Weighed and Wanting


Weighed and Wanting

April 18th, 1971 @ 8:15 AM

Daniel 5:24-28

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 5:25-28

4-18-71    8:15 a.m.


On the radio and to be on television next service, you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Weighed and Found Wanting.  In our preaching through the Book of Daniel, we have come to the last part of the fifth chapter:

And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.

This is the interpretation of the writing:  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]

You who have been in attendance upon the services remember the sermons on the first part of the chapter.  Belshazzar, who is the son and scion of King Nabonidus, is the royal ruler of the capital city of ancient Babylonia.  This is the golden head [Daniel 2:38], the first great world empire of the times of the Gentiles.  After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned about forty-five years, there was a succession of rulers.  His son Evil-merodach reigned just three years, and then he was murdered.  And Neriglissar came and reigned just a while; and he was slain.  And then Nabonidus reigned for seventeen years, and he has been defeated by Cyrus, the king of the Persians, and is a refugee in Borsippa, and the Persian army has surrounded and besieged the capital city of Babylon.  Babylon is unassailable, unbreachable, and however long that siege has been, some say months, some say years, but it was not capable of being stormed by human engine or machine or soldiery; it was impregnable and invincible.

Well, while the siege is going on, this Belshazzar, the son of Nabonidus, who is king while Nabonidus is away—and Nabonidus has been away a long time; he was an archaeologist, Nabonidus was.  Many of the things that we know about ancient history are due to the archaeological interest of King Nabonidus.  He was not interested particularly in politics, and he was certainly not a great soldier.  He was an antiquarian; loved to rebuild temples and look at the foundations, and write the names of the kings and the dynasties of these kingdoms and empires that preceded him.  Well, the rulership of the country had been placed in the hands of his son, Belshazzar.  And he is a profligate.

How many times do you see that in family life?  The father will be a noble man, and a blessed man, but the son will be unworthy, sensual, carnal.  It was so here, and in the midst of the siege, when you would think they’d be doing all that they could to preserve the kingdom and the city, Belshazzar throws an orgy.  He calls together a thousand of his lords, and their wives, and their concubines, and he raises a dais on which he leads the celebration.  And their tongues are loose, and they blaspheme God.  Finally it leads into desecration:  they call for all of those sacred articles that have been seventy years in some shrine in Babylon that Nebuchadnezzar took out of Solomon’s temple, and they desecrate them in that orgy and blaspheme the name of the true God [Daniel 5:1-4].

Now while that is going on, why, a hand appears [Daniel 5:5].  And the fingers of the hand write in the plaster on the wall over against a great candelabra, and the king is terrorized; he is paralyzed with fear.  And when all of that orgiastic, celebrating, drunken mass before him turned their eyes to him for explanation, and maybe for strength and comfort, why, they find him the most afraid of them all.  His joints are loose, his knees knock together, he is pale, ashen [Daniel 5:6].

In the midst of that awesome moment, there is no answer; there never is from the world.  You can consult all the sorcerers and astrologers and wise men; they don’t have any answer [Daniel 5:8].  The queen mother remembered—and she was almost certainly the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar—she remembered the prophet from Judea who had guided through the days of the insanity of Nebuchadnezzar’s seven years, had guided the destiny of the kingdom [Daniel 4:19-37].  So she counseled her profligate son to send for Daniel the prophet, hoping, I am sure, in her mother heart that he might guide her profligate son as one time he guided her father through a tragic crisis [Daniel 5:10-12].

So Daniel comes [Daniel 5:13], and he speaks to the profligate son in no uncertain words, straight.  You would think he’d have jeopardized his life, but the king—so terrorized—was grateful for any word of what that hand meant.

Now we come to the sermon today.  “This is the writing, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin[Daniel 5:25].  Well, why couldn’t the astrologers, why couldn’t the magi, why couldn’t the enchanters and the sorcerers, why couldn’t they read it?  Well, there are some who speculate, saying that that writing possibly was in ancient hieroglyphics, and nobody could understand it, unless it was revealed from heaven.  There are those who say that it was doubtless written in ancient Hebrew, or in the time we have come to, the Hebrews had turned aside from their own alphabet, and they wrote in the Aramaic alphabet, in those square block letters that all Hebrew Bibles are written in today, and the language, the alphabetical language in which the Hebrew of Israel today is written, and they could not understand that ancient Hebrew script.  However it was, it is an illustration again of the inability of worldly wisdom to fathom the mind of God.  It never can.

