What is the greatest mistake one can make? What is the most foolish of all decisions? The greatest mistake we can make in life is not learning from our past mistakes. The most foolish of all decisions is deciding to ignore God’s warnings, to repeatedly violate our conscience by rejecting God’s advice and turning our backs on His instructions.
Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, had many opportunities to serve God. He could have learned from his grandfather, who dedicated his life to the true God, or from the prophet Daniel, who had lived in Babylon for 70 years, witnessing to the truth. The light of truth shone on Belshazzar, but he rejected it. A judgment day was approaching much faster than he could imagine.
I. BELSHAZZAR’S LAST NIGHT
A. Read Daniel 5:1-4. Belshazzar prepared a great banquet, became drunk, and desecrated the sacred vessels. This deed provoked God’s judgment on Babylon. In Israel, the sacred vessels from the temple in Jerusalem were to be used in worship services to the true God.
1. It was blasphemy to desecrate the sacred vessels by filling them with intoxicating wine. The king had crossed the line between his power and God’s power. The judgment was about to take place.
2. Many people today have lived as Belshazzar lived. Jesus alerts us to the fact that we are living in a solemn time of caution, vigilance, and prayer (Luke 21:34-36).
II. DIVINE INTERVENTION: THE MESSAGE ON THE WALL
A. Read Daniel 5:5-17. At the very moment that the sacred vessels were desecrated, the finger of a man’s hand appeared, writing on the palace wall. The king was shocked; his countenance changed. He was overcome with fear. His whole body trembled nervously; he was terrified. He knew something was wrong, but he wasn’t sure what it was. What tragic event was foreshadowed by the writing on the wall? The judgment day for Belshazzar had arrived.
B. Once more, Daniel was asked to interpret the writing. He had interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams many years before. He had served Babylon as a statesman for 70 years. His reputation as an upright public servant was well known. His wisdom in political affairs had repeatedly influenced the nation. Despite that, Belshazzar, with his mind benumbed by alcohol, tried to humiliate Daniel, suggesting that he was simply a Jewish captive.
C. In a desperate attempt to understand the mysterious writing on the wall, Belshazzar offered to reward Daniel if he could explain the meaning of those strange words. Daniel said: “Let your gifts be for yourself and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation.”
1. Daniel did not allow himself to be bribed. His services were not for sale. His only motive was to serve God. His only ambition was to honor the kingdom of God. Daniel took the opportunity to review God’s attempts to save Babylon. Throughout the history of Babylon, God gave the Babylonians repeated opportunities to learn His will.
2. In many different ways, God knocked at the door of Babylon. All those opportunities were now quickly drawing to the end. The door of mercy that had been open for 70 years was about to close. The Babylonians had hardened their hearts, and there was little that God could do except to leave them to their own selfish desires.
III. THE GREATEST MISTAKE IN LIFE
A. What was Belshazzar’s mistake? Read Daniel 5:22.
1. Although he knew God, he did not submit himself to the divine power. Belshazzar knew what was right, but he did not do it! He turned his back to the light God had given him. He chose darkness instead of light.
2. The human condition is even worse when a person chooses to sin (James 4:17).
a) Babylon’s sin was great because the Babylonians openly rebelled against God, even when they knew what God wanted them to do.
b) Today, our world is following the same path as the Babylonians. People are discovering God’s plan for their lives, but they still reject His ways.
3. This was the writing on the wall that determined God’s judgment on Babylon: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN” (Dan. 5:26-28). Here is Daniel’s interpretation:
a) MENE: God has numbered your kingdom and finished it.
b) TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances and were found wanting.
c) PERES: Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
There is a last night for everyone and everything on earth. There is an invisible line that we cannot cross without suffering the consequences. Judgment will come once more for society.
Why should you make the same tragic mistake as Belshazzar? Do not delay. Commit your life to God today!
Contributed by the South American Division