“Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes. “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 5:18-24
This passage hearkens back to king Nebuchadnezzar’s domestication and descent into becoming an animal. The “dew from heaven” is again described as drenching king Nebuchadnezzar. Apparently dew drenching is not hereditary because king Nebuchadnezzar’s son has totally forgotten the lesson’s that God taught his father.
The passage takes place at a feast being held by king Nebuchadnezzar’s son and immediately follows the famous passage about a disembodied hand writing a message on the wall during the party to get Belshazzar’s attention. Apparently Belshazzar is using goblets stolen from the temple in Jerusalem with no thought to the God from whose temple these goblets were stolen. I cannot help but think there is a metaphorical meaning here comparing the goblets to the people of Israel who have also been “stolen” and placed in exile in Bablyon.
God’s seems to be trying to tell Belshazzar that all the things that he believes he has accomplished and acquired are in fact resting in God’s hand and he forgets this at his own peril. He reminds Belshazzar, and all those who are reading this passage, that God “holds in his hand your life and all your ways”. We may think we are choosing our own way and forging our own destiny, but in the end God wins. King Belshazzar will find this out very soon as the very night when Daniel interprets the writing on the wall he will be killed.
So what are we to take away from this hard lesson that God is teaching Belshazzar? I guess what I take away from it is that we should hold very loosely all the achievements and acquisitions of our lives because holding onto these things can crowd God out of our lives. I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite books call Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. In it he says:
“The only way to be filled with the Spirit is to empty myself of me. When I empty me of me, it provides space for the Holy Spirit to fill me”
What God was asking Belshazzar to do, and by extension what he is asking us to do, is make room for God in our lives – “you did not honor God”. God wants to take center stage and be the animator of our lives. I believe God tells us this not because He wants to instill fear in us that we will be crushed by His mighty hand, but rather because he genuinely loves us and believes in us and wants to carry us through life like a son or daughter.
Belshazzar learned his lesson the hard way, by reaching the end of his life and finding a dead end. Hopefully we can learn from his mistake and make room for God now, while we are still muddling our way through this land of Oblivion.
Prayer: God you promise to fill us with your spirit if we make room. Help us to clear our the clutter keeping us from You.