The Unseen Watcher
[This chapter is based on Daniel 5.]
Toward the close of Daniel's life great changes were taking place in
the land to which, over threescore years before, he and his Hebrew
companions had been carried captive. Nebuchadnezzar, "the terrible
of the nations" (Ezekiel 28:7), had died, and Babylon, "the
praise of the whole earth" (Jeremiah 51:41), had passed under the
unwise rule of his successors, and gradual but sure dissolution was
Through the folly and weakness of Belshazzar, the grandson of
Nebuchadnezzar, proud Babylon was soon to fall. Admitted in his youth to
a share in kingly authority, Belshazzar gloried in his power and lifted
up his heart against the God of heaven. Many had been his opportunities
to know the divine will and to understand his responsibility of
rendering obedience thereto. He had known of his grandfather's
banishment, by the decree of God, from the society of men; and he was
familiar with Nebuchadnezzar's conversion and miraculous restoration.
But Belshazzar allowed the love of pleasure and self-glorification to
efface the lessons that he should never have forgotten. He wasted the
opportunities graciously granted him, and neglected to use the means
within his reach for becoming more fully acquainted with truth. That
which Nebuchadnezzar had finally gained at the cost of untold suffering
and humiliation, Belshazzar passed by with indifference.
It was not long before reverses came. Babylon was besieged by Cyrus,
nephew of Darius the Mede, and commanding general of the combined armies
of the Medes and Persians. But within the seemingly impregnable
fortress, with its massive walls and its gates of brass, protected by
the river Euphrates, and stocked with provision in abundance, the
voluptuous monarch felt safe and passed his time in mirth and revelry.
In his pride and arrogancy, with a reckless feeling of security
Belshazzar "made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and
drank wine before the thousand." All the attractions that wealth
and power could command, added splendor to the scene. Beautiful women
with their enchantments were among the guests in attendance at the royal
banquet. Men of genius and education were there. Princes and statesmen
drank wine like water and reveled under its maddening influence.
With reason dethroned through shameless intoxication, and with lower
impulses and passions now in the ascendancy, the king himself took the
lead in the riotous orgy. As the feast progressed, he "commanded to
bring the golden and silver vessels which . . . 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." The
king would prove that nothing was too sacred for his hands to handle.
"They brought the golden vessels; . . . 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."
Little did Belshazzar think that there was a heavenly Witness to his
idolatrous revelry; that a divine Watcher, unrecognized, looked upon the
scene of profanation, heard the sacrilegious mirth, beheld the idolatry.
But soon the uninvited Guest made His presence felt. When the revelry
was at its height a bloodless hand came forth and traced upon the walls
of the palace characters that gleamed like fire--words which, though
unknown to the vast throng, were a portent of doom to the now
conscience-stricken king and his guests.
Hushed was the boisterous mirth, while men and women, seized with
nameless terror, watched the hand slowly tracing the mysterious
characters. Before them passed, as in panoramic view, the deeds of their
evil lives; they seemed to be arraigned before the judgment bar of the
eternal God, whose power they had just defied. Where but a few moments
before had been hilarity and blasphemous witticism, were pallid faces
and cries of fear. When God makes men fear, they cannot hide the
intensity of their terror.
Belshazzar was the most terrified of them all. He it was who above
all others had been responsible for the rebellion against God which that
night had reached its height in the Babylonian realm. In the presence of
the unseen Watcher, the representative of Him whose power had been
challenged and whose name had been blasphemed, the king was paralyzed
with fear. Conscience was awakened. "The joints of his loins were
loosed, and his knees smote one against another." Belshazzar had
impiously lifted himself up against the God of heaven and had trusted in
his own might, not supposing that any would dare say, "Why doest
thou thus?" but now he realized that he must render an account of
the stewardship entrusted him, and that for his wasted opportunities and
his defiant attitude he could offer no excuse.
