TEKEL; You are weighed in the balances, and are found wanting.
We reach the consideration of that feature of our human life which is at once the noblest and the most serious. It is that feature which distinguishes man from the brutes, which makes him a person and not a thing; that which lies behind circumstances; that with which the gift of a moral law and of free will is necessarily charged — in a word, responsibility. "Every one shall give account of himself to God." "Thou art weighed in the balances." And we must notice where this man's moral responsibility lay. It is clearly set forth in Daniel's calm, judicial words. Belshazzar, Gentile monarch though he was, had had exceptional opportunities of knowing the truth of God. For nearly seventy years the chosen people of Jehovah had dwelt in Babylon, and in the preceding reign God had revealed Himself in two most remarkable events. First, in the deliverance of the three young men from the fiery furnace, which called forth Nebuchadnezzar's decree concerning the honour of the true God; and, secondly, in His personal judgment on Nebuchadnezzar's pride. Belshazzar knew — there was his sin; it was against his knowledge. There were three features of it, I think,
(1) He knew the reality of Jehovah's being, and that He ruled in the kingdom of men, and yet he defied that Almighty power, and trusted in the strength and security of his city to save him from the besieging foe.
(2) Again, he knew that sharp lesson taught to his father — of the peril of human pride.
(3) It may be, indeed, that there was another aspect to his sin. Though he knew the truth himself, yet perhaps his lords and courtiers still held by their heathen deities. Was this act of his a bid for their support, an encouragement to their flagging courage in the hour of national peril?
3. Knowledge must be the first element in the balance of judgment, where an intelligent being renders his. account to a Personal God. "Thou knewest all this!" — that is the indictment. Nor is that knowledge necessarily or primarily the consequence of revelation. St. Paul, at heathen Lystra and at scholastic Athens, appealed to an intuitive knowledge of a Personal God, witnessed to by the world of nature in the one case, and by the consciousness of the human mind in the other. And what, then, shall we say, when, to this glimmering light of nature, is added the meridian splendour of the Christian faith? — when the claims of the Creator are enhanced by those of the Redeemer; when the love of the Father, and the sacrifice of the Son, and the pleading of the adopting Spirit, make their claims upon the hearts and consciences of God's regenerated sons and daughters.
4. And yet, in spite of this — this knowledge, this revelation, this claim of redeeming love — are there not, even in Christians' lives, phases of sin of Belshazzar's sort?
(1) Independence of God. Secure in this great Babylon which I have builded by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty: this fortune which I have amassed, or am amassing, which is mine to do with as I will: this social status which I have attained; this luxurious home which I have gotten and enriched; this harmony and culture which I have acquired; this intellectual development which I have reached, and to the bar of which I insist on bringing all things, even the revelation of my God. I! Mine! It is the horrible egoism of our modern life which "sitteth in the place of all that is called God, showing itself that it is God"!
(2) Nor are we Christians wholly free from Belshazzar's second and more presumptuous sin: "Bring hither the vessels of the house of God!" We have many of these in our keeping, and we are responsible for their use.
(a) There is that body, made after God's likeness — is it mine to do with as I will? to indulge its passions and gratify its appetites and desires as my passing fancy may dictate? "Let every one of you know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour," says the apostle; and again, "The body is for the Lord."(b) Or that sacred vessel of the mind, made certainly to contain the pure streams of Divine knowledge, is it to be desecrated with evil thoughts, or fed with literature vicious in morale and unsound in faith?
(c) Or, once more, that golden vessel of my heart, capable of loving the highest and the best — capable of loving God Himself! — it, too, may be filled with "the husks that the swine did eat"; it, too, may be used for unworthy and ignoble ends — may spend its rich and rare capacities on the world, or the creature, or upon that least worthy of all objects, upon self. And for the use of all these sacred capacities I am responsible.
5. Last of all, are you inclined to ask the oft-repeated question, "Then why did God make us free? Why did He lay upon His frail creatures a responsibility so crushing? Why did He not let me live my life without this power to do or not to do, which brings me, with such awful weight upon me, before the tribunal of my God?" Let us pause for one moment for the answer. Suppose, then, that we were indeed independent of the great good God — that we were not responsible to Him — have you ever thought what such independence would involve? Should we not have to infer something like this — That as to our whole being we were beneath the notice or the care of God; that what we did, or did not do, was too insignificant for Him to heed; that He had left us alone to battle with life as best we may, and that (as one has said) He "set no more store by us than we do on an uptorn weed cast on our shores by an angry sea — unless, indeed, men make use of its corruption and decay to manure their fields"? Wonderful dignity, forsooth, of such would-be independence! Too mean for infinite Love to love me; too puny for God's majesty to heed whether it have, or have not, my service or my love! No! Surely it is true that "the dignity of our nature lies in that relation to God which involves the minutest responsibility," for "the inconceivable greatness of man is to have been made by God for Himself." Responsibility! Yes, it is the heavy weight with which all human life is charged — the price of the freedom of our will. But who would desire to escape its burden, if by that very pressure it throws us upon the uncreated Love; if it leads us in the end to the truth, the liberty, the satisfaction to which those great words of St. point: "My God, Thou hast made me for Thyself; and my heart can find no rest, until it find rest in Thee"?
(E. J. Gough, . M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.