ON DANIEL - LESSON 3
the Wrong Way
Daniel 5 and 6
On October 25, 1964,
San Francisco's Candlestick Park rocked with the sound of thousands of
49er fans cheering as their team moved down the field against a National
Football League rival, the Minnesota Vikings. But their cheers suddenly
stopped when a 49er halfback fumbled the ball after a hard tackle.
Viking defender, Jim, managed to scoop up the loose ball and race toward
the goal line, sixty-six yards away.
The 49er fans began
cheering again. In fact, they went wild with excitement. Their roar drowned
out the shouts of dismay from Jim's Viking teammateswho were trying
to catch up with him. None of the 49er players stopped Jim's run to the
end zone. Jim was elated, thinking he'd scored a touchdown. But then a
49er player threw his arms around him and said, "Thanks, man, for the
safety." Jim, unfortunately, had run the wrong way! He'd been downed
behind his own goal line and scored two points for the other team!
After recovering from
his horror, Jim played hard the rest of the game, and the Vikings won
27-22. But football history will always remember Jim's wrong-way run.
On the field of life,
there are really only two ways to run. We head either toward redemption
or ultimate destruction. When we run toward destruction it may seem like
we're running downhill. Nobody's going to force us to stop.
We may even enjoy the run for a whilecrowds cheer, our heart races
with excitement. But how awful it will be to reach the end and discover
it was all for nothing. That we were running the wrong way, away from
Jesus and His cross.
Daniel chapters 5
and 6 tell a story about two individuals running through life in opposite
directions. Daniel moved steadily toward the God to whom he was committed.
A monarch named Belshazzar was slipping and sliding in Satan's direction.
The results of their choices provide lessons for us to think about.
Belshazzar, a relative
of Nebuchadnezzar, ruled as king of Babylon. On October 12, 539 B.C.,
he decided to host the party of all parties in his palace. The most important
men of Babylon were there with their wives and mistresses. As the wine
flowed freely and the senses dulled, everyone danced and frolicked. It
had been about twenty-three years since King Nebuchadnezzar's death.
The golden age of Babylon had been declining under his incompetent successor.
And now, for this empire, the sand in the hourglass was about to run out.
Belshazzar and his friends stumbled around in drunken stupors, something
ominous was happening just outside the city walls. Darius the Mede,
under cover of darkness, had surrounded Babylon with his army. The capital
lay within his grasp. This would be the final conquest in a campaign
the Medes and Persians had carried on for some time. Moreover, Darius'
Persian counterpart, Cyrus the Great, was swallowing up more and more
Babylonian territory. Now Babylon had become the proverbial mouse cornered
by the cat.
Belshazzar kept partying
at this moment of great peril because he felt his city was impregnable;
no one could possibly break through the mighty walls of Babylon. Its gates
towered over the surrounding territory; its storehouses bulged with food;
and the Euphrates River, flowing through the middle of the city, provided
a sure supply of water. Let the enemies come!
During his drunken party, what did King Belshazzar order his servants
to do? (Daniel 5:2.)
Bring musicians and dancers to the banquet hall to play and dance for
Bring the gold and silver utensils that had been taken from God's temple
when Jerusalem was captured.
Bring more food to replace what had been eaten already.
gold utensils had been dedicated for use in worship, the worship of
the God of heaven at His temple in Jerusalem. This haughty act of defiance
swept away the king's last chance to escape disaster.
Suddenly a cry
of fear rang through the hall. Belshazzar had risen to his feet and
was pointing to the palace wall. "L-l-look!" he cried. The wild revelry
turned to dead silence. "What is it?" someone whispered. Another horror-struck
voice exclaimed, "A hand. It's a hand!"
What supernatural sight appeared at the height of the party? (Daniel 5:5.)
The fingers of a man's hand were displayed against the wall.
A brilliant light almost blinded everyone in the room.
An angel from heaven announced that God would give the king one last
opportunity to repent of his sins.
What happened next? (Daniel 5:5.)
The supernatural hand wrote strange words on the wall.
The bright light became a ball of fire that destroyed the palace.
The angel disappeared and returned to heaven.
What was King Belshazzars' reaction to this supernatural event? (Daniel
He ignored it and told his guests not to be alarmed because the gods of
Babylon were able to protect them.
He stopped the party immediately and went into hiding.
He was so terrified that his face fell and his knees knocked against each
in his wise men to interpret what was written on the wall. But they couldn't
explain the strange writing. Word of the incident raced throughout the
palace. When the news reached the queen, she hurried into the hall where
the noisy party had been stilled. Quickly sizing up the situation, she
advised Belshazzar to call for Daniel to interpret the writing.
