4. The Gospel of the Kingdom (continued)
Pride's Independence (continued)
Need we say more? God is not weak, nor is He forgetful. His methods with Nebuchadnezzar may seem harsh, but really they were in love, as the king later discovered, for happily this story is not concerned with eternal judgment. There was a time for repentance. He learned his lesson. He realized how completely he depended on the mercy of God, and he publicly confessed his absolute submission to the King of heaven, "for all his works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase" (4:37).
We now pass to Belshazzar, his successor, or really the son of his successor, finding in him a far less striking character, a man who seems to have been weak and desolate. Nevertheless a man can be weak and proud, just as well as strong and proud, for pride is found in all classes of men. In Belshazzar's case the pride expressed itself in careless presumption. He did something which his great predecessor would never have dared to do, by ordering that the golden vessels taken from the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem should be made use of at his unholy feast. Nebuchadnezzar and forgotten God or ignored Him, which is serious sin; but Belshazzar trifled with Him, mocked Him, defied Him, and so was suddenly cut off without remedy. In his folly he failed to profit by Nebuchadnezzar's experience, though the latter's story was familiar enough to him. "Though thou knewest all this", Daniel said, "thou ... hast not humbled thine heart" (5?22).
So Belshazzar's sin was essentially pride: he was proud and merry, proud and careless, proud and presumptuous. It is very dangerous to trifle with holy things. In our day, mere things are not holy in the sense that those vessels were, though the Lord's Day is still a holy day and His Word a holy book. The real issue of holiness is now concerned with God's Son. The temple vessels were types of Christ. God wants to know what men are doing about Him. If they are trifling with Christ, treating Him lightly and frivolously or even only patronizing Him, their pride will surely bring the writing on the wall.
For God watches. The first intimation of what was going to happen in Nebuchadnezzar's case came from "a watcher and an holy one" (4:13). Even if Nebuchadnezzar had not spoken his words aloud (and in any case we are not told whether anyone else was listening), God knew the thoughts that were in his heart. No feigned humility will satisfy Him. He watches and He sees it all.
God also weighs. "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting" (5:27). With Him there can be no mistakes. He does not judge by appearances, but, like a careful assayer, He puts everything into the balances to discover values as they really are. What levity, what hollow sham, what spiritual poverty lay behind that presumptuous pride of Belshazzar. We, too, are weighed in God's balances, and under that test are found to be pitifully wanting.
And God warns. He does everything possible to avert the calamity, even with a man like Belshazzar. God's warnings are not empty threats, but spring from earnest desire that men may take heed and save themselves from His judgments. In this case it was clearly useless for Him to wait any longer. for the king was incorrigible. Even after the writing on the wall, he stifled the warning by forcing his favors on Daniel, while the whole atmosphere was still one of heedless merrymaking. Well, it did him no good to promote and honor Daniel, though doubtless that promotion was very important in the purposes of God, and as a part of the continuation of the spiritual ministry of the prophet. God cannot be bribed into suspending His judgments. There was no humbling, so there was no remedy. The kingdom was numbered and brought to an end. "In that night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain" (5:30).
(continued with # 22 - (Pride's Rebellion)