In Daniel five we find the record of the famous “Writing On The Wall.” God makes a stunning wall post and things are not the same! Belshazzar, the king upon whose wall God writes, jumps into the text with no introduction, and his one and only scene is dramatic. He does not look good, that’s for sure, and the outcome for him is devastating.
One of the remarkable contextual observations is the uneven treatment of Belshazzar as compared to Nebuchadnezzar. In chapters one through four Nebuchadnezzar is given several opportunities to directly hear from God’s servants and to see amazing miracles. We are not quite sure if he ever gets the message clearly, but he does make a few good public testimonies. But for Belshazzar we have no record of direct personal revelation from God. He is held responsible for the record of revelation that others experienced. This is exactly the position in which we find ourselves too. We will be held responsible for the Word of God that records a history of his revelation to other people. They experienced amazing miracles, and we are to believe their record. Jesus said to Thomas, as Thomas saw him after he came back to life, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Another aspect of the unevenness is the way that Daniel, called Belteshazzar, talks with King Belshazzar, versus the way we spoke with Nebuchadnezzar. In Daniel four Daniel warns Nebuchadnezzar of his impending “field trip” in the most tender terms. Daniel says he wishes the sentence was for Nebuchadnezzar’s enemies. But when he comes to Belshazzar his tone is quite different! He is decidedly confrontational. He bluntly turns down the gift offers, and proceeds to expound as to why there is no hope for Belshazzar. After pointedly reciting the history of Nebuchadnezzar he says to Belshazzar, “And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.” (Daniel 5:22 – 23)
Daniel is very pointed in his rebuke. Note the tone of “though you knew all this.” And then note how Daniel strongly points out what Belshazzar did wrong. Belshazzar took what was holy unto the Lord and used it in a profane way. Belshazzar had the record of what Nebuchadnezzar had learned, yet he ignored it and did what was popular in his culture. Notice also that he holds Belshazzar to a high standard. Belshazzar should have done better because he did know better! Daniel is sounding a lot like Paul on Mars Hill when he says “but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.” On Mars Hill Paul quoted “In him we live and move and have our being,” as a basis for accountability. Daniel and Paul both appeal to pagans by saying that God’s revelation is surrounding them, and they ought to honor God.
Four suggested lessons to learn from Daniel Five.
1 1) God does not deal with everyone in the same way, and neither should we. Pray for wisdom on how to respond to every individual.
2 2) A confrontation may not be popular, but may be Biblical.
3 3) A confrontation may not be for the person receiving the rebuke. (It did Belshazzar no good.)
4 4) Let us all walk with the Lord now, not presuming that we will have many chances to repent.