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.
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.