Summary: Belshazzar died because he did not glorify God. Be sure this doesn’t happen to you!
Let us think back to one fateful night in 539 BC- a night quite a long time before any of us was born, despite what our children might think or say, sometimes. Something very significant happened that night, which gives us a lesson that is vital for this period of time for self-examination and reflection in advance of celebrating Christ in his resurrection. That is the focus of these weeks which many Christians call ‘lent’; this is a period of reflection and repentance and of setting life in proper order.
I will read the story, found in Daniel 5, from the Living Bible. Read entire chapter.
The key verse in the story is in v.23. Let us read it, again, in the Living Bible, then the KJV, then the New KJV, which I read, while in Korea and from where this verse jumped out at me and impressed itself on me with the thought that there’s a message that needs to be declared from this.
NKJV- And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house 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, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.
This incredible event occurred because this king failed to glorify God.
How do you do in the ‘glorifying God’ department? Could you be guilty of the same sin as Belshazzar?
First of all, what does it mean to ‘glorify’? According to Webster’s dictionary, and backed by several passages of scripture, it means to elevate, and to bestow (give) honour and praise. It means that someone looks up and puts the value on someone, or extends that value that someone deserves, toward that person. In this case, that person is God, the One who owns all that each of us is. In looking at scriptural passages, to glorify means that we declare and make God’s glory known. It means that we lift God up before others and ourselves.
In the context of Belshazzar’s fate, the message is simply, ‘don’t forget where you’ve come from and how God has worked in your life.’ Don’t forget who God has worked through in your life. Belshazzar had forgotten what had happened to his ancestor, Nebuchadnezzar. Because of his arrogance, he had been forced to live like an animal for seven years- not something any of us would be keen to do. Then, he was restored to his kingdom. Belshazzar lived in the tradition of that, with that story as part of his personal family history. Yet, he turned his attention toward himself and toward gods around him who were not the ultimate God. Because of that, he fell in a night.
Humans glory in themselves. We can find many examples, weekly, of what we can accomplish and we can feel like we’re so very able, ourselves. This can apply in our society and nation, and it can apply in our personal lives, too.
However, God has a constant message to us and Paul, in writing to the church at Corinth, brings this message to us.
1 Cor. 1. 29, 30, 31- what God aims at is that man should not glory in himself, but alone in God. God is glorified in man’s dependence! Doesn’t that just say it wonderfully? ‘God is glorified in man’s dependence.’ This, clearly, was a problem to Belshazzar. God chided him for having ‘lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven’. He got things the wrong way around.
In the wisdom literature of Psalms and Proverbs, time-and-again, we’re reminded of this. These are passages that are so simple that even unconverted and ungodly people can understand, yet, sometimes we, godly people, overlook this most simple wisdom.
Prov. 3. 5, 6
Psa. 37. 3-5-7
We’re told to be humble, yet this is one of the biggest challenges for each of us. There’s a constant, and built-in, need to impress others. We try to do it by our words and actions. Sometimes we’ll do something because someone, in particular, is watching. Sometimes, we’ll say something ‘just right’ because someone is watching. Sometimes, we’ll brag about something we’ve done, as if we’ve done it. Sometimes we live as if we are entities unto ourselves. Yet, in this season, is a time to glorify God and abase ourselves.
1 Cor. 10.12- tells us to be careful, lest we fall.
Jas. 4.10- tells us to humble ourselves in God’s sight, so he can lift us up- to the spiritual realms and into the fullness of the kingdom of God.