When Daniel arrived,
the king vowed to shower him with gifts and make him third in command
in his kingdom if he would just tell the king what the writing meant.
What did Daniel say to King Belshazzar when he arrived at the hall where
the party was being held? (Daniel 5:17.)
"Keep your rewards; I will tell you what the supernatural
"If you will promise to repent and serve the God of heaven,
I will tell you what the supernatural writing
"I will do my best to interpret the supernatural writing
on the wall, but I can't guarantee that I will be
wouldn't respond to the king's promises with flattery. He wouldn't "sugarcoat"
the situation. He tells it like it is. Read verses 18-21. Here Daniel
reviews God's very public attempt to persuade Belshazzar that even monarchs
need to bow before the Almighty and serve Him. Throughout Babylon's
rule as a world empire, God repeatedly gave the Babylonian people opportunities
to understand His will and form a personal relationship with Him. But
the Babylonians had hardened their hearts against God, and now there
was little left to do but accept their choiceand its consequences.
Even though he could have learned from the example of King Nebuchadnezzar,
crucial mistake had Belshazzar made? (Daniel 5:22.)
He had not made sure that there was an heir to take over the throne when
He had not humbled his heart before God.
He had not strengthened the fortifications of the city to withstand an
"And you have lifted
yourself up against the Lord of heaven" (vs. 23).
his back on God. He knew what was right, but he chose to run the wrong
direction in life. He ran away from God.
The next few words
are gripping! "The God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all
your ways, you have not glorified. Then the fingers of the hand were sent
from Him, and this writing was written" (vss. 23, 24).
Wow! God Himself had
sent that particular hand to write that particular message on the wall.
This powerful king must have been trembling from head to foot. Next he
heard God's message.
What was the meaning
of this writing on the wall sent directly from God?
The first word the supernatural hand had written on the wall was Mene.
What did Daniel say this word meant? (Daniel 5:26.)
God has numbered your kingdom and finished it.
God will give you one more opportunity to repent.
God will cause your first born son to die.
What did Daniel say the second supernatural word-Tekel-meant? (Daniel
You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.
You have been partying when you should have been ruling your kingdom with
You have been trusting to the gods of Babylon instead of the God of heaven.
What did Daniel say the third supernatural word-Peres-meant? (Daniel 5:28.)
Your kingdom will be destroyed unless you repent and serve the God of
Your kingdom has been weakened economically by your poor judgment.
Your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.
What happened later that very same night? (Daniel 5:30.)
handed the kingdom over to his son.
Belshazzar was killed by the attacking armies of the Medes and Persians.
Belshazzar repented of his sins and acknowledged the power of the God
Historians tell us
that on the night of this feast, the Medes besieging Babylon actually
lowered the waters of the Euphrates. They diverted its flow through another
channel they'd been secretly digging. The soldiers of Darius waded up
the riverbed, passed under the city's towering walls, and poured into
the streets. Soon they overwhelmed Babylon's defenders, and Medo-Persia
replaced Babylon as the next world empire. It happened just as outlined
in the prophecy of Daniel chapter 2. The head of gold gave way to the
breast and arms of silver.
Babylon fell because
it was left to its own defenses. God would not protect the city. Its citizens
had been shown what was right, but they openly rebelled against God. There
is an invisible line we cannot cross without suffering serious consequences.
Sometimes God has to say, "Enough!" The Bible gives examples. It happened
in Noah's day when a flood swept over the world. It happened in Lot's
day when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone. And
it will happen again in the last days of Earth's history. A time is coming
when all human beings will have decided their destinyand all decisions
will be sealed forever.
Belshazzar made a
decision to walk away from God. But in Daniel chapter 6, we find a very
different storyDaniel's courageous loyalty to God. His decision
to walk consistently in the will of God creates a stark contrast with
Belshazzar's stubborn resistance to the divine plan. When Belshazzar's
desires conflicted with God's will, he chose to follow his own whims.
But when Daniel was tested, he made his decisions count for God. Temptations
and trials don't have to oppress our spirits. They can enable us to grow
and become more like Christ.
At the time of the
events in chapter 6, Daniel had reached the ripe old age of about eighty-four.
Here was a man whose fruitful life demonstrated that God could be a faithful
source of support. The words of Isaiah the prophet were evident in his
life"Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will
carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver
you" (Isaiah 46:4). King Darius had appointed Daniel to a very high position
in his government, similar to that of a vice president. But some of the
other cabinet members became quite jealous of this Hebrew, this foreigner,
and began to conspire against him. They wanted Daniel's position. These
men set a trap for Daniel and waited for him to walk into it. Let's look
at the highlights of the story.
