God.
[Revelation 20:11-15, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.  Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”]
Now when you watch the Discovery Channel, Mysteries of the Bible, A and E, The History Channel, what they will try to sell you on is this idea that the book of Daniel is not written in the sixth century B.C. but it was written in the second century B.C. And Daniel really wasn’t written by Daniel, it was written by someone using the name Daniel. And the liberal mind has to go this direction because the prophecies that Daniel gave they think are just too accurate to be true. How could Daniel have known these things ahead of time? This must be somebody pretending to be Daniel using the forged name Daniel, reflecting on history and pretending it’s prophecy. That is the common liberal interpretation of the book of Daniel. They have a big problem though with that.
In fact, they have many problems but let me give you one. Then who are the four empires? Remember the statue that was seen in Daniel 2, the head of gold, empire one, Babylon; chest and arms of silver, empire two, Medo-Persia; belly and thighs of brass, empire three, Greece; legs of iron, empire number four, Rome itself; feet mixed with iron and clay, empire five, the kingdom of the antichrist that is yet future. Empire number five, I hope I got my numbers right there, the stone cut without human hands which is the kingdom of God that will come one day at the end of the tribulation period. We have no problem explaining this from a sixth century point of view, do we? Four empires historical, two empires future; Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome have passed but there’s a coming Revived Rome and then there will be a coming kingdom of the antichrist. I think I said five empires, I really mean six don’t I? No problem.
But you see, if you date this book in the days of Greece, which is what the liberals do, then where are you going to get your four empires from, because as I count backward I only count three: Greece, back to Medo-Persia, back to Babylon. Their answer to that is this: well, really you have Babylon, then Media, then Persia, then Greece, and so there’s our four empires. But notice the way this text reads; look at verse 28, “‘PERES’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”’ Media is not one empire and Persia another, it’s the same empire. They would come into existence simultaneously and be divided.
You’ll notice also in verse 30-31, it says, “So Darius” a man we haven’t mentioned yet, the what, “the Mede” part of that Medo-Persian Empire, “received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.” The fact of the matter is you can’t make Media one empire and Persia another empire; it’s the exact same empire. And so once people understand that then you’ll begin to understand that the liberals really don’t have the four empires that they need, their abracadabra notwithstanding.
As we move into verse 29, after this handwriting is interpreted, Belshazzar tries to make good on his promise. At least he’s a man of honor in that sense, and he tries to reward Daniel. It says this, verse 29, “Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.” A lot of good that’s going to do, I mean, what does it do to be promoted to a kingdom that’s about to disintegrate?
And it is interesting to me that Daniel has been faithful to God. Do we understand that Daniel’s life is always on the line with these prophecies? Given the monarchs of the Ancient Near East we know that they could have beheaded or destroyed or killed Daniel at any time, and yet Daniel was more interested in the truth of God and relaying the truth of God than he was in his own survival. Does that describe you? Does that describe me? Are we more zealous for God’s truth than we are our own preservation. Gee, I’d better not speak up too much about Jesus on social media, I’d better not speak up about Jesus in the workplace because I might fall into disfavor with my pagan boss. Or I’d better not raise my hand too much in class and talk about Jesus Christ because after all, the professor could give me a bad grade. I could fail the class, I’d have a bad grade on my transcript, I won’t be able to get into the graduate school that I want to get into, and these are questions that we deal with every single day concerning our stand for Christ.
From personal experience as somebody who has been in the same trenches you are in I have discovered this in my life that when you stand up for God in a polite way, in a tactful way, in a Spirit-led way, following His leading and His guidance God has a way of taking care of us. Well, what if I lose my job? Maybe God wants you to have a better job.
The Bible teaches this is Matthew 6:33, test this and see if it is not true in your life, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and” what? “all these things will be” what? withheld from you, it doesn’t say that, “will be added to you.” Well what things is Christ talking about there in Matthew 6? The things that we’re always worried about, our perseveration, our survival, what are we going to eat, what are we going to drink, what are we going to wear, what kind of clothing are we going to have, are our needs going to be met. And Christ says seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things that we’re so focused on and have a tendency to put first will naturally be supplied by the Lord.
