The Limitations of Gold

Inspiration MinistriesBy Inspiration Ministries2 Minutes

Rembrandt van Rijn had a profound knowledge of the Bible. This great Dutch artist, born on this day in 1606, frequently turned to the Bible for inspiration. In 1635, he turned his attention to the story of Belshazzar’s feast. Historian Paul Johnson observed that Rembrandt invested his painting “with a breathless excitement that has eluded all other artists who have tackled this wonderful subject.”

Instead of focusing on the masses attending the feast, Rembrandt brings us into the intimacy of the moment as Belshazzar confronts God’s mysterious message, written by “the fingers of a man’s hand.” The king’s eyes are mesmerized. We feel his shock. What could the words mean? A handful of onlookers share his horrified puzzlement.

Rembrandt portrayed the king’s lavish wardrobe, a glorious crown, and golden vessels, perhaps taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. Scholar Simon Schama commented that Rembrandt focused on the gold “as a curse…a kind of leprous contamination.” This gold symbolized Belshazzar’s life—outwardly blessed but inwardly barren.

The Bible tells us no one knew what the words meant. Then the queen reminded Belshazzar about Daniel, who was summoned and gave the sobering interpretation: The king had been arrogant, and now it was time for him to face God and give an account of his life.

Rembrandt’s painting reminds us that many people focus on accumulating material wealth and power. Like Belshazzar, they are arrogant and proud. But eventually all of us will face God to be judged for what we’ve done and how we’ve spent our lives.

Today, make sure you are ready to face God. Humble yourself. Seek Him. Surrender your life to Him. And seek first His Kingdom.