The king summoned the enchanters, astrologersand diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled. Daniel 5:7-9 (NIV).
Belshazzar knew the writing meant something; he understood it was dreadful and important to him. He did what his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, had done, and consulted ‘the experts’ of Babylon. Like the experts of today (or any age), they failed; “experts” usually do. And that made the king even more scared than he was before. “Not only do they not understand this, but they can’t help me!”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt that way, before. I’ve felt like I’d trade just about anything if only someone would genuinely understand me. It feels lonely and, yes, terrifying, to know, to feel, something that others don’t and be unable to find someone who simply will help you understand what it all means. If you let it, that feeling can spiral in on you and lead you down dark paths.
Of course, part of the flip-side message is that we aren’t really ever, truly alone. That matters more. Even in captivity, the Jews in exile were never alone. Belshazzar will soon consult Daniel, who (to him) mysteriously divines even the strangest messages. But that could only happen because Daniel the slave understood he wasn’t really alone. God had allowed the Babylonians to conquer Israel, yet God was also actively living with them in their exile. God had provided miraculous understanding to divine Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, and He would soon perform that miracle, through Daniel, again.
We are never really alone. With Jesus’ Spirit guiding our days, we’re always in His company. We have His understanding to guide us in hard times, tough decisions, moments of doubt. His presence is worth far more than all the baubles & bling of Babylon.
But Belshazzar didn’t ‘get this.’ If you read through the episode again, he didn’t really want to. He hadn’t humbled himself before and he really isn’t humbling himself now. He simply wants someone to explain this strange occurrence so he can go on partying like it’s 1999 (BC). Is it any wonder that he now found himself drowning in terror? Is it any surprise we would too?
For further reading: Genesis 41:8, Exodus 18:8, Psalm 48:5, Isaiah 19:3, Jeremiah 50:5, Daniel 5:10
Lord Jesus, You are always with me. Slay my pride today. Show me my sins and help me to turn from them.
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