Daniel is a tremendous role model because we’re now in chapter 5, where he has done this over and over again, he has stood for God as a young man and now as an old man, and isn’t it interesting how Daniel keeps getting promoted, he keeps standing out, he keeps being provided for. The same exact pattern is here as Belshazzar, this corrupt king now issues and lavishes upon Daniel a reward, even though as we’re going to discover that reward won’t be very long-lasting.
We now move into the final part of the book where we have Darius’ contribution to the feast, which is the conquest of Babylon, outside, this Saturday night, October 12, 539 B.C., outside of Babylon’s walls was the enemy. The Babylonians never thought that they would be conquered by this particular enemy but the handwriting on the wall revealed that they would, and verses 30-31 is a description of that conquest. Notice, if you will, verse 30, as we read about Belshazzar’s death. “That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean” that’s another name for a Babylonian, “was slain” He was killed. It is interesting to me that in the long run if things do not go well for the person that lives their life as if God didn’t exist, oh, it may seem from the human perspective as if they’re getting ahead from the human vantage point but the reality of the situation is when compared to what they will face in eternity, whatever victories they may have gained in this life are extremely short-lived.
Proverbs 13:15 says, “…but the way of transgressors is hard.” [KJV] To live one’s life against the principles of God makes life difficult because you are living outside of the protective care of God, outside of the protective custody of God, you’re living outside of the principles that the Creator Himself has designed, and so life becomes difficult, finances can become difficult, emotions can become difficult, relationships can become difficult. Even as Christians much of the suffering we experience, not all suffering but much of it we bring on ourselves because we’ve made a choice to go back into the sin nature and “the wages of sin is” what? “death.” [Romans 6:23] Sin brings a consequence, it brings a price tag; the price tag is around long after the brief pleasure that we enjoyed in sin has long passed.
Belshazzar, this night was in sensuality, disrespecting the vessels of God, pretending like God wasn’t even there, partying as if there was no tomorrow, thinking that he was the one with all the power, all the authority, probably the furthest thing from his mind was that night he was going to die and be slain.
And then what happens in verse 31 is Babylon itself falls. Verse 31 says, “So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.” I’ll show you in just a minute, from some extra-biblical sources how the kingdom was stolen by the Persians from the Babylonians. All they did is they went upstream and they diverted the flow of the Euphrates River allowing the Persians to tunnel, not over the walls of Babylon but what? Underneath the walls of Babylon. And they were conquered in a nanosecond without even so much as a battle. At the time when Belshazzar felt he was the most invincible and invulnerable, the fact of the matter is the ice was melting right beneath his feet. That is the allusion or the folly of a false sense of security. That’s why I’ve entitled this sermon The Folly of False Security.
The fact of the matter is, we are one heartbeat away from eternity. This is what Belshazzar did not recognize. In fact, you might remember back in verse 22, Daniel says to Belshazzar the God who has in your hand your very life and breath and ways you have not honored. [Daniel 5:23b, “But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified.”]
One heartbeat away into eternity and yet many people will not honor, they will not glorify the God that made them. One fatality away from eternity, one thing goes wrong in my body and I am ushered into eternity. How many people do we know, even in this flock, that are here and then their life is quickly taken away; were we surprised when it happens. Why are we surprised? Doesn’t the book of James tell us that life is like mist, it appears for a little while and then it’s gone. Tomorrow morning when you drink your coffee (and you can do that in this church, we’re not Mormons) and you watch the steam rising off your coffee, watch how fast that steam disappears and dissipates. That’s what our lives are like in the hands of an eternal God. And yet most of us don’t think this way; we think we’re so mighty, so strong, so independent, so invincible, so invulnerable.
Now you might be saying well, I’m sure glad we’re through verse 31, I guess we can get out of here early. Well, don’t celebrate yet because I want to make, as God allows it, five points about verse 31. Are you ready for these? Number 1 is the historicity of these events. Look again at verse 31, “So Darius the Mede” that’s the specific name, “received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two,” not sixty-three, not sixty-four, not seventy-two, not sixteen, not forty-six… sixty-two. Look at the specificity of that number? Notice the specificity of this man, he was an actual man. Of the divided kingdom he was more in the median line, he’s called here “Darius the Mede.” That’s why I shared with you the chronology of Harold Hoehner documenting that these things happened on a particular evening at a particular night at a specific time in history. Why does the Bible give us all this information? To show us that this is not some fairytale, nor is it a tall tale, nor is it a legend of some kind, nor is it some kind of bedtime story, like Jack and the Beanstalk, or whatever, or Santa Claus, or the tooth fairy.
