Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Handwriting on the Wall

Part 5 of Our God Reigns

Text: Daniel 5:1-31




“This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (vv. 26-28). 


The Handwriting Is on the Wall

Did you know that there are about 250 phrases in the King James Bible that are used today in the English language. Here are a few examples:

  • “By the skin of your teeth” (“I am escaped with the skin of my teeth,” Job 19:20 KJV) 
  • “Drop in a bucket” (“the nations are as a drop of a bucket,” Isa. 40:15 KJV) 
  • “Go the extra mile” (“whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain,” Matt. 5:41 KJV) 
  • “How the mighty have fallen” (“how are the mighty fallen,” 2 Sam. 1:19 KJV)
  • “Wit’s end” (“They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end,” Ps. 107:27 KJV) 
  • “Sour grapes” (“The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge,” Jer. 31:29 KJV) 
  • “Feet of clay” (“his feet part of iron and part of clay,” Dan. 2:33 KJV) 
  • “The handwriting is on the wall” (“In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace,” (Dan. 5:5 KJV) 

When we say, “The handwriting is on the wall,” we mean that it looks certain that something bad is about to happen for someone. In Daniel 5, the handwriting on the wall foretold that something bad would happen to a man filled with pride. His name was Belshazzar. [1]


Party Crasher

Belshazzar throws a huge party. History tells us that while Belshazzar was partying, the Persian army was outside the walls of Babylon. Belshazzar realizes that his life could suddenly come to an end. What happens when people realize that their lives will soon come to an end? They feel the need to do something that will make their lives significant. People try to gain significance in three things.

People try to gain significance in achievement. “If I could do something great….” At Belshazzar’s party were symbols of Babylon’s power: “the vessels of gold and silver… taken from the temple in Jerusalem” (v. 2). People try to gain significance in romance. “If I could find someone who would love me….” At Belshazzar’s party were his wives and concubines. People try to gain significance in religion. “If I could gain acceptance with God….” At Belshazzar’s party, he “praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone” (v. 4).

God crashes Belshazzar’s party! “The fingers of a human hand” appear and write on the wall of the king’s palace (v. 5)! And Belshazzar is filled with fear (v. 6).


Found Wanting

Belshazzar was a man filled with pride. He had not learned from the example of Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel says to him, “And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven” (vv. 22-23).

Daniel interprets God’s handwriting on the wall: “MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (vv. 26-28). God’s message to Belshazzar: “You’re not a man of significance.” God had “weighed” (i.e., judged) him and Belshazzar was “found wanting.”

For all of us, the handwriting is on the wall. Our days are “numbered.” When we are “weighed” by God, our sin causes us to be “found wanting.” And our “kingdom” (i.e., all of our possessions) will one day be divided and given to others. How can we gain significance?

Our lives gain significance when we humbly confess our need for God’s grace. The only man who was never “found wanting” was Jesus. And He died for me—I’m significant to God! God loves me! When we put our trust in Jesus, we are given his righteousness—we are no longer “found wanting”! We become a children of God—that’s significance!

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[1] For many years, skeptics didn’t believe that Belshazzar was a real person. “Today we have abundant textual witness [e.g., the Nabonidus cylinder] to the fact that he was the son of Nabonidus. More than that, Belshazzar was coregent and actually in charge of Babylon during his father’s ten-year absence from the capital city, thus explaining the reference to him as king” (Tremper Longman III, Daniel, 135).