As Paul wrote in the second chapter of 1 Corinthians, “For the natural man 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].  By wisdom, by a man’s wisdom he can never know God.  God cannot be contained in a man’s mind or in the hollow of his hand.  These things come from a divine enlightenment.  All religious knowledge does, if it’s true.  It comes from God, not from man.  So these magi stare in paralyzed terror, but they don’t know what it means [Daniel 5:7-8].  Spiritual enlightenment must come from the Spirit of God [1 Corinthians 2:10].

Now, I need to explain to you what that is, when it says, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin[Daniel 5:25], then he takes Mene and explains that [Daniel 5:26], then he takes Tekel and explains that [Daniel 5:27], then he says, “Peres,” Peres.  Well, how does Upharsin get to be Peres? [Daniel 5:28]. Well, the answer is very simple.  The u is the Hebrew “and”; u.  That u is like kai in Greek, like “and” in English.  The u is “and.”  Now, the –in at the end is plural; –in.  It can be –in or it can be –im some substantives; some nouns will take one form, and some the other.  For example, you have “cherub”:  “cherubim” would be plural.  You have “seraph”:  “seraphim” would be plural.  Now, upharsin is just the plural form of the word.  Now you have the three consonants—and Hebrew is always written in consonants—you have the three consonants left: Pe, resh, and samech: “p,” “r,” and “s.”  Peres: “p,” “r,” and “s”; so what it is, he just took the word and singularized it, Peres.

“Now this is the interpretation:  Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it” [Daniel 5:26], and we’re going to pause there and just look at God, what God is like and what God does.  And you have a marvelous illustration of it here in that interpretation.  “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it” [Daniel 5:26].  This is the entire course of history, and it is the entire course of human life, all of it, you included, I included; all of us.  This is God’s sovereign direction of the world, its history, its time, and you.  As the writer to the Hebrews says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” [Hebrews 9:27].  It is appointed: there is a set time when you are born, there is a set time when you shall die, and when that time comes, those days have run out and finished, you shall certainly die.  That’s why the ninetieth Psalm says, “Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” [Psalm 90:12].   Most men live as though they were going to live forever.  God says they are fools!  We have a certain number of days, and when that number has run out, you shall certainly die.  And that applies to kingdoms.  It applies to all of God’s earth.  There are certain allotted measures of time, numbers; and that is the end, it is finished.

I’d like to pause here just for a moment and speak of how God in the mystery of His wisdom, or character, or being, how God constitutes everything by numbers—like your life, all of it by numbers.  God hath inwrought that system of numbers into everything that He has done, everything.  And the whole universe, and the whole creation, and our days, and history, and time, and kingdoms, and every phenomenon, it is a manifestation of how God creates with numbers, all of it.  Everything that you see, every substance in this world is a stated, exact proportion of numbers, all of it.  There are a few elements—very few—there are a few elements, and God takes a certain number of molecules of this element, and a certain number of molecules of this element, and puts them together, and He makes that substance.  And those same elements, those same elements in a different number will make an altogether different substance.  And the whole creation is made up according to those numbers.  Everything you see, everything you see, the whole manifestation of matter and substance is a manifestation of ordered numbers; all of it.

Sound is that way; music is that way.  All sound and all music is a certain number of numbers.  The number of vibrations will make a low sound.  Increase those vibrations, and it’ll make a higher sound.  Sound, music, is nothing but numbers, numbers of vibrations.  Color is that way.  Sight is that way.  A long wavelength will be a low color, like red, infrared.  A high wavelength will be a light color; up that scale of prism and the waves are very quick.  But color is nothing but number, and the whole astronomical universe is just number, number.