These are historical events that happened to real people. The Bible is not primarily a historical book but when it touches upon historical issues, and it does that quite a bit, it is absolutely ironclad in what it says. We don’t read the Bible to get some kind of spiritual message that we apply to ourselves, that’s part of it. But when we read the Bible we’re reading about history and God, through history, is warning us that the same things that happened to these individuals can happen to us if we don’t wise up under Him.
Notice also something we’ve mentioned a little earlier, the folly of the false sense of security. The point at which the Babylonians were most proud of their invincibility is the point in which they were most vulnerable. Who could have imagined what would happen to the United States of America on 9-11. What if I had stood up in pulpit a year before or two years before and said the twin towers, the symbol of American financial prosperity and industry, will be reduced to rubble by what? Some people that hijack airplanes with what? With guns? No, with box cutters. Think about how 9-11 sent a signal across this nation of how vulnerable we really are. Prior to that point in time we had this illusion that nothing could topple America and God is saying look how easy it could happen if I don’t contain this nation with My hand of grace and blessing.
1 Corinthians 10:12 says this: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” If you see yourself as invincible, independent, the master of your own fate, the master of your own destiny, a self-made person, that I would submit to you is the part of your thinking where you become most vulnerable and that’s the time when you ought to be asking God to help you to see things from His vantage point.
The historicity of the events, the folly of false security, we have number three, the reliability of predictive prophecy. Notice how soon these events happened, verse 30, “That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain.” It didn’t take a long time for these things to happen; it took just an evening and these things happened.
Let me tell you something about predictive prophecy. I would not play games if I were you with the predictions of God. One of the things that disturbs me very much in the modern evangelical church is the callousness and the disregard that we treat God’s prophetic Word, in fact, it’s gotten so bad pastors don’t even want to preach on the book of Revelation. I’ve had a number of people come to me during this series and say thank you for covering the book of Daniel, this is the first time I’ve heard this in my whole Christian life. How long have you been a Christian? Twenty years, thirty years, and yet you’ve never heard an exposition on the book of Daniel, in depth like this? What does that tell you? There’s a disease … we’re anemic, we’ve decided to only focus on some parts of the Bible. And yet we do that to great peril because of the reliability of predictive prophecy.
Have you noticed that all of Daniel’s prophecies happened in his lifetime. Daniel 4:28-29 of this says, “All this” that’s Daniel’s prophecy of the tree being cut down, “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.  Twelve months later” here it only took twelve months, “he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon,” and the prophecy began to unfold. You might recall Daniel 2, the head of gold. Daniel, indirectly, predicts as a seventeen year old, sixty years earlier, the demise of the Babylonian Empire which was a worldwide empire, as that empire would give way to the chest and arms of silver, and Daniel there is showing that the days of Babylon are numbered exactly as an older Daniel says here, numbered numbered, weighed in the scales and found wanting. [Daniel 5:27, “‘TEKEL’– you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.”]
And isn’t it interesting that Daniel received this vision when he was about seventeen years old, or interpreted it and at this time it took about sixty years, he’s in his eighties and the whole vision is about to be fulfilled as the chest and arms of silver are going to replace the Babylonian head of gold. Sometimes it takes twelve months, sometimes it takes a night, sometimes it takes sixty years, but the fact of the matter is if God says something is going to happen it’s going to happen. If I were a betting man bet the farm on God because He is omniscient, He cannot lie.
Did Nebuchadnezzar heed this warning? No he did not! In fact, you recall in Daniel 3 he built a statue of complete gold, honoring himself, from head to toe. What does that mean? I’m not sure exactly what it means but here’s my theory: I think Nebuchadnezzar himself was rebelling against what this seventeen year old kid said; the Neo-Babylonian Empire won’t last but a short time, it’ll last forever, in fact, I’ll take my head of gold and expand it to the whole body of the statue. And how wrong he was! Daniel 3:1 talks about that pagan statue that he manufactured. [Daniel 3;1, “Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.”]