What happened when the chief officials of the new Persian government tried
to find some accusation to
bring against the prophet Daniel? (Daniel 6:4.)
They found that he had grown rich over the years from stealing funds from
They found no fault or error that they could use against him.
They found that Daniel was plotting to overthrow the government of the
new king, Darius.
They failed to find a valid accusation to bring against Daniel because:
he was faithful in all things.
he was clever in hiding his faults.
he had many friends who covered up his mistakes and protected him.
The only area of Daniel's life which his accusers thought they might find
something they could use against
him was concerning: (Daniel 6:5.)
his government service.
his religious observance of God's law.
his personal financial affairs.
What trap did these officials design for Daniel? They persuaded the king
to decree that: (Daniel 6:6-9.)
anyone who failed to worship the lion-god of Babylon would be banished
from the kingdom.
anyone who refused to fast for thirty days would be beaten with rods.
anyone who prayed to any god other than the king for thirty days would
be thrown into a den of lions.
What did Daniel do when he learned about the king's decree? (Daniel 6:10,
He disobeyed the decree and openly prayed to God three times a day just
as he always did.
He prayed secretly at night so no one would know what he was doing.
He decided not to pray until the decree was no longer in force.
conspirators lost no time in reporting Daniel to the king. He'd violated
the royal decree and prayed to the God of heaven. The penalty: being
thrown alive into a den of ravenous lions. The king felt he had no choice;
he had to carry out his command. As the sentence was carried out and
Daniel was thrown to the lions, the king spoke remarkable words of faith,
"Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you" (vs. 16).
Have you ever had someone lie
about you or set you up for a fall? How did that make you feel?
Darius had condemned
someone he didn't want to condemn. Because this king knew it was terribly
unfair to throw Daniel into the lions' den, he spent a sleepless night
in the palace. Daniel, however, rested peacefully that night, as we shall
see. This story gives us a vivid picture of what creates peace and what
takes it away. Guilt and anxiety over doing wrong will always sabotage
our happiness. But following God brings a sure bounty of peaceeven
in the midst of life's toughest moments.
Read verses 18-23 and answer
the following questions.
What did King Darius find when he came to the lions' den the morning after
Daniel had been shut
up there with the lions all night? (Daniel 6:19-22.)
He found Daniel's mangled body.
He found only Daniel's torn, bloodstained robe.
He found Daniel alive and unharmed.
What did Daniel say God had done for him? (Daniel 6:22.)
He had sent an angel to shut the lions' mouths.
He had put a supernatural wall of light between Daniel and the lions so
that they couldn't reach him.
He had sent an angel to put the lions into a deep sleep all night.
What reason does the Bible give for Daniel not being harmed by the lions?
God protected Daniel because he was His chosen prophet.
Daniel was innocent of all the charges brought against him.
Daniel claimed God's promise that nothing could harm him as long as he
was following God.
What happened to Daniel's accusers who had laid this trap for him? (Daniel
They were demoted from their positions of power and had to serve under
They had to ask Daniel's forgiveness and promise to allow him to worship
God as he chose.
They were thrown into the lions' den and were immediately destroyed by
a powerful message! Daniel had faced a very difficult choice. If he
prayed openly to the God of heaven, he would end up in a den of lions.
But he made a decision to pray anyway. He didn't hide his faith. He
didn't change his devotional habits or adjust his lifestyle. He didn't
hunker downhe trusted God. Verse 10 tells us he "gave thanks"
as was his custom. Faced with the prospect of being torn to pieces by
lions, Daniel was still able to give thanks. Daniel wasn't looking at
the danger. He was looking at God's promises. And those same promises
are there for us too. They will enable us to be like Daniel.
"God is our refuge
and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear
. . ." (Psalm 46:1, 2).
"Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your
requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all
understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus"
(Philippians 4:6, 7).
Remember, there are
two ways to run on the field of life. You either run toward God or away
from Him. Don't think there is anything that can keep you from moving
toward your heavenly Father. There's nothing so terrible that God
can't fix it. He specializes in what we think is impossible! He
can help us overcome any obstacle. So let us get into the good raceand
fix our eyes on the good goal, on Jesus Christ who inspires our faith.
think about: Jesus promised that He would take care of all our needs
if we first seek His kingdom and right living (righteousness) and trust
fully in Him. What do you want to say to Jesus?
You for loving me and wanting to be a part of my life. Please help me
to understand Your will for my life. I need You to give me faith and trust.
Thank You in the name of Jesus. Amen.
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