Daniel 5 (4)
Philosophers and historians have observed, in one form or another, that the only lesson from history is that no one ever learns anything from history. The result, philosopher George Santayana explained, is that “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Belshazzar is the perfect example of this. And it fell to Daniel to remind him of what he knew, before explaining to him how ignoring what he knew, and failing to live accordingly, had finally caught up to him. The prophet Asaph sought to do the same for King Solomon and the Israelites of his generation.
Read and meditate on Psalm 81 in the light of 1 Kings 11.1-13.
Read Daniel 5.17-23.
Think it through
1. Daniel was not moved to answer the king by any promises of enrichment or advancement (v. 17). So why would he bother? Why did he feel it was necessary to explain the mystery writing to the king, since his coming to understand the message would not in the least affect its outcome? Belshazzar was standing before written revelation from God. He could probably read the words (they were written in Aramaic, which would have been a language familiar to the court); he just couldn’t make sense of them. Why did Daniel consider it important that the meaning of this message, and not just the words, should be made crystal clear to the king? Look at Acts 8.26-40 and Acts 26.1-32. What similarities do you see in these passages with the story of King Belshazzar? Is there any guidance for us in working our Personal Mission Field?
2. Daniel’s preface to interpreting the mystery writing was a lesson in recent Babylonian royal history. Summarize that lesson. Why did Daniel feel this was necessary, since, as he said, Belshazzar knew all this already (v. 22)? How was Daniel using this history lesson? Of what was Belshazzar guilty? Are secular and pagan governments accountable to God somehow (Rom. 13.1-4)? Is there a lesson for us in Daniel’s history lesson about lessons from history?
“He did well to instruct those present to worship not visible things but their Creator and Lord. At the same time he also convicts the king of conceit and teaches him that the highest heaven has for its creator the unseen God.” Theodoret of Cyr (393-496 AD)
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. Romans 13.3, 4a
Lord, help me to improve my witness for Jesus, both by how I use Your Word, and how I use my own history with You. Show me how to talk with others about Jesus, using…
Pray Psalm 135.8-14.
Confess your sins to the Lord, asking Him at the same time to open your mouth in praise and witness for Him.
Psalm 135.8-14 (St. Gertrude: Onward, Christian Soldiers)
Egypt's firstborn fell to God's redeeming pow'r;
Kings and nations crumbled in redemption's hour.
He the land of promise to His people gave;
Thus His Kingdom Jesus gives to all He’s pleased to save.
Refrain, v. 1
Praise the Name of Jesus, you who serve His Word!
Raise your voice and praise our good and glorious Lord!
Evermore Your Name, O Savior, shall endure!
Your renown throughout all ages is secure.
For You have compassion, vindicating all
Those who serve Your Name and on Your saving mercy call.
T. M Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006.