Wednesday, 7 October 2015
Bible Reading: Daniel 5v13-31 'Ultimate Accountability'
The stage is set in v1-12 and in verse 13 as Daniel comes before Belshazzar it is almost as if the king reminds him of his position; that he is an exile, taken from his land, subject to the power and might of the Bablyonian empire. But, verse 17, Daniel’s motivation isn’t rewards but faithfulness to God and that is seen clearly in his response to the king that is phrased in the form of a rebuke. Daniel begins by emphasising and exalting the sovereignty of the very one that Belshazzar began the evening mocking as he drank from the cups from the temple. And the rebuke continues as Daniel teaches the king the lessons of history he should have learnt from the life of Nebuchadnezzar. But the emphasis in Daniel's words is on God not Nebuchadnezzar: “the most high gave…he gave him…he was deposed…he was driven…until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign…”
Then in verse 22-23 the charges begin. Daniel uses “But…” to draw a clear contrast between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar... “you…” emphasises the personal nature of the charge sheet God has against Belshazzar being read out by Daniel. Hegel once said “the only thing we learn from history is that we have learnt nothing from history”. That is certainly true of Belshazzar, despite knowing all that had happened to his ancestor, despite having access to that he has learnt none of the lessons. And that failure leads him to foolishly stand against and mock Yahweh.
It's worth noticing that another theme of the book appears again in verse 23: the stupidity of worshipping idols “which cannot see or hear or understand.” in contrast with God who “holds in his hands your life and all your ways.”
The result of the charge sheet, of sins, is this judgement from God “…he sent the hand…” The writing reads; Mene = from the verb to number, Tekel = from the verb to weigh or assess, Peres = to divide or to part. God has weighed Belshazzar found him wanting, numbered his days and is judging and the kingdom will be divided and given to Medes and Persians.
Unlike with Nebuchadnezzar's dream there is no stump, a warning that we cannot presume on God’s grace. And verse 30 shows us the immediacy of the judgement – “That very night…” It seems likely that the city was under siege already, and that Belshazzar us holding the feats as a show of his confidence in his strength and defences. The city was very well protected against siege and had years worth of stores of food. But Xenophon records the city was taken during a night festival and the king slain.
Chapter 5 reminds us again that God is sovereign and he judges just as he said events change, empires and rulers rise and fall (c/f ch 2 – end of Babylonian empire), but God and his kingdom endure. Opposition to God is futile, failure to learn the lessons leads to judgement.