Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
If I were to take a poll to see who was content with where they are in life, I think I’d find that the majority of people would say they are not – which is understandable. Darkness likes to keep us in a state of want because it makes us feel unsettled. With uncertainty weighing down on us, we are unable to see clearly. Our judgements and choices become reactionary instead of intentional. We tend to overlook the fact that our decisions could have permanent ramifications. Instead, we’d like to think that what is done can be undone, but such is not always the case. Consider King Belshazzar, in Daniel 5. Here lies the story of a man who chose to lose sight of God and would pay for his decisions with his life.
In the Bible, the story starts off festive enough. King Belshazzar calls together a feast for a thousand of his lords. As he is tasting the wine, he decides it would be a good idea to request the gold and silver vessels that were pillaged from the temple of Jerusalem, so that he and his entourage could drink the wine out of them. Such a choice is an example of poor decision-making. As this group begins to drink wine from the vessels, we read in verse 4 that they also: praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. If you’re unfamiliar with this story, I think you now have probably realized –this doesn’t end well.
The Writing on the Wall
Soon, the fingers of a man’s hand appear and start to write on the wall. The king is clearly nervous and probably a bit scared. Afterall, who wouldn’t be? He doesn’t understand the writing that appears on the wall, so he calls his astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers to help him solve the mystery. This scenario should sound familiar because this is what a previous leader, King Nebuchadnezzar did, when he had a spiritual encounter that left him confused. Such a group could not help him, and they also would not be able to help Belshazzar. The queen, not at the banquet hall but hearing what has happened, has an idea: She says:
There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.”Daniel 5:11-12
The Power in Choice
Daniel is then brought before the king, who asks for his help. However, before Daniel tells the king the meaning of what has been written, he points out that Belshazzar should have known better than to make such a foolish decision. Previously, King Nebuchadnezzar had allowed his ego to get the best of him, and for that, he was driven from the sons of men by God for a period of time. Daniel follows up in verse 22 by saying: “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this”.
Now, before we go judging Belshazzar too harshly, how often do we do the same? How often do we know better but choose to not do better. It’s easy to fall back into old habits because we’re tired of being intentional in creating new ones. We also may forget to make God a part of our decision-making process, because we just don’t consider His direction to be valid or necessary. Furthermore, we complicate choice by giving weight to factors rooted in ego, and not divine principle. Other times, we just aren’t being thoughtful enough. It’s easy to not know where to go when we haven’t taken the time to allow God to show us. Nevertheless, at the end of day, our actions reflect who we are, and sometimes that means what’s inside of us isn’t so great.
You Have Been Found Wanting
As for Daniel, because of his relationship with God, he is able to tell Belshazzar the meaning of words written on the wall – MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. In verses 26-28, we find the three statements of explanation. They say:
- MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it;
- TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting;
- PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.
That night – Belshazzar is slain. When I take a moment to consider God’s judgement, I linger on verse 27, where Daniel tells Belshazzar he has been found wanting. This is a strong statement, because we see that His judgement is not about a particular moment. It’s about who Belshazzar is wholistically, which is why the statement “You have been weighed” is issued. Now, Belshazzar’s choice to drink from the sacred cups and assign power to false gods may have put him at his limit, but this wasn’t an isolated instance. We can learn from this that while it’s important to give grace and compassion, mercy does run out. We mustn’t use God’s patience as a reason to keep sinning.
Moreover, if we actively block ourselves off from God, we will be unable to comprehend Him. To recognize God’s voice, we must learn what He sounds like. This takes time and practice – and sometimes in the learning process, we’re going to get it wrong. We might mistake God’s voice for our own, but we should keep trying anyway. God honors our faith and is willing to redirect us as needed.
To Find Ourselves Wanting
Still, each of us will have to answer for our choices, intentions, and priorities. As for Belshazzar, we learn that for all he had, he was still found wanting in the eyes of God. His position and riches gave him no protection from God’s judgement because his heart and mindset were lacking. Given such an outcome, I had to wonder – is God finding me wanting too? Am I living up to the standards God has impressed upon my heart? Or, am I in a state of slow and steady destruction?
It’s important to take inventory because our own wanting is what can be so damaging. It’s our own self-critique, when rooted in comparisons, criticism, fear, societal standards, and unrealistic expectations, that creates unruly distractions. We then think too heavily on ideas like the weight we could lose. The hair that has thinned. The goals we haven’t accomplished, and the struggles that make us feel limited. It is in this space that we forget God. Gratitude escapes us as darkness consumes us. “Want” becomes the ruling faction which leaves us in a constant state of dissatisfaction.
How to Move Forward
To overcome, we must recognize that the wanting isn’t inherently bad, but in it, the temptation to succumb to darkness will arise. Yet if we only take a few quiet moments to acknowledge God’s sovereignty, we are able to jumpstart the journey to become again grounded in His peace. Unfortunately for Belshazzar, he refused to humble his heart, so he was unable to receive God’s word. For us, we must be intentional in seeking God so that we are willing to submit to His will above our own. At times, the way may not be clear or what we desire, but it’s important to remember that we do our best work in God’s light. With God, we are always able to arrive, especially when we’re also willing to let go.
A Quick Aside:
There is much debate as to whether or not Daniel 5 is accurate because history dictates that King Nebuchadnezzar was not Belshazzar’s father. It was Nabonidus. I needed to find the answer to this conundrum, so I decided to do something I’ve never done. I tracked down the Hebrew version of these scriptures. I first looked up a few scriptures outside of Daniel that had the phrase “his father”. Here, I am highlight two: Genesis 2:24 and 2 Chronicles 2:17. In both instances, using the Bible Hub app, I found that the word for “his father” in Hebrew is “אָבִ֑יו”.
Yet, when I look at Daniel 5:2 to find the Hebrew word for “his father”, it is “אֲב֔וּהִי”, which looks a bit different from previous references. According to Google, it translates to “Father and God”. I couldn’t find translations for every reference in Daniel 5. I did for Daniele 5:13 where Belshazzar refers to his father as “אַ֖בִי”, which can be translated in Hebrew to mean “my father” or “my God”. Belshazzar and Daniel are not referencing King Nebuchadnezzar as the actual father of Belshazzar… more like a previous leader, who would have been considered a god in those times. Furthermore, if we look at Daniel 9:16, the word used for “our fathers” translates to ancestors.
My point is this – the Bible is not wrong. We’re left to work through the translations, but the meaning is not lost. If you find what feels like a discrepancy, never be afraid to seek understanding so that the Holy Spirit can provide understanding.
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