Reading: Daniel 5
The Persian army was already making its approach on Babylon. Belshazzar calls everyone together in what is either denial, or an arrogant assumption that he can't be defeated. There are 1000 nobles on the guest list along with his wives and concubines. In an act of hubris, Belshazzar brings the gold and silver goblets taken from the temple right into his party and everyone begins drinking from them. As they drink, they praise the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood & stone.
Rather than facing his fears, recognizing his weakness, or preparing for the inevitable, Belshazzar is hosting an “in your face” party. In the midst of demonstrating his utter disregard for God, something rather unusual happened.
Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. 6His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking. (Daniel 5:5-6)
Archaeologists have found what remains of this very room. The wall behind the king was decorated; the other 3 were made of gypsum—plaster. Belshazzar sees the handwriting on the wall (this is where that expression comes from) and has enough insight to realize that it isn't good. He doesn't know what it says, but somehow this pulled the rug right out from under him. He could no longer ignore his impending judgment. Moments ago,he was the mocker drinking up from God's gold cups. Now he is so scared his legs give way and his knees are knocking.
On the surface, Belshazzar has no fear of God. As soon as he sees the handwriting on the wall, however, he knows it is the work of God and has an innate understanding that it isn't good. Unfortunately, it's too late. Belshazzar knew deep down that he was not in good standing with God. Maybe he thought that if he ignored God and exalted himself long enough that God would just “go away.” God doesn't go away.
What was the handwriting on the wall? MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN. Three nouns referencing three weights, or pieces of money. Each has an etymology: Number, Weigh, Divide. The interpretation is, “Your days are numbered...your life is weighed on the scales and found wanting...your kingdom is divided...”. The short version is, “Tonight you die!”
Though uninterested in Belshazzar's rewards, Daniel is clothed in purple, made royalty for a moment. When he woke up in the morning, the party was over and Belshazzar was slain. Darius conquered Belshazzar. But why is this in your Bible? What assertion is this text making about you and me? It's not just that Belshazzar's days were numbered–yours are too! It's not just that Belshazzar's life would be weighed and found wanting–your life will be weighed. How will it be found?
As our lives are examined what will count for the glory of God? What will remain and what will be blown away (Psalm 1:4), or burned up (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)? Ultimately, there is only one life that can be weighed and found sufficient: the life of God's Son with Whom He was well pleased– the life of Christ. If we are found in Him we will not come up short, but we must still build on that foundation with a life that brings honor to God and not ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:10).
We see what kind of math was applied to Belshazzar's life: division. What kind of math will be applied to you? Division or multiplication? The handwriting is on the wall for everyone of us! Our days are numbered. Our life will be weighed. Kingdom of Heaven economics will be applied to our life. Will your own little kingdom but cut to pieces like Belshazzar's? Or will kingdom economics multiply you some 30, some 60, even 100-fold?
The only way to be weighed and not be found wanting is to live by faith rather than denial. This begins by recognizing just how wanting (lacking) we are and trusting in Christ for salvation. It also means living our lives in light of “that day”— the day we stand before God. This is living in the proper fear of God. That is the foundation of faith; that is the source of true wisdom.
To find out more about Belshazzar and why, when weighed on God's scale he came up weightless (wanting) listen to the message The Handwriting on the Wall.
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