What strikes me most in today’s passage is Belshazzar’s terrified reaction to seeing a hand writing in a strange language on the wall during his lavish feast. It is this strange and unexplainable supernatural phenomenon that frightens him most, not the imminent threat of conquest by the Persians, which was probably already underway. The story of Belshazzar’s Feast is all about the consequences of openly and knowingly disrespecting The Lord God Almighty. This opening passage sets the scene and clearly exposes some of the sins being committed. There is a lot of drinking, and the mention of wives and concubines suggests sexual immorality too. But the worst sin of all, and what precipitated the Lord’s physical intervention with the writing of his judgement on the actual wall, was the the open praise of their man made idols using the sacred vessels from the temple in Jerusalem. Belshazzar made a celebration of breaking the first and most important commandment: “You must not have any other god but me” (Exodus 20:3 also see verses 2-7) The Lord judged him on the spot, in writing, and he was killed that same evening.
Daniel 5:1-6 NLT
Many years later King Belshazzar gave a great feast for 1,000 of his nobles, and he drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking the wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver cups that his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. He wanted to drink from them with his nobles, his wives, and his concubines. So they brought these gold cups taken from the Temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. While they drank from them they praised their idols made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Suddenly, they saw the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, near the lamp stand. The king himself saw the hand as it wrote, and his face turned pale with fright. His knees knocked together in fear and his legs gave way beneath him.
When God chooses to intervene and perhaps reveal himself in an obvious way, we read all through the Bible, accounts of terror and fear. The Angels, when they appear, are forever opening their messages with the words “fear not.” This fear that comes in the presence of God, it seems to me, is all bound up with un-acknowledged guilt and the terror of punishment and death. My goal is therefore to take note that despite Belshazzar’s apparent disregard for the God of Jerusalem and his sacrilegious behaviour, ultimately he was more afraid of God than he was of the invading Persians. Perhaps if I can always live with that knowledge and behave accordingly, I will never have to experience the terror of seeing the judgement of God written on the walls for all to see.
Daniel 5:1-31, 2 Peter 2:1-22, Psalms 119:113-128, Proverbs 28:19-20