Weighed and Found Wanting


Weighed and Found Wanting

April 18th, 1971 @ 10:50 AM

Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Daniel 5: 24-28

4-18-71    10:50 a.m.



On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Weighed and Found Wanting.  In our preaching through the prophet Daniel we have come to the conclusion of the fifth chapter, chapter 5.  And I read the text:


This is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.

This is the interpretation: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.

Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and the Persians.

[Daniel 5:25-28]


There is a great number, a great number of visitors here this morning.  So just to capsulate the sermons of the last two or three Lord’s Days: the kingdom of Babylonia has been invaded by the armies of Cyrus.  And the whole earth has fallen prey to the conquering, onrushing armies of the Medes and the Persians.  Nabonidus, the king of Babylonia, has been overthrown and conquered by Cyrus and is shut up a refugee in the city of Borsippa.

Nabonidus had no particular interest in politics.  He was an antiquarian; he was an archaeologist.  And many of the things that have been preserved for us of those ancient empires of antiquity before the days of Babylon, we owe to Nabonidus.  He loved to dig into the foundations of temples and there write out the kings and the dynasties of those centuries and centuries before.  He certainly was not a great soldier.  Before the genius of Cyrus, who was one of the great generals of all time, he wilted like snow melts under a burning sun.

Now because of that, Nabonidus—most of his time he did not even live in Babylon; he lived in Timan in Arabia—the reins of government he left in the hands of his son Belshazzar, a young man.  But here again is an instance of something you see so often in life.  You’ll have a fine father and a dedicated man, but his son is profligate and sensual and carnal and prodigal.  And it was so with Belshazzar.

At the very moment that his father was fighting for his life and for the kingdom and for the throne, at that very moment Belshazzar has called together a thousand of his sycophantic lords and he has introduced them into a carnal orgy.  They are there with their concubines, and they are there with their bevies of dancers, and on a raised dais he leads them in desecration and in blasphemy.  Finally sending to a shrine somewhere in the city, where for seventy years they had kept those holy vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple of Solomon, he brings them into the banquet hall and there blasphemes the name of the living God [Daniel 5:1-4].

Well, as long as their tongues were loosed with wine and it flowed freely, like streams sinking into the sand—why, everything is just great.  It’s the way life is, you know, eat, drink, be merry.  As long as it continues that’s just fine, but there is something about life that always follows a pattern of judgment.

And in the midst of that orgy there appeared a hand [Daniel 5:5]; and the fingers of the hand wrote in the plaster on the wall and the writing was so strange.  The king followed the writing of the hand.  He turned ashen and pale.  His loins were loosed.  His knees knocked together; he was literally terrified [Daniel 5:6].  And the great throng of orgiastic revelers watching the eyes of the king followed them to the writing on the wall.  And they looked back at the king to find meaning and strength, but he himself was more terrified than his drunken subjects.  And it was then that they asked for a man, anywhere in the kingdom that could interpret the strange writing on the wall [Daniel 5:7-8].

In the apartment in the palace lived the queen mother, apparently the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar.  And in the days of her father there had been a prophet from Judea by the name of Daniel who had guided her father through those seven years of insanity [Daniel 4:19-37]; a great, godly, good man.  So she comes before her profligate son, thinking that maybe that same seer from heaven might guide that profligate back into a way of peace and righteousness [Daniel 5:10-12]

So Daniel is sent for [Daniel 5:13].  He speaks sternly, truthfully.  His words are unsheathed.  They are naked.  Could have cost him his life, but he’s a prophet of God, and he delivers faithfully the message of the Lord [Daniel 5:17-21].  Then after his rebuke to the king [Daniel 5:22-23] he turns to the writing [Daniel 5:24] and then my text, “This is the writing that is written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin” [Daniel 5:25].

Well, why could not the astrologers, and why could not the magi, and why could not the enchanters and the sorcerers and all the king’s counselors, why could not they read it?  Because the wisdom of this world can never comprehend the ways of God: never, ever!  God says the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  Paul wrote most succinctly, “For the natural man, in all his human wisdom, receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” [1 Corinthians 2:14].

