A Trail of Mistakes

C'est la vie.

Daniel 5:18–23

“O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor. And because of the majesty that He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whomever he wished, he executed; whomever he wished, he kept alive; whomever he wished, he set up; and whomever he wished, he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him. 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. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.”

Daniel’s explanation of the writing on the wall sure takes its time getting around to talking about the writing. He just said, “I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation.” Okay, but this isn’t that. What’s the point of giving all this background?

Daniel isn’t explaining what the writing says; he’s explaining why it’s there. He sounds like a judge reading his decision. This is the verdict. The sentencing will come next—when he explains the writing.

Daniel is the judge, or at least the judge’s mouthpiece. That’s why he has the chutzpah to just blurt out a harsh verdict on a king who has the power to have him beheaded.

And notice how Daniel brackets his verdict. The key is the word “not.” “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this … and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.”

What Belshazzar did was bad, but the real crime is what he didn’t do.

Life is a trail of mistakes. We’re all sinners and we do dumb stuff quite often, but redeemed sinners aren’t like Belshazzar because we do the one thing that Belshazzar didn’t do. When we mess up, we recognize it as messing up.

This is the key to being comfortable with yourself as a Christian. If you expect to be perfect now that you’re saved, you’ll go crazy trying to measure up.

Real spiritual growth is always growth downward, so to speak, into profounder humility, which in healthy souls will become more and more apparent as they age. — J.I. Packer

To subscribe to The DEEP click here:

All the weekly study guides, which include all five devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.