“Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of the heavens. The vessels from his house were brought to you, and as you and your nobles, wives, and concubines drank wine from them, you praised the gods made of silver and gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or understand. But you have not glorified the God who holds your life-breath in his hand and who controls the whole course of your life. Therefore, he sent the hand, and this writing was inscribed.” (Daniel 5:23)
My dad called them significant emotional experiences. Those little moments when the consequences of our actions hit like a ton of bricks dropped from a ten-story building.
They can be relatively simple, like a spanking when you were a child. I remember my brother and I fighting in the car’s back seat while my dad drove us home. He got so fed up with our terrible behavior that he pulled over, got out of the car, flung the car door open on my side of the vehicle, turned me over, and walloped me. (I’ve sometimes wondered why he only did it to me. Huh.) It’s been about sixty years since that happened, and I still remember it clearly.
That was a significant emotional experience.
Did I learn from it? Some. Additional lessons were required over the following years as my older brother and I often scrapped like Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:22-23).
Another significant emotional experience in my life includes demonstrating my incredible three-month-old “new driver” skills by getting myself into a car accident in front of my school bus as a High School sophomore. My dad refused to punish me because he knew what I would face – a court hearing and traffic school. He figured those consequences were enough. Did I learn from it? Yes. Yes, I did. I built my driving skills and, ironically, later became a school bus driver as a side job. Weird, huh?
Yup. A significant emotional experience. Actions and consequences.
Oh, and here’s a final example. In High School (yes, when we’re all stupid), a group of my friends were hanging out one night, and one of them asked if we wanted to stroll over to where she was boarding her horse. We walked up the road to the nearby pasture and stomped through the grass to the pasture fence. One by one, my friends gently stepped between the horizontal wires strung between the fence posts that kept the gentle horsies within the confines of their green space. In the dark, I reached out, grabbed the cables, and hoisted myself to join the party on the other side.
After our fun equine visit, we retraced our steps to the fence line. The whole party gently crossed the fence, leaving me to bring up the rear. Once again, I grabbed the wires and began my ballet-like vault.
That’s when the voltage hit me.
It was an electric fence with regulated pulses. Everyone except me knew about the fence and had timed their crossing correctly. Oops. That turned out to be a shocking, significant emotional experience. The result? I learned to respect electric fences and how to handle them properly.
The same is true when dealing with God’s holiness and the holy things that belong to Him.
The Holy vs. the Unholy.
“The holiness of God is the most difficult of all God’s attributes to explain, partly because it is one of His essential attributes that is not shared, inherently, by man… God’s holiness is what separates Him from all other beings, what makes Him separate and distinct from everything else. God’s holiness is more than just His perfection or sinless purity; it is the essence of His ‘other-ness,’ His transcendence. God’s holiness embodies the mystery of His awesomeness and causes us to gaze in wonder at Him as we begin to comprehend just a little of His majesty” (gotquestions.org/holy-holy-holy.html).
In other words, God’s holiness comes from the truth that He is the only uncreated thing that exists. The Lord is so utterly different than anything He created in the physical, spiritual, or any other dimensional domain He is entirely separate (holy, Heb. set apart) from His creation.
Among all of God’s attributes, His holiness is preeminent. The spiritual beings around God’s throne don’t declare God’s omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (present everywhere all the time), or eternality (existing outside of and within time). Nope. The spiritual beings sum up God with the word “Holy!” As the uncreated, transcendent Being, God stands alone, far beyond all things.
Speaking of Jesus’ God-nature, Paul nails it in Colossians 1:15-17, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.”
So, what if something unholy touches God’s holiness? Boom! Judgment, often resulting in a significant emotional experience.
When Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s standard of His holy nature and will, their sin placed them in an unaligned state of built-in opposition to God. Ergo, unholy. The result? Judgment (Genesis 3:16-24). So far, human existence has been one long, significant emotional experience because when we became unholy, God separated Himself from humanity to prevent His holiness from obliterating us. He alone knows the line His holy Person can cross to interact with us (Abraham Genesis 18:1, Moses Exodus 3:1-6). But if we arbitrarily, ignorantly, or brazenly cross God’s holy line, we’re toast.
