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The Handwriting On the Wall

July 24, 2016 | Pastor Bruce Plummer | From the series: Swimming Against the Current

Today we’re discussing another unique story from the Book of Daniel, the “handwriting on the wall” from Daniel 5. In this life, the handwriting appears on the wall for each one of us at varying times and in varying degrees. How do you successfully walk through those times and arrive unscathed in the new reality? That’s what we’ll explore today.

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Sermon Notes

Daniel 5:1-6 “Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand. 2 While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. 5 In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. 6 Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other.”

Wow. What a moment. Here they are, partying with no inhibitions regarding anything, feeling completely secure. Babylon was the strongest, most protected city in the world. Bronze gates, huge wall, tall towers. Remember Nebuchadnezzar? He died after ruling Babylon for 43 years and his son took over, then another. This Belshazzar was the co-regent with his father and his father had left him in charge of the capital while he was on other business. In the midst of the party, after they had brought out the sacred goblets and utensils taken from the Temple in Jerusalem, on a wall visible to everyone, a hand appeared. And it wrote a message that no one understood. It freaked out Belshazzar, everyone really, and he called for the wise men of Babylon. No one could figure it out. Until they called Daniel, who was about 80 years old at the time, and he interpreted the message. Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin – you’ve been weighed in the balance and found wanting, the kingdom will be torn from you and divided to the Medes and Persians.

History tells us, as it says at the end of the chapter, that Belshazzar was killed that same night. While they were partying, the Medes and Persians were preparing with their armies to invade Babylon. They actually had diverted the Euphrates River into a swampy area and when the river, which normally went through the middle of the city, was lowered the invaders walked in through the river bed, found the interior bronze gates unlocked and they conquered the city without a battle, killing the Babylonian king and ending Babylon as a world power.

So the phrase “The handwriting’s on the wall” nowadays means that something is coming to an end, there’s nothing you can do about it and now you’ll have to get used to the new reality. When we dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, then Nagasaki, the handwriting was on the wall for the Japanese military.

It happens in every life, in small and at times large ways, that the handwriting appears on the wall. It really means that God has spoken. No matter our awareness, preparations or not, a curtain is going to drop, a chapter will end, and whatever life used to be like, it won’t be that way anymore.

Robin and I had some communications, 2 ½ years ago now, with Robin’s mom’s doctor. He asked us to accompany her to the next scheduled doctor’s visit, so off to Albany we went, picked up Rob’s mom and got us all to the doctor’s office. When he sat down with us, he looked her in the eye and said, “Irene, it’s just not safe for you to live in your house, on your own, anymore.

That set into motion an Assisted Living facility search, power of attorney for Robin, phone calls, more trips to Albany, selling the house she lived in for more than 50 years. One day she left the house for her new apartment, never to see that house again. Now she’s in a Nursing Home facility and even more care. We visited after she had moved into her room. Her entire life and possessions were boiled down to a dorm room, some clothes, some photos, and that was about it. As we walked away we marveled at the amazing change in her life. It all started with that doctor’s visit when the handwriting appeared on the wall.

Change! Big change comes into every life at certain points! For some the handwriting appears on the wall of your doctor’s office, your workplace, your home, in the office of your college advisor; or in the voice of a police officer, a judge, a lawyer or some other professional. Most often it’s a complete surprise, but always out of your control at that point.

I know that you’re thinking about the times you or those you know, saw the handwriting on the wall.

Now, what happened to Daniel when the handwriting appeared? Did he perish too? Well at first, in response to Belshazzar’s word, he was made the 3rd ruler in the kingdom, behind Belshazzar’s dad and Belshazzar. But that ended quickly. Now Cyrus the Great and under him, Darius, ruled.

Daniel 6:1-3 “It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; 2 and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.”

Daniel continued to experience favor! He was carried through the curtain of change into a new reality, despite what it meant to others. So how can we walk through those chapter ending, new chapter beginning, handwriting on the wall points in life and thrive?

  1. Accept the Sovereignty of God. That sounds great in theory, but the reality is that God does determine our path, even though we plan our steps. Just saying “Thy will be done” in those moments and meaning it, isn’t a lack of faith but a deep faith.
  2. The level to which you are connected to God by faith, in real relationship, is the level to which you will pass personally unscathed through change though the handwriting is on the wall, and prosper. Daniel was a man who uncompromisingly sought God in prayer, in the Scriptures, and simply relied on God to do anything and everything needed to fulfill His will in Daniel’s life. He was truly “anxious for nothing.” Unlike us, many times!
  3. Adjust to the new reality without any unnecessary grief. Notice I didn’t say, without grief. Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted. But those who grieve without end remain trapped in the cycle of grief and loss and they can’t move on. When the curtain drops, in life, grieve the loss, but eventually you will need to put that to bed; and fully live the new life.

Has the handwriting appeared on the wall for you recently?

Are you in close, vital relationship with God, the only Constant, learning how to rely on Him in every situation?

Have you let go of the past so that it’s not a ball and chain for you anymore, or are you shut down because of the losses in your past?  You can let go today.

Someday, the handwriting will be on the wall in regard to your life. The end will come and you will see this earth no more. It will be heaven or hell for you. Are you prepared for the day when the hand appears and the end has come?