Finger of God: Daniel 5

I have a favorite Wendell Berry poem that isn’t as pleasant as it is true. It’s about minds (and societies, and kingdoms, even) and ruination:

A mind that has confronted ruin for years/Is half or more a ruined mind. Nightmares/Inhabit it, and daily evidence /Of the clean country smeared for want of sense/Of freedom slack and dull among the free/Of faith subsumed by idiot luxury/And beauty beggered in the marketplace/And clear-eyed wisdom bleary with dispraise. 

In other words, it’s about judgment. And, when we come to Daniel 5, it’s time for judgment. Babylon and its kings have lingered at the door of God’s grace too long. And now, in “idiot luxury,” King Belshazzar will live to see the golden head from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of chapter 2 lopped off.

I’ll let you read the account for yourself, but we must imagine how traumatic the fall of Babylon must have been for God’s people living in Babylon. What were they to think? What kept them from being angry, afraid, and confused?

Daniel will reappear in this account. Now in his 80s, he’ll remind the young king of those lessons learned by his (grand)father, Nebuchadnezzar. He’ll connect Babylon’s fall with that great vision from some sixty years before (found in chapter 2), in which God’s plan for the ages is disclosed. And, for those of us living millennia later, he’ll reveal why we’re not to be angry, afraid, or confused when we see catastrophic events in our own day:

The reason we’re not angry or afraid or confused by catastrophic events in the world is that the raising up and throwing down of kingdoms in the kingdoms of man is God’s plan, preparing us for Christ.

Have a look at Daniel 5. Join us Sunday at Woodland, and then join a group to discuss some of the possible application questions coming from the passage. Here’s some suggestions:

Questions for discussion with others:

  1. What lessons can be drawn from Belshazzar’s forgetfulness of truths learned from Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams? How can we not make the same mistakes?
  2. What did the queen get right? What did she still get wrong? How might it be possible for us to know right things about God, but still not grasp the significance of His dealings in the world?
  3. What hard lesson does Daniel deliver to King Belshazzar? Whom has God weighed and found righteous?
  4. When we expect (and are not surprised!) to see kingdoms rise and fall, we’ll see the flow of history for what it is. (See also Daniel 2.44). How does this enable us to act? What does this response, in turn, allow us to do for refugees fleeing the demise of the kingdoms of man?

See you Sunday, at Woodland!