When High Priest Aaron’s sons, Nadab (Naw-dawb’) and Abihu (Ab-ee-hoo’), brought strange, unauthorized (read unholy) fire to the Lord, they were fried on the spot. A significant emotional experience, wouldn’t you say? That was the consequence of treating a holy service to God in an unholy way.
When Jesus took on our sin upon Himself while on the cross, the holy touched the holy in a catastrophic spiritual collision, and BAM! judgment fell, for the holy always brings death (separation) to the unholy. This is why Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips (an idiom for full of sin and unholiness) and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Armies” when he saw God’s holiness (Isaiah 6:5, italics author). Just seeing God brought Isaiah’s sin and unholy state into high relief. Only when God cleansed Isaiah’s sin was he in a sufficiently holy state to interact with the Lord.
So, can we cross a line when we violate God’s holiness and earn ourselves a divinely wrought significant emotional experience? Let’s take a look at the last Babylonian king, Belshazzar.
We read about Babylon’s last king, Belshazzar, and his party of unholy shenanigans in Daniel, chapter 5. Go ahead and take a moment to read the chapter before you go further (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Daniel+5&version=CSB, or your own Bible if you desire).
Belshazzar was the grandson of the mighty king Nebuchadnezzar, whom God greatly humbled in Daniel 2-4. It didn’t take much on God’s part for Him to drag ol’ King Neb through a series of shocking, significant emotional experiences to teach him the difference between the holy and the unholy, especially when it came to the Almighty Sovereign God of Israel. King Neb died in 562 B.C., and his grandson, Belshazzar, eventually ascended to the throne in 553 B.C. That’s a mere nine years for those of you keeping score. Belshazzar had likely heard about all God did to his grandfather, most likely from King Neb Himself.
So, back to the party. Belshazzar’s soiree was filled with many influential guests and a river of wine! “As any college fraternity member can tell us, drinking parties often turn toward the coarse and immoral side. Royal banquets are not immune from human nature and urges. Such banquets were ostentatious and decadent with carousing, wantonness, and self-indulgence flowing as freely as the wine. However decadent this banquet might have been, it was what it led to that made the difference” (Word Biblical Commentary, Daniel, p. 113). No kidding!
During the orgiastic festivities, Belshazzar brought out the (holy) treasures his grandfather looted from Yehovah’s temple about forty-seven years earlier. These treasures included the gold and silver vessels used to worship Yehovah during the sacrificial services. These cups and containers were extremely holy, like the sacrificial blood they carried. In other words, they were strictly set apart to worship the holy God, Yehovah. They could never be used for any unholy or common purpose. “If someone offends by sinning unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord’s holy things, he must bring his penalty for guilt to the Lord…” (Leviticus 5:15). If an Israelite crossed that holiness line, there were consequences as Nadab and Abihu discovered. A Levitical priest, Uzzah, dared to touch Yehovah’s holy Ark of the Covenant. The Lord struck Uzzah dead instantly (1 Chronicles 13:9). That was a dire consequence for the late Uzzah and a significant emotional experience for the survivors (1 Chronicles 13:11-12).
To treat God’s holy treasures in an unholy way is sacrilege, “the act or an instance of taking anything sacred for secular use; the misuse or desecration of anything regarded as sacred or as worthy of extreme respect” (Collins English Dictionary). No one messes around with God’s holy treasures without consequence.
Belshazzar and his guests crossed that line. The unholy guests slurped from the holy vessels, defiling God’s holy treasures while praising demons (idols) instead of praising God. Belshazzar’s profane entourage committed two crimes against God’s holiness. “They desecrated God’s treasures by using them in an unholy manner, a common and disrespectful manner in which they were never intended to be used, and then compounded the sin by praising the very idols a holy God despised. Rather than priests offering worshipful libations to Israel’s God, it was drunk revelers offering obnoxious praises to demons with God’s holy items” (Christianson, Book of Daniel Bible Study). And that’s when Yehovah hands down His judgment – literally.
“You can see the handwriting on the wall.” You’ve probably heard the phrase before. It originates in Daniel 5:5, “At that moment the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the king’s palace wall next to the lampstand.” The phrase describes “evidence that points to an inevitable ending, usually negative” (Ibid.).
When Belshazzar saw the supernatural manifestation, “his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him that he soiled himself and his knees knocked together” (Daniel 5:6). That seems to accurately describe the significant emotional experience via the most incredible shock he’s ever encountered in his soon-to-be-short life.
