Contemporary society is full of examples of what it looks like to celebrate self-assertiveness, human achievement, and a preoccupation with the “I/me/my” focus of our age that pays scant, if any, attention to God. He does not see, is the assumption; and if He does see, He does not mind. As believers we are not immune from any of this, for by nature our hearts love to assume that we ourselves are the fount of all knowledge—that we know best how we should think.
An inclination toward self-sufficiency and pride leads to some downplaying or even denying elements of biblical truth in their teaching and thinking. In the church today, God’s judgment and justice are surely such elements. They’re not easy to hear about or to proclaim, but they are central to the truth of the Bible. Paul writes that God will judge “the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16). We cannot hide anything from Him, though we are tempted to believe we can. He knows our hearts, and by this Lord of knowledge “actions are weighed.”
In Daniel 5, we see how the Babylonian king Belshazzar discovered the folly of an arrogance that caused him to exalt himself above the God of knowledge. In the middle of a great feast celebrating himself, using drinking vessels that had been stolen from the Lord’s temple, a hand was sent from the presence of God, appearing on a wall and writing words of judgment—and Belshazzar was reduced to a shaking mass. Daniel interpreted the message for him, saying, “The Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven … And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored” (Daniel 5:21-23). In the end, Belshazzar had “been weighed in the balances and found wanting” (v 27), and “that very night” he “was killed” (v 30). He thought he knew best. He did not.
It is folly to imagine that God does not see, does not know, and will not act. He knows everything about us, and He weighs our actions. As Hannah knew and Belshazzar discovered too late, self-exaltation leads to judgment; but humility before the Lord is the way to life. So, be careful not to pridefully declare that you want things your own way in one area or another and therefore refuse Jesus’ kingship over that aspect of your life. Be careful not to live as though God does not know, and therefore refrain from humble repentance. Instead, humble yourself before the Lord, confessing to Him what He already knows and asking forgiveness for proud thoughts or selfish actions—and “he will exalt you” (James 4:10).
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
The Handwriting on the Wall
1King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.
2Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father1 had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
5Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6Then the king's color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.
17Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22And you his son,6 Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.
24“Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered7 the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27Tekel, you have been weighed8 in the balances and found wanting; 28Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”9
29Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
30That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
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