Probation is going to close suddenly, when we least expect it, and it will be too late then to decide to be saved. Even when an event is expected and does not happen exactly the way you thought it would, it can easily be missed.
This was the experience of the Jewish nation. They were diligent students of the Old Testament and knew of a Messiah that would come. Prophecy had foretold His birthplace and where His headquarters would be, yet they completely missed it. This experience is going to be repeated by those claiming to be the people of God when they discover that probation has closed. The only security is to be ready at all times. Jesus said, “Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Matthew 24:44. Time for the second coming of Jesus has far exceeded the expectation of most Seventh-day Adventists, and we are in more danger than ever before that it will come as a surprise.
In Daniel chapter 5 is recorded the story of a Babylonian king, Belshazzar, who witnessed the closure of Babylon’s probation. There have been many people, my own maternal grandfather included, who ridiculed the authenticity of the Bible account of this king. In the twentieth century, archeologists found evidence that showed that a man named Belshazzar did in fact exist; he was a grandson to Nebuchadnezzar and second in line in the kingdom. This history gives insight to why Belshazzar told Daniel that he would make him the third ruler in the kingdom if he would give the interpretation of the message written on the wall by the fingers of a man’s hand.
When my grandmother became a Seventh-day Adventist, my grandfather was very upset, particularly that the church she attended worshiped on what he considered the wrong day. He became so upset that he decided to prove my grandmother wrong. At the library, he researched history books on everything he could find about the change of the Sabbath to Sunday issue. To his great chagrin he discovered that he was wrong, along with the rest of the Christian world, and my grandmother was right. So one Sabbath morning to the surprise of his family, he dressed in his suit and tie and from that time he worshiped with her.
The truth is the truth, whether anybody believes it or not. Belshazzar’s existence was a fact, even though for many years there was no record of him other than that of the Bible. There are yet many mysteries to be revealed. If there is something in the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy that you do not understand, don’t throw away your faith, for in time it may be revealed.
My grandfather also believed that there was no such thing as a Hittite. He had learned in the German schools that they were a mythological tribe or nation made up in the Bible. However, in the twentieth century, archeologists dug up more evidence proving the Biblical account. Not only did the Hittites exist, but they were a very powerful nation for hundreds of years. Today, many of those skeptical ideas have been proven wrong. The archeologists have proved the authenticity of the Bible and the skeptics are wrong. You can believe the Bible accounts. In fact, when archeologists are looking for some particular thing they go to the Bible to discover the area where they should dig.
However, that aside, the biggest evidence for belief that the Bible is true is not because of history or archeology. When you surrender your life to Jesus Christ and make Him your Lord and Saviour and ask Him for the Holy Spirit, He will give it to you. The Holy Spirit will cause you to be born again, and the result will be that you begin to live a new life, one that you can never live on your own. You will be a new creation. A changed life with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is indisputable evidence of a loving God and the truth of the Bible.
Belshazzar’s probation closed suddenly. He was celebrating and had made a great feast. His wives and concubines and a thousand of his lords were in attendance. He sent for the sacred vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem so that he and his guests could drink from them while praising his gods. “In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.” Daniel 5:5.
Notice, it was “the fingers of a man’s hand” that wrote. When you and I write, we write by hand. We take hold of the pen with our fingers and write with the hand. It is called handwriting. However, God does not write with His hand. There are three specific times mentioned in the Bible where God wrote something.
- God wrote the Ten Commandments with His finger.
- Jesus stooped and wrote with His finger in the sand when the woman was taken in adultery.
- A hand appeared, and a finger wrote on the wall.
Belshazzar was terrified. “Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other.” Verse 6. The wise men and soothsayers were called and were offered many gifts if they could interpret the writing but none were able and, to the astonishment of his lords that were present, Belshazzar was scared to death.
The queen mother who remembered Daniel was called and she knew what to do in this situation. She said to Belshazzar: “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change. There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar, now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.” Verses 10–12.
Daniel, his name meaning God is my judge, was summoned to interpret the writing and was offered many gifts in return. “Then Daniel answered, and said before the king, ‘Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation. O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor. And because of the majesty that He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whomever he wished, he executed; whomever he wished, he kept alive; whomever he wished, he set up; and whomever he wished, he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him. Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses. But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. 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. Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written.’ ” Verses 17–24.
It should be remembered that life comes from God; He holds your very breath in His hand. He holds your spirit and your heart does not just go on beating by itself. People think they inherit just so much vital force when they are born and will live until it gives out, causing them to die. No, without the direct interposition of God, we would all die instantly. No man or woman keeps himself or herself alive. In vision, Ellen White saw some of these things, and she did not know how to write it. We do not understand the power of God for it is a mystery. If He moved His finger, all the inhabitants of the earth would be as though they never were.
Daniel, with holy boldness, told the king, “And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting [or lacking]; PERES [that’s UPHARSIN]: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and the Persians.” Verses 26–28.
It is from this story that we get the expression, “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” Where are the balances? The balances are in God’s sanctuary in heaven. Many times in the Spirit of Prophecy, Ellen White speaks of these balances or scales in the sanctuary.
But what is being weighed in the balances in heaven? In Testimonies, vol. 3, 370, we are told: “God is weighing our characters, our conduct, and our motives in the balances of the sanctuary. It will be a fearful thing to be pronounced wanting in love and obedience by our Redeemer.”
In rebuking Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, her rival wife, Hannah, the mother of Samuel said, “Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed.” I Samuel 2:3.
“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits.” Proverbs 16:2.
“When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.” Revelation 6:5. This indicates that all are being weighed, and when probation closes, the weight will determine eternal destiny.