And without the illumination of the Holy Spirit of God, no man can know the Lord [1 Corinthians 2:14];he cannot.  A man by seeking cannot find God.  No philosopher, no researcher, no scientist; no man in his own ableness, or genius, or endowments can know God.  It is a spiritual revelation.  So the wise men and the magi and all the counselors of the king looked in astonishment upon those strange words: had no idea what it meant.  They don’t have any idea what anything means [Daniel 5:5-8].

Don’t you ever persuade yourself that the men of this world are able to explain things to us.  No man does that.  All any man can ever do is just observe what God does; which God, if he’s not a Christian, he denies.  He cannot explain anything.  He just observes it and describes it, but he can’t explain it.  And so the men looked, nonplused, blanch, stupid; as mankind in itself is apart from illumination of God, ignorant, unlearned.  Without the illumination of the Spirit of the Lord the mind of men is darkened, and without any understanding [1 Corinthians 2:14].  Those men looked [Daniel 5:7-8].

Well, as you study the passage, you know, there are speculations concerning why the magi could not understand those words.  Some say they were written in dark mysterious hieroglyphics.  There are others who say it is written in ancient Hebrew script, or the script of the Hebrew Bible.  The alphabet of the Hebrew Bible and the alphabet that modern Israel uses is the Aramaic alphabet, written in square block letters.  But that could have been written, they say, in ancient Hebrew which was before the day when they used those Aramaic alphabetical forms.  However it was written, they could not understand it.  So Daniel, God’s man, with illumination from heaven, gives a meaning.  He explains it.  You see, the man in his natural mind and eye can see it because it stayed there on the wall.  We can observe things, but what they mean comes only from God. 

So Daniel gives the meaning: “This is the interpretation, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin” [Daniel 5:35].  Now when he interprets it he will say, “Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it [Daniel 5:26], Mene, numbered, numbered; Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting, Tekel, weighed” [Daniel 5:27]. But the next one, Upharsin means, “divisions, Upharsin” [Daniel 5:25].  And when he comes down to explaining it, “Peres”; he says, “Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and the Persians” [Daniel 5:28].  What became of that word Upharsin? [Daniel 5:25].  Well, it’s the same word, it is the word; but you have to see how the Hebrews will build a word.  The “U” is “and”; “U”, the way the Hebrew language makes an “and” is put a “U” there in front of it, “U”, Upharsin; so take off the “U.”  All right, let’s lop off the last syllable, “-in.”  “-im”, or “-in” is plural; like cherub, cherubim; seraph, seraphim.  Upharsin , that’s plural, so we’ll lop that off.  Now, you have left the basic word itself, and Hebrew is written with consonants, and usually three.  So you have pe and resh and samech, “P,” “R,” and “S.”  Now in the Upharsin, the “P” is soft, pe; but when the syllables are taken away from it, the “U,” why it becomes a hard “P,” “P.”  So you have got, pe, resh, samech, Peres; and that’s why it is changed from Upharsin to Peres.    Now do you understand that?  Have I gone to all that trouble for nothing?  Lee Roy understands everything; he says, “Yes sir, I understand that now,” my scholar.  Anyway, the Peres is the same as that Upharsin .

“This is the interpretation: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it” [Daniel 5:26].  Here again, and once more are we introduced to one of the greatest revelations of God.  There is a number, a measure and a time to everything, everything, to you.  So let’s start with you, with you, with us.  “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment” [Hebrews 9:27].  There is a set time in which you will certainly die.  There was a set time when you were born, there is a set time when you shall certainly die; and between those two termini there is a set number of days, and that’s you.

That’s why the psalmist, the prayer of Moses, the ninetieth Psalm says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” [Psalm 90:12] for it is a foolish man, it is a fool who wastes the very substance of being, of existence.  You have so many days, they are numbered.  And there is an appointed time known to God when they shall cease [Psalm 39:4-5].  I don’t care who you are, how strong you are, how well you are, where you are, when that time comes you shall certainly die [Hebrews 9:27].