Long time before they could with a telescope find Pluto, they knew it was there because the whole universe is run by mathematical number.  It is mass, and proportion, and distance, and motion, and if any of that changed, the whole universe would change.  It’s by number.  And, I haven’t time to preach them, but in the first volume of those published sermons on the Revelation there are two sermons on numbers.  The same Lord God that uses numbers to create His universe uses numbers in the Bible; very consistently, numbers.

And our lives are like that.  As the snowflakes, and the crystals, and the continents, and the spheres all are guided by mathematical proportion, our lives are too.  There are certain set appointed numbers allotted to each one of us.  “And so teach us,” says God, “to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” [Psalm 90:12].  And when a man foolishly wastes those days and gives them to carnality and sensuality, like Belshazzar, inevitably, someday, somewhere, sometime, that reckoning comes, that judgment comes: the numbers have run out, and he stands before God, “Mene, Mene: God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it” [Daniel 5:26].  You can take the whole course of history, as Daniel looked at it:  the golden head [Daniel 2:38], a certain number of days, and in this instance, very brief; it didn’t cover the life span of even Daniel himself, and it was cut off forever.  Then the next kingdom, and it is cut off forever; and the next kingdom, cut off forever [Daniel 7:2-18]; and the next kingdom, cut off forever.  The whole world of empire and history follows that!

You know that’s a comfort to us who love God.  Even the hairs of your head are—what?  They are numbered.  Even the hairs of your head are numbered, and the Lord Jesus spoke of that in the tenth chapter of Matthew to encourage us [Matthew 10:30].  Now what is the encouragement of it?  Simply this:  to the pagan and to the heathen and to the infidel, the whole concourse is blind, remorseless, inexorable chance.  But to the Christian, there is no such thing as blind force, remorseless and impersonal.  But to the Christian, the great moving Being back of life and time and history is a loving God, who so cares for us and so watches over us that He even knows the number of the hairs in our head and counts them [Matthew 10:30].  Isn’t that astonishing?  We must hasten.

Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and [art] found wanting” [Daniel 5:27].  Tekel means “weighed,” weighed; “Thou art weighed in the balances, and found wanting.”  I haven’t time to go through the Bible.  So many times will you find that idea presented in the Word of God.  God weighs us.  He puts us in balances and He weighs us, and when God weighs a man, oh, how short he comes; how he fails to measure up.  The balances are always wanting.

And here again now you find men trying to measure up, trying to measure up, trying to keep those scales balanced, trying to pull himself up, and it’s amazing how he tries.  Why, the world from the beginning has been so conversant with the attempt by religion, by ritual, and by rubric to measure up to God, to pull himself up, to lift up his weight to God.  Oh, he’s baptized, and he’s catechumenized, and he’s confirmed, and he’s consecrated, and he’s absolved; he wears black on Friday, and he wears white on Sunday, and he fasts while others feast; and all of those little old minutiae of religion, he punctiliously and exactly follows them and obeys them, trying to pull himself up.  When God says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul” [Matthew 22:37], and he says, “Lord, just look what I have performed,” as though rubrics and ritual would commend a man to God.

Then there are those who try to measure up with sincerity.  There are sincere moralists, and there are sincere philosophers, and there are sincere scientists and sincere men of research; they try to measure up with sincerity.  And there are sincere religionists, like Saul of Tarsus, who said, when he was persecuting the Christians and casting them into prison and some of them putting to death [Acts 26:10-11], he said, “I verily thought within myself, that I ought to do everything contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” [Acts 26:9]; sincerity, trying to commend ourselves to God by being sincere, and a thousand other ways.  “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” [Daniel 5:27].  No man, no man can stand before God unwashed.  He can’t cleanse himself or wash the stain out of his soul, nor can he live.  As God says, “By the keeping of the law shall no flesh be justified” [Romans 3:20].  You cannot do it.

