The Handwriting Is On The Wall

Daniel 5

Jerry A Collins




*               How does living in luxury make it easier to forget God?

*               What does living for my pleasure produce in my life that angers God?

*               Why does luxury and pleasure conflict with humility?


Luxurious living is a goal our society proudly pursues. It is characterized by self-indulgence, self-sufficiency and a this side of the grave mentality. The most serious consequence of luxurious living is the reality of forgetting God. He is not necessary. God becomes obsolete. He is marginalized. Irrelevant. Yet, God takes notice of this in ones life. God never intends for the wealth he has given to lead us to living luxuriously. If our wealth develops pride or produces insensitivity to righteousness or dulls our senses with pleasure or satisfies me with only short-term gratification, then God says I will be judged by Him for this. James 5:5 tells us why we will be judged You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. The announcement in Daniel 5 of the kings coming judgment by a mysterious hand writing on the wall, illustrates the outcome of a life lived luxuriously. Nearly 25 years has passed since Chp 4 and over 70 yrs since chp 1. 1-4 gave us account of King Neb the 1st Bab king to rule ove the Jews. Then other kings with a brief account of the last day of Belshazzars reign, the last of Bab kings. He reigns while father, Nabonidus is out of the country for years conquering other territory. His death partial fulfillment of prophecy in Daniel 2 revealed to King Neb. His was kingdom of Gold but now next kingdom about to enter center-stage, Medo-Persia, the kingdom of silver. So what is the message we learn from this event in chp 5?


1 Enjoying the best of what the world has to offer. No-one at this party is thinking about God or His plan. Another amusement needed to impress people and indulge.

2-4 3 times the golden vessels of the Temple mentioned. First, the purpose was to drink from them at this party. Second, they were used by everyone including his wives and concubines. Third, they used them in conjunction with their idol worship. The emphasis on repetition of these goblets is to indicate why God is about to judge the king. These were the same vessels mentioned in Dan 1:2 when Neb conquered Jerusalem. The wine flowed freely. Toasts were offered to the gods of gold, silver, brass iron wood and stone. Blasphemy. Things are out of control. Self-indulgent, luxurious living leaves God out. It was this kind of idol worship that had led to Israels exile in 1st place. These goblets are not magical but they are associated with the God of Israel and His Work in the world. Dont use your wealth, opportunities, gifts, positions, connections for self-serving way to luxury. God gave these to you not so you can ignore Him and use them as you wish but that you recognize these as from God and use them as one accountable to God for how you did that.


5-9 The handwriting is on the wall has become a modern-day parable for disaster about to happen. Suddenly, God intervenes. God has a limit to how far He will allow men to go in their sin. There is a time when judgment comes. They crossed that line during this evening of luxurious and indulgent living. The king, used to people trembling before him, now stands in absolute fear, barely able to stand, seized with terror. A sense of foreboding and panic gripped him as he immediately summoned his advisors. Twice, in 6 & 9 repeated that king is terrified! He must know what these words mean so he offers a tempting reward.

10-12 When no-one can answer, the queen mother offers Daniel to be summoned to interpret the words and their meaning. She was aware of how things were in Nebs days. Again, everything is in place for Daniels entrance. You never know when God will use you or even how He may do so. But you must always be ready. Look at Daniels reputation. Living for the long-haul. It is not how you begin but how you finish that is important.

13-16 So Daniel is summoned as was suggested. After explaining his situation, the same luxury the king has enjoyed he offers to Daniel if he interprets the inscription on the wall. This is really all the world has to offer anyone. Dont become allured by it. If you do, it will destroy your life and God will oppose you and remember you are accountable to God for that.

17-21 The King receives his indictment. It begins in 17 when Daniel refuses the offer of luxury. Daniel is not for hire. He never has been. These gifts are worthless anyway, especially since the city is about to fall to the Persians. In 18-21 Daniel preaches a sermon. The point is that the king had failed to learn the lessons of the past thru the experiences of Nebs with Daniel and his God. It was Gods sovereignty that granted Nebs with power, majesty, glory, riches and power. He became proud and God removed him from it until he recognized God is sovereign not himself. This is the problem. Our luxury promotes pride and makes it harder for us to remember God.

22-24 We come back around to these vessels of the temple being used as tools of blasphemy to God. At the core is the prideful heart of this king vs 22. Daniel gives a theological perspective and a context in which to understand the inscription. The point is that Bel has not learned anything (humbled his heart) from what happened to Neb. Humility is hard for people living in luxury. Daniel lists the violations. (1) He exalted himself against the God of heaven. (2) He is drinking wine from vessels of the Temple which were meant for worship. (3) He has praised gods of wood and gold which cannot see, hear or understand anything. (4) He has not glorified God who has Bels very life breath in His hands. He knew these things but had not learned from them. Haughty and arrogant, judgment day now arrives. The world today has the same absence of God the Most High. The world shuts God out. No honor to Him. God has no place.

25-28 The interpretation is given by Daniel. Three little words compose this message. The message is so terse it could not be understood. Mena means numbered (God has numbered Bels time. Tekel means weighed (God has judged Bel and found him guilty) and upharsin means divided (figure meaning his army has been divided and defeated). Times up! Its over!

29-31 Amazing, instead of repenting he rewards Daniel. That lasted only a few hours. That nite the Persains completed a diversion of the Euphrates river which ran under the walls of Babylon by digging a canal and draining the water into a marsh. Then the water lower now than the gates, they were able to travel under them into the city. One of the greatest kingdoms of the world came to an end in one nite! Bel was killed and Darius became king of Babylon.

(1) No matter how much Gods kingdom is ignored, He is ruling and judging in the universe.

(2) While God is sovereign and moves according to His predetermined plan, we participate with our own decisions and behavior.

(3) Dont mistake the wealth God gives you as your right to live as you please with it. Channel not resovoir. Enjoy it but remember accountable to God for its use. It is not Gods blessing, it is just more that you are responsible for.

(4) Ask yourself what it is you are doing with the revelation you have from God in the Bible. God held Bel responsible for what had happened to Neb and will do same for history we have revealed in His Word.

(5) Our maturity depends completely upon our ability to eliminate pride and develop humility. We could actually say that maturity itself is the process of ridding ourselves of pride and developing humility.