I don’t know that it is the case with you particularly, but many would be unhappy that I’ve read so many verses. We’ve done this three or four times over the last three weeks in our study of chapter 4, and here we are beginning our next study by doing it once again. Two things need to be kept in mind: First – even though our thoughts are going to be basically confined to the first four verses, they loose strength when they are taken out of their context. We have to know how the end of the chapter takes place before we can fully grasp the significance of the beginning of the chapter. I could summarize everything from verse 5 forward, but that leads me to my second point. Daniel 5 is not a chapter of human history – it is the divine record of a small aspect of divine revelation. This chapter is not just Daniel’s perception of something that happened in the court of Babylon. These are words which the Holy Spirit gave to that prophet, and in so doing they were inspired of God. This chapter has been “God-breathed” to us, and this fact makes this chapter and book unique.

So here comes David Oldfield with his three-point outline and his thirty minutes of jabbering. What he has to say may, or may not, be insightful, helpful or entertaining. The truth is – his words may be a waste of thirty or forty minutes of your time, and yet if you have concentrated for the five minutes that it took to read this chapter of God’s Word, then our hour here together will not have been spent in vain – guaranteed. God can do more with the reading of His Word than what even the most eloquent man can do with his application of that Word. It’s my prayer that the Lord will bless my words, but I am not going to be so stupid as to tell you that what I have to say is more important that what we have just read. Every time that the Bible is read publically, you need to apply yourself to hearing it. That may be the only blessing that the Lord has planned for you on this occasion. And you may get more out of the third or even the fourth reading of this chapter than out of hearing six or eight sermons that the preacher has taken from this chapter.

Like a big loaf of fresh bread, we are breaking off a small piece to chew on this morning. The theme of the entire chapter is that God is going to judge Babylon for her sins. Belshazzar is going to loose his life at the hands of the Medes and the Persians. But if we had read only verses 1-4, some people might not have realize that. Despite it’s being only a small portion of the loaf, there are important lessons to be learned here. Let’s think about three general principles this morning. The wicked, like Belshazzar often defy the judgment of God. The wicked often hasten or encourage the judgment of God. And the wicked will not escape the judgment of God. Please listen carefully to verses 1-4 once again: “Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, & drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.”

We are taught here that the wicked often DEFY the JUDGMENT OF GOD.
Last Sunday, I described the mighty city of Babylon. It was almost an empire unto itself, because it was so big and so self-sufficient. It was so large that in many places within its walls there were gardens and orchards growing fresh food. It was so large that there were warehouses, granaries, silos and storehouses with huge quantities of food. There was a river running through it with water enough to meet the needs of the people and their industries. Xenophon, the Greek historian said that the Babylonians had enough wealth and supplies within their walls to survive an enemy siege for ten years – despite the huge population living there.

But remember that all of the events of this chapter take place in a single evening. By the end of the chapter his Belshazzar will have been executed by Darius the Mede. What we are not told here in the sacred scripture is that Babylon has already been under siege for months. The king of Babylon is putting the prognostications of his accountants and advisors to the test. I don’t know if he was waiting for his armies to be reinforced in India, Assyria or Egypt before returning to deliver the capital. He may have been thinking that the enemy might give up before his storehouses grew empty. Maybe he was awaiting a miracle from Bel or one of his other imitation gods. I can’t say what was going on in his mind. He might have been thinking, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” Or he may have been thinking, “let us eat and drink tonight, for in five years from now, we die.”

Now picture what would happen at your house if you were going to have 20 guests for supper. It’s your turn to host the biannual family reunion, and most of the preparations have fallen upon you. Or compare what it is like each month when we, as a church, have our fellowship meal down stairs. Doesn’t it get a little noisy – as just about every other person is talking to his neighbor or someone else down the table a little way? Have you ever been invited to a banquet where there were 200 or 300 people all dinning over linen table-clothes and fancy china? Have you ever been to a meal where it took 50 waiters to care for all the diners? There is a din, a rumble of talk which can reach a roar. And sometimes the excitement of the occasion builds and builds.

On this occasion, outside the walls of the city of Babylon, there were thousands of blood-thirsty soldiers. But inside those walls, and inside the walls of the palace, Belshazzar was throwing a banquet for a thousand of his most important dignitaries – and with them were many of their wives. There was most likely enough food that night to feed a very special army. And we are talking about a royal feast, so you can be sure that there were the finest of delicacies available. This was not just roast chicken and mashed potatoes. This was caviar, pheasant, goose, truffles, shrimp, oysters and whatever else the rich and famous dined on so many years ago in that part of the world. Plus there was enough wine and other kind of alcohol to poison all the fish in the Euphrates. Was there any entertainment planned? It wasn’t just going to be a speech by the king, was it? Were the best musicians, dancers, jugglers and stand-up comedians all in attendance? This party was being thrown into the very faces of enemy army. This was a declaration by Belshazzar that it didn’t matter how long the siege would last, he had the resources to survive it for a very long time. He was behaving as though he didn’t have a care in the world, and there wasn’t an enemy anywhere in the world who could overthrow him.

I said a moment ago, that the army of the Medes and Persians was a blood-thirsty lot. Xenophon says that the two primary generals outside the walls were Gobryas and Gadatas. And that historian says that both of these men had formerly been servants of Belshazzar. But the Babylonian king had castrated one of them and had slain the eldest son of the other. Now both of these men, as well as knowing the weaknesses of the city, were filled with rage against their former employer. There was the smell of vengeance in the air. And when the city fell there were more than 8,000 of the most prominent people of Babylon who were either killed immediately or were crucified.

