Two kings. One was a conqueror and mighty man. The other his grandson. Both ruled the most powerful nation on earth at the time.
Two chapters in the book of Daniel. One filled with the personal testimony of the first king and how God had caused him to become a madman–a beast in the field–until he recognized Him as the one true God. The second details an evening of debauchery and idolatry–with no thought of God–until terror struck and suddenly God was very real and powerful.
Every single time I read through Daniel, I am amazed by the contrast between King Nebuchadnezzar and King Belshazzar.
” ‘Nebuchadnezzar the king, To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you.
I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. How great are His signs, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation…
“And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever:
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”
At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.’ ” ~ Daniel 4:1-3, 34-36
This prideful king had the power to execute anyone who did not worship him, who did not strike his fancy, or who was just plain annoying. He was the Alexander the Great of his time. As he recounted his testimony, he admittedly declared, in Daniel 4:30, ” ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?’ ” And then he shared, in between the “bookends” of praise (above) how God immediately struck him mad, and he lived as an animal for seven years! This powerful and honored king did not have to tell us of his humiliation. Why did he do it? So that we would know that he had been wrong, that he was lost but now was found. He had been blind but now could see that the Most High God was “the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice”.
Turn the page to chapter 5, and you find a very different ruler, Belshazzar. Scholars believe he actually ruled as vice-regent in his father Nabonidus’ absence, and he likely was Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson.
“Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand…
Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.” ~ Daniel 5:1, 3-4
Quite suddenly, the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote a very disturbing message on the wall, ruining the festive party mood and causing Belshazzar to be absolutely terrified. His mother calmed him and reminded him of Daniel, ” ‘a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God.’ ” ~ Daniel 5:11a
Daniel obediently appeared before the king, and, with God’s wisdom, he told him what the writing on the wall meant. But first, he gave him a history lesson, recounting the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar from chapter 4.
“…’Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses. But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven…and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified…
This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.’…
That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain.” ~ Daniel 5:21-23a, 23c, 26-28, 30
Two kings. One proud man, brought low until “he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men”, and then restored to glorify, praise, and testify of the King of heaven. Another proud man, who knew the truth that his grandfather had learned and passed on to him, yet willingly chose to reject that truth and the Most High God, and instead worshipped false gods, and who was found wanting and lost his kingdom and his life.
Two choices. Recognize and believe in the Most High God and His Son Jesus, who came to die for our sins so we are redeemed, and who also conquered death and rose again so we have life eternally and abundantly. Or reject the truth and the Most High God, be weighed in the balances on your own merit alone and found wanting, and lose your life eternally.
What will you choose?