“But, preacher, you don’t know me.  Beginning this minute, beginning right now, from here on, I’m going to be perfect.”  What you don’t realize is that you are fallen in your mind, in your heart, in your soul, in your emotions, in your life, in your actions, in your deeds.  You will not live through a day and not manifest that fallen nature.  He is found wanting who is unregenerated, who’s not reborn [Romans 8:8].  He is wanting who is carnally-minded, for the carnal mind is enmity against God [Romans 8:7].  Weighed in the balances and found wanting [Daniel 5:27], no man can stand in the presence of God except in that justification, that righteousness imputed, given him as a covering for his sin [Romans 4:25].  As God covered Adam and Eve when He shed the blood of the innocent animal and covered their nakedness [Genesis 3:21], so our robes must be washed and cleaned, and made white in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:14].  No man can be saved apart from the grace and mercy of God [Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5].  “Weighed and found wanting, you Belshazzar” [Daniel 5:27].

And last, “Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and the Persians” [Daniel 5:28]; divided, divided, divided.  God does that to life:  He separates us from it.  God does that to kingdoms:  He divides it and gives it to others [Matthew 21:43].  The sinews of America are her Christian people.  The battlements of America lie in her battalions that know God.  And the great guiding genius that ought to lie back of our nation is the mind of God.  And when God looks upon a people, a nation, and sees them separated from Him and His directions for us, His will for us, there’s nothing left but that inevitable and final judgment.  And that is for churches also.

In the second chapter and the third chapter of the Revelation, God writes to those seven churches of Asia which are typical of all of us [Revelation 2:1-3:22].  As He would say to Ephesus, “Thou hast left thy first love; repent, and do those first works; or else I will come, and I will take away thy lampstand out of its midst” [Revelation 2:4-5].  We’re going over there, some of us, and look at Ephesus.  And you’re going to see that, oh so tragically.  It is God that makes a church live, not the genius of the preacher and not the genius of the organization.  It’s the presence of Christ in it that makes it live, and when the presence of Christ is withdrawn, it shall certainly die; it has no place, no place [Revelation 2:4-5].

Why, an architect cannot make a church; it is the presence of Christ that makes a church.  A contractor could not make a palace; it’s the royal residence of the king that makes it a palace.  A great orator may thrill the people; it’s just the Spirit of God that can convert the soul.  And all of the architecture, and all of the rubrics, and all of the majestic ritual, and all of the eloquent perorations are as nothing unless the presence of Christ is in it.  “Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, it is separated from you, and given to the Medes and the Persians” [Daniel 5:28].

So that night, that night, silently those conspirators, noiselessly those conspirators gathered, and at a signal, at a certain signal some of them opened the gates of the city, and the armies of Cyrus marched in.  And at that same signal, some of them seized the royal palace, and “in that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.  And Darius the Median, under Cyrus, took the kingdom” [Daniel 5:30-31].  And Lord, how do you find in history that Psalm 9:17 illustrated: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”  Whether America lives or not lies in the imponderables of God.  Whether any nation lives or not lives in the great sovereign purpose of God.  And sometimes God uses those nations such as Chaldea and Assyria to chasten His people [Habakkuk 1:4-13; Isaiah 10:5-6], just like I think God will use the Communist Red merciless world to chasten America.  It’s in God.

And that same suzerainty, sovereignty of the Lord God Almighty reaches down into every human life.  When we depart from the Lord, nothing faces us, remains to us, but judgment.  But:

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,

What a glory He sheds on our way!

[“Trust and Obey,” John H. Sammis]

Whether we’re well or sick, whether we live or die, whether we’re rich or poor, as the psalmist says, it is always well with the righteous, with the people of God; it is always well with them [Psalm 37:25].  We must close.

And singing our song of invitation, to give your heart to Jesus, to dedicate your home to the Lord, to come into the fellowship of His church, personally to take Jesus as Savior [Romans 10:9-13], while we sing the hymn, would you come and stand by me?  “Here I am, pastor, I’m coming today.  Here I am.”  A couple you, a family you, or just you, on the first note of that first stanza, come.  Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up, stand up coming; into that aisle and down to the front: “I’m giving my life to God, and here I am.  May not be equal for all the trials that I have to face, but He is.  May not have all of the answers; I don’t.  He does. May not be able to see through the years and the eternity that comes, but He sees, and that’s enough.  I’ll trust Him for it.  Lord, enlighten my mind and give me strength in my soul, and bless me, Lord; I’m casting myself upon Thee.”  Try, see, prove, and God will keep His Word.  Come, while we stand and while we sing.