“But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription. Daniel 5:22-24 (NIV).
Chutzpah: is that what Daniel had? How imprudent; how confrontational; how accurate he was. How good it would have been for Belshazzar to genuinely repent on hearing these verses. Belshazzar had set himself against God by being unrepentantly proud, by mocking God through defiling the objects stolen from the destroyed temple. Worse, Belshazzar, as king of Babylon, had overseen the nation in defying God, leading Babylon to mock god through its idols, it’s pagan ways. Where once Babylon had been led by a man who (finally) gave God the respect and honor He deserved, now it was led by a weaker descendant who had no interest in the God of all creation.
Pretty serious stuff, don’t you think. Just wait for the rest of the chapter: what happened changed history, even history that actively changes all the way forward into today. All because of chutzpah.
More importantly, all because of what God would do through Daniel, the fall of Babylon, and the rise of another empire from Persia. A hostile army is nearly at the gates of Babylon that very night; by morning, everything will have changed. Yet, at the end of today’s verses, neither Belshazzar, Daniel, nor the festive guests appear to know that. What might have happened if, like Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar truly repented? If Belshazzar had broken down, weeping, taken off his robes and put on sackcloth, announced his sin to his guests, and directed the kingdom to repent with him?
We’ll never know. As we will see next time, in just four words written by a ghostly hand, God pronounced judgment on Belshazzar and his kingdom. Without genuine repentance, the prophecy would immediately come true. That repentance is the thing that made God’s actions against Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar different. The former had thrice confessed that God was supreme; the latter never did.
You and me: let’s not make the mistake Belshazzar did. God is God no matter what we think or do. It isn’t chutzpah when we praise Him and proclaim it: it’s who we are and how we are blessed by Him simply to tell the truth.
For further reading: Exodus 10:3, Isaiah 14:13, Jeremiah 50:29, Habakkuk 2:19, Revelation 9:20, Daniel 5:25
Lord, for Thou only art holy. Thou only art the Lord.
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