And in fact God’s predictive word is so detailed that as these events are happening God is fulfilling yet another prophecy, a prophecy given to Isaiah about 150-200 years in advance where in Isaiah 44:28-45:1 God mentions a man named Cyrus by name, and says this man, Cyrus, is going to be a deliverer of the nation of Israel, Cyrus being a Persian, God was going to bring the nation back into the land after the seventy year deportation through a Persian named Cyrus and not you start to see this prophecy coming into focus because the Persians are now in control, Cyrus being a Persian.
[Isaiah 44:28, “who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundations be laid.’” 45:1, “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:”]
There are many prophecies in the Book of Daniel that are yet future. Why should I believe those? Because I have a track record, I have the track record of history. It would be like me standing in front of you at the free throw line and making nine straight free throws (I don’t think I could do that anymore, I don’t think I ever could really) and I just ask you a question, can I make the tenth one, and of course you’re going to say yes because you can see my track record, if I’ve made nine I’ll probably make the tenth one. That’s what prophecy is; prophecy is a reminder that when God speaks He moves heaven and earth to fulfill His Word because He cannot lie, and if all of His prophecies have happened in such a meticulous nature why wouldn’t the prophecies yet to come also not transpire.
Jesus said this in the Upper Room, John 13:19, “From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.” One chapter later He says, John 14:29, “Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.” The historicity of these events, the folly of false security, the reliability of predictive prophecy, number four, the sovereignty of God. What did God say all the way back in Daniel 2:21, Daniel is praising the Lord for the revelation he did receive, and sixty years later, as a mere teenager Daniel, in his praise to God says this: “…He” that’s God, “removes kings and establishes kings.” [Daniel 2:21, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.”]
What have we just seen sixty years later in Daniel 5? God tells one empire it’s over, and that night He puts into place another empire. What a message of encouragement this would be to the nation of Israel as they’re being trampled down by these various empires during the times of the Gentiles, a reminder to them that these empires, as powerful as they are, as strong as they are. The Neo-Babylonian Empire was no lightweight empire, that was the key empire of the day stretching throughout the known world. Yet these empires are just puppets, silly-putty if you will, in the hands of God. We have a tendency to look at governments of the earth, captains of industry as if they’re somehow invulnerable and invincible and in fact God, by just moving His little finger can change the direction of a business, He can change the direction of a corporation, He can change the direction of a country.
And how foolish we are not to be on our knees praying for people in power. I am extremely pro Christians involved in politics, I will probably preach that until my dying day but the fact of the matter is all of that political activism stuff, that is not the source of our power. I’m not saying it’s wrong to be involved in that, I think we should be involved in that, but if you really want power, if you really want Christian influence in public policy you get on your knees and you begin to pray for people and watch God put one person in power and take another person out of power.
I remember back in California there was this education superintendent, I think his name was Bill Honig, if I remember correctly, and he began to sort of wage a war against, (at that time) The Institute of Creation Research, he began to tamper with their accreditation, and I watched all of the Christians get involved in letter writing (which has its place) voting (which has its place) but I remember I was in a different event with a missionary who was a missionary to another part of the world and he just started to pray; he prayed that this man, who was mocking the things of God, would be removed from his position. And that prayer request, I was very young in the Lord at that time, kind of went in one ear and out the other, and it was about a year or two later that Bill Honig was exposed for all kinds of scandals that he was involved in, all of the scandals that he was involved in came to the surface and he was removed from his position. And immediately when I saw that in the newspaper, this was back in the days when people read newspapers, I immediately remembered the prayer of that missionary and the Lord really used that to impress upon me, don’t get mistaken here as to where true power is, it’s in the sovereign hand of God. Or else why does God tell us over and over again to pray for those that are in positions of authority. So supplement, not replace but supplement your political activism with the true source of power that you have, prayer to a sovereign God.
