King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. Daniel 5:1 ESV
What’s so special about what looks like any feast?
At the time, the Persian army stood before the gates of Babylon. They had just beaten Belshazzar’s father, King Nabonidus, in the Battle of Opis, effectively beating the Babylonians and clearing the path for the capital.
However, no panic is recorded to have happened at their arrival – Babylon was the most powerful stronghold of its time, and it’s inhabitants simply regarded it as impregnable. It is understandable that king Belshazzar was very self-confident, which explains with what mindset he was able to feast at a such a time.
Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. (v. 2)
In his drunkenness, he becomes so proud as to utterly disregard the God of Israel, the God which the former king Nebuchadnezzar II had known to be the one true God. He ignored everything he had witnessed (He was alive during the events of chapter 4) and defiled the Lord through his abuse of the treasure.
By the time he (literally) saw the writing on the wall, it was too late – that same night, the Persians took Babylon without resistance and killed Belshazzar. Daniel, however, preserved by his Lord, lived on to serve at the court of his new master, the King of Persia.
Since most of us obviously aren’t drunken kings under siege, what does this event teach us? I, for one, often behave like Belshazzar. Not only am I constantly in danger of – or, more likely, actually being proud, but I also make mistakes of large scale. I never was drunk, but I still “feast” in war-time. I often play games or read Tom Clancy novels when I should actually be communicating with the Lord, praying, reading, singing, thinking, taking notes, … In short, I ignore the war that I live in. And it’s pretty hard (spoiler: impossible) to survive in this war as a human. We aren’t strong enough.
This chapter is a reminder to humble ourselves under our God. And to stay alert. Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak, says Jesus in Mk 14:38. Let us watch, wary of the war in us!