What the writing on the wall means

By Cathleen Cathcart Contributing Columnist

Daniel 5:3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. 5 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: 6 Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. 13 Then was Daniel brought in before the king… 26 This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. 27 Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. 28 Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

King Belshazzar gave a massive banquet and had the gold and silver goblets brought out that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem. Not only was this a disrespectful act as they drank wine during a party, but they praised the gods of gold, silver, bronze, wood, and stone! This was not the only time such defiance had taken place, however, Belshazzar should have learned from Nebuchadnezzar’s prideful downfall. It had only been in recent years that God humbled the arrogant king before restoring his sanity and throne.

The writing on the wall only contained three words and was written in Aramaic which was understood by Babylonians. The problem was that no one could determine the prophetic significance. They lacked spiritual wisdom even though many were considered wise men of the kingdom. God had given Daniel the ability to interpret the message. Daniel had remained faithful to God as others drifted to idolatry, gave in to greed, selfishness, and immorality.

While there are times we all regret certain actions and make unwise decisions, the problem here involves an irresponsible king. His rebellious challenge to God’s authority by using these sacred goblets was foolish. He knew the history of Babylon and how Nebuchadnezzar was humbled, yet he ignored what was right and chose to give in to his own desires. Actions have consequences, and when we fail to learn from such actions, whether good or bad, we are acting foolishly.

Today, we are living in such a time where history is ignored and it seems that more lawlessness, greed, and hate makes the news everyday. Civil unrest continues to breed dissent. We need to be in much prayer for our nation and have the boldness to speak the truth just as Daniel did. He knew that it would not be pleasing to the king when he gave the interpretation, but it was more important for him to be obedient to God. We should pray for spiritual guidance and study God’s Word while resolving to refrain from making the same mistakes that we, or others, have made.

I pray, “Father, forgive my complacency and let me strive harder to live pleasing to You. Give me wisdom to respond to others in a loving way, give me boldness like Daniel to speak the truth regardless of circumstances, and let my actions point others to Jesus Christ. Let me make good decisions and use all that I have for Your glory, never misusing anything that belongs to You. In Jesus’ name I ask, amen.”

Rev. Cathleen N. Cathcart is pastor of New Life Worship Center in Spartanburg.