Mene, Mene, Tekel....Parsin
He was drunk. He was over-proud. He was claiming and celebrating victories that were his father's. His father's victories were by God's will, and in mocking God he tossed the last straw on the camel's back. He adds sacrilege to the list of faux pas he commits. Small wonder that we know Belshazzar, technically a regent and not the legitimate heir to Nebuchanezzar, only as an arrogant and presumptive figure in the Book of Daniel.
Still, that disembodied hand scratching arcane ciphers into the wall of his chamber should, and does, draw us up short. Commit an affront against God, sin with dissolution, pride and meanwhile offer contempt toward God and then reap the consequences. It's more than adequate as a cautionary tale. It also sets Daniel up and apart from the other seers and wise ones...and it sets the stage for the rise of Darius in the Biblical narrative. The king of the Medes is our bridge to Cyrus of Persia...and most of what follows will point us toward that moment when Babylon falls, Persia rises and the tribes are returned to the Promised Land from exile.
And yet, there is that lion's den!
How often in life do we find ourselves in the pre-dawn light that heralds the coming of a new day, having survived the night passage of pain, worry, struggle, stress and loss? Often enough to know that from time to time the happy ending has to wait a bit. That one last trial is awaiting us...and it could be anything. For Daniel, it was the lion's den. For us, well...I will leave that to your memory and imagination. I do know that when I have made my way through life's valleys of the shadow of death, there have been many times when one last trial is placed before me. Not so much a test, as I see it, but rather an affirmation and reminder that while God has promised deliverance, faith and humility are our part of the mix. Belshazzar succumbed to the temptation to see his good fortune and ascendancy as something outside of God's ken and concern. He assumed he was in his place by his own will and merit, his own strength. And his fall (and Daniel's subsequent preservation) are testimony that we are not the rulers of our lives. We have freedom, but we still live, move and have our being in God's creation.
Be it Daniel, or Revelation, we are being reminded to place God's will at the center of our lives and at the center of our motivations and choices. From that intimacy with God comes a connection with life, the universe and everything/everyone that exceeds any "high" that certainty, wine, power or indulgence can ever presume to offer.