No one is saved by works. They are saved only by faith in Christ by His grace, but you can be lost by your works. What is being weighed? “Angels are watching the development of character and weighing moral worth. All our words and acts are passing in review before God. It is a fearful, solemn time.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 242.
“God’s eye is upon you; He reads every motive and weighs you in the balances of the sanctuary.” Ibid., vol. 5, 154. “Satan is now seeking to hold God’s people in a state of inactivity, to keep them from acting their part in spreading the truth, that they may at last be weighed in the balance and found wanting.” Ibid., vol. 1, 260. It is the devil’s plan to have you preoccupied with the things of this world, though some be important, and be inactive in spreading the truth. The Bible does not teach that you can do nothing for Christ and still go to the kingdom of heaven.
Another is found in Testimonies to Ministers, 440. “Men are weighed in the balance and found wanting when they are living in the practice of any known sin.” “The moral worth of every soul is weighed in the balance of the heavenly sanctuary.” That I Might Know Him, 255.
We need to understand how God weighs things. In Luke 21:1–4, it says, “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, ‘Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.’ ”
God weighs differently than man does. If you consider the percentage of the widow’s income that she gave, it was far greater than all the others. Jesus weighed the motive that caused her to give all she had. Why would a widow put so much money into God’s work that she would be dependent on a miracle to provide for her necessities? She gave sacrificially because she loved God’s work. In The Desire of Ages, 615, Ellen White says, “It is the motive that gives character to our acts, stamping them with ignominy or with high moral worth.” God weighs motives. Man cannot read the heart of man as God does, so man can never be sure of the true motive.
Ellen White wrote: “The Lord is coming; the alarm must be sounded. The people who profess the truth are unready. Should their probation close now, they would be weighed in the balance, and found wanting. Some have not made earnest efforts to overcome; they have not realized the danger of continuing in sin, and have become almost content where they are. …
“Many who nominally assent to the truth will fail to enter the kingdom of God, because they do not in their daily life practice that which they profess.” The Review and Herald, November 13, 1883.
It is dangerous to be complacent and be comfortable in sins; probation is going to close at an undisclosed time, and you must not be living in sin when probation closes or you will be in the same situation as Belshazzar.
Job was a person who when weighed by God was found to be a perfect man. Job 29:12–17 says, “I delivered the poor who cried out, the fatherless and the one who had no helper. The blessing of a perishing man came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind, and I was feet to the lame. I was a father to the poor, and I searched out the case that I did not know. I broke the fangs of the wicked, and plucked the victim from his teeth.”
“Have I not wept for him who was in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor?” Job 30:25. Notice what he says in Job 31:6: “Let me be weighed on honest scales, that God may know my integrity.” “If I have despised the cause of my male or female servant when they complained against me, what then shall I do when God rises up? When He punishes, how shall I answer Him?” Verses 13, 14. “If I have kept the poor from their desire, or caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or eaten my morsel by myself, so that the fatherless could not eat of it (but from my youth I reared him as a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow); if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or any poor man without covering; if his heart has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, when I saw I had help in the gate; then let my arm fall from my shoulder, let my arm be torn from the socket.” Verses 16–22.
“If I have rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me, or lifted myself up when evil found him (indeed I have not allowed my mouth to sin by asking for a curse on his soul); if the men of my tent have not said, ‘Who is there that has not been satisfied with his meat? (But no sojourner had to lodge in the street, for I have opened my doors to the traveler.’ ” Verses 29–32.
Job lived the kind of life God approved, and when he was put on the scale, God said to the devil, “He is a perfect man.” God judges people by their character. Job is an example of the kind of man who was daily ready for his probation to close.
Another man whose outcome was opposite to Job when weighed by God was Achan. His story can be found in Joshua 7:10–13 and 19–26. When the children of Israel took over Jericho God told them that they were not to take anything. It was a divine victory and they were not to keep any of the spoil for themselves. It was the first city to be taken and the spoil was to be a tithe that belonged to God. But Achan became covetous and took some gold, some silver, and it says, in the King James Bible that he took a “Babylonish garment,” a garment from the land of Shinar.
While ever there was open sin in the camp the Lord could not bless the Israelites. Achan’s sin was directly responsible for the thirty-six men who died when the army attempted to take Ai. Joshua, rooting out the sin in the camp, narrowed things down until the lot fell on Achan, who then confessed of his sin. “Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.’ So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day.” Joshua 7:24–26. Achan will not be in the kingdom of heaven. He was weighed in the balance and found wanting. The items he stole did him no good in this life and cost him eternal life. Is there something in this world that you covet that prevents you from loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind? Jesus said, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” Matthew 16:26, 27. Are you rich toward God?
Another man who lost his soul was the covetous rich man. In Bible times, and up until a hundred years ago, retirement was almost unheard of and was only invented in the twentieth century, mainly in the 1930s. I only know of one person in the Bible who retired, and that was the rich man, the rich farmer in Luke 12. He had so much grain he decided to pull down his barns and build greater barns. “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:19–21.
If probation closed and you were weighed in the balances today, which way would the scales tip? Soon you will be weighed and the result will determine your eternal destiny.
Luke 16:10–13 says, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon [money or property], who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
One thing is certain, every character will be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary and it will be the motives that determine true character.
Are you rich toward God? Can you say today, like Job said, I wish I could just be weighed in a balance and then God would know that I have integrity. Now is the time to get ready; do not waste another minute. Go to the Lord, and say, “Lord, I want to be ready for the weighing time when probation closes. I want to be ready. I don’t want to be found wanting, lacking in love, lacking in obedience, lacking in character.” Jesus died on the cross so that He would have the right to forgive your sins, to wipe out all of your guilt, and take you to heaven. However, He cannot take any to heaven who are not fit to be in the presence of holy beings.
Search your heart and pray as did David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23, 24.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.