The Mystery Writing

Belshazzar was terrified at the revelation from God.

Daniel 5 (2)

This episode is the source of the saying, “I can see the writing on the wall.” Usually that means something like, “OK, I get it.” But Belshazzar did not get it. But he was terrified by the mysterious hand that appeared, and the message it wrote on the palace wall. Those writing fingers remind us of the finger of God, by which He wrote His Law and declared His will to Israel, and by which Jesus demonstrated His power and authority over demons. The message is different in this case, but the effect is just as powerful.

Read Exodus 31.18.

Read Daniel 5.5-9.

Think it Through
1.  This writing on the wall was a revelation from God, pointed specifically at Belshazzar, as we shall see. Confronted with divine revelation, how did Belshazzar respond? What was it about this revelation that caused him such distress? Do you think God’s revelation should have this kind of effect on unbelievers in our day? Explain. Do you think it’s a good idea to encourage our unbelieving friends to look at God’s Word in Scripture? Why or why not? Belshazzar was three kings removed from Nebuchadnezzar, and we can see that he did not learn from his great-grandfather’s experience. How is that evident in verse 7?

2.  Whatever these “fingers” were, they wrought their message by the Spirit of God (cf. Lk. 11.20; Matt. 12.28). The Spirit of God gave this message to Belshazzar, but not in terms he or any of his counselors could interpret (v. 8). Why not? If God had a message for this pagan, and He took the trouble to “spell it out” for him, right there on the palace wall, why didn’t He just write it so that Belshazzar could not fail to understand it, simply by reading it? What did Belshazzar and his cronies lack that Daniel possessed for interpreting messages from God? How does this instruct us with respect to how the unbelieving world should expect to understand the revelation of God? Why does God prefer to use this method of making known His will to unbelievers?

“Forgetting about the experiences of Nebuchadnezzar, he was following after the ancient and ingrained error of his family, so that instead of summoning a prophet of God he summons the magicians and Chaldeans and soothsayers.” Jerome (347-420 AD)

“But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  Luke 11.20

“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Matthew 12.28

O Lord, let the revelation of Your Word shine through me today, writing the message of Jesus in all my words and deeds, so that...

Pray Psalm 135.5-9.
What will it please God to do with you today? Will He use you as a sign to the unbelievers in your Personal Mission Field? Ask Him to do so.

Psalm 135.5-12 (St. Gertrude: Onward, Christian Soldiers)
Great and sovereign, Jesus rules o’er all above,
Doing as He pleases, sovereign in His love.
Clouds and seas obey Him, lightning, too, and rain;
He the winds brings forth in pow’r and sends them back again.
Refrain v. 1
  Praise the Name of Jesus, you who serve His Word!
  Raise your voice and praise our good and glorious Lord!

Egypt’s firstborn fell to God’s redeeming powr;
Kings and nations crumbled in redemption’s hour.
He the land of promise to His people gave;
Thus His Kingdom Jesus gives to all He’s pleased to save.

T. M. Moore

For a better understanding of the book of Daniel, and all the books of the Bible, order a copy of the workbook, God’s Covenant, from our online store. The studies in this workbook will show you how the parts of the Bible connect with one another to tell the story of God’s redemption and glory (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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