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Weighed and Wanting


Weighed, and Wanting

Text: Daniel 5:23-31, Ezra 1:1-4

Daniel 5 is not a cheerful chapter. There’s no gospel message in it, the whole chapter is law, and condemnation. When Daniel eventually gets to speak to Belshazzar, there’s no words of comfort, or exhortation to repentance, or hope for the future. There’s no happy ending for this man for he has nothing good in his earthly life, and even in this life he is under the condemnation of the Law of God.

1. The King’s Indictment.

The fingers have written their message on the wall, the riotous party has come to an abrupt end, and Daniel has reminded Belshazzar of the work of God, saving sinners like Nebuchadnezzar – but Belshazzar has a hardened heart. 22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; Look at this wicked man as Daniel confronts him to his face about his sinful nature. About his…

  • Pride. 23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; He has lifted himself up, he thinks very highly of himself, – his self esteem is off the scale. It’s a common indication of the rebellious heart, and it is greatly encouraged in modern society.  Yet we have nothing to be proud about in this life. The Hebrew poet in Psalm 22:6 had no pride when he admitted, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Add to pride…
  • Idolatry. and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know:  Putting something else in the place in our life that rightly belongs to God, our creator, contrary to the second commandment, Exodus 20:4 -5 But all of these things, pride, idolatry are forgivable, – but Belshazzar was committing what might be called an unpardonable sin,  Jesus said, Matthew 12:31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. He
  • Spurned God’s grace. and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: Daniel reminds him of the common grace of God to every person. It is God who gives us the most fundamental of basic necessities. We are created to bring honour and glory to God, but Belshazzar is living for the day, living for himself, for pleasure and for sin, and he has not fulfilled that purpose for which he was created.

He is left with no excuse. Romans 1:20  

2. The Mysterious Epitaph.

It was because of this godless, self-sufficient attitude that God sent that part of a hand to write on that wall. 24 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. Don’t ask me how he did it, – God can often intervene in strange ways to bring godless sinners to a halt in their wickedness, he controls everything in this world. Daniel can read the words. 25 And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.  And he can tell the king what they mean, Concisely, God has numbered, he has weighed, and they divide.…

  • Mene. 26 This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. It’s said twice, for emphasis, to demonstrate its certainty. But there is no mistake. My times are in his hand. God numbers the days of our lives and he numbers the days of our business ventures, and he numbers the days of kings and kingdoms…The end of Belshazzar’s kingdom has come.
  • Tekel. 27  In the Babylonian language, in Aramaic, “You are weighed” – in Hebrew, “You are too light.”  Like every man, weighed in the scales of God, Belshazzar fails the test. 
  • Peres. 28 Sometimes ‘Uparsin.’ The word simply means ‘Persians.’ But Daniel uses it as a word play, a very similar word means ‘divided.’  Everything will be taken away, – leaving complete terror and destitution in its place. 

This message, this writing on the wall was for Belshazzar, but it is also for every one of us. It is the message of death, and judgment and eternal desolation for ever and ever, for the wilful, proud, self-serving arrogant sinner. And that condemnation, is already in place. Interestingly, Daniel does not call upon Belshazzar to repent, as he had with Nebuchadnezzar. 

3. The Wages of Sin.

When Daniel pronounces the terrible fate that awaits the king, Belshazzar doesn’t even object or protest his innocence, or say that he is sorry. In fact he resignedly hands over the promised and unwanted reward. V29  He knows that what Daniel has said is true. People will say, “How could a loving God send people like me into a lost eternity?” What they don’t see yet is that they will have no desire to argue with God’s judgment. On that day we will see our sin and our wickedness laid bare, – and even if God handed down no judgment at all, we would want to shut ourselves out of his holy presence for ever and ever, – we would demand to be cast away. Belshazzar simply accepts that God’s forensic assessment of his life is correct.  Romans 3:19   

For Belshazzar, the end came in a violent and bloody death. He died that night, and his kingdom fell. V30-31 In a previous lesson I mentioned that the mighty Persian army, under King Darius the Mede had captured all the Babylonian lands – except the city itself. As Belshazzar partied, the Persian breachged the city’s defences and Babylon the great was fallen. Belshazzar the king died that very evening, and Darius replaced him on the throne. It was to be the last year of Jewish captivity in Babylon, for the next Persian king would be Cyrus, a younger man than Darius, and he would set the captives free, and return the sacred treasures of the temple to Jerusalem and God’s sovereign plan of history would continue to be written.  Ezra 1:2-4 

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