None of Belshazzar’s occult specialists could decipher God’s puzzle, though. However, the Queen mother, Belshazzar’s mom, clued him in about a Hebrew exile who had “an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and intelligence, and the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems.” How would she know? Because humbled king Nebuchadnezzar had been her father-in-law, and she had watched what he went through, especially the part where Yehovah made ol’ Neb go insane for an extended time, which broke his pride and helped the bombastic king know Who was really in charge of kings and empires. You know, the Holy God with whose cups Belshazzar’s party-goers were playing beer-pong.
Long story short, Daniel is summoned (Daniel 5:13) and does what Yehovah has equipped him to do so well – read, interpret, and apply divine communiques. After reciting the significant emotional experiences Yehovah dished out to Nebuchadnezzar to teach him respect for the Most Holy God, Daniel excoriates Belshazzar and decodes God’s ominous decree.
“But you his successor, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of the heavens. The vessels from his house were brought to you, and as you and your nobles, wives, and concubines drank wine from them, you praised the gods made of silver and gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or understand. But you have not glorified the God who holds your life-breath in his hand and who controls the whole course of your life. Therefore, he sent the hand, and this writing was inscribed” (Daniel 5:22-24, CSB, italics author).
In other words, “You knew better than to scorn Israel’s God and defile His holy treasures. You learned about the danger from your grandfather and the records, and still you did this. You treated God’s holy treasures unholy and praised His enemies. Bad move, son. Those written words are the judgment you’ve been ‘handed.’”
These words were written on the wall – Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.
These are the words if used as nouns: Mina, mina, shekel, half-shekels (names of money denominations).
These are the words if used as verbs: Numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.
The verb forms reveal Yehovah’s judgment and Belshazzar’s sentence. “God has counted out your reign, and you’ve reached the end. You’ve been weighed in God’s balances and fallen short because of your pride and insolence shown when you insulted the holy God and violated His holiness line. Therefore, your empire will fall and be divided between two empires that will (shortly) conquer and divide it – the Medes and Persians.
That’s it—the final word. There’s no room for repentance or time to learn from his significant emotional experience. Belshazzar was finished. “That very night Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans was killed” (Daniel 5:30). That was the shock that ended Belshazzar’s life. That same night, “Darius the Mede received the kingdom at the age of sixty-two” (Daniel 5:31).
What we’re not told is that the Mede and Persian armies had already surrounded the city of Babylon. The city was under siege. We know from historical accounts that the wall around Babylon was immense. A chariot with eight horses could pull a U-turn on top of it! Babylon’s walls were impenetrable – except for the gates that allowed water to enter the city from the north side, flow through the city, and out through the southern wall. Through these gates, the Mede and Persian armies gained access and took down the king, his city, and his empire in one night.
Rather than seeking the Holy Almighty God that had humbled his grandfather, Belshazzar partied the night and his life away. He treated God’s holy treasures with contempt. He refused to glorify the God to whom those treasures belonged and suffered the consequences.
Are we guilty of the same thing? Are we at risk of God handing us a significant emotional experience because of our unholy treatment of His holy treasures? “That’s impossible, Dr. Jay. We don’t possess any of God’s holy treasures!”
Let’s think about that. What are the holy treasures in our lives that belong to God? What God-given things do we have that could bring His displeasure, rebuke, or even judgment on us today if we use them contemptuously or profanely with disrespect, dishonor, carelessness, casualness, or abuse? In what way could we be using these holy treasures to someone’s or something’s honor rather than the One to whom the honor is due?
Treating God’s Holy Treasures in an Unholy Way
· Salvation. Salvation is the greatest treasure our Lord has ever given to us who are saved and a treasure He offers everyone. Do we treat that holy treasure in an unholy way? Jesus saves us, yes, but after that, we’re expected to live as part of our Father’s family. That means living by the “house rules” and growing up to reflect the spitting image of our Father. Do we assume that because we’re saved, we can sin any way or any time we want to and snap our fingers to demand forgiveness and cleansing? Have we forgotten repentance, the need to turn from doing wrong and return to doing what’s right, according to Jesus? Are we saved for heaven but living like hell? Our holy God has a severe warning for that kind of thing. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:26-29, NKJV).
