Focal Passages: Daniel 5:1-6, 16-17, 23c-28
In our culture it seems that the ultimate insult is to warn that a behavior is sinful. Admittedly, some have “warned” with tremendous insensitivity or even condescension. But, in the face of obvious sin, what is a Christ-follower to do?
In the first four verses of Daniel 5 we learn Belshazzar stoops to a new low. He takes the gold and silver vessels Nebuchadnezzar had removed from the temple in Jerusalem and uses them as dinnerware for a big party. Fundamentally, Belshazzar takes items set aside to bring glory to God and uses them to further the frivolity of his guests.
God does not take such action lightly. Rather than simply striking Belshazzar or his partygoers, God issues a warning of His impending judgment with a hand that appears and begins writing on a wall (5:5-6). God warns prior to judgment because He loves us and desires that we repent. Sometimes those warnings are as dramatic as handwriting on a wall. Sometimes it is as simple as the warnings in God’s Word. And sometimes it is as controversial as a believer unwilling to concede biblical morality for the sake of popular opinion.
When the king discovers that no one is able to interpret the writing, he becomes terribly frightened. Finally, someone mentions that maybe Daniel can do it. Belshazzar brings Daniel in and offers him royal clothing, gold chains and a position of power, if he could just interpret the writing. But, Daniel rejects the trappings of the king. Rather than fall victim to pride, he recognizes that he is but an instrument to be used by God. His humility in warning the king who held him captive was borne out of his understanding of the king whom he ultimately served. Rather than bravado or condescension, such knowledge was humbling to Daniel.
Be not mistaken, however, such humility does not result in passivity. Humility does not ignore sin or its consequences. Rather, humility demands that a warning of the judgment to come is issued. We do not love if we do not warn. But humility is the key: if we do not love, our warnings fall on deaf ears.