In vain the king tried to read the burning letters. But here was a
secret he could not fathom, a power he could neither understand nor
gainsay. In despair he turned to the wise men of his realm for help. His
wild cry rang out in the assembly, calling upon the astrologers, the
Chaldeans, and the soothsayers to read the writing. "Whosoever
shall read this writing," he promised, "and show me the
interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain
of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the
kingdom." But of no avail was his appeal to his trusted advisers,
with offers of rich awards. Heavenly wisdom cannot be bought or sold.
"All the king's wise men . . . could not read the writing, nor make
known to the king the interpretation thereof." They were no more
able to read the mysterious characters than had been the wise men of a
former generation to interpret the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar.
Then the queen mother remembered Daniel, who, over half a century
before, had made known to King Nebuchadnezzar the dream of the great
image and its interpretation. "O king, live forever," she
said. "Let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance
be changed: there is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the
holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and
wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king
Nebuchadnezzar . . . made master of the magicians, astrologers,
Chaldeans, and soothsayers; forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and
knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of
hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel,
whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will
show the interpretation.
"Then was Daniel brought in before the king." Making an
effort to regain his composure, Belshazzar said to the prophet:
"Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity
of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? I have even
heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light
and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee. And now the
wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they
should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation
thereof: but they could not show the interpretation of the thing: and I
have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve
doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the
interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a
chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the
Before that terror-stricken throng, Daniel, unmoved by the promises
of the king, stood in the quiet dignity of a servant of the Most High,
not to speak words of flattery, but to interpret a message of doom.
"Let thy gifts be to thyself," he said, "and give thy
rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make
known to him the interpretation."
The prophet first reminded Belshazzar of matters with which he was
familiar, but which had not taught him the lesson of humility that might
have saved him. He spoke of Nebuchadnezzar's sin and fall, and of the
Lord's dealings with him--the dominion and glory bestowed upon him, the
divine judgment for his pride, and his subsequent acknowledgment of the
power and mercy of the God of Israel; and then in bold and emphatic
words he rebuked Belshazzar for his great wickedness. He held the king's
sin up before him, showing him the lessons he might have learned but did
not. Belshazzar had not read aright the experience of his grandfather,
nor heeded the warning of events so significant to himself. The
opportunity of knowing and obeying the true God had been given him, but
had not been taken to heart, and he was about to reap the consequence of
"Thou, . . . O Belshazzar," the prophet declared,
"hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; but
hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought
the vessels of His house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy
wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast
praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone,
which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath
is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: then was the
part of the hand set from Him; and this writing was written."
Turning to the Heaven-sent message on the wall, the prophet read,
"Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin." The hand that had traced the
characters was no longer visible, but these four words were still
gleaming forth with terrible distinctness; and now with bated breath the
people listened while the aged prophet declared:
"This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath
numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; Thou art weighed in the
balances, and art found wanting. Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and
given to the Medes and Persians."
In that last night of mad folly, Belshazzar and his lords had filled
up the measure of their guilt and the guilt of the Chaldean kingdom. No
longer could God's restraining hand ward off the impending evil. Through
manifold providences, God had sought to teach them reverence for His
law. "We would have healed Babylon," He declared of those
whose judgment was now reaching unto heaven, "but she is not
healed." Jeremiah 51:9. Because of the strange perversity of the
human heart, God had at last found it necessary to pass the irrevocable
sentence. Belshazzar was to fall, and his kingdom was to pass into other
As the prophet ceased speaking, the king commanded that he be awarded
the promised honors; and in harmony with this, "they clothed Daniel
with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a
proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the
More than a century before, Inspiration had foretold that "the
night of . . . pleasure" during which king and counselors would vie
with one another in blasphemy against God, would suddenly be changed
into a season of fear and destruction. And now, in rapid succession,
momentous events followed one another exactly as had been portrayed in
the prophetic scriptures years before the principals in the drama had
While still in the festal hall, surrounded by those whose doom has
been sealed, the king is informed by a messenger that "his city is
taken" by the enemy against whose devices he had felt so secure;
"that the passages are stopped, . . . and the men of war are
affrighted." Verses 31, 32. Even while he and his nobles were
drinking from the sacred vessels of Jehovah, and praising their gods of
silver and of gold, the Medes and the Persians, having turned the
Euphrates out of its channel, were marching into the heart of the
unguarded city. The army of Cyrus now stood under the walls of the
palace; the city was filled with the soldiers of the enemy, "as
with caterpillars" (verse 14); and their triumphant shouts could be
heard above the despairing cries of the astonished revelers.
