November 29, 2017

Deuteronomy 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28


King Belshazzar made a great festival for a thousand of his lords, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand.

Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar commanded that they bring in the vessels of gold and silver that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the vessels of gold and silver that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the wall of the royal palace, next to the lampstand. The king was watching the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s face turned pale, and his thoughts terrified him. His limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king said to Daniel, “So you are Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard of you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that enlightenment, understanding, and excellent wisdom are found in you.

But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you are able to read the writing and tell me its interpretation, you shall be clothed in purple, have a chain of gold around your neck, and rank third in the kingdom.”

Then Daniel answered in the presence of the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, or give your rewards to someone else! Nevertheless I will read the writing to the king and let him know the interpretation.

You have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven! The vessels of his temple have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them. You have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know; but the God in whose power is your very breath, and to whom belong all your ways, you have not honored.

“So from his presence the hand was sent and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: mene, mene, tekel, and parsin. This is the interpretation of the matter: mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom 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.”


Deuteronomy 3:62-67


Bless the Lord, sun and moon;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, stars of heaven;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

“Bless the Lord, all rain and dew;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, all you winds;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, fire and heat;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.


Luke 21:12-19


“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.






What is so wonderful about the writing on the wall in the story from the Old Testament today may not be that Daniel could read it but that the king Belshazzar could not. After all, the writing revealed nothing more than the events of of Belshazzar’s own life should have made quite plain. Belshazzar was hosting a drunken revel while the Medes and Persians were literally nearly at his door. Taking for granted what had been given to him, he was acting expansive, as though invulnerable to this attack, and profaning the sacred vessels of his captive people while honoring idols, therefore both disrespecting the people and sticking his thumb, as it were, in the eye of their God. Such conduct on the part of a ruler, when his enemies were marching on his gates, should have been writing on the wall enough. But the king could not see it. So in His mercy, the Lord God of hosts called him out and gave him a chance to see where he was headed before he got there. He literally showed the king His hand and made the writing the king could not see visible on the wall. Only now the king could not read it.


So Daniel, whom God had raised up and given great wisdom and insight, was summoned before the king to read to him the dots God had helpfully connected for him. And if we were to read further, we would find that the king Belshazzar was slain and his kingdom conquered that very night. We can hope that in that time he humbled himself before the God of heaven and had recourse to His mercy.


The example of Daniel is instructive in meditating on Jesus discourse to His disciples today. He explains they will be delivered into the hands of those hostile to them and who have power over them, as Daniel was in the Babylonian captivity. But they must not think it is up to them to know what to say; the God of heaven already knows, and failing to realize that, trusting in only what they can see and touch (like the pagans trusting in idols and material things) would only lead them into disaster. But God will go before them and make visible the writing on the wall; they have only to read it.


In our time, we often can see the “writing on the wall” in others’ lives that they cannot see. But we need God to make it visible to them and call us in to be there to speak His words, not our own. Today let’s pray for the grace to be able to see the hand of God and the writing on the wall in our own lives, and to answer His call to be there for others to learn who they are in Christ Jesus.


Prayer: Lord of heaven and earth, in You all things live and move and have their being. I am sorry for the times that I have acted as lord of my own life and not looked to see Your hand. I will trust in You and seek Your guidance in all things. Help me to be attuned to Your Holy Spirit, to walk ever closer to You, and to be there for others to accompany them into the freedom of Your kingdom.


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