The historicity of the events, the folly of false security, they reliability of predictive prophecy, the sovereignty of God, one more here, number 5, a reminder of Babylon’s future. Have you ever studied the prophecies related to the destruction of Babylon? Isaiah spoke of these all the way back in 740 B.C. Jeremiah spoke of these all the way back in 680 B.C. long before this handwriting on the wall chapter is discussed. Isaiah describes the fall of Babylon as “the day of the LORD,” he analogizes it to cosmic disturbances, global judgment, it will be equal to the incineration of Sodom and Gomorrah. Once Babylon is destroyed she will never be rebuilt. And then universal peace will break out upon the earth and the nation of Israel will be back in faith.
The fall of Babylon in Isaiah’s prophecies is described as interstellar activity amongst the constellations. In fact, Isaiah says that when Babylon falls man will become scarcer than gold. [Isaiah 13:12, “I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold, and mankind than the gold of Ophir.”] Jeremiah says the same thing, when Babylon falls it will fall suddenly, it will fall completely, in fact it will fall so badly that no one will be able to use Babylon’s rebuilt materials ever again to rebuild anything. [Jeremiah 51:8, “Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken; Wail over her! Bring balm for her pain; Perhaps she may be healed.”]
Any believers located in Babylon at that time will flee and Israel will be regenerated. I have a problem though, because when I study how Babylon fell to the Medes and the Persians, Saturday night, October 12, 539 B.C. I don’t see any of the details of the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah coming to pass. Herodotus writing within a hundred years of Babylon’s historic fall says, “he,” that’s the end, the Persian, “conducted a river by the channel to the lake…and so he made the former course of the river passable by the sinking of the stream. When this had been done, the Persians who had been posted for this very purpose entered by the bed of the river Euphrates into Babylon, the stream having sunk so far that it reached about to the middle of a man’s thigh.…” Look at this last sentence, “those Babylonians” that would be Belshazzar and his partying crowd, “those Babylonians who dwelt” in Babylon “in the middle did not know that they had been captured…” [Herodotus, Histories, 1:191 (450 B.C.)] Where’s the cataclysm? This wasn’t even a war if I’m understanding this correctly.
This is the Cyrus Cylinder, an archeological find; it’s a boasting of Cyrus and how he conquered Babylon. It’s been translated for us in a book I have in my office called ANET, which simply means Ancient Near Eastern Texts, and this is what the Cyrus Cylinder says: “Without any battle… sparing Babylon … any calamity…. I am Cyrus…king of Babylon….When I entered Babylon… under jubilation and rejoicing … troops walked around Babylon…” there was no war when Cyrus took Babylon, in fact, the Babylonians, to a large extent, were glad that Cyrus was there. “… in peace, I did not allow anybody to terrorize (any place) of the [country of Sumer] and Akkad. I strove for peace in Babylon…and in all his (other) sacred cities….I returned to (these) sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been in ruins for a long time, the images which (used) to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I (also) gathered all their (former) inhabitants and returned (to them) their habitations. Furthermore, I resettled… unharmed, in their (former) chapels, the places which make them happy. May all the gods whom I have resettled in their sacred cities ask daily Bel and Nebo for a long life for me…all of them I resettled in a peaceful place… ducks and doves,…I endeavoured to fortify/repair their dwelling places . . . [The Ancient Near East Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 315-16.’]
Cyrus, when he entered Babylon didn’t want to upset the Babylonian deities. Why is that? Because Cyrus was a polytheist, he believed in many gods, so he made sure that these idols were undisturbed so they would bless him all his days. Where’s the cataclysm? Where’s the destruction like Sodom and Gomorrah? It never happened.
You know, Isaiah says that when Babylon falls her destruction will be so final that no one will dwell there again. Beyond that people will never be able to reuse, Jeremiah says, her building materials. Jeremiah 50-51. [Jeremiah 50:13, “Because of the indignation of the LORD she will not be inhabited, but she will be completely desolate; everyone who passes by Babylon will be horrified and will hiss because of all her wounds.” Jeremiah 50:39, “…And it will never again be inhabited or dwelt in from generation to generation.”]
