Weighed in the Balances

Weighed in the Balances

Scripture: Daniel 5:1-31
One of the most tragic stories in the Bible is of Belshazzar who held a banquet in defiance of the Persian armies surrounding his city. God's unseen hand wrote a message on the banquet wall. It was a message for any who think they will receive God's blessing while ignoring the Lord's commandments.
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Today I want to point you to one of the most tragic stories in the Bible. It is the story of a man who knew what he ought to do but didn't do it. And it stands as a striking lesson to millions in our own day who are not willing to obey the truth after it has been revealed to them. Let me say this friends, that the greatest favor Heaven can bestow upon us, is to give us a knowledge of truth. Some men pray for an understanding of God's will for years, and when the prayer is answered they refuse to obey. This is surely one of the most presumptuous things that anyone can do.

And this was the problem in Belshazzar's experience because God spoke these words to him in Daniel 5:22, "Thou, O Belshazzar hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this."

Now let's get a little background on this verse. What had this King known that he should have been doing? Listen!

Belshazzar was the king of Babylon. Babylon was the greatest empire, and the greatest city, of its day. Belshazzar was apparently the grandson of the great Nebuchadnezzar, who had built Babylon to its glory.

Belshazzar had grown up in Babylon. He knew how God had dealt with the great Nebuchadnezzar, but he didn't pay attention to this object lesson. He knew well about the exploits of his grandfather, invading the territories around the empire, and bringing back slaves. He knew, too, how some of the slaves from Israel had risen to be prominent in the kingdom, and how they had influenced Nebuchadnezzar so that he became a believer in the true God, instead of the sun god of Babylon.

He remembered well the time when Nebuchadnezzar had his strange dream, as recorded in Daniel, chapter 2, in answer to his question whether Babylon would last forever. He knew how Daniel had explained the meaning of the dream, showing that God had sent the dream to reveal the history of the world.

But Belshazzar remembered also how his grandfather had resolved to overthrow the Prophecy, and built a huge image, all of gold, to show that Babylon would not give way to another kingdom. He stood this great image on the plain of Dura, as we read in Daniel chapter 3. Here he called all the leaders of the empire to bow down before the image that he had built. And among these leaders came three, you remember, who worshipped the God of lsrael.

They wouldn't bow down. It was called to the attention of the king, and he was sorry, because he greatly admired these stalwart young men from Israel, whose intellectual brilliance had won them places among the advisors of his realm. So he decided to give them a second chance. But they still refused to worship the golden image.

Of course the devil tempted them, as he tempts Christians today by telling them it was not the letter of the law that was important, only the Spirit, and that God would understand the intent of their heart was that the image represented him, etc., etc. But these men were not like the compromising, milk and water Christians of today. They were made of sterner stuff. They wasted no time on such rot. They wouldn't even stoop to lace their shoes. Tall and straight they stood. Three against the millions and the might of great Babylon.

So they were thrown into the fiery furnace, with the heat so great that it destroyed the men who threw them in, but the Son of God Himself came down and walked through that furnace with them, and delivered them. Belshazzar knew all about this.

Belshazzar knew also about the madness of his grandfather. Nebuchadnezzar had walked upon the ramparts of the city, his heart swelling with pride, as he looked across the monuments to his success.

"Is not this great Babylon, that I have built," he thought. He pushed aside all the warning and counsels that God had given him. He tried to force them out of his mind. He just couldn't believe anything could happen to great Babylon.

So the Lord sent him another dream. God said to him, "You are going to live like a beast in the fields, and eat grass like the oxen, until you learn that the Most High ruleth in the affairs of men." In Daniel 4 we read how it happened. The king went mad-stark, raving mad. They drove him from the palace, and for seven long years he wandered through the forests and the fields, until his hair was like an animals, and his fingernails like claws.

Then, even as God had said, his reason returned to him, and he returned to the throne, a changed man-a humbled, converted, surrendered man-as his prayer and proclamation in Daniel 4 indicate.

All of this Belshazzar knew. He had grown up right here in Babylon. Some of these things he had probably seen with his own eyes, and the rest had been recounted in his ears time and time again; but still he went on in folly.

