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October 17, 2004

”…The God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.”

Daniel 5:23

May God keep every single one of us from ever hearing these stinging words, spoken to Belshazzar, king of Babylon.

To give a little background, the king had been “partying” with a thousand of his cabinet members and their wives. “While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.” Daniel 5:2 & 4.

Though the king didn’t realize it, he had just “crossed the line” with God.

God’s judgment was presented in a dramatic way. “…the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace…” Daniel 5:5. (This is where we get the saying: “The writing on the wall.”)

This event had quite an effect on the king: “…and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked each other.” Daniel 5:5 & 6. The king was so scared his knees were knocking!

The words on the wall were: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.” But the king didn’t know this, much less what these words meant! He immediately cried out for his astrologers and soothsayers. NONE of them, however, could even read the message, let alone interpret it.

Think about it: the palm readers, advisors, psychics, etc. got nowhere with this message. Why was that? Because this message was from the living God, and only a godly prophet, Daniel, was given the interpretation!

It’s interesting to note that the king didn’t pray and ask God for the meaning, nor did he even think to call on someone with a relationship with God. However, his mother, the queen, did.  “There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Sprit of the Holy God,” she told her son. “…now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.” Daniel 5:11 & 12.

Daniel was brought before the king and the king offered Daniel gifts and honors. But Daniel refused them. “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation.” Daniel 5:17.

Daniel reminded the king of the lesson that the king’s father, Nebuchadnezzar, learned: how he took credit for the whole nation of Babylon, when it was God who had put his father in power and kept him there; how when Nebuchadnezzar was told this, he still exalted himself and not God; so God allowed his kingdom to be taken from him for a period of time; and later, when God had returned it to him, Nebuchadnezzar knew that God gives and takes kingdoms and that “…those who walk in pride He is able to put down.” Daniel 4:37.

“But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold…and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.” Daniel 5:22 & 23.

That very night, Belshazzar’s kingdom was divided and he was killed.

May we all be warned and humbled by his example. May we, every day, tell God of our love and thanks for all that He is and all that He does for us. May we remind ourselves that He is aware of all of our ways, thoughts, motives, words and actions. And may we thank Him, each moment, for another breath from His hand.

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