Shocking, isn’t it? May we never take our salvation for granted. Instead, let’s thank the Lord every day or even moment by moment that He loved us enough to take our punishment so we could be restored to our Heavenly Father’s family forever!
· God Himself. What a tremendous holy treasure our God gives us via salvation – Himself! At salvation, the Holy Spirit enters us as our resident rabbi to teach and remold us into God’s image. But do we treat our holy God’s presence in an unholy way with disrespect, dishonor, carelessness, or casualness? Do we resist the Holy Spirit’s work in us? Do we ignore His voice of conviction, correction, and guidance? Do we talk to our Father as if He were our servant, only asking Him to “fix this,” “give me that,” “work this out,” or “do this or that?” Saying “Please” or attaching “In Jesus’ name” doesn’t help. Praying in Jesus’ name means you’re talking to the Father as Jesus would. “In Jesus’ name” means that you’re approaching a holy God in a holy manner with Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (A.C.T.S.) solely under Jesus’ authority and permission. No sane person would storm into a king’s throne room without first being granted access and only in a king-honoring way. Do we treat our God as the holy God He is, or casually like a trinket in our pocket to be pulled out to humor or comfort us when we need Him? This brings me to many of our contemporary worship services.
· Worship services. When we gather for worship, for whom are we gathering – us or our holy God? Do our services focus on us or the Lord? Are they a time to meet with the King of all creation, the Lord of the seen and unseen realms, or are our gatherings a rock concert with a T.E.D. talk designed to move our emotions and tickle our minds? Do we leave the service saying, “I didn’t get anything out of it?” Excuse me? Just who do you think the service is for? Our gatherings are for us to worship God, which depends on what you put into it for Him, not what you can get out of it. Or did you miss the memo that the church worship service isn’t about you? Our whole motivation and attention from the moment we start worshiping God together should be for the Lord alone. When He touches us in return through a revelation, healing, or repentance, all glory should go to Him even as we recognize how He’s used another person to minister to us. Now, let’s combine “salvation” with “God” and “worship service.” Paul rebuked the Corinthians because they turned their congregational gathering to honor Jesus and His Last Supper (commemorating our salvation with Communion) into a self-centered party (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). Paul declared that their unholy behavior had resulted in judgments of sickness and even death. Can you say, “Belshazzar’s Shindig”? Are we treating holy worship unto God in an unholy way to cater to our feelings, sensitivities, or preferences?
· God’s Word. God has given us another wonderful holy treasure – the revelation of Himself, His plan of salvation, and the future restoration wrapped up in one book. The Bible is the primary way God has chosen to reveal Himself. However, do we claim to have a relationship with the Lord and yet refuse to learn about Him so that we will develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him? Seriously? Try that with your spouse and see how long your marriage lasts. The Lord’s word is our window into the infinite, the microscope to the human condition, and the lamp to our life’s path. Ignoring God’s word, especially when it’s so accessible, is treating a holy treasure with contempt. Take heart. I know many people struggle with it. That’s why I wrote Cruisin’ Through The Bible (https://www.highbeamministry.com/cruisin-through-the-bible) and published it on Amazon (https://www.highbeamministry.com/books) to help you read through the Bible once a year and understand what you’ve read. Please don’t treat the Lord’s holy Word in an unholy way by ignoring it!
· Our Marriage Covenant. Your marriage relationship is a beautiful, holy treasure, and a holy covenant commitment fuses it. Marriage is so special that God chose it as a picture of Jesus’ relationship with His people (Ephesians 5:22-33), or it should be. Once married, the Lord expects us to nurture our marriage covenant relationship by loving and forgiving our spouse “until death do us part,” even as we’re to remain faithful and loving toward Jesus “until death brings us to Him.” Anything that violates the holiness of that relationship – sinning against our spouse, being unloving or unforgiving, refusing to nurture our helpmate, chasing other love interests, or any other ungodly thought or action is treating a holy treasure in an unholy way.