We read in Daniel 5:1: "Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, while he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father 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."

Belshazzar, of course, did not realize that this was to be his last feast. If he had known that, he would have acted very differently, for he was like all men, in that he expected to get right with God someday. I don't believe you can find a man on earth who really intends to be lost. Deep in his heart every man plans that he will get right with God some day.

Now notice that Belshazzar called for the golden and silver vessels that had been used in the worship of God in Jerusalem, and ordered them filled with wine, that he and his companions might drink from them.

Satan had convinced him that God does not care for His sacred things, even as he does with men today. He tells them that God will take no notice-but He does. Man today defiles the holy things of God-His holy day, His holy money, His ceremonies of worship-thinking that God will do nothing about it. But He will, even as He did with Belshazzar. We read in Verse 5: "In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another."

Have you even seen a man suddenly in fear of his life? Have you noticed how quickly the curses die upon their lips, and they start imploring one another for help? It makes a great difference when they are suddenly brought face to face with eternity.

There were some in the banquet hall that he had not reckoned with, as there are in every banquet hall-the silent watchers of God, recording everything that is said and done. They do not argue, these silent watchers. They never try to force us to do what is right: but they are always there. Even when we raise our hands in blasphemy against God, they do not interfere. They just write it all into the record, for the judgement day.

In his wild alarm, the king made a mistake that has been made by many other men since then. Wanting to understand something that God had done, he appealed to the wise men of the world to help him. This is entirely useless. They may be wise in the learning of the world, but if they do not know God, there is no use asking them anything of a spiritual nature. They will give the wrong answer every time.

So the king called for his wise men, and they came, verse 8, "Then came in all the king's wise men; but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof. Then was the king Belshazzar greatly troubled and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonished."

Now the queen had not been in the banquet hall that evening. This was apparently the queen mother, not Belshazzar's own wife. She had been in her own palace, listening with great concern to the sound of merriment from the banquet hall, for as a matter of actual fact, there was an enemy army camped outside the city walls at that very moment, trying to find a way to get in. Belshazzar, young, arrogant, and foolish, had decided to show his contempt for them by having a feast while they were there-which was a matter of great concern to the queen mother. Well she knew that Nebuchadnezzar would never had done a thing like that.

So her concern mounts as she listens to the sound of feasting progressing toward drunkeness; but as the sound of merriment suddenly stops and an awesome silence prevails, she is alarmed more than ever. Hastily summoning a servant, she sends him running to the banquet hall to learn the cause of the strange silence. The servant can only report that something terrible has happened, so she goes herself. Entering the banquet hall, she sees the lords and ladies in a stupor of drunken fear, and the king paralyzed by terror. Following the direction in which all eyes are turned, she sees the writing on the wall, and she remembers Daniel. Approaching the king, she says: "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. ... Now let Daniel be called, and he will make known the interpretation."

So they sent for Daniel. Daniel was an old man now. For seventy years or more he had lived in Babylon, since his captivity as a youth. He had seen all of God's dealings with Nebuchadnezzar, had seen him come, and had seen him go. Now he finds himself once more called to explain the works of God to a king of Babylon, but how different the message this time!

In the hushed silence of the banquet hall, Daniel fastens his eyes upon Belshazzar and as he looks at the young king, his mind runs back across the years. He remembers all that God has done, to and through Nebuchadnezzar. He finally says: "O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honor; and for the majesty that He gave him, all people, nations and languages trembled and feared before him; whom he would he slew, and whom he would, he kept alive; and whom he would he set up, and whom he would be put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: and he was driven from the sons of men, and his heart was made like the beasts. And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this."

Here Daniel spelled out the tragedy of the young king's life. He knew what he had ought to do, but he didn't do it. He went on: "This is the writing that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Thou art weighed in the balances, and found wanting. Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."

So Daniel left the banquet hall, and none too soon, for while he had still been talking to the young king, the armies of the Medes and Persians were entering the city. They had found a way to turn aside the waters of the Euphrates River, and they had marched down the river bed, under the wall, into the city. In a few moments they burst into the banquet hall, and in that night was Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, slain.

Belshazzar was weighed in the balances of God and found wanting, because he knew what he ought to do, but didn't do it.

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