"In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans
slain," and an alien monarch sat upon the throne.
Clearly had the Hebrew prophets spoken concerning the manner in which
Babylon should fall. As in vision God had revealed to them the events of
the future, they had exclaimed: "How is Sheshach taken! and how is
the praise of the whole earth surprised! how is Babylon become an
astonishment among the nations!" "How is the hammer of the
whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation
among the nations!" "At the noise of the taking of Babylon the
earth is moved, and the cry is heard among the nations."
"Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed." "The
spoiler is come upon her, even upon Babylon, and her mighty men are
taken, every one of their bows is broken: for the Lord God of
recompenses shall surely requite. And I will make drunk her princes, and
her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they
shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name
is the Lord of hosts."
"I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O
Babylon, and thou wast not aware: thou art found, and also caught,
because thou hast striven against the Lord. The Lord hath opened His
armory, and hath brought forth the weapons of His indignation: for this
is the work of the Lord God of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans."
"Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The children of Israel and the
children of Judah were oppressed together: and all that took them
captives held them fast; they refused to let them go. Their Redeemer is
strong; the Lord of hosts is His name: He shall throughly plead their
cause, that He may give rest to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants
of Babylon." Jeremiah 51:41; 50:23, 46; 51:8, 56, 57; 50:24, 25,
Thus "the broad walls of Babylon" became "utterly
broken, and her high gates. . . burned with fire." Thus did Jehovah
of hosts "cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease," and lay
low "the haughtiness of the terrible." Thus did "Babylon,
the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency,"
become as Sodom and Gomorrah-- a place forever accursed. "It shall
never be inhabited," Inspiration has declared, "neither shall
it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian
pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But
wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be
full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall
dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their
desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces." "I
will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and
I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of
hosts." Jeremiah 51:58; Isaiah 13:11, 19-22; 14:23.
To the last ruler of Babylon, as in type to its first, had come the
sentence of the divine Watcher: "O king, . . . to thee it is
spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee." Daniel 4:31.
"Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon,
Sit on the ground: there is no throne. . . .
Sit thou silent,
And get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans:
For thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.
"I was wroth with My people,
I have polluted Mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand:
Thou didst show them no mercy; . . .
"And thou saidst, I shall be a lady forever:
So that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart,
Neither didst remember the latter end of it.
"Therefore hear now this,
Thou that art given to pleasures
That dwellest carelessly,
That sayest in thine heart,
I am, and none else beside me;
I shall not sit as a widow,
Neither shall I know the loss of children: . . .
"These two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day,
The loss of children, and widowhood:
They shall come upon thee in their perfection for the
multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great
abundance of thine enchantments.
For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness:
Thou hast said, None seeth me.
"Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee;
And thou hast said in thine heart,
I am, and none else beside me.
Therefore shall evil come upon thee;
Thou shalt not know from whence it riseth:
And mischief shall fall upon thee;
Thou shalt not be able to put it off:
And desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which
thou shalt not know.
"Stand now with thine enchantments,
and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast
labored from thy youth;
If so be thou shalt be able to profit,
If so be thou mayest prevail.
"Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels.
Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators,
Stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.
Behold, they shall be as stubble; . . .
They shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: . . .
None shall save thee." Isaiah 47:1-15.