In the Book of the Kings you read about Ahab.  He thought to disguise himself, so he put on his armor and over it a peasant’s rags and went into the conflict [1 Kings 22:30].  There couldn’t be any possibility of his not coming out alive.  Yet Elijah the prophet and Micaiah the prophet said, “You shall die” [1 Kings 21:19; 22:38].  And in the battle, as it raged, an archer pulled back the bow at a venture—that is, without aiming it—and let fly that arrow and it entered a joint in the harness of his armor, pierced his heart, and the blood flowed out in the chariot [1 Kings 22:34-35].  When that time comes you shall certainly die [Hebrews 9:27].  “Thy kingdom is numbered and finished” [Daniel 5:26]…And in that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain” [Daniel 5:30].

Well, when you look at that, you’d say, “Well, is that unique, or peculiar?  Is that something God does just with us, that our lives are mathematically proportioned, set out here, there, and those days numbered in between?”  No, there is a mystery of numbers in all God’s universe, all of it.  It is put together like that, all of it.  What you see, the entire phenomenon of life, of substance, of matter, of existence, all of it exhibits that strange creative affinity for number, all of it.  Well, for example, matter: substance is a matter of numbers.  There are few elements, not very many, and God will take a few molecules of this element and a few molecules of this one, put them together and that’ll be a substance.  Change those little molecules, just one, and it’s an altogether different substance.  And the whole world of matter is nothing but those numerical formulae; that’s all it is.

Take the world of sound, music.  These numerical vibrations make the sound.  That’s what it is.  Low sound, not so many vibrations; more vibrations, higher sound—more, more, more, more, more, until finally it gets beyond what the ear can catch, can hear; can’t catch them, gets so low the ear can’t catch them.  Sight is like that, color is like that.  Color is nothing but mathematical numerical proportion.  When the wavelength is long it’s down there where the reds are and infrared, where you can’t even see it, the wavelength is long; but up there in the ultraviolet the wavelengths are fast and they’re short and you can’t eve see them.  But color and sight is nothing but mathematical formulation; how many?

The whole astronomical universe is like that.  You can reduce it to mathematical proportion by mass and by motion and by distance.  Why, I don’t know how many years, the astronomers knew that Pluto, the planet Pluto, was out there.  Had never seen it, but by mathematical laws they knew it was there; then finally invented the telescope and could see it.  The whole universe is like that; it is numbered.  And we are a part of it: numbers.  And those numbers are in your life, and when you come to that certain day and time, that certain number, it is appointed—you don’t live here anymore [Psalm 39:4-5].  You’re gone, “Thy kingdom is numbered, and finished” [Daniel 5:26].

Well, what applies to us applies to the kingdoms of the earth.  In the second chapter of Daniel, that tremendous fore-view, that sweep of human history [Daniel 2:26-45], the head of gold, the empire [Daniel 2:32,38], didn’t last throughout even Daniel’s lifetime and it was finished.  And after that, that silver of the Medes and the Persians the two arms, and it was finished [Daniel 2:32,39].  And after that that Greco world, it was finished.  And after that the Roman world, and it was finished.  These kingdoms have their certain numbers; and when that day ends it is finished.  Isn’t that an amazing thing, how God judges?

America, our nation, the sinews of America are its Christian people.  The great battlements of America are its principles.  And the genius of life in America lies in its dedication to God.  And when our people turn away from the Lord and give themselves to carnality, and sensuality, and worldliness, and infidelity, and desecration, the days are numbered.  For whether we live or die lies in the imponderables of Almighty God.  He judges, as He is going to say in a moment, “Thy kingdom is numbered, and it is finished” [Daniel 5:26].

“Tekel;  Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” [Daniel 5:27]; the balance.  And on this side, God puts Himself, and His Word, and His revelation so plainly written; God puts that revelation on this side.  And on this side He puts the man, or He puts the kingdom, or He puts the church, and He weighs it.  And let’s look at what happens.  The man is weighed; on this side, God’s law and God’s revelation, the expectation of God; and on this side, the man.  And what happens to the scale?  They go like that.  The man drops, found wanting, wanting.  So from the beginning it has been man’s goal and aim and striving to pull that up, to pull that up.  He’s so down in the scales to measure up.

