Read-Through-The-Bible [09.21.19]

Have you ever used the phrase, “I could see the handwriting on the wall?” Do you know where that originated? Today’s read included Daniel 5, which tells the story. Belshazzar is the now the king (a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps his grandson). He gives a great banquet for more than 1,000 people (nobles, wives, concubines). It is a lengthy, drunken feast and they are in high spirits. Someone suggests they bring in the gold goblets that were stolen from the temple in Jerusalem 63 decades earlier and drink to the gods of silver, gold. So, that is what they do.
 
In the middle of the chaos, the fingers of a human hand appear and write a message on the wall, where all can see: “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.” It scares King Belshazzar so much his knees literally knock! After the Babylonian wise men and magicians fail to figure out the meaning of the words, the Queen Mother reminds Belshazzar that a man named Daniel helped out his grandfather years before. Daniel is summoned, and he interprets the message:
 
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.
 
The king recognizes that Daniel has spoken the truth and honors him as promised. The warning comes true that very night; Darius the Mede takes over the kingdom and Belshazzar is killed.
 
Why did God take the kingdom from Belshazzar? What was his downfall? As Daniel interprets the message, he reminds the king of what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. “When his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. … You, Belshazzar, his son [descendant], have not humbled yourself, THOUGH YOU KNEW ALL THIS. … You did not honor the God who holds in His hand your life and all your ways.”
 
Belshazzar knew the truth. His grandparents and parents had passed down the wisdom that Nebuchadnezzar had gained at so costly a price. Yet, he did not listen. The truth fell on deaf ears, and he went on in his pride, thinking he could live his life on his own terms, make his own success, keep himself and his family safe. But it is God who holds our lives and ways in His hand, even if we do not believe it.
 
The takeaway for me? God is not a God to be trifled with. He is not like any other false gods, to be worshipped on a whim when we feel like it and ignored or mocked when we are puffed up with our own ego. Belshazzar stepped across a line when he casually dishonored what was set apart as holy to God, and God called him out. When our kingdom is falling apart, when the handwriting is on the wall, may we recognize our own foolishness and seek God’s mercy. It is the only solution that will save us.

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