I wear many hats. And I squeeze in writing between graphic design and photography projects, and my days can get a little bit crazy. Today, in particular, is one of those days. But when I have my Bible open in front of me, I breathe a little deeper. And the weight of deadlines feels a little lighter. And while I sit here with the cursor blinking on a blank white screen and fingers poised to type, the rest of the world is put away for a minute.
It’s an opportunity for me to verbally (sort of) process and unknot the more complicated rabbit trails. The ones that feel more like a rollercoaster with the twists and turns and number of cross-references to chase down.
That’s where I was with lord-of-the-straitened’s-treasure Daniel when I reached chapter five of the book with the same name. And that mysterious and divine handwriting on the wall. The handwriting that began to be written in the very same hour that the straitened’s treasure was taken from its place and used by princes and concubines alike to toast to other gods. Babylonian gods. The most holy vessels used to worship unholy and empty deity – gods that can’t see. And can’t hear. And can’t know.
and the God who holds every breath in His hand and owns all our ways began to write
Daniel (who could have already been there – we don’t really know) was brought into the feastly gathering and explained the cryptic message. Belshazzar’s kingdom had been numbered by God. Divided, even. Because he had been weighed in the scales and found wanting.
The words struck me and a prayer bubbled under the surface. May that never be said about me, my spirit whispered. And I began to dig.
you have been weighed
Perfect tense. A completed action. One that cannot be undone. Or straightened out. Or tried again. Or explained away. Belshazzar had one shot. And passing around those holy vessels to carnal lips was the last straw with God.
The definition is what-you-see-is-what-you-get. It means to be weighed. But something interesting is hidden in the root of the word: the primary idea is that of suspending a balance.
to suspend – as on a cross
And suddenly, a mix of explanations collide into each other. Because the scale that Daniel refers to when he tells the king that he’s been weighed is one that measures out the value of something. In those ancient days, things were bought and sold by weight and measure more often than with currency. But the scales did, also, measure currency. Particularly when a man was paying the “bride-price” dowry for his wife.
Belshazzar borrowed from the treasury of God. He had jars made of gold and silver in his possession. He had the entire kingdom’s treasure at his disposal, plus the Hebrew’s pilfered treasure from the temple. His monetary value and collective net worth was likely astronomical. But when he was weighed by God, He was found wanting. Because chasing after all those things, and living a seemingly full and rich life without God? It’s always empty.
You hear the phrase often of how Christ “paid the price” for our sin. There isn’t a verse that outrightly says those exact words. But there are plenty that imply it. And you can come to that conclusion by stitching two specific verses together. If I believe that my Maker is my husband and the LORD of hosts is His name (as Isaiah describes), and I also believe Paul’s teaching that I was bought at a price, then it’s safe to assume that Jesus paid my bride-price the day He was suspended on the cross and effectively suspended the balance due for my sin.
Belshazzar’s kingdom reigned before Christ came. But the old testament prophecy that Isaiah spoke still remained. And if Belshazzar had a relationship with God, a metaphorical “bride-price” would have been paid. But he didn’t. And it wasn’t. His scale was empty. Because he chased a life of emptiness. And God was about to take it right out from under him.
There’s one last note that I came across on this. It’s found in the next phrase of Daniel’s explanation of that divine writing on the wall:
in the balances
There is a primitive root of the phrase that provides a word picture with a more specific meaning. The idea is that the scale is represented as two ears. Godly ears that directly contrast with the gods being worshiped at the feast that can’t see. And can’t know. And can’t hear. It’s a word picture of God hearing. Listening intently to our prayers.
If that’s the balance that Belshazzar was weighed on, then it’s even more clear why he was shown to not weigh much. In order for God to hear his prayers, he would have to actually be praying to Him.
It’s an incredibly humbling thing to think of weights and balances. The cross and prayer. The wages of sin and being bought at a price.
LORD, thank you that You are my Husband. And You bought me at a price. May I recognize the weight of those truths and glorify you in my body. And in my spirit. Because they both belong to You. May my weight be hefty. And my prayers be many. And Your glory, through it all, shine vibrantly.