He holds my breath in his hand

Published 2:00 pm Sunday, May 15, 2022

“And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.” — Daniel 5:23b (NKJV)

This passage from Daniel tells the tragic story (and ending) of Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, who openly worshiped false gods and idols, even using the temple implements of worship as part of the desecration. It sounds like the story of a man who has completely given himself over to the lusts of the flesh, who, in his drunken-es, dares to give glory and honor to everything except God. Upon reading this, most of us will think (and rightly so) of the travesty of a king who worships all manner of false gods without giving the only God His due respect and honor. We, (at least I am) are ready to condemn his actions out of hand, as despicable, and insulting to our Lord. Wanting at some level, judgment to fall on Belshazzar for daring to commit such atrocious actions. Caught in the roaring tide of judgment, I want God to squash him like a bug for his foolish behavior. Almost relieved, and with smug anticipation, I read verse 30!

Now I can relax, the transgressor is no more; then I look around and see the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, that I treasure so greatly. Then I must place myself in this tragedy as the transgressor; I am suddenly (by the grace of God) made to see my own false gods and idols, and the way in which they hold a place that must be reserved only for the One Who holds my breath in His hand. I am Belshazzar! I am guilty! deserving of death!

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Except for the grace that interrupted my foolish life, and “caught my falling soul” I would have perished as I deserved. I may not have used temple implements improperly, or bowed down to false gods and idols; but I have given too much honor, spent too much time (and money) on things that are not of God. I have given honor and praise to myself and others, instead of to the God Who created and sustains me, in Whom is my very life and breath (Job 12:10). Please Lord, help me to be better.

Rev. Bobby Thornhill is a retired Methodist preacher.