Daniel 5 “Remember Death”

Introduction: American culture does not like to think about death

One of the things that people are most uncomfortable talking about is something that we all experience, death.

  1. People used to die at home and everyone in their family had to deal with it. Now people die out of sight in a hospital.
  2. Medicine makes us think that we will live forever.
  3. At funerals we dress people up and put on makeup so that they actually look like they are still alive.

When I officiate a funeral I always warn people to take the opportunity to really think about the temporal nature of their life. The tendency is to drink some alcohol or run back to work. Try to forget about death.

Thinking about death now will give you the opportunity to live life fully awake and for the glory of God.

Read passage: Daniel 5

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son,6 Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed8 in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”9

29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

We are all sinners

King Belshazzar was living it up. It was a lifestyle totally at odds with God. At this massive 1000 person party (some scholars think it was more like an orgy) Belshazzar was there getting drunk with his wives and his concubines. The king makes the terrible drunken decision to use the cups from the temple to drink his booze from. Instantly the hands appear and the writing goes up on the wall.

Get this. There is at this moment an army all round them. Yes, even while they are partying. This reminds us that our time just might be up at any time. Our days are short and they have been numbered.

Paul reminds us that we are all more like Belshazzar than we might want to admit. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” -Romans 3:23

Due to our sin there is judgment

God brought judgment against Belshazzar immediately. The writing on the wall was in Aramaic and the words were MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN. Daniel tell us what it means. Belshazzar’s days are over, he was weighed and he did not measure up, his kingdom was going to be taken from him that very night.

The Medo-Persian army killed him that very night and took over his Empire.

Reminds me of Matthew 24:36-39. The people in Noah’s day were partying and living it up. When their time was up, it was up. How about the people in your life? Do they know the infinite beauty and power of Jesus Christ? Have you forgotten that their days are numbered? Are you coasting spiritually when you need to be living with urgency because we don’t know our final day?

Use your few days wisely

Right before a battle Maximus said this to his soldiers, “What we do in life echoes for all eternity.” Whether you like Gladiator or not the quote is legit. How you live now matters for all of eternity. Does your life reflect this?

Think about Jim Elliott and his family. Went to Ecuador to bring the gospel to the people who lived there. Maybe you know what happened. The people he came to share the good news with murdered him. Did Jim waste his life? The answer is no.

Two years later his wife went back. Let that thought sink in for a moment. She went back to the same people that murdered her husband. This time the gospel was received and many people were saved.

We need to seek after Christ for our own well being with all of our might. Talk to him, know him, love with, walk with him. Is Jesus the burning center of your every day life?

Paul had some words for death, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ. -1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Paul did not fear death. The reason is that he knew Jesus Christ had overcome death and sin through the cross. This is one of the main reasons Paul was so bold for the gospel. If death had been defeated what in the world do we have to be afraid of? There should be nothing that hinders us from sharing the good news with the lost of this world.

We need to work so that others know Jesus personally. Do you have a heart for the lost? I mean, seriously. Our hearts so quickly become cold and indifferent to the fact that there are people all around us headed for hell. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to be at work in us so that we care about the lost sons and daughters of God.

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