In spite of this hatred against him, and in spite of the siege, Belshazzar held a feast for a thousand of his lords. Belshazzar feasted in an act of defiance before the enemy. He couldn’t have shown more disdain, contempt and pride. I could stay on this point quite some time, but we have to lift our attentions just a bit.

The wicked not only DEFY judgment, but they often HASTEN it.
Doesn’t it seem strange that Belshazzar ordered that the holy vessels from Solomon’s temple should be passed out among the guests, so that they could drink to the praise of their gods from them? Why were these goblets brought out, when Belshazzar probably had thousands of others? Was this some sort of whim – drunken or sober? Or was there a specific purpose involved? What had Judah or Jehovah got to do with all these festivities and this banquet? The armies of Persia weren’t led by the Jews in that day – any more than they would be today. Why did Belshazzar pick on the Lord? Ah, I’m glad that you asked that question.

Jeremiah 25 is a fantastic chapter of prophesy (please turn there). Jeremiah served the Lord in the last years of Judah – just prior to her fall before Nebuchadnezzar – and beyond the fall of Jerusalem as well. Most of his preaching was designed to bring Judah to repentance, but, alas, the hearts of most of the Jews were too hard. I say most of his preaching and prophesying was about Judah – but not all of it. Pardon me for reading another lengthy scripture, but this may be more important than anything else that we do here this morning.

“The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; The which Jeremiah the prophet spake unto all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, even unto this day, that is the three and twentieth year, the word of the LORD hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened. And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever: And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the LORD; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.

Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words, Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.”

I am not going to try to do the math for you, but if you are interested, there are plenty of scholars who have crunched all the numbers. Nebuchadnezzar was king for several years after his insanity. He was followed for a short time by Evil-Merodah, who was then succeeded by this king Belshazzar. When it is said that Belshazzar was the son of Nebuchadnezzar, we are using the common Biblical terminology which means that he was “a” son – or to be more specific – a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar.

I guarantee to you that the prophesy of Jeremiah about the 70 years was accurately fulfilled. Furthermore, if I had to guess I’d say that Belshazzar had been made aware of that prophecy. Daniel had told Nebuchadnezzar, and it had been written in the volume of the Babylonian book. Nebuchadnezzar told his son and grandson about the Lord’s prophesy. I think that Belshazzar pulled the golden vessels of the Temple out of their storage boxes, in that king’s defiance of Jeremiah’s prophecy. Not only was this feast being celebrated because it fell on some pagan festival. And not only was it being used to thumb their Babylonian noses at the army outside their walls. But it took on the added stench of defiance against the sovereign God of the universe. “We dare you, O God of Israel, to bring our mighty kingdom of Babylon down. Your prophecies, and your words, mean nothing to us. We are masters of our own fate. Jehovah, you are nothing.”

When I say that Belshazzar’s actions “hastened” God’s judgment upon him, I’m not saying that if he hadn’t profaned these utensils, Babylon would not have fallen that night. What I am trying to suggest is that the wicked do very often make their stench much worse through their deliberate acts of rebellion and defiance. They are often a part of the process which God uses to bring them down.

I will probably say more about this later, but let me briefly say this now – Belshazzar thought that Babylon would not – could not – be taken. But Darius had been given information about one of the city’s great physical weaknesses. He had his engineers working to divert the waters of the Euphrates River. I don’t know if it was immediate or gradual, but the water level of the river was dropped sufficiently so that the Median/Persian troops could enter Babylon under the iron grates which acted like a sieve. During the dark of the night, they were able to enter the city, probably from both the north and the south, and to take the city with hardly a shot being fired. It caught the king, the miliary and the civilian population of Babylon completely unawares. And of course when most of the city officials were drunk at Belshazzar’s feast, it became that much easier.

God – Jehovah – guaranteed the fall of Babylon in the seventieth year after Nebuchadnezzar. And the Babylon desecration of the Temple instruments didn’t help in their defense. The city fell exactly as God had declared and decreed. And obviously, the wicked were judged exactly as God had predicted in a different book of the Bible and through a different prophet other than Daniel. Again, what a marvelous proof of the authority of God and the accuracy of the Word of God.

And the general lesson of all this is that ALL THE WICKED of this world SHALL BE JUDGED.
Belshazzar represents millions, yea, billions of other sinners upon this earth. Some might think that I harp upon Hebrews 9:27 too much, but obviously I disagree. “As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” We could fill the time that it takes to preach a good sermon, with nothing but scriptures which teach that all men will have to stand before the judgment of God. And then there are human proverbs which express the same fact. We have these proverbs because deep down in our hearts there is the reality, and the fear, that this is true. And yet, nearly every child of Adam lives his life in such a way as to defy that reality. “If there is a God in Heaven, let him strike me with lightning.” There really is a God in Heaven, and He isn’t going to take orders from anyone, especially a fool like you. Furthermore, “God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.” When you stand before the Great White Throne, then you will know the lightning of God. “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

What we see in Belshazzar here is typical of the behavior of the average unbelieving sinner. He senses that there will be judgment for his sin – “Hell to pay” as he may laughingly say to himself. But he ultimately rejects the thought and defies the revelation that God has made. But Belshazzar also teaches us that such an attitude is eternally foolish. You will stand before God, and you will be judged in the Lake of Fire for your sin and rebellion.

But there is a way of escape, one which Belshazzar’s grandfather may have learned. If that sinner will throw himself on the mercy of God’s court…. If he will thoroughly repent before the Lord – agreeing with God about his sinfulness and wickedness…. If he will reach out by faith toward God’s divine sacrifice for sin – the Lord Jesus Christ – there is forgiveness and deliverance. But without repentance and faith, every sinner will end up as Belshazzar did. Do you still need to repent and trust Christ?