Well, what does he do?  Oh, what does he do?  For one thing, he gives himself to rubrics and to rituals.  He observes with exact punctiliousness all of these things that pertain to formalized religion.  He’ll be baptized, and he’ll be “catachumenized,” and he’ll be confirmed, and he’ll be consecrated, and he’ll be absolved.  On Friday he’ll wear black, and on Sunday he’ll wear white; and he’ll fast while others are feasting; and he will observe those punctilious exactitudes of religion down to the finest minutiae.  Try to lift himself up on the scales in the measurement of God.

Or he may be of a turn not to observe all of those exactitudes of ceremony and rubric, so he gives himself to moral persuasions.  He is a sincere moralist, or he is a sincere philosopher, or he is a sincere seeker after truth, or he is a sincere researcher, when he gives himself in sincerity to the study of whatever he feels might elevate him, might lift him up.  Don’t you wish that would work?

Like Saul of Tarsus, when he was converted he said to the king, King Agrippa II, he said, “I verily thought within myself, that I ought to do every thing contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” [Acts 26:9].  Sincere, just as sincere as he could be, but add sincerity to heresy, that doesn’t make it orthodox.  Sincerity never, ever lifts a man up.  Why?  Because he needs something else; he is a fallen creature and apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit [Titus 3:5], and apart from the forgiveness, redemption, the washing, cleansing in the blood of the Lamb, he can’t be saved [1 Peter 1:18-19].  He can’t lift himself up by himself.  He’s weighed and found wanting.

I would to God that the man could be, that he could save himself.  My, my, my, my!  Let him study, and study, and study, and study, and then he’ll just study himself into the kingdom of God.  Or let him be good, good, good, good, good, and finally he’ll just be good enough to enter the kingdom of God.  Or let him save, save, save, and save, and then finally buy himself into the kingdom of God.  Or then work, work, work, work, and finally he worked himself into the kingdom of God.  Don’t you wish it could be done like that?  Well, why can’t it be done?  Because the man is fallen himself; it is not sins that damn us.  We ourselves are damned by sin.  That is the state in which we are.  That’s why a man doesn’t do this, and he doesn’t do that, and he doesn’t do that, and he will commend himself.  That’s not the point: whether he does this or this or that, or doesn’t do this and this and that; has nothing to do with it at all, for the man himself is fallen, in a state of sin [Romans 7:14].  You’re fallen in your mind.  You’re fallen in your heart.  You’re fallen in your soul.  You’re fallen in your thinking, your emotions, and your actions.

“Oh, but preacher you don’t know me.  Beginning this minute, right now, beginning this minute, from now on I’m going to live a perfect life and commend myself to God.”  Well bless you, I wish you good luck; but you won’t get out this house until you have fallen into some kind of an error, either in thinking, or in goal and vision, or ambition or thought, you cannot do it.  And what would you do from that back, these back sins?  There is no way for a man to come up in the measure of God except as the Lord pulls him up.  He can’t pull himself up.  He can’t save himself.

I don’t know of a better illustration than that, than for me to come by as I do so often, and watch you die—just watch you die.  Let’s see you save yourself.  “Oh preacher, you don’t know the depths of my abilities.  You don’t know the genius that’s in my hands.  And you don’t know the endowments with which I can grapple with problems.”  Well, fine, fine, I wish you marvelous success.  So I just stand there, like Chaplain Bennett does every day of his life, and he watches the people die.  They are helpless. “Oh, but pastor, you don’t understand, my mother loves me; she’s going to stand there by my side.  My father loves me; he’s going to stand there by my side.  My family loves me; they’re going to stand there by my side.  And I got influential friends; they’re going to stand there by my side.”

Fine, I hope it works.  But when they all stand around you, let them join hands; all they’ll do is just watch you die.  And then, make a telephone call and say, “Let’s bury him out of our sight, for he is corrupt.”  That’s nothing but what God says.  We are corrupt.  We are fallen, and there’s no man in the world that can pull that scale up.  You can’t be saved in yourself or through any genius or any love or offering of those around you; it has to be God.  That’s why the prayer of the sinner is always in order, “God in heaven be merciful to me a sinner [Luke 18:13].  God help me.  If God doesn’t help me, I am helpless” [Ephesians 2:8-9].  Weighed in the balances and found wanting [Daniel 5:27].

“Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and the Persians” [Daniel 5:28].  Well, how we try to hide ourselves from that agonizing and painful judgment.  And as I look around I see the whole world doing it.  Drown, drown themselves, “I can’t face it.  It is too awesome to me.”  So they give themselves to—and you can just name them off: they give themselves to frivolity, anything except to face the judgment of God.  Give themselves to amusement; why, there are people that have to be entertained all the time; they could not conceive of existence without some kind of entertainment.  One of these city dwellers, flatlanders way out here in the West, little old town like I grew up in, we didn’t have a radio.  It wasn’t invented.  We didn’t have any television.  It wasn’t invented.  That’s why, little Cris, when he was a little bitty kid at the dinner table asked me, he said, “Daddy, did you know Noah?”  He asked me that.  We never had any automobiles, didn’t have any roads to run them on.  We never had anything.  Well, it was a community like that.  And this flatlander out there, no radio, no television, no anything, this flatlander said, “What do you do?  I would just die!”  Isn’t that strange?

To this day, I don’t need to be entertained.  I can have the best time you ever saw in your life, just me and God and the Bible, or a marvelous book, or just talking to the Lord, and thinking about the things of Jesus.  I don’t need to be entertained.  You don’t need to entertain me.  I can just live fully, fulsomely without it.  But that’s not this modern world.  What they’re doing, they’re drowning themselves in it.  And then there are those, they couldn’t even carry on a good conversation without drugs of some kind, liquid pot, called “liquor,” marijuana, drugs!  Why, the whole earth is kind of like that:  rather than face the inevitable they drown themselves, they hide their faces from it.

Well, here’s Belshazzar, isn’t that exactly what he was doing?  His father defeated and shut up in Borsippa, and those great walls of Babylon on every side, surrounded by the encampments and the battalions of the armies of Cyrus, “Let’s drown it in wine and desecration and blasphemy; let’s forget it [Daniel 5:1-4].”

That night, I’m just following the Book—that night noiselessly, silently, those conspirators gathered while that banquet was going on, while that orgy was at its height [Daniel 5:1-4].  They noiselessly gave a signal.  And at a signal, the great brazen leaves of the giant unassailable, invincible doors, gates of Babylon were thrown open wide and the armies of Cyrus marched in.  And at that same signal, certain of those conspirators, seized the royal palace.  “And that night was Belshazza, the king of the Chaldeans slain” [Daniel 5:30].

Heroditus, who visited that city seventy years later, said that Cyrus entered it by turning the course of the Euphrates River.  But commentators from the beginning have always felt that Babylon really fell by treachery, by defection.  And in these recent years they have discovered what they call the “cylinder of Cyrus” the great big thing, and Cyrus recounts how he took Babylon.  And it is exactly as it is here in the Bible, exactly.  In the revelry and the orgy of Belshazzar, conspirators opened the gates and Cyrus marched in and took the kingdom without a battle.  And that glorious head of gold [Daniel 2:38] finds its inglorious and debauched end [Daniel 5:30]. 

What does the ninth Psalm and the seventeenth verse say?  It says, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” [Psalm 9:17].  How infinitely better just to face God honestly, openly.  As the Scriptures say, “Him before whose eyes all of us are naked” [Hebrews 4:13], all of us; just stand before God whose eyes search our souls, say: “Lord, You know all about me.  Master, in love [John 3:16] and mercy [Titus 3:5] remember me.  Forgiveness, Lord, and understanding, sympathy, Master, and redemption [1 Peter 1:18-19]; my heart needs Thee, Lord.  Nor can I live without Thee.  And here I come, Master, I bow in Thy presence, both knees; and I humble my soul, Lord, before Thee, and I ask that God shall extend His golden scepter and touch me, that I might live” [Esther 4:11].

Would you do that today, would you?  In a moment we’re going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal.  And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, or just you, in this balcony round, there’s a stairway at the back and the front, and on either side, down that stairway and here to the front, “Here I come.”  On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, “Here I am, pastor.  I choose today.  I’ve decided for Christ, and here I come” [Romans 10:8-13].  Do it now.  Make the decision now.  On the first note of the first stanza, standing, come.  God bless and keep and strengthen you in the way as you come, and as we stand and sing.