Daniel 5:1–31, Isaiah 6:1–10
Belshazzar didn’t learn from the stories of Nebuchadnezzer.
Yesterday, we read about how Nebuchadnezzer didn’t really seem to learn the lessons that were in front of his face. On the other hand, there seem to have been a few things that he respected, one of them being the holy things from God’s temple. It is very interesting to recognize that. As the story of the Return unfolds, we learn that Nebuchadnezzer had an itemized inventory of the items from the temple. In his own (wrong) way he honored the God of the people he had captured.
Belshazzar learned nothing, and understood nothing. Nor, does it seem, that he cared. Some scholars have declared the story of Belshazzar to be a fictional tale due to a couple of issues. The first is being King. He wasn’t. His father was by sitting in the royal seat, but his father was not a descendant of Nebuchadnezzer. Except, melek [meh·lek] is also used as royal. Belshazzar was also the guy-in-charge when dad left. So, “King” perhaps not, but Belshazzar’s behavior does remind me of an unruly spoiled child who threw a party when the parents were out. Another poke at the story, is that Nebuchadnezzer was called Belshazzar’s father. Yet, if you read other parts of the Old Testament, this isn’t necessarily a genetic parent statement, but a statement of a lineage of power. Regardless, though, Belshazzar messed up, and a big disembodied hand came and wrote on the wall.
Belshazzar is not unique to the world, or to scripture. Far too many people dismiss God, because they cannot perceive God, they think. Instead, like Belshazzar and his courtiers, they worship gods of metals, whether it be homes, cars, gold, phones, computers, etc.
Isaiah provides the counterpoint to such. While he had a mystical experience, his heart was already pre-oriented to God. Visions such as he had could be understood because of that. On the other hand, people who turn away from God have an experience and no transformation.
1) There are plenty of people like Belshazzar in the world. Will you be a Daniel to them?
2) There are plenty of people like Belshazzar in the world. Will you be Isaiah for them?
3) There are plenty of people like Belshazzar in the world. Will you be Jesus to them?
Daniel 4:28–37, John 6:25-35
Nebuchadnezzar is an interesting study in faith, belief, unbelief, wrong belief, and pride. Nebuchadnezzar had been confronted by God’s might, majesty, and power multiple times during his reign. One would have thought that he might have learned something. However, Nebuchadnezzar seemed to have to learn multiple times. As Nebuchadnezzar’s story ends at the end of chapter 4, it would be nice to conclude that Nebuchadnezzar learned. However, the Bible doesn’t say, and history (including even the history in Daniel) would imply that he didn’t.
Nebuchadnezzar was in the middle of a culture with many Gods. As much as he was in power, he would have still had to consider the faith of the populace. Turning over their religion would not have gone well, and would have likely caused unrest. Other jealous and powerful people would have leveraged the unrest and potentially created a rebellion.
We can see similar tensions in our own politics. It has only been in the last few years that politicians feel that it is culturally acceptable to not say they are a Christian. While there is a balance of power in our system, it wasn’t that long ago that politicians either toed the “Christian” line (of at least saying they were Christian) or did not succeed (by and large).
Often in Nebuchadnezzar’s era, kings were what were perceived has making the country flourish, be bountiful, and be powerful. They were put on pedestals they hadn’t earned. Often they become proud. God made sure that Nebuchadnezzar’s pride took a hit.
Sometimes God-fearing people get put on a pedestal, too. In this passage in John, Jesus has to correct the people that it was God the Father who gave the manna, not Moses. Imagine that! People had become confused enough that they thought a man completed and act of God (and for 40 years, at that).
From what we know about Moses, he would not have accepted any part of God’s action. He often took a reconciling role between God and the people. By the time of Jesus, Moses had become a great mythical godlike super-man. Moses would not have been pleased.
1) Why do we have a tendency to esteem people beyond their roles and capabilities (i.e., put on a pedestal)?
2) How does putting a person on a pedestal endanger that person?
3) How does putting a person on a pedestal endanger our personal and spiritual growth?