THE WRITING ON THE WALL

Today’s Old Testament reading includes Daniel chapter 5. In yesterday’s reading, chapter 4 ended with Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony of how the Lord God had humbled him and that he had come to recognize God as the one true God and the King of heaven. In chapter 5 we are introduced to one of Nebuchadnezzar’s descendants, King Belshazzar. We are also introduced to the source of the proverbial saying, “The writing is on the wall,” meaning that something disastrous is about to occur. In Belshazzar’s case, he was giving a lavish party for 1000 of his nobles at a time when his capitol city was under threat of attack by the Medo-Persian army. To make matters worse, he ordered that silver and gold cups that his ancestor Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem be brought out and used to honor their idols.

During their feasting, a human hand suddenly appears before the king and his guests, and they see the hand write a message on the wall. The king was greatly frightened by this and ordered for his wise men to be brought in to explain the message. They are not able to and then the king’s mother suggests to him that Daniel be summoned to interpret the writing. Daniel arrives and reminds the king of his ancestor Nebuchadnezzar and how the Lord God had blessed him. But it only made him arrogant so that the Lord stripped him of his throne and glory until he acknowledged that the Most High God rules over of the kingdoms of the world. Daniel then reminded the king that he was aware of all this, but still he chose to give honor to idols created by man rather than the Lord God. The writing on the wall was God’s pronouncement of judgement upon King Belshazzar and the kingdom of Babylon.

So what can we learn from this story?

  • Have respect for what is God’s – Belshazzar used the temple vessels in a way that dishonored God.  
  • Learn from your history – Belshazzar knew of his ancestor’s pride before God but learned nothing.
  • Drunk Behavior does not give you a pass – Belshazzar was living out the motto: “Let’s eat and drink for tomorrow we die!”, instead of leading his kingdom during a time of emergency.
  • Humble Yourself Before God – Belshazzar was aware of Nebuchadnezzar’s folly and God’s judgement, but chose to defy the Most High God. God’s judgement on him was final.

Finally, let us consider Daniel... a man set apart who could speak into the situation. May we too be like him as we see and interpret the writing that is appearing on the wall.


by Paul Schmidt, Elder

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