Every nation that has come upon the stage of action has been
permitted to occupy its place on the earth, that the fact might be
determined whether it would fulfill the purposes of the Watcher and the
Holy One. Prophecy has traced the rise and progress of the world's great
empires--Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. With each of these, as
with the nations of less power, history has repeated itself. Each has
had its period of test; each has failed, its glory faded, its power
While nations have rejected God's principles, and in this rejection
have wrought their own ruin, yet a divine, overruling purpose has
manifestly been at work throughout the ages. It was this that the
prophet Ezekiel saw in the wonderful representation given him during his
exile in the land of the Chaldeans, when before his astonished gaze were
portrayed the symbols that revealed an overruling Power that has to do
with the affairs of earthly rulers.
Upon the banks of the river Chebar, Ezekiel beheld a whirlwind
seeming to come from the north, "a great cloud, and a fire
infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst
thereof as the color of amber." A number of wheels intersecting one
another were moved by four living beings. High above all these "was
the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and
upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a
man above upon it." "And there appeared in the cherubims the
form of a man's hand under their wings." Ezekiel 1:4, 26; 10:8. The
wheels were so complicated in arrangement that at first sight they
appeared to be in confusion; yet they moved in perfect harmony. Heavenly
beings, sustained and guided by the hand beneath the wings of the
cherubim, were impelling those wheels; above them, upon the sapphire
throne, was the Eternal One; and round about the throne was a rainbow,
the emblem of divine mercy.
As the wheellike complications were under the guidance of the hand
beneath the wings of the cherubim, so the complicated play of human
events is under divine control. Amidst the strife and tumult of nations
He that sitteth above the cherubim still guides the affairs of this
The history of nations speaks to us today. To every nation and to
every individual God has assigned a place in His great plan. Today men
and nations are being tested by the plummet in the hand of Him who makes
no mistake. All are by their own choice deciding their destiny, and God
is overruling all for the accomplishment of His purposes.
The prophecies which the great I am has given in His word, uniting
link after link in the chain of events, from eternity in the past to
eternity in the future, tell us where we are today in the procession of
the ages and what may be expected in the time to come. All that prophecy
has foretold as coming to pass, until the present time, has been traced
on the pages of history, and we may be assured that all which is yet to
come will be fulfilled in its order.
Today the signs of the times declare that we are standing on the
threshold of great and solemn events. Everything in our world is in
agitation. Before our eyes is fulfilling the Saviour's prophecy of the
events to precede His coming: "Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of
wars. . . . Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against
kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes,
in divers places." Matthew 24:6, 7.
The present is a time of overwhelming interest to all living. Rulers
and statesmen, men who occupy positions of trust and authority, thinking
men and women of all classes, have their attention fixed upon the events
taking place about us. They are watching the relations that exist among
the nations. They observe the intensity that is taking possession of
every earthly element, and they recognize that something great and
decisive is about to take place--that the world is on the verge of a
The Bible, and the Bible only, gives a correct view of these things.
Here are revealed the great final scenes in the history of our world,
events that already are casting their shadows before, the sound of their
approach causing the earth to tremble and men's hearts to fail them for
"Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste,
and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants
thereof; . . . because they have transgressed the laws, changed the
ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse
devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate."
"Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a
destruction from the Almighty shall it come. . . . The seed is rotten
under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken
down; for the corn is withered. How do the beasts groan! the herds of
cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of
sheep are made desolate." The vine is dried up, and the fig tree
languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple
tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is
withered away from the sons of men." Joel 1:15-18, 12.
"I am pained at my very heart; . . . I cannot hold my peace,
because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm
of war. Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is
spoiled." Jeremiah 4:19, 20.
"Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is
even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it."
"Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge,
Even the Most High, thy habitation;
There shall no evil befall thee,
Neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling."
Psalm 91:9, 10.
"O daughter of Zion, . . . the Lord shall redeem thee from the
hand of thine enemies. Now also many nations are gathered against thee,
that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they
know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they His
counsel." Micah 4:10-12. God will not fail His church in the hour
of her greatest peril. He has promised deliverance. "I will bring
again the captivity of Jacob's tents," He has declared, "and
have mercy on his dwelling places." Jeremiah 30:18.
Then will the purpose of God be fulfilled; the principles of His
kingdom will be honored by all beneath the sun.
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