As we go through our lives as close to the edge of the sin line as we think we can get, we need to remember that God will not be mocked. Rather, we ought to honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. Are you pushing it with God’s forebearance?
1 King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. 2 While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. 4 As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
5 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. 6 His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.
10 The queen, hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. “May the king live forever!” she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! 11 There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners.
13 So Daniel was brought before the king…
17 Then Daniel answered the king… 18 “Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. 20 But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. 21 He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.
22 “But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.
25 “This is the inscription that was written:
mene, mene, tekel, parsin
26 “Here is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
27 Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
28 Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom. 30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, 31 and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.
Daniel 5:1-2, 4-6, 10-11, 13, 17, 18-23, 25-31
Belshazzar made two fundamental mistakes. He did not humble himself before God even though he knew his father’s story of being humbled by God, and he set himself up against the Lord of heaven.
He knew how God worked; he saw the his own father lost his throne and went mad because of his own arrogance; he had critical knowledge of how we reap what we sow in our relationship to the Most High God. Still, Belshazzar couldn’t help himself. His own temptation to sin against God was greater than the impact of God’s power in his life. He shut all of that out.
I think what Belshazzar did in terms of his own arrogance was typical of what we all do. If we have ever encountered God, we know that he is supreme and sovereign. God is in control of our lives and he makes the rain fall on the righteous and the wicked (Matthew 5:45). We know this. And still we sin. We sin because we can hardly help ourselves. The concepts of Romans 7 are inescapable. We do what we don’t want to do and we don’t do what we want to do.
Sin is common to humanity. We all have weaknesses and we fall to them too often. This, of course, is not justification. It’s clarification and explanation of why we do what we do.
His other critical mistake was that Belshazzar set himself up against God. That, he did by bringing out the goblets that were taken from God’s temple back in chapter 1 of Daniel. God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take the precious articles from the temple, yet Belshazzar used them to flaunt his arrogance before the Lord. He and his party-goers drank their wine from the goblets while toasting to the idol gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
God’s forebearance of the king reached its limit that day, and the writing on the wall told him that 1) God was in control of his days as king, which were at their end; 2) Belshazzar’s sin had tipped the scales into an unbearable state before God; and 3) his kingdom would be given to others and would leave his family. Belshazzar died that night.
Read the writing on the wall.
As we go through our lives as close to the edge of the sin line as we think we can get, we need to remember that God will not be mocked. Rather, we ought to “honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways” (verse 23).
Think about where you are toeing the line and pushing God’s forebearance to its limit…