· Parents and Children. “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3). As gifts from the Lord, they are holy treasures that the Lord has entrusted us to raise into God-loving and revering adults. As a former foster parent, it was grievous to see how many parents treated their children in unholy ways. Anger, impatience, unforgiveness, and all manner of unloving parenting can harm your holy treasures, “(stirring) up anger in your children, (rather than bringing) them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). On the flip side, children need to learn to “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land” (Ephesians 6:2-3). Parents, especially godly ones, are God’s holy treasure given to children. There may be a time of parent-over-child authority that transitions to parent-as-couselor-and-guide, but honoring God’s holy treasure of parents should extend throughout the parents’ lives and even after. Sadly, too many children treat their parents unholy today, which will eventually reap consequences. Sometimes, that happens at the significant emotional experience called a funeral.
· Our Physical Bodies. Our bodies are gifts from God. Though wracked by sin and prone to age and deteriorate until we die, we’re still commanded to honor this holy gift from God. We must learn how to care for it and use it for God’s glory for as long as He allows us to live in it. Would a servant take his king’s Rolls Royce Boat Tail ($26.2 million, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcEmHLKX2_w) out for a little off-road mud-runnin’ through a swamp or a rugged climb over rocky terrain? Of course not! Treating the king’s ride in such an unkingly and damaging manner would invite His wrath. On the other hand, wouldn’t the king commend the servant for treating His treasured possession with kid gloves as the servant chauffers his lord and master throughout the world? Aren’t you of far greater worth than a dumb car? And if you’re saved, you indeed chauffer the King of all kings throughout your world daily! Do we drive our bodies through the mud of unholy sexual relationships and practices? Do we hammer it with drug and alcohol abuse or other forms of unholy living? God forbids.
· God-given talents, potential, or opportunities. God has given us beautiful talents, abilities, and capacities along with our bodies. They are holy because they come from God and should be used in His way. Our King expects us to weigh and participate in the opportunities He brings us to work for Him to our fullest potential. Do we treat our God-gifted talents, abilities, and capacities in an unholy way, i.e., for our benefit alone, or do we give them back to the Lord by using them to honor Him and build His kingdom? Consequences may not be handed down in this life as quickly as Belshazzar experienced, but “the handwriting is on the wall” for those who live their holy, God-given lives for themselves. Far too many will be shocked on Works Assessment Day when they stand before the Lord and watch as much of what we’ve done in life burst into flame because it was for themselves, not Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).
· Time. Do we treat the time we have as the holy treasure that it is? The Lord, through Paul, tells us to “redeem the time.” “To redeem something means to buy it back, to regain possession of it. Time is a gift from God, and none of us know how much of it we are allotted. Only God knows how much time each of us has on this earth to make decisions that will impact eternity (Psalm 139:16). When God says we should be ‘redeeming the time,’ He wants us to live in constant awareness of that ticking clock and make the most of the time we have… Redeeming the time means that we are careful in how we live. We seek out and employ wisdom (see Proverbs 2:1–15). We seize every opportunity and use it for God’s glory. We think through our plans and make sure they align with God’s will. And we avoid empty, harmful activities” (gotquestions.org, italics author). Holy time requires living and working as Jesus would. Only Jesus could reach that level of perfect holiness in life, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aspire to that daily. “What Would Jesus Do?” may be a tired cliché, but it’s still valid and worth asking ourselves every moment that time ticks by.
In short, our entire existence is holy unto the Lord, for He made us for Himself. So. what are we doing with all the holy treasures the Lord has entrusted us? Are we using them to work as the priests used the holy items in the worship of God, or are we abusing those holy treasures in an unholy way as Belshazzar did, at the risk of bringing God’s hand down on us?
Do you hear God’s finger scraping on the wall of your conscience? Do you see the writing on the wall, or are you feeling a little warning shock right now?
The Great News is we have a solution right now! After conviction, forgiveness, and cleansing through Jesus, we can start anew, thank God. Remember, the same hand that wrote judgment on Belshazzar’s wall took the nails of His Father’s judgment on our behalf. So, get up and get going. Treat the holy as holy. Commit yourself to honor the Lord and all His holy treasures in your possession. Let’s strive for the Lord’s commendation as the most significant emotional experience we will ever know.
Christianson, Book of Daniel Bible Study, 2019
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, ©HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003
Redeeming the Time, gotquestions.org/redeeming-the-time.html
Word Biblical Commentary, Daniel, ©1989 Word, Incorporated, p. 113
Shining the Light of God’s Truth on the Road Ahead
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts