Jump Start # 2651
Daniel 5:22 “Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this”
Our passage today takes us to the final days of the Babylonian empire. That once powerful, beautiful and enormous kingdom was coming to an end. This was not new news. Isaiah had prophesied this. The great Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, had a dream in which this was revealed. And, now, all these years later, it happens.
By this time, Nebuchadnezzar has died. A quick turn-around of several kings revealed the unsteady and turbulent times that the nation was going through. Belshazzar was the last. He wasn’t truly the king. His father was. His father was out fighting battles and had a palace in another location. Belshazzar was left to run the city, or more accurately, to ruin the city. As the Persians and Medes marched closer and closer to the city, the foolish Belshazzar throws a drunken feast for a thousand of his nobles. Either clueless to how close the enemy was or so arrogant that he thought Babylon was untouchable, he drank the night away. He called for the vessels of God taken from the Jerusalem temple by Nebuchadnezzar. They drink and toast the gods of Babylon from those stolen cups. A hand appears out of no where. Words are written where everyone can see. The king falls apart in fear. His wise men are brought in but they are unable to make sense of the words. Daniel, for the third time in this book, comes and interprets.
It is from this event that we get those great expressions, “handwriting on the wall,” “weighed in the balances,” and “days are numbered.” But Daniel does something this time that he didn’t do when interpreting for Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel preaches. He thumps Belshazzar for being a fool and not glorifying the God that gave him the breath in his body. Daniel tells the story of Nebuchadnezzar, arrogant and proud, but God brought him low. He lost his mind. He ate grass like cattle. His hair and nails grew long. When he learned his lesson, God restored him to the throne. It was God who put Nebuchadnezzar there. It was God who is the supreme ruler of the universe. And, it is here where Daniel say, “You knew this.” You knew that story. It was not locked up in the achieves. Nebuchadnezzar had published this and sent it throughout the empire. Belshazzar knew. He knew but it didn’t change him. He knew but it didn’t impact him. He knew but he lived and acted as if he didn’t know.
And, what a great lesson for us.
First, God has kept the stories of failures in the Bible so we don’t have to walk down those same dead end streets and make the same mistakes ourselves. Judas betraying. Peter denying. Ananias lying. Nadab worshipping differently. Eve talking to serpents. Demas returning to the world. All of these wrecks upon the highway of life are lessons for us. You know these things, yet do we follow in these same steps?
Second, people have this underlining belief that they are different than others. What happen to them won’t happen to me. Nebuchadnezzar’s pride brought him low. Did Belshazzar think his pride would be overlooked? Did he think it was different now? Paul told Timothy that elders who continued to remain in sin were to be rebuked publically. This would cause others to be fearful of sinning. Others would take it to heart. Others would learn. Belshazzar knew, but it didn’t do him any good.
Third, this is how one generation helps the next. This is how parents help their children. This is how older Christians help younger Christians. When we hide our mistakes and paint the picture of perfection, those younger feel that they can never live up to that standard. Some quit trying. The truth is, we all have struggled, fought temptation, had bad days and have made the wrong choices. Being honest, open and clear can help others. They will find us easier to talk to. They will find us being real. They will find us as being success stories. Only Jesus is perfect. We need to stop trying to out do the Lord because we never can.
Fourth, knowing and doing are two different actions in our lives. Belshazzar knew. But he never acted upon what he knew. He might as well had not known. What he knew didn’t help him. The reason is, knowledge is only good if it becomes action. Knowing something doesn’t help you if you ignore what you learned. The same is for us. We can know the Bible. We sit through Bible classes and hear dozens of sermons. We take notes. We write things in our Bibles. Our heads are full of knowledge. But does that knowledge translate into better behavior and actions. Has that knowledge calmed our anger? Has that knowledge made us purer? Has that knowledge opened our hearts and our hands in compassion? I know and I do are not the same.
The judgment scene of Matthew 25 is about what one has done. I was hungry and you fed. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was in prison and you visited. It was about action. The story of the good Samaritan ends with the Lord saying, “Go and do thou likewise.” He didn’t say, “go home and think about this.” No. Go repeat this. Go do this. Paul told the Galatians, as we have opportunity let us do good to all, especially those of the household of faith. Do good. Titus was told to encourage others to engage in good deeds. Over and over and over the N.T. teaches the lessons about doing what we know.
Belshazzar knew. It didn’t change him. He wasn’t any better for knowing. He died that very night. The night the hand appeared was his last night. It wasn’t a call to repent. It was too late for that. He should have known.
Could the same be said of us? We ought to put into action the things that we know.