S116P6 – Difficult truths: King Belshazzar

Dan. 5:25-31

“This is the inscription that was written: mene, mene, tekel, parsin. Here is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” 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. That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.

His name was a prayer.  Belshazzar means “Bel, protect the king,” and is a plea to a Babylonian deity.  This prayerful name might have appeared to protect him indeed, but that was just an illusion.  We are provided a picture of this man earlier in this chapter, one of egotism and smugness.  His lack of respect for the one true God was evident in his behavior.  His drunken practices included drinking from and sharing with others the golden goblets used in the Temple during holy ceremonies.  Not only were they defiling what God had consecrated, but they worshiped false gods during these events.  It is no wonder that Belshazzar provoked God’s anger and judgment. 

The reign of King Belshazzar was very short, lasting only two years.  The words spoken to him by Daniel certainly brought him fear, but I believe he ultimately was moved not by the fear of the Lord but by pure self-preservation.  Although it appears that he elevated and honored Daniel out of respect for his prophetic interpretation, it was just a show.  Any true turning of his heart might have led to a different outcome for him.  The king seems to have thought that this kind gesture toward God’s servant would have put him in good standing with God, but the Lord cannot be deceived.  He sees the heart.  We can only wonder what the king was thinking when he realized that these words of judgment were true. 

We serve a gracious God, and that is undeniable.  He is loving, forgiving, longsuffering, and a whole host of other just attributes.  He is perfect and good always, but that does not mean that He withholds judgment.  The thing is, He cannot accept unrighteousness.  Those who have chosen sin and have decided to defy the Lord, and those who defile that which is holy, bring his wrath and judgment on themselves.  Grace and forgiveness operate by a certain mechanism, which requires repentance.  Without that, only judgment abounds.  Father, show us where we have yet to repent and relinquish our hearts, that we would not defy You.