Imagine the horror and surprise on king Belshazzar's face when that hand appeared and began to write these famous words on the wall of that banquet hall. He was so terrified that his joints became loose and his knees started to knock together. This is truly the dread and fear that comes upon those damned to the eternal torment of hell. Yet there are some principles is this story that go far beyond simply the judgement of God's eternal wrath.
Chapter five of Daniel is an intricate account of God's dealing upon the nation of Babylon. They had come to the place where God had no choice but to deal a final blow of destruction to their empire and disperse it to others. Belshazzar had not learned from his father's mistakes and instead had made himself even more vile and wicked. Further God had not left him without a witness but had done some mighty works during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. There were also Daniel and his three friends that served as powerful testimonies of obedience to their Lord and by the same brought freedom to worship the only true and living God.
However as so often happens the proud heart of Belshazzar caused him to become blinded to the warnings of a just and holy God. The night of reckoning had come and Belshazzar was found sorely lacking.
There is a powerful principle wrapped up in this story, namely that each one of us will face an accounting sooner or later. Both nations and individuals are judged by God and receive their due recompence in this life and the one to come. While we are delivered from the eternal judgement of God through the blood of Jesus Christ, we can still experience his chastening effects today through disobedience and unbelief.
I would like to look at the corporate effect of God's dealings for a moment though. When you consider history and the rise and fall of nations, you see a direct correlation between the sinfulness of a nation and their subsequent fall from power. Rome was no exception; having become the most powerful empire in history, they were destroyed not by foreign powers or enemies but by the eroding tide of an immoral population and government. History itself attests to even the decline in the arts and culture as the society became more and more depraved. One of the signposts of their demise was the rampant apathy that existed. There was simply a concern for the temporal pleasures rather than building for the future and improving upon the past. Even the games of the Colliseum show a marked increase in savagery as the empire sunk into reprobation.
Well how about modern times? Does God still judge corporately? To be sure! He does and His judgements are no less severe than the Roman days. Consider the nation of Germany for a moment; They have suffered the humiliation of two wars with the utter devastation of their nation and the loss of many lives, treasures, and historical sites. How did the home of reformation fall onto such hard times? Simply put, their salt lost its savour.
Jesus expressly told us in Matthew 5:13 that we are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its savour it is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trodden under foot of men. This trodding under foot shows a corporate judgement by God using other nations. This was actually quite prophetic as Jesus was warning Israel that though they were the light of the world and the salt of the earth they were in danger of being snuffed out and trodden down. This prophecy did come true in A.D. 70 when Titus leveled the city of Jerusalem and killed over a million Jews. This was the corporate judgement of Israel.
As believers in Christ Jesus we are the salt that holds back the corrupting influence of sin and decay. When we lose our effectiveness in doing that job, our nations, homes, businesses, and churches will suffer the consequences. We should not take for granted the blessings that we have received. They are not the result of democratic due process, of soldiers fighting to protect us, or any other similar notion. Rather these blessings are the direct result of our forefathers living according to the principles of God's Word and sowing a seed that is still being harvested today.
"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people"
It is only righteousness that will cause a nation to remain standing and become a strong voice in the world. Let us not delude ourselves thinking our power, technology, and superior political structure have gotten us this wealth and security. God is not mocked; for whatever we sow, we will reap. Dear brothers and sisters, what are you sowing today? Let us not view God's grace as a license to continue in sin but as the means to live pleasing to Him in everything.