The Handwriting is on the Wall – Daniel Chapter 5

Have you ever heard the expression “the handwriting is on the wall” (also said sometimes as simply “the writing is on the wall” or “the writing is already on the wall”. It means that we can see what’s going to happen almost as if it’s been prophesied. The story has already been written and now all we can do is to just wait and watch it happen. Wikipedia says this is an expression intended to say “for ‘the future is predetermined’, and is generally implied that a bad event is imminent.” An example of it’s use today might be a situation where every time a particular team was behind at half time all season, they ended up losing the game. Now we are watching a game where they are behind at halftime. You might say the “handwriting is on the wall”.

Today we’re going to study the chapter of Daniel where that expression came from.

We left off last week with King Nebuchadnezzar and his realization that the God of Daniel was the One True God.

    At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me.
    Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.
    ~ Daniel 4:36-37

King Nebuchadnezzar has passed away, and now we see Daniel serving a new king in Babylon – King Belshazzar. Our story begins….

    1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand.
    2 While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. ~ Daniel 5:1-2

Belshazzar is probably the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar, though the Bible calls King Nebuchadnezzar his father meaning “his ancestor”. When Jerusalem was overtaken and conquered, King Nebuchadnezzar brought back with him all of the treasures of the Jewish temple of Solomon. From earlier in Daniel we see:

    In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
    And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god. ~ Daniel 1:1-2

So King Belshazzar brings out the gold and silver pieces that his grandfather, King Nebuchadnezzar, had looted from the Temple in Jerusalem. Exactly what were these “vessels”? The book of 2 Kings gives us a clue:

    The bronze pillars that were in the house of the LORD, and the carts and the bronze Sea that were in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried their bronze to Babylon.
    They also took away the pots, the shovels, the trimmers, the spoons, and all the bronze utensils with which the priests ministered.
    The firepans and the basins, the things of solid gold and solid silver, the captain of the guard took away. ~ 2 Kings 25:13-15

Everything that was too big to easily handle they had broken up into pieces to carry away. What was left from the Temple treasury were the gold and silver utensils, pots, basins, and so forth.

    3 Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them.
    4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. ~ Daniel 5:3-4

The vessels were intended by God to be used in His Holy Temple. Anything unholy could not enter into The Temple of God. Even a priest, if he were not properly washed and dressed, could not enter God’s Holy Temple. Now we see these Babylonians, or unholy Gentiles, not only getting drunk from the Temple treasures and defiling them that way, but even going so far as to worship other gods while drinking. God decides enough is enough.

The same is still true today in that God will not allow any man or woman to enter heaven who is not made clean, pure, righteous, and holy. God loves you and me so much that He wants to be with us forever. The only way to purify and clean the priest at the Temple and us is for a blood sacrifice to be made. God loves us so very much, that He sent His Son Jesus to die for you and for me so that we could dwell in His Holy Temple of heaven with Him someday.

God also dwells in each believer by His Holy Spirit. So we become His temple on earth when we choose Jesus as our sacrifice.

    And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” ~ 2 Corinthians 6:16

When we begin to think of ourselves as God’s Temple, a place where God lives, it changes our thinking.

    Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
    For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
    ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

So what defiles our body – God’s Temple? If you are out camping and you drink from a soda can with sand and dirt all over it, are you now defiled? Jesus tells us exactly what defiles us:

    So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him,
    because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?”
    And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.
    For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
    thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.
    All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” ~ Mark 7:18-23

What defiles us is our own sinful hearts. We see in King Belshazzar that not only does he defile the Temple vessels by drinking from them, but his heart is defiled in that he worships other gods. God wants a pure heart. The only way you and I can have that is if Jesus purifies it for us when we accept Him as our Savior.

    5 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.
    6 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. ~ Daniel 5:5-6

It is true that sometimes when faced with incredible fear, some people will get “knock knees”. Or the get sweaty palms. Personally, when faced with fear or stress, I get the shivers. It looks like King Belshazzar was barely able to stand up! I guess seeing a giant hand appear out of nowhere and writing on the wall in front of you would do that to a guy. 🙂

    7 The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. The king spoke, saying to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and tells me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck; and he shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”
    8 Now all the king’s wise men came, but they could not read the writing, or make known to the king its interpretation.
    9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly troubled, his countenance was changed, and his lords were astonished.
    10 The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came to the banquet hall. The queen spoke, saying, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts trouble you, nor let your countenance change.
    11 “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.
    12 “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.”
    ~ Daniel 5:7-12

The queen is probably the “queen mother” or the mother of the King (as opposed to his wife). She may even be the grandmother of the King. The queen remembers well the times that Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. She knows that Daniel knows God and has interpreted messages (visions and dreams) from God before.

When you and I live our lives in such a way that others see Jesus working in us and living through us, they will call on us for help when they need it.

My mom had come to Christ when I was about 10 or 11 years old. Her testimony prompted me to accept Jesus as my savior when I was about 13. My brother and I were kids and were out camping with a small group in the Montana wilderness. This was a pretty remote area that we had to backpack about 7 or 8 miles into, and it was known for some recent bear activity. My brother Jim and I were alone in our own tent, quietly talking before falling asleep. After a quiet pause, Jim said: “Hey Anth”. “Yeah?” “You know how Mom sometimes prays for protection over stuff?” “Yeah.” “Would you pray for protection over us now?”

Jim was understandably a little fearful, and he knew that I knew Jesus. He wanted the protection that God can give us, but he didn’t know how to ask for it. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. We are called by Jesus to let people see Him in us, to let Him shine!

    Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:16

Here the queen remembers God working in Daniel, she sees this as the hand of God, and she knows that God can reveal the message through Daniel. How awesome is that!

    13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke, and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah?
    14 “I have heard of you, that the Spirit of God is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you.
    15 “Now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not give the interpretation of the thing.
    16 “And I have heard of you, that you can give interpretations and explain enigmas. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” ~ Daniel 5:13-16

This account is so incredibly similar to the other situations where Daniel was called upon to interpret dreams:

The vision was revealed to the king
The king called his own advisors
They failed to help at all
Then the king calls upon Daniel
Daniel interprets the message

Many times in the Bible and in our lives, God will use a recurring pattern to remind us that it is Him at work. Like Moses at the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 14 and Joshua at the parting of the Jordan River in Joshua 3. The same miracle was repeated so that the Hebrews could know that Joshua was appointed by God.

    17 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.
    18 “O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor.
    19 “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.
    20 “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.
    21 “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.
    22 “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this.
    23 “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.
    24 “Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written.
    25 “And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
    26 “This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it;
    27 “TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting;
    28 “PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” ~ Daniel 5:17-28

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Peres
Numbered, numbered, weighed, and divided

    The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.
    ~ Psalm 33:11

    You will also declare a thing, And it will be established for you; So light will shine on your ways. ~ Job 22:28

God has decided what needs to happen to Belshazzar and his kingdom. It’s decided. We could say it is as good as done, or “the handwriting is already on the wall.”

    29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
    30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain.
    31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.~ Daniel 5:29-31

Fortunately for you and for me, God offers us much grace through Jesus. We can accept Jesus as our savior and He will dwell in us by His Holy Spirit. We can become His Holy Temple, and He will purify us inside and out to make us acceptable to go to his heavenly temple. As He lives in me, He is constantly working in me and through me. You and I can each be washed clean in Jesus and given a new robe, pure and undefiled!

    I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
    ~ Isaiah 61:10

    For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. ~ Romans 10:13

    That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. ~ Romans 10:9

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