I have a problem with that because as I look at Babylon today, modern day Iraq, people are living there. In fact, there’s a long history of Babylon after her fall to the Persians in 539. Herodotus went there and gave Babylon’s measurements. Alexander the Great later visited Babylon. Seleucid seized Babylon, Strabo pronounces Babylon’s hanging gardens as one of the seven wonders of the world. Do you know there were Babylonians present at the day of Pentecost that heard the gospel, and went back to Babylon to preach it? Acts 2:9, [“Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,”] a great document called the Babylonian Talmud was promulgated from Babylon. Babylon was later given a new name and names throughout history. Where is the prophecies of her total desolation so severely that she will be forever uninhabitable? I don’t see that happening here.
John Walvoord, a great prophecy scholar, says, “As far as the historic fulfillment is concerned, it is obvious from both Scripture and history that these verses” that’s Isaiah and Jeremiah “have not been literally fulfilled. The city of Babylon continued to flourish after the Medes conquered it, and though its glory dwindled, especially after the control of the Medes and the Persians ended in 323 B.C., the city continued in some form or substance until A.D. 1000 and did not…” “…and did not experience a sudden termination such as anticipated in this prophecy.” [The Nations in Prophecy, 63-64]
We’ve got a choice here, both commentators say this: well, you’re reading it too literally, don’t you understand hyperbole? Well, I praise the Lord Isaiah 53 is not a hyperbole. I praise the Lord that Jesus was literally pierced for me. What gives me the right to convert things into figures of speech that aren’t so intended.
Now when you study, this chart helps, Jeremiah 50-51 and line it up with Revelation 17-18 do you know what you’re going to see? You’re going to see the prophecies of Jeremiah in that end time Babylon fulfilled. Both sections of Scripture talk about a golden cup, Babylon dwelling on many waters, intoxication the nations, you’ll find the name Babylon and how it’s analogized to a stone sinking into the Euphrates, her sudden destruction, her destruction by fire, her final uninhabitable condition, the fact that when she falls she’ll deserve it, and God’s people will flee. That’s why the book of Revelation God says to His people, “come out of her.” Did Daniel come out of Babylon when Babylon fell? No, he continued on as government administrator in the empire of Persia; the heavenly rejoicing is described in both chapters. [Revelation 18:4, “I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues;”’]
What are you saying pastor? What I’m saying is this: if Isaiah 13 and 14 and Jeremiah 50 and 51 mean what they say Babylon has to be rebuilt. Babylon has to become the center of world authority under the antichrist so she is destroyed by the final bowl judgment and that’s when Isaiah 13 and 14 and Jeremiah 50 and 51 are going to be fulfilled.
Have you ever studied Isaiah’s oracles against the nations; he mentions all of these nations and in the list he mentions Babylon twice, once in chapters 13-14 and once in chapter 21. He doesn’t mention Assyria twice, Philistia twice, Moab twice, Egypt twice; Babylon is mentioned twice. Why is Babylon mentioned twice? Here’s the answer, I believe, because chapter 21 was fulfilled in Daniel 5; Isaiah 13 and 14 will not be fulfilled until the bowl judgments of the great tribulation period.
What am I trying to say? This world is not finished with Babylon. Isn’t it interesting that history has sort of moved from west to east. Where did we used to fight our wars? Europe and things began moving gradually eastward to Korea, Vietnam. Where’s the focus of the world today? Iraq, the exact thing that the Bible says would happen in the last days. Isn’t it interesting that most of the world’s oil supply is located in Iraq and surrounding nations. Think if the antichrist could come to power, take over Iraq and annex the surrounding nations in a heartbeat, he could control the economies of the world. I don’t follow the trend of modern scholarship; I don’t believe God is speaking figuratively or hyperbolically in Isaiah 13 and 14 and Jeremiah 50 and 51. I think He is making statements that transcend what happened to historic Babylon and is describing an eschatological end time destruction of Babylon.
Now you say this in academic circles and wait for the jeers, wait for the criticism, oh you wooden literalists, how could you take the Bible this way? Just a quick reminder, those same jeers and ridicule and criticism were given to people prior to 1948 who said someway somehow the nation of Israel has to become a nation again. In fact, when you study commentaries people were saying that centuries before we knew anything about the Jewish nation. And then you read a few people that jeered but others said no, I think God means what he says and says what he means. And isn’t it interesting who’s vindicated in all of this? The person who stands on a literal interpretation of the Bible. You think this interpretation is ridiculous, makes no sense, too literal, I’ll remind you of the regathering of the Jews into their homeland in 1948 exactly as God said. The ridicule, the mocking, the condescension, the criticism stops when God moves His hand in history and literally fulfills His Word. I think God is about to do the same thing with Babylon.
