The Handwriting on the Wall

Daniel 5:1-31

There is a new king in Babylon; but not for long. Historians report that the night that Babylon fell to the Persian there was great feasting and celebrating inside of the city. What was King Belshazzar thinking? What terrible leadership. At this ridiculous party, the king orders the sacred vessels that Nebuchadnezzar has stolen from Jerusalem brought to the party so that he and his party guests might drink from them. It would appear that he is trying to make his position known. He obviously deals with pride just as his father (or perhaps grandfather) had. In the midst of these terrible orders his people obey like blind lemmings. The dutifully follow a fool.

“Then the profane revelers add another insult to the one true and triune God: ‘they praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone’. These are the gods in whom they trust. They give these gods credit for their defeat of Israel and for their ability to humiliate Israel’s God by means of their abuse of his temple vessels. While the pagans understand their gods to be more than mere metal, wood, or stone, Daniel heightens the sense of their foolishness by the implicit comparison of their real identity (only lifeless metal, wood, or stone) with the true, living God, who had demonstrated his power over all idols during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. The praising of these pagan gods is a direct affront to Israel’s God by implying that he is subordinate to gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. This is a more direct insult to God than Nebuchadnezzar, despite his arrogance, had ever made.”*
* Steinmann, A. E. (2008). Daniel. Concordia Commentary (273). Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House.

God finally reaches out – literally – and pronounces judgment upon these blasphemous actions. He sends a hand – just a hand – to write upon the wall of the party room. Of course the king does not know what they words mean and calls for his “wise men”. (You know, it’s amazing these guys get to keep that title. So far, nothing has come out of their mouth that has been helpful at all!) They have nothing of value to add, as they don’t know what the words mean. Daniel is summoned once again and offered what would today be the role of Secretary of State if he can interpret the words. In a rather comical response, he tells the king to keep his “gifts” for himself. God’s wisdom is not for sale. The words are then interpreted and the outcome is not good. God has judged Belshazzar, he has come up wanting, and the kingdom will be divided between Babylon’s two enemies, Persian and Medes. That night, Belshazzar dies.

While God’s people are in exile, God is still in control. His people earned that exile by their own idolatry. But God has not forsaken them; nor is He remaining silent. Even in Babylon, God’s people are expected to live for Him and represent Him to the world. Daniel does a masterful job of this, rising to levels of great power along the way. Even though we are daily being drawn further and further away from God culturally, we need not walk away from Him personally. We can still be of great influence for the Name of Christ, no matter our situation. Christ’s blood has freed us to live our faith out loud, and so we will!