You know, I look back and I delight on literal commentators, and I want people to look back on my life and delight in someone like myself and yourself that believed God when it looked like God couldn’t do what He said He was going to do. Be careful about this allegorical symbolic approach to the Bible; let God say what He wants to say.
One other thing, this takes us beyond number five, number six, who is Darius the Mede? When you watch A & E, Mysteries of the Bible, Discovery Channel, they’ll laugh at this too and they’ll say there’s no historical evidence outside the Bible for Darius the Mede; who is this Darius the Mede? Well the issue is we’ve got some options here. This could by a reference to Cyrus. You say Cyrus, it doesn’t even say Cyrus. Did you know that in the ancient world it’s common to have two names? Did you know that Solomon himself had two names. You’ll find them described in 2 Samuel 12:24-25, he’s called Solomon but the Word also names him “Jedidiah for the LORD’S sake.” [2 Samuel 12:24-25, “Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon. Now the LORD loved him  and sent word through Nathan the prophet, and he named him Jedidiah for the LORD’S sake.”]
Just because people don’t have two names today, I guess we do in a sense, a first name, a middle name and a last name, doesn’t mean they could not have had two names in biblical times. Others say this is a general called Ugbaru, also having two names, Governor of Gutium appointed by Cyrus, after this general conquered Babylon. This could be a reference to Cyrus’ general that had two names, or it could be a reference to Cambyses, Cyrus’ son that very easily could have had two names.
I bring this to your attention because people will discount the Bible on something like this and yet I think that’s such a heady frivolous reason to discount God’s prophetic word. Some way, somehow we will discover archeologically exactly who this Darius the Mede is; it’s just a matter of time and it’s best to stand on the authority of God’s Word. I honestly believe God gives us these kinds of things as a test—are you going to trust what I say or not, because if My word can have mistakes in it at the archeological level, at the historical level, then how in the world can you trust it when it talks about angels, demons, heaven, hell, the plan of salvation. It is a dangerous business to get into this subject of discounting the Word of God.
And it could be you’re here today and you don’t know Christ personally. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without” what? “faith it is” what? “impossible to please God.” At some point we have to get beyond our questions and trust God as the One who one day will answer our questions. I can’t guarantee that this side of eternity every one of your questions is going to get answered and I think God has designed it that way because if all of my questions were answered I wouldn’t have the walk of faith and yet the Bible is clear that without faith it is impossible to please God. [Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”]
Becoming a Christian is not a twelve-step program; it’s a single step, it’s a single condition of faith alone in Christ alone. At some point you stop trusting in yourself, trusting in your own works, trusting in your own religious system and you trust specifically in the promises of Jesus Christ for your eternity and the safe keeping of your soul. The fact of the matter is we call this the gospel because it’s good news, Jesus did all the work; He died on a cruel Roman wooden cross 2,000 years ago to pay a sin debt we could never pay and He rose bodily from the grave to vindicate exactly who He was and He leaves humanity with a simple message—don’t trust yourself, trust My work for you. Don’t trust in your own work, trust what I’ve done for you.
And you can do that now as the Spirit of God places you under conviction, without raising a hand, joining a church, walking an aisle, giving money, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord, where the Spirit places you under conviction that you need to do this, and you respond by way of faith which simply means trust or confidence in what Jesus has done. Becoming a Christian, becoming a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is as simple as that. If it’s something that you have done or are doing then on the authority of the Word of God you’ve changed your eternal destiny. If it’s something that you’re struggling with and you need more information on I’m available after the service to talk.
What an interesting evening, an interesting feast. Belshazzar’s contribution, God’s contribution, Daniel’s contribution, and then the contribution of Dairus, the Persian, the Mede. Shall we pray.
Father, we’re grateful for this chapter, help the information in it to seep deep into our souls, our hearts as we walk with you this week by way of faith. Be with us Father, next week, as we move into the incredible chapter of Daniel 6, a well-known chapter, Daniel in the lion’s den. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said…. Amen.